How to deal with the heat when overlanding?

Coen and Karin-Marijke asked that question on their site and we decided to participate in their Overland Expertise Pool. If you follow the link, you can read how other overlanders deal with the heat.

We travel in a converted camper van, a Mitsubishi L300 4WD. Without air-conditioning, I’m still trying to convince Kilian to get it installed, no luck so far. From 2014-2019 we made several (long) trips in the van across Europe and Morocco. At the moment of writing we are in Georgia (the country) and it is almost 40°C in the shade, so an excellent time to write this article. We have an added worry when travelling in hot weather because of, Binkie. Just like dogs, cats can’t sweat. But contrary to dogs, most cats don’t like to go for a swim or have a shower to cool down. Binkie is no exception so it’s all about preventing heat exhaustion.

The van has a standard ventilation system for circulating (outside) air while driving, but this is not enough. We can’t roll down the windows completely because of Binkie, so Kilian has made metal screens that fit in the back window frames. They let in a lot of air and really help with the temperature while driving. Especially in the back, where Binkie usually lies on the bed. We also have a cooling mat for Binkie to lie on and a gel cooling vest for him to wear. If we keep on driving, the combination of the metal screens, mat and vest are enough. If we stop for lunch or shopping, we make sure it is in the shade. We have learned to avoid cities when it is warm because of the traffic jams: roads usually don’t offer any shade.

When we find a place to camp, (we camp wild), it has to be in the shade. Of course our van provides shade, but if the ground has been in the sun all day it is still too hot for Binkie to lie on and he will become overheated (keep in mind that grass is coolest and sand cools down quicker than solid rocks). Sometimes finding shades takes a lot of extra time, but so be it. While camping in the heat, we just take it really easy and stay up late until the temperature in the van has gone down. We sleep in the van and the pop-top helps a bit with the temperature as well. For ourselves we prefer a place that has some water and if there isn’t any, we can always have an extra shower. I will never forget the bliss we felt when we were in Marrakesh (without Binkie back then). We were “camping” on a concrete parking behind Koutoubia Mosque. It was 45°C and no shade, only stone and asphalt around us. We’d put up the shower tent and sat in it, enjoying the cool water and the now cool ground as well. It was one of the best moments while visiting Marrakesh 🙂

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