6 Tips to Beat the Summer Heat in Your RV
Learn some pro tricks for cooling down your rig.

By: Peter & Kathy Holcombe

We’ve always lived on the assumption that there is no bad weather, only bad gear. And that has served us well in colder temps as we’ve climbed big peaks in the Alps and kayaked arctic rivers in Alaska. We’ve slept under the stars in snowfields at 13,000 feet and in frosty desert scapes in the winter. When you’re cold, add a layer. If it’s raining, throw on a shell. Keep your core, feet, and head warm and the rest of your body will follow suit. 

High quality gear has protected us in extreme cold and kept us comfortable throughout our travels in the northern hemisphere. But that premise falls apart when you encounter soaring mercury and suffocating humidity. It’s not always feasible to drive somewhere cooler (although that is our preferred practice), and sometimes you just can’t take off enough clothes to be comfortable. 

After spending two months driving through Central America in our Winnebago Revel, we have suffered through stifling heat and humidity, and have learned a lot about managing extreme temperatures. Here are our best tips and tricks to beat the heat in your RV this summer …

1. Location, Location, Location!

There are many factors that determine how hot you feel in extreme heat, and location can play a key role. When possible, head for the hills. For every 1,000 feet you go up in elevation, the temperature will drop 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit. 

If gaining elevation isn’t an option, look for water. Camping near a lake, river, or sea can also reduce the temperature by several degrees. An added bonus to camping by water is that a quick dip in the water is guaranteed to lower your body temperature and boost your spirits in hot weather. We have been known to take a midnight swim to cool off when the temperature hits triple digits.

Dry camping on the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.

2. Find Some Shade

Shade is your best ally in the blistering heat. While the actual temperature doesn’t change between sun and shade, blocking sunlight from your RV can reduce heat transfer by up to 15 degrees. Keep that in mind when choosing a campsite this summer!

3. Be Super Cool

Even with the best laid plans, sometimes it’s just not feasible to avoid the heat. When that happens, there are several strategies that can help minimize the transfer of heat to your living area – and maximize your comfort. 

The first strategy is to super cool your RV so that everything inside the living area is as cool as possible. If we know we are going to have a hot night, we turn on both the chassis air conditioner as well as the house A/C (which runs off of our house batteries) well in advance of our arrival. This brings down the temperature for the entirety of our interior (clothes, cabinets, cushions, bedding, etc.). They in turn, act as a buffer that tempers how fast the interior heats up once we stop. Even the clothes inside your closet can hold either heat or cold, so make sure to use that temperature holding capacity to your advantage. 

Driving through Owyhee Canyon, Oregon.

4. Batten Down the Hatches

As soon as we stop, we pull all the blinds to prevent any sunlight from permeating our living area. This will drastically reduce the greenhouse effect and can keep your interior 10+ degrees cooler than the exterior. If we are boondocking, we keep all the windows closed as long as possible to retain the super cooled interior temps. 

Once the interior heats up, we open a single window and turn on the MaxxAir Fan on the roof so that it pulls air through the cabin from a single source. Forcing air through the constriction of a single window creates a Venturi effect, where the faster moving air actually feels cooler. 

Driving into Guadeloupe Canyon on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico.

If the outside temperature is less than 80 degrees, we can usually sleep pretty well with the window open at the foot of our bed and the fan pulling air through at full throttle. You can actually enhance the cooling power of the Venturi effect by going for a swim or by spraying a fine mist of water on your skin and hair before going to sleep. 

The wind from the fan causes the moisture on your skin to evaporate and functions as your own personal swamp cooler. We keep a small spray bottle filled with water on hand to help mitigate extreme heat.

Exploring the washes of Baja, Mexico.

5. Maximize Your Air Conditioner

If you are able to plug into shore power, crank up the A/C and let the electric meter go wild. But if you are boondocking and running your A/C off of the house batteries, you are going to need to conserve as much energy as possible to make it through the night. Every single Kilowatt-hour matters! 

We start with prevention by using all of the strategies outlined above. Then we create the smallest space possible to cool. In our Winnebago Revel, our A/C is located above the bed. We are able to seal off the “bedroom” by opening the bathroom door, which essentially creates a barrier between the bed and the living area. We then hang our winter comforter across to help further insulate the bedroom area that we are trying to keep cool. The temperature gradient between the two areas separated by this makeshift partition is staggering. (I’m guessing there is at least a 15-degree difference)! 

