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Ways to Stay Cool When Tent Camping

By Dustin Hughes ; Updated April 18, 2017

Some people go great lengths to keep warm while camping, plunking down big dollars for the latest in puffy sleeping bags and high-tech jackets to keep them cozy when not huddled around a roaring campfire. But when the weather turns scorching hot, whether it’s in the bone-dry desert Southwest or the ultra-muggy South, there are several simple, low- or no-cost ways to keep your cool and to keep your trip safe and enjoyable instead of dangerous and miserable.

Drink Up

The first, best and most important way you can keep cool when camping in the heat is also the best for you: Keep hydrated. Your body needs to sweat to cool down, and it needs water to replace that fluid. Drink small sips frequently. Many hikers use a water bladder with a drinking tube that they stuff in their backpack. The easy access to water removes the hassle of taking out a water bottle, unscrewing the cap, taking a drink and shoving it back in the backpack. It pays to have several other containers of water. That way if one is lost or springs a leak, you don’t lose your entire supply.

Choose Your Clothing Well

Stick with lightweight, light-colored, moisture-wicking clothing. One essential piece is the bandanna. It can be a sun shade when tucked under the back of a cap, a sweatband or, when dipped in cool water, a refreshing wipe-down. A wet bandanna on top of the head can provide relief from the heat.

Adjust Your Schedule

When camping in the hotter seasons, adjust your schedule to compensate. Plan activities in the cool of night or early morning, before the heat sets in. This is more than a great way to stay cool: Night and dawn are great times to see wildlife.

Take Shelter

Even when the forecast calls for hot temperatures, take a sleeping bag with you. Forecasters might be wrong. Look for a three-season sleeping bag. Three-season bags are lighter weight, cheaper and designed for milder temperatures. Most tents have vents at the top and base to allow for chimney-style venting -- warm, moist air escapes from the top, while cooler night air is drawn in from below. For even better venting, leave the tent fly unzipped and rolled up, or leave the fly off altogether. Some campers do away with the tent altogether, using tarps when sleeping out. Modern camping tarps are typically 8 feet by 10 feet, made of siliconized nylon and extremely lightweight. Make your campsite at a valley bottom to take advantage of the natural air conditioning. Also consider siting your camp on north- or east-facing sites so you can escape the sun’s rays.

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