Tent Site at Lane Cove Campground, Isle Royale National Park
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Camping is our favorite activity to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and enjoy nature and solitude.

While it can be incredibly rewarding, it can also be unbearably hot and miserable if you don’t know how to stay cool.

Whether you’re camping in the middle of summer in the northeast or in a warmer climate year-round, use these tips for how to stay cool while camping to beat the heat and get back to enjoying your time outdoors.

Our Favorite Gear for Staying Cool While Camping

backcountry campsite in Voyageurs National Park that includes a fire ring, bear pole, and tent spot
Choosing the right camping spot is important. This one was in Voyageurs National Park!
Choosing where to put your tent on your campsite is important when trying to stay cool while camping in hot weather.
We didn’t have to worry so much about heat while camping in Congaree National Park in late September.

How to Stay Cool While Camping: What to Do with Your Tent

How and where you set up your tent can have a huge effect on the temperature inside it whenever you want to go to sleep. Here are a few things you should absolutely take into consideration when trying to stay cool when camping in a tent.

1. Pitch Your Tent in a Shady Spot

One of the best ways to stay cool while camping is to make sure your tent is set up in the shade. If you can find a camping spot surrounded by trees, try your best to position your tent so that the trees absorb the sunlight instead of your tent.

This way, you don’t have to worry about the sun heating up your tent during the day and causing it to become unbearably hot.

Make sure you have a good understanding of where the sun will pass during the day (it will usually be close to directly overhead depending on where you are).

Grab a compass or check out an app on your phone and figure out where the sun will be going throughout its path during the day so that you can plan accordingly.

2. Create Your Own Shade

Man-made shade is a great way to stay cool while camping if you don’t have any of the natural stuff available. Whether you opt for a canopy, an awning, or an old tarp, having any kind of shade can be the difference between being comfortable and roasting in the hot sun.

Canopies are usually made of fabric and provide coverage from rain and wind, but they can be damaged with stronger wind gusts. They also make for a nice shaded area to lounge in during the day and can be moved over a picnic table or eating area if there is rain.

Awnings are typically constructed of sturdier materials and are often attached to your vehicle or camper. This can be a great option if you are short on storage space for a canopy or easy-up type shade.

A more budget-friendly option is to use a tarp and string it up over your tent. While it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing look, it sure beats melting in the heat.

Having man-made shade while camping not only helps you stay cooler but can also make your time outdoors even more enjoyable in the heat.

3. Use a Reflective Sunshade for Even More Protection

Go beyond using a regular tarp! Using a reflective sunshade can help to keep the temperatures even cooler in your tent or where you hang out around your campsite.

Sunshades are made of reflective materials on one side, which better reflect sunlight away from your tent or social area. This helps in keeping it much cooler than it would be without it.

Sunshades are designed to be placed above the tent, and you should leave at least 12 inches of space between them and the top of the tent for proper air circulation. Otherwise, you’re defeating the purpose of use!

When used correctly, sunshades can allow you to comfortably sleep in even after dawn, if you’d like. So before you head out on your next hot-weather camping trip, pack a reflective sunshade — it could make all the difference.

4. Ditch the Rainfly if There’s No Rain in the Forecast

When the weather forecast for your camping trip looks clear and dry, it can be a good idea to ditch the rainfly.

A rainfly protects your tent from water and wind, but in hot weather it can also trap body heat, or heat from the summer sun, making the inside of your tent much hotter than the outside temperature.

If you’re expecting warm days and nights, leaving off the rainfly will allow air to circulate more freely, which helps keep temperatures lower.

Plus, if you’re camping in a more private location with spectacular night skies, leaving off the rainfly gives you an unobstructed view of the stars above.

So when it’s dry out, leave the rainfly off and enjoy cooler temperatures and beautiful views.

5. Flatten Your Tent During the Heat of the Day

When camping during the summer or in hot weather, especially if you don’t have access to shade whether natural or created, it can be extremely beneficial to disassemble your tent during the day.

