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10 Tips for Camping in Hot Weather

Camping supplies10 Tips for Camping in Hot Weather: Beat the heat and learn what to pack, how to set up camp, and how to avoid the sun all while making fun camping vacation memories
For our family, summer is always camping season.   Here in California there are local, state, and national parks where you can camp year round, but typically the summer months are what fits our busy schedules best. While the kids are out on school break and we often head to the mountains or beach and tent camp. The problem with summer camping is that daytime temperatures can exceed 100 degrees.   Unless you head high into the mountains, the inland areas of California can be really warm and dry.
San Luis Resevoir Camping
When camping as a family we want to make sure it is a fun and enjoyable experience, which isn't the case if we are suffering in the heat.  Fortunately, even on some of the hottest days, there are things you can do to make your camping adventure enjoyable.  A little good planning, bringing the right supplies and modifying your behavior can make all the difference when it comes to staying cool while camping in the hot summer months.  

10 Tips for Surviving A Camping Trip In The Summer

(Disclosure: I have partnered with Tervis for this post) 

1. Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT thing to think about anytime you are spending time outdoors, and especially if you are spending full days outside at a campsite.  Children are the most susceptible to not drinking enough.  If you are feeling thirsty, it is already too late.  You need to constantly be taking in liquids to avoid dehydration.

When we camp, each of the kids has their own insulated cup that they use throughout the day. Since each child has their own Tervis tumbler, their drinks stay cool and are easily refilled, which encourages them to constantly drink.  By using a refillable cup, it means we aren’t generating a lot of plastic bottle waste nor throwing away disposable cups, which is especially important if you are camping at at pack in/pack out site.  The insulated designs mean they stay cool, don't sweat and the lids keep out the bugs and help prevent spills.

The kids use the smaller 16 oz classic tumblers (good for both hot and cold beverages) which feature their favorite Disney characters.  Each child has their own so we always know whose is whose.  My husband has a 30 oz size with his beloved Wisconsin Badgers on it.  Tervis has NCAA, MLB, NBA designs and you can even create custom tumblers.
Staying hydrated with tervis while hiking

I recently got Tervis’ new stainless steel 30 oz size and I love it.  On our last camping trip it kept my drink cold (and the ice frozen) for more than 24 hours, even in 90 degree heat!  I filled it with my iced coffee at the start of the day, and it wasn't diluted, even hours later.  Plus I can throw it in my backpack or the camp gear box and not worry about it cracking or breaking.  The design is slim enough that it fit in both my car's cup holders as well as the cupholder in my folding camp chair.

For hiking trips you can also use Tervis' line of spill proof water bottles, which are perfect for taking your hydration on the go.

2. Plan Activity For Cooler Times

Hiking and camping go hand in hand, but hiking in the heat of the day can lead to disaster.  Getting up early while the temps are low and getting your hike in before lunch is a great way to avoid the heat.  Conserve your energy and limit your activity during the hottest parts of the date (typically early to mid afternoon).
Sunrise at the campground
As a family we tend to hang around the campsite during the mid day snacking on energy rich snacks and cold drinks, playing cards or reading.  We save all the strenuous activities for the cooler parts of the day.

3. Protect Yourself from the Sun

If you do have to go out into the direct sun, you want to make sure you are doing everything you can to keep from getting sun stroke or sunburns.  Always make sure to wear (and frequently reapply) sunscreen with greater than 30 SPF.  Sunglasses and large brimmed hats also help protect your skin and eyes from the sun and make you feel cooler.  Of course, searching out the shade whenever possible and taking frequent breaks out of the direct sun can keep your core body temperature down.

4. Search out the Water

Many campgrounds are located near beaches and lakes.  When planning summer adventures, choose campgrounds with swimming areas which provide both recreation and the ability to cool off quickly in the hot afternoons.  Even if you don’t actually enter the water, you will almost always find a cool breeze coming off large bodies of water.

Don’t forget that while swimming or sunbathing, you still need to stay hydrated.  It is often easy to forget to drink while in the water.  We bring our Tervis’ tumblers to the beach since they do a great job of keeping our drinks cold, and the lids keep out any blowing sand.
Tervis tumblers on the beach
If you don’t have a beach nearby, you can still use water to stay cool.  Bring along a spray bottle or damp cloth while hiking or around camp to quickly cool your neck and face.

