9 Ways to Stay Cool in Your RV This Summer

Summer can be a tricky season for small-space living. On the one hand, who doesn’t love the beautiful sunshine? On the other hand, it’s easy for an RV to heat up to unbearable temperatures, but it’s tough to cool it back down.

Especially with all the heat waves we’ve had recently, it’s getting harder to manage an RV’s temperatures. If you’re struggling to be comfortable in your rig this summer, check out these practical tips to help keep your RV cool.

Class A and a Jeep parked in an RV park.
Tom Sawyer’s RV Park | West Memphis, AR – Photo by: John and Pam

Run Your Air Conditioning

Okay, this first tip is obvious, so let’s get it out of the way. If you’re camped at a campground with electrical hookups, you can run your rooftop air conditioner to your heart’s content (so long as you’re ok with the electric bill if you’re at a metered campsite!). Though noisy, this will certainly help to stave off the worst of the heat during the day.

If you’re dry camping or boondocking and can’t plug into an electrical hook-up, some generator setups will allow you to run your RV’s air conditioning. While you probably won’t want to do this all day long, you could turn on the AC during the hottest part of the day and use the tips below to stay comfortable the rest of the time.

If you’re boondocking and aren’t set up to run your AC for any amount of time, have no fear! There are plenty of tips and tricks to keep your RV cool in the summer sun.

Open the Windows at Night

Seasoned RVers are all about the cross-breeze. They are essential for cooling down an RV to a comfortable sleeping temperature. Open the windows on either side of your bed to get nice cool air around you. You can also create a good breeze through your whole camper by opening your RV’s roof fans and turning them on to suck in air at cooler hours and expel air at warmer hours.

To maximize your cross-breeze, be aware of wind currents when you park. In the United States, the wind normally blows west to east, not north to south. Research wind conditions online before parking to ensure that you’ll get a good breeze through your RV.

Looking out RV windows at a body of water.
Skamokawa Vista City | Skamokawa, WA – Photo by: Ing

Close Windows and Shades in the Morning

It is important to close your windows as soon as you wake up. If you get up in the middle of the night or early morning to use the bathroom, that’s a great time to start closing up the RV to trap all that deliciously cool air inside. You want to make sure that the windows are closed and that the shades are drawn.

It’s not enough to only close your windows because the biggest source of heat gain is sunlight, not ambient air temperature. Closing your shades is essential for making sure the sun doesn’t heat up your home. Alternatively, opening your RV’s awning can create enough shade so that you can keep your shades open.

RV with awning and camp chairs out next to a lake.
The Point RV Park | Ashland, OR – Photo by: Laura Domela

Use Heat-Blocking Window Shades

If you’ve closed your shades and opened your awning and it’s still too hot, you might want to consider investing in heat-blocking window shades. These are similar to light blackout shades and will totally prevent sunlight from getting in. However, unlike blackout shades, these have reflective material to direct the hot sun away from your RV.

There are many products with heat-blocking technology for your RV. If you want to maintain the look of your curtains or shades, you can get shades that have reflective material on the back. From inside your home, they look like normal shades. Alternatively, Reflectix is the shiny insulation material that you’ve seen in car windshields. This DIY solution won’t look as nice in your rig, but it’ll definitely keep the heat out help keep your RV cool.

Install Window Tints

If you want to make sure you can look out your RV windows all summer despite the heat, window tints are a great solution. Peel-off tints are essentially two-way mirrors for your RV. From the outside, the mirrored side reflects sunlight away from your RV. From the inside, it just looks like a slightly darker window. These are affordable, easy to install and keep your windows functional year-round.

Cover Skylights

We all love skylights. They make small areas feel more spacious, and they let us stare at the stars as we fall asleep. Unfortunately, they are also a huge source of heat gain. If you can’t park in the shade, these roof windows are the most important to cover up.

One great way to prevent heat gain from your skylights is by using a reflective heat-blocking shade. You can install hooks and hang Reflectix below your skylights. While these will look like DIY solutions, they will definitely help keep your RV cooler in the summer heat.

RV campsite with RV and car parked in the shade.
South Fork RV Park | Dayville, OR – Photo by: Mike and Holly

Park in the Shade

Again, it’s obvious that parking in the shade will keep your RV cooler than if it sits in the sun, but I want to highlight some tips for when you can’t find full shade.

If you only have partial shade, it’s important to prioritize two things. First, make sure that your refrigerator, refrigerator vents, and air conditioning unit are in the shade for most of the day. If these are in the sun, it will take more energy to keep them cool. Keeping your fridge in the shade is especially important since it’s one of the biggest sources of energy consumption in your RV.

Second, having the fewest number of windows or the smaller windows in the sun will minimize heat gain into your RV. You can also prioritize keeping the open part of your RV in the shade. If your RV has multiple rooms, use doors to create different climate zones in your home. For example, you might choose to park with your bathroom in the sun and your living space in the shade. Your bathroom door will prevent too much hot air from creeping into the rest of your RV, and you’ll be comfortable the majority of your day.

When figuring out how to keep your RV in the shade, consider the path of the sun. As you know, the sun travels from east to west. Orienting your RV so that the front, back, and roof of your camper—the narrowest parts—get the most sunlight will help to keep your RV cooler.

Use LED Bulbs

If your RV has incandescent bulbs, you are doing yourself a huge disservice. Not only do these take more energy than LEDs, but they also run hotter. LEDs are significantly cooler, so you can keep your lights on without adding any degrees to the thermometer inside your camper.

RV awning out with outdoor rug and table with a grill on it.
Elkamp Eastcreek | Mineral, WA – Photo by: CANADIANWYNN

Cook Outside

Cooking outside is essential for keeping heat out of your home. Using a portable stove or a grill will allow you to keep all that extra heat away from your camper. It might be unpleasant to cook in the hot sun, but this will definitely keep your RV temperatures down.

Hopefully, these tips will keep your RV cooler in these hot summer temperatures. Blocking out heat during the day and creating a cross-breeze at night will keep your RV in a comfortable climate, so you can fully enjoy your summer!