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Whether you’re RVing or tent camping this summer – what you wear has a significant impact on your outdoor experience.
Choosing the right camping clothes will prepare you for the elements and ensure your comfort during camping activities.
During the summer, the biggest challenges with the outdoors are sun exposure and high temperatures. A few other elements play into this, such as rainy weather, bugs, and the rustic outdoor environment.
With these obstacles in mind, we’re sharing our top 6 tips on what to wear camping in summer.
1. Choose the Right Fabrics
This first tip is also the most important tip when selecting clothes for camping in the summer. Choosing suitable fabrics is crucial to your choices.
Features of good fabrics for camping clothes include:
- durable but lightweight
It’s a bonus if the clothes are also UPF 50+.
Here are some of the best fabric options for summer camping wear and why.
Cheaper synthetics have given all synthetics a bit of a bad wrap. However, blended quality synthetics have produced some of the best outdoor gear on the market. When shopping for camping clothes, nylon or polyester will provide breathable, quick-drying options. A little bit of spandex will provide you with the right amount of stretch.
However, you can also find natural blends that will keep you cool.
In the past, wool has been labeled as uncomfortable and itchy. But ultra-fine merino wool and other wool blends are super soft, comfortable, quick-drying, and warm when they need to be. Plus, wool’s anti-microbial feature makes it resistant to odor. An excellent trait for summer camping clothing! We love merino wool socks, shirts, leggings, and even underwear year-round. (Check out underwear from Icebreaker here. This underwear is our absolute favorite for outdoor activities.)
Bamboo is a good option for a naturally breathable fabric. Depending on the manufacturing process, some bamboo clothes hold up better than others. I prefer a blend of cotton and bamboo. With this blend, you get the durability and long-lasting softness of cotton and the breathability of the bamboo. This sun wrap from Coolibar is incredibly durable and is UPF 50+ for the best sun protection. They can be too warm on a scorching day, and then you might need to opt for a synthetic option, but I live in these sun wraps most of the summer.
2. Invest in Outerwear
When you’re living so in tune with nature, outerwear is crucial for camping clothing. When it’s raining, you need to stay dry, and when it’s cooler at night, you need to stay warm. Here are a few suggestions for investing in quality outerwear for camping.
This is such a versatile item to have in your camping wardrobe. Especially if you are full-time RV camping. A light fleece jacket can be your go-to for an outer layer 9-10 months out of the year.
I live in Patagonia’s Better Sweater pictured above. It’s straightforward and durable for outdoor life.
Some of my favorite features include the heathered color for hiding dirt and stains, the full-length zipper, and a hood.
I like the detailed construction and durability of this particular fleece, but any well-made one will make your outdoor experience more enjoyable. I recommend sizing up on most fleece jackets for a little room to add layers.
Light Rain Jacket
A quality rain jacket for the summer will keep you and your clothing warm and dry in a rainstorm.
Look for a jacket that is waterproof and windproof. Make sure it’s 100% seam taped or sealed to keep water out.
Something that packs small is great for the hiking trails, and adjustable velcro sleeves are a great feature as well.
PRO TIP: If you want to invest in a superior rain jacket, look to the Arc’teryx brand, which uses Gore-Tex for ultimate breathability and water protection.
3. Choose Versatile Clothing that You Can Layer
When choosing clothes to pack for your camping trip, pack items that work in various situations and are good for layering.
Especially in dry climates, there will be a significant swing in the temps from early morning to mid-day, and evening into the night. You’ll want to be able to dress for everything. Here are a few tips.
Remember, the less bulky an item is, the better it will lend itself to layering!
4. Outfit Yourself with Accessories
This tip is essential because this is where we cover everything that protects your face. Plus, we’ll throw in a few extras.
WIDE-BRIM HAT. For hot days in the sun, you’ll want a wide-brim hat to keep the sun off your head and face. The key features to look for in a sun hat are a lightweight, breathable fabric, ventilation, and a UPF rating. We love the brand Tilley and think they make great camping hats. The ventilation, UPF 50+ sun protection, and quality fabric are all there. They have various hats, but my husband is mainly a big fan of the Tilley LTM6 Airflo.
BANDANA. The perfect accessory for protecting your head from the sun. Throw one around your neck to cover your chest and back of your neck. These bandanas from Coolibar are my absolute favorite. They are incredibly comfortable in hot temps due to their breathability. They also feature UPF 50+ sun protection. If you want more of an infinity-style bandana, this head/face wear from BUFF can be pulled up around your head or worn around the neck.
SUNGLASSES. Of course, you don’t want to forget eye protection on your camping outing. I recommend opting for polarized sunglasses, especially if you are going to be around water. There are many great brands on the market – however, I recommend checking out Smith for value for the cost. If you want a brilliant pair of sunglasses, Maui Jim has some truly fantastic lenses. Just make sure you don’t lose them!
