How To Stay Cool While Camping in the Heat


Kraig Becker

Favorite Trip

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and safari in Tanzania

Home Base

Roanoke, VA

Favorite RV

Winnebago Revel

About Contributor

Kraig Becker is a writer and editor in the outdoor, RV, and adventure travel space. He has written for numerous print and digital outlets including Popular Mechanics, Outside, Business Insider, Digital Trends, and countless others. He enjoys hiking, cycling, mountain biking, running, and just about anything else that gets him outside.

It’s no secret that summer is the most popular time of year to go camping. The long days, warm nights, and generally great weather make it the ideal season for travel and spending time outdoors. But when the mercury starts to climb—and the temperature moves from warm to scorching hot—camping in the heat can become an uncomfortable experience.

Fortunately, it isn’t hard to make a few adjustments and learn how to stay cool camping. Here are some tips for staying comfortable that don’t involve huddling inside the RV with the air conditioning blasting.

Stay Hydrated

Start your hike hydrated and continue to replace fluids throughout. Drink before feeling thirsty. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already behind in fluid replacement. As a general rule, drink a cup every half hour.
It’s important to stay hydrated, especially when in the heat for long periods of time.

One of the most important ways to stay cool and safe in the summer heat is to drink plenty of fluids. When your body starts to overheat, it begins to sweat in an effort to cool itself down. But if you’re not adequately hydrated, you may not be able to create the perspiration you need to maintain a safe temperature. This can lead to dangerous conditions like dehydration or heatstroke.

Drink plenty of water while active in the outdoors and enjoy other cool drinks while relaxing at the campsite. However, be careful not to indulge in too much alcohol when outside in hot conditions. Alcoholic beverages can actually cause dehydration, so save those for later in the day when temperatures are cooler.

Have a go-to insulated cup, mug, or thermos, and keep it filled with fresh drinking water.

Dress for the Heat

Sun hats and loose clothing are ideal for warm weather wear.
Sun hats and loose clothing are ideal for warm-weather wear. Image: Shutterstock

The clothes we wear outside can dramatically impact how comfortable we are in the heat. Garments made from cotton are light and airy, which is excellent in most cases. But, cotton clothes aren’t always great at wicking moisture and can take a very long time to dry once they are wet. Alternatives include clothing made from synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester or natural merino wool. These materials not only breathe well but also pull perspiration away from the body and dry quickly too.

Additionally, it is best to avoid snug, restrictive clothing that can trap heat close to the body. Instead, wear lightweight and loose-fitting garments that allow for better airflow. Also, light-colored clothing reflects the heat better, keeping you cooler as a result.

Find the right camping apparel to dress for your environment.

Wear a Hat

Americana Outdoor Sun Protection Hat
Americana Outdoor Sun Protection Hat

In addition to dressing appropriately for the heat, wearing a hat can be highly beneficial. While it is true that a cap may make you sweat a little more, it will also protect your head from the hot rays of the sun. This will reduce the chances of dehydrating or suffering heatstroke while also limiting the possibility of getting sunburned.

A wide-brimmed hat is a great choice, as it provides protection for the neck and face. It is also very lightweight and breathable, which comes in handy on a sweltering day.

Bring along a sun hat to keep the rays off your face and your head cool.

Avoid Activities During the Hottest Part of the Day

Biking in the Mountain Campgrounds
Biking is always an option in the mountains. Image: Camping World

One of the best parts of camping is going hiking, bike riding, kayaking, fishing, or on any number of other outdoor adventures. But the summer heat can make those activities not only uncomfortable but potentially dangerous. To avoid overheating, plan your outdoor excursions for early morning or the evening when the sun isn’t quite so powerful, and temperatures are more manageable.

Discover these 6 Ways to Exercise While RVing.

Stick to the Shade

Avoid the heat of the day by taking advantage of any shade available at the campsite. By parking your RV in the shade, you’ll keep the interior cooler and take some of the workload off your HVAC system, saving energy for use elsewhere. And when you’re outside, a little tree coverage overhead can provide shelter from the hot sun for you too.

Create Your Own Shade

RV under live oak tree.
Live oaks draped in spanish moss in combination with an awning provide shade and a dreamy natural canopy for your RV.

If your campsite doesn’t offer much in the way of natural shade, an awning or pop-up shelter is a good alternative. By deploying an awning or setting up a canopy, you extend your comfortable living space outside the RV and create protection from the hot sun.

Many modern RVs come with an awning already installed, and adding one is a relatively minor upgrade. But something as simple as a portable shelter can be an effective and affordable option. Invest in an awning, canopy, or shade to create a cool place to escape the direct sun.

Use a Fan

18V LXT 13 in. Jobsite Fan
18V LXT 13 in. Jobsite Fan

Even the slightest breeze can help make hot conditions more tolerable, but sometimes you have to create your own airflow. Bring a fan for use both in and out of the RV, and you’ll enjoy your summer camping experiences even more. A fan can help circulate the air inside your camper, keeping the living space far more comfortable while burning less energy. A fan can be helpful outside, too, keeping the breeze flowing even when the air is still.

The O2 Cool is a fan that comes with a built-in rechargeable battery, making it convenient for use outdoors without a power source. Alternatively, the NewAir Outdoor Misting Fan creates more airflow but might require a portable power station to keep it running. It also has the added benefit of being able to connect to a water hose to provide a cooling mist as well.

A portable fan is a summer must-have. Or invest in a portable air conditioner for real summer luxury.

Spend Time in the Water

Airhead Bimini Lounger II
Airhead Bimini Lounger II

Nothing can cool you off faster than going for a swim on a hot summer day. Whether you’re taking the plunge in the pool at the campground or headed to the beach, spending time in the water is a great way to beat the heat. You can even pack an inflatable pool if you’re just looking to soak in some cool water at the campsite.

Find the right pool float to make staying in the lake or water a lot more fun.

Eat Smaller, Lighter Meals

Cute daughter with mother eating watermelon in the summer. Happy girls in the park.
Image: Shutterstock

Excessive heat can zap your appetite, causing you to eat less. But food plays a vital role in keeping your body running efficiently in warm weather. To say fueled up, eat smaller, lighter meals that include salads, raw vegetables, and fresh fruit. Those types of food are easy to digest and help keep the body cooler while still supplying essential nutrients.

Avoid salty snacks and heavy proteins. These types of foods are harder to digest and can cause you to dehydrate more quickly. Some types of meat can even increase the temperature of your skin following a meal.

Explore some of our favorite recipes for cooking at the campsite.

Don’t Over Exert Yourself

Summer Road Trip in RV
Kids can get dehydrated more easily than adults. When traveling as a family, you can never have too much water.

Even if you’re physically fit, extreme heat and humidity can take a toll on the body. Avoid over-exerting yourself on scorching hot days and stay hydrated when taking part in any physical activities. If you go for a hike, run, or bike ride, travel at a slow, comfortable pace and take an occasional break. Make sure you carry plenty of water and avoid being out in the hot sun for too long.

After you get back to the campsite, cool off with a shower or soak a towel in water and drape it over your neck and shoulders. Allow yourself some time to relax and recover while drinking plenty of liquids. Once you’ve cooled down, you’ll soon be ready for your next adventure.

Follow these simple tips, and you’ll stay cooler and safer at the campsite all summer long. Now go embrace the season and enjoy some time in the sun.

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