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Vans can become unbearably hot during the summer, and it can be challenging to cool your vehicle down if you don’t have air conditioning or another cooling method. How can you cool your van without AC, and are there ways to not have to rely on electricity?
Here’s how to cool down your van without AC:
- Use cooling products.
- Install window sun shields.
- Buy a portable air conditioner.
- Turbocharge your fan.
- Open at least two windows.
- Drive and park strategically.
While air conditioning is the first prize for cooling down a van, the above methods can work effectively and make a massive difference in keeping you cool:
1. Use Cooling Products
Although cooling products don’t lower your van’s temperature, they help make your body feel cooler, which is the main aim.
There are many cooling products that you can use in your van to help you feel cooler:
- Ergodyne Cooling Bandana (available on Amazon.com): These bandanas are designed to keep athletes cool in the heat but can also work to cool you down in your van. Most cooling bandanas contain a phase-changing gel that absorbs your body heat and then gradually releases cool water.
- Ailawuu Cooling Towel (available on Amazon.com): An inexpensive cooling option is a cooling towel that helps lower your body temperature through evaporation when wet.
- Frozen water bottles or ice packs: Ice packs and frozen water bottles are very effective cooling methods, and you can place them strategically behind your back, on your lap, and close to your legs to feel cooler. When the water in your bottle has melted, it serves another purpose of providing you with hydration.
- Mister with frozen or cold water: Misters can be cheaply bought from most dollar or big box stores. When filled with ice-cold or frozen water, they’re effective in cooling you down.
- Keep hydrated with cold beverages: A well-hydrated body is more able to regulate temperature, and cold drinks create the sensation of coolness.
- Wear lightweight and breathable clothing: The looser and more lightweight the clothing you wear, the cooler you’ll feel. Loose, lightweight cotton is perfect for helping to keep the heat away.
- One Tech Cooling Car Seat Cushion (available on Amazon.com): Various types of cooling car seat covers can help keep your body feeling cool. Some contain cooling gel, others have built-in fans, while some are made from wooden beads to promote air circulation around your back.
2. Install Window Sun Shields
One of the main factors affecting the temperature in a van is the amount of sunlight entering. If you can limit the amount of sunlight in your van, it can help keep the temperature lower.
- Premium sunshade material expands from 14" X 20" To 20" X 29" For a great fit on side and rear car windows
- Strong suction cup attachment provides superior grip
- Use snaps along the perimeter to tailor-fit shade to window shape
- Helps block harmful UV-A/UV-B rays for babies, kids, or adults
- Great for large windows on SUVs, trucks, and minivans!
The Munchkin Sun Shade (available on Amazon.com) blocks sunlight from your car window and is available at cost-effective prices at most big box or automobile stores. It’s best to install them on the back, side windows as this don’t obscure your vision when driving.
You might also want to invest in a windshield shade for when your van is parked. Most windshield shades are made from reflective materials that direct sunlight away from the surface, and they can help keep your van cool.
When you’re driving, draping a towel or rag over the dashboard can also help. Dark-colored dashboards absorb the sun’s heat and then radiate the heat back into the vehicle, and a towel can prevent this.
More info: Discover how to make your own insulated window covers here.
3. Buy a Portable Air Conditioner
Built-in air conditioning is the best way to keep your van cool, but a portable air conditioner can help a lot, too.
- 240w low power
- Run it with battery
- Really air-conditioned, no water or ice required, Built-in 24V adaptive frequency micro compressor
- Take and go, weighs only 16.5lb
If you don’t have the funds to install AC in your van, a smaller setup like the Zero Breeze Mark 2 could be the solution.
Portable air conditioning devices have either rechargeable batteries or run on your van’s 12 Volt electrical system. They’re straightforward to use, and most models simply need to be filled with cold water to work.
4. Turbocharge Your Fan
Your van’s fan is limited in how it can cool the vehicle down. However, if you turbocharge your fan to work more effectively, this can make a huge difference.
You can do this in a few ways:
- Using a wet or frozen rag against the fan. Attach a frozen or wet rag to your van’s air vents with clothes pegs. This will cool the air exiting the air vents.
Cool Down Your Car Interior in Seconds: Blow hot air out of your parked car in seconds with the 12V DC electric car fan. Ideal for hot summer days (and hot climates) our 2-speed fans will help cool your car interior and keep you, your passengers, your pets, or kids comfortable
- Adding an electric dashboard fan. Electric dashboard fans such as the FiveJoy Car Fan (available on Amazon.com) work off your van’s 12 V system and can enhance the cooling effect of your van’s fan.
- Placing a tray of ice below the air vents. As the air from your van’s vents sweeps over the pan of ice, it cools the air down and helps lower the van’s temperature.
5. Open at Least Two Windows
Air circulation is vital to prevent your van from feeling stuffy, and it also lowers the temperature.
Be sure to open at least two windows for optimal air circulation. Having only one window open isn’t enough, and you may also experience an unpleasant “thumping” sound when you drive at a certain speed.
As you drive, the open windows will draw in fast-circulating air, which can cool your van’s interior quite substantially.
6. Drive and Park Strategically
Sometimes, you have no choice but to drive during the heat of the day. However, if you can choose when to drive, opt to drive at night or when temperatures are cooler as you won’t have direct sunlight streaming into your van.
Alternatively, try and plan your route so that you drive along tree-lined streets and in wooded areas.
Driving when there is a lot of traffic means that your speed will be slower, and there’ll be less air circulating through your van’s open windows. Try and avoid peak traffic driving, if you can.
When parking your van, choose a shady or sheltered spot so that the vehicle is cooler when you return. If it’s not a security risk, consider opening one or two van windows by 1” (2.54 cm) so that the outside air can circulate in the van and keep it cooler.
Using a windshield screen can also help keep the van’s interior cooler when it’s parked.
Cooling down your van is possible without air conditioning, and there are many ways to do this. Using cooling products, such as ice packs or cooling bandanas, and turbocharging your van’s fan can make a huge difference. Other ways to keep your van cool include opening at least two windows, installing window sun shields, and strategically driving and parking.
Here are some of my favorite van life essentials:
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful as you’re experiencing your life on the road. Here are some tools and gadgets I use on a daily basis that made my van life a lot easier. I hope you’ll also find them as useful as me. These are affiliate links, so if you do decide to purchase any of them, I’ll earn a commission.
But in all honesty, these are the exact tools that I use and recommend to everyone, even my closest friends and family.
Kitchen: I’m cooking a lot and I’ve finally found my perfect cookware set: The Magma Cookware 10 Pcs that you can nests and store in less than 1/2 cubic foot of cabinet space is really handy. Since I’m also spending a lot of time working at my desk, I use my favorite coffee mug from Yeti. For more, check my list of kitchen accessories I can’t live without.
Outdoor: Even though I’m spending a lot of time in my van working, I do enjoy getting out and explore my ever-changing neighborhood. This sometimes requires me to take my portable solar battery with me. And when I just want to chill outside and take a nap, I use the Winner Outfitters Hammock.
Clean/Tidy: Space is precious and therefore I used these heavy-duty storage bins from Homs to store my material. They’re robust and you can stack them together. Regarding showering, I like to use this portable solar shower from Advanced Elements when it’s hot outside.
To see all of my most up-to-date recommendations about van life, check out this resource that I made for you!