Welcome to the first day of summer. To celebrate the solstice, we’re bringing you a special episode today on how to keep cool while staying in your vehicle. Be sure to stick around to the end for a surprise!
Now we all know you can beat the heat in your RV or van with air conditioning, but what if you are boondocking and not plugged in at a park with unlimited electric? Sure you can run your big honking generator all day long but that’s noisy, smelly, and really expensive. Have you seen the price of gas lately?
As a full time RV & vanlifer, I have found a few ways to stay cool while living off the grid.
HAVE THE RIGHT ALTITUDE
I’m in Boise where it gets really hot in the valley which is at about 2000 feet above sea level. If I was at an RV park I’d have to run my air conditioning 24 hours a day to stay cool. That’s fine if you can afford it. The cheapest ones here with electric are $15/day. Most places charge $20 and up.
What if you are a cheap bastard like me? For $15 in gas I can gain about 2000 feet in altitude and that will cut the temperature by 7 degrees. For $20 I can make it up to the mountains at 6000 feet and cut the temperature by 14 degrees. I know of 14 day campsites in both locations and will switch to those when the weather is hot. The downside to this is that it is likely your internet connection will suffer the further into the mountains you go. So you have to find a balance. You can sway the odds in your favor with a signal booster. The one I use can be found on my Amazon page.
TARP IT … AND YOUR LITTLE FRIDGE TOO
One of the best ways to keep your RV or van cool is by the creative use of tarps. Parking in shade is great but it comes with two major problems. If you have solar on your roof then shade will prevent you from recharging your batteries. Second, the sun moves. This means that you might have shade half of the day, and no shade the other half. The best way to combat this is to bring your own shade.
Most RV’s or well built vans will have some insulation in the walls and roof to prevent the inside from turning into an oven during summer. The problem is that they have lots of windows which actually trap heat in your vehicle. We all know this. The basic way to combat this is with window tinting and cut pieces of Reflectix insulation. This does work quite well up into the 80’s. When the temperature goes into the 90’s or 100’s Reflectix just isn’t enough.
This is where bulk tarps come into play. Sure you can get those pricey and bulky custom covers for your cab, but I’m a cheap bastard and my storage space is valuable. This trick also works on class A’s with the huge front window.
You want to park your vehicle with the house entrance facing north if possible. This will provide the most shade on your “living” side of the RV. The side that is getting beat by the sun can then be covered with cheap tarps to provide shade. The color doesn’t matter but they do need to be thick enough so that only dim light shines through. If you want to go the extra mile, get reflective tarps. All the above items are available on hobotech.tv/amazon
ICE ICE BABY
Being able to lower your body temperature internally is key. You can do this with refrigerated drinks but in the heat they warm up quickly. Also, most people set their refrigerators way too high. As you can see from this refrigerator thermometer, 40 degrees is the maximum safe temperature. However, at this temperature your food will still spoil after a week. If you want to minimize your shopping trips, set your refrigerator at a lower temperature. I set mine to 29. Foods in the very bottom will freeze but drinks will not. The upper part stays just above freezing. I’ve had ground beef last more than 2 weeks unfrozen.
Make or buy ice. Use ice to lower the temperature of your drinks to just above freezing. Drinking ice water or iced tea goes a long way to lowering your core temperature and keeping you from feeling sweaty and sticky. How do you know if it is cold enough? If you chug it and it gives you an ice cream headache then it’s cold enough!
I make my own huge ice cubes using silicon trays I found on Amazon. You can drop ice in your pet’s water bowl to keep them cool. And, don’t forget the ice cream!
I know this goes without saying but drink plenty of fluids. In fact, you should do what is called “super hydrating”. Many people on certain diets already know about this. What you do is you drink at least one gallon of water per day. This is on top of any other fluids like tea, coffee, juice, or beer. It’s also important that you drink cold water. The colder the better. What this does is reduce your core body temperature and makes you feel cooler. It also burns calories because your body will burn energy to keep your system at 98 degrees. The final benefit to super hydration is that you’ll pee a lot. Why is this good? Not only will this help detoxify you, but you are ridding your body of heat through urination!
Just be sure to keep your intake of salts and minerals up. If you are doing this right your urine should look like lemonade or be almost clear. It should not be totally clear. Signs of dehydration and over hydration are the same. If you get headaches, muscle cramps, or feel dizzy you are either over or under hydrated. I do drink a lot of green tea and salt my foods with pink sea salt to prevent over hydration. If you are under hydrated your urine color will tell you. If it is dark yellow or orange you aren’t drinking enough water.
I drink 1 to 2 gallons of water per day depending on heat and altitude. I manage this by filling 5 gallon jugs with tap water that I get for free when I fill my RV tank, then filter it with the amazing Aquasana Clean Water Machine. One filter lasts 320 gallons!
Don’t forget your pets! Always make sure they have clean cool water to drink when it is hot.
INVEST IN PORTABLE FANS
While the Fan-Tastic Fan or Maxx Air fans in our roofs work great, sometimes they just don’t move enough air. This is where portable fans like the Ryobi dual power fan comes in handy, It can use rechargeable 18 volt lithium batteries, same as their tools, to run the fan. You can also plug a 110v AC extension cord in and run it from your inverter. Fans come in extra handy for cooling your personal space combined with the other techniques above.
Once your RV or van is properly shaded, and you have your jug of ice water and fans blowing on you. There is only one thing left to do to beat the heat.
You’ll have to watch the video to find out!
watch The Video