It’s no secret that it can get seriously hot during summer in Australia. So, when it comes to camping in the warmer months, there are a few tricks that’ll keep you cool and comfortable when the temperatures rise.
Summertime is synonymous with camping in Australia. Warm days spent by the river or beach, relaxing near the fire and eating marshmallows until our bellies feel like exploding.
However, some days are warmer than others, especially around the New Year's mark, when we all like to get away and spend some quality time with our friends and family.
So how do you keep cool while camping?
In this guide, we will discuss the best ways to relax in utter bliss, away from the scorching sun on your next summer camping getaway.
Top 13 Tips for Summer Camping
Regardless of the time of year, you always need to consider the four basic elements of wilderness survival: water, food, shelter and clothing. However, in summer time it is particularly important to make sure you have all these bases covered before you set off.
It’s always a good to keep a water bottle handy when you’re being active out in the sun.
1. Water and Hydration
As a basic rule of thumb, you should be drinking at least two litres of water per day. However, when you are exposed to increased temperatures in the summertime, you’ll be needing to drink more than that. Furthermore, if you plan on doing any strenuous activities out in the heat such as hiking or rafting, you’ll have to drink even more.
To be safe, we recommend bringing three to four of drinking water litres per person, per day. For example, on a four-person camping trip, you will need to bring around 12 to 16 litres of water per day. On top of this, you will also need to bring additional water for cooking, washing dishes and cleaning yourself.
This may seem excessive, but dehydration can set in very quickly when exposed to the elements for too long.
How do you take so much water?
If you are camping close to a local town, you may be able to visit it every few days to restock your supplies. Alternatively, if that isn’t an option and you need to bring all your water at once, a high capacity water tank is the next best thing.
If you are hiking and need to carry all your water, a water purifier allows you to refill your supplies at any freshwater source. Another way is to boil some fresh water every night on a camp stove to use the next day. However, this may take considerable time depending on how much water you need for your group.
Not only will you be drinking more water, but you’ll be burning more calories out in the heat than you would be at home. Naturally, many people come to the conclusion that it’s just best to pack more of the same stuff they would eat at home. However, when it comes to summer camping, that is not the case.
You should be instead focussing on making meals packed full nutrients that’ll you’ll be burning up instead of loading up on the chips and biscuits. That being said, this doesn’t mean you have to totally abstain from junk food, just keep it to a minimum and focus on eating wholesome meals instead.
Keeping your food cool
Unless you plan on eating fresh beer damper for every meal of the day, you are going to need a way to keep your meats, vegetables and dairy cold while camping. Ideally, a large, portable 12V fridge or dual-zone fridge-freezer that connects to your vehicle’s battery system will keep everything nice and cool. Just be wary of the high battery use of running one of these off your car.
Another option is to bring an icebox or cooler to keep your food cold. However, you will need to refresh the ice or cooling method inside every few days so your food stays at a consistent temperature.
A shade dome or gazebo provides more room than inside a tent and far better air-flow.
3. Shelter and Shade
While tents provide that feeling of security we crave when we sleep, typical summer weather and high nighttime temperatures provide an excellent chance to sleep under the stars. However, this doesn’t mean you should leave the tent behind.
A tent is still a great place to relax and escape the heat during the day, even if you don’t plan on sleeping in it at night. It also gives you a place to keep your gear out of the hot sun.
Another great alternative to a tent is a shade dome or gazebo. These are often more spacious than a tent and provide better protection from the sun. If you have a 4WD, an awning may also be a great investment if you are camping alongside your vehicle.
It is important to always have a shaded area at your campsite. The sun is harsher in Australia than many other parts of the world so we have to protect against it accordingly. Sunscreen is a must for any summer camper. It should be reapplied every few hours, more so if you’re spending time in the water.
4. Clothing selection
What you’ll wear when camping in the summer will differ to what you would wear in the other seasons. If you are relaxing around the campsite, keeping cool and comfortable will be your priority. Shorts, tank tops, t-shirts and thongs should be on your packing list.
