Living in a campervan in the summer months is amazing, but such a tiny space can become hot and bothersome very quickly! Here I share my top 11 handy summer vanlife hacks to keep you cool and comfortable on the road.
I’ve been living full time in my Mercedes Sprinter campervan Sadie since November 2020 and this is my second vanlife summer travelling the UK.
Last summer, I explored Wales and the south coast of England, and shared my experiences in my ultimate guide to the best spots in South Wales.
While the rest of the UK was apparently having pretty shite weather, my summer vanlife adventures to beautiful Wales heralded blue skies, warm weather and balmy evenings… and I went back to the UK with a tan to rival a week in Benidorm. I would imagine.
Anyway, let’s skip to the good part!
We’re now in summer 2022 and experiencing a delicious heatwave in the UK, and I thought I’d impart my tried and trusted ways on how to keep cool in a van in the summer.
I’ve also included other tips on how to keep bugs out of a campervan and other equally thrilling things I’ve learnt along the way!
- Take vanlife outside!
- How to keep bugs out of a campervan
- How to keep cool in a campervan
Here are my 11 handy summer vanlife hacks
Take vanlife outside!
Leave the van
Ok, starting simple with an absloute no-brainer, just leave the van. When you can of course.
When the heat goes up get out of the fire! Just simply leave: sit outside, go for a walk, a swim, to the (hopefully) air-conditioned gym or to a friend's house.
You don't have to stay cooped up in a boiling tin can all day!
(I promise the tips do get better than this, read on...)
Get a campervan awning
Not just for the site-bound motorhomers!
Ok, so I wouldn’t suggest flapping out or erecting awnings for campervans if you’re attempting to stealth camp and not piss off the locals, but if you do use campsites, campervan awnings are a game-changer.
I have a Thule Omnistor 6200 3.25m awning fitted to Sadie and have been using it a lot this summer as it provides me with outdoor, as well as indoor, living and working. Like an extension of the home I guess!
My awning can withstand some pretty hefty gusts and having it open means I can take my laptop, dining and social life outside to work when the temperatures soar and being in the van gets too hot to handle.
Any seasoned digital nomad knows that sitting in the sun with a laptop is not an option, no matter how desirable or Insta-friendly, so having this shady spot all to yourself is wonderful.
Get a BBQ for your campervan
Cooking and eating outside during the summer is the epitome of vanlife at its best, and having a decent BBQ setup is key.
I have and love this portable charcoal briefcase BBQ from Tower, as it folds away like a briefcase, super neat and small.
Cooking in a campervan on your gas ring, hob or oven can quickly become hot and stuffy, so take your culinary cookathon outside instead!
How to keep bugs out of a campervan
Install Mozzie nets for campervans
I use my campervan mosquito net all the time in the summer as it means I can have my sliding doors wide open for ventilation without having flies and bugs (and worse!) getting in.
The campervan mosquito nets I have on Sadie are bespoke and actually came with her, so I can’t help with links etc, but here's what they look like:
They attach to the curved sliding door frame with Velcro and close in the middle with strong magnets.
And finally, I have a new back door set-up too, so I can enjoy flinging open the rear end of the van and not worry about being ogled by passers-by when I'm enjoying a cup of tea in bed, or having critters fly in and die all over the place.
I bought some pre-made muslin curtains and sewed little hook attachments to the ruching at the top.
Then I fed an upcycled copper pole through the curtains and hooked them onto some super-strong magnetic hooks (sooo useful for ALL walks of vanlife!) that even stick to the van's carpeted parts, so no need for drilling.
Light citronella sticks/coils
Keeping bugs out of a campervan during the summer is a constant and if you haven't yet got the mosqito net set-up on your doors, then here's something you can do to tide you over:
Light citronella-infused incense sticks or coils and place them near the open doors to help stave off those wee biting beasties.
Just make sure you keep the doors/windows open for ventilation so you don't end up poisoning/smoking yourself out!
There are many options, try and go for natural non-toxic infusions if you can, for your health and that of the environment's.
How to keep cool in a campervan
Get a van fan
My campervan Sadie has a Fiamma model fitted over the kitchen which both extracts cooking smells and brings in cool air as a fan would.
(Also, top tip from a friend: if you hang a wet cloth in the air flow, it acts as a simple air conditioning unit!). Genius!
However, it's pretty loud and intense, and I wouldn't want to have it blasting away at night, so getting a small, quiet 12v campervan fan to place wherever you are in the van is another option.
I LOVE this USB rechargeable fan for campervans from Amazon, as it's small, powerful yet quiet, has several different settings and clips robustly onto a table or hard edge.
Ventilating a campervan in the summer
Ventilation is key all year round when living in a campervan, but in the summer months it's vital for keeping cool.
Starting in the cab, I have some Mercedes wind deflectors that cover the top of the driver and passenger windows so I can have them slightly cranked at all times to allow airflow, prevent rain from coming in and be subtle about having them open.
They work a treat all year round and I can't recommend them highly enough.
Then, in the living area, my side sliding door window also slides open, so I can still have some airflow even when the big sliding door is closed.
I also love my Dometic ceiling hatch over the bed, as it opens fully and has a mozzie net to slide across.
Park in the shade
Obviously this is a no-brainer summer vanlife tip to keep the van many many more degrees cooler than if you're parked in full sun.
Bear in mind your solar set-up will not be as effective.
Buy or make Window covers for campervans
I have two types of window covers for my van:
Firstly, for the cab I have some insulated, reversible reflective Reimo internal thermal window screens that bounce the sun right back out again, keeping it cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Then for the sliding door and back doors, I have some lightweight, bespoke blackout blinds that attach to the van with magnets.
These are perfect for blocking out those early morning rays, as well as keeping the van stealth in the dark.
White vans reflect the heat
Ok, so if you've already got a van that's not white, I know this isn't the most helpful summer vanlife tip, but if you're looking to buy a campervan then bear this in mind!
Do be aware that white bizarrely also attracts flies (something to do with white paint reflecting light more, so it's more attractive to flies and moths!), so make sure you have a good fly screen option, as above, if you want to keep the doors open.
the best bedding for campervans
Linen bedding is by far the best choice for keeping cool in the summer and warm in the winter when living in a campervan.
Linen's special weave allows the air to flow more freely around your body, keeping you cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
As it's also light on the skin, it wicks away moisture (aka sweat!), too.
I love my blush pink set above from H&M Sustainable.
So I hope this goes some way to keeping you cool, calm and collected while living on the road, if I've missed anything (I'm sure I have!) or you have extra advice, comment on the post on my Instagram @what_katie.did – I'd love to hear your tips and tricks, too!
If you'd like to work with me, drop me a line on my contacts page and I'll get back to you ASAP, or if you want to see more of my vanlife adventures, head to my Instagram, as above
© Images www.katehammaren.com
Author: Kate Hammaren, Freelance Writer & Editor
Get to know Kate here