When you spend the night communing with Mother Nature, she gets to choose the temperature. A camping trip that coincides with a heat wave doesn't have to be a miserable experience, though. Packing a few key items and following a few simple strategies should help you beat the heat while you sleep under the stars.
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1. Sleep Off the Ground
The more air can circulate around your body, the cooler you'll be overnight. Lying in a sleeping bag or on a mat on the ground isn't ideal in hot weather. Sleeping on a thin camping cot or even in a woven hammock should leave you minimally sweaty by morning.
2. Bring Giant Ice Cubes
Standard ice cubes will keep your cooler cold for a day. By day two, all your stuff is warm, including your drinking water, and everything is waterlogged. Next time, freeze plastic bottles or gallon jugs of water. (Let a little water out first so the plastic doesn't explode when the water expands.) Use frozen bottles in place of ice cubes in your cooler. They'll melt slowly and create cool drinking water for you as they do.
3. Set Up a Sunshade
If the sun beats down on your tent all day long, climbing in at night is like climbing into a hothouse. In the morning, the sun's rays may wake you long before you want to rise. Keeping the sun from baking your tent is as easy as setting up a sunshade. Buy one from a camping retailer or DIY a sunshade by using ropes to tie a tarp between two trees.
4. Live in Light Colors
Before leaving home, scan all the clothing you've packed for your hot-weather camping trip. The best items are lightweight, breathable fabrics that stand away from the body and are light shades, like white, pastels and pale gray. Darker fabrics will absorb heat and keep you hot all day.
5. Plan No-Cook Meals
When the forecast calls for scorching weather, you can anticipate that you probably won't want to be anywhere close to a campfire until it cools off after dark. Pack s'mores supplies and maybe some hot dogs to toast for an evening campfire snack but focus on cold foods for daytime meals. Sandwiches and salads are the way to go in a heat wave.
6. Dismantle the Tent During the Day
A sunshade can help keep it cool, but a tent may still be uncomfortably hot at the end of a steamy day. Consider taking down the tent and stashing it someplace shady during the day. Depending on how easy it is to put up your tent, the effort that this requires may be worthwhile if it means having somewhere cool to sleep.
7. Bring an Inflatable Kiddie Pool
What feels better to hot, aching feet than a soak in cold water? It's enough to cool down your entire body. If you'll have access to water at your campsite, pack a small, inflatable kiddie pool to fill with just a few inches of water at the end of the day. Put just your feet in or if you get really desperate, climb in and splash your entire body.
8. Pack Portable Fans
The invention of battery-operated fans is one of the best things that ever happened to camping enthusiasts. On a hot night, opening your tent's ventilation flaps may not be enough to get air moving through your space. Portable fans will do the trick. The type that are designed for camping even attach to hooks so you can hang them overhead at night.
9. Shift Your Schedule
Are you normally not a morning person? A sticky summer camping trip is the perfect time to become one. Rising with the sun allows you to enjoy hiking, biking, cooking and other activities that would be too hot to attempt once the sun is high in the sky. Relax or swim in the hottest part of the day and resume more strenuous activities in late afternoon. You'll be ready to crash by evening.
10. Cool Your Head Before Bed
After a long, hot day, lowering your body temperature before bed should help you sleep comfortably. Even if you're traveling light and can't carry portable fans or a kiddie pool to your campsite, you can probably find space in your pack for a few clean washcloths. Soak them in cool water and hold one on your forehead and one of the back of your neck. Chilling the skin should help you feel cooler all over.