A kitchen in a DIY camper with the window open to provide ventilation. Featured Image
Planning

The Ultimate Camper Van Ventilation Guide: Everything You Need To Know

No matter the size of your camper build, you need adequate camper van ventilation. It fights heat, humidity and pollutants that can lead to a whole host of potentially icky problems in your conversion.

Fortunately, there’s a simple solution to keep these issues at bay. By ensuring your campervan is well ventilated, you can enjoy lovely fresh, clean and cool air in your conversion.

This post is the ultimate guide to camper van ventilation and has everything you need to know. So, if you want to know how to create an effective ventilation system, no matter the size of your conversion, then read on!

We explain why camper van ventilation is important; what happens if you don’t have it; the difference between active and passive ventilation; and how to create an effective ventilation system.

But that’s not all! From our own experiences and honest reviews from other vanlifers, we can give you the pros and cons of the most common ventilation solutions.

Regardless of your budget, this post will help you discover how to create the most effective camper van ventilation system possible for your rolling home.

Don’t have time to read the whole article? That’s OK! This table gives you a brief overview of the ventilation solutions.

This post may contain affiliate links. Meaning, if you make a purchase after clicking one, we may earn some commission. This pocket money will help Vandercamp Adventures continue to grow at no extra cost to you. It’s a win win situation!! Learn More…

Ventilation SolutionActive/PassiveCost
£ - ££££
Cab WindowsPassiveN/A
Window Vent GrillsPassive£ - ££
Window DeflectorsPassive£
Additional WindowsPassive££ - ££££
Louvre VentPassive£
Floor VentPassive£
Round VentPassive£
12V FanActive£
Mushroom VentPassive£ - ££
12V Mushroom VentActive££
Wind Powered VentPassive££
Campervan SkylightPassive££ - £££
Fan Assisted VentActive££ - ££££

Why Is Camper Van Ventilation Important?

Ventilation regulates airflow in and out, bringing in fresh air while getting rid of the old, damp, funky air. Ventilation also regulates the internal climate, reduces stuffiness, and combats odours.

Without adequate ventilation, excess heat and water vapour cause condensation, which in turn causes further humidity. In addition, odour and pollutants will also begin to build up.

Condensation

Condensation occurs when warm, moisture-filled air collides with colder surfaces and converts into a liquid from vapour It mainly occurs on uninsulated surfaces, such as glass windows and any exposed metal in your van.

Not only this, but some areas of the van (under-seat storage compartments or dark corners) can create “dead air space”, meaning the air doesn’t move very much. This can lead to condensation, damp and mould growth.

Some condensation is, unfortunately, unavoidable in a campervan. Still, if the moisture it causes can’t escape, it will contribute to humidity. This can cause health problems as well as general grossness in your camper.

A campervan window covered in condensation

Humidity

Humidity is excessive water vapour in the air; caused by washing, showering, cooking, boiling the kettle, and even breathing. Humidity and condensation go hand in hand, as they both increase the amount of water vapour in the air.

Humidity causes dampness, which promotes the growth of mould and fungus and creates perfect conditions for dust and mould mites to thrive. These things are especially hazardous if you suffer from allergies or asthma.

Humidity can cause mould or mildew.  A humid van will feel clammy, smell fusty, and mould will grow on fabrics, clothing and even the vehicle itself. Mould and mildew can stain or discolour surfaces and warp the wood in your van.

Campervan curtains with mould on them
Campervan claddings with mould on them

Odour and pollutants

Without ventilation, odour and pollutants will hang around in your camper. For example, natural body odour, smells from the rubbish bag, dirty laundry, and (if you have them) kids or pets will cause a pong.

For safety, constant ventilation is vital if you’re installing gas to run your cooker, fridge, water heater, etc. It stops harmful gas or carbon dioxide from building up in your van.

If you plan to cook inside your van, installing a vent near your cooking station will allow unburned gas and cooking smells to escape.

An open window in a campervan conversion near the hob to provide ventilation while cooking

Passive and Active Ventilation

Ventilation works by circulating air. As air is drawn out of your camper, fresh air moves in to replace it. This constant movement of air in and out is what keeps your camper van fresh and ventilated.

Proper ventilation in your rolling home will help you avoid living in a damp, mouldy fester box. But how do you get adequate ventilation? And what are your options?

Passive Ventilation

Passive ventilation allows air to circulate in your camper using natural air currents and the buoyancy of hot air. So as stale air leaves your camper through a passive vent, fresh air will naturally be drawn in to replace it. Whoo, science!

