How To Stay Cool While Camping In Summer Heat: 13 Must-Know Tips

Stay Cool While Car Camping In Summer: Warmer months are on the horizon for us living in Europe or the US. And for all of those among us that love camping, that means we have to ditch winter camping gear and start thinking about how we will stay cool while car camping. For those of us with more experience, this is not the first rodeo, but I do want to share what I have learned over the years, both tent camping and car camping without electricity. Camping in a big RV during the summer is much easier, you just keep your doors closed, turn on that Air Conditioning unit and sit back. But I actually find that a bit too similar to my apartment and I go out into nature to struggle a bit, and I love every moment of that “struggle”. Here are my top tips on how to stay cool while car camping in summer without electricity.

How to stay cool in a tent or car at night during summer

Learning how to stay cool while camping in the summer is essential if you want to have a pleasant camping adventure. Most of these tips require only a certain degree of knowledge and experience, buying things will only get you so far without having the right know-how. We did include some product recommendations in this guide but we truly want to emhasize that you take the time to read this guide and learn all the tips before you decide to purhase anything. Remember, camping is supposed to be simple and cheap, let’s keep it that way! Here are our 13 top tips on how to keep your tent cool during summer.

Ventilate your car or tent

Let’s begin with the most important tip of this entire guide. The best way to stay cool while car camping or simply camping is to figure out an efficient way to ventilate your sleeping space. If you are camping in a tent, make use of those screen mesh doors that protect you from bugs but at the same time allow increased air flow through your tent. 

If you are car camping and sleeping in your car, you need to do some work at home. Buy or create (here is a great DIY) mesh screens for your windows and (if you have one) your sunroof. Keeping two windows or all windows open in your car while sleeping will make a world of difference. Having side windows open and your sunroof open as well will allow the hot air to raise and escape your vehicle.

Keep an eye on the weather forecast to avoid any unplanned rain storms during the night!

Products mentioned: Windows Screens For Cars (Click HERE)

Any of these cheap car window screens on Amazon.com will do just fine. I have used a set of 13$ window screens for 3 years now.

Park your car or pitch your tent in the shade

This is probably more important than you think it is. When camping in the summer, I always choose shady spots over spots with better, scenic views. The extra shade will make your car camping adventure so much more enjoyable.

If you choose to sleep in a tent, pitching in shade is a great idea for staying cool. But when you do that, make sure that the trees that provide shade are strong, without any branches that can easily break off during a summer storm or strong wind.

Use reflective material to deflect the heat

We wrote about reflective material in our guide to winter car camping. Reflective material like Reflectix is not only useful when car camping in the cold, it is also incredibly useful when trying to stay cool while car camping in summer. Placing reflective material on the side of the car that gets the most of the afternoon sun can help you block of those scorching sun rays away from your vehicle and in return keep your car cool and pleasant when you decide to hit the sack.

You can use the same material to cover the sides of your tent that are receiving the biggest amount of sunlight. While it does not always look good, it sure does work, trust me.

Products mentioned: Reflectix Reflective Material (Click HERE)

A roll of Reflectix is an investment for both summer and winter camping. It is a great and cheap product that makes a real difference when it comes to staying cool.
no shade summer camping

Observe your location and the location of the sun

I love to get up early, so I do not mind the morning sun. While morning sun does heat up a car or a tent to a degree that will surely wake you up, I like to park my car or pitch my tent in a spot that gets the most morning sun and the least amount of evening sun. This ensures that my tent gets warm in the morning and cooler in the evenings when I go to bed. If you visit the same camping spots more than once, you can experiment with different locations and make your trip a lot more enjoyable.

Bring a portable, solar powered fan

You probably imagine portable battery or solar powered fans as those gimmicky toys that you get for 5$ and are less useful than a big leaf. You could not be more wrong. Portable battery or solar powered accessories, which includes fans have come a long way. I use a portable fan to speed up the ventilation of my tent as I go to sleep. I have learned that they make an immense difference when it comes to sleep comfort and they are my absolute no.1 accessory I bring when trying to stay cool while car camping in warm weather.

Products mentioned: Portable Fans (Click HERE)

Increasing ventilation with a small fan does work, even if it seems like a childish gimmick. The one on the link above is the one I use and it works

Remove the outer layer of your tent

If you decide to camp in your tent, having a multilayered tent is a godsend. The upper layer of the tent is great for deflecting rain and morning fog, but chances are you are not going to experience either of those on a summer camping trip. Removing that upper layer will still provide a safe and bug-free sleeping environment while maximizing the amount of air flow. You really can’t ask for anything better. The inner layer of certain tents do offer less privacy, so it is best to keep that in mind then buying a tent in the first place.

