Keep cool in the van


Hey guys,

I insulated my van, I travel in it for just over 4months (not full time) but now summer is here I struggle to keep the van cool…

what are the tricks? I try to park in the shade as much as possible but we do a lot of driving, when the back gets toasty.

would something like this work?

or some other product you can recomend ?

kind regards


Hi Dennis

I’ve got a Maxxair fan fitted.
It draws air out of the van too.


Hey John!

How does it plug in?

We are living in Mexico and are roasting making and looking for something similar.

Thanks Jordan


That appears to be an evaporation cooler, which will only really be effective in dry climates. There main keys to keeping cool is shade and air circulation. Roof vents are fairly key. On those hot days open all your windows, hell, open your doors, too.

I’d you don’t have reflectix panels for your windows (especially windshield) already, you’ll want to do that. It’s also nice to have a fan. We just use a battery powered 10 inch fan from Walmart (O2cool).

Lastly, think about where you park. Shade, obviously. But consider looking for campsites at higher elevations too. These will be cooler. Consider the general direction of the wind and point your windows so it’s blowing through your van. Also try to travel with the seasons when possible.

Finally, a damp rag, cold pack, or spray bottle can all be used on your body to cool you off. Especially the back of your neck, insides of your elbows and anywhere main arteries flow through your body.

Lastly, suck it up. When you live in a vehicle, it gets hot. It gets cold. It’s not a house.


Yea we find the hottest times are in the cities we are normally on the beach so get a nice breeze. Sometimes in Baja there isn’t any shade so it can be very difficult, worth looking into options before we head further south.

We are finding it difficult to find a battery operated fan in Baja but crossing over to mainland Mexico soon so fingers crossed.

I’ve started taking a freezing cold beer and putting it on my neck to sleep with :joy:


Bob Wells has started a series on his channel about keeping cool. Check it out!


Indirect swamp coolers work in any environment, and usually are more effective than compressor driven air conditioners.

Mine uses under 3 amps per hour at 12vdc, and can easily lower my indoor temps by 50°f+, regardless of the humidity.


can you give me an example of those indirect swamp coolers? :smiley:


I got a (cheap) roof vent , is it best to pich air out or pull air in?, I don’t have side windows or such …


I just moved into my van from a truck cap. Insulation is key in retaining the cool. I have a air gap with a vapor barrier along with 1/2 polyiso then my paneling. I will be installing to roof top vents. I had the maxxair 4500k in my truck cap. I will be using one of these and the new 7500k with built in rain cover in the van. I full time in my truck cap, and live in Florida with no AC and was able to manage through the summer. The vent fan runs at 700cfm with low amp draw, really makes a difference, with the ability to intake or exhaust air. With two of them running you can create a whirlwind of air flow!

Also I have installed a portable ac in the van, which will run on shore power or a 2k generator. I recently decided that the space it takes up in the van is too valuable, and installed a window unit. I hope to do a couple write ups on here. The 5k btu unit will run off of the smaller 1k generator.

Hope that helps! The evap/swamp coolers don’t work here in Florida due to the humidity so I can’t be of much help with that!



A direct swamp cooler draws in air, forces it through a water saturated pad, and exhausts it into the interior. These work best in low humidity areas, and work best if the intake is outside air, and there is an open window on the opposite end of your rig.

With an indirect swamp cooler both the intake and the exhaust go outside, but the process chills the water in the reservoir to make it very cold. That water in turn is pumped through a heat exchanger (like a car heater core), and a fan pushes the air through it. In this case, unless it’s getting too cold inside, you keep all the windows and vents shut, and the vehicle will just keep getting colder and colder. It’s like putting your cars air conditioning on recirculate or max. This method does not add any moisture to the indoor air, and works regardless of the humidity levels.




so indirect swamp cooler would be the best !,

can you suggest make/model ? :smiley:



I really can’t, because I built my own. I couldn’t find the directions I used, but I did find these:

Hopefully that will give you a clear enough picture of how they work, and if it doesn’t, give a shout and I’ll try to help.

I don’t know if any of these are available ready made or not. When it comes to swamp coolers, if they say they work best in low humidity or dry areas, they’re the wrong type.



Just got to the southeast and man the humidity is a whole different animal! The single maxxair I installed doesn’t cut it because it feeels like the moist air just pours in through my air intake windows and it can’t clear it out fast enough. The double fan idea sounds good but I’m really interested in an ac unit. Do you just plug your window unit directly into an outlet when on shore power?



Double roof vents don’t help with humidity, ventilation in general doesn’t really help with humidity. I’m a big fan of window vans, but even with all those great opening windows, they don’t really help with humidity.

Dry heat combined with ventilation can work in cold weather, in hot weather you either need an air conditioner, or an indirect type swamp cooler. An air conditioner requires either shore power or a generator, but a swamp cooler can easily be run off your house battery. Mine uses about 3 amps on high, maybe about 2 amps on low. It can drop the indoor humidity by about 50%, and drop the temperatures to where they’re comfortable. They do require refilling with water, but in my case water is a lot easier to come by than shore power for a regular air conditioner. I don’t like running my generator that much, or paying to stay in parks with power hookups.

To get a dehumidifier large enough to have a chance of working would surely require shore power as well, I would probably opt for a window air conditioner before a dehumidifier though, because the price is likely to be similar. You could mount a small window shaker in a front window once you’re parked. I built my swamp cooler to sit on the front passenger seat and vent out the front passenger window. That way nothing is hanging outside, and I can also use it while driving, since my van doesn’t have A/C.

If you do have factory A/C, you can try running it and parking in the shade to both cool and dehumidfy your van. It this case you would close up all ventilation to keep the humidity/moisture out. If you’re parked in the shade, the cooling effect of your A/C should last for a while. If I’m parked in the shade, I only need to run my swamp cooler about 15-20 minutes per hour to keep things comfortable.

You will likely have to build your own indirect swamp cooler if that’s the direction you choose. Overall, it will likely cost less than a cheap new air conditioner. You DO NOT want a direct type swamp cooler, because they don’t work well in high humidity areas. While they are still better than nothing, an indirect type will work much better.

In the meantime, get a dollar store trigger spray bottle, fill it with water, sit in front of a fan, and spritz yourself as needed. They also have cooling towels and wraps that you soak in water, and they’ll last for several hours between soakings. Sporting goods stores should have them. Construction workers and sometimes flaggers have cooling vests and other solutions to beat the heat as well. Google might even have more ideas. Beating the heat and the humidity is possible if moving to a more comfortable climate either isn’t convenient or possible.

Some people also hang out in shopping malls, libraries, or anywhere there’s A/C during the heat of the day, and only return to their rigs after it has started cooling off for the night. Coastal areas, and anywhere near water can also be cooler and breezier as well, but they can also be buggier if there isn’t a good breeze.

Hope these tips help…



I saw one like that at Walmart for 40 bucks. I’m not sure how it works but thought about getting one my self.



If it’s the right kind and 12v, that’s a steal of a deal.



Thanks so much for the detailed post! I’ll definitely look into the indirect swamp cooler option. Complicating it all for us is having a dog too, so options for hanging out in air conditioning is pretty limited. But we’ll be through the toughest part soon. We are heading to New England right now so hopefully it’s a little better there!



No problem, always glad to help when I can, and my philosophy is to try to be prapared for anything I might encounter, and you know sooner or later you’re going to get stuck in hot weather.