Five ways to keep kids cool while camping

Kath Heiman — 23 December 2014

Most of us are familiar with the original “Slip, Slop, Slap” SunSmart Campaign which was one of the most successful health campaigns in Australian history, with the mantra still uttered today.

But we’ve coined our own sun-smart philosophy, aimed at keeping kids cool at camp this summer. We call it our iHEAL approach; insulation, hydration, evaporation, aeration, location.


Preparing for nature’s extremes should start before you decide what camper trailer to purchase. Think of your age, that of your kids, and how much heat (and cold) you’re prepared to tolerate when you head outdoors.

Many hybrid and slide-on campers are constructed with double fibreglass insulated bodies and pop-top roofs. Fibreglass and other insulators will do a lot to moderate temperature variations in your van.

If you’re sleeping under canvas, consider adding a tropical roof to your camper. The additional layer of material will create an air gap, which will allow heat to be absorbed by the air underneath and escape before reaching your living space.


When the weather’s hot, you and your kids start losing body fluid at a far greater rate than in cooler conditions. But unlike adults, children generally don’t respond to the early signs of thirst. If your kids are starting to get cranky, lethargic, have a headache or seem to have developed the attention span of a goldfish, you’re probably seeing signs of dehydration.

Ensuring you and your family stay cool and hydrated on the road is a lot easier these days with the advent of in-cabin fridges. We like the WAECO CDF 11. While it’s small — with only a 10.5L capacity — it’s a great back up/overflow fridge that sits on the back seat, safely seat-belted via the lap-strap. Filled with fluids and whole fruit, it’s a great way to ensure that everyone arrives at camp with a full tank.

Turn your cabin fridge onto “freezer” setting and you open up a whole new range of hydration options. Electrolyte ice blocks and jellies are the perfect way to combat dehydration in children (and adults, for that matter). The products include water, glucose and electrolytes which are essential to rapid rehydration. The best thing is the kids will think you’re giving them a treat. Everyone’s a winner!


There are plenty of simple water evaporation techniques that will soon bring the heat down. For example, when you’re planning for a hot day, chuck a damp sheet in the fridge or freezer in the morning. Drape the sheet over your ankle biters like a blanket. The breeze passing through the material will help keep your kids’ body temperature down and give them some relief from the heat.

A similar idea is to stick a hot water bottle in the fridge and create a bed-friendly “cold-sac” for the kids to snuggle at night instead of a teddy.


When you’re hot, passing air across the beads of sweat on your skin naturally cools you down. So, when you set up camp on a hot day, open the side windows of your camper for cross ventilation.

Also consider using fans to increase aeration when the wind drops. These days, 12V electric fans are an easy and inexpensive addition to your camper. Fans will increase circulation and are most effective when they are boosting the breeze in the prevailing wind direction.


Your choice of campsite may be the simplest and most effective way of keeping everybody cool and happy on a trip away.

Don’t just rely on your awning for shade. Did you know natural shade is cooler than artificial shade by up to seven degrees? That’s because living material — such as trees — absorb the sun’s heat and utilise the energy for photosynthesis, transpire and thus provide a natural cooling effect. By contrast, your awning will actually absorb the sun’s energy and radiate it as heat. Obviously, the lighter the colour of the awning, the less radiant heat the material absorbs.

So invest a bit of time in choosing the right campsite. If you set yourself up in the shade of a tree with prevailing cross winds, you can almost guarantee that the kids will have a happier holiday experience from the get-go.

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Check out the full feature in issue #83 December 2014 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.


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