Few people have the courage to step outside their comfortable homes during punishing summer temperatures. But if you plan your hot weather camping trip accordingly, you can enjoy the trails and the campgrounds with fewer crowds and even more opportunity to commune with nature. Hydration and the proper apparel are the two most important factors to consider, but here are some other tips to know before you hit the road for the campsite.
Let’s talk about water
Triple the amount of water you usually drink. You probably know the importance of hydrating during an outdoor trip, especially if you’re spending your time away from the campsite hiking. But dehydration can sneak up on even the most seasoned adventurers. During warmer weather, people burn about 50% more calories than they do in more temperate conditions. So be sure to guzzle down the fluids. This applies even when you’re not active too. Pre-hydrating by downing a liter the hour before your hike is a good move.
Rock a CamelBak. You can’t go wrong with CamelBak, the granddaddy of outdoor hydration. I personally recommend the CamelBak Ambush. I’ve owned it for five years and it hasn’t let me down yet. It’s got just enough room for multiple hours away from the campsite without the bulk of heavier day packs, and its three-liter bladder hasn’t shown any sign of wear or tear. One trick I like is adding some ice to the bladder and keeping it in the cooler overnight. The bladder does a pretty decent job of insulating the water’s temperature even in direct sunlight while you’re hiking, and the ice helps.
Food hydrates too! In addition to your normal meals, bring along food that has plenty of water in it. Bring a fruit salad—especially one with pineapple in it—and munch on that. Yogurt is also a good choice to add to a breakfast each morning.
Heading into the backcountry? Purify. If you want to go hardcore and camp in the backcountry, you’ll need a method to purify water. Find a stream of suitably running water and use a microfilter system replenish your water supply. Don’t drink from water that’s not flowing—still water has dangerous bacteria levels that can evade even the best water purifiers.
The right apparel will win the hottest days
Boonie hats are the best hats. If they’re good enough for the Vietnam bush, they’re good enough for the campsite. The boonie is a popular choice for hikers and campers as a lightweight, comfortable, and protective hat. It’ll provide adequate sun protection while also properly ventilating air through the holes in the sides. Fox Tactical makes the Advanced Hot-Weather Boonie Hat with a removable neck protector.
Wear clothing designed to deal with sweat. As with all our camping/hiking guides, we suggest avoiding 100% cotton. It doesn’t wick moisture the best, and that’s especially important on a summer trip.
Storage, shelter, and sleep
Bring a cooler. What’s a summer camping trip without some ice cold drinks? The pleasure of returning to the campsite after a day on the trail and cracking open a cold one is half the reason why we do this. Go small with the bearproof Yeti Roadie 24 Hard Cooler, or go all out with the illustrious V Series Hard Cooler, capable of simply unparalleled cooling. Cheers.
Choose the best tent for the job. If it’s particularly scorching outside but you still MUST get outside, consider using a tarp or basic shelter instead of a tent. Provided there are no bugs around, a tarp like the Traverse Shelter by Klymit is a great way to stay cool under the sun and even during evenings when the temperature just refuses to drop to ideal sleeping conditions. All you need are a few trees to rig it up.
But, if a tent is the way you want to go during your hot weather camping trip, be sure to get one with adequate ventilation. For this, any three-season tent would get the job done. As a four-season tent, the Shield 2 from Big Agnes should get the job done. Just leave the rainfly off and enjoy a nice, meshed view of the stars that’ll keep the air flowing and the bugs off you. Alternatively, you might consider getting off the ground entirely with the Blue Ridge Camping Hammock. This will even allow you to set up your campsite in areas where you might not normally. Like … over a creek. Or on the side of a mountain. Be bold. Go for it.
Choose the right sleeping bag. Not all sleeping bags are made alike. Don’t bring a heavy one when a light one will do. Check out this Jungle Bag from Snugpak, an affordable bag ideal for sleeping in hot and humid tropical conditions. It also packs down to only six inches, making it perfect for backpackers too. As for what to put under it, be sure to bring a pad like Klymit’s 4-season ultralight sleeping pad.
Have a seat. I don’t know about you, but I think a camp chair is the most comfortable place I’ve ever rested my ass, and I’m the kind of guy who spent a couple hundred on my ergonomic office chair. (I suppose being away from the office has something to do with it. Whatever.) Anyway, rock a selection of camp chairs from Picnic Time and you can’t go wrong.
A few more quick tips
Tell someone where you’re going. Solo adventuring is fine, but there’s no honor in getting into trouble and having no one know where the heck you are. Especially when you’re facing the extreme temperatures of hot weather camping. Consider investing in a reliable GPS watch like the Garmin Fenix 6S, which includes topographical maps and GPS “breadcrumbs” you can drop on the map for off-grid hiking. Notify someone before you leave, or even better, invest in a satellite communicator. If you need any more proof of the importance of telling someone where you’re going, just watch 127 Hours.
While hiking, don’t push it. Rest frequently in the shade, stay hydrated, and move at a pace that feels comfortable to you. A hike isn’t a race, so it’s not only safer to take your time, it’s more enjoyable.
Keep odorous things stowed properly. Don’t attract wildlife. Keep food properly stowed in animal-proof containers, and take care to not leave things like deodorants or toothpaste in your tent. If a bear shows up, the heat will be the least of your concerns.
Enjoy yourself. If you’ve taken the necessary precautions, camping in above-average temperatures can be an incredible experience. With fewer people on the trails, there’s a better chance at seeing wildlife, and you can linger longer at viewpoints without folks clamoring around you for selfies. But other than that, there’s something empowering about conquering the wilderness while it tries to conquer you. You may be sweating profusely, and the sun might try to coerce you back to the air conditioning, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the outdoors away from civilization for a while.