Camper Van Ventilation – Why You Need It

Ceiling fan in a camper van

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If you are converting a camper van, you probably already have some sort of ventilation solution on your list of things to do. Installing a vent of some kind is one of the top priorities for those creating a custom camper van.

Ventilation has many benefits and is one of the necessary steps in a van conversion if you expect to have a comfortable livable space. Adding ventilation can make your stays much more pleasurable than they would be without it.

If you have ever looked at RVs, some type of fans or window vents are always present. These serve a purpose and are an important part of the overall comfort of the van.

Do I Need A Vent In My Camper Van?

This might be a question you would have if you are deciding whether or not to install one in your van. It can be tempting to leave it off the list because it is often a dreaded part of the process.

This often involves cutting a hole in your van to install a roof fan or a vent. It could also mean cutting a large hole in the side of your van so that you can install a vented window.

Either way, it is a scary thought to have to cut into a perfectly leak-free van in this way. There is no room for error when you begin to cut large holes in the metal of your van.

You only get one shot to cut a hole in your roof so you’d better get it right.

Do you really need a vent in your camper van?

I consider a vent of some type to be absolutely necessary if you’re converting or living in an RV. After my experience of living and traveling in my camper van, I can say that ventilation is one of the most important parts of the process.

I am glad that I went through the process of installing my roof fan and my vented window. These items allow me to have sufficient airflow throughout my van and make it much more comfortable to stay in, even on the hottest of nights.

Ventilation can make all of the difference when you consider hot summer nights and the need to have some sort of airflow. Without it, your van will become stuffy and it will be miserable to stay in when the weather gets hot at night or during the day.

If you are converting a van, do yourself a huge favor and not skip this part. It is a vital part of the conversion and will give you a much better experience once you begin living in it.

Since you are already going through the process of converting a van, why would you leave this out?

Yes, it might be scary to cut a hole in your van or RV To install a vent of some kind but trust me, you will be glad you did when you get out on the road and use the van.

Stealth Camper Van Ventilation

What about a stealth camper van? If you are designing your van conversion to be stealthy and you don’t want to be noticed, you may have a dilemma with installing a noticeable vent on your van.

Even a window can set off an alarm to others that there may be someone living inside the vehicle.

I initially had this dilemma and did not want to install things on my van that would allow me to stick out. However, I also could not see myself living or sleeping in a van that was stuffy and hot.

I live and travel mostly in the southern states of the United States and the summertime can be very hot and humid.

Ventilation was not an option for me, it was a necessity.

My main form of ventilation would be a Maxxair fan that I installed on the roof. These are fairly low profile and do not stick out too much. Although they do stick out some and can be seen by others, this was a risk I was willing to take to enjoy the fresh air.

If you are struggling over the same issue, I would suggest putting a ventilation solution ahead of stealthiness. Stealthiness is somewhat overrated and most people already know that someone is staying in a parked van.

Even with my fan installed on top of my van, I still consider it to be fairly stealthy. I don’t feel that it sticks out too much and I don’t have any other large objects installed on my van.

I do have a small window in the rear that opens up with a screen installed and allows air to move through the van. This probably also ruins some of the stealthiness but again, I would rather be comfortable and able to sleep instead of miserable and sweaty because there is no air movement and no way to cool me at night.

Rear sliding screen window in van

Stealthy or not, I want my ventilation and it comes first for me.

Types Of Ventilation

There are a few popular types of ventilation options that most people use when they convert a van to a camper. You may choose a combination of items or you may just have one source.

This is up to you but the options are available for those who want to add a good amount of ventilation to a van.

Roof Fan

The most popular item is the roof fan. These come in different shapes and sizes as well as different models made by different companies. They typically have an opening with a fan that either pulls air out of the van or sucks air into the van.

They are also typically weatherproof and do not allow water to come into the van, even when it is raining outside.

This is an important part because you want to make sure that you can have airflow even when the weather is bad. If you do not have a way to vent your van in the hot summer when it is raining, the miserable circumstances are exacerbated.

Let’s look at two of the most popular models of RV roof fans that are on the market.

Maxxair Roof Fan

The Maxxair fan is my favorite and the one that I chose for a couple of different reasons. The main reason is that it is weatherproof without the need for additional parts.

The design of the max air fan allows it to be opened while the rain is coming down and you don’t have to fear for rain coming through your fan and into your living space.

This fan has multiple settings and can be set on low or high and many places in between.

I chose a simple version of the fan but other models are more advanced and allow you to control the fan with remote control.

My version does not have the remote control but I have found that I do not need it since everything is so close inside my van anyways.

This fan has been great and does not use a lot of electrical power so my solar generator is plenty to make it work regularly.

Read more about how I installed my Maxxair roof fan.

Fan-Tastic Roof Vent

This roof vent is another great option and one of the most popular. It also has a fan that pulls air out of your van or sucks it in, depending on the setting you have it on.

The only reason I did not choose this product is that it is not as weatherproof as the Maxxair fan is. It has a sensor on it that detects when the rain begins and then closes so that rain does not come in.

Fan-Tastic Vent

However, the fan cannot be used to pull in the outside air while it is closed. This made the fantastic fan a no-go for me.

