Tips for Keeping Your Van or Camper Cool in the Summer

While the van life is certainly a cool lifestyle to lead, keeping your van or camper at a comfortable temperature can be a challenge as summertime temps soar. No one wants to travel in a roving oven, so if you’re traveling in a van, you’ll want to do your best to keep it cool. 

If you want to keep your van cool in the summer, you’ll need to take action. These tips will help you travel the highways and byways of the U.S. not just in van style, but in comfort. 

Living the travel life has its rewards, but riding in comfort in the hot summer sun takes some creativity and preparation. Follow some of these tips and suggestions and keep your van cool: 

Portable air conditioner

For those new to the van life, this may seem like a likely solution, but it’s more complicated than it seems. You can buy and install a cabin A/C unit, but you’ll need to have the vehicle running for it to work. 

Your other option? Get yourself a full-on camper-van air-conditioning unit. If you have an electrical outlet nearby, great! If not, you’ll need a generator, which is loud and takes up a lot of space. You’ll certainly stay cool, but this is an expensive, crowding, and noisy option that might not be for everyone. 

Choose a coastal or elevated spot

When your options and preferences dictate it, you can choose a spot along the coastline to take advantage of the sea breezes (and great scenery as well). Elevated locations also often mean lower temperatures for increased comfort. However, this certainly puts limits on you, which counters the essence of the van lifestyle to some degree.

Find some shade

Finding a shady spot for your van keeps the sun off your vehicle and reduces the temp inside your van by as much as 10 to 15 degrees. Add a nice, gentle breeze, and you’ll have it made — in the shade. 

Avoid charging or using electronic/electric equipment

Electronics generate heat, and your laptop, television, and even your refrigerator can generate heat that contributes to high temperatures inside the van cabin. Opt to charge devices at a cafe, coffee shop, or other public charging station when possible; try using a cooler rather than an electric refrigerator; and eliminate using any heat-generating devices when you can avoid it.

Improve circulation 

Improving air circulation is certainly the key to finding comfort while traveling in a van. Opening doors and windows and using a roof-mounted vent fan and/or a powered fan will keep air circulating. Airflow is the number-one way to stay consistently cooler no matter where you are, but there are limits to its effectiveness. And here’s a little pro tip: if you’re in a dry area, get a thin cloth wet and put it over your fan head. You’ll have yourself a little homemade air conditioner. 

Avoid concrete, asphalt, or hard, hot surfaces

Parking lots absorb and radiate heat at a higher rate than other surfaces, and they’ll absolutely share that heat with your van. When temps are high enough, it can feel like you’ve installed a furnace in your van. Instead, find grassy or dirt lots to set up on. 

Use reflective window shades

Your windshield is the biggest heat conductor of all. Drop a reflective heat shade into the windshield and other windows to help keep that heat out where it belongs. 

Spend time outdoors

There are a lot of options for spending time outdoors that can keep you out of the heat of your van. Install an awning and roll it out after you’re set up for the evening. Grab a camping chair and kick your feet up with a nice book. 

Instead of cooking inside your van, you can get a camp stove to set up on a table for outdoor cooking. And if the van gets too hot overnight, pitch a tent and catch your z’s under the stars. 

Stay hydrated

When you’re living the van life, the most important rule is to drink plenty of water. You should always have a bottle nearby, and certainly more so when it’s hot. A cold drink cools your body from the inside, and replenishing fluids will help your body keep its temperature where it should be. 

Of course, with hydration comes the need to use the bathroom. The van life does indeed limit your bathroom options, and public toilets aren’t always convenient to get to. But Cleanwaste has a variety of products that can help you dispose of your own waste in a clean, sanitary manner. Cleanwaste’s GO Anywhere Portable Toilet®/The PETT®, GO Anywhere Total System, and Toilet in a Tube® products can help ensure that when you have to go, you can go in a way that creates minimal fuss (and doesn’t violate local ordinances) when a public restroom is not nearby.

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