Summer camping: 42 PRO tips for staying cool (and fun)

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Long sunny days, warm starry nights, and tons of outdoor activities. Get an idea? Yes, we’re just giving some occasional summertime sadness there cause summer camping just can be beaten. 

But let’s be frank – summer isn’t only fun and games, after all. Summer heat can be brutal, especially if you’re camping in a hot and humid climate. Luckily, it’s not that hard to stay cool and comfortable while enjoying the great summer outdoors if you add a pinch of extra preparation. 

We sat down and collected all the useful things into an ultimate summer camping guide. Here are 42 expert tips & tricks to get your best summer camping experience up and running. 

1. Be aware of your location

The weather forecast is checked, OK. But let’s just stop here for a minute – it’s not enough. 

You need to collect as much info about your destination as it gets. Any hosts that could guide you through? Do you have a map of the area so you can explore without being concerned you’ll get lost if the Internet goes off? In more dispersed locations, how far is the gas station? Any other shop? Don’t leave these questions unanswered – camping safety should always be at the top of your mind!

2. Tarps, tarps, and more tarps

A tarp is a multipurpose tool that’ll keep your tent, camping gear, and camp kitchen dry while raining. Or even the whole campsite – it depends on how many tarps you’ll bring along. 

Likewise, a tarp will work as ultimate sun protection and save from overheating. 

3. Find a shade

Sleeping surrounded by nature and stargazing before you fall into this quality of sleep is incredible. Until you wake up sweating in your heated tent with a bare minimum of oxygen. 

Seek a shady camping spot. In the best-case scenario, you could go for a site facing east or north for warm mornings and shady afternoons. 

Again, if you can’t find shade – a tarp can help here, too. 

4. Use hanging storage

The ground in your camping area or a camping table can get messy too fast. And when the night kicks in, or it’s time to pack – the whole mess doesn’t come in handy. 

You might know best what’s the most suitable way to organize your gear. But here’s a trick campers love – using a hanging organizer. You can hang it on a tree or a vehicle (if not too small) and use it for not-too-heavy items. Just try and see how much easier packing up will be! 

5. Take your camp setup slow

Don’t rush. Have breaks. Wait until the sun starts going down to pitch a tent – anyway, it’ll bake when left up during the day. 

Also, no matter how easy your tent is to set up, the midday sun just makes everything harder. Why let it take the joy from you? 

6. Explore dispersed camping

We could list why’s of dispersed camping for hours, but here are some of the key aspects that should be enough for you to consider this camping style: 

  • It’s free 
  • No need to plan and book well in advance 
  • It’s as wild as it gets
  • You might get all the woods only for yourself 
  • Simply, nothing can beat it (okay, that doesn’t tell a lot – but believe us, it’s just that amazing)
summer camping tips

7. Head outdoors mid-week for more space

Suppose you’ve seen that fantastic weather forecast for the entire weekend; all chances are others have seen it too. Not to mention that summer is a time-off season, which is well-planned in advance by many. Meaning popular campgrounds or even dispersed camp destinations most likely get extremely crowded. 

How to find enough space to enjoy the camp? Go for a mid-week trip! This way, you won’t need to drive in circles to find that one tiny empty spot and will get the full summer camping experience. 

If you can’t head outdoors in the middle of the week or simply prefer weekend trips, then at least be early. The deeper we get into the weekend, the more likely your desired camping spot will already be occupied by other tent campers. 

Of course, dispersed camping again comes with its advantages. There will always be a remote place waiting to be found, no matter the daytime. Still, to have more choices – arrive early! 

9. Buy a campground fan

Extra expenses, yes. But once you feel how helpful a portable fan can be in hot weather, you might not want to leave your home without it anymore. 

Choose a battery-operated fan that’s lightweight, quiet, and packs small. Best with a hook to hang in your tent or wherever in your camping area. 

10. Be extra careful with campfire

Around 85 percent of wildfires are caused by humans alone in the US. Of course, you must be extra cautious about your campfire all year round – always use a fire ring, dig a fire pit, and don’t leave your campfire unattended. Be aware of fire warnings in your camping spot. 

In summer, some areas can have fire bans due to dry conditions. Even if there are no restrictions in your camping destination – keep in mind the landscape can be dried out and catch fire quicker. 

11. Consider a reflective sunshade to cool off

Reflective sunshades can do miracles in keeping your tent or any other camping area cool. The principle is straightforward – they leave anything below cooler by reflecting the sunlight back to the sky. 

Cover your tent with the reflective side up to decrease the heat underneath. And vice versa, if it’s too cold – put it with the reflective side down to keep the warmth. A sunshade will work best if it’s significantly above the tent – at least 12 inches – to let the airflow. 

12. Take down your tent during the day

When the weather and sun get hot, your tent gets hotter. If you don’t want to jump into the baking air to sleep or spend time waiting till it ventilates – take your tent down for the day.

Not only that – no matter what material your tent is made of, it’s a good idea to disassemble it after you wake up and set it again when the sun is down to increase its lifespan. Direct sunlight does gradually degrade the material over time.

