How Can I Keep My Dog Cool While Camping?

Many of our favourite outdoor travel activities are centered around the summer season. But this is also the time of year when the temperatures reach their peak, and the risk of heatstroke is at an all-time high. One important factor to consider is how to keep your dog cool while camping.

If you’re an RV or trailer camper staying at an electrical site with air conditioning, this is a concern that may not cross your mind. For those of tent camping, it’s a little more challenging.

In this article, we’re going to look at a variety of different options to help cool off your pup including how to keep dogs cool outside on the trails or campsite, tips and tricks for staying cool in the tent at night, and even easy to transport hacks for backpacking. Whatever your plans may be this summer, we have you covered!

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How Do You Keep a Dog Cool When It’s Hot Outside?

Whether you’re camping at your favourite provincial park or taking a short day trip to hike a local trail, the summer weather can put a damper on an otherwise fun and enjoyable vacation. This is, of course, unless you can find ways to keep your dog cool. While we will dig into some of the amazing cooling products available, there are some simple steps you can take to improve your dog’s experience outdoors in the heat.

Always ensure that your dog has access to plenty of fresh, cool water. If you are camping, this could mean emptying and refilling his dish multiple times throughout the day. For those that are planning a hiking trip, pack enough water that you know you won’t run out. One great way to prepare for this is to freeze water bottles. They can then be placed in your hiking pack or cooler where they will slowly thaw as the day goes on. Dehydration is a very serious concern that should always be in the back of your mind.

Where possible, try to stick to the shade. This means choosing a shaded spot to set up your chairs at the campsite or at the beach. If you don’t have access to pre-existing shade, make use of a sun shelter to keep the sun’s dangerous rays off you and your pup.

Finally, consider making plans with the heat in mind. For example, plan your hiking trips for the early morning or late in the evening. During these hours, the temperatures are often lower and more tolerable. This is also a safer time for your dog to be out walking on concrete or cement walkways, rock paths, and other surfaces that may heat up to the point of causing injury.

How Can I Keep My Dog Cool in the Tent?

If you have ever tried to sleep in a tent on a hot summer night, then you know that it can be a little uncomfortable if you don’t try to keep the temperatures down.

The first thing to consider is where you are setting up your tent. Try to scope out a spot where your tent is out of the sun. If you can scout out an area at your campsite that is shaded for most of the day, that would be the ideal spot. If not, aim for as much afternoon shade as possible. Why? This will give the tent time to cool down a bit after the morning sun. Throughout the day, open your tent windows to allow for airflow so that the warm summer air isn’t sitting stagnant, trapped inside.

To improve the airflow in your tent, consider using a fan. For those that are camping without an electrical connection (which is how we choose to camp), there are some great battery-operated fans to choose from.

Finally, pay careful attention to your dog’s bed setup. One option is to use a cooling pad to create a more comfortable place to sleep. Alternatively, using a raised dog bed is a great way to improve airflow and keep your dog from overheating.

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Does Wetting a Dog Cool it Down?

Unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat all over their bodies to lower their temperature on a hot day. Instead, they pant and sweat through their feet. This means that the most effective way to cool your dog off if you have access to water is to provide them with plenty of fresh, cool water and allow wet their paws. Of course, if your dog loves swimming there is no reason to stop him from having a good time. But even just walking through the shallow water will leave your pup feeling refreshed and significantly cooled off.

If you don’t have access to a dog beach or waterfront campsite, another option would be to fill a small bucket or hand basin with cool water and allow your dog to stand in it. We have done this on a couple of occasions with our pups. While Lucifer and Daviana will walk through the water and go about their day, Indiana is always more than happy to stand in the water for a while and enjoy the cool feeling.

Do Cooling Bandanas Work for Dogs?

If you are looking for a simple way to keep your dog cool while camping, you may want to reach for a cooling bandana or dog cooling collar. There are two different types of dog cooling bandanas that you can choose from.

The first type of cooling collar or bandana works by incorporating small packs like ice packs into a protective cover. You simply place the dog cooling collar in your fridge or freezer to cool it off and then place it on your dog. When the cooling effect starts to wear off, recharge it in your fridge or freezer once again. When you’re camping, these can also be placed in your cooler.

Alternatively, the other type uses evaporation technology to cool your dog off. What does this mean? You wet the dog cooling bandana or collar before placing it around your dog’s neck. As the bandana absorbs body heat from your dog, it causes the water in it to evaporate. This process takes the heat with it leaving your dog feeling cooler on a hot summer day. When it dries completely, all you have to do to restart the cooling process is to wet it down once again.

