What do you like to do when you camp? Hike, bike, fish, swim, snow ski, water ski? The best camping weather is a personal preference based on the type of camping experiences you enjoy on you typical camping trip.
Use a good seasonal camping checklist to pack the right gear based on your planned activities and the expected (and unexpected) weather conditions for your route of travel and your destination.
The Optimal Camping Weather Forecast
Most people like to camp in mild conditions to avoid extreme hot or cold temperatures. Personally speaking, here’s how my family defines perfect camping weather:
- Mild Temperatures
- Dry Conditions
- Clear Skies
- Light Breeze
- Low Humidity
Mild Temperatures: We like our daytime high temperature range anywhere from 60-80 F degrees and overnight low temperatures between 40-60 F degrees.
- Those daytime highs are comfortable for us to enjoy our normal activities of hiking, bicycling, kayaking and fishing.
- The cooler weather nighttime temperatures are perfect for outdoor cooking, telling campfire stories and playing games around an evening fire.
- A good rule of thumb is to look for 60-degree weather that allows most people to stay comfortable in light clothing, but, for people who prefer warmer temperatures, they can dress in layers to stay happy.
- Extreme weather conditions should be avoided unless you are an experienced camper and you pack the right gear.
Pro Tip: It is easier to get warmer in cooler weather by adding layers of warmer clothing than it is to try to cool off in hotter temperatures.
Dry Conditions: We prefer camping in dispersed locations rather than campgrounds so we love dry conditions.
- When conditions are dry we don’t have to worry about getting stuck in the mud after heavy rains.
- We do enjoy an occasional afternoon thunderstorm as long as we are parked in a safe location away from tall, dead trees that can blow over in a storm.
- When we camp in locations with heavy precipitation, we keep our gear and clothing protected as much as possible to avoid being constantly wet, uncomfortable and unsafe.
Clear Skies: Good visibility is nice for enjoying landscapes and for stargazing at night.
- High overcast conditions are also really nice for photography. High clouds help bring out colors, avoid harsh shadows and provide depth for landscape pictures.
- When we are camping in hot conditions, it’s great to have heavy overcast conditions that provide relief from hot daytime sunny weather, but, in those situations we have to monitor our energy consumption because we’re not producing as much solar.
Light Breeze: One of my favorite things to experience in nature is the sound of the forest when there is a gentle breeze rustling the leaves to create a symphony of natural sounds.
- A light breeze is also great for keeping bugs at bay.
- If high winds begin to blow, we check our tents and awnings to make sure they are securely anchored down.
- We douse our campfire with water and make sure it is totally out.
- Then, we’ll usually pull out our kite for some aerial excitement to make the most of the windy conditions.
Low Humidity: Living in the desert of Phoenix, we’re used to low levels of humidity and that’s what we prefer for camping.
- The reason we don’t like high humidity is because our bodies feel hotter and dirtier than usual. The sticky nature of high moisture content in the air translates to sweaty bodies and damp clothing.
- Another benefit of avoiding high humidity is fewer bugs since most insects thrive in humid conditions.
Seasonal & Location-Specific Factors
We are more than happy to plan a trip with warmer weather when we have water sports on our agenda.
- Swimming, snorkeling and jet skiing are activities we don’t do frequently, but, when we do them, we enjoy being in warmer temperatures so we can be refreshed by the cool water.
- On the other hand, the best bet to see beautiful colors on fall camping trips means you are looking for brisk daytime temperatures and colder overnight lows.
- So, consider where you are camping and what activities you want to experience before planning your trip. Research the local weather patterns so you can time the trip to avoid the bad weather and experience the best conditions on your excursions.
Time Of Year
Coastal regions, mountains, deserts and forests all have different climate patterns. You should always get detailed information on your specific destination, but, generally speaking here are some considerations when camping during different seasons.
Spring Camping: (March-May)
Many regions experience mild temperatures in the springtime. Flowers and foliage are often bursting with colors. Be careful of rainy conditions in some locations.
The good news about camping in the springtime is the comfort that comes from good camping weather with moderate temperatures. The bad news, there is usually a potential for rain. You know the saying: April showers bring May flowers.
