Camping can be difficult, especially if you are constantly exhausted by the scorching weather or find yourself unable to cope with the stuffy conditions inside your own tent. In this page, I discuss the do’s and don’ts of camping during a heat wave and make suggestions about essential items that every camper should pack.
How to survive the heat
It’s an idyllic image isn’t it? Camping under a blazing summer sun, feeling the heat scorch your skin as you soak up the vitamin D. The reality though is rather different, as you often find yourself plunged into a blistering nightmare of sizzling tarp and sweat-soaked sleeping bags.
Keeping cool in the heat can be difficult, especially when your tent seems to magically transform into an oven, the tent walls sealing you in and slowly suffocating you as you try to take refuge from the sun. Do not despair though! – There is plenty that you can do to cool down and make the most out of your camping holiday. Follow my top tips to help you stay free of sunburn, heatstroke and those annoying summer-time pests!
- First aid kit: It goes without saying really, doesn’t it? The outside world can be full of beauty and wonder but it is also full of wild animals, bugs, bacteria and sharp rocks. Hopefully most of your injuries will be mild and superficial, in which case a first aid box should stock everything you need to have you back on your feet again. Gauze, plasters, Echinacea cream and some mild painkillers are go-to essentials but hayfever medicine can also be a welcome addition, especially if you have allergy prone children tagging along. You could also try using A.Vogel’s Atrogel to sooth mild bruises and joint pain.
- Plenty of water: Dehydration is bound to suck the fun out of any camping trip. Not only can it make you feel lethargic, woolly-headed and as irritable as a grizzly, dehydration can also wreak havoc on your immune and digestive system, making you more susceptible to constipation, kidney infections and heatstroke. You can try to pack as much bottled water as possible or you could consider splurging and purchasing a water-cooler to keep your drinks cold and refreshing. Just make sure you don’t forget a filter either, as stagnant water is bound to attract all sorts of bugs and bacteria. Remember, sipping on an ice cold beer might seem like a tempting option, but the only thing that will dehydrate you faster than the sun is downing pints of bitter or throwing back can after can of fizzy, diuretic-inducing cola
- Sensible clothing: ‘Sun’s out, tops off’ might be a popular saying in the Scotland where sunlight and temperatures over 22oC are as rare and mythical as the average flying unicorn, but you shouldn’t take this advice to heart. Exposing more skin might seem like a great way to refresh your tan, but all you are doing is putting up a red flag to the sun, begging it to burn more of your skin. Instead, you should try to wear looser clothing – let your skin breathe but keep it sheltered from the sun. Dark colours are also a major no – not only do they attract insects like mosquitoes, but they also absorb more heat, making you sweat more and dehydrating you quicker. Try for pastel colours, and if you are bald, invest in a good hat!
- Sunscreen: There’s no arguing about it – in hot weather, sunscreen is almost as important as water. UV radiation can seriously damage your skin, even placing you at risk of getting Bowen’s disease or skin cancer. It doesn’t matter whether you find sunscreen an inconvenience or feel it’s unnecessary, you’re going to have to grit your teeth and get on with it. Choosing the right sunscreen can be difficult though – most conventional sunscreens contain chemicals that can be quite abrasive for sensitive or delicate skin. Natural, organic sunscreens might be a worthwhile alternative to consider as they offer the same level of protection but without the harsh toxins found in supermarket variants. Your Health Food Store has a great range of natural sunscreens so feel free to check them out when pursuing this option
- Ventilation: It’s not just you that will be soaking up the vitamin D during your camping trip – your tent will also be absorbing the heat and slowly morphing into a stuffy, sweaty prison. This is why ventilating your tent is so important. Don’t be afraid to let some air in and leave your tent open. This will allow for a circulation of fresh, clean air and should prevent your tent from become too hot and sticky. Try to avoid sitting in your tent during the day as too many bodies lingering inside will only add to the problem and the suffocating heat will only exhaust you further
- Canopy: If you plan on going camping in the summer months, you should be prepared to invest in a canopy. Not only will this provide you with plenty of shade outside, but it can also be used as a shelter for fresh food and drink, preventing them from spoiling or melting. You can purchase a canopy for a reasonable price from most outdoor stores, or if you feel like indulging this idea even further, you could consider buying a cotton safari tent, which is water proof and able to better regulate humidity inside. If you don’t want to splurge on a canopy, then bringing along an umbrella could also work as you could use this as a parasol to shield your skin from UV radiation
- Survival kit: If you’re camping with children, your survival kit is probably a packet of aspirin and a large glass of wine at the end of the evening. However, you should try to realistically prepare for the worst. You might not end up in a survivor scenario but accidents can still happen, batteries can still run out and you could end up lost in a forest. This is why you should always pack a map of your surroundings, be familiar with your environment and make sure you have a steady supply of batteries and a sharp knife, just in case.
