So there’s no denying it’s been excruciatingly humid and hot here in East Anglia for the last few days… quite unbearable infact.  In my old days of living in a house with thick stone walls which kept itself cool in the Summer, it would have been much more bearable, probably quite cool still, but one of the things about tiny living in a metal box, is the heat it holds within the walls, not that I’d ever change this to go back into normal house living, these are without a doubt the best days I’ve ever had and I feel blessed to be able to live in such a wonderful space.  I have found that it’s normally quite nice with all the windows open and a fan on up until early afternoon on a regular Summers day, but after then, the van starts to warm up, and begins to hold the heat inside until very late at night.  On really hot days, this can become too much.  So here’s some essential tips of how you and your furry friends can survive the heat and humidity when living in your tiny home or caravan like us…

open up early

If they’re not already, get your doors and windows open as soon as you wake up.  All of them!  Most caravans have rooflights in them and, with hot air rising, these are great for letting the heat out of the roof and encouraging air flow.  So make the most of your rooflights… they are put into caravans for very good reason.  Just remember to close them if there’s a thunderstorm on the way!

keep out direct sunlight

It’s great opening up the curtains and letting in the light, but remember if there’s hot sun pouring in through one side of your caravan, keep your windows open but your blinds or curtains closed on that side. Your metal home heats up incredibly fast if you allow direct sunlight to pour in, once the sun has moved around, get those curtains and blinds open and let the air flow through more easily.

This end of our caravan has blazing hot sun coming in late afternoon, so I tend to pull these linen curtains across until sun down, but I always make sure the windows are all fully open. As you can see, Kitty, who lives up to her name, lives on the windowsill!

fans or ac unit?

There’s no two ways about it, if you haven’t invested in a good quality fan and you’re living in a small metal box, you need to immediately!  It’s all very well opening up the doors and windows, but come the afternoon, if there’s no breeze outside, hot air will fill the caravan, heat up and become like an unbearable cooking vessel.  Depending on the size of your home, you’ll need one or two fans.  We have two, one for each end, as our home is 35ft long.  Please invest in a good quality fan too as I’ve tried cheaper ones over the years and you almost have to stand on top of them to feel any breeze coming off.  I have invested in one Swan large pedestal 16 inch fan and one Swan desk top 12 inch fan.  The motors are top quality and you can feel a strong breeze off them from metres away.  They are well worth spending a little more money on, you know the saying… buy cheap, buy twice.  During the Winter months, these get stored in my wooden outdoor shed.

Now, last year in 2019 when it was again intensely hot, I invested in a top quality £500 air conditioning unit.  It was set up perfectly and I used it throughout the Summer during the hottest days.  So, my opinion; yes it worked, it was still slightly hot, but nothing close to what it would have been without it on, however, it just wasn’t for me.  I don’t like having all the windows and doors closed (which they need to be for the AC unit to work), I much prefer the flow of fresh air.  Plus, although the unit was battling outdoor heats of up to 38 degrees, and it did very well, it just wasn’t cool enough for the money I’d spent.  I really just wanted to open up and put fans on.

I feel that this year, 2020, knowing how the caravan is during Summer months, I’ve really hit the nail on the head with all the best cooling tricks and tips, using the items below plus my two Swan fans, enabling me to keep doors and windows open for a fresh flow of air.

cool mats for your furry family… and you!

I saw these for sale in Aldi back in April 2020 when it hadn’t gotten hot yet.  They were £7.99 for the large size (90 x 50cm), compared to £35.00 almost everywhere else online, I just had to have them.  They had 5 left in stock, all the other sizes had sold out, so I selfishly put them all in my basket (for good reason you’ll see… hang on).  Now, although you don’t actually need to cool them due to the pressure activated gel inside them, I tend to keep mine in the bottom drawer of the fridge during the Summer as they are pure sweet cool relief when they come out for the girls who are climbing onto them before I can even put them down… they love them so much!

So what I tend to do is put two mats out (one each for my two girls) and have another two in the fridge cooling down ready to swap them over an hour or two later.  On intensely hot days, I will put two into the freezer and get them cooled much quicker, swapping them every 45 mins to an hour, they fold up to very little space so you don’t even need a huge fridge freezer to accomplish this. So I’ve always got 4 in use.  The other one is for when I can’t cope any longer and pop one onto my own seat, it fits perfectly onto my Ikea Poang and, no matter how hot I am, it instantly cools my entire body down in seconds.  They really are amazing and I can see why the girls love them so much.

The mats have 3 sections so they concertina up into a nice neat fold for easy storage.  They are easy to wipe down and keep clean and are puncture resistant.  Believe me, if they have survived an entire Summer with my two German Shepherds, they are definitely made of hardy material!  And I love that you don’t need to plug them in, there’s no wires, they just work alone. Plus, if you must go anywhere in the car, these mats lay perfectly in the boot next to their travelling water bowl ensuring a nice cool journey!

