How to stay cool when camping: 7 tips to help

7 tips for camping in summer




Being uncomfortably hot, sweaty in places you didn't know you could sweat, and no prospect of getting cool anytime soon isn't an enjoyable experience.    

Camping in summer has it's benefits - warm, balmy nights outdoors is one.  But it also has its negatives - such as not being able to retreat to your shelter in the day due to it being an oven. 
But if your holiday is planned, how can you make those hot days/nights camping better?

We put together 7 tips that can help alleviate some of the heat you might be feeling or at least help make camping a little cooler for everyone present.




NOTE:   Please always check with your local authorities about conditions you will be camping in.  Keeping yourself updated on weather and potential fire risk is crucial with camping in summer.

Bushfires are fast-moving and unpredictable.   


Be prepared.  If in any doubt about your safety, do not go camping.  If you are already at a campsite, and warnings are given, leave immediately.  Do not wait. 




camping in hot weather with an a/c


1.     Position your campsite


When setting up a campsite, you need to look at a number of factors. 

To help keep you cooler, remember to check the location of where you plan to set up – look to place your accommodation for the night in the area where it will get the most afternoon shade.

Don’t forget that what is shady at 10am is not like that at 3pm.

Near water?

Position your camping site to maximise any benefits from breezes coming off the water.  The downside about being near water is that it may increase the level of mosquitoes near your camp, so you need to weigh up your options and work out if you want breezes and bugs.

When setting your tent up in this shady spot, remember that camping under some of our large gum trees can be very hazardous.    Choose your trees wisely.     


Extra helpful reading:

Not sure about choosing a campsite during the year, regardless of the season?  Then we have 7 helpful tips on choosing a campsite  It will cover some tips that are going to be important to you in summer.



2.     No fly on the tent


Mountain Hardwear Drifter 3


Our smaller dome tents, without the fly, gives us, a mozzie-free night, as we are enclosed all in the mesh, and with a total view of the night sky.   This maximises the ability to get cooler air into the tent.

These tents are a great choice for hot weather if you have the option to choose your tent for warm weather.

If you are travelling in a bigger tent, then your options to leave the fly off may not be possible or may not result in significant changes.

Ensure you open up all doors/windows on the tent to maximise cross breezes, and set up the tent as late as possible (ie. when the sun goes down) to avoid heat building up in the tent.

Nylon tents heat up more quickly than canvas tents, though nylon allows the air to escape more easily too.
    
You may not have a choice of what tent to take, but we would recommend a dome tent with 4 sided mesh as a great option for those warm nights (pictured above is  our tent, Mountain Hardwear Drifter 3)



3.    Purchase a 12-volt fan




Lack of air circulation makes a hot night unbearable.    The movement of air, though not cooling the air itself, will help you as the air circulates.

These fans have grown in popularity over the years.  Once they were hard to find, but now there are a variety of options.

A popular fan is the Outdoor Connection Breezeway 12V - available at most camping stores. With a weight of 1kg and 3 speeds, with a long power cord, it may be an option, especially at night.


how to keep cool in summer tips

    






The fans designed for camping (and requiring batteries)  means an additional cost to you; that is something you need to take into consideration when buying, especially if they are not rechargeable.   It depends on how much you want to spend on powering these fans, and how long you want to run that fan for - battery life will vary based on run time and settings.   Investigate the Companion Tent Fan (pictured below) which has 2-speed fan, plus a light.

how to keep cool in summer tips and guide




Of course, there is always the option of getting a 240w fan, and using with an inverter – they generally are larger fans, and therefore going to have greater breeze but if its suitable for you will depend on space, portability and if you have the necessary accessories to power it.



4.     Sleep in a hammock


camping hammock

Looking to maximise the cooler nights?   Then hammock camping is an option to think about.
    
We have written about this form of camping quite a bit before, and if you want to know more about it, check out

Introduction to hammock camping – swinging in the breeze

7 tips for hammock camping

Skybed hammock review

If no hammock, sleeping under a tarp another option, though bugs could be an issue!


If you are looking for other sleeping options - a camping stretcher/cot allows air to circulate under the cot, instead of a mattress.    You may find it cooler being a little elevated/off the ground.    If you have no idea about choosing a stretcher, read our guide to choosing a camp stretcher.




5.       The tarp over your tent


If you have this option, another way to help reduce heat on your tent is to string a tarp over the tent, leaving enough room for air to circulate between tent and tarp.   It provides another layer of protection from the sun.

A little bit more work, but the benefits will be noticeable. 

