How to Beat the Heat While Camping this Summer
If the weather predictions are correct, we’re in for a long hot summer. While that won’t come as a surprise for Australian campers who are accustomed to scorching temperatures while enjoying the great outdoors, there are some simple and practical ways that you can beat the heat and stay cool.
Travelling during the heat of the day will test the patience of your vehicle occupants – both humans and pets – and can test the limits of your vehicle. Running the air conditioner constantly uses more fuel, and even the most well-maintained vehicles can overheat. The last thing you need on an extremely hot day is to be stuck on the side of the road waiting for assistance, particularly in the outback where help might be hours away.
On days when the mercury is set to skyrocket, consider travelling during the cooler morning or evening hours, and always stay hydrated and cool.
Once you get to your location, finding trees that create a natural canopy is far more effective at protecting you against heat extremes that just an awning. This is because flora actually uses the sun's rays as fuel for photosynthesis, as opposed to absorbing it in the way an awning does. The difference can be as high as seven searing degrees. A lighter awning, of course, will absorb less and provide greater coverage under natural shade.
Also, try not to camp too close to your neighbours. Creating a ‘boxed’ camp set up can mean that air is trapped between campers, which creates a ‘hot box’ effect.
You don't need to park directly under trees to enjoy their cooling effect. Facing your camp east, with the tree line behind you will save you from the worst effects of a fierce afternoon sun.
If there aren't any trees at your camp, then an awning is the next best thing. But is it good enough to block out harmful and hot rays?
Consider a second awning to ensure your caravan or camper does not trap too much heat during the day, which will create an uncomfortable night’s sleep. You’re not always with your tow tug when out and about seeing sights, so many people also use an awning for their vehicle. Remember, shade cloth made of natural materials will provide a cooler atmosphere than cloth made from synthetic materials.
A privacy screen can provide another level of shade when attached to your awning, and can be particularly useful when the sun is low in the sky at dawn and dusk. Smaller, angled shades attached at either end of the awning provide additional shade but are also breathable to let the breeze through.
And there’s a good reason that Aussie flock to summer holiday destinations that feature water — whether it be the ocean, lakes or rivers. A breeze coming off a body of water can have a huge cooling effect on a hot night and make sleeping much easier.
Camping near a natural water source means you can take a dip (if it is safe to do so) when the temperature soars. If it’s not safe to take a dip, consider bringing a blow-up pool to fill with water from the source.
Our bodies produce sweat to keep us cool but to make the most of this protective measure, we need access to moving air, which is why ventilation is so important when you're travelling. Air-conditioning can provide that flow, but if power resources are limited, carefully open your caravan's or camper cabin in order to catch those breezes.
Simply opening one window won't do the trick though, as you'll need exit point to maximise airflow or create ‘cross-ventilation'. If the air is still, a 12V van will keep things moving.
When it comes to cooling your caravan's cabin, it is far more efficient to maintain a temperature than to cool it down. So, if you have an adequate power source, don't be afraid to pop on the air-conditioning before the heat sets in. In fact, if you are touring in the shoulder season when temperatures can be a little more extreme, try to secure powered sites when you can as air-conditioning is one of the most power intensive appliances at camp.
One the most important things to have when travelling in the heat, particularly in remote areas where you need to be self-sufficient, is enough water. A general rule of thumb is to have 6L of water per adult per day, but this might vary depending on your setup, location and the season.
People need more water when the weather is hot, so it isn’t enough to carry the ‘usual’ amount. Simply drinking a glass of water is an easy measure to cool down your body temperature but it's one that's easy to forget. But good ol' H2O will quickly starve a headache and lethargy at the first signs of dehydration.
Water is necessary for drinking and cooking, cleaning yourself and your gear. Depending on your personal preferences, thriftiness and proximity to a natural water source for bathing or even purifying water to drink and cook, you will need between 5-10 litres of water per person per day while bush camping.
If you do often forget to reach for a glass, try storing a few electrolyte ice blocks in your camp fridge. The combination of water, glucose and electrolytes will put you in good stead in next to no time.
Carry extra water in jerry cans – taking care not to go overweight on your rig.
In the hot weather, your trusty fridge is your best friend to keep your drinks cold, your food from spoiling and ensuring there are some frozen treats to keep the young uns cool, happy and amused for a few minutes.
These days, most caravans and campers come with fridges with built-in freezers, and these have been designed to work effectively in the harsh Aussie heat. These are great for storing ice-creams or icy poles or for creating your own frozen goodies such as frozen fruit (an orange cut into wedges and then frozen is easy, healthy and cost effective) and electrolyte ice-blocks that will help avoid dehydration. Use the same space to freeze the ‘ice core’ that is inbuilt into some water bottles. These types of bottles are a great way to keep your drinks cool for longer once you move away from the vehicle.
If you've never experienced extreme heat, you might be tempted to pack only shorts and t-shirts, but they aren't always the best options. Lightweight, light-coloured cotton or bamboo clothes with long loose sleeves and pants do a great job at shielding your skin from the sun's heat ray. Team them with a wide-brim hat for optimal protection.
Modern synthetic fabrics designed to wick are also great, especially if you're active during the day. Make sure you wash synthetics as soon as you disrobe, though, to stop them from developing an odour.
Limit the amount of time you spend in direct sunlight. Try planning your activities for morning or late afternoon/early evening when the sun is not as hot. Part of the fun of camping is cooking outdoors, which also avoids transmitting heat to your camper or caravan — you will thank yourself later when you’re trying to sleep. If you’re finding the heat unbearable, soak your hat in water or spritz yourself with water from a spray bottle.
Be aware of the signs of heat-induced illness, such as headaches, nausea, cramps, excess sweating, fainting or dizziness. If heat exhaustion or heat stroke occurs, lie down in a cool spot, remove excess clothing, drink small amounts of water and cool down with a cold shower, sponge or wet towel.
Summer and hot weather means bugs — midges, mozzies, flies — you name it, and in great numbers they can very quickly make the great outdoors very unenjoyable.
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