Now, I’m well aware that they are probably made in China, which is something I’m really trying to avoid and I’m doing my best at buying British more so these days, but if I had bought the £35.00 ones, they also would have been made on the other side of the world.  The reason I’m ok with it is because they are items that I can use time and time again, they’re not throw away products, and they hugely impact my dogs wellbeing and health on hot days.  In fact, they are one of the best dog products I’ve ever bought and will look after these so they can be used over and over for many years to come.

cool jackets

Another amazing 2020 purchase!  Honestly, I didn’t even realise these existed until I started doing some research online at how to keep my girls cooler during the Summer, knowing how hot 2019 had been, I wanted to be much better prepared this year.

At first I thought it seemed cruel putting a jacket onto a dog in hot weather… I mean surely that’s just going to be even hotter!  But no, I was completely incorrect.  Basically, these cool jackets work on the same principle that the human body uses to stay cool… evaporation!  The vest contains a special layer of fabric that absorbs and locks in water which evaporates over time, taking away the dogs body heat at the same time.

I purchased two large Trespaws (Trespass website) Alaska XL vests which come in handy small black plastic pouches with snap shut zip locks.  What I do is plunge the vests into water allowing them to completely soak through, then I slightly wring them out, fold them, pop them into the pouches and store them in my fridge to cool down ready for when we need to use them.

Obviously dogs should never ever be walked in very hot weather, we all know this, but there are times when, even late in the evening when the sun has gone down, it’s still quite warm out, and this is where the cool jacket comes in.  When you take it out of the fridge, it’s nice and cold, and you pop the jacket onto your dog before you go out.  I’ve found these jackets to be absolutely amazing.  During an evening walk, I’ll feel their fur where the jacket isn’t covering them and it’s warm, yet I put my hand under the jacket onto the dogs back and their fur is super cold!  They are running around happily and I know that they are feeling cool.  The air that breezes between the fur and the jacket is super cool for the dog… well imagine if you wore a wet vest outside and how cool that would feel when the breeze hits it!  I’m always asked, when out walking with the girls, why my dogs are wearing jackets in hot weather, and when I invite the person to feel the jacket they are amazed at how icy cool it feels, it’s just perfect for them.  Plus they stay cool for the whole hour we are out and could go on much longer.  I almost wish I had one to fit me!

When you get home, just slip it off, give it a hand wash, then fold it, pouch it, store it in the fridge.  When you no longer need it for the year, you just need to dry it out, fold it up and store it away ready for the next Summer.

doggy ice treats

So it’s super hot and you’re desperate for something to cool your body down, well your doggies are feeling the same way and here is no better way to cool down your insides… enter the doggy ice treats!  Basically, they are made by using various food products, berries, fruits, peanut butters, bananas, plain vegan yoghurts, this list goes on. They are blended and poured into shaped mould trays for freezing.  I’ll be adding some of my favourite recipes to the blog at some point, but in the meantime there are so many different recipes online for these, have a search and you’ll soon find some lovely ideas you can very quickly put together for your furry friend (and yourself, because even though nobody admits it, we all try them ourselves!)

My only tip on these, is allow your furry friend to take them outside and sit in a shady spot with them as they can start to melt quickly on hot days making a little bit of a sticky mess, but hey if they have somewhere which you can easily clean up, what’s more important!  My girls are happy to take them into the garden and sit under a tree with them.

water spritzers!

So finally, my last must is a hand spritzer.  Very simple, but very effective.  Fill a gardening spray gun with fresh water in the morning and when it starts to warm up, give yourself and your fur babes a spritz all over with the gun and sit in front of your fan letting it do the work to keep you cool.  My girls are so funny when I get the spritzer out of the fridge, they sit up and pose ready for a full body spray, almost like they are in a beauty salon, love them!  But when the fan rotates over to you, the cool feeling is extremely refreshing.

heading outdoors

When indoors becomes too much, grab an extension lead and your fans, head outside to a shady patch and set up with your cool mats in the garden, forest, or wherever your outdoor space may be. We’re lucky enough to live in a field of fir trees which we can take great shelter behind or under, but if you haven’t got natural shelter grab a big parasol or canopy and keep out of direct sunlight. Of course, there are many outdoor ways of keeping cool on top of this, like paddling pools and sprinklers, and these are great too.

the obvious… but most important bits to remember

Whether you are inside or out, the number one most important thing is to have plenty of fresh cool water to hand for your fur kids, never let the bowl go dry… infact we even set up fresh water bowls throughout the fields we live in for any wildlife that may be struggling to find natural water sources during dry times. A nature tip I learnt from my sister.

Take huge care of your fur family during these hot days, they really need you to understand how overheated they can get; never leave them on their own unless they are in a very cool place with air flow, water and good security. Caravans of all sizes become incredibly hot and your fur family could get severely ill or even die if they are left in the metal home alone; never walk them during the peak hot hours of the day and just give them more care and love than you give yourself.  They can’t take their coats off, you can!

If you have any other ‘cool’ tips let me know.

Lots of love and remember… in the words of Jules Winnfield

… we’re all gonna be like little Fonzies here, and what’s Fonzie like?  He’s cool