It works naturally and doesn’t require any power from your van. However, if it’s a hot, still day, the temperature and air pressure inside and outside your van will be similar. Subsequently, the natural movement of air won’t be as efficient.

A diagram showing air movement with passive ventilation in a campervan
  • Generally a much cheaper option.
  • Very reliable with little/no maintenance.
  • Eco friendly.
  • Relies on natural air movement and air pressure.
  • Not as efficient in higher temperatures.
  • Can cause a draught if it’s cold/windy outside.

Active Ventilation

On the other hand, power-driven fans constantly work without relying on natural air pressure. So as long as there is a power source, the fan will ventilate your camper.

As the fan expels stale air, fresh air is drawn into your camper to replace it. In any van, vents work best in pairs to create a circulatory system.

A diagram of convection currents in a short wheelbase campervan

In larger vans, two power-driven fans, placed at either end of your van, would work best.

A diagram of convection currents in a long wheelbase campervan
  • Can be more effective.
  • Works no matter what the weather is doing.
  • Will quickly cool and ventilate the van.
  • More costly.
  • Maintenance of wires and moving parts.
  • Only ventilates when the fan is on.

Choosing the Right Camper Van Ventilation

Ventilation Positioning

Hot air moves around on convection currents. Essentially, hot air rises while cooler air sinks. Using this principle, you can create effective ventilation in your camper by pairing up two ventilation solutions.

Having one ventilation point low down in your camper draws in the cool, fresh air. Meanwhile, another sits higher up, giving the hot, stale air somewhere to escape. This creates a circulatory system

A diagram of convection currents in a campervan and ventilation positioning

Surrounding Environment

Although all camper vans need ventilating, where you go and what you do will affect your ventilation needs. If you’re travelling in hot climates, for example, you’ll require a lot of ventilation to keep your camper cool and fresh.

If you’re travelling to colder places, on the other hand, you want a warm snuggly van. But with a big difference between outside and inside temperatures, you’ll need ventilation to combat condensation and humidity.

Doing a lot of cooking inside means you’ll need good ventilation to reduce cooking smells, heat and gas build-up. Similarly, having an onboard shower will create a lot of humidity that needs expelling.

M3/hour Explained

Cubic metres per hour or minute (m3/h or m3/min) only applies to fan-assisted ventilation solutions. It is the volume flow rate of ventilated air (the volume of extracted stale air per hour or minute).

For example, a roof fan that works at 26m3/min can theoretically expel 26 cubic metres of air per minute.

However, similarly to air conditioning, the space needs to be sealed for the fan to work most effectively. So if you have a window or side door open, the rate at which the fan works will be compromised.

Essentially, the higher the m3/min (or m3/hr) the quicker, and more effectively the air in your camper will be circulated. But a higher number doesn’t automatically mean a better ventilation solution.

Van SizeSuch AsInternal M3
Short WheelbaseVW T57m3
Medium WheelbaseFord Transit10m3
Medium Wheelbase with
high roof
Ford Transit High Top12m3
Long WheelbaseMercedes Sprinter16m3
Extra Long WheelbaseExtra Long Wheelbase
Mercedes Sprinter
19m3

If your campervan is 10m3, then consider whether you really need a (costly!) vent that works at 28m3/minute.

A SWB campervan is about 7m3
Diagram showing the cubic square meters of living space in a long wheel base van is 16.

Camper Van Ventilation Solutions

Anything that allows air to circulate within your camper van will be beneficial for a healthy, fresh environment.

Some camper van ventilation solutions are certainly more effective than others, but there are options available to suit every budget and every style of van conversion.

Campervan Windows

Any opening window will provide passive ventilation. This can either be the cab windows, or additional ones you’ve installed. As long as it isn’t a fixed window, it will provide some airflow into your camper.

Campervan windows that are installed near the gas hob, or oven, will allow steam, heat and cooking smells to escape quickly. In addition, it will also dispel any unburnt gas.

Cab Windows

Simply opening the cab windows is both the easiest and cheapest way to ventilate a van. But don’t get too excited, as it’s also the least effective, especially in larger vans.

A bulkhead will inhibit airflow from the cab, and leaving windows open leaves your van unsecured at night, or while you’re away from it.

The cab windows of a converted campervan
  • Don’t have to spend any extra money on additional ventilation.
  • No need to adapt the van or physically alter your van.
  • Won’t have anything on the van that makes it stand out as a camper.
  • Open windows provide an easy way for someone to break in.
  • If it rains while you’re asleep or away from the van then the cab will get wet.
  • Easy for biting bugs to invade your space and spend the night nibbling away.

