The most popular time to hitch up and hit the road in Australia are the warmer months, particularly over the Christmas break. However, caravanning in summer can be pretty damn hot unless you’re plugged in at a caravan park and can switch the air conditioner on.
The trick with how to keep a caravan cool in summer is in finding the perfect balance between ventilation, shade and reducing the heat input.
For those who enjoy off-grid camping in summer, here are some tips for how to keep a caravan cool in summer, so that you can have a more enjoyable experience.
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How to Keep a Caravan Cool in Summer
Choose a Shady Spot
The most important tip in how to keep a caravan cool in summer is to reduce the amount of direct sunlight that will be hitting your van during the day.
Take note as you pull into camp of what time of the day it is and where the sun is currently sitting. If you can choose between a range of different camping spots, just pull over for a minute and figure out where the sun will come up in the morning and where it’ll be setting of an afternoon.
It may be difficult to find a spot that will be in the shade all day but aim for a site that will at least have more shade and less sun in the afternoon.
While the morning sun can be annoying, the afternoon sun is what will really heat up your caravan heading into the night, which is when you want to be as cool and comfortable as possible.
|Never Park Underneath Eucalyptus Trees!|
It’s never wise to set up camp underneath Eucalyptus trees, especially during storm season.
Eucalypts are also known as ‘widow makers,’ as they commonly drop big, heavy branches.
These branches can do catastrophic damage to vehicles, caravans and people who happen to be underneath them when that happens.
Open Shaded Doors, Windows & Vents
While opening the windows sounds like an obvious thing to say when looking at how to keep a caravan cool in summer, there is a certain method to this strategy.
Rather than just keeping all windows and vents open during a hot summers day, stick to only opening the ones that are not in a direct path of the sunlight.
If you have the harsh sun beating down an entire side of the van, opening those windows is actually going to let in more heat than what it would if you were to keep all of those windows close and covered. This also applies to roof vents and hatches.
Close Blinds & Curtains
In addition to keeping the windows closed that are getting direct sunlight, pull down any blinds and curtains on those windows, which will help to keep a significant amount of heat out of the caravan.
Drawing blinds and curtains will help you to feel immediately cooler by shutting out the harshness of the bright sun.
Solar Screen Insulation
When we bought the Patrol, it came with a set of custom Solarscreens to fit each window. They are similar to windscreen sun shades, but with much thicker insulation.
During a particularly hot period while travelling, it became apparent that we needed to insulate the roof hatches and some of the windows to really keep that heat out. So, we came up with the idea of using the car Solarscreens in those spots and they worked brilliantly!
You could either get a few windscreen shades and use them in your caravan windows, or get the custom Solarscreens for your car and repurpose them throughout the van on hot days like we did.
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Keep the Air Flowing
A big part with how to keep a caravan cool in summer is by continuing to move the hot air out of the van. Rather than allowing hot air to become trapped inside the caravan, turn on any fans that you have and keep them rotating around the space.
12 volt fans are brilliant and draw only a tiny amount of power. We had four Sirocco fans in our van, one for each person, directed on each of us in our beds.
The Siroccos are very manoeuvrable, allowing you to tilt them up or down, side-to-side and even twist around to face a different direction. They were great for keeping the air flowing in four separate sections of the caravan during the day when we were trying to reduce the amount of heat inside.
Some of the 12 volt fans also come equipped with timers. So, if you want to set it for an hour or two, without having them run 24-7, you can easily do that.
Awnings, Annexes & Privacy Screens
Modern caravans come with fantastic fold-out awnings, which are perfect for giving you an outdoor living space. It’s often cooler to sit outside underneath the awning on a hot day (if it’s in the shade), then it is to sit inside the van.
But, more importantly, the awning also protects one entire side of the caravan from being hit with direct, blazing sunlight.
When you pull into the campground and set up your caravan, you have two choices:
- Have the awning side where most of sunlight is going to be during the day
- Have the awning on the opposite side of the harshest sunlight
There are pros and cons for both options. You need to consider if you prefer to keep the inside of the caravan cooler by allowing the awning to cop the sunlight, or if you prefer to have a nice shady awning to utilise during the day.
The good thing is, most awnings are designed to easily slide in privacy screens, which add an additional barrier against the sunlight. This gives you the best of both worlds.
