Cooling Off Summer Campers
By Robert Loewendick / October, 2011
The definition of roughing has changed over the last couple of decades. Waking up without morning condensation dripping on one's forehead and the ability to control the interior temperature of a sleeping structure are current tent campers' goals. Sleeping in a tent, when the nighttime temperatures don't fall below 80 degrees, can be a bit unpleasant for most people. The modern-day camper concerned with cool camping in the summer has options.
When sun reflectors showed up in cars, some crafty campers got the idea to apply the concept behind them to their summer camping. Not only do sun reflectors protect car dashboards from sunray damage, but they also lower the interior temperature of cars from 20 to 60 degrees as compared with the outside temperature. For the tent camper, an insulating product (one brand name is Reflectix), a bubble wrap type of material used in the building, shipping and other trades, can be used to cover the tent's roof. Available at most hardware stores, the material comes in rolls of various sizes. A four-foot by twenty-five-foot roll is roughly $40. Cut a piece and attach it to the rain fly to reflect the warming rays.
Air conditioning for a tent? Sure. A summer camping tool that does an impressive job of keeping campers cool is the KoolerAire (www.kooleraire.com). This device simply lays loose or on blocks of ice held in any cooler up to a 72-quart model size. The cool air is drawn from the cooler and dispersed into the air. The length of time of available cooling depends on the durability of the ice supply. The larger the ice form, the longer the cooling ability. The manufacturer claims the air expelled will be approximately 50 degrees cooler than the surrounding air. The fan can operate for several hours, pulling energy from a deep cycle battery or portable 12-volt power pack. Moving air creates a cooling effect and is easily accomplished with a simple, battery-powered fan. Fans designed for tents also work well in folding recreational vehicles. The air being moved by a fan isn't cooler than the air near the fan, but what a camper feels is evaporative cooling. The air moving across a person's skin is causing evaporati<
on, which in turn creates a cool feeling on the skin. A battery-powered fan used during the night will also reduce condensation accumulating on the interior as well. "If you can't cool the outside of you, cool the inside," an uncle once told me.
Ice coolers come in hundreds of shapes and sizes, but if one were to be selected from the group to join a multiple-day camping trip, a five-day cooler would be the one. Consider Coleman's 58-quart Extreme 6 cooler (the six represents the days of service), a cooler topped with a lid filled with two inches of insulation. Coleman states that this cooler will keep ice for six days in temperatures as high as 90 degrees.
Air conditioners, fans and coolers make hot weather camping more comfortable, but selecting specific campsites can also keep things cooler. Campsites with paved parking pads are nice, but pavement attracts and holds heat. Sites with shade trees are ideal during summer months. The shade provided can lower the air temperature by 20 degrees. Be mindful of the sun's path when selecting a site to get the most out of the shade. A steady flow of air moving around and through a campsite surrounded by tall grasses provides a cooler scenario. A campsite on a north-facing slope can provide a break from direct sunlight.
The combination of cool site selection, well-managed ice chests, reflective covers and an air cooling device can keep things cool at the campsite. Comfortable camping during the hottest months of the year is not tough to do, so take the rough out of roughing it.
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