One of the selling points of a camper over a tent is the air conditioner, but are there tent air conditioners? Well, there are options, yes.
Summertime is traditionally camping season for most campers out there. Vacation is calling, the weather is beautiful, and one of the best ways to catch the best trout is to camp not far away from the stream.
However, this camping can come at something of a cost: unbearable heat.
If you’re somebody who hates feeling as if you’re skin is sticking to your sleeping bag at night, then you may want to consider a tent air conditioner.
While this is most certainly glamping, if you’re able to sleep through the night, who cares?! Glamping is all the rage.
Let’s look at this idea of cooling the space in which you sleep and then consider what the best tent air conditioners for camping there are out there.
How to Choose an Air Conditioner for Camping
HVAC is most certainly something of a science, and it’s beneficial to know a thing or two about it before you begin shopping around for an AC for your tent sleep space. To begin with, you need to understand BTUs.
This is the best measure of how much space a tent air conditioner can effectively cool. The more BTUs your AC can emit, the larger the tent you can keep cool. Most tent AC units you’ll see out there run somewhere between 5,000-12,000 BTUs (FMI).
If you’re going camping with a lot of other people – say, you have a 6–8-person tent – then you’re going to want to shoot for 8,000-10,000 BTUs for your AC unit. Any less than that, and summer camping is liable to be rather miserable for you with the amount of heat all those people will generate.
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These are just recommendations, of course. You may be comfortable with less, but stay mindful that traditional BTU-square footage recommendations may not be appropriate because they are usually designed around insulated space, i.e. homes. A tent lacks that level of insulation so you will need more output for the same amount of space than what you’d need in a home.
Air conditioners make noise. If you retreat to the solitude of the woods for the silence and the sounds of nature, that’s something you’re going to want to consider. Many people enjoy sleeping with the sounds of nature. Incorporating an AC and you may very well end up feeling as if you’re sleeping next to a jet engine if you choose the wrong tent air conditioner.
Noise is measured in decibels. The lower the number of decibels associated with your tent air conditioner, the quieter your AC unit will run.
The portability and space requirements of your tent AC most certainly need to be considered as well. You don’t want to have to curl yourself around a tent-hogging air conditioner, and neither do you want to have a 400lb piece of equipment you’re lugging around with you out into the wild.
The catch here though is that larger and heavier units are typically more powerful. This means they have better abilities to keep you cold in the long run than a tent air conditioner that could safely be called little more than a toy.
You want to find the right balance between power, space, and weight so that you choose the best tent air conditioner for your specific situation.
Evaporative vs Compressor Units
Perhaps one of the chief decisions you need to make is whether or not you want an evaporative unit or a compressor unit. A compressor is your typical AC. Evaporative units rely on a water reservoir which evaporates and helps to cool you down in the process (akin to sweating).
The problem with evaporative units is that they increase the humidity of the area you’re in. If you already live in a humid environment, like Alabama, these types of units are going to turn your tent into a swampy, unbearable mess. You absolutely want a compressor unit in such situations.
However, if you live in a drier area where humidity typically isn’t a problem, then you can get away with these types of units.
7 Best Tent Air Conditioners Out There
To give you an idea of what the best options are out there for tent air conditioners, we thoroughly examined the market, weighing the pros and cons of several tent AC units out there. We’ve narrowed down the results to these choices.
1) Zero Breeze Mark 2
This is an expensive unit, but it’s received high marks by a lot of campers out there. Weighing in at 16.5 pounds, this portable unit can pump out 2300 BTU. It’s not great for a larger area because of this lower power output (a maximum of 40 sq. ft. is what it can handle), but for a smaller tent, this may be just the ticket for you.
The noise comes in at 52 dB, and it’s 20”x10”x11”. You can fit this in the tent with you without feeling like you’re attempting to sleep in the janitor’s closet. As far as electrical power goes, the Zero Breeze Mark 2 can plug into an outlet or operate off battery power alone.
If you go the battery power route, just keep in mind that they only last about 3-5 hours each/charge. You may want to consider purchasing a few extra if this is what you’re looking into. If you do though, you’ll have access to air that’s 30 degrees colder than the ambient temperature and will have four different settings at your whim as well (cool, fan, sleep, and super cold).
2) Shinco 8000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
If space and weight are really a concern for you, then you may want to consider the Shinco 8000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner. It has plenty of juice to cool off your tent without any problem, can do so in a quiet manner (it’s less than 55dB on the low mode), and even offers you three different modes to choose from: cooling, dehumidification, and fan.