Alternatively, you may choose to put up extra awnings on your tent if you have them. If not another shelter during the day time, so you can stay under shade until it's time to go into the tent/trailer/caravan.   Hang some mosquito repellent devices off the tarp/shelter to keep those bugs away.


6.    Hydration and clothing


In our previous story on camping in summer, we emphasised the need to bring water and more water.     It’s timely to include this fact again as a way to keep cool.   Plenty of water as opposed to soft drinks, caffeine and alcohol will help keep you hydrated.
    
Children dehydrate quickly, so remember to watch their hydration closely

Not near the ocean or a lake?

If space allows, a small blow-up pool filled with water is a great way for children (and pets) to keep cool.   If it gets too hot, you can join them!

Proper clothing for conditions should include cotton clothing, light coloured (to reflect the heat), wide-brimmed hats and adequate sun protection for the body.     There are clothing items that draw sweat away from the body and have built-in SPF protection – worth investigating if hot weather camping is going to be on the itinerary.



7.    Choose suitable activities for the weather





If you are camping near water, your time will probably be spent in it!     That would be the best way to keep cool and one of the only reasons I would be found in a tent in summer – because we have a major water source right next to me!

If you don’t have a lake or ocean to laze by, your activities need to be altered to suit the weather.        Early morning starts for any activity, so you can rest in the heat of the day.
   
If you have access to air-conditioned locations (shops, tourist attractions, caravan park facilities) utilise them in the warmest part of the day, so you are not sweltering at your campsite.
     
We camped in the Northern Territory, and remain very thankful that Kings Canyon Resort had a swimming pool where we could spend the afternoons!





If you are heading out camping this summer, hope these tips make your camping experience a bit cooler.
    




Editors note:  This story was first published in 2014 and is updated frequently to provide accuracy and relevancy. 


5 tips you need to know about camping in summer

5 tips for hot days camping outdoors





Summer is here and when the temperature rises, some of you may embrace the outdoors and get that camping gear ready to go.   I am not a huge fan of camping in hot weather but there are some positives - warm balmy nights, and less shivering going to bed.


We list 5 tips you need to think about camping in summer - what you need to do for a positive and happy camping trip in warm weather.



If you are planning on heading to a camping location in summer, then before you head out, please check the weather and local conditions.  Travelling to remote campsites in winter is a highlight of the camping experience but in summer, that remoteness can put you at risk.  Heed all advice when it comes to road closures and evacuation of camping areas.  Keep informed and keep safe.



Katarapko  camping in summer






So what are 5 things you need to think about before you head out camping in summer?  See below.


Read 7 tips on how to stay cool when camping here as well!  




1.      Don’t forget a well-stocked First Aid Kit


Photo:  St Johns Ambulance
 

  • First Aid kits should be something you take each and every time when you go camping.   But in summer, just remember that you might need to check it, re-stock and add to it. Go to St John Ambulance website and buy your fully stocked kit. 

  • Insect repellent for the mosquitos and flies is crucial.     

  • You might want to even think about getting a net to go over your head to reduce the annoyance these bugs give you in summer!

  • If you get bitten, something to soothe the bites should be in that first aid kit too.      One suggestion for mosquito bites is to rub the bite with a piece of dry soap.    It doesn’t work for me, but others swear by it.

  • Summer means snakes, so a pressure immobilisation bandage should be included too.   This bandage can be used on funnel-web and mouse spider bites too.    We have one in our backpacks for our hikes in summer.   Learn how to use it. 

  • And if you are not too sure about First Aid, you should look into doing a course, or there is an app for your phones which could assist you in managing an emergency situation. 

  • Don't forget the sunscreen – and plenty of it.




2.   Keep food and drinks cold.

 

Sounds basic, doesn’t it?

But the food that is not properly chilled is going to be
  • gross
  • inedible
  • dangerous to consume
And nothing spoils a camping trip faster than food poisoning.

So if you want to know how to decrease the chances of a funny tummy and keep food cool, we suggest you read our Top 10 tips for keeping food cold.

The tips mentioned in this story are all very achievable and won't break your bank!

One important tip is that you might have to be prepared to move your food/drinks around the campsite to wherever the sun is not throughout the day.   


freeimage-5043681

Image source:  here

 

3.    Look at your campsite before you set up

 

So you have found a great spot to set up?     You all jump out and start unloading….and then the day progresses and the sun now beats down on your once shady cool spot…..

A bit of thinking before you set up is in order. 

  • Before you unpack, look at the time of day and where the sun will be in the afternoon.    The heat of the day is when your campsite, especially your tents/trailer, is going to need that shade.

