Cool Camping: Practical Steps for Staying Cool in your RV

Summer is upon us. In fact, as Walter Winchell wrote “It’s a sure sign of summer if the chair gets up when you do.”

The Pacific Northwest is in one of the most intense heat waves ever recorded with the worst still to come. Portland, Oregon, hit 112 degrees Sunday (June 27) shattering the previous record by 5 degrees. Seattle set a record high, hitting 104 degrees the same day, breaking the previous record by 1 degree. Seattle also experienced it’s first back-to-back 100 degree days in history and then hit the hat trick Monday. The Western North American heat wave also extends into Northern California, Nevada, and Idaho.

Sacramento River at Redding, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Americans are not alone in feeling overheated. The same high-pressure system baking in the northwestern United States has also produced record-breaking heat in Western Canada.

On June 28, the temperature in Lytton, British Columbia, a town of fewer than 300 in the Fraser Canyon, hit 118.2 degrees smashing Canada’s old national heat record of 113 degrees. That’s 1 degree hotter than it’s ever been in Las Vegas, 1,300 miles to the south, and hotter than the all-time record highs for 31 states including several in the South. And by Tuesday, the temperature in Lytton soared to 121 degrees. Lytton is at 50 degrees N latitude.

As sad aftermath to these heat records, the fires then swept in. By 6 pm. Wednesday Lytton’s residents had been ordered to evacuate as explosive wildfires neared. As of this morning (Friday), the village lies in ashes. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the residents of this devastated community.

The Okanagan Valley in British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Additionally, on June 27, local records were set in areas such as Ashcroft (110.8 degrees) and Kamloops (111 degrees); in all, 59 weather stations in British Columbia set records for hottest temperatures recorded for that date. These were largely beaten in the following days (Kamloops, for instance, registered 114.4 degrees on June 28 and 117.1 degrees on June 29).

On June 28, records were set in Abbotsford at 109.2, Victoria at 103.6, and Port Alberni at 108.9. As of June 29, 103 all-time heat records were set across Western Canada, including east of the Rocky Mountains. In Alberta, Banff (97.9 degrees), Edmonton (100 degrees), Jasper (102.4 degrees), and Grande Prairie (104.4 degrees) have all seen the strongest heat ever measured in these communities. Nahanni Butte, Northwest Territories also set a regional record at 100.6 degrees.

Quail Creek State Park in Utah Dixie © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amid these extreme weather conditions, this is prime travel time, the season for putting endless miles of road in the rearview mirror of your travel trailer, motorhome, or fifth wheel. Most RV excursions take place during the hottest months of the year and even RVs with excellent climate-control systems can get hot and stuffy. Here are some tips on staying cool when you hit the road—no matter the weather outside.

RVers want to stay cool. Whether you spend most of your time in the rig or simply want a cool, comfortable home to return to at the end of the day. The first and most obvious remedy is a good air conditioning unit. That unit, however, is only as good as the power on which it runs. 

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southern Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just as the right hookups are important to a functioning AC, so, too, is regular and diligent maintenance. Having a functioning AC unit in your RV during the summer months is crucial and that’s why it’s imperative to keep your AC unit in ship shape by performing regular cleaning and maintenance, to get ahead of any major issues before they start. Regularly changing any filter screens and giving the entire unit a once-over can go a long way.

But even with the AC on, taking certain considerations to stay cool can benefit the comfort level inside your rig. When it comes to staying cool in your RV, there are a handful of surprisingly simple tips that go a long way.

Trees offer shade from the intense summer sun at Jeckyl Island Campground in Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Selecting your RV site with care helps to prevent it from getting hot in the first place. This sounds obvious, but it still needs to be stated: park in the shade if you can. The shade provided by large trees, hills, or even buildings can make a huge difference in the internal temperature of your RV. Sites facing the southwest should be avoided and make every effort to ensure that the refrigerator is in the shade. Avoiding direct sunlight and keeping your shades and blinds closed can make a huge difference. On a shady and cooler day, open the windows to let fresh air in and to make sure there’s enough ventilation in the RV. You may also consider upgrading to dual-pane windows which will also be beneficial for winter camping.

World’s Largest Roadrunner at Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New technologies are changing the way RVs are powered and cooled and while some of the technologies are still emerging, many RVers have added solar to their RVs roof and invested in the latest battery technology. Being truly self-contained is on the way as RVs get adequate electricity to run air conditioners, microwaves, and other devices in the RV. With the new battery technology coming, help is on the way.

