How to Deal with Extreme Heat in an RV 

By Sam Lemna | June 28, 2021

It’s not common for Alberta to hit temperatures consistently over 30 degrees Celsius, but it does happen. You might be more used to the heat if you camp in the B.C. interior or head to Arizona or Florida for the winter months. In any case, dealing with extreme heat can be a challenge in an RV—especially if you’re boondocking or don’t have access to a power source. This article will explain how to deal with extreme heat in an RV. 

The Risks of Extreme Heat while RVing 

The two main risks of extreme heat while RVing are heat exhaustion and heatstroke.  

Heat exhaustion is caused by excessive loss of water and salt and symptoms include dizziness, headache, nausea, muscle cramping, heavy sweating and diarrhoea. 

Heatstroke is caused by body heat overload and symptoms include a body temperature of more than 40 degrees Celsius, loss of consciousness and reduced mental ability. This is a medical emergency! If you suspect heatstroke, call 911 and move the individual to a cool place. Apply cold water to large areas of their skin and clothing.  

Extreme heat may also cause fainting, heat cramps, heat rash and heat edema (swelling).  

Stay Hydrated 

The first step to staying cool (and avoiding heat-related illnesses) is to stay hydrated. You want to aim for at least two litres a day.  

Water is the best option for hydration. Consider adding ice, mixing with juice or a flavour enhancer, or drinking sparkling water to mix it up. If you’re very active, you may want to add electrolytes or have a sports drink. 

Fruits and veggies are high in water content and can also help increase your daily water intake. Try incorporating the following foods as snacks or part of your meals: 

  • Watermelon 
  • Honeydew melon 
  • Cantaloupe 
  • Strawberries 
  • Peaches 
  • Oranges 
  • Cucumber 
  • Celery 
  • Bell peppers 
  • Lettuce 
  • Zucchini 
  • Tomatoes 

Choosing the Right Campsite for Your RV 

Getting a campsite can be tough sometimes— we understand. But if you’re able to choose your campsite, we recommend choosing one with as much shade as possible. This will help keep your RV and campsite cooler.  

Bonus points if you’re able to get a site near a lake! Not only will your campsite be cooler, it will also make it easy for you to cool off by swimming.  

Strategic Parking on Your Campsite 

If possible, try to park your RV so that your open windows can catch any cross breeze. You’ll also want to park your RV where it is most shady throughout the day. If there is only partial shade, try to park where it will be shady in the afternoon, when it is hottest. 

Set Up a Your Own Shade 

Depending on your campsite, you may be able to string up tarps to create your own shade. If your RV isn’t shaded by trees, we recommend putting up a tarp over top to help keep the worst of the sun’s heat off your RV.  

You can also use tarps, picnic tents and shelter tents to create shaded areas to relax in at your campsite. If you’re planning to go to the beach or the park, having a shelter tent or a big umbrella is a must-have to give you some shade!  

RV Windows and Vents 

Open windows and vents at night to circulate cooler air through your RV. You should close the windows during the day and keep the blinds closed. This helps keep the heat and UV rays out. You can leave the top vents open to let hot air escape.  

You can also get heat reflector covers for your windows, including windows on your doors. Depending on your blinds, these may be a better option for helping to keep the heat out.  

If you have skylights or window vents, you should also place a reflector cover or something similar on them. A tarp over your RV or parking in full shade can also work.  

If you’re using your AC unit, you should keep your windows and vents closed to keep in the cold air.  

Fans & Air Conditioning 

Fans can help circulate the air and keep you cooler. You can get battery-powered and plugin fans, whichever works best for your needs. We recommend choosing a lightweight, quiet, portable fan so you can use it where it’s needed. If you’re in close quarters or have kids or pets, consider choosing a fan with foam blades or a cage.  

Keep an eye on your power levels if you’re not hooked up to a steady power source if operating your air conditioner or plug-in fans. Make sure you regularly clean the filter of air conditioning vents to maximize the unit’s efficiency.  

There are portable air conditioners available if your RV doesn’t have built-in air conditioning. However, make sure you can power them and have somewhere to place them in your RV.  

Sleep Light in the Heat 

Sleeping when it’s hot can be tough. We recommend sleeping on sheets or even sleeping outside on a raised cot or in a hammock under a mosquito net.  

If you’re sleeping in your RV and don’t have air conditioning, open your windows and vents. If you have a fan, turn it on and direct the airflow where you’ll be sleeping.  

Keeping Food & Drinks Cold 

Reduce the number of times you open your fridge and coolers to minimize the loss of cold air. You may want to put drinks in a separate cooler as that will likely be opened more often.  

Investing in a good cooler is worth it if you camp in the heat. Use big ice packs or create your own with frozen water in milk jugs. You can also use ice—just make sure you replenish it as needed.  

Store coolers in the coolest, shadiest place possible such as under your RV.  

Always eat your most perishable foods first. If you don’t have a powered fridge, you may not be able to take too many perishables such as meats or will need to buy as you go.  

One clever idea is to take frozen meals in a cooler—they’ll stay cold for longer and they’re quick and easy to prepare.  

We don’t recommend cooking inside your RV or using your oven if you can avoid it. This will generate a lot of heat inside your RV! 

Stay Cool Through the Day 

Do your more strenuous activities early in the morning or later at night. You can also choose an air-conditioned adventure like a public library or museum for the hottest parts of the day. A water park or lake are more great choices for hot weather.  

Swimming is an awesome way to stay cool when it’s hot. If you don’t have a pool or lake nearby, you can always bring an inflatable pool or even have a water fight.  

Try to wear loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing that is breathable. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen, sunglasses and a wide-brimmed, breathable hat to protect yourself from UV rays.  

If you’re really hot, try one of the following: 

  • Misting yourself with a spray bottle. 
  • Using an ice pack, wet towel or wet bandana on your forehead, back of the neck or other area. 
  • Taking a cool shower.  

Try to stay out of the RV unless it’s air-conditioned or you’re able to keep it cool. Turn off electronics and keep the lights off, too. This will help save power and keep your RV cooler. 

Pets and the Heat 

Pets also suffer in the extreme heat!  

Make sure they always have access to cool water (you can add ice cubes) and shade to rest in. Reduce their activity during the hottest periods of the day.  

Taking your pet swimming is a good way to cool them off. Your dog may also enjoy a pupsicle, frozen dog treat or even an ice cube.  

If your dog struggles with heat, you may want to get them a haircut or a specially designed cooling clothing or mat.  

You can also apply ice packs or wet towels to their head, neck or chest or hose them down with cool water.  

Your pet may require paw protection as hot ground or pavement can burn their pads.  

Keep an eye out for heatstroke. Symptoms include excessive thirst, lethargy, heavy panting and/or salivation, glazed eyes, lack of coordination, dizziness, rapid heart rate, fever, vomiting, seizure, and unconsciousness. You should take your pet to a veterinarian immediately and attempt to cool them off.