I love summer as much as anyone else. Warm weather, sunshine, days at the pool, beach trips… it’s one of the best times of the year. But when it comes to planning a camping trip, sometimes that summer heat can make it too hot to go.
But that begs the question: how hot is too hot for camping?
While there is no definitive answer to this question since everyone has different preferences and levels of comfort, I can give you a pretty good idea. Based on my own experience and conversations I’ve had with many other enthusiasts, once it starts hitting around 90°F – 95°F or higher during the day and staying in the 80s through the night, it might be too hot to go camping.
In this article, we’ll dive much deeper into this and talk about some ways you can stay cooler, as well as some of the risks associated with camping in the heat. All of the personal opinions in this article are my own with input from other campers. On the other hand, all of the potential risks come from medical experts, so they’re all important to keep in mind.
If you want to learn about the full spectrum of extreme-weather camping, check out our complete guide on how cold is too cold to go camping. But for now, let’s focus on the heat.
How Hot is Too Hot for a Camping Trip?
As mentioned above, this question is a bit subjective to a degree since people from different parts of the country (and even the world) will be comfortable at different heat levels and will be affected by hot weather differently.
For example, someone who lives and regularly camps in the hot, humid southern United States (like myself) might be more accustomed to heat than someone from somewhere further North like Maine. This might mean that one person is fine going camping when temperatures reach 100°F during the day, and others think 85°F is too hot.
This is why I’ve taken input from not only myself for this article, but I’ve talked to friends and camping enthusiasts from around the country to get a better idea of how people feel. From what I’ve gathered, most campers feel that anything above 90°F to 95°F during the day is when people start rescheduling their trips.
Interestingly enough, nighttime temperatures are almost always considered more important than daytime highs among campers. If you’re anything like me, you can’t sleep if it’s hot out, and most people that I’ve talked to agree that if the nighttime lows don’t drop out of the 80s, it’s just too hot to sleep comfortably and it would be better to camp when it’s cooler out.
How Humidity Affects Camping
The other big thing to keep in mind when you’re thinking about how hot is too hot for camping is the humidity. I’m sure you’ve heard someone in your life tell you that it’s not the heat, but the humidity that gets you. And that really is true to a point since humidity makes it feel even hotter out, greatly raising the heat index.
As a mechanical engineer, humidity is probably a lot more interesting to me than most people reading this, so I’ll try not to nerd out too hard here. This is all captured in the heat index values, or the “feels like” temperature, so make sure you look for that and not just the nominal or exact temperature outside.
Basically, in hot weather, our bodies produce sweat to cool down. But it isn’t just the presence of the liquid sweat that keeps us cool, it’s actually the evaporation of the sweat because evaporative cooling removes excess heat from our bodies. In humid weather, the air is packed full of moisture, this evaporation process slows down, and we tend to feel even hotter.
Humidity is provided in a percentage, and during the summer months, you might often see numbers as high as 80% – 90%, if not even worse. For reference, the inside of your home is typically between 30% – 50%, and anything over 65% is when it starts to feel a bit sticky and muggy outside.
Bottom line, if you’re in a location that’s 90°F outside with 85% humidity, it’s going to feel even hotter than somewhere that’s 100°F in a dry heat with little humidity. In my opinion, if it’s really humid out (80% or higher), it might be too hot to go camping when it’s just 85°F to 90°F. That’s a big difference compared to the above, but that’s just the reality of camping in a humid location!
Ways to Stay Cool While Camping in the Summer
Even though it gets hot during the summer and some people might decide not to go camping, there are ways to combat the heat and stay a little cooler so you can still go on your next adventure. I have a complete guide on how to stay cool while camping, so make sure you check that out as I go into detail about everything you can do and all the gear you need to beat the heat.
While I’ll leave it up to that article to go into the nitty-gritty details, let’s touch on a few of the high points here on staying cool while camping.
The biggest thing you can do is to keep water on hand at all times and drink enough of it. If you’re staying in a campground and have a cooler, having cold water is even better. Any time you get hot, just grab a bottle of water, sit down, and hydrate. Simply drinking cool water goes a long way toward staying cool.
Next, you should consider investing in a few camping fans for your campsite and inside your tent. Especially at night, having a portable fan to help circulate the air and keep you cool will make it much easier to sleep.
I’ve covered the best camping fans on the market recently, and I’m confident you’ll find a few options there that will get the job done. Keep in mind that a fan won’t necessarily lower the temperature inside your tent since it’s moving the warm air around, but it will help it feel much more comfortable!
You should also consider wearing loose clothing and having a sleeping bag that’s easy to slip in and out of if it gets too hot. While a sleeping bag helps keep you comfortable at night, it can also make you feel much hotter and make it that much more difficult to get comfortable.
