An amazing aspect of RV travel is the ability to chase sunny skies and 70-degree weather all year round.
Despite our best efforts, however, we’ve all found ourselves in hotter weather than we planned.
Not only is extreme heat uncomfortable, but it can also be dangerous for both people and pets.
Moreover, it can wreak havoc on perishable items such as food and medications.
For these reasons, it’s important to know some easy hacks to keep your camper cool in the heat – without air-conditioning!
Maybe you’re boondocking and don’t want to rely on a generator for air conditioning. Maybe you simply want to use less power.
Either way, you’ll be glad to know that by following some basic tips such as parking your rig in the shade and cooking outside on the grill, you can dramatically reduce the temperature in your rig.
And lucky for you, we’ve done the hard part!
After living in our RV for a year and experiencing all different types of weather (including the intense heat of southern Arizona) we’ve compiled a list of tried and true ways to keep the heat out of your RV.
Here are some tried-and-true DIY tips for keeping your RV cool without air conditioning, even through the scorching summer weather.
1. Park your RV in the shade (if possible).
Ok, I’m putting the most obvious RV hack at the top. We all know that the direct sun can dramatically heat up the interior of an RV.
Because of this, always keep the weather in mind when you’re choosing your RV spot. Are there sunny days in your forecast? Consider choosing a shady spot and orienting your RV away from the direct sun.
Positioning your largest windows in the shade will yield you the best results when trying to keep your RV cool.
2. Utilize your awning.
One great aspect of having a home on wheels is the ability to carry our shade with us! You may think of an awning as a shady place to sit outside, but it does wonders for keeping the heat out of your camper.
This is especially helpful if you have no natural shade around you.
We even positioned ours slightly downwards to maximize the protection it provides for our windows. It is amazing how well it keeps the interior of our RV cool.
3. Pull down your shades.
I think we all get the point: direct sun equals a very hot RV. That is why one of your best defenses against the summer heat is your window shades; especially on the sides with direct sun.
I recommend pulling them down early in the morning on hot days; that way you’re beating the heat as soon as it arrives. They will also help to protect your furniture and wall decor as well!
4. Get some air flowing.
There are several creative ways to get some cool air flowing through your RV. Number one: open your windows on your most shaded side.
The air coming in is naturally much cooler and then will become trapped by the other closed windows and shades.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used this trick in the hot Arizona desert. We rarely even found it necessary to use a fan!
If the sun was beating down on one side of our RV, we’d close our windows and shades on the sunny side, and open our windows on the shaded side. Then, for maximum airflow, turn on those roof vents!
5. Get even more air flowing.
To pull even more cool air into your RV, consider using fans throughout your RV.
One of the best hacks I’ve seen was the installation of a fan in a shaded window (pulling air in) and a fan in a sunny window (pushing air out).
This will create an excellent flow of cool air going in and hot air going out. With this method, we’ve been able to stay comfortable in 90-degree weather in the desert!
6. Use your roof vents to the fullest.
You will notice that some roof vents can change directions: one way pushes air out, while the other way pulls air in.
Keep this in mind when using them to cool your RV. If your RV feels especially hot and humid, you may want to push the air out.
If the sun is setting and it’s cooling off outside, you may want to pull that cool air in!
7. Invest in a new reversible roof fan.
If your roof vent doesn’t have the ability to switch directions, you may want to consider investing in one that does – especially if you plan on staying in hot climates.
Upgrading your vent can give you a variety of new settings in addition to the reversibility.
For example, the Fan-Tastic 801250 1250 RV Vent fan has 3 different speeds, as well as a built-in thermostat.
This helps to control the temperature in your RV much better than a basic one-drection roof fan.
For more information, check out our review of the 6 Best RV Roof Vent Fans to Keep Moisture, Smells, & Heat Out of Your Camper.
8. Cover any skylights.
This is especially helpful midday when the sun sits highest in the sky.
Consider getting an insulated cover for any skylights to keep the hot sun from beating down in your RV.
I didn’t understand how important this was until I walked into our bathroom one day and realized that our shower was the hottest place in the RV! Never underestimate how much heat a skylight can let in – especially in a small space.
9. Use insulated covers on large windows.
Calling all Class A owners! There is no doubt, we love that huge windshield for a variety of reasons, but the sun it lets in on hot days is not one of them.
If your Class A is like mine, you’ll realize that the built-in shades just don’t do the trick.
The dash was always one of the hottest areas of our RV, even with our curtains pulled.
Because of this, I’ll always regret waiting to purchase reflective, insulated covers. They make a HUGE difference, especially when shade is hard to find.