Tents act like greenhouses; they absorb the sun’s rays and become a storehouse for heat. This makes it difficult to stay cool when you need to get back into the tent.

Additionally, tent fabrics are more easily damaged with exposure to direct sunlight. A synthetic tent fabric is no exception.

Disassembling your tent during the day will not only keep you cooler but also increase the life span of your tent so that you can use it for much longer.

So, be sure to take down your tent during hot days, even if it’s just pulling the hooks off of the tent poles and letting them fall to cover your sleep system, this simple act can help you to enjoy a cooler night’s sleep after a long day of exploring.

6. Choose a Tent Appropriate for the Conditions

Camping in the summer can be challenging when it comes to staying cool, but with the right gear, you can have a comfortable time.

One of the best ways to stay cool while camping is to choose a tent with lots of mesh. Mesh tents allow for maximum ventilation, permitting airflow from every angle and creating a cooler space inside of your tent.

This also helps keep pesky bugs away, which is an added bonus!

The mesh material should reach up at least 6 inches from the ground to allow for maximum airflow and reduce condensation build-up.

Look for a tent that is made more for warm weather camping, instead of 4-season tents. Those made for all 4 seasons will typically be better at insulating, the exact opposite of your goals during the summer months.

Additionally, many of these mesh tents come with rain flies that you can use if needed for additional protection from the elements, but as we’ve already mentioned, they can be removed during warm weather for better ventilation.

7. Use a Larger Tent

It’s important to use a tent that is large enough for everyone to fit comfortably, but a bigger tent creates better airflow and ventilation.

This helps reduce the compact body heat that can build up inside a smaller tent and effectively keep everyone cooler.

This is especially important if your camping trip involves more than one person. Make sure there are enough sleeping mats and bags for everyone in the tent, as well as adequate space between them.

Additionally, consider using a tent and equipment that is made of light-colored fabrics and materials. These colors will not absorb as much heat as darker varieties, keeping the temperature in your tent cooler during the hot summer months.

8. Make Sure You Open the Vents!

Even if you have the right gear, you have to know how to use it properly to get the most out of it!

One of the most important things you can do when camping in hot weather is to open all the vents in your tent.

If you don’t have a mesh inner tent, opening the windows and doors of your tent will help keep air circulating and reduce the amount of heat that builds up inside.

Just make sure all these openings are covered with bug-proof mesh so that you don’t admit any uninvited pests during your stay.

9. Avoid Hot Camping Surfaces

Hot summer days can make camping uncomfortable, especially when it comes to the ground surface where you set up your tent.

One of the best tips for staying cool while camping in hot weather is to avoid surfaces that retain heat.

Obviously asphalt, concrete, and blacktop spaces are not comfortable to sleep on, but they can also retain a significant amount of heat compared to the grass or dirt beside them.

Sand can also become extremely hot during the day and this heat will be transferred directly into your tent.

Instead, look for grassy areas or other surfaces that don’t absorb as much heat from the sun.

This simple switch can save you from a night of uncomfortably warm sleeping conditions—so keep an eye out for cooler surfaces when pitching your tent.

campsite set up among the Allegheny Front Trail
There are many ways to rig your tent and sleep system to stay cool. We slept among the rhododendrons on a rainy night while backpacking the Allegheny Front Trail.

How to Stay Cool While Camping: Choosing A Sleep System

There is no “right” gear to use for your sleep system when camping. It’s whatever you’re most comfortable in, and what gear fits within your budget!

Use things that you already have. The one thing we wouldn’t skimp on, though, is a high-quality sleeping pad or air mattress if that’s the route you choose to go. There is quite a difference when it comes to sleeping pads, and often you get what you pay for.

11. Use a Sheet, Instead

Even if you have the best sleeping bag money can buy, you’ll probably still find yourself sweating during hot weather. They’re made for sleeping in cold weather!

