Along with wind and rain, temperature is one of the "Big 3" that tent campers learn to adapt to in order to enjoy successful camping trips.
A brief understanding of outdoor temperature ranges will help novice campers to avoid confusion and to properly prepare for a tent-camping excursion.
These ranges are given in both Fahrenheit and Centigrade for English and Metric System users. The Fahrenheit and Centigrade equivalents are within a few degrees of each other.
These ranges are also used by weather services and can be referred to when consulting weather forecasts.
Campetent has slightly modified them to be easier for tent campers to remember and to apply.
Temp Range & Description:
Information, Tips & Ideas:
90°F & above
(30°C & above)
Heat Index Safety
Once outdoor temperatures reach very warm levels, humidity can greatly increase their effect on campers, especially in the more humid, eastern U.S. states.
This temperature range refers to the heat-index values, which may be substantially higher than outdoor-thermometer readings.
Family tent campers spend all their time outdoors. Therefore, the heat-index is a better guide than the air temperature.
The heat-index will determine what activities a camper can enjoy outdoors without succumbing to heat-related illnesses and emergencies.
Prolonged exposure to bright sunlight at these temperatures has the same effect on a camper as an additional 15°F rise in temperature.
Camping In Hot Temperatures
Tent camping in moderately hot temperatures is possible for experienced campers in good health, as long as they pay attention to the heat index and take care of their health.
Hot temperatures are not safe for young children or for the elderly to tent camp.
Novice tent campers should first acquire camping skills in more comfortable temperatures.
Hot-Temperature Tent Camping Around The U.S.
Campers living in regions where these temperatures are common often prefer to either camp during the Summer at higher elevations (in the mountains) or instead during the Spring and Fall at lower elevations.
A 2-season, family-camping tent with a lot of ceiling mesh can be quite comfortable in moderately hot temperatures in fair weather or in light wind and rain.
Reducing The Effect Of Hot Temperatures
Family tent campers should plan a camping trip only if these temperatures will prevail for a few hours during the hottest part of the day.
They should also determine that the nights will cool down by 10°F.
Campers may be quite limited as to what they can do in hot temperatures. They should camp on days where they can enjoy activities in the mornings and evenings.
For more comfortable camping, tent campers should consult the warm temperature range in the next category.
Tips For Hot Temperatures
Overexposure or overexertion in these temperatures may result in heat-related illnesses and emergencies.
Tent campers should take measures to stay cool:
As the heat index approaches body temperature, ventilation and fans will no longer have a cooling effect.
In these temperatures, many campers in hot, humid climates rent a campsite with electricity and bring a small, window air conditioner to set in the tent doorway.
The a/c removes some of the heat and humidity in the tent body, making it much more comfortable for the hottest part of the day as well as for sleeping at night.
NWS Heat Advisories
The NWS labels the heat-index range of 90° to 105°F (30° to 40°C) as "extreme caution".
This range is suitable for experienced tent campers in excellent health, but is also the maximum safe range for tent camping outdoors.
When the heat index rises above 105°F, the NWS issues heat advisories or excessive heat warnings.
Heat-index values above 105°F (40°C) are designated as "dangerous or "extremely dangerous".
Family tent campers will definitely want to avoid camping in dangerous heat-index values.
60° to 90°F
(15° to 30°C)
Warm temperatures are the most comfortable for camping.
Family tent camping season is generally when and where these temperatures prevail.
Warm-Weather Tent Camping Around The U.S.
Tent campers in northern U.S. states often begin camping in May, after temperatures rise and the ground dries out from the snow melt.
Tent campers in southern U.S. states may find suitable warm temperatures more common in the Spring and Fall than during the hot Summer months.
Warm-Temperature Camping Equipment
A good 2 or 3 season tent and basic camping equipment should adequately serve most family campers in warm temperatures, the season rating of the tent depending on how much weather families are comfortable camping in.
Layering of clothing will help tent campers adapt to changing temperatures and weather during the day.
Tips For Staying Comfortable
In these temperatures, staying out of the direct sun may be enough to stay comfortable.
Good ventilation inside the tent can often keep it comfortable. Orient the tent into a breeze.
On warm, still days, tents with low vents can be closed up. As the inner warm, humid air rises out from the ceiling mesh, fresh air will be drawn in to the tent body from the low vents, creating a slight draft, which will help cool campers inside.
A tent fan can improve ventilation inside the tent on very warm days.
As these temperatures rise, campers will need to take further measures to stay cool (see hot temperatures above).
Parents should make sure that their children stay hydrated in very warm temperatures.