Be prepared for cooler temperatures at night as well as the possibility of soggy conditions. Don’t forget to pack a rain jacket, wear water resistant gear, use a tarp to keep equipment protected from the storms and use the rain fly on your tent. Get all of our tips for camping in the rain.
Our favorite spring camping activities
- We love this time of year for bird watching and wildflower viewing. We choose hiking trails that take us to see the best springtime views like gushing waterfalls from higher elevation snow melt.
- In most locations, the fishing can be fantastic during this season. We look for camping destinations that are located next to stocked lakes or that have them within close driving distance.
- It’s also a great time to get out on the water in our kayak. The weather is pleasant and the lakes are not as crowded as they are during the summer season.
Springtime is grilling season! Some of my family’s favorites include:
- Chicken Shish Kabobs
- Grilled Steak Burritos
- Chili Lime Shrimp Tacos With Slaw & Jalapeno Lime Sauce
- Soy & Garlic Grilled Halibut
Check out all of my delicious camping grill recipes.
Summer Camping (June-August)
Many regions experience hot weather in the summertime. This is one of the most popular camping seasons because kids are out of school and many families take their summer vacations during this season.
Longer daylight hours of direct sunlight are great, especially when RV camping off the grid and relying on solar power. But, direct sunlight from the hot sun can cause challenging situations.
Be careful of dangerous conditions caused by summer heat. Heat-stroke, dehydration and sun burns are the most common medical issues in the summer. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip. I pack frozen bottled water in my cooler, it helps keep the temperature inside the cooler at safe levels. As the water melts, we use it for drinking. When hiking, we use hydration backpacks so we can easily sip water as we hike. We also wear plenty of sunscreen and use big brimmed hats to protect from the sun.
It may be difficult to get a good night’s sleep if overnight temperatures are too high. You may be able to fall asleep but find yourself waking up in the middle of the night in a pool of sweat. Good ventilation and airflow can help you stay comfortable overnight.
Don’t trap hot air in tents and RVs, keep vents open to let the hot air flow out. Remember hot air rises so give it an escape route through ceiling vents.
Use a portable fan to facilitate airflow. We have a fan that’s foldable and rechargeable, we love it! If you’re sleeping in a tent, a mesh cot is a great option because it allows air to circulate all around your body.
Wear lightweight clothing, stay out of direct sunlight and limit excessive activities during the heat of the day to maintain a safe body temperature.
Shade is your friend when camping in hot weather. When you set up camp, plan your space to maximize shade from trees and other structures. Use an awning to create shade for areas where you will be sitting, eating and storing food. If you don’t have a pop-up awning, you can just string-up a tarp with some bungee cords or ropes to create instant shade.
It may also be difficult to keep your perishable foods at safe temperatures. Check out our tips on how to keep food cold while camping.
If you don’t have enough cold food storage space, you may consider making non-refrigerated meals that use only shelf-stable ingredients. To maintain safe temperatures of your perishable food, get our camping cooler packing hacks & tips.
Because food safety can be a real challenge in the summertime (whether you use coolers or refrigerators) we wanted to point out some really helpful camping food storage ideas & safety tips.
Our favorite summer camping activities
- We love getting on the water during our summertime trips. Our kayak is always our first choice because we always have it with us. It’s an inflatable kayak that packs neatly with the rest of our gear. We keep it inflated during our entire trip so we can take it out frequently. It’s fun to paddle and experience the campground from the water.
- Hiking on shady trails is another great summer activity. We can usually find lots of options in the mountains that are filled with pine, oak and aspen trees.
Summer is salad season! Some of my family’s favorites include:
- Avocado Spinach Salad With Grilled Shrimp
- Southwest Camping Salad
- Panzanella Salad
Check out all of my yummy camping salads.
