12 Ways to Stay Cool Camping in a Tent

The month of May 2018 has gone down as the hottest on record in the UK since records began 100 years ago. It’s been a fantastic time to head outdoors and even those most averse to camping will have been ‘warming’ to the prospect of a night under canvas – pardon the pun there.

But boy is it hot in a tent when it’s sunny and warm. Anyone who’s had a few beers the night before, fallen soundly asleep and then awoke gasping for air, moisture and paracetamol as the sun punishes your polyester sleeping quarters will welcome the advice in this article! Likewise, well-intentioned parents taking their little ones into the wilds will also benefit from the little keeping cool tricks I’ve listed in this article, anything to reduce irritability, dehydration and short-tempers around camp is a good thing, regardless if you’re a parent or child.

Having spent countless nights sleeping in a tent around the world including the sweltering Australian Outback, the sub-tropical New Zealand northland, the altitude affected Peruvian Andes, the ‘chaude, chaude, chaude’ south of France in July and the ‘varying’ UK throughout the good old British summertime, I felt a tips, tricks and review article was necessary to help campers deal with how to stay cool whilst camping in a tent.

1. Best Tents to Stay Cool In Hot Weather – Polycotton

What is your tent made out of? The most common material these days for tents is 100% polyester. Which when you’re cocooned inside becomes a fabric-based oven! Consider buying a polycotton tent, it’s a mix of one-third polyester and two-thirds cotton. This means the poly cotton tent ‘breathes’, so when it’s hot you’ll be cooler inside and conversely, when it’s cold it’s actually warmer. The negatives are that it’s heavier to carry (put it in the car!) and more expensive (comfort over price guys!) but on the positive side, it breathes and cotton is more durable so it’ll last longer than your pure polyester tent.

Cool Tents

Polycotton Tipi Tent

A 6 person tipi style tent, built with Vango’s Air Zone ventilation system at the heart of it’s design. It’s fly sheet is made out of the all important ProTex TC polycotton – the breathable fabric that’s really going to make a difference when the temperature rises.

£549 on Winfield, save £250 »

The guys at Winfield Outdoors have some cracking deals on polycotton tents in a range of sizes – check out their polycotton tents here. They’ll also give an additional £5 off your first order.

2. Use a dome tent and remove the fly sheet – mesh only

Use a dome tent with no fly sheet and mesh panels on the sides. You might say, why not just sleep outdoors then? Well, there are mosquitos and other insects to consider, not to mention snakes and spiders that are unwelcome in certain countries. With the fly sheet off, you can lie back and look at the stars in the cooler night air. Here are a few good example tents with mesh sides:

Cool Tents

Tent Option 1 – Mesh Only

Without sleeping on the naked earth, a mesh only pitched tent (no fly sheet) will allow air to flow without the creepy crawlies annoying you. Here’s to a good, cooling night’s sleep. At less than £100 it’s also a good price point.

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And just for good measure, here is another option:

Cool Tents

Tent Option 2 – Mesh Only

Mountain Hardwear is a reputable brand, making this dome tent a solid option for summertime, star gazing camping expeditions. If you choose to utilise the flysheet, there’s a porch area for your dirty hiking boots.

£150 on Wiggle, save £50 »

3. Buy a simple canopy for shade.

When you’re sitting around, why not make a mini ‘day camp’ underneath a tarp. You see the military doing this kind of thing all the time. It makes sense, you’re still outside, you can spread out, you can leave food and drink out but keep it shaded and also give everyone on the trip a respite from the sun’s harmful rays as the midday UV reaches its climax. These are such a simple but valuable addition to a camping set up. They are also cheap, most models coming in at around £30. They will also keep you dry when the heat breaks and the inevitable thunderstorm comes along to freshen things up.

Sun Canopy

Large Sun Canopy

Chilling out around the campsite is fabulous…if you’re not baking in 80f heat. By putting up a canopy next to you, there’s a cooler option for sunbathing (shadebathing), kids play area, cooking, reading…all without the intensity of the sun. Such a cheap solution to a hot problem.

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4. Electric Hook Up? Buy an Electric Cooler Box. Obviously!

If you have an electric hook up buy a Camp Fridge aka Electric Cooler Boxes – this is surely a no brainer. A camping fridge can make a massive difference to comfort levels. Everything can cool from drinks to food to neck gaiters!

These boxes range from 24 to 36 litres so not like your home fridge by any means but they do make a difference.

Here’s a recommended box from top brand Campingaz:

Camping Fridge

Campingaz Cooler Box

Many a campsite has electric hook ups these days. Plugging in one of these electric cooler boxes is just simply common sense.

£89.99 on Winfields, save £30 »

The Aussie’s call these boxes Eskies – try to pack your esky with as many ice packs as realistically possible. Any air flow around the food isn’t ideal, pack it in. Take 2 cooler boxes, 1 for drinks (do you like a few beers?!) and 1 for food, it means you don’t need to keep opening the food box letting all the cool air escape. Put the meat and other stuff that is important to keep cool at the bottom – remember cool air descends. Fill the spaces up with a sponge, ideal for filling in the gaps and also dousing yourself with the icy melt water when the temperature peaks in the midday sun.

