Staying Cool When Camping With Kids In The Heat

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Camping in summer with kids brings to mind warm summer days spent on the water or at the trails. The only trouble comes when those warm memories turn into sweltering hot days. But the heat doesn’t have to slow your family down! You can be prepared for any weather and ensure your trip is a success. 

While prepping for your camping trip, it’s easy to forget about how to stay cool while camping. Using some of these simple tips and tricks, everyone will be comfortable and safe. That can only mean one thing: more fun in the sun!

Risks of Camping in the Heat With Kids

Our family spends a lot of time camping in the deserts of Southern Utah and we know there are common signs of overheating. Pay attention to how you and you’re kids are feeling throughout the day. If you notice any symptoms, drink fluids and find a place to cool down. You may need to seek medical treatment if extreme overheating occurs. 

Here are the signs and symptoms, from overheating to a complete heatstroke. While you’re out for the day, you can also watch for heat rashes and general dehydration.

Stages of overheating to watch for when camping in summer with kids: 

  1. Heat Cramps
  • Muscle pain and tightness are the first signs of overheating. Pay attention to how your body feels while you’re outside in the heat. If you start to notice muscle cramps, drink lots of water and find a place to cool down. 
  1. Heat Exhaustion
  • Cool, moist skin with goose bumps in the heat
  • Heavy sweating
  • Feeling faint, dizzy or lightheaded
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  1. Heatstroke 
  • Body temperature over 104F
  • Unusual behaviours or hallucinating 
  • General confusion
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Dry skin
  • Dehydration
    • Thirsty
    • Dark yellow and strong-smelling urine 
    • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
    • Tired
    • Dry months, lips and eyes
  • Heat Rash
    • Caused by clogged sweat ducts, usually in skin folds or where clothing rubs
    • Common for babies and children because of immature sweat ducts 
    • Avoid by wearing light and loose clothing and having a place to cool down
    • It will normally clear on its own
    • Treatment: cool down the skin and prevent sweating
    • Severe cases may need medical treatment

How to Beat the Heat:

It’s always a good idea to be aware of the risks of over heating, and even better to prevent them! Here are some tips to for how to stay cool camping with kids.

What to Wear When Camping In The Heat

Cool tip number one is packing the right clothes! Here’s what you should have in your bags before camping in summer with kids:

  • Light colored clothing, which will reflect the sun and heat
  • Loose clothing with good airflow to maximize a fresh breeze
  • Moisture wicking clothing, especially socks (good choices are natural fibres, like merino wool, and some synthetic fibres)
  • Sandals and water shoes
  • Sun protection, like sunscreen, hats, and bandanas (soak in water to cool down)

How to Keep a Tent Cool In The Heat

Having a comfortable place to sleep is key to well-rested nights and staying healthy when camping in hot weather with kids. This will help keep kids cool while camping so that they can enjoy all of the daily adventures. Having a cool home-away-from-home is also a great place to take a rest during the day. Here are some tips for how to keep a tent cool:

camping on a river trip with kids

Keep Tents Cool from the Outside:

Take advantage of your tent’s specially designed features to make sure it stays as cool as possible. Here’s what you can do to keep kids cool while camping:

  • Take down your tent during the really hot days. The inside of the tent can turn into a greenhouse by absorbing and trapping in the suns rays. To avoid opening the tent doors and walking into a sauna, you can disassemble the tent and prevent trapping heat all day long. 
  • Take the fly off. If the weather forecast is dry and your tent has a mesh inner layer, you can remove the rain fly completely. This will get the biggest breeze flowing through the tent. If you keep the fly off over night, you can also have some beautiful stargazing. 
  • Open the vents. If it might rain or your tent doesn’t have the mesh interior walls, you can still enjoy a good breeze. Tents have mesh areas on the walls that act like windows. There is usually a flap or cover that can be opened to let air flow through more easily. Take advantage of these, prevent a hot and sticky tent, and keep kids cool while camping!

Create Shade:

Avoid or reduce direct sunlight to help keep your tent cooler. Think about these options when you’re packing and pitching your tent so that you keep kids cool while camping:

  • Choose where to pitch. If you have the option, pitch your tent in a shaded area or near water. Keeping the tent in the shade will not only preserve its lifespan, but also keep the internal temperatures down on super hot days. Pitching near water will help give you the best shot at catching a refreshing breeze.
  • Set up a tarp. If you can find any natural shade, you can always create your own. Bring a large tent and set it up above your tent location. This should provide enough sun protection to keep the tent nice and cool.  We love this huge tarp from Walmart that’s extra durable and affordable.
  • Reflect heat. You can use reflective blankets that are specially designed to reflect the sun’s hot rays. These almost chill the area underneath and can be even better than a tarp. Set it up above your tent, over dining areas or even covering your car. 