Also, you know how much I love campfire cooking but in the summer we often have fire restrictions. So, I plan meals that don’t require camp fire or charcoal for fuel. See all of my yummy camp stove recipes that can be cooked when Stage 1 Fire Restrictions are activated. We especially love:
- Blackened Trout With Cajun Cream Sauce
- American Chinese Chop Suey
- Big Mac Sloppy Joes
- Pastrami Reuben Sandwiches
Fall Camping: (September-November)
Many regions experience mild temperatures in the fall. I think this is the best time of year for tent camping and car camping because brisk daytime temperatures are pleasant and usually drier than in the spring. Good blankets combined with your body heat typically generate enough warmth to stay comfortable on cold nights.
Conditions are often marked by cool, crisp air and seasonal foliage color changes. The autumn season offers unique, holiday-themed activities and experiences. Personally, I love leaf-peeping on fall camping trips.
The weather can be unpredictable at this time of year so be mindful of changing weather forecasts. It’s a good idea to carry a device that is capable of receiving local weather alerts. I like the NOAA weather alert portable radios that can be charged with an attached solar panel or hand crank, can charge your phone, be used as a flashlight and have AM/FM/SW/NOAA capabilities.
Dress appropriately for brisk days and chilly nights. I recommend dressing in layers so you can add or subtract clothing as the temperature fluctuates throughout the day.
You should also be alert for bear activity if you’re camped in an area that has them. Did you know they need to forage up to 20 hours/day in late summer and fall to prepare for winter? Please stay safe and follow our tips for camping in bear country.
According to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), September 10 is the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season. Most of the activity occurs between mid-August and mid-October. If you plan on camping in a region prone to hurricanes, stay informed about storms and be prepared to evacuate the area if necessary.
Our favorite fall camping activities
- I have a bucket list of places I want to visit during the colorful autumn season. You can find it in my post on the best national park fall RV trips.
- Halloween is another popular time for campers to enjoy a unique camping experience. You can decorate your site, your food, and do fun activities. Check out all of my exciting Halloween camping ideas & activities.
Fall is comfort food season and pasta is always on the menu! Some of my family’s favorites include:
- One Pot Spaghetti
- Dutch Oven Chili Mac
- Garlicky Shrimp Alfredo Bake
- Dutch Oven Mac And Cheese
See all of my tasty camping pasta recipes.
Also, one of my favorite holiday’s throughout the year is Thanksgiving. We have so many family favorites when it comes to the big meal. We usually celebrate the holiday at home but we also enjoy camping over the Thanksgiving weekend too. When we do that, we don’t skimp on our classic family recipes. We do a turkey with all the trimmings. You can get my menu and all of my recipes so you can enjoy a full camping Thanksgiving dinner too.
Winter Camping (December-February)
Many regions experience cold temperatures with snow and ice, but, you can also find warm-weather camping destinations. We live in Arizona where half the retired population in America shows up in December to get out of freezing cold air temperatures in their home states. We call them “snowbirds” and we love them!
So, there is warm weather winter camping and cold weather camping. The cold weather winter season offers unique activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice skating, ice fishing and snowmobiling at certain destinations. Both cold and warm winter camping are ripe with holiday-themed activities and experiences. Camping in warm winter climates is like camping during the fall season, but, camping in cold winter climates is another story.
Dressing properly will help prevent dangerously low body temperatures. There is no consensus among experts regarding how much body heat is lost through an unprotected head. All I know for sure is that if my head and ears are cold, my whole body feels cold. I recommend wearing a warm hat that covers your ears, warm gloves and merino wool socks at a minimum. I like dressing in extra layers that can easily be removed if I begin to get too warm, especially during times of physical activity like hiking or chopping wood.
When choosing long underwear, look for fabrics with synthetic materials like polyester, nylon blends or animal-based materials like wool for your Wicking/Inner layer. They provide the best moisture wicking characteristics. Avoid cotton because it absorbs and maintains moisture which will keep your skin moist and cold.
- Your base layer should wick moisture away from your skin.
- Your middle layer should keep you warm.
- Your outer layer should keep you dry.
Get more information on the best winter camping clothes to protect you from cold and freezing temperatures.
For RVs: The R-value of your RV’s insulation may not be enough to protect your rig in freezing conditions, even if you have the best Arctic Package in a full-time RV. You may need to use jugged water rather than using your plumbed water system. It is really easy to have pipes and tanks freeze if temperatures drop below freezing. Depending on your rig, you may experience problems when the outside air temperature drops below 32 F degrees for more than 24 hours, it may be faster if your systems don’t have the proper heaters or insulation. See more winter RV camping tips.
