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How to keep your camper cool- Survive vanlife while it’s insanely hot


If you are struggling with hot weather in your motorhome or campervan and want some tips to keep your camper cool wherever you are, this is the post for you.

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Hot. Insanely hot. Cloth-sticking-to-back-back hot. And yes, we are currently in a motorhome in the UK. Thank God we are not going to Spain by car!

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

However, it is now over 30 in the UK and travel is not an option, so we have to deal with it. Some of our best tips for staying cool in a motorhome or campervan during hot weather, try to make vanlife more bearable.


Stay cool in your motorhome by parking in the shade

This may not always be possible, but if you like parking spots or pitches, try choosing one in the shade if the weather warms up. Even if it is only shaded for some part of the day, it will make staying inside much more tolerable.


Open at least two hatches or windows for air flow to your camper

The more airflow you can get into your van the better. Hatch and windows on both sides help create open airflow, which helps your motorhome feel cooler. Try opening them in the opposite direction or at the edges to encourage more ventilation. Another aspect of fresh air access is that it helps to stop condensation and rashes in your van.

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Turn off the screen or use the screen

Take a tip from the Europeans and turn off your motorhome blinds or hatch screens. Use it if you have a reflective screen. Just turning off a little light will help reduce the internal temperature dramatically.


Keep your van cool while keeping indoor cooking to a minimum

Using a hub, grill or oven in your motorhome will make things warmer inside. As much as possible, try to cook outside so that heat is not created. If you are like my husband and think a hot drink on a hot day is perfectly normal (weird then) then try to use a gas burner outside instead of a hub or a kettle inside.

Don’t forget that many camp sites don’t allow BBQ or they insist they have been kept off the floor. You may want to invest in a BBQ with a fireplace or stand or foot.


Try and keep your shine towards the sun, so it protects the hot spot

A simple strategy, but requires a little planning when you first park. Try to figure out which side is south, and then place your awning on the side if possible. The more sun you can put next to your motorhome, the cooler it will feel. This is especially useful if you drive in Europe and want to be protected from the heat.

Again, some camp sites force you to park in a certain way, so this is not always possible but where you can try it.


For cool vanlife, go to the mountains

We love to go to the mountains in the summer (heck, we love to go to the mountains anytime – that’s why we started taking our motorhome skiing!)

This may be common sense, but the higher you go, the cooler the air will be. Don’t be fooled – you can still burn in the sun in the mountains, but staying in a van will be much more tolerable.

Our favorite summer mountain destinations include:


Park by the water if you can – although you can get midges

We love to park as close to the water as possible. Partly for watching and partly because our dog likes to swim. Being close to the water makes everything feel a bit cooler than the interior.

However, in some places there are midges or mosquitoes near the water. And in some places, they are so bad that they can ruin your vacation completely. If you go to Scotland

How to find motorhome parking and overnight stopovers in the UK – legal, free and easy.

Use a 12v portable fan to keep the motorhome cool in the heat

Our van has several 12v portable fans to help ventilate and make things feel cool. We have them – they’re easy to use and charge, and not too loud for night use.


Remember that light gives heat

If you plan to spend some time away from the grid with your motorhome (also known as motorhome wild camping), we recommend turning off your van lights for low power LED vans. This will help reduce the amount of power your batteries have and they will give less heat-winning.


Install a specific motorhome air conditioner unit

If you plan to spend a lot of time in countries that get really hot in the summer, you may want to dedicate a portion of your motorhome payload to the right motorhome air conditioning unit.

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


Buy a 12v portable air conditioner unit

An alternative to a fitted air-con unit in the van is to carry a portable, 12v air conditioner unit. Now, there are plenty in this market. Some are called ‘correct’ air con units, and some are called ‘swamp coolers’.

We bought a transchool unit several years ago and it works fairly well. You can see our review here:

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More tips to help keep you cool in hot weather

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

If you travel with dogs, be sure to walk them early / late in the day when the weather is cool.

For yourself, be sure to drink a lot more than usual and wear sun protection!

Do you have any other tips to enjoy vanlife while the weather is warm? Drop them in the comments below so we can all benefit?

Want more tips for motorhome life?

Here are some more ideas that might work for you:

Want a free checklist, ebook and additional tips to help? See our Resources page

Care to share!



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