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Tips For How To Stay Cool In Summer Vanlife

Usually, in the hot summer months, you try to park your vehicle in the shade to keep it cooler inside. But when living in an off-grid campervan, you need the sun to power your off-grid solar setup. And while you might be wondering why you don’t just get an air conditioner, they simply just drain way too much battery, require shore power or a generator. But having your van in the sun doesn’t mean you have to sit and bake in the heat. Therefore we need additional ways to stay cool in the summer months of vanlife without an air conditioner. So here are some easy ways to stay cool in summer vanlife. 

Using the bug net, canopy sunshade to stay cool in summer vanlife

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Travel to cooler Climates:

One of the easiest ways to stay cool in summer vanlife is to travel to cooler locations such as places with higher altitudes. Places that tend to have cooler summer temperatures are Washington, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, Maine, New Hampshire, etc. And one thing they have in common is they have mountains to help you stay cool. 

But I would prepare for some chillier nights if you decide to stay high in elevation because the temperatures can drop pretty low, even in the summer. 


An essential item for summer vanlife is to have reflectix for the windows in your campervan. Reflectix help to reflect the heat of the sun away from coming in the window. And let me tell you, these work way better than you’d expect. We usually keep them up on our windows all summer long and a large sun shade for our front window. 

Tip: Another tip is to park your campervans front windshield away from the sun, because the angle of the front windshield tends to let in more heat than the other window angles. 

Ice Cold Drinks:

Ice is your friend in the summer. Jake and I have our HydroFlask vacuum sealed water bottles and we load them with ice whenever we can. We only have a small freezer, but try to keep the ice pumping all summer long. We also love to make iced tea or keep drinks cold in the fridge to help keep us hydrated and cool during the summer. 

Also an added bonus is if you have enough space in the freezer to also have ice cream! Because who doesn’t love a nice ice cream cone to keep you cool the in the hot summer months?!


A very convenient way to stay cool in summer vanlife is to have a sunshade awning. We love our MoonShade to help keep us cool (use coupon code: TwoRoamingSouls for $30 off). The Moonshade allows us to be outside without completely baking in the hot summer sun. Plus it is a very affordable and an easy to assemble awning for vanlife. 

Have a Breeze Run Through The Van:

One of the best ways to keep the inside of your van temperate in the summer is to crack a window or open a door or two to keep fresh air flowing through the camper van. We pretty much have our MaxxAir MaxxFan running 24/7 during the summer and a side window cracked. This allows for a nice breeze to cross through the van and keep us cool in summer vanlife.

Best Vent Fans For Camper Vans Pin 1

Check out our post: Best Vent Fans For Campervans

Homemade Cooler Air Conditioner:

For extreme conditions, you can convert a cooler into a DIY air conditioner. Trent & Allie (a Youtube vanlife couple) have a step-by-step guide for how to make your own cooler-air conditioner. But do note, this is a large item to carry around in your campervan. So I would only consider this option if you plan to be in the hot summer sun for a long duration. 

Fans Are Your Friends To Stay Cool In Summer Vanlife:

Fans will be your absolute best friend in summer vanlife to keep you cool. Like mentioned above, we have our Maxxair MaxxFan on 24/7 but also have a smaller fan running too. This just helps keep a constant breeze on you to help stay cool. If you are looking for an extra fan to help keep you cool, we suggest the Sirocco II. For a more budget-friendly fan option, we use the Keynice USB Desk Fan

And to even step up the game, maybe consider a misting portable fan. This way you can carry it along if you go on an adventure away from the van. 

Swimming Holes:

Jake and I finding a swimming hole to stay cool in summer vanlife
A swimming hole in Arizona

One of the most fun ways to stay cool in summer vanlife is to find lakes, rivers or swimming holes to keep you cool. Although these areas tend to become more populated during the summer months, it is probably worth it to join the crowds to stay cool. Do be extra cautious when the temperatures are extreme to drink PLENTY of water.   

Consider Sleeping In A Tent or Hammock To Stay Cool During Summer Vanlife:

View of Sundial Peak at Lake Blanche Through the tent with Jake and Emilys feet

For extreme temperatures, it might be a better idea to sleep outside instead of the van. Especially in places like the desert, because when the sun goes down the heat isn’t trapped by anything to hold it in. So it can get pretty cold during the night. Or the temperatures in the mountains or higher elevations tend to drop during the night and it might be cooler to sleep in a tent rather than a hot and stuffy campervan. But do make sure if you are in bear country to have all scented items locked up in your campervan and not with you in the tent. 

Avoid using your stove or cook outside Instead:

Making pasta salad outside the campervan to stay cool in summer vanlife in glacier

One of the fastest ways to heat up your campervan in summer is to cook a big meal using your camp stove indoors. So our best suggestion for how to stay cool in summer vanlife is to avoid using your stove or choose to cook outside the van instead. 

We often like to make cold meals during the summer so it’s fast, easy and especially cold. Some ideas for cold dinner meals are pasta salad, quinoa bowl, salad, chicken salad sandwiches, etc.  But that also means the meal might be taking up more space in your tiny fridge. So plan accordingly!

Cold Towel/Ice Pack:

Another option to stay cool in summer vanlife is to have a cold towel to put over your forehead. But if you are like us, you probably won’t have cold water coming from the faucet. So maybe get a towel wet and keep it in the fridge or stick it in the freezer. Another idea is to have a couple ice packs lying around for days you know it’s going to be extra hot outside.  

Heat Resistant Curtains:

Another thing we often do when the sun is coming directly through the front windshield is close our Blackout & Heat Resistant Curtain. This will also try to keep any heat that is coming through the front cab out of the main part of your camper van build. 

Takeaway | How To Stay Cool In Summer Vanlife:

Jake and Emily On Van Great Basin National Park Road Trip

Summer vanlife is one of Jake’s and my favorite parts of living in a van all together. We love it being warm and maybe having to find a swimming hole or maybe open the doors to let a breeze role through. But we primarily visit different mountain ranges in the summer to stay cool. It might be a little hot at night, but considering the many other months when we live in a van and freeze, the trade off is so worth it. We hope some of these ways helps you stay cool in summer vanlife! Happy Campervaning!

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