Extreme Weather Guide (Unsafe + Ideal Camping Temperatures)

You’d like to go camping in the middle of winter or the height of summer, but you aren’t sure whether it’s too hot or cold to go camping. What temperatures are considered too extreme for you to enjoy the great outdoors for an extended period?

Camping in extreme temperatures that exceed 90F / 32.2C degrees can be dangerous and lead to heat stroke. Likewise, camping in temperatures below 40F / 4.45C degrees can lead to hypothermia and frostbite. The best time to camp is when temperatures are between 45F / 7.22C and 85F / 29.44C degrees.  

If you’re concerned about whether you should call off your camping trip because of the weather, here’s what you need to know about temperature extremes while on your next camping expedition.

Best Weather For Camping – Temperature Safety Ratings

Temperature (Fahrenheit)Temperature (Celsius)Safety Rating
15 or less-9.45 or lessExtremely dangerous
20-6.67Extremely dangerous
25-3.89Extremely dangerous
10540.56Extremely dangerous
11043.33Extremely dangerous
11546.11Extremely dangerous
120 or more48.89 or moreExtremely dangerous

Cold Weather Extremes for Camping

Many campers don’t want to give up their favorite hobby just because the weather is more inclement than they might like.

Cold weather extremes can make camping uncomfortable, but it can also be dangerous for inexperienced campers who don’t have the right equipment.

If you’re considering going to the woods for some winter camping, you’ll need to be prepared for cold-weather camping.

You can check out my guide on winter camping to know about planning a camping trip in the cold weather and preparing for it.

It’ll require you to have the right equipment and possibly even electricity to warm up. Learn more about calculating cold temperatures and how cold is too cold for camping here.

1. Calculating Cold Temperatures for Camping

If you’re hiking to find the best spot for your camping expedition, knowing how to calculate the drop in temperature is an important skill.

While you can check the weather forecast for a given area, you’ll need to keep a few other things in mind to get an accurate measurement.

For example, camping up in the mountains will lead to lower temperatures. Why is that? When you travel up to a higher elevation, less air can trap heat. As a result, you’re more likely to find colder temperatures.

A good rule of thumb is that the temperature will decrease 5F degrees for every 1,000 feet you go higher. It’ll drop roughly 3F degrees if it is snowing or raining. 

The best thing to do is to locate the temperature at the weather station closest to your favorite camping spot.

Calculate the difference in elevation between where you’ll be camping and that weather station.

This allows you to calculate exactly how cold it will be to decide if this is a trip you want to brave the elements.

Calculating Cold Temperatures for Camping

2. How Cold is Too Cold for Camping?

Avid campers love the feel of being in the great outdoors, and they hate the idea of being cooped up indoors for an entire season.

Winter camping is one way to get yourself back outside, but how cold is too cold for camping? Most people find that when the temperatures hover around freezing, it is too cold to camp in a tent.

This means the weather is usually around 40F degrees or less (-4C). If you aren’t an experienced camper, this is too cold for you to camp in a tent.

If you plan to camp in cold temperatures, you’ll need specialized equipment that helps you stay as warm as possible.

You’ll need a sturdier tent, wind-resistant clothing, and an extra warm sleeping bag. Thick sleeping pads with an R-value of five or greater are also needed.

You can check out my articles on R-value and best sleeping bags which will help you in selecting the best sleeping bags.

The alternative would be to camp in a cabin that offers more protection from the chill and wind.

Some people prefer to camp in their car to cut down on wind chill, but even this can be quite cold if you don’t plan to sleep with the car running all night long.

You should base your camping trip on the nighttime temperatures.

If the temperatures during the night drop below 40F degrees, you should reconsider whether you’re adequately prepared for this trip.

3. Cool Weather Camping

If you want to enjoy camping during winter, ensure temperatures are in the 30F-to-60F-degree range (-1C to 15C).

While it’s safer to camp in this temperature range, it might not be suitable for a novice camper.

If you aren’t in the best health, have small children in your party, or have elderly campers with you, you should check the weather forecast in advance.

Only go camping during these cooler temperatures if the forecast offers dry weather and sunshine.

You’ll need certain equipment to make this a more tolerable excursion, including lots of insulating clothing, boots for winter weather, waterproof gear to protect from rain and snow, and a sturdy tent with a warm sleeping bag.

Remember that wind chill can make it feel even colder. You could develop hypothermia from the exposure if there’s a lot of icy wind.

4. Warning Signs of Cold Weather

Campers who still decide to seek adventure in the cold weather need to be prepared to spot the signs of hypothermia.

At first, you might not be able to identify why you feel the way you do, so it helps to commit these symptoms to memory.

Symptoms of hypothermia include: 

  • Shivering
  • Inability to move the hands smoothly
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Memory loss

When you experience several symptoms together, seek medical attention and do your best to warm up in the meantime.

Remove any wet clothes and replace them with dry ones, layer on the blankets, and drink a warm beverage (even if it’s just heated water).

You should also recognize the early signs of frostbite if you expose your limbs to the cold weather. It starts with tingling and numb skin that may throb from the cold.

As the frostbite progresses, it may result in symptoms like the skin changing color (from red to white to yellow, purple, or even brown).

