As summertime gets closer and trip plans are considered, it's time to include warm weather coping skills in the plans. For those who park their RVs in campgrounds with shore power, this isn't much of a consideration. But for those of us who boondock away from the grid, keeping cool without an air conditioner can take a bit more planning. There are several ways to keep the RV cool without the need for big chunks of electrical power.
First, take advantage of shade. Park where trees give you free access to cooler air. Of course, if you rely on solar power to keep your batteries up this can be a bit tricky. Some RVers remove their solar panels from the roof and "ground base" them out in the open sunshine. This is obviously more practical if you'll be boondocking in the same spot for a few days.
Rolling out the awning can do much to keep the rig cooler; we've also gone so far to as construct another "shade maker" on the side opposite our rig's awning. It took a little bit of work, but we used a shade cloth, pinning the lower edge down to the ground with bungy cords and ground stakes. On the upper edge where we had no awning track we carefully mounted eye bolts in the roof (using the appropriate roof sealer) and attached the shade cloth via grommets and ball bungys to the eye bolts.
Even orientation of your rig can help keep things cool: Park with the broad side of your rig oriented away from the prevailing sun exposure--that is, pointing the nose or the tail of the rig north so that the smallest wall section of your RV is exposed to the sun.
Mechanically speaking, take advantage of low power fans inside the rig, and a power vent in the roof to pull hot air out of the rig. If you really want to spend some bucks, you could invest in an RV swamp cooler. Great for use in low-humidity areas, the swampy pulls outside air into the rig through a moisture bearing filter. The damp air reduces the feel of the heat tremendously. An RV swamp cooler is designed to run on 12-volt power, and doesn't use a lot of juice. The typical commercial unit lists for over $500, so it may best be reserved for boondockers who spend a lot of time in overheated dry areas of the country. Once the outside humidity runs up though, forget swamp coolers, they'll only make you feel more miserable!
photo R&T DeMaris