Note: This is one of those posts that probably only interest Alto owners or owners of small trailers that heat up in the sun like a tin can. On the other hand, if you are sweltering through a fiery hot summer, you might enjoy the machinations of a fellow sufferer, especially one who insists on living in a tin can.
Most of the year in the US, excluding the sweltering months of July and August, my trailer looks like this: door and windows open, fan going to keep things cool inside.
If I’m stopped for more than a few days, I’ll put up the awning if it keeps the sun off the door side in the morning or afternoon. And if the sun tries to slide in the side, I might put up one of my aluminet cloths to block it out, especially if it’s shining right where I want to sit outside and read.
That looks positively pastoral, doesn’t it? Cool, inviting, all it needs is a glass of sweet tea on the table to complete the picture of a beautiful summer’s day at the campground.
OK, let’s get real about summer. Let’s talk about that that totally draining, super-hot, dog-days-of-summer heat. In retrospect, traveling across the midwest and hanging out in the high plains for July may not have been the brightest travel itinerary I ever created. Staying reasonably cool feels like a losing battle when the outside temperatures are 95F. The Alto’s air conditioning unit needs all the help it can get to keep the inside temps even close to 80F.
Here’s how I’ve been managing the heat this summer.
- Hookups. Always. If the overnight temps are above 70F, then I go for hookups, which means I’ve been living with hookups and A/C for the last several weeks.
- If it’s going to be blazing hot (and I consider anything over 85F to be blazing hot when it comes to keeping the Alto cool), I start the A/C unit early. It’s way easier to keep the Alto cooler than outside if I start when the temperature differential outside:inside is 80:75 than if it’s 95:105. Yes, the Alto can get to 105 or even 114F (my personal record) when you’re towing in hot sun all day and can’t run the A/C. The second I stop, I plug in and start the A/C before I even unhitch. It can, and did, take 3-4 hours and a setting sun to get the Alto from 105F to 80F last week in the middle of a Denver heat wave (outside temps were 95-98F that day).
3. Liberal use of Aluminet cloth is a strategic win, especially when the sun is beating down on the fridge side of the Alto. See that little door on the left? The fridge is to the right of it. The more sun that wall of the Alto gets, the harder the fridge behind that wall has to work. When the Alto is 105F inside, the fridge can’t keep up and its internal temp goes up to 40-45F. With the Aluminet in place, I can usually keep the fridge’s internal temp down to 32-35F. Much better for food and freezer.
I also have a second Aluminet cloth that can cover the back of the Alto. I hang it with two outdoor command hooks but you could also use suction hooks. Just put it as high as you can get on the roof and let it drape over the back of the Alto.
- I had a keder rail installed on the non-door side of the Alto last summer when I was up at Safari Condo’s service center.
- I cut a 12 foot x 8 foot Aluminet cloth to the shape of the Alto roofline, and then had a sailmaker (who had a heavy-duty sewing machine) sew some keder rope to the Aluminet. I can actually put it on either side of the Alto since I now have keder rails on both sides. Sometimes I do put it on the door side when it’s sunny but windy and the awning might be at risk.
- I use bungee cords with balls attached to secure the awning so it won’t slip off if the wind picks up. It’s light enough that it will slide right off the keder rail (and it has). You can see my super-serious securing method in the photo above.
4. The most recent item in my bag of “beat the sun” tricks is a rectangular coolaroo shade I picked up at Costco last month (thanks, Bonnie!). It comes with long pieces of plastic twine attached to each corner. With help from a fellow camper/heat-hater, I was able to walk it over the top of the roof (dodging the solar connectors and then humping it over the fan cover) and tie it down front and back. Since hookups mean I don’t need the solar panels, there’s no harm in covering them up. And there is a world of win in covering up those long black strips of heat absorbtion. Before the coolaroo was in place, the ceiling inside the Alto was almost too hot to touch at noon on a brutally sunny and hot day. After it was in place, the ceiling definitely felt cooler. I may not use the coolaroo a lot, but it came in very handy last weekend.
5. A magneshade for the big front window (BFW). This was the first heat-fighting tool I got (thanks, Judy!) Since the BFW is the largest surface on the front wall of the Alto, it’s also the biggest heat absorber. On a hot day, sitting on the front settee inside next to the BFW can be miserable (this is where I work and I kind of like to not be miserable when I work). The magneshade keeps the window cooler and ergo, keeps me cooler inside the Alto. It’s easy to put on and take off; they provide a collapsable pole for that purpose.
The image above shows all these tools in one shot: aluminet, coolaroo, and magneshade, with that yellow power cord representing the air conditioning that is going full blast.
- Aluminet: I have two cloths: one is 7×10 for the side cloth and for the back/front cloth, I ordered a 7×6 cloth. Both came from Cool Puppy on Amazon (click on the Cool Puppy text for the link), which creates them in the US.
- Keder rope material: I bought mine from Sailrite.com for $1.45 USD per foot. I bought “Keder Awning Rope Black 5/16-inch” according to my order form.
- Coolaroo cover: I got mine at Costco, but you can probably find it elsewhere too. Just be sure to get a rectangular one, not the sail-shaped, three-sided coolaroo. This link at Amazon is like what I bought, only mine is light grey: https://amzn.to/2TaHrdB
- Magneshade: Check them out at magneshade.com/. You will need to call or email them to order a BFW shade. They are easy to work with and the orders are shipped quickly and with everything you need to install it. And yes, one person can install it if you use duct tape to hold things in place while you’re placing the magnets (thanks, Linda, for that tip).
Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air and you.