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.   

Fans come with lights - see the Coleman CPX6 lighted fan here (via Amazon - affiliate) 

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.