RV Travel | How To Beat the Heat Without Air Conditioning in the Summer

Do you know how to stay cool and comfortable in the Southern California desert during summer months? Can you pull it off in an RV with no air conditioning?

One of the concerns I always had about RVing was exposure to extreme weather. In Nevada, we had arctic wind storms that came all the way down from Alaska. Then, in Arizona, I weathered below freezing temperatures and even hail. Now, my Southern California spot is approaching triple-digit summer temperatures.

The good news is that most RVs come standard with built-in furnaces and air conditioning units. If you are always plugged in at a campground and don’t mind high energy bills, this is the easiest way to regulate temperatures in your RV. For everyone else, particularly those powering their RVs on solar, we have to find more creative ways of staying cool in the summer.

1. Condition Yourself

Hopefully, you aren’t reading this article because your air conditioning just went out. Ideally, you still have some time to plan ahead. Try to conduct all your experimenting when you actually have access to shore power and can run the air conditioning if it gets too hot. That said, I got all my practice in with no air conditioning. I never had central air in Jamaica and refused to install it in my Georgia home. In fact, during these six years of living in America, I never lived anywhere with central air. Consequently, I am well-conditioned to the no-AC life.

2. Dress for the Weather

Some locations have fairly constant temperatures, so dressing for the weather is easy. In the desert, things are a little more complicated. You can have nights in the Fahrenheit 40s and days in the Fahrenheit 80s. Because of this, dressing for the weather might mean changing your outfit a few times per day. Ideally, you should be wearing cotton for warm temperatures and thermals for cold weather. Be sure to dress your bed and sofa for the weather as well. Those nice fluffy and fleece blankets can generate heat even if you sleep on top of them instead.

3. Take Cold Showers

When I first started RVing, it was at the tail end of summer in the Nevada desert. I remembering sharing with my friend that I had never turned on the water heater because the water coming out of the pipes were always hot anyway. Ditching the water heater during the summer also prevents that warmth from the plumbing and heater from building up in your tiny home. In addition to this, take as many actually cold showers as you can and prepare to shower more often. If you have to conserve water, consider a military shower. We call this a tidy in Jamaica.

4. Stay Hydrated

You can alleviate many of the symptoms of heat exposure by drinking as much cold water as your body can handle. I recommend using a tumbler to keep your drink cool. I bought mine as a test product from my store. It keeps ice (even with water added) for about 24 hours, even in Fahrenheit-90s weather. If FJ Cruiser decor isn’t quite your thing, I can create a custom order that says anything you’d like it to. I’ve also heard great things about the ones made by Yeti. One account manager for a client I work with described hers as the one office supply she couldn’t live without in Utah.

5. Block the Sun

One of the best ways to regulate temperatures inside your home is to plan your routine around the sun. This will depend on how you park your RV. If possible, try to park your RV so that the side with the most windows does not face South. When you have no control over the angle your RV is parked at, there are still options available to you:

  • Park in the shade whenever possible.
  • When booking or choosing your spot, park next to a taller or longer rig that will help to block some of the sunshine.
  • Use solar panels on the roof to absorb the energy and put it to use.
  • Use your awning to provide shade so that the sun hits the awning instead of the side of your RV.
  • Close the windows and blinds or use Reflectix on the side of the RV pelted by the sun throughout the day.

6. Use a Fan

Most RVs have a 12-volt fan mounted in or near the bathroom to get the moisture out after the steamy showers you should be ditching for the summer. Turning these on can help to circulate air throughout the RV. Be sure to open at least one window so the air can pass through. If your RV fan does not work well or you don’t have one, consider purchasing a fan. I’ve been a big fan of Lasko since Jamaica, so I bought this one for use in my office in Georgia. It works extremely well, but it was a little noisy. If you like the idea of a wearable fan, I can personally recommend this one, which I have had for more than a year. It is rechargeable, flexible, quiet and has cool LED light features.

7. Get a Swamp Cooler

I promised myself that if it got too hot in the desert, I would consider a swamp cooler. I’m specifying the desert because swamp coolers are not ideal for most other locations. I had this one on my wish list for a long time because it only uses about 95 watts and can cool up to 500 SF. The only reason I didn’t get it is the size. There are just not a lot of places to put something that big in 160 SF of space. Instead, I bought a handmade one from Etsy. I won’t recommend the one I have because I think it’s overpriced for what it does, but it was tiny and it works so that suited me just fine. You can make your own handmaid version with a few 12V fans, a cooler, ice and some YouTube videos.