If you are hiking in summer, you should consider wearing lightweight, breathable clothing that not only provides adequate sun protection but also helps wick away sweat from your body. Synthetic clothing from brands such as Under Armour or Solbari tick all these boxes and are perfect for summer hiking.
An aspect many summer hikers forget about is their socks. Commonly, hiking socks are thick. In summer, a thick sock will make your feet sweaty which may lead to blisters. Instead, investing in some lightweight, synthetic or woollen socks designed to keep your feet cool will help circulate air through your boot.
A hat is also crucial for protecting yourself from the sun. Although a baseball cap may be far more stylish, a wide-brim hat will provide far greater protection to your face, neck and the back of your head.
What clothing not to wear?
Most t-shirts are made of cotton or a cotton-blend. These are great for day to day living in at home, but these have not been designed to endure the great outdoors. Cotton clothing tends to rip easily, which is not ideal when hiking through the bush. Cotton also tends to retain heat when left out in the hot sun. This may not phase many campers, but after having a swim in the cool river, I would rather not put on a hot t-shirt.
Cotton also holds water, sweat and smells far longer than other materials. This means if you hike in the same cotton t-shirt for days at a time, your buddies will be able to smell you from a kilometre away.
Keep an eye out on your morning hike, as snakes tend to be the most active after sunrise and into the early afternoon.
Summer is when Australia’s wildlife comes out in full force. This is great for wildlife watchers who want to catch a glimpse of a cute kangaroo, however, this also means our more dangerous animals become more active too. Snakes, spiders, ants and the dreaded box jellyfish are common critters found when it starts to get warm.
The best way to avoid these animals is through using common sense and knowing where they live. For example, snakes like to hunt in long grass and relax on areas in direct sunlight. With this knowledge, we now know to avoid long grass wherever possible.
In the case of spiders, most prefer to hide in dark nooks and crannies. This means areas such as inside your hiking boots and sleeping bag or in the corners of your tent as perfect places to find them. To avoid being bitten, it's best to close up anything that a spider may want to get into. For example, stuff your boots with a sock to seal the top and keeping your tent always closed is the best way to protect yourself.
Particular species of ants (such as the bull ant and fire ant) can also be a nuisance. Most ants like to live peacefully underground unless disturbed. Therefore, don’t set up your camp over one of these nests. Mosquitos can also be a problem during the warmer months if you are staying near a water source. Therefore, a good all-round insect repellent that contains DEET (a powerful active chemical repellent found in some insect repellents) will serve you well.
If you’re camping near a beach, it’s best to always swim on a lifeguard-patrolled beach. Even better, if the lifeguards have set up a red-and-yellow flagged area, you know that part of the water is safe from any dangerous sea life or strong currents.
6. First Aid Kit and the knowledge to use it
When trouble strikes, you will want to be prepared for anything. Taking a fully stocked first aid kit is recommended for any outdoor adventure. Not only that, if you know you’ll be travelling far from civilisation, an anti-venom kit may also save someone’s life.
However, having the right tools isn’t enough, knowing what do with them is equally as important. For more information about what you need in your first aid kit and common treatments for outdoor injuries, check out our guide to camping first aid.
Fire Danger Rating signs will inform you of the bushfire danger of that region of that day.
7. Total Fire Bans
Total Fire Bans are issued when the weather that day would significantly increase the chance of a fire spreading out of control. When a Total Fire Ban (TFB) is declared, campfires are not allowed. However, cooking using a portable electric or gas camp stove is acceptable.
Each state’s fire authority outlines the exact rules and regulations for a TFB, so it’s best to check the website before you leave to find out if you will be affected. Those found breaking the rules of a TFB day may face a hefty fine or even jail time.
Conditions can change in an instant on a hot summer’s day – the wind may switch directions or a sudden storm may roll in. It’s always good to have a reliable way to check the weather conditions and stay up to date with any emergencies that may be occurring.