- Use neem insect repellent: It isn’t just humans that try to make the most of the warm weather. Insects are also keen summer enthusiasts and love the surge in warm, sweaty bodies available to feed on. As disgusting as it sounds, the warmer and sweatier, the better as far as most bugs are concerned, especially the bloodsucking mosquito. This is why it is important to be prepared and to carry an effective insect repellent, like our neem insect repellent. Unlike conventional insect sprays, Neem Insect Repellent is a natural product which does not contain any toxins that might upset or irritate your skin. It provides quick relief from agitating bugs and can be used throughout the day without losing effect. This product is suitable for nearly everyone, with the exception being pregnant or breastfeeding women
- Treat clothes: If you want to double up on warding off nasty insects, then it might be a good idea to try treating your clothes with insect repellent spray. You can do this by either soaking your clothes overnight in a mixed solution of repellent and water, or you could try spraying them whilst they are drying. This should boost your protection against the critters and prevent you from becoming a passing snack for a bloodthirsty mosquito
- Use mosquito nets: Using a mosquito net, especially if you are camping abroad, should be an obvious preventative measure. Mosquitoes are generally more active at night and thrive off warm weather, so you are providing them with an ideal meal if you don’t try and think ahead. When you’re asleep, it’s unlikely you’ll immediately notice if one lands on you and all they need is six seconds to infect you and drain your blood. Most mosquito nets are readily available and easily affordable so there’s really no excuse. If you want to learn more about mosquitoes and how to fend off the disease ridden pests, please have a look at my blog, ‘Top 10 tips to prevent mosquito bites’
- No strong fragrances: In hot, sweaty conditions you might be more tempted to whip out your deodorant to make sure you don’t start whiffing of body odour. This, however, could be a fatal mistake as most bugs and beasties are attracted to strong fragrances and scents, such as perfumes, colognes, body sprays and deodorants, making you a more appetising meal. Instead, you could try switching to a natural, unscented alternative like A.Vogel’s Salt of the Earth Deodorant Spray, which works by inhibiting body odour and contains no perfumes or preservatives
- Screen tent: A screen tent should help to keep most bugs and pests out of your tent and can even be used to help ventilate your tent as it doesn’t trap heat or retain moisture. Most camping retailers stock screen tents for reasonable prices, and it can even be used to add more space to your living area, acting as a porch or welcome area for other campers
- Avoid stagnant water: If the sun is shining it might be tempting to pick a camping spot nearer to a body of water, like a river or a lake. When you’re trying to avoid the bugs though, this can be a critical mistake. Most insects thrive near stagnant pools of water, with some even laying their eggs there, making it an undesirable place to pitch your tent. Instead try and focus on setting up camp somewhere shaded from the sun – this should help to reduce your chances of being burned and might help to provide a refuge from the heat during the day.
Things to do
- Hiking: Hiking is a great way of getting exercise and exploring the great outdoors with some friends. There might be some picturesque walking routes close to your camp site and it will give you a chance of making the most out of the lovely weather. You could even pack a picnic or stop off for food and drink on your way. Make sure to pack plenty of water and to plan your hike so that you’re not venturing out during the hottest hours of the day. The temperature should be quite mild during dawn and dusk, which might give you an opportunity to enjoy watching the sunrise or sunset. Just be aware that some insects are also very active during these hours so it might be worth bringing some insect repellent and treating your clothes
- Outdoor games: Outdoor games like tennis or football are a brilliant way of spending the afternoon and can provide you with a way of keeping your children amused during the day. Try to make sure that you keep putting on sunscreen regularly and drink plenty of water. Take regular breaks to soak up the shade and be aware of other campers and respectful of their space
- Cooking: If the sun is shining, it might be a good time to light up a barbeque or try your hand at cooking outside. Food is bound to be appreciated and you can cook a surprising range of meals, even without the use of an oven or grill. It might also be an ideal time to try and get some essential nutrients into your diet, like vitamin C, which can help your skin to recover from sunburn and keep you feel energised throughout the day
- Star gazing: If the sun is shining and the clouds have parted, the odds are you might have a clear sky to look up to at night, giving you a great view of the stars and constellations. If you’re an amateur astronomer, or simply curious about having a better look at the universe, you could try packing a small telescope that might enable you to get a better glimpse of the planets, and garner a better appreciation for space and the stars
- Read a book: You can’t beat reading a good book, especially if all you really want to do is collapse in the shade and sip on a tall glass of juice. Reading is an excellent way to keep your mind and imagination stimulated, relaxing you and helping you to enjoy your peaceful surroundings and the great outdoors
- Arts and crafts: Arts and crafts can be enjoyed by the whole family and are a good way of showing off your creative side. Whether you enjoy drawing, painting or collaging, the great outdoors is chockfull of inspirational landscapes and scenery, providing you with the encouragement you need to get artistic. If you’re camping with children, there are a variety of outdoor crafts you can try, like decorating rocks or making pictures out of leaves. The limit is your imagination!