THE HARDEST PART of living in a vehicle is coping with summer heat–it can be miserable!! Unless you have a generator or enough solar to run an air conditioner, the best you can hope for is to keep the inside temperatures the same as the outside temperatures. But even that can be a significant improvement! If It’s 95 degrees outside and you do nothing to keep the vehicle cool, after an hour, it will be 140 inside–now that’s hot!!

On the other hand, I know for a fact (because I’ve done it numerous times) that by using these simple techniques, on a day when it’s 95 degrees outside, you can hold the heat down to 95 inside and on an 85-degree day outside to 85 degrees inside–that’s a saving of 45 degrees, making it bearable to be inside. To my mind, it’s well worth the money and effort to cool things inside by 45 degrees!

1. Move to Where it’s Cooler

Be a snowbird! For every 1000 feet of elevation, you go up, the temperature drops about 3.5 degrees. Go up to 10,000 feet, and it’ll be 35 degrees cooler than sea level! Unfortunately, sometimes circumstances won’t allow you to do that, so you have to figure out something else.

2. Park in the Shade

While that’s pretty easy in the National Forests, it’s nearly impossible in the desert and many cities. Plus, if you have solar, you must park in the sun, or you’ll lose your power source.

How you park can make a big difference, though. Your windows allow the most heat into the vehicle, and your doors allow the most cooling, so you want to park so the least heat comes in from the windows and the most heat can escape through the doors. I try to park East-West with the windshield facing due West; that way, the driver’s side (which has no windows) faces south, and the side door gets no sunshine and can be open all day. Passenger vans will be different. Just try to park with the fewest windows exposed to the sun and the most doors open into the shade.

3. Put Mosquito Netting Over Your Windows

That way, you can leave them open for ventilation. The easiest and cheapest way is to: A) cut the mosquito netting bigger than the window, B) use duct tape around the edges so they don’t unravel, and C) use Magnets to attach the netting to the door. Regular mosquito netting still lets No-See-Ums in, and they are horrible. This netting keeps both out. 

4. Install a Fan on Your Roof

Nothing will do you more good than having a powered fan on your roof. The only thing better is to get two, one pulling air in, the other pushing air out!

5. Keep a Portable Fan Pointed at You

I like and own both of these. Even better, use a spray bottle with water to keep yourself comfortable in front of the fans.

6. Put Ladder Racks Covered with Solar or Plywood Across the Roof

The entire roof is always in the shade with enough solar panels or even plywood. The price of ladder racks vary and steel ones do rust somewhat over time. You’ll be amazed at how much cooler your vehicle becomes with a consistently shaded rooftop.

7. Attach Reflectix on the OUTSIDE of Your Vehicle

It works well on the inside of your windows while you’re moving, but it works much better on the outside! On the outside, it reflects the heat away so that the sheet metal never even warms up, and the heat never gets inside. Putting Reflectix on the inside lets the heat in where eventually, it will work its way around and into the vehicle–even if you have insulation on the walls. It works tremendously better to have the Reflectix on the outside!! I use bungee cords and spring clamps to keep them in place.

8. Get an ADCO Windshield Cover for the Windshield

I love mine and wouldn’t be without it!! They make them for nearly all years of Chevy, Ford, Dodge, and Sprinter Vans, and best of all, they install very easily (no snaps or mounting in any way). You just slip a corner pocket over the door, put a piece of velcro around the mirror, and a magnet holds it on at the bottom (not all of them have cut-outs for the mirrors). Super simple and yet stays on exceptionally well! Let me say it again; I wouldn’t be without one of these–highly recommended!!

9. In the Desert, Use Shade Cloth

In the desert, instead of Reflectix on the outside of your vehicle, use shade cloth. The wind in the desert is so strong I don’t believe the Reflectix would hold up to it. Even worse, it will probably rub the paint off your vehicle. Instead, I use shade cloth. It’s durable and keeps out 90% of the sun’s heat while allowing the wind to blow through. Attach it to the roof and use stakes and bungees to tie it down away from the vehicle.

10. Put an Awning Up

I’ve owned ones made by various manufacturers and have built my own.

A good option is draping tarps as an awning. It has the advantage of being cheap and easy and works great in the rain. But you can’t leave it up in a strong wind. If you are in the forest, you can tie it out to nearby trees, and in the desert, you can use PVC tubes as tent poles.

11. Have an Outdoor Room

If possible, you want to have an outdoor room where you can go and sit in the shade in the heat of the day. There are several ways to create one. The first is with an awning for a roof and shade cloth as walls, and the other is with a pop-up awning like a Clam Pop-Up shelter.

So there you have it, 11 ways to stay cooler in your vehicle. Following these simple steps, you can keep the inside temperatures down to a bearable level and make your life much more pleasant!