Skip to main content

The Ultimate Solar Air Conditioner for Summer Camping

When camping in the summer, Mother Nature can be coaxed into giving us shade, breezes, low humidity, and cool evenings. We can adjust our active hours to mornings and take siestas after lunch. We can dress in a manner that fits the weather, rather than society. We can switch from hot sports like hiking to biking, surfing, or kayaking.

Beyond these practicalities we can feel a nostalgia for the summers of childhood. School break; the summer reading program at the public library; playing kick-the-can at dusk; waiting for different fruits to ripen and climbing trees to get it; spending half the day on a bicycle with air blowing through your flip-flops; trips to "the Lake"; eating ice cream and lemonade and watermelon; and visiting the grandparents on the farm. At least some baby boomers can do that.

If you can't generate these pleasant notions from personal experience, try it vicariously by reading Henry Adams's "The Education of Henry Adams," particularly the chapter about his childhood summers at the Adams' estate at Quincy.  

It has influenced and helped me to have once heard a friend shrug off summer thusly, "It's summer -- it's supposed to be hot." (That phrase, 'supposed to', is one of the most amazing in the English language.) And yet there comes a time when a positive attitude alone just can't do the job.

And that time is when your head hits the pillow at night. Struggling to sleep when you are hot is the worst thing about summer.

Perhaps certain ideas from our days in sticks & bricks have crept into our RV lifestyle, and we still think we need to cool astronomical quantities of air and surfaces, even though our skin only interacts directly with a tiny fraction of the inside air. 

So I lie there, on my back, with the arms not touching the body, and the fingers and toes splayed out, to maximize the surface area of the skin. But I need to sleep on my side, most of the time.

That brings the neck and face into thermal smoosh with the pillow -- an excellent insulator! Thus much of the problem with summer heat is concentrated there.

So let's not get sucked into the nomad rat-race of coating your entire roof (and probably side walls) with solar panels or choosing the perfect generator or the best MPPT solar controller or the ultimate insulation, while running every damn gadget that you saw on a You Tube channel, and bought at Amazon! 

Let's look for a low cost and elegant solution to the trouble spot of face and neck touching that pillow, by taking advantage of the remarkable heat capacity of water. (Somebody needs to come up with a splashy new name for it.)

The 6 or 10 liter size will fit best into a pillowcase.

Can you believe that the company call these "watercells" instead of water bladder or collapsible something or other. There is no consistency in the jargon: collapsible, flexible, hydration paks, bottle, container, dromedary, reservoir. It took me an hour of screwing around with search engines because of this! Marketing departments. At least they haven't yet found a way to put in a battery or operating system, yet.

If necessary the water bladder can be refrigerated in the afternoon. The wide filler cap even makes it possible to put in cubed ice. This was my excuse for putting 'solar' in the title of this post: the frig is ultimately powered by the solar panels.

Why didn't I look into this 20 years ago! Anyway, I thank the people who have been brainstorming with me on this.


Ed said…
I searched for "watercells" and found where you got the pictures of the product. My first reaction was they are 'pricey'. I then checked the alternative MyPillow and found that they are even more expensive.

I hope they work for you. I don't have your problem with hot pillow which is a good thing.
That looks like a great way to sleep away those hot summer nights.
Be Safe and Enjoy!

It's about time.
Ed. of course "pricey" implies a comparison. Sports equipment is usually pricey! But if a water bladder never leaks, I would say it is worth the money.

The price comparison that matters to me is $900 for a fast charging lithium battery; $250 for the charger itself; $400 for a high output alternator; $250-400 for a solar suitcase on the ground and in the sun while the trailer rests in the shade; $200 for a window air conditioner, ad nauseum.
Thanks Rick and Kathy, believe it or not, the Southwest has already had its first forest fire of 2021. You are lucky to be in a place that is green, fertile, and meant for human habitation.
Anonymous said…
Use multiple pillows and keep swapping them out, always worked for me and cheap!

Yes, A, that is another way to attack the hot spot of head/face/neck contact with the pillow. Call it Rev. 1. (grin)