HANDY HINTS FOR COOLING YOUR CAMPER THIS SUMMER
Some handy hints for staying comfortable in the heat while camping out this summer.
Summer's here and it's heating up. There's a fair chance that if you go camping in the next few months anywhere north of Hobart you'll be doing so in hot conditions. Here are a few ideas to help you keep your cool this summer.
SETTING UP CAMP
Getting your campsite set up is usually a case of finding open space and some flat ground, or picking a site in a tourist park with enough room so you're not squeezed up against your neighbour. But in really hot weather it's also worth thinking about your access to shade. There's a huge difference in temperature between shade and direct sun, so if you can find a large tree to shelter under you'll find things much cooler inside.
Where possible, position your camper trailer so that the shade falls across the campsite during the mid-afternoon - in Australia, that's on the south-east side of the tree. Some well-organised campers carry a large shade cloth, which they string on ropes between trees or tall extendable tent poles to create their own shade. Basically, it comes down to keeping the direct sunlight off the campsite.
On really hot days you can try wetting the outside of the camper trailer or tent. As the water evaporates, it takes some of the heat with it. If you are using a tent, opt for a larger one - it will be much cooler than a small one.
WHAT TO WEAR
Keeping cool while you're camping is really about common sense. Tight clothing traps in body heat so wear loose-fitting clothes. It's also a good idea to choose a light coloured outfit, as this reflects the heat while darker clothing will absorb it.
A wide-brimmed hat is essential if you are going out in the direct sunlight. It may not be the height of fashion, but shading your head against the direct heat will help you avoid heatstroke. A lightweight hat with ventilation is better than a heavy-duty material that will feel hot to wear.
In hot weather, the body loses a lot of water through sweating, so you'll need to replenish it by drinking plenty of water. A few glasses of water every hour is enough if you're not doing much around the campsite, but if you're exercising you'll need at least one litre every hour. Make sure young children get enough to drink as they can be overcome by heat quite quickly. It's also advisable to avoid too much coffee and alcohol as they both raise your body temperature and dehydrate you. It's best to stock the fridge with cold water, sports drinks and fruit juices instead. Try freezing some drinks before you leave home - not only will they help keep the fridge cold but they'll also be deliciously cool when the time comes to drink them.
There's nothing worse than being so hot that you can't sleep. Avoid sleeping bags in these conditions and instead use a lightweight sheet. If it gets cool overnight, you can pull up a light blanket. A cool breeze will help you keep your temperature down, so try to sleep where there is plenty of ventilation. If you have power, an electric fan is effective at keeping you cool even though the temperature may still be quite high. If you are away from civilisation, there are 12V fans available and even a few battery-powered models. If you're still feeling the heat, dampen a face washer and wet your face and neck with it so that the fan blows across the wet surface of your skin, cooling you down.
Even during the day a fan can be a real asset and you can use one to create your own homemade air-conditioner. Place a large pile of ice in front of a fan and the breeze will flow past the ice and distribute cool air.
TAKE A DIP
It sounds really obvious, but taking a dip in a lake, river, waterhole or the ocean is the best way to stay cool on stinking hot days. On some of our family adventures in Queensland, WA, and the NT where the hot days seem to be endless, we set our travel itinerary to ensure we reached a campsite with water for swimming as often as possible. On a few occasions we were sadly misguided and found signs warning about crocs and other swimming hazards, so plan ahead, and check if the water is safe before driving out of your way to get there.
PLAN YOUR DAY
If you know it's going to be a hot day, start early and do your driving, hiking and exploring in the cooler hours of the morning, then head back to the campsite and relax in the shade during the hottest part of the day. The Mexicans know a thing or two about hot weather - a siesta during the heat of the day will help you keep your cool.
Originally published in Camper Trailer Australia #60.