The Best Ways to Stay Cool on a Sweltering Hot Camping Trip

The Best Ways to Stay Cool on a Sweltering Hot Camping Trip

Summer is a great time for camping, since the kids are out of school and the water in just about any lake is perfect for swimming or canoeing. Summer is also a hot, muggy, sweaty time of year, and you’re going to zip yourself up in a little nylon sauna. So here are some tips for planning a camping trip that won’t leave you sweating through the day (and night).

Look for shade before you pitch your tent

Forested campgrounds are ideal, but whatever scenery you have around, do your best to check where the shade will be in the morning. (If you arrive at your campground after dark, remember that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and in the northern hemisphere, it tracks slightly to the south throughout the day.) Pitch your tent in a spot where the sun won’t bake you as soon as it rises.

If shade is scarce, but you have a few trees or other supports available, consider hanging a tarp as a shade sail. (Same idea as a beach umbrella.) You can do this for your tent, or for your picnic spot or anywhere else you’ll be spending time in the heat.

Hang a tarp instead of using your tent’s rain fly

Many tents have a cool, breathable mesh top—look for one like this if you’re in the market—and then you add a waterproof rainfly over this. In temperate weather, it’s the best of both worlds: You’re protected from the rain but still have a bit of ventilation thanks to the space between the two layers.

But in the heat, a tent assembled thusly turns into a little nylon oven. If you know it will be a dry night, you can leave the rainfly off. But if you aren’t quite that brave, bring a tarp and some ropes, and hang the tarp over your tent with several feet of space between your jerry-rigged roof and the tent itself. This way you can feel the breeze as you sleep.

Pack ice

If you’re car camping, a cooler is your best friend. Get a good cooler—one that will stay well insulated for days. Pack frozen water bottles, frozen food, frozen everything. (Frozen, marinated raw meat makes for the best camp meals; triple-bag it to prevent leaks, and cook it as soon as it starts to soften but before it fully thaws.)

Refill the cooler with ice as needed; again, with a good cooler, you’ll only need to do this every few days. Enjoy your cold drinks along the way, and steal an ice cube from time to time as a little treat.

Get a good hat

A hat makes a big difference if you’ll be spending a lot of time in the sun. Ideally one with a wide brim that covers your face and the back of your neck. If you prefer a baseball cap, tie a bandana so that it covers your neck. (You can also soak this bandana in water, or replace it with a cooling towel.)

Try these items to keep yourself cool:

Bring wet wipes

When you’re gross and sweaty, and there’s no shower to be found, a pack of wet wipes can do a lot to help you feel fresher. Wipe your face, your armpits, or whatever body parts seem to need it most.

Dunk your feet

When you’re dumping the melted ice out of your cooler, pour it into a bucket and take a minute to soak your feet. Heck, any water will do, even if it’s not ice-cold. Fill your bucket with water from the shower, the local swimming hole, or anything that’s a less-than-boiling temperature.

Take a mini road trip

Being able to walk from your campground to the day’s activities is convenient, but if the weather is really miserable, plan an outing that lets you use the car’s air conditioning on the way. Better yet, choose an indoor destination like a local museum or nature center.

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