Summer Van Life: 21 tricks to keep your camper cool

keeping cool in summer in motorhome campervan vanlife

Are you melting in your motorhome, campervan or caravan in hot weather? Not sure if you need air conditioning or not? If you struggle with the hot weather in your van and want some tips to keep your camper cool in summer heat wherever you are, these are the best ways to deal with hot days!

Don’t forget to grab your FREE motorhome travel checklist below to help you stay organised before you head out.

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Summer Van Life

It’s hot. Crazy hot. Clothes-sticking-to-your-back hot. And yes, we’re currently in a motorhome in the UK. Thank goodness we’re not motorhoming in Spain!

I hate to complain about good weather, but sometimes it can be a little TOO good. In ‘normal’ times, we prefer to head to the mountains with our motorhome, rather than brave the heat and crowds of France or Spain during the summer months.

However, it’s well over 30 in the UK right now and travel isn’t an option, so we’re having to deal. Here are some of our best tips for staying cool in a motorhome or campervan during a heat wave, to try and make vanlife a little more bearable.

Stay Cool in Your Motorhome by Parking in the Shade

This may not always be possible, but if you have a choice of parking spots or pitches on the campsite, try to pick one in the shade if the weather is forecast to be hot. Even if it’s only shaded for part of the day, it will make it much more bearable to be inside in high temperatures. 

Open At Least Two Hatches or Windows to Allow Airflow in Your Van

The more airflow you can get into your van, the better. Opening roof vents, hatches or windows on both sides helps to create airflow, which in turn helps your motorhome feel cooler. 

Try to open them on opposite sides or ends to encourage even more air movement. Another added benefit to an open window and allowing fresh air in is that it helps stop condensation and mildew in your van from the warm air. 

We hope you found the video useful. If you did, we’d love it if you followed us on Youtube. New videos with tips for motorhoming and campervanning in the UK and Europe are released weekly.

Keep Blinds Closed or Use a Screen

Take a tip from the Europeans and keep your motorhome blinds or hatch screens closed. If you have a reflective screen or reflective insulation, use it. Just stopping a little direct sunlight using window shades is a great way to reduce the interior temperature dramatically, especially in the hottest part of the day. 

This is even more important if you have large windows as they can really create so much heat inside your van- like living in a greenhouse!

Note: Check any warning labels on your roof skylights for closing the blind fully without the window being open. Most advise to not fully close the the bind in the hot weather as this can warp the plastic skylight (due to heat and not able to escape).

Stay Cool in Your Van by Keeping Indoor Cooking to a Minimum

Using a hob, grill or oven in your motorhome is just going to make things even warmer inside. As much as possible, try to cook outside so the heat doesn’t build up. Some campsites have an outdoor kitchen you can use instead of yours, which is always a great option instead of a hot van.  Alternatively, use an air fryer

If you like a warm drink even on a hot day (weirdo ?) then try to use a gas burner outside instead of the hob or kettle inside. 

Don’t forget that many campsites either don’t allow BBQs or they insist they are kept off the floor. You can find our favourite BBQs for motorhomes and caravans here. 

Try and Put Your Awning on the Sunniest Side, so it Protects the Hottest Spot

Having an awning or shade can really help in hot weather

A simple trick, but it requires a little planning when you first park up at a site. Try to figure out which way is south, and then put your motorhome or rv awning on that side if possible. The more sun you can keep off the side of your motorhome, the cooler it will feel inside, even in partial shade. 

This is especially useful if you’re motorhoming in Europe and need to escape the hot air and high summer temperatures. Again, some campsites insist on you parking a certain way, so it isn’t always possible BUT it’s worth a try where you can.

New to motorhome or camper travel in Europe? You might find these posts helpful:

Tour Europe in a Motorhome; Motorhome Europe Travel
How to tour Europe in a Motorhome- step-by-step
Beginners RV trip planner
How to plan EPIC motorhome trips
Free motorhome parking and overnight stopovers in Europe for motorhomes and campervans
How to find Free motorhome parking and overnight stopovers in Europe for motorhomes and campervans
10 essential tips for campervan and motorhome life. Whether you're plan a road trip or full-time van living, these hacks and ideas with help.
Essential kit for Motorhoming in Europe (with free checklist)

See all our Europe motorhoming posts here

NEED GEAR? If you need any kit or essentials for motorhoming in Europe, here’s what we recommend and where to find it

For a Cooler Summer Vanlife, Head to the Mountains

We love to go to the mountains during summer, especially now we have a dog. The cool air at higher elevations is a welcome break from the extreme heat of southern Europe. 