These are just three of the easy and affordable ways to beat the extreme heat while camping. Make sure you check out my other article mentioned above before your next camping trip so you know all the best ways to cool off in the summer heat.
Risks of Camping When it’s Hot Out
Now that you know what campers and enthusiasts like you and me think is too hot to go camping, let’s take a quick look at some of the risks associated with camping when it’s too hot. According to the World Health Organization, four of the common dangers of being in the heat include heat cramps, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and hyperthermia.
Let’s take a quick look at what each of these is. All of the information here comes from reputable sources such as the WHO, the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, the CDC, the National Weather Service, and other similar agencies and entities.
None of this is medical advice from Outdoor Andrew, as I’m a camping/outdoor expert, not a medical expert. These are just some of the conditions you might experience while camping in the heat, according to the real medical experts above. If there is ever a medical concern or question while you’re camping, always consult a doctor!
If you’ve ever experienced cramps before, you know what they feel like. They’re basically involuntary spasms and contractions in your muscles that can be downright painful. Heat cramps are the same thing and they’re brought on by the heat as you tend to lose more fluids and electrolytes when it’s hot out. They’re also the mildest of the heat-related illnesses.
Just like regular cramps, these typically occur during heavy exercise. So you’re more likely to get heat cramps while you’re hiking, setting up the campsite, packing up your gear, carrying the cooler around, or something like that.
If you start to notice heat cramps coming on, it’s important to rest, drink some water or an electrolyte-rich sports drink, and stretch/massage the muscles you’re feeling it in. They’ll usually go away fairly quickly and not leave lasting damage, but you should always call a doctor if symptoms persist.
According to the CDC, heat stroke is the single most serious risk associated with getting too hot. When you suffer from heat stroke, your body loses its ability to regulate its own temperature, meaning your internal body temperature and reach as high as 106°F or more in 15 minutes or less. If this happens, it can lead to permanent disability or even death if it isn’t treated immediately.
If you or someone you’re camping with starts to show symptoms (including confusion, loss of consciousness, or seizures) it’s important to immediately call 911 and receive treatment as quickly as possible. In the meantime, try to move the person to a cooler environment and attempt to lower the body temperature with ice, cool cloths, or a bath if possible.
The best ways to avoid heat stroke are to drink water, limit physical exertion, and spend as little time in the heat as possible. As a very serious condition that’s extremely dangerous, this is the biggest reason that it’s important to stay cool while you’re camping in the summer.
Heat exhaustion is the middle ground between heat cramps and heat stroke in terms of seriousness. This occurs when your body starts to overheat and is often brought on even faster if it’s both hot and humid.
Symptoms include profusely sweating, high body temperature, and a rapid pulse. If you notice any of these symptoms within yourself or another person you’re camping with, it’s important to rest and cool down as quickly as possible. This is often a stepping stone to heat stroke, and it’s vital to avoid that as much as possible.
While hyperthermia isn’t typically considered one of the big heat-related illnesses — that’s typically the three listed above — it’s important to know what it is. You’ve likely heard of hypothermia before, which is when your body gets too cold and your internal temperature reaches abnormally low levels.
Hyperthermia is the exact opposite of this, and it occurs when your body gets too hot and reaches abnormally high temperatures. As you read above, this is one of the key signs of any heat-related illness, particularly heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
So if your internal body temperature starts getting too high, it’s important to cool it back down before it starts reaching dangerous levels that cause permanent damage, or worse.
Enjoy Summer Camping Trips But Be Smart
As someone who goes camping many times every summer, I hope that talking about the four risks associated with heat noted above hasn’t turned anyone off from their next camping trip. I just wanted to make sure all of my readers were aware of some of the potential risks of going camping in hot weather so that we can all stay safe and enjoy the great outdoors!
Any time you’re planning a summer camping trip, you should always check what the temperatures are going to be during both the day and night. Not only should heat illness and heat stress be on your mind, but high temps can make it just downright uncomfortable to go camping.
For me personally, my biggest concern is nighttime lows. If it’s not going to get out of the low 80s when I’m trying to sleep, I’ll either bring a few extra fans for better air circulation, or I’ll just reschedule when there’s going to be cooler weather. I can deal with high daytime temperatures and still have a great time, but not being able to sleep at night ruins the whole trip for me!
Whatever you do, make sure you stay hydrated, keep cool as best you can, and pay a bit more attention to how your body is feeling.
- Usually, when daytime temperatures reach 90°F to 95°F and nighttime lows don’t get out of the 80s, it’s too hot to go camping.
- If you’re camping somewhere that’s humid and it starts getting to 80% humidity or higher, then it might start getting too hot for camping around 85°F or 90°F.
- The most important thing to do to stay cooler when you’re camping in the heat is to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated at all times.
- Some of the risks associated with being outside when it’s too hot include heat cramps, heatstroke, heat exhaustion, and hyperthermia.