If you’ve done your best to prevent your RV from heating up in the first place and turned on your AC to cool it down, then there are other simple things you can do to help KEEP your RV cool.

Amelia Island, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cover your roof vents with a reflective surface. Foam-based vent fillers that are tucked inside ceiling vents are available at most RV dealers. They help to reflect the sun’s rays off your RV. Their insulating abilities help your RV stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Don’t forget your shower skylight.

Extend your awning to help shade your RV (if it’s on the sunny side). This will not only shade the windows on that side of your RV but the walls too.

Put a bowl of ice in front of a table fan. The air passing over the ice water gets chilled and provides some relief. And if you don’t have any ice then a damp cloth placed over the fan will have a similar cooling effect.

Expect hot summers and warm winters in Laughlin, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep the exterior door closed and try to minimize frequent openings. Opening the door repeatedly allows the hot outdoor air to enter your RV.

Avoid using the stove or oven. On hot days, plan to use your outdoor kitchen or campfire to cook meals or eat meals that don’t require cooking such as sandwiches and salads.

If your RV has incandescent light bulbs or halogen lights, turn them off as they emit heat. Consider installing LED lights which give you light (obviously) but they don’t release heat.

Summers are hot along the Lower Colorado River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep the windows closed during the daytime to prevent hot air from infiltrating your RV but open up the windows at night if you are camping in a place with cool evenings.

One of the most important ways to prevent heat-related illnesses is to drink plenty of water (most experts suggest eight glasses per day. Plain water is the best way to hydrate, no second-guessing necessary. But that can be hard to do when water tastes so…watery. Fortunately, it’s possible to get hydration from a variety of drinks but be careful that you’re not having too much of the ones that dehydrate.

Saguaro Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Consuming any kind of liquor removes water from your tissues, meaning you have to drink even more water to offset the effects. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the alcohol content, the more dehydrating your drink is.

Curious to see which beverages are the best for keeping enough fluid in you? The following six are hands-down your best hydrating choices: water, milk, fruit-infused water, fruit juice, watermelon, and sports drinks.

Chilie peppers in Hatch Valley, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Eat spicy food. Capsaicin, a compound in chilies that gives them a kick, triggers a response in your nervous system that makes your face sweat and cools you down.

Symptoms of heat illness include dizziness/fainting, nausea/vomiting, rapid breathing and heartbeat, extreme thirst, and decreased urination with unusually dark urine. Age can make you more vulnerable to heat stress. Babies, young children, and seniors are less able to sweat and adjust to changes in temperature.

Staying cool at Lake Pleasant, Arizona

And finally, additional tips to stay safe in extreme heat include:

  • Avoid the direct sun as much as possible
  • Avoid strenuous activity and exercise
  • Avoid sunburn and wear sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on exposed skin and an SPF 30 lip balm
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, UV-blocking sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat (I prefer a Tilley)

Worth Pondering…

“‘Heat, ma’am!’ I said; ‘it was so dreadful here, that I found there was nothing left for it but to take off my flesh and sit in my bones.”

—Sydney Smith

Take a Hike. Do it Right!

During the summer, staying hydrated and cool is vital!

More than 200 hikers annually are rescued from City of Phoenix desert and mountain parks and preserves.

Courtesy the City of Phoenix, the following checklist can help keep you from being a statistic.

Hiking Catalina State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Watch the weather

Yes, “it’s a dry heat”—but Arizona’s temperature can be deceiving and deadly. Hike when it’s cool outside, try early morning and evenings when there’s more shade.

Hiking Old Baldy Trail at Medera Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dress appropriately

Wear proper shoes, clothing, wide-brimmed hat (we recommend a Tilley Hat), and sunscreen.

Horseback riding at Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bring Water

Hydrate before you go. Have plenty of water, more than you think you need. Turn around and head back before you drink half of your water.

Hiking Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep in Contact

Carry a mobile phone.

Team up: Hike with others. If hiking solo, tell someone your start and end times and location.

Hiking Bell Rock Trail in Red Rock Country near Sedona, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be honest

Do you have a medical condition? Asthma, heart problems, diabetes, knee or back problems? Don’t push yourself?

Hiking the White Tank Mountains, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take Responsibility

Don’t be “that person”—the one who wasn’t prepared, shouldn’t have been there for health reasons or ignored safety guidelines. Be the responsible hiker who takes a hike and does it right!