Window Vent Grills

These are light, aluminium grills that allow you to have the cab windows open while keeping your camper safe and secure, as the grills are only removable from inside the van.

They are cheap and easy to install – they just slot into the gap between the open window and the frame. Similarly to opening the windows though, this isn’t a particularly effective way to ventilate a camper.

A camper van window grill

REIMO campervan window vent grill from Jackson Leisure Supplies

  • No need to adapt the van or physically alter your van.
  • Vents are angled downward to stop rain from coming in.
  • The grills are dark and make it much less obvious that the windows are open.
  • They are currently not available for all makes of camper vans.
  • It may not provide enough air flow in warmer weather conditions.
  • Need storage space for them when they aren’t being used.

Window Deflectors

Window deflectors alter airflow while driving with the windows open. They were designed to decrease noise and wind force while driving at high speeds, in addition to stopping rain and insects from invading.

As a ventilation solution, their only benefit is to disguise the fact that the windows are open if your only ventilation is coming from the cab windows.

Campervan ventilation using window deflectors on a VW T5

Wind deflectors for your vehicle

  • Slightly hides the fact that the cab windows are open.
  • Reduces wind noise whilst driving when the windows are open slightly.
  • Can stop the cab from getting soggy if it starts raining.
  • Like an open window, only works with either van movement or wind.
  • They still make the van vulnerable, as the windows are still open.
  • Only made of light plastic, so would be easy to break if someone had the inclination.

Additional Campervan Window

Rather than just relying on cab windows, a more effective ventilation method would be installing additional opening windows in the van’s panels.

This allows air to circulate more freely around the living space of your camper. Install more than one, or use it in conjunction with another vent. It will create a more effective circulatory system.

Further Reading | Find out everything you need to know about common window solutions in your camper.

A bonded window on a VW T5 campervan

Tinted sliding campervan window from Camper Glass

  • Some windows lock in an open position, so you can securely leave them open a bit.
  • Hot, stale air can escape while fresh air is drawn in.
  • Can let smells escape quickly to freshen up your campervan.
  • Only works with movement or wind, and they’re not effective if it’s red hot outside.
  • You’ll need to physically alter the van by cutting into it.
  • Most effective when wide open, which is no good if you’re away from your van or if it’s cold!

Campervan Wall And Floor Vents

Floor and wall vents allow constant air circulation without the need for open windows. They are more secure than windows but don’t let in any natural light.

Most types of wall and floor vents passively ventilate your campervan, which means they can work continuously. In addition, the vast majority don’t have moving parts, meaning they are silent and maintenance-free.

Louvre Vent

Louvred vents work most effectively if installed as a pair or installed opposite another type of vent to keep air moving by creating a circulatory system.

Although they work to create a passive ventilation system in your camper, if it’s especially cold or windy, then it will create a cold draught in your camper.

A white rectangular louvre vent with an open and close flap and a flyscreen for a camper van conversion

Louvre air vent with flyscreen for passive ventilation

  • Totally secure – even if they could be removed, the hole would be very small.
  • Once the hole has been cut out of the panel, they are simple to install.
  • Angled vents are designed to keep dirt and water out.
  • Not as effective on still, hot days as there’s less difference in air pressure.
  • Some louvre vents won’t shut, so can pull fumes or other pollutants into your van.
  • Not a particularly attractive addition to your camper van.

Floor Vent

Floor vents aren’t visible from outside the van. This makes your camper more inconspicuous, which is ideal for stealth camping. They work by drawing fresh air in from below.

They’re essential if you’re installing either a fridge or gas supply. In this instance, they’re known as “gas drop out vents” and are designed to let any gas escape from your van.

Gas drop out vent

Floor vent / Gas Drop Out Vent for camper vans

  • Constant air circulation; creates air circulation if installed with a roof vent.
  • Inexpensive and easy to install once the hole has been cut.
  • Ventilation around a fridge will help it to run more efficiently and prevent overheating.
  • If it’s in the main living space, it could cause a draught around your feet
  • Cutting down into the floor of the van is tricky, as fuel lines etc are underneath.
  • While you’re driving, fumes from the van can enter your camper through the vent.

Round Vent

small round vent can be installed like a louvre vent or fitted inside your camper under a bench. This will make it easier for air to circulate all around your camper, keeping all areas fresh and ventilated.

Because they are small, the hole in the van only has to be small. It can be made with a hole cutter making it much easier than cutting a large round hole (for a porthole, for instance).

