Skip to Content

5 Cheap Ways to Keep Your RV Cool This Summer

Are you looking for a cheap way to stay cool in your RV? Spending time inside a camper can be uncomfortable and even dangerous when the temperatures rise.

Unfortunately, getting comfortable while camping during warmer months can take a lot of work. But luckily, there are some inexpensive and effective ways to keep your RV cool.

Today, we’ll explore five affordable solutions that you can use to beat the heat during your travels. These tips will help whether you’re out for a weekend getaway or on a full-time adventure.

Let’s dive in!

RVing in Hot Climates

RVing can be an exciting way to travel and explore the country. But no matter how much money you spend on one, they typically lack insulation. Just like a car sitting in a parking lot on a hot summer day, heat from the sun can cause the internal temperature to climb quickly.

Warmer months in the southwest can frequently see temperatures exceeding 100+ degrees Fahrenheit. Visitors flock to see and experience the beauty and adventures the region provides.

Heat waves are also common in the rest of the country. Just about anywhere can experience extreme temperatures. If you’re unprepared, you could be in a dangerous situation.

Staying cool during extreme heat will require an air conditioner. Unfortunately, not every RV comes with one. And even if it does, things can break. Those who enjoy boondocking may have to book a campsite and plug into shore power to run their air conditioner constantly. 

RV road trip in summer
Nothing is more quintessential summer than an RV road trip.

Is AC Necessary in an RV?

An air conditioner in a camper isn’t essential, but it’s nice. They’re not cheap, but there are plenty of times you need to cool down your RV. If you’re camping in extreme temperatures, you may not have any choice but to use one.

Thankfully, RVs have wheels, and you can travel with the weather. Many RVers make it their goal to chase 70 degrees. Doing so allows them to forgo needing to run an air conditioner and instead embrace the freedom of boondocking. 

This typically means traveling to the northern states during the summer and the southern states during the winter. However, states like Arizona are great options for year-round camping, as you can climb thousands of feet in elevation during the summer to enjoy cooler temperatures.

Pro Tip: Keep cool while saving the planet. Find out Can You Run an RV Air Conditioner With Solar Power?

How to Make a DIY Swamp Cooler 

A swamp cooler is an effective way to stay cool in your RV, and they’re pretty cheap to make! You’ll need a large, insulated cooler big enough to hold several gallons of water, as well as a small fountain pump, a piece of PVC pipe, and some flexible tubing.

Start by drilling a small hole in the side of the cooler near the bottom. You’ll then insert the fountain pump into the hole and secure it. Next, use flexible tubing to connect the PVC pipe to the fountain pump. Place the PVC pipe inside the cooler and fill the cooler with water. Toss in some reusable ice packs to keep the water cold.

The final step is to place a small fan to blow air over the cooler. This will create a refreshing breeze that can help you beat the heat. These work great, especially in dry climates. Sadly, they don’t perform nearly as well in humid environments, and you’ll probably end up feeling wet and sticky if you try to use them in these conditions.

Woman fanning herself while hot
Stay cool in the summer sun by using some simple tips to keep your RV temperature low.

5 Cheap Ways to Keep Your RV Cool

Some of the best times to go camping and RVing are during warmer months when the weather is perfect for getting outside. But the temps inside your rig can skyrocket. Luckily, we’ve got some tips for staying cool in your RV for cheap.

#1 Park in the Shade

There can be a massive temperature difference between parking in the shade and direct sunlight. If you want to stand the best chance of staying cool in your rig, park in the shade. An RV parked in direct sunlight can struggle to reach a comfortable temperature, even with multiple air conditioners constantly running. 

Additionally, you’ll want to extend your awning to limit the sunlight shining into your camper. Those massive windows may allow you to enjoy epic views wherever you’re parked, but they let in tremendous heat. Keep them shaded as much as possible to keep the sun from cooking the air inside your camper.

#2 Cook Outside

You’ve likely heard the phrase, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” The process of preparing a meal can generate a tremendous amount of heat. While this may not be a big deal in a large home with a massive HVAC system, RV kitchens are tiny. Cooking dinner can increase the temperature inside your camper by several degrees and negate any cooling.

If you want to keep the temperature down inside your camper, cook your meals outside. This is where having a Blackstone or other portable grill can be helpful. By keeping the heat and smells outside, the inside of your camper can stay as comfortable as possible. This might just be the cheapest way to keep your RV cool.

RV driving in summer sun
You don’t need a fancy RV air conditioner to keep your camper cool.

#3 Utilize Reflective Insulation 

Reflective insulation is another effective and inexpensive way to keep your RV at a pleasant temperature. This material typically comes in rolls that you can easily cut to fit the size and shape of your windows. It’s a unique material that blocks and reflects sunlight away from your camper. 

This insulation works best when partnered with curtains or window blinds. Place your hand inside the closed-off area to notice the difference. Just be careful not to touch any metal pieces, as they’ll likely be extremely hot.

#4 Create a Cross Breeze

Depending on the direction the wind is blowing and the position of your camper, a cross breeze can help keep you cool. Open all of the windows in your RV to create a draft and circulate the air as much as possible.

You can then place one fan in front of an open window so it’s sucking air into your camper from the shaded side. Next, you’ll place another fan blowing out the opposing window. If the conditions are right, this should move the warm air out of your living space and drop the temperature.

#5 Use LED Lights

One of the advantages of using LEDs is that they generate much less heat than traditional incandescent bulbs. These lights may cost a bit more, but they’re a small price to keep your living space cooler. Many RV manufacturers are installing LED lights throughout newer models, but that’s not always the case.

If you want to stand the best chance of staying cool in your camper, check the bulbs. If they’re not LEDs, now is a good time to switch. They’ll last longer, generate less heat, and help you stay comfortable.

Pro Tip: Check out these other 15 Ways to Keep Your RV Camper Cool.

Are these Cheap Methods Enough to Cool your RV?

RVing without air conditioning is usually worth it. Some travelers plan their adventures so they often don’t need to use their AC. However, you may not always have that flexibility. If that’s the case, ensuring you and your fellow campers are safe is important.

You can always test out some of our tricks for keeping your RV cool on the cheap, but if you’re experiencing excessive temperatures, finding an alternative option or rescheduling your trip may be best. We would never recommend you put yourself or others in danger.

Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA

To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).

You should give it a try!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers who love to score the best site! 

We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below: