7 RV Tips and Tricks to Stay Cool Without Running the AC

Most of the us look forward to the summer when we can get out and camp in our RVs, but with the summertime come higher temperatures. Depending on the location, this can bring temperatures in excess of 100 degrees, which can make things miserable during an outing. When it comes to outdoor recreation and summer temperatures, the “sweet spot” for most people falls between 65 and 78 degrees, and for some, even cooler than that. An air conditioner is an obvious way to stay cool in your RV, but not everyone likes or even wants to do that because it typically requires staying at an RV park or using a generator and staying inside. For those who like to boondock, the best way to stay cool is to seek cooler temperatures and to employ some simple techniques to keep your RV cool. How can you do that? What are the best ways to stay cool? We’ll show you in this article. Note: even though these tips and tricks and are primarily for newbies, experienced RVers might be able to glean a tip or two from the list. So without further adieu, here are 7 RV Tips and Tricks to Stay Cool Without Running the AC:

1. Camp at Higher Elevations and Northern Latitudes

A no-brainer for those who are experienced in the outdoors, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t know this basic tenet. The most important thing you can do to stay cool during the summer is to camp at higher elevations and in northern latitudes. In states like California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada, this means you’ll need to camp at elevations higher than 7,000 feet to stay cool, and depending on the weather patterns, even higher. Here in North America, you can also find cooler temperatures during the summer by going north. The Pacific Northwest, the Northern Plains, New England, and Alaska are popular summer destinations for a reason—they’re cooler. Of course, a combination of the two might be needed depending on temperatures. Elevations of 3,000 to 4,000 feet in northern states like Washington might be needed to reach that sweet spot during particularly hot days.

2. Camp along Coastlines and Water

One of the most important of the 7 RV Tips and Tricks to Stay Cool Without Running the AC. Boondocking along coastlines and large bodies of water is another excellent way to stay cool. Ocean coasts are especially good locations because water heats and cools slower than land. As a result, coastlines are usually a good 10 to 15 degrees cooler compared to inland locations. If you’ve camped along the Pacific coast, New England coast, or Great Lakes, you know what we’re talking about. The same thing applies to inland bodies of water like rivers and lakes, though the difference in temperatures aren’t as large. During a recent outing along the Deschutes River in Oregon, we saw temperatures a good 5 degrees cooler than a town that was only 10 miles away.

3. Camp in the Shade

One of the most important of the 7 RV Tips and Tricks to Stay Cool Without Running the AC. Camping in the shade can make a big difference in the overall temperature of your camper. Indeed, parking your rig in the shade can make it a good 5 to 7 degrees cooler inside. Trees, mountains, and canyons are great ways to get shade, but they may not always be available. This is when a good awning or canopy comes in handy by bringing the shade to your campsite when it’s lacking. Unfortunately, camping in the shade can also hamper the ability of your rig to harvest solar power, but this can be alleviated somewhat by using portable solar panels to “chase the sun” around your campsite.

4. Employ 12 Volt Fans

Every RV should have a three-speed roof vent fan like those made by Fan-Tastic Vent. When used with open windows and other roof vents, a good 12 volt fan can make a HUGE difference in the temperature of your camper. We like to pull cool air in to our camper by using a combination of open windows and our Fantastic Fan. Windy days, of course, can also help keep the camper cool, but a good wind isn’t always available. Another way to keep air moving inside your camper is to use an Endless Breeze 12 volt portable fan. We especially like to use our Endless Breeze fan in the cabover of our camper on hot summer nights when the air is stagnant. One of the most important of the 7 RV Tips and Tricks to Stay Cool Without Running the AC.

5. Use Reflective Window Screens and Awnings

Keeping your windows open when camping is a no-brainer, but the use of awnings and reflective window screens is also important in keeping your camper cool. Fortunately, the Dometic Seitz window that came with our truck camper has a reflective screen built into it, which is a huge plus in the design. We like to keep the windows on the shaded side of the camper open, while keeping the windows facing the sun covered with the reflective screen (make sure you keep these windows open so that they don’t retain and give off heat). If your camper doesn’t have an awning or Seitz windows then purchase a roll of Reflectix window screen material and cut it to size to fit in your windows.

6. Cover Skylights and Roof Vents With Reflectix

If you’ve spent any amount of time inside a camper during the summer, you know the warmest places are in the bathroom and cabover. There’s a reason for this—the skylights and roof vents radiate a tremendous amount of heat. A simple way to reduce the amount of heat produced by these roof fixtures is to affix Reflectix inside each by using either two-sided tape or Velcro. Yes, it’s true that the Heki Vent comes with a reflective cover built-in, but this reflective cover is notorious for overheating and warping the vent if the shade is closed all of the way. The best way to prevent the Heki Vent (or any other roof vent for that matter) from overheating is to place Reflectix inside with either the shade open or to leave the entire vent open.

7. Cook Outside

One of the worst things you can do to raise the temperature inside your camper during the summer is to cook inside. Don’t do it. Instead, prepare cold meals like sandwiches, cold beans, and salads, or cook outside using an outdoor grill like the classic Weber Q2200 propane grill, the versatile Tembo Tusk Skottle (shown above), or a solar oven like All-American Solar Oven. Yes, we agree that meat grilled on a charcoal grill tastes better, but unfortunately, most public places now prohibit them because of summer forest fire dangers.

We hope you found these 7 RV Tips and Tricks to Stay Cool Without Running the AC beneficial. Have some tips and tricks of your own? We’d love to hear from you.

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About Mello Mike 447 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a Jeep and truck camper enthusiast, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. He currently drives a 2013 Ram 3500 4x4 pickup truck with a 2016 Northstar Laredo solar powered truck camper mounted on top. He enjoys football, music, hiking, travel, photography, and fishing. He retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, worked in project management until 2017, and now runs this website full-time. He also does some consulting and RV inspections on the side.

2 Comments

  1. Very nice article Melo Mike. However, ivwould be very, very cautious about installing reflectx on the inside of the Dometic thermal pane windows. Just like you stated, Dometic dies not even want the night shade full closed during the day due to excessive heat build up. It can and will due a lot of damage and reflectx is probably even better at creating heat build up.
    What I did was to apply very dark, uv blocking static cling to the outside of my Dometic windows and it has worked great. It cost less than $12 a roll at Autozone and 2 rolls is enough to cover all side windows plus skylight. I used static cling because normal tint films have very aggressive adhesives and I did not want the adhesive to “etch” into the acrylic window. The static cling is pretty thick, smooths out beautifully and can be easily removed without damaging the window. Now, for the draw back. St as tic cling would probably blow off going down the road, so I cut static cling to go right up to the area of window that starts to curve at the very edge. I then took some 1/2″ wide pin stripe tape and taped the static cling down to edge of window. Since this is done at the edge its not even noticable from either the inside or the outside. Extra benefit is that since it is applied to outside it will help protect the window from scratches and damage. I’ll try to get you some photos.

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