- 【OUTSTANDING COOLING ABILITY】- Shinco powerful ac unit owns a cooling capacity of 8,000 BTU(ASHRAE) / 4,550 BTU(SACC), making it perfect for cooling small to medium-sized spaces up to 200sq.ft with ease and making you can enjoy a comfortable and refreshing environment even in the hottest summer days. The adjustable temperature range of 60℉-86℉ allows you to customize your cooling experience to your liking
- 【3-in-1 FUNCTION】- This portable ac unit is designed with a 3-in-1 function that allows you to choose between cool, fan, and dry modes depending on your needs, making it a smart choice for any season. The dehumidification capacity can be up to 19.2L/day without bucket by self-evaporating operation. You can choose between the 2 fan speeds with 200m³/h air flow to get a comfortable feeling
As mentioned though, this is a heftier unit, and unless you are camping just a short way away from your vehicle, you’re going to want to keep looking. The Shinco 8000 weighs 55 pounds and is 17.5×14.8×32.7, so it’s not the smallest portable AC unit on the block.
You have to run a drainpipe from inside to outside with this unit as well. This is included, but it’s something to know ahead of time.
3) Duomishu Personal Air Cooler
This little unit comes in at all of 2.5 pounds. It’s an evaporative cooler – which may or may not be what you’re looking for – and has a 600mL water reservoir. According to the manufacturers, this reservoir can last anywhere between 4-6 hours before needing to be refilled. Some reviewers state it’s a little less than that, however.
Either way, this could be a great way to help cool off your tent in the hottest of summer months. It has three speeds and two different mist modes. That’s right, there is a mist that is generated, meaning you don’t want to set this thing right beside your laptop.
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Normally, I’d assume you wouldn’t have a laptop in your tent, but, hey, you’re shopping for tent air conditioning here, so all assumptions are out the window. For the kiddos, there’s an 8 LED night light attached to this thing and the fan is designed so that it won’t hurt any curious fingers that find their way into it. All of this will only set you back $37, so it’s not a bad price at all.
Just remember that you are going to need an external power source with this one.
4) LaoTzi Portable Air Conditioner
If you like the design of the Duomishu, but are looking for a cordless design, this is it. According to the manufacturer, this battery can last anywhere form 30-50 hours on a single charge. I would take that with a grain of salt, but it should give you a guideline of what you can expect here.
This is another evaporative air conditioner, meaning you’re going to need regular access to water for this to work. The reservoir on it is 300mL, so you’re going to need to keep a few extra water bottles handy if you want continued cold air.
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This is a very tiny unit, weighing 1.2 pounds and with dimensions of 8”x7.3”x7”, so it’ll fit just about anywhere. That small size means small power though. Don’t expect this one to cool down your entire tent. You’re going to have to sit right next to this to feel any cooling effect. If you’re only using your tent for sleeping at night, that shouldn’t be too much of an issue, but it is something to consider.
5) Whynter ARC-102CS
This is a larger unit, but it will most certainly get the job done. Weighing in at 53 lbs and with dimensions of 14”x14.5”x28”, the Whynter ARC-102CS has a rock-solid 10,000BTU. You’ll have no problem cooling off your tent in the summertime as a result.
- POWERFUL & QUIET: 10,000 BTU (ASHRAE) / 7,000 BTU (SACC) cooling capacity; Noise level (dBA): <51.5
- ADVANCED SELF-EVAPORATION: Cools up to a 300 square foot space (ambient temperature and humidity may influence optimum performance); Patented auto drain function fully exhausts all condensate automatically in most environments with optional upper gravity drain port; Dehumidifying capacity: 68 pints per day; Air Flow (at high speed): 350m3/h / 206CFM; 2 fan speeds
There are three different modes available – cool, dehumidify, and fan – meaning that this machine is somewhat versatile, and it does the work at a low volume level as well (less than 51dB). A drain hose is included, and you’re going to need to port it out and away from your tent somewhere, so you don’t end up swamping your sleeping quarters.
Bring a power source too because you’ll need it. That all being said, the Whynter can cool up to 215 sq. ft., so this is a great tent AC unit.
6) Black and Decker BPACT10WT
Here’s another larger AC model that will have zero problems whatsoever with cooling down all of your tent. If you have $380 to spare, you’ll have 5500 BTUs at your fingertips, provided you have an external power source to plug into. There are three different modes available – dehumidify, fan, and cool – giving you a host of options to keep the inside of your tent comfortable.
- Portable AC: Use this personal air conditioner (15.3” x 14” x 24.8") in rooms up to 450 sq. ft. Stay cool in the hot summer months and sleep well with this BLACK+DECKER ac unit for bedroom.
- 3-in-1: 3-in-1: Our 5800 BTU DOE (10000 BTU ASHRAE 128) air conditioner also functions as a dehumidifier & fan. This portable air conditioner (47.3 lbs.) has a convenient remote control & top mounted control panel with LED display.
