Want to go camping in the amazing summer time but aren’t sure how to survive hot weather while tent camping?
Summer offers lush foliage, sunny days, and clear starry skies. It can also make for hot weather camping and uncomfortable nights. Camping with kids or pets is especially tough as the weather gets hot.
Fortunately, there are many ways to enjoy tenting despite the heat. Here are some of our family tips for your summer camping trip.
Cool Your Tent Naturally
Tents protect you from the elements. They also seal in heat and condensation, especially when your rain fly is on. The key to keeping your campsite cool is ventilation and shade.
Check out these natural ways to cool keep your tent cool.
Put Your Tent in the Shade
We’ve learned through experience that a tent doesn’t provide suitable shade on a hot day. As the sun penetrates tent fabric, heat gets trapped inside like a greenhouse that converts light into heat.
Nobody wants to sleep in a greenhouse.
To avoid the greenhouse effect, place your tent in a shady spot. Many campgrounds list privacy and shade levels for their tent sites online. If you’re local to your preferred campground, you can also visit in-person to view unoccupied campsites.
A few things to consider as you choose a shady site:
- Sun placement based on time of day
- Falling sap and debris from trees
- Nearby animal homes
Once you’ve set your tent up, there are additional ways to add shade to your site manually.
Have a Sun Shelter
A good way to stay cool is to add a tarp or sun shelter if you can’t find natural shade or want to increase shade. Tarps are great way to easily add shade to a campsite, or we love our pop-up screen tent.
- SPACIOUS CANOPY SHELTER: 12.5 x 12.5-foot canopy, 7.8 feet at center height; Accommodates up to 8 people or can fit a picnic table and a few camp chairs.
- ADAPTABLE SHELTER: Heavy-duty removable floor and built-in wind panels that roll up, down, and zip on the sides.
Summer Camping Tips for maximum sun shade:
- Choose a tarp with UV protection: Ratings come included in most packaging.
- Color matters: A silver tarp reflects light better than a dark-colored tarp.
- Place your tarp high: If your tarp is touching your tent, heat still penetrates the fabric, as will rain water.
- Select a tarp larger than your tent: As sun position changes, tarp protection also changes
Get a Cross Breeze
Even with additional shade, tents get warm as the day progresses. To help the tent stay cool, we like to create a cross breeze when we camp by opening all our windows and doors. I recommend keeping screens closed to block pests from entering.
Some tents are breezier than others. For a hot weather camping tent, look for features such as:
- Extendable screen room
- Back door (Two doors)
- Floor vents
- Large windows
- Darkroom technology
I’d avoid a full canvas tent, unless you’re going to be using air conditioning. It is possible to bring an air conditioner to fight off the summer heat, but we haven’t done that yet. We opt for summer tents instead.
When you’re car camping in hot weather, if you have an electric site you can bring air conditioning and make camping in the heat no big deal. Be sure to avoid light weight tents with a lot of mesh venting or you’ll lose your cool air.
Also considering insulating the floor of the tent so you don’t lose your cool air to the ground.
Remove Your Rainfly
Summer camping tents will have a large mesh roof, but the rain fly seals exposed openings to protect your tent from the elements. Unfortunately, this also seals off many of the mesh openings in your tent.
If it’s not going to rain we like to remove the rain fly to open the tent up for maximum airflow. It also allows moisture to escape and keeps your tent cooler using nature’s air conditioning.
When humans get hot, we sweat to cool down. The sweat evaporates, leaving us feeling cooler. On humid days or in a damp tent, sweat can’t evaporate because of the moisture in the air. So, less moisture = less trapped heat = a comfortable night’s sleep.
Take Down Your Tent During the Day
If there’s no shade in your camping spot, wait to set up your tent until things cool down. Rather than leaving the tent to collect heat all day, I recommend pitching it in the evening before the sun goes down.
On hot multi-day camping trips, we sometimes take our tent down in the morning after breakfast. This keeps our tent from overheating and lets us get the tent dry in the sun. It also minimizes muck sticking to the bottom of the tent when we pack up to leave.
If you have a pop-up tent, then taking it down and setting it up will be a breeze. Definitely think about how hard it will be to take your tent down before doing it.
If you’re going to take the tent down, you don’t have to empty it first. Laying the tent on the sleeping bags and the soft tent flooring inside will be just fine.
Tents aren’t the only thing impacting temperature when you camp. You can improve your hot weather tent camping experience by catering sleeping equipment to the weather.
Our family is all about an enjoyable camp experience, no matter the weather. This often means packing for the temperature. Our camp supplies include a variety of sleeping bags, blanket weights, and portable cooling devices. These are some of our top ways to sleep better in the summer.