8. Use Solar

When you put the sun’s energy to use, it changes the way you think about sunshine. Even if you haven’t installed solar panels on your home, there are other ways to make use of the sun. I have not yet installed my big solar system, but I do have a small solar generator and use several other solar products. These are the ones I have that are currently thriving in this summer sunshine:

Have you ever weathered high temperatures with no air conditioning or while off-grid? How did you stay comfortable and cool? Tell me all about it in the comments below.

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40 thoughts on “RV Travel | How To Beat the Heat Without Air Conditioning in the Summer

    1. LoL well part of that was because my apartment was naturally insulated. The back wall was underground, so it maintained a consistent temperature. When my parents were roasting, I was nice and cool. When they were freezing, I was nice and toasty. 😂

    1. And a big failure it was indeed! I certainly took a few of those when it first got hot, but I don’t anymore. 😂

  1. I don’t like high heat and I don’t like AC. Having said that I lived and worked in the States for 28 years…most of the time with ceiling fans in every room. I have been back in Europe since
    1993 and although it’s generally a lot cooler, temperatures are rising. I find that if I keep my wrists and neck cool by using wet flannels it helps. I start work early in the morning – and after lunch enjoy a siesta….also drink lots of room temperature water. Another trick is to eat lolly pops, or popsicles….:). After the siesta I then work into the evening.

    1. I love the warmth! I’m in my element out here right now. 😂 I hadn’t thought of the popsicles! I’ll stock up on a few for sure. 🙂

  2. I use my AC as little as possible in my TX apartment, only turning it on if the indoor temp reaches above 80. Closing the blinds to the afternoon sun is essential. I use my two ceiling fans for circulation and NEVER turn on my oven in the summer. Because I work for many hours at my computer, I also have one of those little personal fans that plugs right into the computer for power. Very handy!

    1. That’s great! I still bake every week, so what I do is wait until the night time to do it. By then, the temperatures have dropped again. It’s rarely hot at night in the desert.

  3. I have ceiling fans in many of my rooms which really help keep the temperature at a livable rate most days. I also use room fans to help keep the area cool. I have an attic fan that I can turn on in the morning when the air is cool and open up the windows and pull in the cool air then I close up the windows and turn on the room fans and ceiling fans. In the evening when it cools off I can open up the windows and turn on the attic fan and pull the cool air into the house. Most of the time my windows and patio doors are open almost 24/7. Even though I have central air conditioning, most of the time it only gets used for a short period of time during the year since the room fans seem to keep my rooms okay as long as I’m not doing a lot of work in the room like exercises or something.

    1. I’m impressed that you’ve managed to keep the AC usage to a minimum. I had ceiling fans in Atlanta too. The vent fan in the RV is nowhere near as powerful, but it’s the closest thing to one that I’ve got.

      My campground neighbour is trying to get a 12v ceiling fan for his RV. He think it’s crazy that I enjoy the heat as much as I do. 😂

      Have you ever considered one of the swamp coolers?

      1. No I never considered a swamp cooler. The last time I even saw a swap cooler was when I was a child and we lived in California we had a swamp cooler.

      2. The first time I saw one was when I visited 29 in 2019. The Airbnb I booked had one. I’m surprised they’re not more common here. They’re ideal for desert climates and use way less energy than other AC types. Imagine using just 95 watts to cool 500 SF. That blew my mind. The one I have is rechargeable, so that’s 12v keeping me cool. Mine can’t cool a room though!

    1. I definitely like my soda or Gatorade with meals, but I have that tumbler full of water all the time. It’s a lifesaver!

      1. I might try Gatorade. It will help build my veins for the shot I take every month. They take blood first. I get a shot in my right eye monthly. It is for the retina repair.

      2. In your eye??? Goodness! That sounds terrifying. Coconut water is probably much better, but they put sugar in all the ones I’ve found here.

      3. I have to have treatments for my right eye. I can see clearly now, but the shots in the eye are helping. I see much improvement. Without the treatments, the disease could spread to the other eye. It is perfect right now. My eye doctor sent me to specialist when she saw that I had a retina problem, or dry eyes. My eye is deadened usually, when I have the shot in the eye. I know, it sounds horrible, but with deadening, it doesn’t hurt. Last time it hurt. I didn’t have the same amount. I go to sleep, and take Baby Aspirin. This is the only time I take Aspirin.

  4. When I’m hot, I can take a shower to cool off. I don’t want the house to be so cold that we all freeze, but when it is unusually hot, I wear shorts, and dress for the day. When I have been outside, I usually shower. In these days, I am spoiled. I love to turn on the AC and become cool in a few minutes. The heat bill isn’t so high, because we turn it on when it is hotter than 75.