  • Have you checked for ant hills in your campsite?    We didn’t once and found we were camping near inch ants.    And their bite is so painful.  Trust me on this one!!!

  • Additionally Hopper Ants (Hopper ants are native and found in Tasmania, country Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT, and parts of South Australia and can hop 20 cm in one bound!!). They can cause severe allergic reactions, so check your site closely for this painful sort of insects.

  • Don't forget to watch the trees where you are too - heat stress can cause branches to drop without a breath of wind around.     It's never recommended to camp under trees, but do be extra wary of gum trees.


Choosing a campsite is important at any time of the year - not just summer - and you can read how to choose a campsite - click here.

hopper ant

 

4.    Bring water and then, more water

 

Water, when you go camping, is important at any time right?    But in summer, it takes on new importance as dehydration is dangerous, and physical activity in the warmer months can make dehydration a greater possibility.

Ensure your children are given plenty of water throughout the day too, as little ones can dehydrate quickly.

Don’t count on the site having clean drinking water available – if you can, check-in advance, but if camping remotely, you will need to bring water with you.


Many campgrounds have water that is not safe for drinking.  Always check before consuming, and if in any doubt,  sterilise your water.    If you are not sure about water filters, have a look at these from Wild Earth to see a range available to you in all price brackets.


Heading to the Outback?     Then take as much water as you can, because if your vehicle breaks down remotely, you need to have that water to help you survive until help arrives (and don’t leave your vehicle).



tips for summer camping



5.    Know the rules


Summer in Australia means bushfires.  And fire bans are put in place for a reason.  The ban on campfires in National Parks and Forest Reserves is generally from November 1st through to April 30th, but this can vary from state to state.   Check.

  • There are different rules on Total Fire Ban days and the Fire Danger Season.    It’s important that you know the difference.
  • Check with local fire authority websites - eg. CFS, RFS, etc and know the conditions.  Continue to check websites/listen to local radio throughout your stay so you are aware of potential fire risks.   



If you are allowed a campfire where you are (and you know this because you checked in ADVANCE) remember that if you are collecting wood nearby, check the wood closely before you pick it up (insects, spiders and reptiles underneath could make you need that First Aid Kit).

And if you do have a campfire, extinguish completely….if it's hot to touch, it's too hot to leave.


Not sure how to put out a campfire?   Read these steps to putting out a campfire properly.


campfire with dutch oven





You can read our 7 tips for keeping cool when it's summer and you are camping - read it here



Editors Note:  This story was first published in 2012 and has been regularly updated every year.

How to choose a sleeping bag: 5 tips to help you make the right choice



How to choose a sleeping bag - a guide to making the right choice



Is it time for you to get a new sleeping bag?

Maybe your current one is showing the signs of wear and tear?   Or you want to upgrade to a warmer or lighter sort of bag?

Possibly, this could be your first ever purchase of a sleeping bag (which means you could be a little amazed by the variety on the market).



But how do you choose a sleeping bag?    


What do you look for in a sleeping bag?


sleeping bag - how to choose one


I am going to tell you straight up – it’s not easy.

There are so many things to consider.

If you go into a camping store there are a few things you need to know before you go, to make the right choice.   It's thinking about how you like to camp, where you camp, and of course, the weather you camp in.


With that in mind, read on to find out 5 tips to choosing the right sleeping bag.


1.   Temperature Rating


sleeping bag guide





The temperature rating on a bag is a guide (and I stress the word, guide) on the lowest temperature the bag is designed to keep you warm in.

So a bag that has a rating of 5 degrees Celsius, should theoretically keep you warm when the mercury gets to 5 degrees.


But will it?


The manufacturers testing of this temperature rating isn’t known, and a lot of factors also need to be considered on how effective that bag will be.    Your sleeping mat, if you are a warm or cold sleeper, the clothes you are wearing in the bag, the shelter you are in during the night, etc.

All factors that might alter how you feel in the bag.


So what do you look for in a rating?



Think about the lowest temp you think you will be camping in with this bag (not just the first trip, but any trip you are planning on using it).    Then subtract 10 degrees from that temperature.    And with that new temperature, choose a sleeping bag with that rating.

eg.  You think the coldest place you will camp in will be about 0 degrees.    Choose a bag rated to minus 10 degrees.

This might seem a little excessive, but it's easier to cool down in a too-warm sleeping bag, by unzipping it. Trying to get warm in a not-warm-enough bag is harder (and can lead to a sleepless night).