Worth Pondering…

‘Heat, ma’am!’ I said; ‘it was so dreadful here, that I found there was nothing left for it but to take off my flesh and sit in my bones.

—Sydney Smith, in Lady Holland, Memoir

My Tilley Hats Go RVing

I am an expert on Tilley hats. Well, maybe not an expert, but I sure have a lot of experience with the hats that I own!

RV travel is about seeing new places, experiencing life from a different perspective, taste testing local cuisine, making new friends, experiencing a random moment, and enjoying my good looking and highly functional Tilley hats.

Even though they are supremely endurable I’m the proud owner of four Tilley hats. I recently added another two Tilley to my arsenal for the sake of color variety or just because!

That WAS a great Tilley! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What makes a Tilley hat so great?

Tilley hats are an excellent example of form follows function in that the shape of the hat is primarily based upon its intended purpose or function.

That WAS a great Tilley! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They have a number of features that indicate someone put a lot of thought into the design. They look great, are comfortable, and pretty much will last your entire lifetime (guaranteed).

Tilley LTM6 Airflo Camo (Source: Tilley)

Tilley hats are exceptionally well designed and handcrafted in Canada with a dash of style and flair. Tilley hats are versatile and lightweight, strong and durable, wrinkle-free and packable, and nearly indestructible, although your family dog could prove otherwise. Tilley’s are designed and engineered for outdoor adventure and are great for RV travel and camping, so you are ready for an unexpected turn on the road ahead.

Tilley Airflo showing inside label (Source: Tilley)

The label on the inside of every Tilley says a lot: “The finest in all the world. Insured against loss. Guaranteed for life. Replaced free if it ever wears out. It floats, ties on, repels rain, blocks UV rays, won’t shrink and comes with a four-page owner’s manual. Handcrafted with Canadian persnicketiness.” Tilley has a sense of humor and makes an awesome hat.

Tilley LTM2 Airflo Olive (Source: Tilley)

The label also includes washing instructions: “Machine-wash or hand-wash (cool water). Wash frequently to ensure sweat will not permanently discolor fabric. Reshape and dry (DO NOT machine dry), then re-stretch over knee.”

My two new Tilley hats are a broad brim style LTM6 Airflows in olive and in camo.

Tilley Airflo (Source: Tilley)

Tilley’s hemp fabric has a linen-like appearance and feel. The strongest natural fiber it is resistant to mold and mildew, and to salt water. It has a UPF rating of 50+, the maximum UV protection rating given.

Industrial hemp is an outstanding fiber, useful in textiles, high strength cordage, and papermaking. As a farm crop it is relatively pest-free, does not deplete the soil, and requires little fertilizer.

Tilley LTM8 Airflo Mesh (Source: Tilley)

The tough-as- nails hemp fabric makes up into a truly high performance hat. This is possible because Tilley make the hats very well, of outstanding material, enabling them to offer their lifetime guarantee of replacement if the hat wears out.

Since hemp is a natural fiber the hat tends to fade after a few years of wear—and becomes “uniquely yours as a result.”

Tilley logo band box (Source: Tilley)

The Tilley Airflo version, made from Nylamtium fabric, a strong water-and-mildew resistant nylon, provides lightweight protection from the sun while blocking UV rays and also repels rain.

The polyester mesh around the crown is a distinctive feature that helps air circulate inside the hats, keeping you cool on warm summer days.

That WAS a great Tilley! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What about my other two Tilley hats, you ask? My original Tilley, a 15+ year-old classic cotton hat is in semi-retirement, and my newest Tilley is somewhere in the bowels of our motorhome, location unknown!

There’s one other hat that I wear from time to time, and that’s my Shiner Bock baseball cap, just to remind me that it’s “five o’clock somewhere!”

Tilley Endurables, the Canadian company long recognized as the maker of high quality outdoor hats, was started in 1980 when Alex Tilley needed a good hat for sailing and couldn’t find one, and decided to make one himself. He spared no effort, sought advice from a milliner, sailmaker, and hat maker, and, as he says “got it right”.

That WAS a great Tilley! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Only afterwards, when he saw that he had an outstanding hat, did he decide to sell it through stores. The sale of the original hat, and expansion into a range of hats and travel ware, has benefited from Alex Tilley’s imagination and insistence on outstanding quality.

Worth Pondering…

“Why do you always wear a hat?”

” ‘Cause it fits my head.”

—Robert Redford, in The Horse Whisperer