Sleep on a Cot
Cots work well in the summer by separating bodies from the floor. Fresh airflow around your body helps you to stay cool at night.
Camp cots come in different styles and sizes. Often, cots use waterproof polyester fabric. For summer camping, we prefer cots with breathable fabric like linen. You can also go for a nylon cot. Nylon is used in activewear products because it wicks away sweat.
There are awesome cots for your kids and toddlers as well, because no one wants a sweaty, cranky baby on their summer camping trips.
Sleep with a Fan
Even when we’re “roughing it,” our family brings a portable fan in extreme weather. Camping fans have grown in popularity and come in many sizes and styles. Choose from different fan types including:
- Suspended fans
- Light and fan combinations
- Mounted fans
- Electric fans
- Battery operated fans
- Crank fans
- Solar fans
When you’re camping in hot weather, all you’re looking for is something to move the hot air out the tent door or mesh ceiling.
If you’re using a fan, think about the power source it requires, and pack a backup. There’s nothing more annoying than running out of fan batteries on a hot night.
I recommend two fans. A solar fan to charge during the day and a battery or electric fan as a backup. Be sure to turn your fan off when you’re not using it to conserve power and camp greener.
Use Lightweight Blankets
Campers know all about dressing in layers to prepare for weather changes. The same is true for our blanket or sleeping bag choices. I usually pack at least one lightweight blanket or sheet and a heavier blanket or sleeping bag.
Some of the best materials for lightweight camp blankets are:
- Wool: It may sound odd, but thin wool blankets wick moisture better than any other natural material. Merino wool is a good option.
- Synthetics: Synthetic materials are specifically created to be moisture wicking. They will help you stay cool on hot nights.
- Linen: Linen naturally regulates temperature and breathes as you sleep. It’s also antimicrobial, making it less likely to smell if you sweat at night.
- Bamboo: Bamboo is another breathable sheet with an insulating ability. Bamboo fabric wicks sweat and moisture that evaporates quickly.
- Eucalyptus: If you can get your hands on a set of eucalyptus sheets, it’s a life changer. I love the way these sheets feel on your skin. They regulate temperature like linen but are more breathable and sustainable, making them a green choice.
Avoid cotton sheets, blankets and clothing. Cotton will hold in moisture leaving you feeling clammy and sweaty.
Synthetic materials are much better at moisture wicking than any natural fiber blanket. Many well-known camp brands are making lightweight camp blankets.
Look at the material, weight, and temperature ratings as you select a sleeping bag for your summer camping adventure. Check out our suggestions for warm weather camping sleeping bags too.
Try a Hammock
If you’re not a fan of camp cots, a hammock works wonders for hot weather camping. Like cots, they let air flow around your body while you sleep to stay cool. Hammocks are a versatile sleep option, including:
Backpackers hoping to hang a hammock should invest in tree straps and carabiners. Tree straps, also known as tree-huggers, are a safe and tree-friendly alternative to rope. The straps are flat nylon webbing with D-rings or loops at the end.
To hang your hammock, follow the instructions with your kit, or do the following:
- Wrap the tree strap around the tree trunk (slightly higher than you want it to hang)
- Attach suspension hardware to secure straps
- Tighten the tree straps as necessary (based on trunk size)
If you’re not packing light, you can bring hammock stands. They come in metal or wooden fabrication and let the hammock free-stand. Setup takes minutes, and you can stand the hammocks in your tent rather than sleep outside.
There are plenty of ways to cool off when hot weather tent camping without specialty equipment. Most cooling camp tricks involve water because we lose water through sweat. As our bodies dehydrate, we sweat less and cool more slowly.
If you plan to go summer camping, bring plenty of water so you can try these hot weather camping hacks.
This one is self-explanatory, but I know I rarely drink enough water. According to the CDC, on a hot day, the average adult should drink 8 oz of water every 20-minutes while active or working.
When humans get hot we cool ourselves down by sweating. That sweat comes from our body’s supply of water, leaving us easily dehydrated. The less water inside, the less we sweat, and the slower we naturally regulate body temperature.
When you’re camping in the heat, drinking water throughout the day helps replace lost water when we sweat. Be sure to encourage kids to drink enough too, staying hydrated is a big safety issue in the heat.
I like to freeze a few bottles of water before we hit the road. Not only is this a great addition to keep the cooler cold, but it stays cold longer while you drink.
Another option is to use a good insulated mug like Tervis or Yeti to have all day access to cool drinking water.
The good news is that you’ll save on camp stove fuel by not needing to boil water for hot drinks!