How warm you will be affected by your shelter and what's underneath you.  A sleeping mat is a purchase you will probably look at in conjunction with sleeping bags. Read the link below for information on that.

Further reading:  How to choose a self inflating mat



What about the ratings on the bag?



You might see on a sleeping bag, 3 levels of comfort rating and this is based on the EN 13537 rating, which means it's the official European standard for the labelling of sleeping bags.


Comfort - that's what a standard night sleep would be like for a 'standard' woman because women need more insulation than men apparently.    It's the warmth level that women would like for a comfortable night's sleep.  


Limit of comfort
- This is the lowest temperature that a 'standard' man would need for a comfortable nights sleep.   I am not sure what constitutes a 'standard' man, or woman (as above mentions)  but it assumes you are not sleeping naked and have some insulation underneath you.


Extreme - This is the coldest temperature you can survive in, in this particular bag without freezing to death.  Now under the standard EN13537 for sleeping bag ratings, they classify this 'extreme' rating as follows, "a strong sensation of cold has to be expected and there is a risk of health damage due to hypothermia".   Of course, you shouldn't be relying on any sleeping bag to save you from hypothermia, and use this as a guide only.


Here is an example of what you can see on the bags:



sleeping bags how to choose the right one for you?
Found on One Planet bags


How to choose a sleeping bag?



If you want to read more about the EN 13537 rating standards and validity, there is a paper from the Outdoor Industry which discusses in detail.


What about the temperature rating on children's sleeping bag?


It wouldn't be ethical for tests to be done on children to test the temperature range.  The ratings on a sleeping bag are based on adults - which have different physiological and physical differences. Some sleeping bags will go with age recommendations as opposed to saying what the temperature rating is, and that is based on much scientific data which you can read here if interested. 

A summary of this data surrounding children sleeping bag ratings concluded


"The model predicted lower temperature ratings for younger children (under 12 years old) than adults. Younger children were found to have a lower temperature rating due to a higher metabolic rate"  Source here




2.   Synthetic or Down filled 

 


how to choose a sleeping bag - down filled bag
Marmot Sawtooth 15 Down Sleeping bag




Another big choice will be the filling for the bag.   Do you choose synthetic or down?       

What is the difference?


Synthetic –
  • cheaper than its same rated down counterpart
  • heavier and bulky
  • has insulation properties when wet
  • easy care
  • hypoallergenic
  • Not as long-lasting – will deteriorate over time

Down –
  • lighter
  • longer lasting than any synthetic when cared for
  • expensive
  • no insulation when wet
  • highly compressible so takes up very little room
  • warmer than any synthetic available
  • more difficult to care for
  • not hypoallergenic


They both have pro’s and con’s about them as you can tell.

But what one to choose?

That will come down to your budget and your style of camping.        
 

Down is a good long term choice, and will suit anyone – and where weight and bulk is a consideration, you can’t do better.  There are different sorts of down too, and that affects price and warmth in the bag as well.    The higher the concentration of down feathers, the better.  So a down of 850+ is superior to one of 600+.   Simple!

Some people think down sleeping bags are a bit scary when it comes to cleaning - it's not too bad. You just need some time to do so.  Read how to wash a down sleeping bag here.

Hikers who need to minimise weight will find down sleeping bags the only practical option for them.



Synthetics are good if you plan on being on in wet conditions, and on a budget.    And if you don’t plan on being a regular camper – the more casual or not so sure about camping sort of person, then this will be a good choice and an economical one.

You might find if you enjoy camping, that you need to upgrade later.

 
how to choose a sleeping bag
North Face Blue Kazoo Down Sleeping Bag


 

The Ethical Use of Down

 

Before we move onto the next point, it's very important that we mention the use of down and the ethical treatment of animals to produce this down.     This was raised in comments when we first published this story, and it was remiss of us not to address at the time.

When purchasing a down product (whether it be a sleeping bag or a jacket), you should check that it was ethically sourced.

Unfortunately, big business means ill-treatment of animals in the past, and the down from ducks and geese have meant extreme cruelty against these animals.    It still goes on, but you as a consumer can make a choice.   That means looking for companies that follow the Responsible Down Standard.  It's a voluntary standard, so not every company will participate so you need to do some homework.



Is this RDS a guarantee?    I am not sure....there can be no guarantees.

PETA has recently put out information saying the unethical treatment of animals continues.    You can read their current story on live-plucking.    It is very distressing to read and see.


  

3.  Shape


The shape of the sleeping bag varies, and the main shapes you will come across is the mummy, tapered rectangular and rectangular.