Brown circular air vent grill with fly net

Circular campervan air vents with fly net

  • A very inexpensive option, as you can pick them up for a few quid.
  • They provide constant circulation if installed in conjunction with another vent.
  • Quick and easy to install – good if you want to convert your van quickly.
  • Not as effective on hot, still days as there’s less difference in air pressure.
  • No way of stopping fumes or other pollutants from sneaking into your van.
  • Not a particularly attractive addition to your camper van.

12V Fan

The 12V vent is small and the only type of wall vent to be powered, therefore providing active ventilation. The motor powers a fan, drawing air in or expelling air out. It is, however, quite noisy if they’re on the higher setting.

These vents are ideal in bathrooms so that any extra moisture in the air caused by showering can be quickly removed. Alternatively, one could be installed near a hob to extract heat and cooking smells.

Campervan 12 volt wall mounted vent

Campervan 12v side air vent

  • A relatively inexpensive active ventilation option, but only moves around 1.5m3/min.
  • The 12V fan means it will create ventilation without relying on wind or van movement.
  • Can be used independently; it doesn’t have to be part of a circulatory system to work.
  • Requires you to cut into the van, although using a hole cutter makes this easy.
  • Because it’s 12V, it needs a power source in order to work.
  • Not a particularly attractive addition to your camper van.

Campervan Roof Vent

There are several different types of campervan roof vent; some use passive ventilation while others use active ventilation. The cost of roof vents varies wildly. Some only cost a few quid, while others cost a few hundred quid.

Some large roof vents double up as skylights; these are extremely effective for ventilation and provide lots of natural light to your camper, but they are the most expensive of the ventilation solutions.

Mushroom Vent

The mushroom vent works in the same way as a round/louvred wall vent; using passive ventilation to circulate air through your camper van. They work best in conjunction with another type of vent.

The top of the mushroom protects the inside of your camper from the rain, and because it’s small, you can use a hole cutter to cut into the van.

White mushroom free flow air vent for campervans

Mushroom free flow roof air vent for campervans

  • The cover, or top of the “mushroom”, stops any rain from dripping into your van.
  • An inexpensive option; they range from around £10 to £50.
  • They are quite small and don’t make your van stand out as a camper.
  • They only work with movement or wind and they’re not effective if it’s red hot outside.
  • If it’s extremely windy or cold outside, then it could cause a draught.
  • Needs another vent to create an air circulation system.

12V Mushroom Vent

This vent looks identical to a mushroom vent but uses a fan, which quickly extracts heat, condensation and odours from cooking areas or bathrooms.

This small vent would be best suited to smaller vans, which don’t require a huge amount of air circulation to keep ventilated. As with the mushroom vent, it works most effectively when paired with another vent.

12v mushroom roof vent fan for campervans

  • The cover (or top of the “mushroom”) stops rain from dripping into your van.
  • An inexpensive fan that creates effective air circulation/ventilation when required.
  • They are quite small and don’t make your van stand out as a camper.
  • Not powerful enough to be the only means of ventilation in large vans.
  • These fans can be quite noisy, especially when they’re on a higher speed setting.
  • The fan will be used more if it’s hot, requiring more electrical storage (batteries).

Wind-Powered

This is the only passive ventilation, voltage-free vent that has moving parts. As a result, it is more effective than other passive vents but is more expensive. However, it’s still cheaper than most active ventilation options.

The outer fins are pushed by the wind, spinning the vent. There are more fins inside the vent, which pull air out of the van. This creates constant air circulation in a very effective, economical way.

Further Reading | Installing A Wind-Powered Vent – A How To Guide

A window powered roof camper van ventilation

Wind driven roof mounted air vent

  • Fairly inexpensive, making it a good mid-range option.
  • They are easy to install as well as being reliable and robust.
  • Creates constant airflow and circulation even when the vent isn’t spinning.
  • When the vents aren’t spinning, it acts as a mushroom vent which isn’t as effective.
  • Requires other vents to create an air circulation system.
  • Some models have internal bearings that can wear and become noisy over time.

Campervan Skylight

This vent pushes open and can be left slightly ajar for constant ventilation. A clear or translucent vent doubles as a skylight, bringing natural light into your van.

These vents vary; solid white ones are generally the cheapest, although they only let light through when open.

Skylight ventilation for a campervan

Fiamma 50 – Crystal rooflight vent 500 x 500

  • Allowing natural light through a skylight may mean not needing to install windows.
  • Can have them completely closed if it’s very cold and windy outside.
  • Some models also include a removable blind and a fly/mosquito screen.
  • Some models only have a basic cover, which can let rain into your van when open.
  • Can interfere with roof rack storage or roof-mounted solar panels.
  • Only work as ventilation when open but risky to leave open if you’re away from your camper.

