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  • Writer's pictureRobert Loewendick

Cool Camping in Hot Weather

Most campers’ definition of “roughing it” has changed over the last couple of decades. Some folks consider a night with a nonworking air-conditioning unit at the hotel, a case of roughing it. Sometimes sleeping in a tent, when the nighttime temps hover around 80 degrees, can be a bit unpleasant for most. The camper concerned with cool camping in the summer now has some options from gear makers. For campers on a tight budget, a few tweaks to their set up and habits will improve those hot nights nestled under a nylon roof. Here are a few tricks to keep the “car camper” cooler. Backpackers just have to rough it.

Sun Shields

When sun reflectors began showing up in automobile windshields on hot days, some crafty campers got the idea to apply that trick to their summer camping. Not only do sun reflectors protect dashboards from sunray damage, the shiny stuff reduces the interior temps of a tent by at least ten degrees. For the tent camper, an insulating product (one brand name is Reflectix), a bubble wrap type of material laminated with a silver, foil type layer used in the building, shipping, and other trades, can be used to cover the tent’s roof. This reflective material also insulates a tent during colder months. Available at most hardware stores, the material comes in rolls of various sizes.

Conditioning the air

Air conditioning for a tent? Seriously? Yep. A summer camping tool that does an impressive job of keeping campers cool is the KoolerAire ( This device simply lays on loose or block ice held in nearly any cooler up to a 72-quart model size. The cool air is drawn from the cooler and dispersed into the air. The length of time of available cooling depends on the durability of the ice supply. The larger the ice form, the longer the cooling ability. The manufacturer claims the air expelled will be approximately 50 degrees cooler than the surrounding air. Powered by a 12-volt supply, the fan can operate for several hours pulling energy from a deep cycle battery or portable 12-volt power pack.

Air Circulation

Moving air gives a bit of a cooling effect and is easily accomplished by simple, battery powered fans. The air moved by a fan isn’t any cooler than the calm air near the fan, but what a person feels is evaporative cooling. The air moving across a person’s skin is causing evaporation, which in turn creates a cooling effect on the skin. A fan also is beneficial by stirring the air in the tent or in the RV to eliminate hot spots. A battery powered fan used during the night will also reduce condensation accumulating on the interior as well.

Ice it down

“If you can’t cool the outside of you, cool the inside,” an elderly neighbor told me once. Ice coolers come in hundreds of shapes and sizes, but if one were to be selected from the flock to join a multiple-day dry camping trip, a “five-day” cooler does nicely. There are several roto-molded coolers available that are not cheap, but most do perform as advertised. Regarding the fact of buying the best your budget allows, fits cooler shopping well.

Campsite Selection

Air conditioners, fans, and coolers make hot weather camping more comfortable, but selecting certain campsites also keep things cooler. Campsites with paved parking pads are nice, but pavement can attract and hold heat. Asphalt’s dark color is a sun ray attractant which raises temperatures.

Obviously sites with shade trees are ideal during the summer months. The shade provided can lower the air temp by over 20 degrees lower than an open site. Keep the sun’s path in mind when selecting a shaded site to get the most out of the natural cooler.

Depending on vegetation, surrounding geographic forms, and any nearby water bodies, a site at a higher elevation can make a difference. A steady flow of air moving around and through a campsite surrounded by tall grasses provide a cooler air temp.

A campsite on a north facing slope can provide a break from direct sunlight. Other small adjustments to campsite selection such as keeping a campfire and the tent as distant from each other as possible or utilizing a utility tarp as a shade maker on the sunny side of the RV provide a few degrees cooler camping.

The combination of cool site selection, well managed ice chests, reflective covers, and possibly an air cooling device can keep things cool at the campsite. Comfortable camping during the hot months is not tough to do, so consider taking the “rough” out of roughing it and be a cool camper.

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