13. Get a tent with as much mesh as possible

Mesh is definitely a hero in combining the breeze plus bug protection. For summer camping – this combination is vital. 

So, when choosing a tent, get one with fine mesh walls. Most types of tents come with a thick, waterproof floor that increases the distance up each wall. This will protect you from raindrops hitting the ground if raining and stop the wind from coming through the lower walls. 

14. Know when to pack up

Among all the amazing camping plans, you must know when it’s time to walk away. Some severe conditions include major storms, wandering animals like black bears, or just feeling unwell. 

Plan everything – either going to an emergency campground or packing all the stuff and getting home. 

15. Try hammock camping

Hammock camping is a whole other level of camping that summer is a go-to season to try. Find a couple of trees to tie your hammock, and you’ll be amazed how well air circulates around, plus all the other advantages hammock camping brings. 

We’ve covered the ins and outs of hammock camping in our article – check it out if this camping style caught your eye! 

16. Use cold lights inside your tent

Some camping lanterns, like candle lanterns, spread quite a bit of light and can raise the temperature inside your tent. But let’s leave them for cooler nights or winter camping. 

While summer camping, you’ll want a camping lantern that doesn’t warm up your tent and instead illuminates cold light. 

17. Organize your gear

The organization does wonders for your preparation. When you keep all your camping stuff in the same place, you’re not as likely to forget some essentials like sunscreen or bug repellent before heading out on your trip.

The same rule applies when you’re out in the woods – the less you scatter your gear around the campsite, the faster you’ll find needed supplies and pack up when your trip ends. 

18. Less is more (here we mean packing)

This is the best rule of thumb for packing up your stuff. If you’re new to camping, use a camping checklist to pack the essentials. 

Later, if you find yourself not touching some camping stuff whatsoever, just leave it at home (not the case with things like a first-aid kit, though!). With time, you’ll learn how to adjust your own camping checklist and pack smarter. 

19. Frozen bottles instead ice bags

We had cases where we took out our food from some leftover liquid from the ice chest. It was annoying enough not to ever repeat this mistake again.

Freeze some water bottles and use them instead of those big ice bags. a) They’ll keep the water in its place; b) You’ll have drinking water when it melts! 

20. Take your GPS satellite messenger

This applies especially to hiking lovers. Your relaxing hike can quickly become a hazardous wander if you’re out of water or get lost.

You’ve probably heard stories of adventurers going missing and not coming back. Imagine how many stories you have not heard! 

So, instead of risking becoming part of these stories, bring a GPS satellite messenger, which allows you to share coordinates, reach out to emergency contacts, and track your way with only a push of a button. 

21. Bring recovery tools

Pack a lacrosse, tennis ball, or foam roller to take those tired muscles easy, whatever the reason. Maybe you had a self-draining hike, slept uncomfortably, or carried a bulky backpack down to your camping spot. Or perhaps you’ve had an excellent workout while searching for, moving, and preparing your firewood. 

These recovery tools will help you relax and make your experience much more pleasant. 

22. Be ready for rain

While summer rain might be an energizing treat after exhausting sunlight, it might be a game changer for some. In a bad way. 

Anyhow, waterproofing your gear will save you from hassle if some sudden downpour hits. Put your backpack into a garbage bag, protect your matches by dipping them in polyurethane, and waterproofing your tent

For a maximized experience, check our tips and tricks for camping in the rain

23. Add something natural to your first-aid kit

While most first aid kits come with the essentials (and perhaps a few extras for your pet), bringing along natural cures for common mild ailments will help you stay out in the wilderness for longer.

For example, rubbing some lavender essential oil on the temples will relieve your headache, while the scent will help to relax. Aloe vera will work as a natural balm for minor scratches, kitchen burns, or sunburns. 

24. Repack your food

Most food isn’t packed with campers in mind. Rewrap your eggs, meat, and other fragile ingredients into more durable, portable boxes. 

And if you don’t want to worry about cracking your eggs while carrying them – get rid of the cartoon and smash them in the empty bottle in advance. 

25. Keep your food simple

Campfire cooking is one of the most entertaining activities, yet it’s wise to leave it to the evenings in the hot summertime.

Take some cereal, fruits, and salads to get you going. Pack some lunch meats and cheeses that don’t need heating. Check for self-heating meals as well. 

26. Consider getting a water bladder

Water planning isn’t a piece of cake unless you throw piles of 5-liter water bottles into your trunk. 

A water bladder is a reservoir of water that’s friendly to the environment and can be used to carry significant amounts of water or even as a camping shower. Bringing a camping water filter together with a bladder will give you plenty of clean water.

27. Drink more water

We won’t start with all the amazing benefits water has for your health. You know it’s crucial to drink at least 64 ounces of water daily, but on hot summer days, don’t stop there. 

Hydration is vital for keeping cool and safe on your summer camping trip. It takes a lot of energy to heat the water. Having in mind that 60% of your body is made from water, it’s crucial to properly hydrate it to work as a coolant. 

Dehydration can pose serious health risks and ruin the whole trip. You should keep sipping throughout the day to prevent thirstiness; otherwise – it means you’re already dehydrated. 

