Keeping Cool in Severe Heat – Suggestions From Burning Man

How Tos & Tips

Face it, when it’s hot, the last place you want to be is in a metal box with poor ventilation. Extreme heat and RVs rarely go hand in hand.  The very best way to cool down in an RV is by driving somewhere cooler.  If you can’t do that, try to find shade from a tree.

If you can’t leave the heat, here are a few tips to help you stay cool!

The best tips, come from those with experience.  For tips on how to stay cool when the temperatures soar, we turn to the seasoned RVers, Nikki & Jason Wynn. After a trip to the notoriously hot Black Rock Desert for Burning Man, they published a helpful article with tips and tricks for staying cool in even the most inhospitable environment.

With temperatures climbing well over 100 degrees, and no shade source for miles, Burning Man was the perfect place for them to “think outside the box” and come up with some ways to keep cool while RVing in extreme heat.

Let’s take a peek at their tips, tricks, and suggestions:

1. Park Facing North

This is a great suggestion!  Adjust your rig accordingly.

If you park with your windshield facing north and put out your RV awning it will block the morning sun. This parking configuration also causes the RV to cast a shadow on your outdoor living area in the heat of the day, hopefully keeping things cooler during midday and early evening.

2. Put a Radiant Barrier in the Windows

Reflect the heat back outside!

There are several types of radiant barriers available for window use. The most common is Reflectix bubble insulation which you can buy in big rolls at most home improvement stores and cut to fit each window. The other option is or buy a resilient, lightweight, no-tear solid radiant barrier. While it is far more expensive, it also lasts a lot longer and can be used for many years.

The Wynns advise that you secure the foil to the outside of the windows with removable painters tape, and warn that putting it inside the windows won’t be as efficient, and also might also damage dual pane windows.

If you know you will be in the heat on a regular basis consider investing in permanent sun shades which snap directly to your rig.

3. Make Your Own Shade

Once your rig heats up it’s super hard to cool it down, especially without air conditioning.  If you can’t find a tree you will need to make your own shade.

The Wynn’s created their own shade using shade cloth on the side of their rig.  They recommend companies like, but you might also consider looking at traditional garden centers. Many garden companies sell shade cloth of various strengths to keep plants cool in high temperatures.  Their prices are often much lower than anything found in the RV section.

4. Cook Outside

Why add heat to your RV if you don’t have to?  A solar oven is a great way to harness sunlight and cook your meals.  There are a variety of great units available on or eBay.  If you don’t want to buy a unit, search YouTube for ideas on how to make your own.  Believe it or not, you can even use a pizza box to make a solar cooker!

5. Air Activity

Fans are a terrific way to circulate air.  If you’re overheating, simply spritz on your own with some water and fill in front of the breeze … you’ll promptly really feel cooler. A HEPA filter fan will assist in catching any type of junk in the air, and an ionizer will tear down the dirt to keep the air a little cleaner.  The Maxxair Fan Deluxe has an integrated thermostat that you can set to go on automatically depending on temperature levels. (The Wynn’s have had great luck with this unit over the years and highly recommend it).

6. Filters in the Windows

An RV becomes hot and stuffy fast. If possible, leave your windows open and turn on the fans to circulate air. This suggestion ONLY WORKS if you use a filter to catch any dirt prior to entering the RV. Most air conditioning filters will be helpful with this process, but the better the quality the better the results. If you purchase a roll of washable filters you may be able to cut the filter to fit your personal needs. Who knows, if you are careful you may be able to use it year after year.

7. Evaporative Coolers

Ever hear of a swamp cooler?  A swamp cooler, or evaporative cooler, uses water to create a cool breeze in your rig. Evaporative coolers are a super affordable option if you are staying somewhere that is hot and dry. They provide a cheap chill and are pretty easy to build.  A swamp cooler will lower the overall temperature in your RV by at least 10-30 degrees but remember it adds lots of humidity to the air. If you are staying in a hot, humid region avoid this type of cooling system. Check out the video below for an easy DIY swamp cooler.

8. Batteries and Solar

Solar power works wonders, but rarely provides enough juice for an air conditioner. Solar panels make energy from the sun and store them in your batteries, but remember that every device you use eats at your reserve. Always consider what you have plugged in and why you need it. If you don’t need something, unplug it and conserve.

Obviously, if you want to run your generator you can cool down with your air conditioning and sometimes that’s the best option.  However, if you want to enjoy the peace and quiet of simple boondocking, running your generator is a last-case option.

For more tips and tricks from the Wynns, take a look at the video below.

If you’ve been to Burning Man, Quartzite, or other wild outdoor camping celebration and have a few extra pointers, remarks, or ideas let us know in the comments below. Tell us what you think about these ideas. 

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For more, check out this article about Burning Man RV Rentals!