camping overnight at Coober Pedy


Summer is the most popular time to pack up the car and head off for a camping trip. But with Australian temperatures above 40 degrees in the day, and even above 30 at night, staying cool while camping can be a nightmare.

Last February I found the time for a summer getaway and we headed to Coober Pedy in South Australia, where temperatures were in the high forties every day. We were one of the only people crazy enough to sleep in a tent in these conditions but using these tips, it wasn’t as bad as you would think.


I was using a dome tent and we were able to take the outer fly off and sleep using just the inner mesh layer. The mesh kept out the unwanted insects and allowed any slight breeze to come through the tent. We also got a pretty fantastic view of the stars while we slept. Taking off the fly isn’t always an option, but if you have mesh to keep insects out opening the doors is essential to optimise ventilation.


In the winter, choosing your campsite usually involves avoiding areas which will catch the wind, like small hills and valleys. In the summer, I usually embrace these sites. A breeze, however slight, comes as a welcome relief in this heat so I tend to try and capitalise on wind exposure.

Also, think about how much shade the location will get in the afternoon. The less afternoon sun your tent will get, the cooler it will be at night. But choose carefully, if you are camping under trees be careful and don’t select dead trees that could fall at a moment’s notice.


Abandoning the tent and opting for hammock camping could be the way to go in warmer weather. The absence of insulation under you helps keep you cool and the air doesn’t remain stagnant like when tent camping, meaning your body heat is unable to heat the air and drive up the temperature like in a tent. You want to make sure you are well off the ground and you can cover yourself with an insect net and repellent. If you can tie up a hammock, tie up the insect net above it and give yourself a spray with mozzie repellent before you go to sleep. Tuck the net inside your hammock once you are inside it.


This was my issue in Coober Pedy. No electricity and no breeze. However, you can eliminate these issues with the purchase of a small 12V fan. I ended up buying a Coleman CPX fan and light combo which ran off rechargeable batteries. It wasn’t too expensive but certainly wasn’t top end. If you have the ability to run a fan off your car battery with dual battery capabilities, there are some great 240w fans to provide a stronger breeze and they will cool you right down. I like a spray bottle next to me because a little bit of water can really help when you are trying to stay somewhere cool.


If you have some tarp or something to cover your tent while leaving space for air to pass between the cover and the tent, it will provide extra protection from the afternoon sun. This should mean once you get into your tent at night, it won’t have retained all the afternoon heat and be an evening sweatbox.


Light coloured cotton clothing is the best way to keep cool in clothes. I also have some really nifty Enduracool microfiber towels, which I used for the first time last year. I was sceptical at first and wondered how a damp towel would be better than any other piece of wet clothing, but they really work. The water evaporates off them much slower so they stay cooler for longer. I had mine wrapped around my head for the whole week in Coober Pedy, I thought I looked like a kind of cool young Mickey Rourke with his bandana, but my family insisted I was more an aging Axl Rose.


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Oli Ward

Oli has camped and hiked his way around Australia and most of Europe. He also loves writing about his experiences and sharing his knowledge.