This fan also has the option to add a vent cover. The vent cover allows the fan to be used when it’s raining but this is an additional item and it sticks way up off for your roof.

I am not particularly keen on this design and would rather have weatherproofing already built into the fan like the Maxxair has.

Roof Vent

A roof vent is similar to a fan as mentioned above with the difference being, there is no fan. The vent is simply a hole in your roof that opens and closes to allow air to flow.

These are nice because they do not use any electrical power and provide a basic open and close ventilation system. The downside is that there is no air movement so you must depend on the weather to pull air into your van rather than an electrical fan.

This is a simple solution and might work well in some instances. I would consider this to be a good solution if used in combination with a roof fan. Having both installed would allow you to pull air through your van in a more efficient way.

If you had the fan pulling air out of the van, the suction would pull air into the van through the vent, creating airflow.

An example of this type of vent is the following would be THIS PRODUCT

Vented Windows

Vented windows are a great way to add extra ventilation to your van. These also work well in combination with a roof fan. For the same reason, you can utilize the fan in the window together to create an airflow throughout your van.

Vented rear window in a camper van

This is exactly what I do when I park and want to have airflow. I turn my roof fan on to blow air out of the van and as it’s doing so, it’s pulling air in through the window.

This creates a great amount of air movement and keeps me cool on warm nights. My window is installed right over my bed where I lay my head so the airflow keeps me nice and cool.

These types of windows come in different sizes and can be installed in different areas of your van. Some of these are sliding windows with a screen, such as the one I have.

Others are called T-vents and open up in a way that allows you to have them open even when it’s raining.

The sliding type of window that I have cannot be left open while it’s raining unless it is under an awning.

CR Laurence makes popular windows that are used in a lot of van conversions.


A skylight is similar to a roof vent except it is a window that is installed on your roof. These types of products usually open up and allow you to let air flow in.

Dometic – Dekalin

These are awesome for allowing more light into your van and may be a great option if you are trying to remain stealthy.

Even if you don’t have windows anywhere else in your van, A skylight allows you to have light flowing in that can also be a way to allow air to enter your van as well.

A skylight, similar to a roof vent, works well in combination with a fan that can move air in and out. On its own, it might not be as effective at removing stale air from your living space or providing you with fresh, cool air to keep you comfortable.

5 Important reasons to add ventilation to your van

1. Help remove condensation & steam

Condensation and moisture is a real threat to a small living space. If not allowed to escape, it could cause mold and mildew to grow and also cause issues with rot over a long term.

If you have a shower in your van, this is important because the moisture will need a way to escape and a roof fan can allow it to be pulled out.

My fan is just outside my shower and it allows the moisture to be pulled out when I have the water on.

2. Temperature control

Many vans are not equipped with air conditioners so you will need to consider an alternative if you want to have a more comfortable living experience.

If you want to enjoy a comfortable night of sleep, having ventilation allows you to have a flow of air that can keep you cool even when the nights are hot.

3. Odor control

Ventilation allows odors to escape and this can be very important for a small living space. There are lots of odors that can build up, especially if multiple people are staying in the van at one time.

This is especially important if you have a portable toilet in your van and need a way to keep the living space smelling fresh. Even without a toilet, other odors such as food can linger if not allowed to escape.

4. Ventilation for stove

A propane stove is great but should be used in a well-ventilated area. Having your van ventilated with a good amount of airflow allows you to stay safe when using a propane stove.

Many people use a portable camping stove inside their vans and these should always be vented when used. This allows any dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide to escape without harming you.

5. Airflow

When you provide ventilation for your van, you allow a space where fresh air can continually penetrate. This keeps stale air from building up inside the van and keeps your living space full of fresh oxygen to breathe.

This can be especially important when you lay down to sleep at night. Without ventilation, the enclosed area would be filled with your breath and there could also be condensation that forms from moisture.

6. Allows you to get closer to nature

One of my favorite benefits of having my van ventilated is that it allows me to open my living space up to the sounds of nature.

I am often parked in a location off the beaten path and in an area where I can hear the sounds of nature. Distant wild animals or a cascading creek are some of the sounds I generally like to hear when I am parked.

This makes me feel like I am part of nature and allows me to enjoy the full experience of outdoor living.

Final Thoughts

I consider Ventilation to be a very important part of a van conversion. If you are mulling over whether you should include this in your van, I would suggest that you make it a high priority.

From experience, I can say that my fan and window are two of the best things I did during my conversion. If I had not installed those, there would be nights when I would not be able to sleep or even enjoy the evening.

It can get really hot in the summer and being in a camper van when you aren’t using air-conditioning calls for other solutions. Having a fan that gives you airflow can be very welcoming.

Whether you choose a fan, a simple vent or a window, having some way for air to come and go is very important. It can be scary installing a vent or window in your van but in the end, you will be glad that you chose to do it.

Dan Collins

I consider myself an outdoor enthusiast. I love to travel and go to places that most people don't get a chance to go. I want to see it all and live life to the fullest while I'm alive. My camper van is helping me to do just that. I write about my experiences to help inspire others to do the same.

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