    1. The energy bill at this campground is really high. My bill is usually $35 to $50. Here, it’s been around $90 every month. I can’t even say it’s because it’s California because the $50 bill was in Cali. Everyone at the campground has been complaining about the bill. No idea what’s going on, but I’m leaving soon anyway. 😅

      I’m glad you’re able to run your AC though. Stay cool and stay safe! 🙂

      1. We turn it on when it gets too, hot here. Otherwise we don’t turn it on. Hope you find convenience soon. Haven’t written to you in days. Hope you are well.

      2. I don’t mind the little extra work to stay cool. I really could just turn the air on if it got too hot. 😂

        We’ll be leaving Southern California in about 2 or 3 weeks, so I’ll be cooler soon. Be safe!

      3. I’m glad we conversed. You are always going to be special to me, because you know many people, and have traveled far, and wide. I am happy for you, and think you are genuine.

      4. Thank you! I’m happy I’ve “met” you and all the other lovely people on here. You all keep my company while I run loose across America!

      5. Yes. You know, you get to travel and that is wonderful. You might tell us some day of some hair-raising scary, experiences. Maybe you will write a book. It has been done before. I have written 6 now, but I never published them. My son is the published author. He writes with a group of people, and they publish the books eventually. This has happened twice. He get this gifting from my husband, who is a wonderful writer, but he won’t write a book. He is a profound, preacher of the Word, and people like him once they sit under his teaching. It takes a while for my advice to get through. He recently has been taping for the internet. He is there. You know this life isn’t easy. I taught school for several years, and over twenty. Then I tutored with someone who had her BS degree. We worked together to raise the standards in Reading. It worked, and she taught me many things, including how to deal with people who had bad habits. I kept the little ones mainly, because she saw that I loved people. I met many people from all countries, coming for tutoring in English. Quite an experience, and when she retire, another took over but none were like the lady who left. I left, and I am still writing. This is probably too, much to say, but my husband is from the mid-West, and at first it was like living with someone who was Northern. Straight forward, say it like it is, and preach with compassion. I sat still and quiet for so long in our Air Stream trailer. I joined him in study, but on my own. That was 52 years ago. Yes I have a good memory, but my experience with people is varied, and unusual. I haven’t wanted to publish a book, because I lack experience in conveying all that I mean. I believe I am a rock, that has been polished by the hard times, and that Jesus finally is close. He was close before, but I walk with, not ahead. I say this because I know you will understand even when I tell you all this. Go and enjoy your life, and I am glad you are happy.Because of having to move, I found myself at several Universities, taking classes for certification. I have 18 hours beyond my degree. I have the time to write, I keep journals, and do what I can to communicate, and encourage others. You don’t have to reply. Go where you need to be, and enjoy the weather.

      6. Thanks for sharing that, but it does sadden me you won’t consider publishing. I think you should have an editor take a look and get their professional opinion. When it comes to books, it’s my job to vomit out my thoughts on paper, but someone else’s job to make it look pretty!! Give it some thought. 🙂

  5. I have done without AC at home when it was on the fritz. It is no fun. Here in Southern California late August temps can jump over 100. Many years ago, when camping in Tahoe the nights were in the 30s and the days in the high 80s. Luckily we were on the lake and a dip in the water happened many times. Good luck with the heat. Your recommendations sound very helpful.

    1. I’ve gotten up to 97 degrees, so far, but we haven’t hit true triple digits yet. I’m actually dead set on coming back here at this time of year next year. I hate cold nights and it’s been amazing being able to go outside and gaze up at the stars in shorts.

      That temperature difference at Tahoe sounds insane. Arizona was like that too.

      1. Really? I would say it’s warm here at night in the High Desert, but not hot. I had to come back inside last night for a jacket and some hot cocoa, so definitely not hot.

      2. I’m not cut out for those temperatures! 😂 The beauty of full-time travel is I can chase good weather for the rest of my life.

      3. The son of a friend of my mom’s lives in a renovated bus. He follows the good weather also. His mom is in AZ and he rarely visits there in late summer. I believe he goes to Colorado in the summertime. Safe travels.

      4. Thank you! That’s awesome that he has a renovated bus. I had considered that route but I’m not very handy. I reached out to a company and they never got back to me. So, I went ahead and got the RV.

      5. The short bus is what I would go for. That’s about the same size as what I have now with my small RV. I can imagine it begins to feel crowded with a big dog though!

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