Boondocking in Hot Weather: How to Keep Your RV and Yourself Cool

Jun 16, 2023 | Boondocking

Boondocking in Hot Weather: How to Keep Your RV and Yourself Cool

Here’s how you can stay cool, comfortable, and safe while boondocking in your RV when temperatures rise.

By Karuna Eberl & Steve Alberts

Boondocking in Utah. | Photo: Karuna Eberl

Early mornings in the summer can be peaceful and relaxing when you’re camping, but once 10 or 11 a.m. rolls around, the sun can turn any slice of paradise into a blazing abyss, especially if it’s humid. 

Since most RVs don’t have enough battery storage to run air conditioning for extended periods of time, you have to get creative when boondocking in hot weather. One solution is to head for the hills or coastal regions. Sites on the beach often bring cooling breezes, while higher elevations offer more pleasant camping temperatures. However, running away from a problem isn’t always the solution. 

If you’re content with where you’ve set up your rig for boondocking, here are a few ways to cool down your environment. 

Related How to Stay Safe and Comfortable When Boondocking in Winter

A Class B campervan parks beneath trees that provide ample shade for their rig
Boondocking in New Mexico. | Photo: Karuna Eberl

Keep Things Shady

The first line of defense when camping in warm weather is to keep everything from getting hot in the first place. Shade your living area and keep direct sunlight from beaming down on your RV as much as possible. 

  • Park your RV under (or near) a tree or structure that provides shade.
  • Orient your rig so your outdoor living area will remain shaded throughout the day. 
  • If you don’t have help from outside objects, then face your living area toward the north (assuming you’re in the northern hemisphere).
  • Extend all of your window awnings if you have them.
  • Extend your main awning early in the morning, before the sun hits your camper. 
  • If you don’t have an awning, attach a fly or tarp to shade your outdoor space and the exterior of your RV. Simple spring clamps make this easy, along with extendable poles to position the fly or tarp effectively. 
  • A shade fly or tarp above the roof will also lower interior temperatures and help your A/C work more efficiently (when in use). Make sure to keep space between the roof and the tarp. 
  • Use reflective shade on the outside of your windshield. If it’s placed inside, the glass will still heat up and transfer the warm air to your living space.

Don’t Forget About Your Furry Friends

Pets are only a fraction of our height, and the shade from your awning might not extend all the way to their level. A small tent fly attached to the side of your camper can provide a shady nook where pets can relax outdoors. You can also try a pet cooling vest.  

Related The Ultimate Guide to Boondocking With Pets

Add Some Breeze

Make a breeze inside your camper by strategically opening vents and windows to create airflow. Since opening them all the way will just let in the hot air, experiment with various partially-open configurations until you feel air moving through the windows and out the roof vents. Try turning your roof vent on a high setting so it pulls air out of your RV and then close your windows gradually until you feel a breeze coming through.

You should also equip your RV with a portable fan or two, ideally models you can power with either your electrical system or batteries. 

A small campervan sits on a rustic beach campsite
Beach boondocking in Baja California, Mexico. | Photo: Steve Alberts

Use the Sun for Energy

If your rig isn’t already equipped with solar panels, consider investing in a small, portable solar panel system to help keep electronics charged instead of using your RV’s on-board system. You can power fans, mobile devices, computers, and other items with most solar panel and power bank systems.

How to Keep Your Coolers Cold

If you use coolers as your refrigerator while boondocking, use two to help prolong your ice. Designate one cooler for foods you only need when cooking, and the other for items you access more often like water and other beverages. Use a block of ice in the cooking cooler and ice cubes in the drink cooler, or try placing one ice block in the center, with cubes added around the outside. You can also make your own ice blocks by freezing jugs of water beforehand. And be sure to keep your coolers in the shade as much as possible. 

While camping coolers can range on the pricier side, if you’re a frequent camper, investing in a quality cooler can help you save money on ice and keep your food from spoiling. A good cooler can also prevent your food from freezing when boondocking in the winter. 

Use Water to Your Advantage

Camping by a lake, river, or ocean that you can jump into to cool off is an obvious solution, but there are other ways to use water to keep you cool. 

  • Use portable misters, either manual or battery-powered.  
  • Take a cool shower or just a quick rinse when you get too hot.
  • Place a wet towel or gaiter on the back of your neck.
Campers enjoy a cool evening at their campsite
Boondocking in Florida. | Photo: Karuna Eberl

Take a Break

Plan your activities according to time and temperature. Do your exploring and any strenuous activities during the morning and evening hours when it’s cooler, then lounge during the hottest parts of the day. 

Plan Your Meals

Prepping and eating food can take up a large part of your day while you’re camping, so it’s good to match your cuisine to the weather. 

  • Avoid cooking when it’s hot, especially inside of your vehicle. 
  • Plan meals that don’t need to be heated.
  • Bring fruits and other light foods with good moisture content.
  • Stay hydrated. Heat can drain you quickly and heat stroke is not something to take lightly. 

Dress for the Weather

Wear clothing that is light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting, and moisture-wicking. Protect your head and face with a wide-brimmed sun hat while exploring during the day.

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