113 Degrees in an Airstream – Keeping Cool

113 Degrees in an Airstream – Keeping Cool

The past 3 days the outside temperature has been above 110º F. It’s officially summer in Southern AZ and everyone is now counting down the days until the monsoon storms help bring the temperatures back down. Our number one priority is keeping cool. We’ve both lived here in Tucson for over 7 years, so we know what a Tucson summer entails. It is never fun. You spend A LOT of time inside. This summer we have the added fun of living inside a 30ft Airstream. We understood that these few months were going to be rough when we decided to move up our plans and move into our Airstream back in April. If we can live happily in this tiny space without being able to go outside much for a couple of months we should have no issues once we start traveling, that’s for sure!

I posted on Instagram this weekend about our indoor activities given the weather and had a commenter mention moving their home away from the heat. We wish we could! I still work full-time in an office here in Tucson and will until February. Steve works from home, so I am the only thing holding us here. Me quitting early is not something we’re willing to entertain. We thought about having Steve and the girls move somewhere cooler and me finding a place to stay and work but decided we’d rather suffer together as a family then split up (aww thanks guys). So we deal with the heat. I’ve had a couple of questions regarding our methods. So here  are some of our tricks to keeping cool so far.

How we’re keeping cool in our airstream (when its 113º)

  1. Paying to be cool. We knew the summer was going to be rough. That was a HUGE part in our decision to stay at the KOA in Tucson. The KOA is pretty much an RV resort with pools, laundry facilities, fruit trees, a restaurant etc. We chose it for a number of reasons.
    1. Full hookups. We knew our AC was going to be important and most likely running nonstop during these months so we wanted someplace where that wasn’t going to be a problem.
    2. Shade. The Tucson Lazydays KOA has two large solar panel structures that provide power to the facility and also a number of shaded pull-thru spots. They are, of course, more expensive during the summer but it means we can touch the airstream without burning ourselves. It also means there are some shaded rocks for the dogs to use as their restroom during the hotter parts of the day AND the Airstream doesn’t get near as hot inside.
    3. Speaking of the dogs, the third reason we chose the KOA is that it is not one giant parking lot. Asphalt gets VERY VERY hot and people often burn their dogs paws by walking them on it. We wanted someplace with rocks and grass so the girls didn’t suffer while trying to go to the bathroom.
    4. The pools are a nice touch. We sat in those quite a bit this weekend to get our body temperatures down.
  2. Being smart about keeping cool. There are a lot of things we do to try and minimize the heat in the Airstream as best we can.20160607-DSC08517
    1. We keep the windows open during the cooler morning hours (if they are cooler) and then shut them up as soon as the temperature starts to climb.
    2. We close all our night shades and curtains to prevent some of the heat from entering through the windows.
    3. We use Reflectix on our sky lights and the windows on the sunny side of the Airstream  (our shade structure doesn’t produce shade until the afternoon so we still get morning sun) for even more heat prevention.
    4. We stay inside. Opening and closing the door increases the temperature inside the Airstream significantly so the more we stay in, the better the AC works.
    5. We run our AC pretty much non stop to keep the Airstream around 85° during the day and 78° at night. On these really hot days the AC can’t keep up when we have the sun shining on us. The Airstream gets up into the low 90s briefly. If it got much higher than that we’d take the dogs someplace with better AC and leave until the Airstream cools down but so far we haven’t had to do this. If we all don’t move around and do much the temperature is comfortable. Lots of sleeping for girls, and reading for me and Steve.
    6. We keep a fan running to get even more air flow. Extra air motion can’t hurt especially when the AC is struggling.20160607-DSC08507
    7. We wear weather appropriate clothing. Even socks are a bit much on really hot days.
    8. We plan our meals. We do the least amount of cooking on the hottest days and we DON’T cook inside the Airstream. Cooler dinners are welcome in this kind of heat and if we do need to cook, almost anything can work on the grill. We love our cast iron pans for this.
  3. We’re being realistic and careful. We know this heat is extremely dangerous for us and our dogs. So we don’t let ourselves overdo it and make sure the dogs are drinking enough water, eating normally, and not panting too much. If we ever thought the heat was putting any of us in danger we would find someplace else to stay. We are also careful because power outages are common when it’s this hot. Everyone is using their ACs so sometimes the power grid gets overloaded. Things would go from fine to DANGEROUS very quickly if this where to happen to us. The Airstream is pretty much a vehicle and it heats up pretty quickly in the sun. For this reason we do not leave the dogs in the Airstream alone for long, especially during the hottest parts of the day. We want to get some kind of thermometer which we can access online for the future so we don’t have to worry as much.

In a way I’m actually grateful for the heat. It’s broken up our routine a bit. Steve and I went swimming together before dinner, ate ice cream for dinner (our promise to each other to celebrate the first 110° day), and our whole family lounged on the couch together for hours during the hottest part of the day. The heat is bringing us together. The family that sweats together….. 😉

Anyone out there have any ideas for us on how to beat this heat? I’d love to know!

