Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Dealing with the Heat

I went to three star parties this summer. While planning for them, I realized they all held the potential to be dangerously hot. Several years ago the Jeffers party had reached a heat index of 117F! What saved us was that the visitor center was open and air conditioned. I would go outside and sit in shade every now and then, but after 20 minutes would have to retreat indoors.

How does one deal with that kind of heat and humidity? The most important thing to do is to avoid direct sunlight. That 117 heat index leaps over 130 and into very dangerous territory if you're not in shade. What I've seen people use at star parties is usually the four-pole canopy. These are nice, but sometimes aren't that sturdy. A strong wind can take them down, perhaps bending a pole and making them useless. For myself I looked for something smaller (and less expensive--it's me, Mr. Cheap). What I found was something from Coleman called the Road Trip Beach Shade.
Coleman Road Trip Beach Shade
It's hard to judge the scale here, but I could easily sit in my chair within the quarter-sphere it provides. The back panel becomes a screen opening to allow air flow, a nice touch. I don't find this shelter the easiest thing to set up, and folding it for storage in its little carrying case is an adventure. Metal stakes are included, which is nice because it needs to be staked down. The biggest con reviewers noted was the fiberglass poles seemed prone to breaking. I've had no problems in two setups and tear downs--but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Also, collapse this shelter if you anticipate a storm; If its standing when the winds come, it will be a great wind scoop for a few seconds before it rips or sails off.

$45 from

Number two on the must-have list is water. Keeping yourself hydrated is essential, particularly if the air is dry and there's a wind. Get yourself a large water carrier, a drinking bottle, and chug more than you think you need to.

A nice convenience I found was a small 12V fan:
Coleman Ozark Trail Camping Fan
This normally runs off 8 D-cell batteries, but I had an old 12V 7Ah power supply that was perfect for it. Fortunately the fan has a jack built into its side, and I was able to build a little patch cord to connect it to the battery. The battery is a good ten years old, and it kept the fan running on low for 12 hours. It made a nice breeze, even outside. A steal from Walmart for $16.

And no, I don't work for Coleman. I just like their stuff. Stay cool!

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