Keep Tents Cool from the Inside:

You can stay cool while camping by making a few adjustments inside the tent. Here are some ideas on how to stay cool camping with kids:

  • Bring a portable fan. If you have access to electricity, then almost any small household fan will work. There are also industrial battery operated fans can will give you an instant breeze in the backcountry. Either way, you can make sure your tent has airflow by bringing a portable fan. This portable fan works both on batteries and plugged in, and folds down flat, so it’s great for camping.
  • Forgo the sleeping bag. At night while camping in summer with kids, you’ll probably want to forgo your puffy sleeping bag. You can bring light linen sheets or simply use the sleeping bag liner. You won’t need a thick layer to sleep in and you’ll appreciate the extra light feeling! This lightweight sleeping bag liner packs down small and is incredibly affordable.

Special Gear For Camping In The Heat:

If you know that you often go camping in hot weather with kids, then investing in special equipment might be a good idea. Here are a couple things you can get for cool camping trips: 

  • Buy a cool tent. The coolest tents will be light colored, lightweight, double-walled, and have lots of mesh for ventilation. Picking a tent with some or all of these qualities will give you the coolest space for outdoor sleeping! This tent is great for keeping cool while camping since both ends can fully open giving you maximum ventilation.
  • Sleep in a hammock. Another possibility is sleeping in a hammock. There are specific hammocks designed to sleep overnight in, which come with mesh covers that keep bugs out. Sleeping elevated will capture the biggest breeze, both through the hammock and underneath your body. Check out this camping hammock with a bug net!

How to Keep an RV Cool While Camping In The Heat

RV parked in shade

Create Shade For your RV:

  • Park in the shade. Look for large trees or walls that will cast enough shade to cover your RV. This is the easiest way to keep your home-on-wheels cool and comfortable when you are camping in hot weather with kids. 
  • Open the awning. If natural shade is hard to find, you can open your awning to create a bit of shade to sit under and keep the vehicle cool. But make sure you close the awning when you leave, and keep it closed on a windy day.
  • Use shades, sun reflectors, and window insulation. You can DIY or buy custom shades and reflectors for the RV. Covering the windows and doors will keep sun from beaming in and magnifying through the glass. You can also insulate the windows, fan, and skylight to lock in the cool temps and keep kids cool while camping. 

Make Your RV Air Conditioner More Efficient:

  • Start the air conditioner in the morning. Take advantage of cooler morning temperatures by starting the air conditioner early in the day. It is more efficient to get a comfortable temperature in the RV while the sun is still low in the sky. 
  • Control your air conditioner vents. You can close vents in certain rooms that you aren’t using, so that the air conditioner jets out stronger air in the spaces you’re in. This will concentrate your air directly where you need it most so you can stay cool while camping. 
  • Make sure your air conditioner and vents are in working order. Set reminders to keep up on annual servicing, clean the vents, and replace dirty filters. By making sure everything is working, you will not only ensure the coldest air flowing, but will also prevent any unfortunate vacation malfunctions. 

Use Space Wisely:

  • Use the ceiling fan. Or pack a portable fan to create airflow and maximize cool temperatures. A breeze can go a long way in regulating air temperatures. You’ll get way better sleeps! This camping fan works both on batteries and electricity.
  • Close areas you’re not using. You can hang large blankets or close doors for rooms that you aren’t using. It is easier to keep a smaller space cool, so reduce your living areas on hotter days. 
  • Turn off lights and electronics. Lights and electronics, like television, emit a lot of heat. This is often overlooked or forgotten about when people try to cool down their RV’s. It’s any easy solution, though! When you’re considering how to keep an RV cool, think about shutting them down or unplugging them entirely.
  • Keep the door shut. This one might be hard, especially with kids running in and out of the RV. But try your best to keep the door shut as much as possible. As a good dad joke would say, “you’re not trying to air condition the outdoors!” 
  • Cook meals out of the RV. Using any heating to cook meals will cause the RV to steam up from the inside. You can avoid adding unnecessary heat by taking advantage of the wonderful outdoor cooking options while camping. From grills to open fires, you can make lots of great meals outside!

