7 weird ways to survive a US heatwave

Please don’t revoke my Australian citizenship when I say this, but there’s been a heatwave in San Francisco this week. The mercury soared to 39c in some East Bay suburbs on Sunday – and San Jose and Redwood City weren’t very far behind.

Of course, the whole of Australia is sitting back and chuckling behind their hands, like you do when your three-year-old tastes raw onion for the first time. Unless that toddler was Tony Abbott.

“Just 39 degrees?,” they chortle in disbelief.

“Mate, that’s nothing. Last summer we were out working in 48 degree heat and it was positively balmy!”



Alright cobber. Hopefully you went home to air conditioning.

I’ve been fine with the weather until Sunday when my apartment, which doesn’t have air con and faces full sun no matter what time of day it is, turned into a sauna.

Just so you know, not manyย apartmentsย in San Francisco have air conditioning installed. So when your friends, neighbours and colleagues start complaining that it’s “too damn hot” today, flick them this link and sit back and chuckle like the rest of Australia.


Head down to Wallgreens (I spent months calling it Greenwalls) or the dollar shop and buy yourself a mountain of ice packs.

I hope you have a large freezer and an abundance of shoelaces or scarves, if necessary. It’s time to get creative. Get the ice packs acquainted with your freezer for a bit (they’ll love living next to the ice cream), then strap them to yourself.

One on your skull, and the others strategically placed around your body – the back of the neck, your stomach, arms, legs, lower back, under your feet. Go the whole nine yards! Make it worth your while.


Too broke for a fan? I know it’s hot outside, but you want to find a freeway that is popular with the trucks. The b-double kind, not of the ute-persuasion.

Simply position yourself at a spot on the roadside where they’ve really had a chance to get some speed up – like at the bottom of a hill or between two exits/entries. Then face the traffic and feel the breeze as all those cars and trucks whiz past you!

Picture courtesy of the Ten Network, Australia.

As Con the Fruiterer says, it’s BEWDIFUL MAAAAATE!

Add a deck chair, a beach umbrella and a cocktail and you’ve got it made.


We’re in San Francisco, so a heatwave wouldn’t be complete without getting around starkers.

If you’re not very brave, you can always confine this to the boundaries of your own home… with the curtains drawn and the blinds well and truly shut.


But if you’re a fan of getting your togs off, maybe try it out in a park or on your way down the shops. I can’t guarantee you won’t be arrested or oogled, but it is San Francisco and I hear that’s defense enough.


If you’re like me, your place gets more than its fair share of sun. Morning sun, midday sun, afternoon sun. The latter is the absolute worst because it just sits there, slowly baking you like a rack of ribs.

So you’ll need a way to send that sun back where it came from and that’s where the tinfoil makes an appearance. You’re going to want to pay a visit to Costco, and basically buy them out of their foil supply.


Then get your duct tape out and start taping sheets of the stuff to the outside of your place, until the whole thing is covered. That sun’s met it’s match, and you’re cool as a cucumber!


Set up that cold wash cycle before work. I usually do my washing all at once at the end of the week, but I will make an exception for this heatwave-beating idea.


Now get into those damp jeans and wet t-shirt and voila, you’re instantly cool! This is even better if you’ve got a fan in the house because the air will hit the cool water and instantly refresh you!

Just look out for chaffing, OK?


If you’ve got plumbing experience or your a home handy-person you can probably rig this one up yourself. But if you’re worried about springing a leak, best call in the experts.


Rig up an indoor sprinkler system, similar to a fire dousing one, inside your home. Then connect the pipe to your kitchen or bathroom sink tap. All that’s left to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the mist.


This is for the person in your family who’s always hot. You know, when it’s like five degrees and windy as hell outside but they want a window open. Can you hear me rolling my eyes? Exactly.

Anyway, get to your nearest school or science lab for some liquid nitrogen, fill the bath and jump in. That’s -196 degrees of coolness you’re feeling there!


If you’re not that keen, you can always go the dry ice route, which will sit at around -77 degrees. ย You’re welcome.

Heatwave | beat the heat | tips to stay cool | staying cool | West Coast heatwave | too hot | summer | sunny | Aussie | Expat | Aussie Expat in US | expat life
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Special mention goes to Mr M for helping me come up with some of the more wacky suggestions in this post. So now, you get to tell us your ways to stay cool in a heatwave.ย 

17 thoughts on “7 weird ways to survive a US heatwave

  1. I sweltered through my first summer in SF 14 years ago. Locals suggested buying hand towels from Costco, dipping in cold water, then freezing them. Once frozen, wrap around your neck. Swap the hand towels out as they warm up and the moment can last for hours. It’s a great way to cool off!

    1. A very good suggestion! Much better than any of mine ๐Ÿ˜‰
      I was going for that with sort of thing with the ice packs, I’ll have to try this one!

    1. Venture down the peninsula if you really want some heat. It’s going to be 85 today and 89 tomorrow… although when I wrote this post, it was supposed to be closer to the 100’s.

  2. Giggling. At least during last years hotter than hell summer we had aircon…although we joke that we had to sell the house to pay for the power bill. #TeamLovinLife

  3. I used to participate in a book blogging link-up with a lot of US bloggers and the fact our seasons were opposite was always weird. My intros were always whinging about the heat, while theirs would be about the snow. I’m not a fan of summer though don’t mind the ‘dry’ heat as much as the humidity. I much prefer our temperate winters here in Queensland.

  4. As I sit here dressed in jeans, boots and jumper, it’s hard to imagine a heat wave. However, our summers can be pretty damn hot, as you described above. As air con is unavailable, I suggest a cold shower and dressing in loose clothing with a spray bottle full of iced water at the ready ๐Ÿ™‚ #TeamLovinLife

  5. That is definitely a sizzler for over there in the USA. I remember being in Turkey on holidays and it was around 45 degrees. Such intensity of heat – I thought I was going to melt. The wet face washer in front of a fan works just as well as air con. Give it a try! ๐Ÿ™‚ #TeamLovinLife

  6. I sure hope it is settling down a bit. I read in the paper today of the deaths of people where the temp got to 50C out in the desert. When we had 5 days in a row of temps over 38C last Summer (and the power companies were shutting down places to save electricity ffs) we placed sheets against the hottest windows even though there are vertical drapes and it was somewhat helpful. I bet going to work is a pleasure on hot days like these..as long as work has air con.

    1. Oh yeah, for once I didn’t have to take a winter jacket into work, just a cardigan to deal with the air conditioning at work!

    1. Once you get it, it’s indispensable Janet. I was so annoyed when I moved to London and my parents got air conditioning. All those years sweltering through hot Aussie summers and I couldn’t even reap the rewards!

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