Buy an appropriate tent to stay cool while camping

We just finished talking about how removing the outer layer of the tent can help you stay cool while car camping in warm weather. To enjoy your next or even your first camping trip, the best advice we can give you is to buy the appropriate tent when you go tent shopping. Ideally you want your tent to have the following qualities:

  • A good outer layer that will protect you from any amount of rain
  • Lots of ventilation pockets and mesh screen doors
  • The tent has to have a removable upper layer with an inner layer that provides you with more air flow and still a decent amount of privacy.
  • If you plan on only camping in warm weather, choosing a cotton tent might be the best option for you. A cotton tent is much more breathable and pleasant when trying to keep a tent cool in the summer. 

Products mentioned: A Tent Suitable For Summer Camping (Click HERE)

The tent on the link above is not cheap, but it will last you for 10+ years. In the end it is much cheaper than a cheap tent that will need replacing every 2 years, and while you do use it, it sucks. Dont save $ on a tent.

Replace your winter camping gear with lighter summer gear and lighter, breathable clothing

When you pack for a winter camping trip it is all about layers, heat retention and isolation. It is the exact opposite in the summer. What you want to do in the summer is avoid using clothing that retains your heat and sweat. This means that all your clothing should be breathable, quick to dry and it does not stop at clothing. While it is not a goof choice for winter camping, an inflatable sleeping pad is a great choice for summer camping. It will keep you cool by drawing in the cold of the ground. This will keep your sleeping more comfortable. If the temperatures are really high, sleep with nothing but a cotton sheet or a breathable blanket made out of either cotton or natural materials like merino wool.

Sleep in a hammock and avoid sleeping in a hot tent

Hammocks like portable fans are also not what they used to be, nothing more than a gimmick. Good sleeping hammocks are equipped with a mesh screen that protects you against bugs and flies, they are big and comfortable and are actually a great and healthy way to sleep. I love taking naps in hammocks but several of my friends actually sleep in hammocks “full time”. Below is the hammock I use and some used by my friends that are high quality. Sleeping in a hammock in the summer is something you need to experience. It is much easier to keep cool, see the stars and hear all the little noises of the great outdoors.

Products mentioned: Sleeping hammock (Click HERE)

The sleeping hammock on the link above is the one I use for occasional naps, but many of my friends swear by them for overnight sleeping. It is a thing you need to get used to.
sleeping in hammock while camping

Go to bed later and stay cool all night while camping

Summer evenings can be scorchingly hot, and before your tent cools down, hitting the sack might not be the best idea out there. A simple practice I am really fond of, especially when it gets really hot, is to simply go to bed later. While you wait for your tent to cool down, you can hangout with your friends or family, read books, go for walks etc. Getting back later in the evening to a fresh tent feels great. This is probably one of the best ways to stay cool while car camping, and it is super simple too.

Create shade if there is none

One thing I always bring along when car camping is an extra tarp. A big tarp, that is it. You can use it if there is a leak in the tent, but you can also use it to create some additional shade when there is no natural shade. You can pitch the tarp in between two poles or two smaller trees that naturally do not provide decent shade. A reflective tarp works best to deflect those scorching sun rays.

Products mentioned: A Simple Tarp (Click HERE)

You need one, get one. Trust me.

Stay cool while camping by staying hydrated with cold beverages

This is probably logical, but people still tend to forget the importance of staying hydrated, especially when it is warm or hot. Your body runs on water, especially when it is warm. When you fail to provide your body with a decent amount of cool water, it struggles to stay cool while camping in heat. This means that you will be more exhausted and will struggle more to bear the heat in the summer. Bring a cooler with you, keep it stocked and make sure you drink. Avoid drinking sweetened beverages, stick to water and electrolytes. Read more about the importance of hydration while camping here.

Products mentioned: A Cooler For Cold Beverages (Click HERE)

Does not need much explanation, if you do not have one, you need it by yesterday. Choose any of the coolers on the link above.

Take advantage of nearby water (take a dip!)

The last tip of the day is easy, if you are camping near water, swimmable water, make sure you make use of it! Take many short dips to stay cool and fresh all throughout the day and night. You can also take multiple showers throughout the day to keep your body cool and running.

Conclusion

By following these simple tips I have managed to comfortably camp on the islands of Greece at record high temperatures with nothing more than a backpack and a tent. Staying cool while camping without electricity can be done but it does take some knowledge and more work. The best way to stay cool in a tent during summer is to look for shade and to ensure proper ventilation of the tent or car. If you have some more tips on how to keep cool while camping in heat, share them in the comments below. I would love to hear them!

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