5. Set up in the Shade 

When setting up your tent consider where the shade will be, especially during the times you will be inside.  Keep in mind, if you are setting up your tent at midday, the shade will be very different than during sunrise, which is typically when you will be sleeping inside.  Consider the fact the sun will be in the Eastern part of the sky at sunrise when deciding where to set up your tent.
Camping in the shade to avoid the heat
If your site doesn’t have much cover you can create your own with the use of tarps or solar blankets.

6. Have a Cooler Strategy

Keeping your cooler frozen can be a challenge especially if you are camping for an extended period of time.  Pre-freezing large containers (like milk jugs) of water to use as both drinking water and for cooling works well.  Large blocks of ice tend to last longer than smaller cubes.  When adding ice drain out all but about a inch or so of standing water at the bottom of the cooler.

Consider bringing multiple coolers and keeping one for only drinks (that you can go into and out of frequently) while keeping one for food items you only need rarely (this means that cooler will be kept shut and stay frozen longer.)  If you have multiple food coolers consider packing them by "time" meaning food you plan on eating first in one, and long term storage in the other.    We also bring a single small "drink ice" container for ice to use in our drinks.  You don't want the juices from raw meat or veggies to contaminate any ice you will be ingesting.

Keep all coolers out of direct sun and insulate them with solar blankets or tarps.

7. Choose Foods That Don’t Require Refrigeration   

If you plan to camp for more than a day or two, you will most likely need to refill your cooler with fresh ice.  An alternative is to pack meals that require no refrigeration at all. You can purchase freeze dried backpacking meals which are fine at room temperature, and there are many shelf stable food alternatives (boxed or powdered milk in place of liquid milk, canned veggies instead of fresh or frozen, etc) that can be used in campfire recipes.

This campfire vegetable soup recipe is a favorite of ours since it requires not a single refrigerated item.  Other ideas for completely non-refrigerated meals include dried pasta and canned marinara sauce, instant oatmeal, canned chili, or Mac and cheese with evaporated milk.

8. Choose Light Breathable Fabrics 

Wearing light breathable fabrics (natural fibers and synthetic) help keep you feeling cool.  Avoid dark colors which attract the sun. Dressing in layers is always a good idea when camping and hiking.

In the hot summer months, the evenings may get cooler, but heavy down filled sleeping bags or jackets are most likely not necessary.  Sleeping bags are available in “warm weather” versions which have less filling and tend to be more breathable. If you plan on frequently camping in the summer as well as the cooler fall or winter months, it may be worth investing in both types.
Camping supplies

9. Take Advantage of the Breeze

Warm air feels hotter when it is stagnate and still.  If you keep air flowing through your tent it will feel much cooler. Removing the rain fly or opening up all the windows on your tent when you are inside (and for the period before you enter) is a great way to keep the air circulating and makes it feel cooler.  If your campsite remains warm all night long, you may not even want to add the fly to your tent at all, as long as you are aren’t expecting any rain.
Using a hammock while camping
Another alternative is to avoid sleeping inside a tent all together.  We use a hammock for naps during the day, and even on windless days, the rocking motion of the hammock generates a breeze for the person inside.

10. Warm Days Don’t Always Mean Warm Nights

Even in the hottest deserts, there is typically a sizable temperature drop overnight.  The weather can often change quickly, and so you should never assume your will ALWAYS be warm.  Packing extra layers just in case of rain or a cold front will help ensure that you aren’t caught off guard.  When you are used to warm temperatures, even a slight temperature drop can FEEL colder, and so having a sweatshirt and warm beverage ready for the cool mornings is a good idea.
Sunrise on the campsite
A benefit of Tervis’ stainless steel tumblers is that they also can accommodate hot beverages.  There is no need to pack both hot and cold cups in your camp gear.  Use them for a hot drink in the morning and an ice cool drink in the afternoon.

On cool summer mornings I can enjoy my hot campfire coffee in my insulated tumbler and it stays warm as I prep breakfast and start the fire.  The same is true during our evenings around the campfire.  The kids enjoy their hot chocolate out of their tumblers and it stays warm while they roast marshmallows and tell ghost stories.
Hiking in the heatYou can have a fun and successful camping adventure, even in the hot summer months.  Staying cool, staying hydrated and beating the heat is possible if you plan ahead and pack right.   Don't let hot weather keep you away from making family memories that will last a lifetime.

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