It can be tough to keep cool when you’re camping in scorching 100-degrees temps outside—or worse, 90% humidity. In recent months, much of the Western United States has been pummeled by heat wave after heat wave with unrelenting high temperatures.
What’s more, many of these high temperatures have occurred in states with historically milder summers, such as the Pacific Northwest—meaning that plenty of unsuspecting campers and vanlifers have been caught in the heat.
If you get caught in a heatwave while camping or traveling in your RV, motorhome or campervan, be sure to look out for your fellow campmates and your pets as well. Plus, by following these simple tricks and tips, you’ll be better able to keep your cool while enjoying Mother Nature’s summer beauty.
Tips for staying cool in your RV, motorhome or van
- Purchase a 12-volt fan and functional batteries.
- Keep your fridge or cooler stocked full of cold beverages like water, pop (soda for you Southerners) and juices to stay hydrated. (An ice-cold beer also tastes great on a hot day, if you’re into that.) Hydrate! Then hydrate again.
- Keep ice on hand at all times, as you never know when you or your pet will need it to cool off.
- Save your most physically demanding activities for before or after the heat of the day. Don’t forget to use sunscreen if you do go out in the sun.
- If available, put out your RV’s awning for some instant shade.
- Park your rig in the shade if possible. If you can’t find any shade, try making some with a tarp or beach canopy.
- Parking in an open area will give you more breeze compared to an enclosed, packed forest.
- Camp near a body of water so that you and the family can take a dip to cool down.
- Wear loose, light-colored clothing and, if needed, soak a bandana or hat in water to help cool off.
Advice for keeping your pets from overheating
While you’re busy trying to keep yourself cool, don’t forget your pets! Dogs, in particular, need lots of water since many breeds have thick coats that amount to wearing a winter coat in 90+ degree temps. The following tips can help keep your pet cool and comfortable in the summer sun:
- Take your dog swimming. Not only does the water help cool dogs down, but the act of drying can also keep them cool for hours. If you don’t have easy access to a lake or river, any source of water can help—from the camp water pump to a nearby stream or kiddie pool.
- Keep your pets in the shade, away from direct sunshine.
- Don’t overdo physical activities during the hottest parts of the day. Limit walks, fetch and other physical activities to mornings and evenings.
- Put ice cubes in your cat or dog’s water bowl. This keeps the water cooler and helps to lower their core body temperature. Some playful pets even like to try and fish the cubes out, further wetting their snout and keeping them cool for longer.
- Don’t walk your pets on hot surfaces like sand, concrete or asphalt as it can burn their paws.
- Layout a cooling pet bed. (Take your pick from any of the items listed here or here. Several manufacturers also make cooling doggie vests or jackets.)
What are the signs of heat stroke, heat exhaustion and other heat-related conditions?
The tips above are intended to help you prevent heat exhaustion or worse, heat stroke. But if you must venture out in blistering hot temperatures, you should be aware of the common signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke so that you can provide first aid to anyone who is in distress.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke include:
- Feeling dizzy or faint
- Weakness or tiredness
- Drop in blood pressure but speeding pulse
- Heavy sweating which leads to little sweating
- Infrequent urination or very dark urine
- Feelings of nausea
- Muscle cramps
- Feeling of intense thirst
Anyone who exhibits one or more of the above signs should be cooled down immediately with cool compresses, cool water to drink and shade.
It’s also a good idea to wear thin, loose clothing and footwear that ventilates instead of repelling water. Lightweight, breathable pants or shorts are recommended to go along with sandals or ventilated shoes. A simple cotton T-shirt will work, or a high-tech sweat-wicking shirt with built-in vents.
If you plan ahead and take the right precautions, there’s no limit to how much fun you and your family can have while camping—even during a sweltering heatwave. Just embrace the sweat! Just like camping in the spring, fall or winter, summer camping comes with its own set of challenges. Plan accordingly and you’ll be bound to make fond memories every time.