Most of the time, you’ll face stiff joints and muscles in frostbitten body parts.

If you notice the early signs of frostbite, try to warm up those areas of the body and protect them from further exposure to the elements. You’ll also need medical help if the skin is hard or blotchy.

Make sure that you don’t also have the symptoms of hypothermia, as this can often accompany frostbite due to the extreme cold that causes both conditions.

Hot Weather Extremes for Camping

The risks of camping in cold weather are well-known: hypothermia, exposure, and frostbite. It isn’t uncommon to find campers who don’t realize that it can be too hot to go camping.

High temperatures pose just as much of a threat, particularly when it comes to heat stroke.

Campers who may not be in the best health can suffer from dehydration, muscle cramps, heat exhaustion, and even fainting.

You might want to reconsider that camping trip when temperatures get too high.

Alternatively, you could stay in a cabin that offers electricity (and air conditioning) or use a campsite with the electricity to power fans and AC units.

If you plan to go camping in the height of summer, you need to know how to calculate the actual heat index and when to avoid the campgrounds.

1. Calculating Hot Temperatures for Camping

While you can get the information about your campground from a local weather source, you need to pay attention to more than just the overall temperature.

The heat index is highly affected by the humidity level. This can result in a campsite that feels significantly hotter and poses more of a threat to your safety.

Why does humidity make camping a bad idea? When your body sweats, the air often absorbs the moisture from the skin’s surface and cools you down again.

High humidity means a lot of moisture in the air, making it less likely that the air will wick away your sweat.

As a result, you’ll feel much hotter than if the air was dry. Humidity can add anywhere from 5F to 10F degrees to the actual temperature of the local air.

For example, 80F may feel like 86F with 95 percent humidity. Be sure to check in with the National Weather Service to learn more about the heat index and not just the high temperatures for the day.

If it feels hotter than 90F (32C), you may want to reconsider that camping trip.

Calculating Hot Temperatures for Camping

2. How Hot is Too Hot for Camping?

Summer temperatures can be brutal, depending on where you plan to camp.

A hot camping trip can be just as dangerous as a cold one. Instead of frostbite and hypothermia, you’ll have to worry about heat stroke.

Remember that the actual temperature is only one factor to consider when planning your trip.

You’ll want to check with the heat index to determine how warm it feels outside, especially if you’ll be camping in humid areas that feel hotter than they are.

Take into account the campsite as well and how shaded it is. If camping in direct sunlight, you can add about 10F to 15F degrees to your overall temperature.

If you’re camping in the height of summer, always look for shaded spots with lots of trees.

Because you’ll have limited options to cool down, it isn’t recommended that you go camping if the heat index exceeds 90F to 95F (32.22C to 35C).

As the temperatures rise above 100F, it’s considered quite dangerous if you’ll be outdoors for an extended period.

If you plan to camp in these extreme temperatures, you won’t be able to participate in many activities that can raise your body temperature.

You’ll be confined to mostly lounging around in the shade and keep hiking and playing games in the mornings or evenings when it cools down.

3. Warm Weather Camping

For most campers, the most enjoyable time to be out in nature is during warm weather, ranging from 60F to 90F (15C to 32C).

Particularly if you’re going to be in the shade, this warm weather allows you to relax and enjoy your experience.

You’ll find that the weather is pleasant enough that you can participate in activities for most of the day.

If you aren’t an experienced camper, this is likely the best temperature range for you to get your feet wet with camping.

You won’t need as much specialized equipment as you need for camping in winter weather.

You’ll be perfectly comfortable at the campsite without electricity to power an air conditioner and without the need to sleep in your car.

This is also a good time to ensure you stay hydrated, as you can easily overheat and become dehydrated even in these milder temperatures.

This warm temperature range is better suited to little kids, elderly campers, and anyone who may not be in top condition.

4. Warning Signs of Extreme Heat

If you insist on camping when the heat index is too high, you should be adequately prepared to recognize the symptoms of being overheated and find a way to cool down immediately.

Keep yourself hydrated with clean water and sports drinks containing electrolytes and salt. Extreme heat can surface with symptoms like:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Muscle cramps
  • Fainting
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid breathing or racing heartbeat

Campers who experience any of these symptoms need to get medical attention right away.

You may also want to take a thermometer to measure your core body temperature. As the number hits the 100s, you’ll want to cool down or seek medical attention.

It could lead to heat stroke, which is a very serious condition. While you wait for medical help, do everything you can to cool down.

Get into a nearby body of water, put ice on the back of the neck, and blast your car’s A/C if you can.

Aim for Mild Weather to Ensure a Great Camping Trip…

While you can try camping all year-round, limiting yourself to when the weather is nice is best.

Most campers agree that the most pleasant time to go camping is when the temperatures are between 45F and 85F.

Know how to calculate cooler and warmer temperatures as well as how to prepare for medical emergencies in extreme temperatures.

With this in mind, you can plan a successful and enjoyable camping trip!

Shailen Vandeyar

A proud Indian origin Kiwi who loves to plant trees and play with his pet bunny when not out in the woods, exploring the infinite beauty of mother nature.

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