Our Top Five Tips For Keeping “Cool” While Free Camping In Summer

With summer temperatures hitting 40+ across continental Australia, what DO you do to keep cool and “survive”? After all, there are very few power outlets in nearby trees to plug the A/C into when you are free camping…

On checking my my favourite weather forecasting services, I found that daytime temperatures where I am currently free camping were predicted to be in the low to mid 40’s today!

Whilst I managed to “survive” the mid 30’s yesterday, I was certainly NOT looking forward to coping with that sort of heat so soon… and the accompanying humidity from being so close to the coast.

So I did the only sensible thing possible…

And took off in the car up into the Northern Tablelands for the day! I’d much prefer a day of car aircon, and low 30’s outside up the mountains @ 1100m, than dealing with 43+ degrees back at camp 100m above sea level!

And there’s your first “tip”!

Go Somewhere Cooler!

By 10am, the temperature gauge was already nudging yesterday’s max of 35 degrees, so it was time to hit the road!

The 300km round trip up the Nowendoc River Valley, and via Thunderbolt’s Way to Walcha NSW, had 60km (each way) of good dirt road. The spectacular scenery (which was even MORE inspiring coming back) was viewed in “extreme comfort” with the A/C on in the car!!!

It was a great day spent checking out the eateries, park and shops in Walcha, along with a side trip to a rather dry (but still amazing) Apsley Falls just 18km to the East along the Oxley Highway.

And if you time it right… you should try to return home early evening, around when the forecast southerly change comes through. Oh well, my timing was out slightly, so we still had to endure 43 degrees back at camp for about an hour! Dammit!

But at least the river was still there, and beckoning 🙂

And that’s the second tip…


Apart from the standard warnings about staying hydrated etc., etc., in extremely hot weather, water really is your best friend in this sort of weather!

Either in the form of a nearby creek or river you can lounge in for the day, and/or by using one of those small ironing spray bottles and “misting” yourself repeatedly if you can’t swim, the water is too muddy, or there are too many crocs around 😉

I remember a Christmas in my backyard many moons ago when the temperature hit the mid 40’s in Sydney’s west… We spent the day in the shade under the small trees in the yard, and just rolled into, and then out of, the pool. Often! It certainly made for quite a pleasant day!

And there’s the next tip…


You’ll cook yourself floating in the water in full sun, no matter how much sunscreen you use. So find some shade nearby to set up the camp chairs… too easy!

If not… then you might need to do what this guy did (see pic at right –>)

When you arrive at your campsite, make sure you take note of where the sun rises and sets, and work out which trees provide good NATURAL shade. If possible, park on the North Eastern side of any major stands of trees, so you should get some relief from direct sun for the hottest part of the day.

Sorry, but sitting in a chair under an awning in full sun, is simply NOT cool! You just can’t beat natural shade when it’s available.

Obviously, there will be times when you can’t use natural shade, so an EXTRA layer ABOVE your awning may help insulate a little. If you’ve got it, throw ANOTHER tarp across your campsite/caravan, leaving an air gap for insulation.

Which brings us to…


Keep the sun OFF vital components to keep them cooler.

My 3-way fridge struggles immensely in this sort of heat, even though it has a shade screen over it (my awning) to keep the direct sun off the vents. I don’t yet have a little 12v fan in the top vent to boost the circulation, so that’s on the list of things to get done now!

And your windows… Well, if you can afford it, get solar screens made for your car, caravan or motorhome windows. These prevent heat from entering your vehicle in the first place (and are great for keeping warmer in winter too)!!!

For cheapskates like me, make sure your curtains (preferably block out ones) are kept CLOSED on the sunny side. Maybe even another shade screen or two can be placed over these windows on the outside if you have a sail track to slide them into???

Please note, apart from our day trip, we haven’t used any “power” to keep cool so far!

And for obvious reasons I suppose – because NOTHING powered by 12v is going to make a scrap of difference in 40+ degree temperatures 🙂

12 Volt Fans

There are a variety of 12v fans available that might help keep you a bit cooler on hot nights… or at least circulate some air for you.

I have a $70 “Cool Breeze” fan from eBay which is fairly loud, even on the low setting. A quieter unit is the Companion fan with rechargeable batteries around $100+. And then there is the very quiet, very efficient (and more expensive @ $160+) Sirocco fan. If your budget can stretch that far, go for the Sirocco.

But remember, depending on your battery system, you probably can NOT leave these running all night while you sleep. They can certainly help keep you cool during the evening for a few hours without doing too much damage to your power reserves.

There are several youtube videos (see below) which show how to combine a 12v fan, an esky, and a piece of plumbing pipe, to make a cheap evaporative air conditioner… all you’ve got to find is a bag (or 10) of ice to keep it cool LOL!!!

I hope our tips will help you keep your cool this summer.

Please, let us know in the comments below if you have any better ways of beating the heat while you are free camping…