To help keep your body temperature down, try just using a sheet instead of a sleeping bag when you go camping in hot weather.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll still want to have some sort of cover while sleeping, so a lightweight summer sheet is a great solution.

Not only will it be more comfortable but also much cooler than a traditional sleeping bag. Plus, sheets are lightweight, making them easier to pack and carry.

So if you plan on camping in hot weather this summer, bring along a sheet instead of a sleeping bag.

12. Use a Sleeping Bag Liner

Sleeping in a tent while camping in the summer months can be a hot and uncomfortable experience, but there are some easy ways to keep cool while you’re out under the night sky.

A great alternative to using a sheet, especially if you’re backpacking, is to use just a silk sleeping bag liner.

Silk typically feels much cooler than cotton. It’s also quick-drying and will deal with sweat much better.

A silk sleeping bag liner is a great piece of gear to have in your repertoire because it can also protect the inside of your sleeping bag in cooler months. It’s much easier to wash and clean than those thick, heavy bags.

Then, when you’re camping during the summer, you can just use the liner on its own.

13. Sleep On Top of Your Sleeping Bag

When it comes to staying cool while camping in the summer, there’s one thing you should remember: Don’t sleep in your sleeping bag.

Instead, sleep on top of your sleeping bag. The extra cushioning below can be welcome on hard ground. Cover yourself up with a sheet or lightweight blanket, instead.

This will also help keep your body temperature regulated and prevent you from getting too hot during the night.

You’ll also keep the inside of your sleeping bag much cleaner during your trip.

13. Sleep on a Cot

Another alternative to traditional sleeping systems for camping is to consider sleeping on a cot, especially if you’re car camping or staying at a campground.

Cots are lightweight and easily portable, making them perfect for camping trips. They raise you up off the ground, creating an airflow beneath you that will help keep your body temperature regulated.

Plus, some cots come with added benefits like more comfortable mattresses, or at least extra cushioning to make your night’s sleep even better.

If you’re worried about having enough space in your tent for a cot, don’t worry! Most tents can easily fit one without taking away from the usable space or compromising on comfort.

This is even more reason to get a tent that is a little larger than what you’d typically need!

So if you want to stay cool during hot summer nights of camping, bring along a cot—it just might be the key to a good, cool night’s sleep.

14. Try A Hammock Sleep System

Sleeping in a hammock can be a fantastic way to keep cool while camping during the summer months because you won’t be sleeping in a tent that is essentially a greenhouse.

A hammock gives you full-body air circulation, and with its compact, lightweight design, it’s much easier to transport than a tent.

Plus, with the right type of hammock, you’ll have plenty of room to stretch out and be comfortable.

When shopping for a hammock, make sure you buy one that’s designed for sleeping instead of just lounging. They’re much different!

Tent Site at Lane Cove Campground, Isle Royale National Park, where we took advantage of multiple ways to keep our tent cool including camping near water, in the shade, and without our rain fly.
We were able to camp in the shade, near water, and without our rainfly while backpacking Isle Royale.

Staying Cool When Camping: Where and When to Sleep

Although your gear has a lot to do with your comfort levels, so does when and where you choose to sleep. Take these suggestions into account when picking your next campsite.

15. Camp Near the Water

When camping in the summer, one of the best ways to stay cool is to camp near bodies of water.

The air temperatures near lakes and creeks are typically lower than in water-free locations.

Additionally, you can enjoy all sorts of fun activities, like swimming and fishing in cool water.

Camping near a body of water also provides you with easy access to much-needed hydration — make sure you bring along plenty of cold water for both drinking and cooling off during the hot summer days.

For those extra hot nights, a quick dip in the lake or creek should help to bring your core temperature down a degree or two and help you sleep better when temperatures are high.

So if you’re looking for an enjoyable way to keep cool this summer while camping, make sure you’re setting up camp next to a body of water!

16. Camp at Elevation

Camping is a great way to escape the summer heat, and there are a few tricks you can use to stay cool while camping. One of the best ways to beat the heat is by camping at a high elevation.

