How To Stay Cool in a Campervan

campervan on a hot day

The skies have cleared, the sun is out and we’re finally experiencing some good weather! But how to stay cool in your campervan…?

Summer road trips are in full flow or on the near horizon and life feels good. But then – that classic British thing happens, and someone moans “It’s too hot…”.  Campervans can get crazy hot in the summer, essentially being metals tins on wheels. 

But fear not – here’s our 10 cheap (and not so cheap) hacks to stay cool in a campervan.

This is a universal problem – whether you drive a £60k motorhome or a clapped out van conversion from 1990, whether you have 240v electric hooked up or are out in the wild somewhere – we all struggle to keep our little homes on wheels cool in the summer (and warm in the winter).

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    RV Ventilation Air Fan

    Ventilation Air Fans are the cheaper option to full on habitation air conditioning units and also have a whole host of reasons why they are a very viable option, despite lacking the full on cooling capacity of a dedicated AC unit

    • Weigh considerably less
    • Can be run off of a 12v system
    • Can suck in cool air from outside if it’s cooler outside (at night), or suck hot air out of the van if it’s hotter inside (during the day). They also double up as pretty decent extractor fans to whisk away the smell of those burnt sausages you served for breakfast.
    Available in a range of sizes to fit most existing campervan skylights these are pretty standard to fit yourself if you’re handy with electrics. If not, or you need a new hole cutting in your roof then it’s well worth asking your local campervan specialist for help.

    Habitation Air Con

    If you predominantly use sites with electric hookup or have a badass battery/inverter setup (these units guzzle a whole lot of battery juice), have the available payload and budget then this might be the option for you.

    Outperforming the RV Ventilation Air Fan options by quite a few yards these will keep you cool, but do have limited usage as mentioned above.

    A nice low-tech option – you can grab a couple of these from Amazon for just a few quid and they need not be confined to the bed. Surround yourself whilst parked up, as a passenger you can pile these all over yourself whilst on the road as well to keep yourself nice and coooool.

    Similar concept to the cooling pillows a cooling mat is activated by heat (i.e. you sat on it) and will send chill vibes up through your body. Designed for dogs (and we also recommend using them for that if you travel with dogs in hot weather) but not confined to canine usage. Stick one of these under your bum and hit the road, Jack!

    12v fans

    If like us you suffer from no cab air conditioning then journeys can get uncomfortably hot very quickly. Having the window open gets loud after a while and a long journey can quickly become terribly tiresome.

    Available in 2 sorts

    1. 12v rechargeable batteries

    2. Plugin directly to 12v

    Stick these to the windscreen, your seating area and around your bed. Whilst yes, they don’t technically cool you off – having moving air will help considerably towards maintaining some level of comfort.

    Silver Screens, awnings & Blinds

    Not just for keeping heat in during the winter, silver screens can insulate your van from melting temperatures outside during the summer.

    As for blinds, take a look at your blinds from the outside when they’re closed. Typically, you’ll see a shiny metallic covering on them – this will reflect the sun and heat helping you to keep the van cool. So make sure to keep any blinds facing the sun closed. 

    Awnings are also a great way to keep swathes of your van away from direct sunlight and as such helping keep temperatures down. 

    Parking Direction

    keeping campervan cab cool

    Everyone knows to park in the shade when possible. But as we all know this isn’t always acheivable and the next best thing is often overlooked.

    Make sure you park with your largest window (usually windscreen) facing away from the sun. Windows act as magnifiers of heat (think of a conservatory on a hot day) so minimising direct heat and sunlight from hitting your windows will help prevent the van from becoming hotter than the fires of hell.

    Keep those vents open

    Keep your cab vents open when you’re parked up – they will allow fresh air to slowly circulate and particularly help the van cool off overnight. Yes it’s not an absolute game changing technique it will help a little

    We spent most of our time in Italy (read about that here) in September 2020 with buffs, dipped in lakewater, worn like a headband. In fact, when Simon lost his buff in lake Orta he luckily managed to rip an old T-shirt on the same day. So, a bit of artful makeshift and we fashioned a temporary solution out of that as well.

    You don’t need special Italian lake water to achieve this, just a buff and any water source, and this will really keep your personal body temperature down.

    If you have a luxury of a large (ish) freezer then get your bum out of it – all your doing is heating up the freezer. 

    Instead dig out your trusty hot water bottle from whatever crevice it’s been lurking in since February, fill it with water and freeze that instead. The end product, a weird, hard block of ice that feels so wrong yet so refreshingly right.

    Pro Tip – water expands when it freezes, DON’T fill it all the way to the top – leave enough room for that water to expend into.

    The Cool Campervan

    So – there you have it – our top tips for keeping cool in your campervan while out on your summer road trips. Have you ever used any of the above? Do you have any other tips or hacks that you can share – leave a comment below and let us know.

    In the meantime – Go Explore! With a weird frozen hot water bottle on your crotch!

    usha gap campsite in the sun
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