5. A Portable Fan (if you have electric hook up)

Another fairly obvious tip. Airflow is crucial in tents, as they ordinarily block any breeze, so leave as many flaps open as possible then circulate that air flow with a decent fan. One of these will suffice which will provide endless cooling with minimal noise according to many an Amazon reviewer.

Camping Fan

Portable Fan

Highly rated on Amazon reviews, these Honeywell turbo fans are fabulous. They pivot to 90 degrees and operate on 3 speeds. You will need a camping table to support it but at under £30 it’s a welcome addition to the camp kit list in hot weather.

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Now here’s an added piece of cooling trickery…if you have a camping table, stand a bottle of pre-frozen water in front of the fan and it will blow cold air into the tent. Oh yes, that’s absolute bliss in hot conditions. This is the kind of effect your looking to replicate:

ice in front of fan

As we’ve mentioned, air flow is crucial, another tip is to have two 12 volt camping fans positioned opposite each other in the tent, air flow is crucial in a boiling hot tent. Not got an electric hook up? Here’s a recommended battery operated table top fan ideal for camping.

6. Fan attachment to mobile phone

This is a bit gimmicky and hardly relieves overall body heat but they look quite cool (sorry!) and they’re powered from your mobile phone:

Mobile Phone Fan

Fan attached to Phone

A little bit gimmicky but offers some slight relief. We’ve linked to the category page on Amazon here so take your pick.

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7. Refreshing Face Spritzers

Again, not exactly the first thing I’d reach for but they’re handy and can freshen things up fleetingly!

Face Spritzer

Magic Cool Face Spray

Instant relief from hot and sticky weather, worth adding to the camp kit list!

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Tip time…firstly label a bottle ‘salty’ then add 3 tablespoons of salt into the water, salt speeds up the freezing process and helps keep things extra icy. Cool huh?

Any breeze coming from running water is very cooling, in fact even pitching up by a lake would make a difference but do survey your flood risk when you first arrive and also don’t forget to pack mozzie repellent, as dusk falls, the little critters tend to congregate near water.

8. A tarp over your tent

It’s low tech but the science behind it is common sense. Simply by erecting a tarpaulin over your tent you’ll provide another layer of shade, a cooling air space blocking your tent from the sun. Tarps are cheap and actually have multiple uses from groundsheets, to rain covers to even emergency bivvy bags. Buy one with eyelets to attach your string to trees, fences or even the side of your car. Oh and make sure its’s ‘pitched’ so if it rains you don’t end up with a sagging lake right above your head!

Extra Shade

Camping Tarpaulin

In the age of fascinating technology and digital advancements, sometimes it’s the simple inventions that can really make life comfortable when you’re camping. Get a tarp guys.

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9. SPV factor clothing, wide brimmed hats and open toed sandals

I don’t think we need to throw up a featured box to recommend which items of clothing folks should wear alongside and a wide brimmed hat! Clothing that lets air flow. Heat leaves the body through sweat so moisture ‘wickability’ is the key concept here. Obviously the naked body loses heat fastest but that’s not always socially acceptable, plus if the sun is shining super brightly, you’ll burn in the sun, which has added problems later. You need to go light and loose and light coloured, black fabric close to the skin is like a heat wrapper, it’s no coincidence outdoor experts wear khaki and desert coloured clothing. Even better would be white, though not always practical! If you like the science of body heat evaporation here’s a transcript of a podcast interview with George Havenith of Loughborough University, explaining the science behind heat management whilst exercising and operating in the great outdoors.

10. Solar Shower

When it’s a hot and sticky a cooling (or lukewarm) shower suspended from a tree will rejuvenate the body and wash away all that grime and sweat built up over the day.

Camp Shower

Milestone Camping Solar Shower

Holds 20 litres of water in a black bladder which soon heats up in the sun. Do take care it can reach 40 degrees in 3 hours. Handy on/off lever so no need to use all in one go.

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11. Water Jerry Cans

Sturdy Jerry Can

10 Litre Jerry Can

Far better than canvas or fold up plastic versions. A sturdy jerry can saves you going back and forth to the campsite tap with 3 empty coke bottles! 10 Litres is just about ok to carry and not too bulky for inside the tent. Water is life.

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12. Body Cooling Scarves & Soaking a Neck Gaiter

Soak for 30 mins in clean water, these body cooling scarves have polycrystals which expand when wet and help evaporate heat away from the body by cooling the carotid arteries in the neck. Doubles as an ice pack if you place it in the freezer. Can stay cool for up to 3 days.

Extra Cool

Cooling Crystal Scarf

The scarf is laced with cooling crystals which when put in the freezer, keep their cool for hours. A really advanced piece of fabric technology.

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A much cheaper option is to simply soak a neck scarf or bandana and whack it around your neck. The area of the brain that senses and regulates body temperature is located in the base of the neck in an area called the brainstem. So if you can keep your neck cool, you’ll at least feel cooler all over.

Concluding Remarks… now let’s get out there and enjoy the sun, June in the UK is following the trend set by May. 2018 is turning out to be a fantastic summer, so draw up a camp kit list and enjoy a weekend or longer al-fresco, knowing you’ll be comfortable no matter where the mercury peaks on the thermometer.

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