If you’re camping in the mountains, you’ll be able to enjoy cooler temperatures as you get higher up—for every 1,000 feet of altitude gain, the temperature decreases by 3-4 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s much easier to find a spot that offers cooler temperatures than what’s in the lowlands.

If you’re near a body of water in addition to a higher elevation, make sure to take advantage of it! Spending time floating around or wading in cold water will help keep your body temperature down during hot days and nights.

You can also fill a bottle with cold water before bedtime and place it in your sleeping bag or tent so that you can remain cool throughout the night.

17. Sleep When the Sun is Down

One of the best, and maybe obvious, ways to stay cool while camping is to try and sleep during dark hours when the temperature is typically cooler.

When the sun goes down, the temperature will start to drop and this can help keep your tent much cooler while sleeping.

You can also remove the rainfly, as we’ve already mentioned!

Take advantage of natural conditions when the sun is down. Don’t try to fight nature. You probably won’t win. Mother nature is pretty dang powerful!

18. Use the Breeze to your Advantage

One great way to stay cool while camping during hot summer days is to make use of the breeze!

If there’s a light wind, take advantage of it by pitching your tent in an area that allows for plenty of air circulation.

This will ensure that the air inside your tent circulates properly, keeping temperatures much lower than if you were to set up camp in a still and enclosed space.

So when setting up your sleeping space on your next camping trip, don’t forget to factor in the wind and take advantage of any natural breezes that might be blowing.

Set up camp on dirt among shaded trees to stay cooler while camping in a tent.
Even when camping at a campground like a KOA, book a shaded spot to keep your tent cooler.

Gear Tips & Tricks for Staying Cool When Camping in the Summer

In addition to your tent, sleep system, and location, there are a few other items you can bring along to make your trip more comfortable. While some are better for car and traditional campground sites rather than lugging into the backcountry, you can use some of these suggestions to stay cool no matter what adventure you’re going on.

19. Use a Portable Fan

A portable fan is a must-have item for any camping trip during the summer months.

It will help circulate the air in your tent, making it much easier to keep cool and comfortable when the weather is hot, in addition to any natural breeze that you can take advantage of.

Portable fans come in a variety of sizes and styles, so you can find one that best suits your needs. Many even come with rechargeable batteries, so you don’t have to worry about running out of power during your camping trip.

Whether you’re looking for a small fan to attach to the ceiling or wall of your tent, or something larger that sits on the floor, there’s an option that works for you. With a portable fan at your side, you’ll be able to enjoy those hot summer temperatures with a little more comfort.

20. Put a Cooler (or Frozen Water Bottle) Behind your Fan

A fan and cooler can work together to help you stay cool while camping in the summer.

All you need to do is place your cooler, or better yet one of those frozen water bottles you brought, behind your fan.

These things can help cool the air behind the fan. Then, when you turn on the fan, it blows that cold air onto you!

This is how many air conditioners work and it’s a great way to keep yourself cool during hot days and nights while camping.

Make sure to pack plenty of water and drinks in your cooler so you can easily grab them when necessary.

Keep in mind that this technique is most effective if you have access to an electrical outlet or are using solar power for your fan.

21. Create DIY Air Conditioning

DIY air conditioning is a great way to keep cool while camping during the especially hot summer months. While it requires a bit of creativity, it’s an affordable and effective way to beat the heat.

To create your own DIY AC, there are a couple of options.

You can hang a wet sheet or tarp near your tent entrance. Use the breeze or the portable fan you brought along to move some air. This will help create an air-cooling system as the fabric moves with the breeze.

At night time, you can use your cooler or those frozen water bottles situated behind a fan to move cooler air, as well as keep them near you to stay cool.

A wooden sided camp shelter in Isle Royale National Park
Shelter #10, Daisy Farm Campground in Isle Royale National Park. They’re well-ventilated, so sleep in one if you get the chance, instead of pitching your tent.