Fan Assisted Vent

There are many different types of fan-assisted roof vents on the market; some are fairly basic, while others are extremely high tech. They can be set up as a pair to have an extremely effective circulatory system.

Although they perform the best, some of these vents come at hefty prices. Before splurging, consider your needs – smaller vans won’t need huge motor power, and extra high top vans may need one with a remote control.

A maxx-fan, fan assisted ventilation solution for a camper van

Maxxair MaxxFan Deluxe roof vent

  • Undoubtedly the best performance fans, giving the most effective ventilation.
  • Doesn’t depend on the weather or van movement to be effective.
  • Some have different settings, so you can either expel hot, stale air or draw in fresh air.
  • The most expensive option, with some models costing a few hundred pounds.
  • Some models have noisy fans, especially if it’s on the higher settings.
  • Needs a constant power supply to work and also needs maintenance.

Recap

Camper van ventilation keeps the air in your van circulating, constantly delivering fresh, clean air into your environment while expelling hot, damp, musty air.

Passive ventilation systems are usually the cheapest option. Because they use the forces of nature, they don’t require any additional power source from your van, making them a more eco-conscious option.

But, nature is fickle; on super hot still days, your ventilation system won’t work effectively, as it relies on differences in air pressure. And when it’s cold and chilly, you might get quite a draught blowing into your space.

On the other hand, active ventilation can work around the clock, as long as there’s an adequate supply of power, and can provide you with constant ventilation.

These ventilation solutions tend to be more expensive. The prices climb and climb the fancier and the more technical the ventilation product gets.

No matter your budget, you can create an effective ventilation system in your camper to keep the air around you fresh, cool and clean.

To continue your campervan ventilation knowledge quest, read our post about common window solutions in a camper.

6 Comments

  • Reply
    Afton Jackson
    05/12/2023 at 11:39 pm

    Ventilation isn’t something that I thought about as much when planning a camper van conversion. It sounded like a boring thing to think about, but now I can see how this will play a huge role in the safety and efficiency of our van when we use it for camping. I’ll take your advice and ask an auto dealer from the area to help me factor in these kinds of installations and use things like passive ventilation to upgrade my van.

    • Reply
      Nemi & Jolly
      08/12/2023 at 8:19 am

      Hey Afton, thank you for your comment. Ventilation is often overlooked when converting campervans, but it is one of the most important factors for safety and wellbeing. Although we initially found it boring, we have become a little obsessed with it as we can honestly say that after years of living in our van full-time, we have noticed a significant improvement in air quality and reduction in condensation after installing the right type and amount of ventilation.

      Best regards,
      Nemi and Jolly

  • Reply
    Andi
    20/05/2023 at 1:36 pm

    Very useful article, we’re adding a Maxxair fan to our van but we’re undecided if we should add an extra window. Do you think the assisted fan plus cab windows are enough?

    • Reply
      Nemi & Jolly
      20/05/2023 at 9:43 pm

      Hey Andi,
      Good choice! Providing the fan is located near the rear of the van it will be a great way of ventilating the space because the air will draw in through the cab windows and circulate through the entire van. Providing you can open the cab windows anytime, what if it’s raining or at night for security reasons?
      Additionally, you could add drop-out floor vents to allow air in through the van without getting wet or compromising security!

      We have drop-out vents installed under the kitchen and bench seats, where there’s dead air space, to allow the air to move. This works a treat!

      I hope this information is helpful.
      Regards,
      Jolly

  • Reply
    Adam
    27/01/2023 at 9:34 am

    Great article with lots of ideas.
    but, you missed a really useful option – the solar powered roof vent.
    A bit like the electric mushroom vent – except small solar panels on the top of it keep it running al the time there is sufficient sunlight.
    So, even while it may not run all the time in winter, it does run enough to keep the air circulating and prevents damp building up when you are not using it.
    Mine also has a small battery in it so, as long as there is sunlight during the day, it doesn’t just stop at sunset – although the battery doesn’t last more than one night.
    It also has a switch so it can be turned off if necessary.
    This is the model I have – others are available!
    https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/284811870199

    • Reply
      Nemi & Jolly
      31/01/2023 at 7:43 am

      Hi Adam, thanks for bringing this product to our attention, we love the idea. We only recommend products that we trust, have used ourselves or have honest feedback from so thank you for your input and review of this nifty little fan.

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