Cartwright Chronicles, Features, Spotlight

How to stay cool in your caravan or motorhome: Busting the myths

A campervan with its back open

Dan Cartwright has over 12 years of experience in the caravan and motorhome industry. He is a judge for a number of prestigious leisure vehicle awards and regularly heads off in his motorhome with his family. Every week, Dan shares his insights with the community. Here’s what he has to say this week.

We are finally at the stage of summer where the weather is delivering what’s expected of the time of year. It has come much later than usual and it’s not consistent, but as we head into the summer holidays, it’s worth asking how to stay cool in your caravan or motorhome.

There’s a lot of myths to dispel on the subject and other things to try. My advice comes from years of experience, so I’m not steering you away from techniques I haven’t tried myself. If your solution is climate-controlled air conditioning, you can stop reading now.

Air con is always going to be the best option, but most people who don’t already have it are unlikely to be investing in it now. So, if this is you, what should you do and not do to keep your leisure vehicle cool when the sun finally shines more regularly?

Pitch up in a shaded area

One of the most effective things you can do to prevent the heat from building up in your caravan or motorhome is to choose your pitch carefully. Park up in a shaded spot as opposed to one where the sun will beat down on your leisure vehicle all day.

As the sun moves over the sky, the shade will shift. So, think about when you’re most likely to be spending time in your caravan. If you’re an early riser who returns mid-afternoon to spend time in the campsite, then make sure you’ve got the shade at this time of day.

For those who enjoy a leisurely morning on site, before being out all afternoon and evening, then pick a spot with morning shade. This one factor, when combined with looking at the amount of airflow at different positions within the campsite, will have the most impact.

Be sure to choose your shade carefully.

Don’t introduce a wet element

Putting bowls of ice in front of fans is one of the most commonly touted myths about cooling down a caravan or motorhome, but it’s a terrible idea. There’s such a huge temperature differential between the inside and outside, you can cause a lot of moisture, which gets into your soft furnishings and onto your surfaces.

While the first time you do it, it may feel like there’s cool air blowing at you, the next day the moisture in the furnishings will start to evaporate. Then you end up with a hot and humid caravan or motorhome. It’ll also be harder to dry out when you put it into storage at the end of the season, often resulting in a damp smell when you come to use it next spring.

So, avoid any form of wet cooling options.

Awnings don’t shade the side of your leisure vehicle

Using awnings on the side of your caravan with the aim of keeping it cool is the worst thing you can do. I’ve seen it offered as advice often, but having tried it in practice and due to a basic understanding of science, I know it doesn’t work.

The theory behind it is that the awning on the side of your caravan will be hit by the sun instead of the rays reaching your leisure vehicle. In reality, your white caravan or motorhome will reflect light and heat, absorbing less than the blue or green-coloured awning.

These dark-hued awnings will heat up very quickly, creating a microclimate of even hotter air on the outside of your caravan, while at the same time removing the air flow. These are two things that would make your leisure vehicle stay as cool as possible.

If you do need an awning, for storage purposes for example, then open it up on hot days. Roll up all the doors and walls to promote the movement of air around both the awning and the caravan. You’re also likely to pitch up on grass, so the transpiration from the plants can make awnings humid if you don’t let fresh air in.

Get air to flow through your awning or remove it.

Move air around your caravan or motorhome

Make sure the air temperature in your caravan or motorhome is always the same as or lower than outside. It must be able to freely move between the interior and exterior to stop things like excess condensation, which will affect you the next day. Ideally, have your windows open and a fan going.

You may also want to consider moving the fan to the kitchen area when you’re cooking to help disperse the latent heat from the oven or cooker.


Photo credit: Unsplash/Raphaël LR