- If you’re limited on power, check out our tips on how to heat a camper without electricity.
- Condensation is also a problem that can cause health issues for people and pets as well as damage to your RV. It’s important to know what causes moisture to build up inside your RV as well as how to get rid of it. It’s best to keep it from forming in the first place. See how to keep moisture out of RV in winter.
For Tents: An extreme cold-weather tent is the best shelter option for camping in very cold weather, a good quality 4-season tent is the next best choice. Study the sun patterns and set up the tent so it gets as much heat as possible from the sun. Get more tips on how to stay warm in a tent.
- If your tent has a vestibule, you want to set it up with the vestibule pointing into the prevailing wind. That provides an extra layer of protection from snow, rain and cold wind in the sleeping area of the tent. This is also a good option for storing wet and muddy boots and gear. You’ll still have easy access to the gear without getting the sleeping area of your tent wet and dirty.
- Use an insulated sleeping pad (a close-cell foam pad has better insulation properties) along with a sleeping bag liner to insulate your body from the cold ground.
- A propane camping heater goes a long way in pre-heating a tent before going to bed. It’s so much nicer to get in to a warm sleeping bag than a cold one. Place a hot water bottle or hot rocks in the bottom of the sleeping bag to pre-heat it so your feet stay warm. We have more tips on how to heat a tent without electricity.
Our favorite winter camping activities
- We are a warm-weather family so we prefer camping in warm winter climates, it’s a good thing we live in Phoenix!
- But, we occasionally venture off to cold climates for camp trips centered around holiday events. We only need to drive a few hours north to Flagstaff to experience snow and winter wonderland activities.
- Here are my favorite Christmas camping ideas.
Warm food and hot drinks can help you stay comfortable in cold weather. Don’t forget to pre-heat your mugs, plates and bowls before filling with hot beverages and meals. A few minutes next to a hot campfire will heat your utensils before serving.
Some of my family’s favorites include:
- Dutch Oven Meatloaf
- Tex-Mex Diablo Sandwiches
- Dutch Oven Cowboy Stew
- Campfire Chili
Check out all of my yummy winter camping meals.
Dehydration, heatstroke and sunburn are the most common problems when camping in hot weather. Protect yourself by drinking plenty of water, avoiding overly strenuous activity, applying protective sunscreen and resting in the shade.
Frostbite, hypothermia, frozen equipment and dehydration are the most common problems when camping in cold weather. Protect yourself by staying dry and warm with appropriate clothing, insulating your gear and drinking plenty of water even though you don’t feel thirsty.
Flash floods are the most deadly hazard when camping in wet weather. Many national and state parks are set around stunning canyons that quickly turn into dangerous traps for hikers and vehicles when flash flooding occurs. Watch the weather forecast and get out of those areas before they flood. Insects are another common problem in wet conditions, protect yourself by wearing long sleeved shirts, long pants, shoes and by using bug spray. Get more tips on how to keep bugs away while camping.
Wildfires, dehydration, heatstroke and sunburn are the most common problems when camping in dry weather. Long periods of dry conditions create highly flammable forests, remember what Smokey Bear says: Only You Can Prevent Wildfires! Always be safe as you cook and use campfires, but, pay extra attention in dry conditions. Have a planned escape route if a forest fire ignites. Keep yourself hydrated by avoiding alcohol and by drinking plenty of water. Avoid extended periods in direct sunlight and wear sunscreen.
FREE Printable Camping Trip Planner
A little pre-planning will make sure you schedule, rent and pack the most important things for your trip.
Make your next trip stress-free with a little pre-planning. Get your copy of our FREE printable camping trip planner template!
Do a little advanced planning to ensure you have the best weather for the activities you want to experience on your camp trip before you create your full itinerary. Research the local weather patterns before booking your site. You don’t want to arrive at your campsite in the middle of rainy season when you planned to hike the canyons and catch some sun along the river bank.
What do you think?
Please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts and answer your questions!