The weather is getting warmer and it’s time to start planning your epic summer van life adventure! You might be ready for the temperature to rise, but is your van prepared to accommodate you in the summer heat? Fear not, we’re here with a solid checklist and good tips to make sure you have all the equipment you need to stay cool despite the heat, plus some extra things that will take your summer adventure to the next level!
Your van has air conditioning, but you can’t to keep your van running all day and night. The best way to keep your cool on hot summer nights is a roof top AC. We have some great options such as the Dometic Penguin II and Nomadic 12v. These guys are easy to use. Rooftop AC units function separately from your car battery. Dometic Penguins run off of 110v. These are the lowest cost option and will operate through shore power when at an RV Park or via generator/ shore power when off grid. Nomadic Cooling 12v AC Units are a goof fit for you if you want to run off your house battery system. Typically we recommend 600-800ah to supply a meaningful run time coupled with a secondary alternator to allow for fast recharge. 12v ACs are also able to run off of shore power as well.
Maxxair fans are a great option. Their goal is to keep air circulating throughout the van so there is no stagnant air. With the lid open it will also remove any musty air and odor while keeping you cool. With the lid closed, these are pretty much just like a ceiling fan in your house, will provide a bit of a cool down but are more focused on keeping air moving about the cabin. These guys are electric and, like the AC, connect directly to your van power system. Install one with your AC for maxx comfort or install two if you plan on traveling mainly to areas where it stays cool at night.
Pro tip from us. Two are better than one! One fan intake and the other on exhaust will allow for active air flow in your van so you can really feel the breeze! If you’re rollin’ on a budget, ditch the AC and install two maxxair fans! You might be a little warmer than you would be with a roof top AC but, follow the cooler temperatures, go west and north during the summer where the days are warm but the nights are comfortable. Enjoy the national parks, the scenic routes, and the fact you saved some money!
Fridges and Electric Coolers
These are a good idea regardless of the temperature outside, but are extra important in the summer. Ice melts fast and when you’re out enjoying the wilderness, there’s no need to waste time trying to find somewhere to stop and buy more. Keep your water, drinks, food, and anything else you need chilled to cool you off in the heat. We recommend these for any build level: full build, weekender, or road trip vans will benefit from the ability to keep your drinks and snacks cold without the need to lug a traditional cooler with you on your trip. The dometic CFX 3 series offers multiple sizes ranging from 35 – 100 so you can choose the best fit for your needs. Dometic also offers the Coolmatic CD 30 pull out drawer fridge. Use one or more and stack them for optimal storage space and utility.
The best parts of summer: warm weather, sunny days, and beautiful sunsets. To enjoy all these things a little more, it would be nice to have some shade so you aren’t baking while you sit in the great outdoors. Fiamma and Dometic make great options in 10, 12, and 13 foot options so you have shade for whatever wheelbase van you’re working with. Mount to your roof rack, or if you don’t want a rack, fiamma makes rail mount awnings to mount directly to your van. However, in our opinion, these are best mounted on the FVG adjustable roof rack, and we’re totally unbiased.
Make the most out of your summer VANcation by investing in some cool products that will maximize your time in the great outdoors
The Outdoor Living Space
If you’ve chosen to spend your summer traveling, camping, and living the van life, odds are you will want to spend the max amount of time possible in the great outdoors. Having the best outdoor seating and furniture that is compact and easy to store will upgrade your experience. Helinox is our go to for all things furniture. A couple Savannah Chairs and Hard Top Table are great options for a makeshift outdoor sitting and eating space! No need to be cramped in the van when you have your awning ready to go and some comfortable chairs to relax in.
There are a variety of methods that allow you to have a kitchen set up in your van. Having a range sink combo or other galley option in the van is a great feature, but summer months are known for cooking out! Our recommendation is the Skottle. These are the most compact and user friendly outdoor cooking sets you can find, and you can cook just about anything you want on it! It is basically a cast iron skillet pan on legs! Adjustable legs are separate from the skillet itself, so storage is compact and simple but set up is easy.
When you’re out exploring new places across the country, sometimes it can be difficult to find those secret spots for off roading, camping, and hiking. The good news is Garmin has you covered with the Garmin Overlander! This device is pretty epic. It comes loaded with iOverlander and Ultimate Public Campgrounds to make it easy to find the best spots in whatever area you want to set up camp. It also includes maps that display land boundaries, forest roads, 4×4 trails, waterways, and hiking trails; pretty much everything you would be hoping to find on your adventure! The coolest feature is that even after you find these spots, you can use the overlander to mark and track the locations you find so you can go back and visit them on future trips!