Four pros dish on their tricks for getting out in the warmer months.
Call me crazy, but I will forever prefer camping in the freezing cold to the scorching heat. You can always put more layers on, while you can only take so many off. But it’s not winter yet and I’m not about to limit my camping to the winter months, so I checked in with four pros who have done their share of pitching a tent in the heat.
Opt for Long Sleeves
Andrew Skurka, Backpacking Guide, Outside Columnist
“In sunny, hot places, wear full-coverage clothing, like a long-sleeve shirt and a hat with a neck drape, mostly to keep the sun off your skin,” says Skurka. “If you’re in a dry climate, soak your clothing to benefit from evaporative heat loss.” If you need more coverage, Skurka suggests bringing your own portable shade. “Carry an umbrella that has a Mylar coating, which staves off radiant heat,” he says. He recommends the My Trail Company Chrome ($70).
Bring a Quilt
Jennifer Pharr Davis, Appalachian Trail Record Holder, Author
Pharr Davis is based in the brutally muggy Southeast. She suggests bringing a quilt with you when camping. “They are so easy to adjust in the middle of the night without having to hassle with zippers,” she says. “You can start out sleeping on top of the quilt and, as you get cooler throughout the night, just throw the corners over you. And if it gets cold you can wrap up in it and it works effectively like a sleeping bag.” Many sleeping-bag companies offer quilt-style sleep systems, and Pharr Davis likes the Katabatic Flex Quilt-Style Sleeping Bag ($260).
Sleep on a Cot
Abby Wines, Public Information Officer, Death Valley National Park
“Don’t do it!” was Wines’s response when I asked about camping in the heat. “I only camp in the heat out of necessity. It makes me so grumpy.” So don’t pitch a tent in Death Valley in the summer, when the nighttime low hovers around 102 degrees. But if you’re setting up camp elsewhere in the heat, the 13-year Death Valley NP employee suggests getting some air under you. “You want to get away from the heat radiating off the ground,” Wines says. “I recommend a cot.” I’m a fan of Therm-a-Rest’s Ultralite Cot ($220), which weighs only two pounds ten ounces but is plenty comfortable and sturdy.
Ride Out the Midday Heat in Your Tent
Magdalena Boulet, Olympic Runner, VP of Innovation at Gu
Boulet is the most recent female winner of the Marathon des Sables, a six-day, 155-mile stage race through the Sahara Desert. Strategically sheltering in her tent spared her from some of the worst heat, even if she couldn’t pitch it in the shade. “Looking for areas in the shade is difficult in the Sahara,” Boulet says. But the right tent—like Big Agnes’s Copper Spur UL2 Classic ($380), with double-walled construction, plenty of ventilation, and a fly that can be guyed out to breathe—can offer relief from the draining sun. “Orient yourself in the tent where you still have some breeze coming through but are protected from the sun,” Boulet says. Getting off the ground helps too. I’ve found no better breeze catcher than my Tepui Kukenam Sky 3 Rooftop Tent ($1,425), which keeps me fairly happy above my Honda Element.