This is arguably our favourite product to keep our senior dog cool while camping. She is more sensitive to the heat but refuses to lay down and relax on a cooling pad. With the bandana, it allows her to keep playing and acting like the little puppy that she believes she is while working to keep her feeling comfortable.

What is a Dog Cooling Vest?

If you’ve never been introduced to the concept of a dog cooling vest, you may be wondering how to keep dogs cool in summer temperatures by adding layers to what they are wearing. It can appear to be counterproductive. But these cooling vests incorporate the same evaporative cooling technology that we described with the dog cooling bandana. The only difference is that they target these cooling efforts on a larger part of your dog’s body.

How do you cool a dog down using a cooling vest? You can either dunk the vest in water or pour water onto it. Place the vest on your dog and it will start the evaporation process. In addition to cooling your dog down by pulling the heat out of his body with this process, it also incorporates a reflective material on the back to keep the sun’s rays from heating your dog back up.

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Do Cooling Pads Work?

Including a large dog cooling mat on your dog’s bed is a great way to create a comfortable place for him to kick back and relax. These mats vary in size and price. To select the best dog cooling mat for your dog, you first need to understand the two most popular choices for a camping mat (as well as a third that we don’t recommend).  

Silk fabric cooling mats are made with specially engineered silk fabric that has a cooling effect by absorbing your dog’s body heat. They are generally the thinnest in size and incredibly cost-effective, making them a great choice for backpackers and backcountry campers. They aren’t the most powerful cooling mat, but they will offer a nice, comfortable place for your dog to relax.

The other popular sleeping mat option to keep your dog cool while camping is a pressure-activated cooling mat. These mats are filled with a special gel substance that starts to cool down when compressed. The cooling effect will last for up to 3 hours before the mat needs to be recharged, which is done by just sitting it aside in the shade for 15 to 20 minutes. They are a little bulkier than the silk fabric cooling mats but still fold up compact enough for travel. There was a time when the gel itself was a concern for pets, but most companies have now swapped to a non-toxic gel substance to prevent any injuries.

Finally, the option that we don’t recommend is the water-filled cooling mat. These mats work by placing them in the freezer. They are basically just a large ice pack. Imagine the shock that your dog will experience laying down on a giant block of ice on a hot day – not to mention the fact that the hard surface isn’t going to be the most comfortable to sleep on.

How Hot is Too Hot for Camping with Dogs?

If you live in an area that is known for its blazing hot temperatures, you may be wondering if there is a point where it’s simply not safe to take your dog out. Deciding how hot is too hot will depend on several different factors. This includes your camping setup and your dog as an individual.

There are many campers that enjoy air conditioning in an RV or trailer when faced with the hottest temperatures. Some tent campers have even found ways to incorporate an air conditioner to allow them to sleep at night. If this is the case, you may be able to push the limits a little further. But if you don’t have air conditioning readily available you should start to question what steps you are taking to keep your dog cool while camping anytime the temperatures rise above 20 degrees Celsius. This could be even lower if the humidity is high, preventing your dog from being able to cool himself off.

Higher risk situations include:

  • Senior dogs or puppies under 6 months old
  • Dogs that are considered obese
  • Brachycephalic dog breeds
  • Northern breeds or those with a heavy coat
  • High levels of activity
  • Dogs suffering from heart disease or kidney disease

Unsure whether it’s too hot for your dog? It’s better to err on the side of caution and play it safe.

If your dog’s body temperature rises too high and they are unable to cool themselves off, they may experience heat stroke. If left unaddressed, it can lead to kidney failure, swelling of the brain, loss of consciousness, and intestinal bleeding among other complications. Heat stroke that is left unaddressed can quickly turn fatal.

What steps do you take to keep your dog cool while camping? We’d love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments!


  1. This is such a resourceful post not only for camping but in helping animals be more comfortable when it’s hot outside with AC. Thanks for sharing.

  2. We don’t have a dog, but this is such great info for anyone who does. We hope to get one in the future sometime and we always like to camp so I will be sure to come back to this for all the tips. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Great tips for camping and keeping the dogs cool! I know I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well a cooling vest works for Henry. It stays wet for hours and allows us to hike in the higher country, where it’s generally cooler. Hey, I wonder if you put an umbrella on your dog like you see for rain and attach a camp fan. My nerdy brain thinking…Hmmm??? Actually, I would like that too. 😉

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