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How Can I Stay Cool When Boondocking?

How Can I Stay Cool When Boondocking?


Knowing how to stay cool when boondocking is a concern for many RVers. Most veteran boondockers camp at high altitudes in the summer, or head to a favorite place along the Pacific coast. Others rely on their own RV’s air conditioning system. There are even some that leave their RV during the day and find a coffee shop in town.

stay cool when boondocking
Boondocking at Homestake Pass, Montana

How To Stay Cool When Boondocking

Camp in higher altitudes. This is what most boondockers do. During the high point of summer, you’ll need to get up to at least 7,000 feet elevation to enjoy some reasonable level of cooling. The higher the better obviously. Don’t just head north, but make sure your elevation is up high. Read more about “Camping at High Altitudes“.

Camp along the Pacific Coast. The Pacific coast is unique from the Atlantic coast in that it has a cool ocean breeze that can drop temperatures by as much as 40 degrees F. Temps can drop down to 60 degrees F along the Pacific Coast while at the same time reaching 100 degrees F across the inland areas. However, it’s difficult to find boondocking along the coast. Your best bet is in the Olympic National Forest of Washington.

Stay Away From High Humidity. High humidity makes it very difficult to stay cool. Generally speaking, areas east of the Rocky Mountains see high humidity in the Summer, while areas west of the Rocky Mountains experience dry air. Always stay west of the Rockies in the Summer.

Get a Dehumidifier. If your RV’s air conditioner does a poor job of cooling, then get a dehumidifier. This will dry the air inside your RV, and thus make it feel more tolerable in summer heat. You will need a generator to power it. Frigidaire makes the most popular dehumidifiers, and they have 22-pint unit sized perfectly for RVs and vans. (See it on Amazon).

Buy a Portable Air Conditioner. Even if your RV already has an AC unit on the roof, you may benefit from an extra air conditioner unit. Portable units have the advantage of being able to direct cool air wherever you want it. However, most of these units will require you adding an exhaust port to direct moist, heated air outside of your vehicle. You can instead purchase a portable “evaporative cooler” which uses cold water to cool down the air, and does not require an exhaust port, but does not cool as effectively. Portable air conditioners all require 110-120 volt power, which means you will need a generator. (See it on Amazon).

Position Your RV Awning Against the Sun. If your RV has an awning, then park the RV in such a way that the sun shines directly on the awning. This will cast a shade across the RV, and prevent the sun from heating up walls of your rig.

Use Reflectix Sheeting. This is the shiny silver bubble wrap you see people putting into the windows of their RVs. You can get Reflectix at home improvement stores and RV supply stores. Put them in your windows to help block the sun’s heat. Place it along the walls of your cabinetry. You can also drape Reflectix sheeting on the outside of your RV to block even more heat. (See it on Amazon).

Use heat reflective paint on your roof. Home improvement stores sell this type of paint. It’s colored white, and will block heat from entering through your roof. Henry Tropicool is the most popular brand… it’s expensive at $300.00 for a 5-gallon bucket, but many RV owners swear by this stuff. (See it on Amazon).

Position your RV in the shade. If you’re boondocked with lots of trees, find a way to get your rig into some of that shade.

Buy higher grade roof fans. Most RVs come with small, cheap roof fans (or vent fans) that do a minimal job of moving hot air out. You can get better fans that move air more quickly, and suck in cooler air from open windows. The Maxxair Deluxe is one of the best roof-mounted fans in the industry. (See it on Amazon).

Keep all windows open. Opening windows is a given to help circulate air through your RV. You will need at least two windows open, on each side of your rig, so that outside air can come in and blow out the other. If you have your roof fans running, they will require at least one open window to suck outside air inside.

Open your ramp door. If you have a toy hauler, open the ramp door. This will let in lots of outside air, and help keep you cool. To keep flying insects out, buy a toy hauler ramp door bug screen. Classic Accessories makes a heavy duty ramp door screen that holds up to abuse. (See it on Amazon).

Don’t Park on Asphalt. Asphalt is notorious for reflecting heat back up. If you’re parked on it, you’ll never stay cool in the Summer. By contrast, camping on earth covered with a short layer of grass, scrub, or chaparral, does pretty well in absorbing sunshine and holding it down into the ground.

Camp Next to Lakes. Lakes will absorb direct sunlight and prevent that heat from rising up back. Meanwhile, late afternoon breezes will blow over a lake and send cooled air into your open windows.

Remove Your Socks and Shoes. It might sound strange, but your feet and toes is where the blood reaches its coolest temperature. If you can keep your blood temperature down, you’ll actually feel a lot more comfortable. Try resting your feet on a table and letting a fan blow on your toes.

Do I Need a Generator?

Having a generator really helps for boondocking. It’s certainly not required, but if you have appliances that require 110/120 volt AC, you’ll at least need a 2,000 watt portable generator to run multiple appliances at the same time. If you want to run at least one air conditioning unit, you’ll need at least a 3,500 watt generator. Portable generators in these ranges are not too terribly expensive, and they plug directly into your RV’s 30/50 AMP port.

Read our article, “Do I Need a Generator For Boondocking?

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1 thought on “How Can I Stay Cool When Boondocking?”

  1. I have done all of these except the roof paint. The window insulation is a must. I buy a huge roll and cut it to fit every window. My RV is dark inside. But, it has been about 20 degrees cooler. Thanks for sharing. Always love to get new ideas and see what is working for others.


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