Heat Index Safety
Humidity begins to have a noticeable effect on heat index values once the air temperature reaches 80°F (25°C). Above 80°F the heat index can begin to quickly climb past the air temperature.
Air temperatures in the mid-to-upper 80°F range can easily produce heat-index values well into the 90°F range. These temperatures belong to the hot-temperature category above.
The NWS has designated the 80° to 90°F (25° to 30°C) heat-index range as "caution".
This range is a prudent maximum for young children, the elderly, novice campers and any campers who are not in good health.
30° to 60°F
(0° to 15°C)
Cool temperatures refer to mostly above-freezing temperatures and are suitable for some family tent camping, as long as the weather is dry and campers are properly insulated from the outside temperature with warm clothing.
Cool-Weather Tent Camping Around The U.S.
Some tent campers enjoy camping into the Fall in these temperatures, since the ground is usually dry and the weather is often agreeable.
Tent campers at higher elevations in the mountains may experience cool temperatures at night even during the Summer.
Tent-Camping Tips For Cool Temperatures
Tent campers should take measures to stay warm in these temperatures:
Condensation can be a challenge in cool temperatures.
Tent campers will need to find a compromise between getting enough ventilation into the tent body to exhaust humid air and not so much to cause a strong cold, draft.
In these temperatures, family campers should plan to camp only in dry weather.
Exposure to wet weather can be dangerous.
It will take a long time to dry out clothing and equipment.
At the very low end of this temperature range, family tent campers will want to avoid snow accumulation.
For 3-season family tents with non-closable mesh ceilings, snow can easily blow under the rainfly, through the mesh and into the tent body.
Heavy snow accumulation on the tent rainfly can collapse the tent frame.
If wet and exposed in these temperatures, tent campers can be affected by a drop in body temperature (hypothermia), which can quickly develop into a medical emergency.
Hypothermia is more common in these temperatures than in lower temperatures.
Campers often get caught in these temperatures, when they were only prepared for warmer temperatures.
Wind does amplify the effect of very cool temperatures.
Cool-air temperatures below 40°F (5°C) combined with a breeze can produce wind-chill values well below freezing.
If the air temperature is above freezing, below-freezing wind-chill values cannot cause frostbite.
Campers outdoors in these temperatures will not be vulnerable to freezing, but they will be vulnerable to exposure and hypothermia. Hypothermia can lead to circulatory shock, which can escalate beyond the the ability to treat without medical equipment.
0° to 30°F
(-15° to 0°C)
Cold temperatures are the below-freezing temperatures that produce most of the Winter snowfall.
Still weather makes a great improvement in outdoor comfort in these temperatures. The less wind, the better.
With proper clothing and common sense, experienced tent campers are able to enjoy winter tent camping in these temperatures.
Cold-Temperature Camping Equipment
If expecting more than light snowfall or light winds, winter tent campers should strongly consider a 4-season tent.
Some outfitter tents are also designed for winter camping.
Large wall tents may feature a sleeve or jack for a wood stove chimney.
Mummy sleeping bags are designed for tent camping in cold temperatures.
If directly exposed to wind and cold temperatures, campers can succumb to cold-related injuries, illnesses or emergencies:
To stay comfortable in these temperatures, campers should insulate themselves from outside temperatures and block most of the wind from striking them.
Don't drink alcohol, if you are relying only on body heat to stay warm.
Use the wind-chill index on windy days to gauge the true effect of being outdoors in these temperatures.
In the very cold, lower range of these temperatures, a breeze can quickly drive wind-chill index values below 0°F (-15°C). (See next category.)
The wind-chill index will not affect you, if you can completely block the wind—for example, when you are inside a fairly well sealed tent.
Extended periods of time outdoors in severely cold temperatures can be dangerous for people who are not accustomed to them.
These temperatures are beyond the scope of family tent camping and are suitable only for expedition equipment.
Frostbite, hypothermia and shock are serious risks for anyone who is exposed in these temperatures.
Exposed skin is approximately 15 to 45 minutes from frostbite.
As temperatures move closer to the human-comfort zone, campers may refer to them as "moderately cool" or "moderately warm".
As temperatures move further away from the human-comfort zone towards the edge of a range, campers may refer to them as "very warm" or "very cool".
A basic knowledge of temperature ranges is useful for family tent campers when making preparations and decisions.
These temperature ranges may not fit exactly with individual personal perceptions, due to living in various climates, to various ages, genders, health issues, etc.
However, when referring to tent camping in various regions and climates as a whole, these ranges are effective and practical for dividing the temperature spectrum.