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  • FinanceSuperhero on June 7, 2016

    Wow! I cannot imagine that kind of heat. I realize you aren’t typically suffering in high humidity, but that is still extreme.

    The warmest weather I ever experienced was in Beijing in June. The humidity was awful, and temperatures hovered around 105 degrees during the day and the upper-80s at night.

    One technique that worked well to beat the heat in those moments was to keep a moist wash cloth inside my baseball cap. You might try it and see if it helps.

    • Courtney on June 7, 2016

      Yes it is thankfully a dry heat. But when it gets to 100 it feels like you are in an oven and any breeze feels like a hair dryer.
      Beijing sounds much worse though! Humidity + Heat is awful! I did one summer in DC and that was enough for me 😉

      I’ll mention the washcloth to Steve. I had heard about putting a wet washcloth on the back of the neck but under a hat makes even more sense…though it would mess up my hair. In this heat I don’t care though. Thanks for the suggestion FinanceSuperhero!

  • Matt @ The Resume Gap on June 7, 2016

    Meanwhile, at the Tucson KOA: https://goo.gl/9Qt8Xd Having full hookups this time of year makes a ton of sense!

    We planned most of our March-June road tripping around the weather: the CA desert in early spring, Utah in May, and back up here in the Pacific Northwest for a bit in June. It’s worked out great! The only times we’ve been hot in the van were in Furnace Creek at Death Valley (the name says it all) and the night we left Tucson. We ended up driving until after 1 AM waiting for it to cool down enough to sleep!

    • Courtney on June 7, 2016

      Haha! Yeah you were here right when it got toasty. I’m surprised it even got cool enough by 1am 😉 If it makes you feel better the next two days were even worse. The shaded spots at the KOA filled up quick.

      Glad you guys are back up somewhere cool!

  • Ty @ Get Rich Quickish on June 7, 2016

    Not sure how you cook, but I’d avoid anything with a flame 🙂 Use microwaves and slow cookers.

    I’m also going to stop complaining about our unusually hot Seattle weather this week. Suddenly 85 doesn’t sound so bad.

    • Courtney on June 7, 2016

      Good suggestion Ty! We are mostly using our microwave or grilling outside (hot for the person doing it but keeps the Airstream cool). Maybe I’ll pull out the slow cooker later in the week and do that outside as well. Hadn’t thought about that!

      85 is pretty hot in Seattle given the lack of AC in most places. I only experienced a few days in the 90s when I lived there and I remember them feeling pretty brutal. It’s all relative I guess.

  • Mrs. PIE on June 7, 2016

    Ooh, I’d be melting! A trick from childhood was to run cold water over your wrists. Apparently as the veins are so close to the surface there it’s easy to cool the whole body. Probably urban myth but the placebo effect may be worth something!

    • Courtney on June 8, 2016

      Thanks Mrs. Pie! I’ve heard that one too. Also putting your feet in cold water. Cooling off the extremities in general seems to be a common heat buster. Unfortunately we’d have to ice down the water coming out of the faucet since it’s not exactly cold these days but even letting our hands dry naturally after washing them might help. I’ll give it a try 🙂

  • BAMFmoney on June 9, 2016

    I’m in Tucson too. Here are a few ideas: buy a few of those cooling towels for you guys and the pups (they actually work to chill you body), cook outside on the grill/portable grill, go to a pool, walk around the mall for free a/c (or go to a Lowes so you can bring the pups), go camping at a lake (Parker canyon), escape the heat and go to Mt. Lemon. Lastly, monsoon season is just around the corner.

    • Courtney on June 9, 2016

      Hi BAMFmoney. Yay another Tucsonian!! Thanks for the great tips! We are counting down the days to monsoon, believe me 🙂 We’ve done the Mt. Lemmon trips in the past but have never been to Parker Canyon. That sounds awesome! I’m totally looking into it. The Lowes idea is a great one too. Our dogs are pretty nervous/timid so they may not like it very much but we would be cool! Lastly I had never heard of cooling towels before. They look like a perfect option for us. I may end up buying some this weekend. Thanks again!

  • Julie@ChooseBetterLife on June 9, 2016

    Have you tried putting bowls of water in front of the fans? Since it’s so dry, you can make your own mini evap-coolers. Or putting a wet towel over the fan?

    • Courtney on June 9, 2016

      We have not! We have a humidifier running by one of our fans but a wet towel would work well too. Might try that this weekend! Thanks Julie!

  • Claudia @ Two Cup House on June 11, 2016

    Smoothies for the win! We try to adhere to a heat-free diet in the summer as our small house heats up quickly and we’re trying to cut our electric bill. 🙂

    • Courtney on June 12, 2016

      Yay smoothies! We do one for breakfast every day 🙂 Added benefit that they are cold! A heat free diet makes total sense. I need to figure out some more recipes to adhere to that. Thanks Claudia!

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