We then set the A/C on Auto Cool at 68 degrees, allowing the unit to cycle on and off as needed. This configuration with an 85-90-degree exterior temperature, and with 650-amp hours of battery capacity, will typically use about 60% of our power over an eight-hour time period. This will get us through one hot night and allow us to move on to a better location the next day (and recharge our house batteries in the process).

Note: GoLife Perks members receive 10% off all EcoFlow products (one use per customer) if you are in the market for eco-friendly power solutions.

6. Make it a Dry Heat

There is nothing more unpleasant than extreme humidity and scalding temperatures, not to mention the damage that humidity can do to your RV. We have just entered the rainy season here in Costa Rica and the battle with humidity is critical. But it is pretty easy to win the war with a few consistent measures. 

Exploring the coastal jungles of Costa Rica.

Keep the air circulating throughout your vehicle. We accomplish this by running the chassis A/C (a natural dehumidifier) when we are driving, and the house A/C at night (when we have access to shore power). When we are off the grid, we use our MaxxAir fan 24/7 to keep the air circulating throughout our Winnebago Revel. If we know the humidity is going to be particularly bad (like if we will be away from the van for a few days and can’t leave the fan running), we use dessicant bags to absorb excess moisture. 

It is particularly important to manage moisture under your mattress. Our bodies release moisture during the night (through our breathing!), and that moisture can accumulate under the mattress creating the perfect environment for mold. In our Winnebago Revel, the mattress rests on wooden slats that allows air to circulate underneath the mattress and keep moisture at bay. If your mattress rests on a solid surface, consider adding a porous mat or RV “box springs" to your bed frame to increase airflow and minimize the potential for mold. 

Lastly, make lifestyle choices to avoid creating excess moisture in your RV. A long, hot shower is a sure way to increase the moisture content of your RV, so be sure to run your vent fan while showering. Also, consider cooking outside, particularly if you are boiling water or using an InstantPot or other appliance that creates excess steam.

The Yucatan Peninsula gave us our first taste of jungle on our PanAmerican travel complete with triple digit temperatures and high humidity. But the views were certainly worth the suffocating weather.

We hope these tips help keep you comfortable as you navigate the throes of summer. For us, we are continuing on our quest to complete the "longest road trip on Earth": the PanAmerican Highway. We are currently navigating the jungles of Costa Rica in our Winnebago Revel, and we are using these strategies daily as we endure triple digit temperatures. We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the rainy season, and hopefully some cooler weather. Although, I’m sure that will bring its own challenges. 

Heat and humidity aside, it has been an incredible journey and we are loving every minute of the ride. Until next time … we hope to see you somewhere over the horizon!


Comments on this post are moderated, so they will not appear instantly. All relevant questions and helpful notes are welcome! If you have a service inquiry or question related to your RV, please reach out to the customer care team directly using the phone numbers or contact form on this page .

User commented on June 16, 2024 1:09 PM
What a thorough and thoughtful article. These are great tips! Good luck on your Pan America road trip.
User commented on June 16, 2024 5:02 PM
Would love to do that trip in my winnabago Navion how safe has it been
User commented on June 17, 2024 7:47 PM
Thank you for your comment! This article shares more about their travels and safety concerns: https://www.winnebago.com/lifestyle/winnebagolife/travel/traveling-by-rv-in-mainland-mexico-whats-it-really-like
User commented on June 16, 2024 5:30 PM
Thank you guys again for a real life article. Always enjoy your insights. Vanessa Herbst
User commented on June 16, 2024 6:04 PM
Great tips! Thank you :) Diego
User commented on June 17, 2024 12:35 PM
All excellent and practical tips! Thanks, kids! We’ll be following along on your epic (and safe) journeys! - Chris and Noel
User commented on June 17, 2024 7:07 PM
When we have had no choice but to RV in full sun we setup a shade zone around our EKKO with tarps and do not forget to allow a venting space to release the heat trapped under the tarp (1-2" gap). In our EKKO we cover over the cab but not the solar panels and NOT the A/C. Use your roof rack and with bungee cords, tarps and extension poles to create a shade zone. Elsa rocks in AZ