Updated: Jul 23, 2019
Keeping cool when the heat is intense and living in a van - we share how we do!
So, firstly our van has no air conditioning, we are not huge fans of this and would not have it on over night anyway - what we do have is totally great insulation - keeping the van warm in the winter and cool in the summer.... this makes a HUGE difference to the van living experience, without this insulation we would simply freeze in the winter and be in a sweat box in any form of warmer weather.
The hottest temperatures we have reached so far (whilst living in the van) has been 45 °C outside in the shade... this was pretty intense and even the air outside whilst travelling, was warm!
In the heat we run three Caframo Bora 12v fans pretty much 24/7, one facing the kids whilst travelling, we can reposition this when stationary if we want, then one in our sleeping area and one in the kids sleeping area. We really find these awesome little fans. They are 3 speed marine and ours are still going strong, after working almost flat out for a very long, very hot summer. They also tilt up and down plus side to side which makes them spot on versatile for van living.
During the seriously hot heat wave last year, we did purchase two cheaper fans, one after the other broke - they didn't last at all - we ran these in addition to our Caframos, which are still ploughing on..... its like that saying, you get what you pay for! 100% check these fans out here.
The shade is our friend - whenever we can, we grab the shady spot, anywhere we can at all! This is so important, after being in the sun for a bit, we are so pleased to chill out in the shade of a beautiful tree and our van is noticeably cooler parked up out of the suns rays. Even if we can only get part of the van in the shade, a bit of shade and the skylights open to let the heat escape, its 100% worth it! Milo and Cooper are huge fans of getting themselves under the van and crashing out - they know where its coolest!
For the pets we have three Chilli Paws cool mats about the van - Milo, Topsy and Cooper all love these and they really make a difference.... we know as we have tried them, many times! We had to be a little careful with Cooper - they have so far totally sustained his craziness, so for us they are 100% a winner! You can get Chilli Paws cooling mats for you and your pets here..... large mats or small mats - we grab ours from B&M stores.
We also have cooling towels for the dogs - these are another brilliant item to have onboard for those hot climes, especially when Cooper was a tiny pup. Even keeping an eye on Cooper he did eventually see the back of our cooling towels, so this spring we are set to buy more, they are pretty cheap though so no drama. Take a look at them here!
Water - may seem obvious, we had to add it in as it is seriously the MOST important thing going! If we are getting low on water in our tank and we haven't found any fill up spots, we are going to spend the whole day tracking that stuff down.
Drinking heaps of water is a must for the whole family - we always have our reusable Sistema water bottles topped up - we love these bottles as they are so easy to clean!
Fresh water down for Milo, Topsy and Cooper at ALL times - when we are on the move we empty their water, nearly all, leaving just a bit so it doesn't spill. Whenever we stop, even for 5mins that water bowl is filled with fresh cool water and we ensure all three pets get an opportunity.
We often have a bottle of water in the freezer for heading out with - chuck it in a backpack or take it with us down to the beach, this lasts a good few hours, even in real hot weather and we have refreshing cold water on the go, for us and the pets.
Heading out anywhere we take our Mountain Paws water bowl - this is an awesome waterproof fabric bowl, its so handy, we clip it onto leads, bags, belt loops.... its so lightweight we don't know its there and we can always offer Milo, Topsy and Cooper a drink, anywhere. You will find these available here or grab one at a Go Outdoors store as we did or on their website here! We have forgotten to take this out before, we had the kids sunhats so all was good!
Leaving pets in the van..... if we have somewhere to head without the pets, we go early morning, the coolest time of day and get back before it heats up. If its too hot to leave them in the van, they either come with us or we don't go..... if we wouldnt be happy shut in the van, there is no way we want to inflict that on Milo, Topsy or Cooper. We are not huge city goers, so most places we head, all the gang can come!
The same goes for taking the dogs for a walk, something Cooper particularly needs being young - he has HEAPS of energy and needs to see the world... we take them early in the morning when the ground and air is cool, before it heats up.
During the day we all know that feeling of seriously hot sand and literally hot footing it down to the water.... well its the same for our pawed family members, we can often be seen carrying them down the the wet sand for a dip.
Milo and Cooper are both water lovers, straight in there for a swim... they fit right in - we all love a dip on a long drive, you've gotta stop when you see that beautiful swimming spot! This is another perhaps obvious one, getting in the turquoise sea, crystal clear lake or a pool to lower that body temperature (its a tough job, but we are happy to take one for the team) - if we fail to find that perfect spot, there are often beach showers on the coast or we drag our shower head out of the van window and run that cold water, a good drench in a cold shower alfresco in the heat, doesn't get much better than that!......... all of these really are a massive help and can make a serious difference.
There is one of us that isn't a fan of a refreshing dip..... yep, Topsy - thankfully she is the one that naturally copes the best with the heat, she has never been seen panting or seems uncomfortable at all. She knows the cooler spots in the van, has ad lib fresh water and like the dogs, she knows she can grab some shade under the van, in-between sunbathing of course. For heaps more info on travelling with a cat, this article is packed out with info and tips!
In the van we have swapped out all our lights for LED's - its crazy how much heat lights can put out, when its hot we don't want any additional heat at all. Totally worth doing we say - plus this helps out solar set up, especially in the winter, drawing less electricity to power, winner!
When it comes to grub, we try to cook outside as much as possible to keep the heat down in the van - which is perfect for beautiful weather.... sunshine, blue skies and fresh air, sorted. This really does help the temperature compared to the heat put out by cooking up dinner inside the van.... that heat is gonna stay right through until we bed down. We also eat heaps of fresh stuff, refreshing salads and if we can get them, smoothies often go down with the family pretty well. Small Camping Gas canisters are easy enough to get our hands on throughout Europe - this simple little stove is perfect for storing in small spaces and so convenient to just grab it out, light it straight up and get cooking.... take a look here.
On some hot nights the kids go to bed with a bottle full of chilled water to hug. Depending where we are we can have a window open, this isn't always possible and this is also down to wind - if its hot it can also be windy, seriously windy, especially on the coast or on islands.
If the heat just gets too intense we can always head for the mountains, where its usually cooler or to a harbour in search of a sea breeze and watch the twinkling town lights of an evening from afar - that's the bonus of having our home on wheels - we love the heat of summer and unspoiled coastlines, so mostly head up to the mountains for the beautiful surroundings and fresh air, its pretty special. Travelling in a van we find we have time to adapt to the temperature changes, more so than hopping on and off a plane - get out there and give it a go!