Things you can Personally Do to Stay Cool While Camping

It’s not always about the gear! These suggestions are all things that you can do in regard to your intake of water, food, and activities to help stay cooler while camping in the heat.

22. Drink Plenty of Water

Staying hydrated is one of the easiest ways you can take care of your body and to stay cool while camping in hot weather. Water helps your body regulate its temperature and can help keep you from overheating.

It also helps to flush out toxins that can build up in your system during times of high physical activity.

Plus, drinking water will make sure you’re circulating the proper electrolytes and minerals that your body needs.

Aim to drink around half your body weight in ounces of water per day or more, depending on how active you are during your trip. For example, a person who weighs 150 pounds should aim to drink about 75 ounces of water per day.

If possible, bring a large insulated bottle with you so that you always have cold water on hand. These Stanley Flip-Top bottles work great by keeping drinks cold, keeping the drinking spout covered and clean, and preventing water leaks.

With plenty of water and a few of these other tips, staying cool on those hot summer days won’t be as much of a problem!

23. Take a Cool Shower Right Before Bedtime

Taking a cold shower just before going to bed, if you have access to a bathhouse or running water, is one of the best ways to stay cool while camping in the summer months.

The cold water can help bring your body temperature down, making it easier for you to fall asleep. It also helps by removing all the sticky sweat build-up from all your physical activity throughout the day.

Taking a cold shower is a great way to start winding down and getting ready for bedtime. Even if you don’t have access to a shower, try immersing yourself in a body of water nearby or splashing some cold water on your face and neck.

That should help reduce your body temperature enough so that you have a better chance at a good night’s sleep.

24. Pack Frozen Water Bottles or Jugs

Bringing large bottles or jugs of frozen water along with you on your summer camping trip is one of the best ways to stay cool.

These jugs are incredibly useful, as they help keep food items cool, can be used behind a fan for cooler air circulation, and can provide cold drinks throughout your trip.

The best part is that when the ice melts it stays contained within the jug, so you don’t have to worry about melting ice making your food soggy or wasting the water by just dumping it out of your cooler. The ice will also last longer when frozen in larger blocks instead of just smaller cubes.

Just make sure you plan ahead and freeze enough jugs for the duration of your trip; otherwise, you may find yourself without cold drinks or a way to keep food cool.

With a few bottles or jugs of frozen water in tow, you’ll have a much more pleasant summer camping experience.

25. Pack Lightweight, Light-Colored Clothing

It’s a well-known fact that lighter colors help to keep you cool in the summer heat.

That’s why, when it comes to camping during the summer months, it’s best to pack only light-colored clothing.

Not only do light colors help keep you cooler, but also try to make sure your clothes are made of breathable materials. Wearing items that cover your arms and legs can also provide great protection from sunburn. Sleeping with a sunburn can be miserable both because of discomfort and the heat that radiates from your skin.

Fabrics like cotton and linen are more breathable than heavier fabrics like denim, but synthetic fabrics help to wick away sweat and prevent chaffing.

If you plan on hitting the great outdoors this summer, make sure to stick with light-colored and lightweight clothing for maximum comfort.

26. Wear Loose Fitting Clothing

When it comes to camping in the summer, it’s important to wear clothing that allows your body to breathe.

Tight and restrictive clothing can be uncomfortable at the best of times and become unbearable when temperatures soar.

So ditch your stiff-fitted jeans and instead opt for lightweight, loose-fitting items.

Not only will this allow air to circulate around your body helping you stay cool but also give you more freedom of movement which is essential for any kind of outdoor activity.

Additionally, wearing light-colored clothing can also help reflect the sun’s rays away from your body instead of absorbing them, keeping you cool even in hot weather.

27. Protect Your Skin

Camping in the summer months can be a great way to get outdoors and enjoy nature, but it’s important to remember that hot weather comes with its own set of challenges.

One of the biggest threats is the sun’s UV rays, which can cause painful sunburns and long-term skin damage.

That’s why it’s so important to take steps to protect your skin when camping in the summer heat.