  • A mummy-shaped is probably the most efficient. (see image below).  


how to choose a sleeping bag
Nemo Kyan 20 Synthetic Mummy Bag


It's wide at the shoulders and then narrows down to the feet, which means less air needs to be heated in the bag.    Less room to wriggle about, though, so if you like to toss and turn in your sleeping bag, this might be a little restrictive.

In terms of thermal efficiency, it is the best option. If you think you could find this sort of shape of bag constrictive, you could look at a mummy bag that has a zip that goes all the way down the side, so you could open it up if required.




  • Tapered rectangular is just as it sounds.   


They taper down to the foot of the bag,  like the mummy, but not as much.    More wriggle room and a good all-rounder shaped bag.





how to choose a sleeping bag
Roman Palm Lite 




  • A rectangular bag is…..rectangular!    


Even more, wriggle room, and tend to be the sort of bag you would use if you don’t have to worry about weight or size. This is a generalist shape bag, and will not come with many fancy features or technical designs.



 

 

 

4.    Fit (based on the individual) 


This goes together with the shape (point 3).  It’s about finding a bag that suits you.     Not only do bags come in different shapes, but different sizes too.




eg. The Darche 1100 Cold Mountain  (pictured below) is for the larger person or a person who likes room in their bag.  250cm x 114cm.  So that is the sort of synthetic bag that would suit a car camper who doesn't want to be constricted.  Rated for -12 degrees.


how to choose a sleeping bag


Some bags are different lengths to cater for tall or short people.  If you are tall, you don't want to be squishing yourself into a bag which is uncomfortable.  When buying a bag, check the measurements and get one that is for your size.  Many bags come in LONG, so do look for that feature in conjunction with all the other features.

eg.  The Sea to Summit Ascent 3 Down Sleeping bag - Long, (pictured below) is recommended for someone up to 198cm and the regular version is for up to 183cm.  So that is quite a difference.  Sea-to-Summit have many different down and synthetic bag that come in both long and regular.




Women are considered cold sleepers.  Therefore there are bags that are designed specifically for them, but that is not to say that they are only for women.  And of course, a woman can choose any bag, not just one designed for them.  If you are a cold sleeping woman, you may want to look at a sleeping bag designed for women or choose a warmer sleeping bag.


eg.  The Sea to Summit Quest 1 Qui Women's Synthetic Bag - Regular size (pictured below)   It is a tapered sleeping bag, wider in the hip area, and narrower in the shoulders. Comfort level rating of 3 degrees celsius, with a lower rating of -3 degrees.


guide to sleeping bags how to pick one







Are you looking for a double sleeping bag?


If so, read how to choose a double sleeping bag in this story.  Double sleeping bags have many of the same features you look for, but we explain in greater detail about how to choose one and what you need to look for in greater detail.

Pictured below is the Sea to Summing Basecamp 2 rectangular sized double sleeping bag. (pictured below)  This is for regular size (up to 183cm), with 3 2-way zips.
how to choose a sleeping bag



Children - do they need their sleeping bags fitted for their size?  We say yes. To find out why we think children need an age-appropriate bag, read our story on Kids Camping Gear - What to buy and what not to buy

Children sleeping bags are a great idea, but as the link above mentions, it is important to get the right one for children.




5.  Extra features


The little touches are important when choosing a bag but some are not necessary, or must-haves. Just features you can review with each bag you look at.


  • Look at the zippers – Do they close up easily, or snag a lot on the lining? Do the zips lock in place when pulled up?  Do they go all the way to the bottom or only halfway (the former means the bag can be opened up easily to cool you down if you get too hot)? Left or right-hand side?
  • What is the lining made of?   Polyester or nylon breathes and draws away moisture.  Cotton (like flannelette) is comfortable but moisture stays with you and can leave you feeling damp.
  • Neck muff – holds the warmth in the bag, not letting it seep out.
  • A hood – allows you not to wear a hat when in the bag, and provides a soft spot for your head.   Some hoods will have a drawstring that will only show your face when drawn in.
  • Do they come with pockets (some have places where you could store small items)
  • Stuff sack and mesh bag - when possible, you should store the bag out of the stuff sack and in a mesh bag.  It's great if your purchase has both these items. 
  • Pillow pocket - a pocket where your pillow slides in to prevent it from moving around in the night.



Whatever the sort of sleeping bag you want to choose, do your homework.      

(Double sleeping bag information is found in this story)




Some bags are not cheap – so make sure you get the one that is right for you and your camping.   












Editors Note:   This story has been updated to reflect changes and improve accuracy.