Use a Cooling Towel
Cooling towels work by drawing heat from the body into a damp towel. You can buy athletic cooling towels made specifically for this purpose, or use any small household towel.
Water molecules are always moving. To evaporate they gain speed by colliding with other molecules. In the case of water on your body, these little colliding molecules cause energy (heat) to release, which the water takes with it as it leaves (evaporates).
- Wetting the towel in water will allow it to activate quickly and cool up to 30 degrees
- Exclusive, hyper-evaporative material that retains water while remaining dry to the touch
- Perfect for sporting events, working out, golfing, fishing, camping, hot flashes and more
- 13” x 33”
Sweat is 99% water. So, whether sweat or dampness from a cooling towel, water molecules act the same way. This news is a game changer in the summer.
We don’t just use cooling towels, but cooling t-shirts! These are fantastic on hot days. Bring along a spare t-shirt when you camp and soak it in cool water. Pull it on and enjoy the effects.
Go For a Swim Before Bed
Swimming is a fun way to burn off excess energy before bed and cool down simultaneously. Water cools our bodies faster than air (even cool air from a fan). This makes hopping in a lake, or campsite pool, a perfect way to end a hot day.
The same ideas about sweat work with an evening dip. We know water helps us stay cool by helping heat escape. Cooling down before bed ensures a comfier night’s sleep because you’re not going to bed already feeling overheated.
Night swimming can be tons of fun, but keep an eye on the littles in your group if you’re swimming after dark. Stick to wading and splashing around for the non-swimmers in your group. Bring your swimsuit, towel, lifejackets for the little ones and plan for a dip before bed if swimming is allowed.
If your campground has no swimming options, check for an on-site bath house to take a cold shower.
No shower? Bring some water toys and have a pre-bedtime water fight. Our family prefers squirt guns to water balloons because cleanup is easier.
Keep Your Food Cool
Half the fun of camping is the fun food and drinks. Camp foods are designed for quick preparation and easy eating. They’re also fun to make over a campfire.
There’s nothing wrong with classics like roasted marshmallows and weenie roasts, but they’re better suited to cooler evenings. If you eat cold food, you’ll stay cool too. Eat frozen bananas for breakfast and stick to cold foods for lunch if possible.
Did you know our bodies try to transport heat away from vital organs to our skin to cool down in hot weather? Our stomachs are an organ in the digestive system. This means by eating cold food, we help cool at least one internal organ.
Drink Cool Beverages
Ensuring you’re drinking cold beverages is a great way to stay cool in scorching weather. We swear by both Yeti and Tervis insulated mugs. We also love our Yeti cooler.
Eat Cold Food
For hot weather tent camping, our family brings plenty of frozen treats to stay cool. These require some pre-planning and a reliable cooler. If a campground sells ice on site, we usually pick up extra when we arrive to restock the cooler.
Some of our favorite cold camping snacks and drinks include:
- Bananas: Frozen bananas on sticks dipped in chocolate make a chilly s’more alternative
- Yogurt tubes: Frozen yogurt tubes travel well and provide a quick but cool treat on the go.
- Ice coffee: Freeze coffee and milk in ice cube trays for a simple morning ice brew.
- Watermelon popsicles: Melon triangles frozen on sticks are a super summery snack.
- Ice cream cookie sandwiches: Ice cream between two of your fave cookies.
- Root beer floats: A scoop of ice cream makes any drink twice as fun.
One fun family activity and even more fun snack is snow cones. You can do this with a snow cone machine (if you have electricity on-site or a battery-powered snow cone maker/food processor). You can also make them by hand.
Fun Camp Snow Cone Recipe
To make homemade camp snow cones without a food processor, you’ll need:
- Cheese grater
- Ice block (freeze water in a parchment-lined square cake pan)
- Cups and spoons
- Large dish to catch shaved ice
- Flavored syrup or fruit juice topping of your choice
- Toppings of your choice
This recipe is super versatile and can be made in different ways depending on your tastes. Freeze fruit juice, coconut milk, or your favorite beverage instead of water to make flavored ice.
Position your grater over a large dish and carefully begin grating the ice block. Once you have enough shaved ice, separate it into individual bowls, top with your preferred syrup, and enjoy!
We hope some of our cool ideas help with your next summer camping trip. Whatever you do to beat the heat this summer, stay hydrated, and have fun!
If you’re not sure if you can handle camping in the heat, you can always try camping in your backyard first.
I’m Molly Foss, aka Momma Critter. I’ve been camping since I was 9 years old and I always wanted to be Robin Hood and live in the forest when I grew up. I’m excited to share my love of camping with my son as he grows up. My favorite thing to do while camping is roast marshmallows over the fire.