When camping, you’re often at the mercy of the elements–sweltering summers and freezing temperatures can make an otherwise fun outdoor experience almost a nightmare. But does that have to be the case, or can you use a pop-up camper with AC and heating?
Most standard pop-up campers don’t come with AC and heating. You can remedy this by using a portable AC or heater instead. However, some pop-up camper models come with air-conditioning, so get one of those if you plan to go camping in summer.
If you have a pop-up camper that does not come with air-conditioning, here are some tips on keeping cool on a hot day and staying warm without a heating device.
How To Keep Cool in a Pop-Up Camper
If you’re camping in summer or in a particularly hot and humid location, you might be surprised at how challenging it is to keep cool, even if you use a pop-up camper with air-conditioning installed.
Most pop-up campers consist of soft material, making keeping the air cool quite challenging when in a sweltering place. Warm air easily gets through the fabric of the camper, making it challenging to maintain a cool temperature inside.
Air-conditioning will be a huge help, of course, in making internal temperature comfortable. But whether you have air-conditioning installed or not, these tips below will still come in handy.
Purchase an Air-Conditioner
If you don’t already have an air-conditioner installed, you can purchase a portable AC unit for your camper instead. Air-conditioning makes a ton of difference in comfort, especially if you’re camping somewhere warm and humid.
Air-conditioners not only make the air cooler but also reduce the moisture in the air, lessening humidity and making staying inside much more comfortable. Summer nights in tropical climates are notorious for being very humid, so if you want to ensure that everyone can sleep soundly, don’t forget the AC!
Also, there are two main types of air-conditioning units that you can use in pop-up campers: roof-mounted and portable. A portable AC unit is typically much cheaper than a roof-mounted one, plus you can use it right away because you won’t have to install it onto your roof.
A roof-mounted air-conditioner, however, doesn’t take up as much space, and since it’s fixed permanently on the roof, it’s more convenient to use in the long run. The biggest downside to this type of AC unit is that they are much more expensive, plus you’ll be spending more on installation.
Use a Portable Fan
You might think that if you already have an air-conditioner, you’ll no longer have any use for a fan. Well, if you’re camping for a night, maybe it won’t make much difference. But since you’ve invested in a pop-up camper (which can be pretty pricey), you intend to spend a lot of time in it.
And in such a case, adding a fan (or two) will make staying in your camper much more comfortable on hot and humid days.
The thing about using an air-conditioner is that the air becomes stagnant. There is also little air circulation inside the camper since you’ll close all openings to keep cool air trapped indoors. Ironically, the stagnant air cooled by an AC unit can sometimes feel warmer than it is.
You improve air circulation by using a giant fan or several smaller fans inside your camper, making it feel cooler inside.
Stay in the Shade
When planning your camping trip, don’t forget to check the location for trees. One of the easiest things to keep your camper cool throughout a hot day is to keep it in the shade.
Pick a spot in your campground where you can park your camper under a large tree. By doing so, you can enjoy a comfortable temperature inside the camper. Plus, you can have a picnic, cook, or play with your kids in the shade without sweating through your clothes.
Here, we emphasize setting up your camper under the shade of a tree and not just going to a spot that looks shady enough. Sunlight and the heat intensity will vary throughout the day, and a dark place in the morning can be sunny by noon.
Cover Your Camper With Sun Shade
Another thing you can do to keep cool when camping in summer is using stickable sun shade on your camper’s windows and canvas walls. Most campers consist of light materials that easily let outside warmth inside. Sticking sun shade or reflectors on the outside of your camper will keep this from happening.
You might want to open your windows when it’s especially hot. But doing so will only increase your camper’s internal temperature- keep those windows closed and plastered with sun shade at all times.
If you need some air circulation (such as when you don’t want to use your AC or if you don’t have a fan to use), you can open the roof cover instead. Assuming you’re in a shady spot, doing so will let cool air in and improve air circulation inside your camper.
The Rare Pop-Up Camper with both AC and Heat
If you are currently shopping for a brand new pop up camper unit and built in heat and AC are on your list. Take a look at the Forest River Rockwood line of campers. They all have the upgrade option to add both a furnace and low profile roof top A/C units.
How To Keep Warm in a Pop-Up Camper
On the flip side, if you’re camping in winter, you’ll want to adjust your camper, so you don’t freeze at night. Pop-up campers are not typically equipped with heating, even if they already have installed air-conditioning.
So you will have to make the changes yourself before setting out on your camping trip. Make sure you pack extra blankets for insulation and consider purchasing a portable heater. Here’s what you need to do to stay warm on your trip.
Insulate Your Camper
One of the things that you can do is insulate your camper. To do this, you can add a layer of thick blankets to the floor. Using sleeping bags instead of an inflatable mattress will make bedtime extra warm and comfortable.
You can also try to cover gaps in the camper wall, such as zippers near the flooring, with towels or blankets. Doing so will prevent any draft from coming in, so you don’t have to worry about the temperature dropping as you sleep.
Also, insulating your camper will retain the warmth much longer if you use a heater, making for more efficient energy consumption.
Use a Propane Heater
A heater is one of the non-negotiables when camping in winter. You can use an electric heater, but ensure you’ll have access to power or charging stations at camp beforehand.
But a safer and more effective option is to use a propane heater. A propane heater is much more convenient because you can use it anytime, anywhere, regardless of where you decide to camp. Also, it can heat a space quickly, so you don’t have to suffer through freezing temperatures.
Install Blackout Curtains
Blackout curtains are great for keeping your camper cool on a hot, sunny day. But they also work excellently to keep warmth in on winter nights. If you’re camping in winter, you’ll need all the insulation you can get, and installing blackout curtains can add an extra layer of protection from freezing temperatures.
One tip when buying blackout curtains is to get heavy-duty ones that can keep noise out so that aside from keeping you warm, you can have quiet in your camper too. This feature will come in handy if you have kids who get easily distracted by noise at bedtime.
Adding AC and Heat to a Pop-Up Camper
While not all pop-up campers come with air-conditioning and heating, you don’t have to suffer uncomfortable conditions on your camping trip. Applying these tips and tricks gives you a pleasant temperature inside any camper.
If you are feeling handy, here’s a great DIY video for adding portable AC to your pop-up camper:
Here’s another video showing how to add heat to your pop-up camper:
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(feature image: forestriverinc.com)
David Parnell is the founder and lead editor at Trail and Summit, who enjoys writing on a wide range of topics from travel trailers to trail running. He’s an accomplished mountain endurance athlete who has completed over 25 ultra marathon races (follow on Strava). He is most proud of his finish at The Drift 100 – a high elevation, 100 mile winter foot race that zigzags along the Continental Divide in Wyoming. In the future he hopes to compete in the ITI 350 and ultimately the full 1,000 mile Iditarod Trail Invitational that follows the same path as the historic dog sled race.