Camping can be lots of fun, no matter where you choose to camp. If you do not normally live in a hot climate and plan a camping trip there, prepare for more than just hot weather. Weather is only one thing you must know about to be safe and comfortable — whether you are base camping, backpacking, or primitive camping.
Hot climate camping sites are in usually in semi-tropical and tropical locations. Florida, Southern Texas, the Gulf Coast regions and, during the summer months any location in the Deep South, all have hot climates. It’s not uncommon for daytime temperatures to reach more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit with night temperatures dropping only into the 90’s.
In fact, the heat index soars even higher than thermometer readings. 101 degrees could feel as if it is 110 degrees! This is because the air is so humid that perspiration does not evaporate to cool the body as well as in less humid areas.
Plan your hot climate camping trip so you take part in strenuous activities during the early morning and after sunset, avoiding the hottest portion of the day. During the hottest daytime hours, relax in shady areas, spend time swimming, and other cooling activities, or plan activities that will involve time inside air conditioned buildings.
Plan to visit museums, shops, restaurants, and other attractions in the region that provide indoor cooling during the middle of the day, allowing you to keep cool.
Whether you relax at your camp or take part in activities during the hottest portion of the day, always be sure to avoid becoming dehydrated. Before and during activities, drink plenty of water. Learn about heat stroke and watch for any signs of possible heat stroke such as flushed complexion, not urinating as often, feeling weak, or fainting. If heat stoke occurs, get immediate emergency medical help. If you do not get help quickly, the condition could result in death.
Sun exposure is another concern when hot climate camping. Semi-tropical and tropical climates have such intense sunshine that you can sunburn in minutes, especially if you have a fair complexion. Even if you tan easily, you can still burn in the direct sun, which is more intense in hot climates.
Always use a strong sunscreen. Cover yourself and your children with water-resistant sunscreen well before going out into the sunshine.
Be aware the sun can burn even through some clothing, so apply the sunscreen to your whole body, not just your face, arms and legs. Use an SPF factor of 30 or more; SPF 45 is even better. The higher the SPF number, the more fun in the sun you can enjoy without burning.
- Apply sunscreen again after taking dips in the water or after perspiring. Even if you do not feel as if you need to, it is important to apply more sunscreen every two hours while in the outdoors.
- Do not believe the myth that a cloudy sky will prevent sunburn! The ultraviolet rays of the sun come through the clouds and burn tender skin. Use sunscreen even when the sun is not directly shining on you.
Too many hot climate campers believe a cloudy day will provide all the protection they need to prevent burning but they find out the truth by ending up with serious, painful sunburn.
Insects and Wildlife
Insects and native wildlife in the area where you plan hot climate camping can also be concerns. Read about the area where you plan to camp so you will know what creatures to watch for and avoid.
- Mosquitoes can carry West Nile Virus, especially in woody or swampy areas.
- Other stinging insects are common in hot weather climates; ants, including fire ants, should be watched for closely.
- Spiders and snakes are common as well.
Before setting up camp, check the area where you will be pitching your tent for any pests, especially snakes hiding in grasses and wooded areas.
Use insect repellant to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes and stinging insects. Include insect repellant candles in your camping supplies. These not only protect you from pests but make great light sources too. There are other handy, portable insect repellant devices you may want to bring along such as battery-operated “bug zappers’.”
- Be sure to close your tent or sleeping area securely at night so you do not wake up with unwelcome visitors such as insects.
- Protect your food and supplies from insects and wildlife by storing it where these critters cannot get to it.
Depending on your camping equipment, you’ll probably need to pick your food supplies carefully. Foods that can be kept at room temperature will spoil quickly in hot climates.
- Raw and cooked food must be stored in coolers or other well-sealed places where it will stay chilled and be safe for eating later.
- Seafood, meat products and anything containing eggs must be protected from the heat.
While in a cooler climate, you might leave a cake that includes eggs in the recipe out of the refrigerator for days; this is not safe to do in hot climates. Be sure to have plenty of coolers or other ways to protect your foods from spoiling. Do not take the chance of ruining your camping trip by getting food poisoning.
If you plan water sports during your hot climate camping, you must have flotation devices, commonly called life preservers or life jackets.
- Not only are these needed for your personal safety but they are required by law.
- Waterskiing, boating, canoeing, and even swimming in areas with tidal undertows means that safety must come first.
In most areas the law demands the use of flotation devices, especially for children. If you are renting water equipment, the business where you rent the equipment may provide these devices, but check before you arrive because you may need to bring your own or buy them before you begin enjoying you favorite water sports.
Thunderstorms can appear in semi-tropical and tropical climates with amazing speed. Lightning strikes kill many people each year during such storms.
- Never stay on the beach, lake or river shore or on the water when a thunderstorm is on the horizon.
- Don’t sit under trees or other tall objects. Find a safe, indoor shelter until the storm passes.
- When you hear the first clap of thunder, get to shelter; don’t wait for the rain to arrive because lightning can strike before it even begins to rain.
Tropical storms can affect your camping site if you’re along the sea shore in hot climate. Be sure to carry a battery-operated radio along on your camping trip and keep up-to-date on news and weather. If law enforcement authorities advise evacuation of your camping area, follow their instructions. Pack your gear and leave right away.
A tropical storm or hurricane, even a weak one, is not something to “ride out” at a camp site of any kind. Strong winds, tornadoes, rising storm surges, and flying debris can be deadly. Get out quickly and locate safe shelter away from the shore line. The local authorities can tell you the best route for leaving the area.
Plan your hot climate camping trip carefully and you will have a great experience, safe return home, and fabulous memories to share with your friends and family.
If you fail to plan well, you might go home with painful sunburns, itchy bug bites, a bad case of food poisoning, and horrible memories.
Use this advice to help enjoy a great hot climate camping experience, and stay away from camping disasters.