10. Close the doors to rooms you’re not using.
If you won’t be in your bedroom all day, why attempt to keep it cool? For maximum efficiency, consider keeping the doors closed to rooms you are not using.
While you’ll definitely want to shut the shades and make every attempt to reduce the heat entering each room, there is no point in trying to make your entire RV a comfortable 70 degrees, especially if you’re only inhabiting part of it.
By closing off certain areas, you’ll only have to cool a portion of the interior, making all your cooling methods that much more effective!
11. Use LED light bulbs.
It is no secret; LED lights use significantly less energy than incandescents. And as a result, they emit much less heat!
This is why I believe that switching to LEDs is one of the top boondocking hacks: you’ll be able to save precious energy AND keep your RV cool in hot weather.
12. Keep your TV (and other electronics) off.
Anything that draws power will emit some kind of heat, with TVs being the biggest culprit.
If you know the weather will be especially hot one day, go around your RV and unplug any electronics.
Computers, TVs, and game consoles can act as mini heaters all throughout your home on wheels.
Therefore, unless absolutely necessary, keep these switched off on hot days (and yes, I understand that sometimes the TV is absolutely necessary!).
13. Cover your RV door.
You know that little window in the door of your RV? It’s easy to forget about, but it can let in massive amounts of heat.
Some RVs have a shade for the door, but if yours doesn’t, you can always purchase a reflective cover.
By covering the window and limiting how many times you go in and out, you can dramatically reduce the amount of heat entering your RV.
It may seem small, but you’d be surprised how much heat this little area will let in!
14. Cook outside.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but it needs to be said! It can be tempting to fry up some eggs in your RV first thing in the morning, simply because of the convenience.
But let me tell you – on hot days I regretted it every single time. Even cooking something quickly will produce large amounts of heat that simply doesn’t need to be there.
Use the heat as an excuse to embrace outdoor cooking; it will keep your RV cool and make your travels more memorable!
15. Open up those windows at night!
There is nothing better than letting the cool breeze flow through your RV after a long hot day.
Once the sun goes down, open all your windows and vents to get some much needed fresh air throughout your home.
Then, sit back and relax with a cold beverage! There is something so special about watching the sunset and knowing you won’t have to fight the heat anymore. A perfect way to end a hot day!
16. Clean your refrigerator vent.
This is something I would have never thought of if it wasn’t for my ingenious husband.
As mentioned previously: anything that uses power emits some kind of heat, refrigerators included!
Obviously, we’re not going to unplug our refrigerators, but cleaning the vent is something we can do to reduce the amount of heat that gets trapped in our RVs.
Simply take off the vent on the outside of your RV and remove any debris from the screen.
Moreover, if you park in the shade, your fridge won’t have to work as hard, therefore reducing the amount of heat it gives off!
17. Create a DIY air conditioner.
If all else fails, make your own air conditioner! There are many DIY methods of cooling an area, but the styrofoam cooler is by far my favorite.
It’s simple, cheap, and very effective. You’ll need a styrofoam cooler, piping (such as PVC or a dryer duct), a small fan, and ice.
Essentially, you cut holes in the lid of the cooler for both the fan and the ducts, and then position the fan so it is blowing into the cooler.
This forces the cool air back out through the pipes. It is a great way to cool off on almost unbearable days.
Combine the DIY A/C with a wet towel around your neck and a cold drink in your hand, and you’ll survive even the most extreme temperatures.
For more information on how to create a DIY air conditioner, check out this YouTube video for a tutorial.
18. Consider buying an Evaporative Cooler (a swamp cooler).
Evaporative coolers, also known as swamp coolers, can offer the best of both worlds when it comes to keeping cool in your RV.
They use significantly less energy than A/C units, but offer much more relief than fans.
Basically, they cool down the hot air by passing it through water and creating cool water vapors.
These units are a great option if you plan on boondocking in the hot, dry climate of southern California or Arizona, but they are not for everyone.
Evaporative coolers produce moisture and may not be the best choice for humid climates.
For more information, check out our blog on the 6 Best RV Evaporative Coolers to Stay Cool in Your Camper This Summer.
Well, there you have it: 18 creative ways to keep cool in your RV – WITHOUT running your A/C. With these hacks, I truly believe it is possible to boondock even in the hottest weather.
All you need is the knowledge and tools to keep yourself comfortable. As with any hot day, remember to hydrate and take it easy. After all, that is what RVing is all about, right?
What are your go-to methods for staying cool in the heat? Are there any we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments below!