SUNSCREEN. For the areas of your skin that aren’t covered, don’t forget the sunscreen! For the ladies, you might want to opt for a tinted moisturizer. Also, don’t forget the delicate skin on your lips. Be sure to pack a lip balm with SPF.
BUG REPELLENT. As hard as we try to get away from them, bugs will almost always cross your path on a camping outing. We prefer to use more natural remedies when possible such as No Mosquitoz bug repellant. Although we’ve never personally used it, you can also purchase insect repellant clothing.
BLANKET. Summer in dry areas, especially the mountains, can be cooler at night. If you are cold-natured like me, you’re reaching for a blanket a few hours after the sun is gone. Rumpl makes a great blanket with a down-alternative that is used to make quality sleeping bags. It has a stuff sack, which means it takes up little room. The biggest bonus? It also has a convenient clip so that you can wear it as a cape – no hands required! You can check them out here.
HEADLAMP. This is one of those wearable necessities you don’t want to be without on your next camping trip. A headlamp leaves your hands free to stoke the campfire or search for something in your backpack or tent. A good headlamp will be around 1000 lumens and USB rechargeable. We like this headlamp from Fenix, which is also waterproof and has a battery life of around 100 hours.
5. Take Care of Your Feet with the Right Shoes
Many athletic shoes and sandals can work in a camping environment. The big things are that they support your feet and have a good bottom grip.
The activities you’ll be enjoying on your camping adventure will dictate how many pairs of shoes you might need. You’ll also want to consider what types of shoes you can use in multiple activities.
Here are a few suggestions for camping shoes.
HIKING BOOTS, SHOES, OR TRAIL RUNNERS. If you are doing much hiking, you’ll need one of these for the trails. Trail runners are great for smooth trails and are a great lightweight option. For more rocky terrain, look for a hiking boot or shoe. We like these Salomon hiking shoes that feature GORE-TEX, so your feet stay dry even if you get caught in the rain. Don’t forget to invest in quality merino wool socks for comfort and breathability. I’m personally a big fan of SmartWool.
SANDALS WITH AN ANKLE STRAP. You can get by with sandals at the campsite as long as they have decent support. If you go with something like Chacos or Keens, you can even do shorter hikes in these as well.
FLIP-FLOPS. These are great for RV camping if you’re walking around the campground or using the RV bathroom facilities. Depending on the flip-flop, they may lack the support for rugged campsites.
WATER SHOES. If you are hiking or camping near water, you might want a pair of water shoes for exploring. Some sandals, such as Chacos and Keens mentioned above, are waterproof and might work in place of an actual water shoe. I also like Olukai sandals (pictured above) for water activities where I don’t plan to go swimming. I personally find these a little more comfortable than other popular outdoor sandals.
6. Don’t Forget What NOT to Wear Camping
Now that we’ve covered some of the best items to wear for summer camping, here are a few things to avoid.
COTTON. Cotton is a cozy, comfortable material. But in the hot and especially humid outdoors, cotton can be the enemy. It doesn’t wick away sweat, and for those of us with laundry concerns, it can take forever to dry. That said, some cotton blends that I recommended above can still be appropriate for summer weather.
DRESSY CLOTHING. More formal clothing is not cut out for the outdoors. The harsh environment will not be kind to delicate fabrics. Keep your leather, suede, silk, and other fine clothing in the comforts of your home.
LIGHT-COLORED CLOTHING. White and other solid lighter clothing are best avoided in the outdoors. Setting up camp or just hanging around the campsite will eventually lead to stains, dirt, and other spots on your clothes. Look for natural tones in heathered colors that will help hide stains.
JEANS AND DENIM. While jeans are a staple of everyday casual wear, they can be pretty uncomfortable during a hot summer day of camping. They don’t wick moisture or dry quickly. Denim shorts will be ok in cooler climates but there are better options.
EXCESSIVE JEWELRY. I’m not totally against jewelry because I like accessories as much as the next gal. However, anything delicate or that could easily get caught on something is best to avoid in a rustic outdoor environment.
How to Dress for Camping
For me, a summer camping outfit usually consists of lightweight leggings, a synthetic blend tank and sports bra, and pair of sandals. After I toss on a few accessories for sun protection – I’m good to go. If I’m camping in a humid climate, I might ditch my natural fabric sun wrap for a cooler long-sleeve shirt in a synthetic blend.
I hope this gave you some ideas to use when packing for your next summer camping trip.
With a bit of experience, you’ll start to hone in on what outfit combinations you prefer when camping. Just remember to look for the crucial components of durability and breathability in your camping gear.
Happy outdoor adventuring!
Want to learn more about the best RV camping gear?
Check out our lists of kitchen gear, gift guides, essentials to get on the road, and more.
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