28. Keep your food cold

Food doesn’t go along well with high summer temperatures, so you must find ways to keep it cold and safe. A camping cooler or a camp fridge is undoubtedly the best option. 

No matter if you get a high-end or a budget-friendly one, open it only when necessary to not lose cold temperatures inside.

29. Pack your swimwear

Needless to say, swimming is marvelous in overheating prevention. If you’re lucky enough to camp near some water source – lake, river, sea, or even an ocean – warm weather is much more bearable when you can go swimming. So pack your swimsuit! 

30. Take calorie-dense snacks

Blood sugar levels can drop quickly while you’re on a trip, like hydration levels. For everyday outings where you might not be able to return to camp in time to eat, pack a lot of calorie-dense, non-perishable snacks. 

You’ll be satisfied with foods like beef jerky until you can sit down to eat.

31. Benefit from sun power

There’s no better time to utilize solar power than in the clear midday sun. Solar panels can run many devices like camping lanterns, ice boxes, or fans. Solar-powered devices are much more cost-efficient, so give them a try when off to your car camping trip. 

32. Get a summer sleeping bag

All-season and winter sleeping bags will get you boiling in the summer. They have great insulation with a non-breathable outer layer that’ll work just fine in cooler times of the year. 

Think of your summer sleeping bag similarly to clothing – get the one that’ll wick the moisture and breathe enough not to trap you in your sweat inside.

Extra tip: if a sleeping bag is still too hot for the night, try a cotton sheet! 

33. Try sports drinks with electrolytes

Sweating takes a great deal of salt and minerals out of your body, so you need to restore them ASAP to operate appropriately. 

So-called sports drinks have plenty of electrolytes that can increase your energy levels – just use them wisely. 

34. Wear sun-protective clothes

First, bring light-color clothing that won’t get hot that quickly and reflects the heat. 

Take moisture-wicking shirts and pants or shorts – nylon and polyester fabrics will keep you cool and dry. Use breathable materials like cotton and linen, and don’t go with tight-fit clothes; otherwise, you’ll bake. 

35. Protect your skin

Apply lots of – really LOTS of – sunscreen to safeguard your skin from harmful UV rays. Sun rays can harm your eyes and cause immunological suppression, skin cancer, and early skin aging. 

Regularly applying sunscreen will shield your skin and prevent sore sunburns. Put on a hat and sunglasses for added coverage. 

36. Bring a bug repellent

No matter where you camp, summer is a thriving month for biting pests. Most effective sprays include DEET, but there are also plant-based alternatives that can help. 

If you don’t want to apply any product directly on your skin, try citronella candles, coils, or electric bug zappers to get rid of the bugs. If you prefer homemade products – everything from dryer sheets to garlic-stuffed olives should do the job. 

37. Hike around severe heat

One of the finest activities of camping is exploring your surroundings, that’s for sure. But nothing destroys that exploration joy more than unendurable heat. Happily, you can rearrange your schedule so the heat works for you, not against you. 

If you’re up to the hike, do that early, before the midday heat kicks in. Afterward, just have brunch and relax. 

38. Put a soaked towel across your forehead or neck

Laying a moist towel across the back of your neck is a beautiful technique to stay cool during the day if the weather gets exceptionally oppressive. Apply a little handkerchief soaked in cold water to your forehead at night. 

As we said, a high water heat value allows it to absorb a significant amount of heat from your skin before it warms up. And when it does, simply flip it over. 

You can also soak a bandana and tie it loosely over your neck before a hike. Other variations of this trick, such as donning a damp shirt or soaking your cap, will have the same result. 

39. Shower before bed

A camping shower is just another deal breaker for all camping trips, especially the hot ones. Taking a cold shower will temporarily turn your body into a self-contained air conditioner as it’ll lower your internal temperature. You’ll feel cool and comfy when you go to bed and most likely will fall asleep easier. 

If privacy is something that concerns you, a shower tent is a nice add-on that’ll give you more comfort.

40. Sleep while the sun is down

As we said, sunshades and tarps can keep your tent cooler. But the most comfortable sleep you’ll get while the sun is down. 

Yes, it might mean you’ll need to go to bed earlier than you’d in your everyday life. The further in the north you are, the earlier the sun will rise each day. The further in the south you are, the hotter it’ll get. Balance your location and sleeping time to get the best out of it. 

41. Be aware of heat exhaustion

Your body can quickly catch heat exhaustion when it battles overheating. Some of the signs of heat exhaustion include: 

  • Increased pulse
  • Heavy sweating 
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Headache 
  • Thirst 

Stop any physical activities and cool yourself immediately if you feel any of them. Put a soaked, cold towel on your forehead, or wash your head, face, and neck with cold water. 

42. Take care of your companions

Whether it’s a furry friend, a human one, or a kid, make sure they cool off, too. If we talk animals – try out a wet vest that works similarly to human clothing and lowers your pet’s body temperature. You might also consider taking a special first-aid kit for your dog. 

For human companions, remind them to follow (or make sure to follow, if they’re children) all the tips as you do. 

Got anything to add?

Have any tips to add or simply want to share your summer camping experience? Leave a comment below – we’re excited to hear from you!

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