Cool and Refreshing Activities For Camping In The Heat

Some of the best activities while camping are the ones that cool you down! Here are some ideas that keep kids cool while camping and are a ton of fun:

playing in the river while camping
  • Jump in the water. Days spent by the water are always some of the most memorable! Have fun and stay cool swimming, whether you’re by a river, pond, lake or ocean! And if you don’t have any natural water nearby, look for community pool centres or bring an inflatable pool to lounge and play. 
  • Get active at cool times of the day. If you’re planning sightseeing or hikes, try to head out closer to dawn or dusk. By avoiding extensive midday adventures, you’ll also avoid the scorching heat of the afternoon sun. 
  • Take advantage of natural breezes. If there are any hills or mountain tops, you can take advantage of hikes and parks at the top. You’ll be able to feel a refreshing breeze from all the way up there! You’ll also find a good breeze on the water, so boating can be a fun option, too.

Stay Cool with Food and Drinks

canyon coolers drinks
  • Drink lots of water. Probably one of the most important things to do to keep kids cool while camping is drinking lots of water. Staying hydrated usually means having a minimum of 2 litres of water a day. If you’re active and in the heat, drink more! Bring a thermal bottle to keep lots of cool water nearby all day long. 
  • Use a camping cooler. You can store lots of water and drinks in a large camping cooler to keep them chilled while you’re outdoors. Having a cold drink is oh-so satisfying! Your family will be more inclined to grab something to refresh with, which will keep everyone feeling great regardless of the temperatures. Check out our favorite budget rotomolded coolers.
  • Replenish electrolytes. Sweating causes your body to lose water and salt, which it needs to stay healthy and function properly. We love this electrolyte sport drink mix because it does wonders at boosting energy and I also love that it comes in a powdered form so it’s easy to keep stored with our camping gear.
  • Eat cold food. Fruits and vegetables will be extremely appetizing on a hot day. Your kids will be so glad to be biting into juicy watermelon or fresh oranges. The nutrients will help them in the heat and give them the energy they need to charge into the next journey!
  • Avoid foods or drinks that dehydrate. This one might be more for the adults. But it’s best to avoid things like alcohol, coffee, and sugary drinks like soda, which are extreme dehydrators. You’ll feel far better if you cut these beverages down and simply drink water or sports drinks. 

Help Your Baby Stay Cool While Camping

Be sure to keep baby cool while camping on hot days! Young toddlers and babies have a hard time naturally regulating their body temperatures. You may also find it difficult to notice the signs of overheating. You can use any of the tips listed in this article to protect your baby from excessive heat. 

baby girl camping in heat

On top of the tips listed so far, here are a few more baby-specific ways to keep infants cool while camping:

  • Use indoor areas frequently. When you bring your baby on your outdoor adventure, it is even more important that you have a cool tent or RV. Taking a break from the outdoor heat in an air conditioned or shady resting place will let your baby’s body temperature regulate more easily. It will also give them a comfortable place to sleep throughout the day. 
  • Cover skin with hats, light colors long sleeve and pants, and sunscreen. Covering your baby’s skin in light colored fabric is key to protecting them from the sun’s harsh rays. Long sleeves and pants are even better for keeping babies cool while camping, since their skin is so sensitive to sun burns. Add a hat and sunscreen and you’ll be ready for a day enjoying nature together! Check out our favorite sunhats for baby.
  • Bring a small portable fan on day trips. Just like a portable fan for a tent or RV, there are also small handheld fans to take with you on day trips. Being able to find a shady spot on the go and then create an extra breeze whenever you need it can come in handy. Portable fans can make your hike breaks a heat break, too! 
  • Keep baby cool in carriers. If you frequently spend time outdoors or in the heat, it might be a good idea to buy a baby carrier designed to keep babies cool while camping. I highly recommend this baby carrier, since it’s really breathable and helps promote good air circulation in the baby carrier (we used it constantly when we lived in the Middle East).
  • Offer beverages more often. Babies sweat and dehydrate quickly in the heat. To help them keep their fluid levels up, offer your baby something to drink more often. For babies under 6 months, their milk or formula will help them. And for babies older than 6 months, lots of water will keep them going throughout the day and is a good way to keep babies cool while camping.  We love this ultra durable camping sippy cup for baby.