Surviving Summer Camping in Florida

Campsite at Longkey State Park in Florida Keys.
••• Summer camping at Longkey State Park in the Florida Keys. Used with permission ┬ęBrigitte Nelson

Camping in Florida during the summer presents some specific challenges. The heat along with high humidity, frequent thunderstorms, and an onslaught of bugs does not always make for the most comfortable of camping situations. However, as the saying goes, where there's a will there's a way... and I'm here to help you find that way.

Well, more accurately,'s Ex-Camping Guide, David Sweet, is on hand to lead the way.

I contacted him for answers to questions that I thought were important to anyone wanting to survive summer camping in Florida. He graciously agreed to offer his expert help.

  • I'm a little worried about Florida's infamous summer heat and humidity. Is there anything I can do to help keep my tent or pop-up camper cool?
    • "When possible, set your tent up in the shade, open the doors and windows with the screens closed, and remove the rainfly. Put the rainfly back on as the sun starts to set. The rainfly will keep dew out of your tent."
  • What is the best sleeping bag for hot summer nights?
    • "None! I went camping Father's Day weekend and it was in the 90s. We slept on top of our bags and just used a flat bed sheet for a cover."
  • The last time we were camping, there was no camp store and our ice didn't last. Is there a trick to packing a cooler so the ice lasts longer? Is it better to leave the ice in a bag? Would a block of ice be better than cubes?
  • I understand that thunderstorms are frequent during Florida summers. What advice do you have for someone camping in a tent during that time? Other than retreating to the car, is there any way at all to stay dry?
    • "I always carry a Gortex hooded poncho. Other than that, I don't worry much about getting wet in summer. However, you may want to review Stay Dry at the Campground for helpful tips.

      One additional common sense tip: Heavy rain, lightning, snow storms, and high winds all spell misfortune to the camper. Unless you are a die-hard camper that camps in any weather, avoid camping when storms are brewing. If the weather forecast looks bad, consider rescheduling your camping trip. If you are intent on camping when it is possible that it might rain, you better have a tent that will keep you dry. There's nothing more uncomfortable than being soaking wet inside your tent."

  • Do you have any advice when tent camping on a sandy campsite? Are there special stakes for sand? When I pound in my stakes, they won't stay in the sandy soil.
    • "I've camping many years in sandy campgrounds. I usually use those big yellow plastic spikes, but I do reset them every day because they will gradually slip out. I've never used this type sand stake (illustration).
  • What's the most effective way you have found to ward off mosquitoes? Do you think mosquito coils really work?
    • "I swear by a product called Cactus Juice, with no DEET, SPF 15, it is a great skin lotion and smells good. Coils and other area devices work if there is no breeze and you are close-by."
  • Something has been getting in our tent and biting us. Someone said they are noseeums. What are noseems and how do we keep them out of our tent?
    • "Yup, noseeums. Most new tents come with noseeum screens that will keep these pesty little gnats out of your tent. Be sure to close your doors and windows before the sun goes down."

Thanks to David for taking the time to offer his timely tips. Having worked in several national parks and with 50 years of camping experience, David certainly qualifies as an expert. Whether you're gearing up, looking for a campground, planning a meal or needing advice, you'll find it at About Camping, with new Camping Guide, Monica Prelle.