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Boondocking in the Heat: Tips to Keep Cool in Your RV

| Updated Jun 16, 2023

Campskunk would say “follow the weather,” but sometimes we have a reason to be somewhere where it is uncomfortably warm – with no access to shore power. We had that experience recently and we learned a few things.  The weather was much nicer at home than at our destination.  The forecast was daily highs from 91  to 99 degrees Fahrenheit, with high humidity, and nights in the mid-70s.  Not exactly pleasant boondocking weather.  Fortunately, some recent mods to our fridge meant that our food and drinks were kept cool and the ice cream stayed frozen – though keeping ourselves cool was a problem!

We were attending a convention so our Roadtrek spent the days in full sun in the parking lot.  Our 200 watts of solar recharged the battery and kept the Fantastic Vent fan roof and Sirocco fans running all day.  The battery ran the fans all night.  We had Reflectix in all the windows, a folding windshield reflector, and an outside cover on the windshield and front door windows.  Still we had to deal with inside temperatures that reached 94-degrees Fahrenheit.  But that was a vast improvement over other vehicles in the parking lot.

Most of the days we attended the convention in the air cooled arena, but evenings found us in a primitive campground with little relief even in shade from the heat and humidity.  It wasn't just hot, but sticky as well.  Here are some things we learned that really helped:

External & Internal Window Covers
Reflectix in all windows plus external mesh cover on windshield and door windows

Cover the windows.  Reflectix on the inside is great, but outside covers will help even more.  Combine both for maximum benefit.  Especially for the windshield which gathers the greatest heat load.  If your refrigerator struggles in hot weather park so it is not in the sun.  Remember the sun direction changes during the day.  Open a window on the shady side.  Here is a article on using Reflectix to keep cool.

Precool.  If your Roadtrek is heat soaked to start, precool it by either running your vehicle air conditioning or starting your generator and running the house air conditioner.

Rear Fan
The Sirocco 12 volt fan is a big help to keep cool in your RV!

Moving air.  The worst thing you can do is open all the windows.  That really doesn't help at all!  Just open a window between you and the Fantastic fan.  The breeze will make you feel much cooler even if the air is hot. Using other fans to move air can increase comfort.  Set them to blow at your face.  Here is article on using 12 VDC fans to keep cool.  The one we use is the Sirocco 12 volt fan.

Fewer clothes.  Bare skin cools faster than skin covered by sweaty clothes. Definitely get out of those socks and shoes.  Get a wet washcloth and wash off the sweat.  With fans blowing on you the water will evaporate and cool you in the process.  Repeat as needed.

Body Sponges
Bath sponges

Sponge baths.  All RV owners know about “Navy showers” to conserve water.  But you can feel better (and cooler) without going to that much trouble and using very little water.  Get a “bath sponge” and strip to the altogether.  Rinse the sponge in the sink and wipe yourself down well standing under the Fantastic fan with a nice breeze.  It will cool you off enough to go to sleep.  Sponges are nice because they are easier to rinse than washcloths and can be zapped in the microwave to sanitize them.  Most of them come with a cord to hang them up to dry.  Add a hook in your bathroom to hang one.

Sleeping in the heat.  Adjust your open windows to make sure all sleepers get a breeze.  Aim your other fans to cool your face or feet or whatever makes you the most comfortable.  A crisp cotton sheet is comfortable to lie on in hot weather and will likely be enough covering when it finally cools off during the night.

Our ancestors survived without air conditioning, and many of us grew up without it.  There are ways of keeping comfortable in most sweltering weather.  But we may need to learn or relearn some old tricks.  WARNING! Never leave pets alone  in your camper when it is hot or sunny without adequate cooling and monitoring. 

Some of the new Roadtreks now offer beefed up solar packages and lithium-ion batteries that make it possible to run the air conditioning longer on battery power. And of course, parking in a commercial campgroud with shore power means you can run your AC.

But on those times when you boondock and are unable to run the unit's AC, what tricks have you learned to stay cool without air conditioning? Use comments below to weigh in.




Mike Wendland

Published on 2015-07-16

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

5 Responses to “Boondocking in the Heat: Tips to Keep Cool in Your RV”

July 20, 2015at2:07 pm, Gary said:

Learned something while in Iowa–I was driveway camping and put up my Skeeterbeaters and opened the front windows all the way–this made my Fantastic Fan useless in rest of the RT. As soon I closed up the front windows we had a nice breeze in the back windows.

July 20, 2015at9:09 am, Tommy Schmitt said:

This is the one main reason I have not bought a RV as yesterday… AC power for overnight operation and noisy generators. Shame on the populous for not demanding AC power and having to be forced to ground power.

Sure would like to take the grand kids fossil and arrow head hunting which always require boon docking.

July 20, 2015at8:44 am, Robo99 said:

A cautionary note about running your AC (plugged in) in 90+degree heat parked in direct sunlight. Even with Reflectix on windshield and sun-facing windows, the AC in our 2013 170V could not keep up for us in a driveway test and actually stopped working (only fan would run, compressor stopping). We posted this a few months ago, and the concensus was you have to get into shade under such conditions for AC to work.

July 17, 2015at8:09 pm, Carol said:

Great tips! Love the sponge bath idea. Another possibility is that if you have access to ice you can place that in a cooler with the lid off and let your fan blow over it and onto you. Works until the ice melts, anyway.

July 16, 2015at10:00 am, Mindy Smith said:

I’m thinking a neck cooling tie, just hydrate it, refrigerate it the wear it loosely to sleep. Also get larger lunchbox Ice packs lay them in the bed and scoot them around on your mattress as needed.

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