Benefits of having Privacy Screens:
- You can create an outdoor ‘room’ on the sunny side of the caravan, which still offers you a shady spot to sit out of the sun
- The awning and privacy screens give you a massive amount of insulation against direct sunlight penetrating that side of the caravan
You also have the option of getting smaller shades for windows and the fridge vent, which also help to decrease the heat along that side of the van. They work by easily sliding the shade in on a track, then pegging the bottom two corners to the ground.
We all know how hot and sweaty things can get when cooking in the kitchen in the middle of summer. Consider this problem intensified when you’re cooking inside a pokey little caravan with less air flow than a big house.
Don’t add any unnecessary heat to the caravan by switching on cooking appliances inside.
Also consider your plug-in cooking appliances. If you can use them outside on a table (if you have an external power point), that will also make a big difference.
I love cooking on the Weber BBQ because not only is it a grill, but it can easily be converted into an oven for roasting, baking and cooking. I believe the same method can be used with other BBQs that have a fully enclosed lid.
Some tricks for using a Weber as an oven:
- Cook with the lid closed
- Use the Weber Convection Tray & Trivet. These will make the heat circulate around the entire space, rather than having a single direct heat sitting directly underneath the food
- Get a BBQ thermometer so you know what setting equates to 180℃ etc.
Use LED Lights
I can tell you that when sitting underneath a halogen light in the caravan bed on a sweltering summers night, you really notice the heat coming from that thing.
The next tip for how to keep a caravan cool in summer is to switch off the halogen and incandescent lights and instead use the LEDs or fluros. Have a look and see if any of your light bulbs can be changed out for LED or fluorescent versions.
Modern caravans come pre-insulated, however the older models probably don’t have any in the walls.
I’m not suggesting that you pull your walls apart to add insulation, that would be a huge job. However, if you ever find yourself renovating or fixing any sections of you caravan along the way, adding insulation is a great addition to put on the list.
Any additional insulation is going to help keep the caravan much cooler in summer, plus warmer in the winter.
Switch on the Air Conditioner
If all else fails and the heat is just too unbearable, it’s time to pull out the generator or head to a powered site so that you can switch the air conditioner on. Sometimes the heat and humidity in Australia can reach extremely high levels and cooling yourselves, the kids and the pets becomes imperative.
Close all of the curtains, blinds, windows and vents and cool that baby down! Once the sun begins to drop and the outside temperature also comes down, you can hopefully give the air con a rest and open back up again.
Extra Tips for Keeping Cool in a Caravan in Summer
Lighten the Linen
Go for simple and lightweight linen when caravanning in summer. While extras throws and blankets can look lovely, keep them for winter when you’ll actually be looking for that snuggly warmth.
Take the doona insert out and store it underneath the bed during the summer time. That way you can still make the bed with a nice doona cover, but without getting too hot at night. Another handy tip is to just have a simple flat sheet to sleep under, rather than a blanket.
Cold Drinks & Ice Blocks
The most important thing while caravanning in the heat is to make sure that everyone is getting plenty of fluids. Keep the cold drinks stocked and slot some ice blocks into the freezer to keep things bearable.
Insulated mugs and drink bottles are the best way to keep water and drinks cold for hours, especially if you add some ice cubes.
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Damp Towels & Spray Bottles
An easy and effective way to help cool the body down is to wrap a damp washer or towel around the neck or across the forehead. As most of the heat escapes through our head, hands and feet, cooling these body parts will help with that process.
You can also dip your singlet or t-shirt in water, wring it out then put it back on. Having that cool fabric against your skin will feel lovely and help to cool you down.
A spray bottle with water also provides temporary relief on the face and arms on a hot day.
If you are travelling with kids, elderly or vulnerable people, keeping them cool becomes all the more important if temperatures rise beyond a comfortable level.
Go for a Swim
If there’s swimmable water near by, take plenty of dips throughout the day to keep cooling off. Why else do we camp alongside (croc-free) creeks, right?
Keeping Pets Cool
Make sure all pets have access to cool and shady spots to rest, especially as the sun moves throughout the day. You will also need to keep topping up their water and chase the shade with the water bowl so that it doesn’t get too hot.
You can keep spraying them with water or use a wet towel to help regulate their temperature if it’s a super hot day. Always keep a watch out for signs of dehydration.
Now it’s over to you to head out and enjoy some cool caravanning this summer!
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