Vanlife in the summer….is magical. Mountain hiking, waterfall trails, floating in the river, walking through canyons, you name it, chances are you can do it during vanlife in the summer. Vanlifers wait all year for the summertime and relish in the sweet time we are given when the sun is out early in the mornings and late into the evenings. It is living the dream in almost every way possible when living in your van. On the other hand, Van life in hot weather is also HOT, sticky, full of sunburns, and frustrating when you just want to be in the air conditioning but that isn’t a possibility, therefore learning how to keep your van cool in the summer is an important skill.
Having experienced two summers in our campervan we have a good understanding of the best parts of vanlife in summer and the ways to survive vanlife in hot weather. Personally, although I LOVE vanlife in summer I am also a person that quickly becomes frustrated when I get overheated and have no real way to cool down. Through this, we have found ways to keep cool in a van during the summer and to make sure we soak up every ounce of sunlight and fun that we can without overheating.
If you are entering your first summer in a campervan and want to fully prepare for the summertime then read on as I give tips for keeping cool during van life in hot weather
Table of Contents
1. Plan to Stay in Cooler Areas from June-August
If you are a full-time vanlifer who does not have a location-dependent job then the best way to fully enjoy your summer is to avoid super hot areas during the summer. Florida, Texas, Arizona, even southern California can be super hot during the summer and are places I try to visit during the wintertime when temps are closer to the 70s. I
If you can consider areas such as Northern California, Oregon, Washington, or Alaska. These are incredible spots that are absolutely perfect for the summer months. Take advantage of the perfect temperatures and head to the mountains for hiking or enjoy the cities by visiting the park and supporting local businesses.
2. Install a Maxx-Air Fan
Summertime or not I highly recommend having proper ventilation in your campervan which includes installing vent fans. The Maxx-Air Maxxfan Deluxe is the best fan for your conversion van as you can have it running even when it is raining due to the rain cover (plus the remote control is a bonus!)
Another option is the Dometic Fan. The Fantastic Fan has been around for quite some time and is a great budget option. I still recommend splurging and getting the Maxxair Fan.
Having a campervan fan allows proper airflow and keeps the hot stagnant air from getting stuck in your van and making it much hotter than it is outside. A van roof vent is one of the top ways to beat the heat and a must-have in your camper van.
3. Use Window Vents
Opening your front windows allow more airflow and fresh air to come through the cabin without exposing your entire van and having to open your door when you may not want to let everyone know you are in there. The downside is that if you are in an area with mosquitos or flies then unwanted critters will easily get in. One of my favorite accessories that I would have never bought without Shawn pushing us to buy is the Sprinter Store window vents. These vents are made for Sprinters and fit into the windows perfectly.
They fit in the top third of your driver and passenger side windows and allow for airflow to come through without allowing bugs into the van and keep your belongings safe since you won’t have your windows open for people to reach in and grab your stuff. It’s a great option for van life in hot weather or cool weather when you need some airflow!
4. Buy a Portable AC Unit
Portable AC units have been rising in popularity over the past few years. When we began our van life journey no van lifer had an AC unit and if they did it was attached to the roof. Now more and more Portable AC Units are being created at affordable rates and are a great option for van life in hot weather.
A Portable AC unit is a great option to keep your van just a little for those unbearable months in the hot weather. It’s also a great option for keeping a cat cool in the van or your vanlife pup!
- Zero Breeze: This innovative product was made with vanlifers in mind. Although the price is high you don’t have to drill into your van to stay cool!
- Budget AC Unit: The Evapolar evaCHILL is a great budget option under $100. It won’t keep make the van freezing but it will make a difference!
There is always the option to add an in-roof AC unit. Keep in mind the power it will draw and how much solar you have available.
- Dometic Brisk II – No one can deny Dometic is a great brand with a great history. You can’t go wrong with their products.
- RecPro RV Air Conditioner – AC units are often HUGE and LOUD. This was designed with steal van lifeing in mind. It takes up way less space but can still keep you cool and do it much quieter than the Dometic.
5. Go Cool Off in the Water
It’s Summer and it’s hot – GO-FIND WATER. Find a river, lake, or even a city pool to cool off in. Floating down the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon during the summer is still one of my favorite memories during our time in the van. Being in a van allows you the freedom to travel and go to areas that have a lake or river that you can jump into. Don’t let your summer pass away without enjoying relaxing by the water. From paddleboarding, tubing, or simply floating, you can enjoy the water in a multitude of ways.
6. Avoid Cooking
If you have a stove or oven in your van then cooking during the day when temperatures are high will only make the inside of your campervan that much hotter. Avoid meals that require being cooked or heated up. Instead cook these items when you enjoy van life in hot weather: pasta, salads, sandwiches, and meals that do not rely on heat to eat.
7. Stay Outside the Van as much as possible
Van life in hot weather coincides with finding water to be nearby and it’s summertime! Go hang out outside. Find a nice park you can hang out in the shade and relax or get some work done. If you don’t have dogs then find local businesses you can support by hanging out at a local cafe, brewery, or restaurant. Most people who live in their van do it because they want to spend more time outside enjoying life, this is THAT EXACT time! Don’t waste it!
8. Install an Awning
Speaking of being outside, it can be a real problem finding shade on open BLM land. Many of the roads are in the desert or down open land with zero trees. If you are like me and love working outside then a campervan awning is exactly what you need!
I recommend the Thule Hide Away Awning. Thule is a wonderful brand with high ratings. This awning is lightweight, easy to crank with one person, and is 8.5 feet long.
9. Insulate Your Van For Summer
Insulating your van to prepare for summertime is one of the best ways to keep cool during high-temperature days. Of course, this would be something you would’ve done in advance before finishing your build. After your build, there are also ways to combat the heat by insulating on top of your build.
To keep your van cool in the summer when the sun is beating down make sure you have proper shades on every single window in your van. Shades will reflect the sun out of the van and keep the inside much much cooler. For shade, I recommend either creating DIY reflectix shades or you can purchase them already made from Wanderful.
We personally have the back window shades made by VanMadeGear and are obsessed with them as they work extremely well at keeping the light out when we are sleeping and heat out when it’s hot. They also stay on the windows on the roughest and bumpiest roads even when folded up through strong magnets.
10. Park in the Shade
It’s amazing to me how much of a difference parking in the shade will make when measuring the temperature inside of your van. If you can try to avoid parking in paved lots and search for areas with trees for shade and gravel or dirt to eliminate heat reflection. The best place is going to be in the mountains, by water and out in nature. If you can’t do that then try to find parks with lots of shade.
11. Stay hydrated
It can be easy to forget to drink enough water in the summertime. You are outside working, playing, swimming in lakes. Maybe you are even drinking beer instead. However, staying hydrated can help keep you cool and healthy. This starts with a great water system which is what kept me so happy in our van. Tasty water is water you will drink more of when you need it!
12. Turn off Your Inverter during Van Life in Hot Weather
If possible avoid running high voltage electronics like your laptop and if you can, turn off your inverter for a bit. I know my laptop puts off a ton of heat, especially when charging and the same can be said for your inverter. The inverter is very handy but it can heat up your van in no time.
Vanlife in Summer doesn’t have to be hot and miserable. It should and can be an absolutely magical time filled with wonderful memories. Planning is the key to staying cool and happy in your van during the summer.