Don’t be fooled- you can still get sunburn up a mountain, but living in a van and summer road trips will be much more bearable in the cooler air. 

Some of our favourite summer mountain destinations include:

Dolomites road trip
The Dolomites in summer are incredible.

Park Near Water if You Can – Although You May Get Midges

We love to park near water as much as possible. Partly for the views and partly because our dog loves to swim. Being near the water makes everything feel just a little bit cooler than it does inland.

However, some places have midges or mosquitos near water. And in some places, they are so bad they can totally ruin your holiday. If you’re going motorhoming in Scotland, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Find Motorhome Parking and UK overnight stopovers- legal, free and easy.
How to Find Motorhome Parking and UK overnight stopovers- legal, free and easy.

Don’t forget to grab your free motorhome wild camping checklist here to help you set up your van to stay overnight without electricity or facilities.

Use Portable Fans to Keep a Motorhome Cool in Summer

We have several USB portable fans in the van to help move air around and keep things feeling cooler. These are the ones we have– they’re easy to use and charge, and aren’t too loud to use at night.

We also use small fans which we can stick to the sides of the van, or put in the roof vents to create a homemade ceiling fan. Battery-powered ones are good for this. 

Other portable fans to look at:

If you have the set up in your van, or are mainly on campsites, then there is no reason you can’t use a household floor fan, like these ones. My friend uses the Berssen one and swears by it!:

Remember Lights Give Off Heat 

If you’re planning to spend any time staying off grid with your motorhome (also known as motorhome wild camping), then we highly recommend switching out your van lights for low power LED ones. This will help reduce the amount of battery power you use AND they’ll give off less heat- win win.

Install a Fixed Motorhome Air Conditioning Unit

If you’re planning to spend a lot of time in countries where it gets REALLY warm during summer, you might want to sacrifice a chunk of your motorhome payload in order to fit a proper motorhome air conditioning unit.

These are very effective, but they do weigh a lot, so be sure to do your research before you choose and install one.

Buy a 12v Portable Air Conditioning Unit

An alternative option to a fitted air-con unit in the van is to carry a portable 12v air conditioning unit. There are lots of these on the market. Some are ‘proper’ portable air conditioner units, and some are called ‘swamp cooler’ or evaporative coolers.

We bought a Transcool unit several years ago and it does the job fairly well, using cold water to cool the air down. You can see our review of it here:

We hope you found the video useful. If you did, we’d love it if you followed us on Youtube. New videos with tips for motorhoming and campervanning in the UK and Europe are released weekly.

As technology advances in the motorhome / camper industry, so does the kit you can buy. Ecoflow has recently bought out a portable air-conditioning unit specifically for life on the road, which is supposed to be excellent. (I swear by my Ecoflow powerbank!)

If you are mainly on campsites and using electric hook up, you can use 230v devices for air conditioning, but do take note of the power usage so you don’t trip out the electric!

More Tips to Help Keep Your Cool in Hot Weather

As well as the above tips to keep your van or motorhome as cool and welcoming as possible in warm weather, there are some things you can do to protect yourself.

If you’re travelling with dogs, be sure to walk them early/ late in the day when the weather is cooler.

For yourself, be sure to drink a lot more than usual and remember to wear sun protection! You can also get a portable ice maker to help keep your drinks cool in the heat of the summer. 

Do you have any other tips for enjoying vanlife when the weather is warm? Drop them in the comments below so we can all benefit?

Want more tips for motorhoming?

Here are some more ideas you might find useful:

Want FREE checklists, eBooks and additional tips to help? Visit our resource page

Last update on 2024-04-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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One Comment

  1. John Tidbury says:

    If you have a wind-out awning it can be extended by slotting a sheet into the slot in then front rail. A length of suitable beading can be bought from camping shops and sewn to the sheet and a couple of guy lines can hold the other edge in place.

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