Make sure to apply sunscreen regularly throughout the day with an SPF rating of at least 30.

Additionally, wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses for additional protection.

For even further protection from the sun, opt for that light-colored clothing that covers both your arms and legs.

By following these suggestions, you can stay both comfortable and safe during your next summer camping trip.

28. Use a Cooling Towel

Cooling towels are a great way to stay cool anytime when camping in hot weather.

These special towels are designed for hyper-evaporation, meaning they help you cool down quickly.

To use, simply wet the towel with cold water and place it on the back of your neck or anywhere else you feel warm.

The towel will absorb your body heat and help keep you cool even during hot weather.

Additionally, these towels are lightweight and easy to carry around, so you can take it with you wherever you go while camping in the summer months.

29. Keep Your Food Cold

It’s important to keep your food cold when camping in hot weather. Not only does it help maintain food safety, but it also helps keep you cool and comfortable.

Investing in a high-end cooler is the best way to keep your food at its optimal temperature for longer periods of time.

However, if that isn’t an option, a less expensive cooler will do the trick as long as you freeze plenty of water and even some of the foods you plan on taking ahead of time.

When packing your cooler, make sure to only open it when necessary since doing so will cause its contents to lose their cool temperature quickly.

When planning your meals and choosing what food to bring, select breakfast and lunch options that don’t need to be heated. Breakfast bars, sandwiches, and even cold-soaked meals can be great options. Then, you won’t have to worry about slaving over a hot campfire during the heat of the day.

This way, you can use the campfire for dinner when temperatures are cooler in the evening.

Don’t forget to store any perishable items in an insulated bottle or container to ensure they stay cold and safe throughout your camping trip.

30. Eat Smaller, Lighter Meals

Eating smaller, lighter meals can help you stay cool while camping in the summer months. Eating too many heavy proteins and salty snacks can be hard to digest and cause you to become dehydrated quickly.

You’ll need a little salt, but excess can be detrimental!

Instead, opt for lighter meals, including raw vegetables, or fresh fruit which are easy to digest and provide essential nutrients. They’re also cooler!

Eating smaller meals will also ensure that your body is fueled up so it can function efficiently in the heat without having to digest too much at one time.

It’s better to eat small snacks throughout the day rather than one big meal, and your stomach will thank you in the heat. Even if you aren’t hungry, make sure you refuel during your activities.

With this meal regimen, you’ll be able to both stay energized and keep cool during your summer camping trip.

31. Choose Lightweight Items

It’s important to choose lightweight items that won’t add extra weight and heat to your pack if you’re carrying your gear while backpacking and camping.

This means opting for items such as a lightweight tent, a lighter sleep system, and lightweight moisture-wicking clothing.

With a lighter pack weight, you won’t have to work quite so hard to carry your gear. You won’t need many of those heavier items anyway!

With the right combination of lightweight items, you’ll be able to keep cool while camping in the summer months!

32. Repel the Bugs

No camping trip would be complete without insect repellent. While this isn’t exactly a recommendation for how to stay cool, bugs are much more prevalent during hot weather.

To protect yourself from these pests, make sure to bring along some bug spray or insect repellent whenever you go camping.

It’s also important to apply it before heading out and reapply it every few hours while you’re outdoors.

Additionally, if possible, try to avoid tall grass or areas with a lot of standing water—these are prime spots for mosquitos and ticks, as well as other biting insects.

Set up your tent in the shade to stay cooler while camping.
Stay cool in the shade like at this spot in the backcountry.

Staying cool while camping may seem like a challenge, but with these tips, it’s totally doable. When you’re used to having to stay warm in a tent during cold weather, hot-weather camping can seem like a completely foreign concept.

Remember to pack wisely, stay hydrated, and take advantage of natural shade and water sources. With a little planning and preparation, you can enjoy all the fun of camping without feeling like you’re melting in the heat. 

You’ll surely enjoy your next trip even more, better knowing how to stay cool while camping in hot weather.