Unless you are staying close to a cell tower, you will likely be without a consistent connection to the internet. Therefore, you shouldn’t rely just on your smartphone to keep you up to date with the latest weather reports. A portable, battery-powered AM/FM radio can be tuned to a local radio station for all the latest news and upcoming weather predictions.
Alternatively, if you are heading extremely far from civilisation, a sat phone will provide you with a fairly stable way to contact home.
Did you know that noon isn’t the hottest part of the day?
9. Planning your day
Typically, the hottest part of a summer’s day is between 2pm and 4pm. However, this doesn’t mean the hours leading up to, or after this time aren’t toasty too. Plan your day with this knowledge in mind. This may mean if you are looking to do a day hike nearby, you will want to do the hardest part of the walk before the hottest part of the day.
The best time of day to do activities is before noon and after 6pm. Although these parts of the day may still be warm, it won’t nearly be hot as mid-afternoon.
10. Where to camp
There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a campsite. On top of the normal things, such as not setting up your tent under a tree and selecting an elevated position, you’ll need to keep your piece of paradise free from flammable materials such as dry leaves, branches and dead trees.
Keeping away from long grass is also recommended, as that where the majority of snakes and spiders will be living. Staying close to a water source is also a good idea when you need to cool off as well.
Fans use far less energy compared to an air conditioner.
11. Fans and tent air conditioning
Those who are particularly sensitive to heat or prefer to rest in absolute luxury may wish to invest in a ‘tent air conditioner’. These operate similarly to your system at home and will keep your tent at the ideal temperature all day and night long. However, these devices are extremely power-hungry and may require a generator to run for long periods of time.
Alternatively, a 12V fan is another good way to keep cool in the tent. If you are looking for extra cooling power, place a bowl of ice or cold water beneath the fan.
When you begin planning your summer camping getaway, it is extremely important to thoroughly research the location of your campsite. By this, I don’t mean a quick two-minute Google search, but instead, an in-depth look into the area. Doing this will help you better plan what you need to take based on the facilities and conditions of the campsite.
However, your research shouldn’t stop there. It’s important to do check a long-range weather report around the dates you will be there. The last thing you want is to pack unnecessary equipment if you know something isn’t going to happen.
You should also check your state government's fire authority and parks websites for the latest news on any Total Fire Bans or park closures. It’s also a good idea to research any particular snake or animal sightings in the area too.
Finally, you should check out a few forums to see if anyone has stayed at the campsite before and what their thoughts on it are. Maybe another user will recommend an even better spot a couple minutes down the road. Be thorough in your research to help your trip go smoother.
Amenity tents can be used in a number of ways to beat the summer heat!
13. Amenity Tent
Possibly the greatest variation on a standard tent, taking an Amenity Tent (aka. ensuite tent or shower tent) on your summer camping adventure will revolutionise the way you camp. These tents are designed to be used as a portable shade cubicle that can be set up in a moments notice. This allows for a near limitless amount of uses.
Kids want to pop down to the beach for a swim? Simply bring a camp chair and your amenity tent and watch them in shaded comfort.
Need some shade over the ‘wilderness lavatory’? Put the amenity tent over the dugout.
Are you sleeping in a swag and need some extra room to get changed in the morning? Put up the tent and change out of your PJs in privacy.
An amenity tent is the best way to provide personal shade while out in the sun.
The sun is a cruel mistress and the best way to protect yourself from her is by staying out of her reach. However, where is the fun in that? Summer is all about getting out there and enjoying the sunshine before it retreats in the winter.
By following these tips and tricks, you will keep your friends and family safe, cool and comfortable while enjoying the great outdoors this summer.
Got any secret tricks to keeping cool while summer camping? Leave them in the comments below!
Photos were taken by us, Linda George/Shutterstock.com and Sylvie Lebchek/Shutterstock.com.