Like virtually every other powered AC unit for your tent out there, you’re going to need to vent this thing to the great outdoors. An exhaust hose is included (it’s 5’ long) though, so you don’t have to worry about making an additional purchase to do so.
It weighs in at 53 pounds with dimensions of 16.5”x11.5”x26”, so this is a big machine you’re not going to want to carry far. However, if you do take it out into the wild with you, you’ll be just about as comfortable as you would be sitting in the living room in your house.
7) Honeywell 14,000 BTU Portable AC
Let’s say you have a massive family, they’re all hot natured, you have a massive expedition-style tent, you live in Florida, and you enjoy camping in July. If that sounds like you, here’s the unit for the job. You’re going to pay for it – it’s a $530 price tag – but this will ensure that there’s as little complaining as possible.
- Powerful & Dependable Year-Round: 4-in-1 all-season appliance cools rooms up to 700 sq. ft. and heats rooms up to 500 sq. ft.; This unit features thermal overload protection for added safety and peace of mind
- Filters Help Extend Product Life & Performance: Dual Dust Filtration System protects the unit from dust and hair, extending product life and performance; Filters clean easily under a faucet for hassle-free maintenance
You have 14,000 BTU available with this unit. If you wake up surrounded by snow, that’s to be expected, right? This massive BTU capability means this unit can cool upwards of 700 sq. ft. It’s an absolute beast. That beastliness is reflected within the size and weight of this unit as well at 15.2”x18”x29” and 70 lbs.
Exhaust hose is included, and it includes a window venting kit as well.
Powering Your Tent Air Conditioner
As you probably noticed by now, electrical power is a big necessity if you want to keep your tent cool in the summertime. Odds are if you’re packing an AC unit around with you, you’re going to be setting up shop at a campground where electrical hook ups are available.
If that’s the case, then great! All you’ll need then is an extension cord that’s long enough to reach the inside of your tent. If you’re not heading towards a campground, then I highly recommend checking into a portable power bank or inverter generator.
My favorite out there are by Jackery. I recommend the Explorer 500. It’ll give you 518Wh, 110V, and 500W. It’s a versatile piece of equipment that has a range of uses for the prepper, with assisting in the cooling of a hot tent being one of them.
Battery Powered Air Conditioner Pros and Cons
If you don’t want to lug around extension cords and power supplies, then you’re going to need to look for a battery-powered piece of equipment. The advantages here are that you can save quite a bit of money on additional infrastructure, and you have the freedom to go to areas without electrical hook ups.
The cons here are that your AC unit isn’t going to be as powerful as a unit that plugs in, meaning it isn’t going to keep you as cool. If it’s just you going, that may not be a big issue. If we’re talking about a family of four that’s all sleeping in the same tent, then you’re likely to want to find an AC unit with enough oomph to keep everybody happy.
You need to ensure you have plenty of spare batteries as well packed with you unless you want to wake up at 4AM roasting and covered in sweat. For something such as the Zero Breeze Mark 2, that could be an extra $150/battery.
Things can quickly add up.
Use a Tarp if You’re Using a Tent AC Unit
This is an essential if you’re using any of the above AC units. As I mentioned, most tents out there are not insulated. As a result of this, any cool air you produce is going to go straight out that thin canvas fabric. A rain shield or tarp layered over your tent will help to trap this cold air in. A tent such as the Snugpack Scorpion 2 – which I’ve previously written about HERE – already has this rain shield included, so something like that would work perfectly.
Whatever type of tent you use, you need to somehow trap that cold air in.
Other Ways to Stay Cool While Camping
If you’re looking for alternative ways to stay cool while camping, here are a few other tips.
Camp in a Hollow
Cold air likes to go to low areas. As a result, camping down in a hollow is going to allow you to stay cooler than if you’re camping in a higher area. This is a piece of survival advice that is told to stragglers lost in the woods in the wintertime – avoid setting up camp in low areas of the mountains.
Why? Because it’s cold there!
If that’s what you’re looking for though, then hollows are the ticket.
This is hands-down what I think to be the most enjoyable way to camp. You’ve minimal gear and weight to lug around, setup takes all of 5 minutes, there’s no hard rocks digging into your hips, and you stay cool with this method as well. If hot and stuffy tents aggravate you, pick yourself up a hammock, hammock straps, a tarp, and mosquito netting.
Then you’ll be good to go.
Stay Cool Out There!
Camping in extremes of heat can be rather miserable if you’re not prepared for it. If you’re hot natured, one of the best ways to prepare for it is with the tools and methods discussed above, and a portable AC unit may be just the ticket for the situation you find yourself in.
What are your thoughts on the units we’ve featured above? Have you gotten the chance to use any of them? Are there other units out there you think are better? Let us know in the comments below!