If your campsite is powered, almost any air conditioner will do the job. Obviously you would like the most compact unit, but it must still be powerful enough. For 150 square feet of tent you will need a unit that is about 5000BTU rated, any less and it will struggle to keep you cool. Remember a tent is not insulated like a home so the unit is going to work harder.
If you have a window style unit you will have to put it on a stand (I use a milk crate that I pack gear in on my way to the site). An outdoor power cord that is at least 15amp rated is a minimum, you don’t want it to overheat next to the tent.
I have made a sleeve that slips over the unit with an air duct that runs into the tent or you can buy the AC Boot to simplify the installation. If all this seems like too much of a problem, just get a good quality tent fan.
Here are the top choices for tent air conditioners:
Lifesmart Indoor/Outdoor Cooler
The Lifesmart indoor/outdoor coolers are almost perfect for camping. It is an evaporative cooler so your tent does not need to be insulated to keep cool, but rather have open ports to keep cool air flowing.
A gallon of water delivers up to 10 hours of run time for the unit and it uses less energy than a 40w light bulb. The 350CFM airflow will keep an area of up to 250sq m cool. Its stands 21 inches tall and weighs 10 pounds and has an inbuilt carry handle.
What makes this unit one of our favorites is that it runs on 12v, so if your campsite does not have power you can connect it to a battery to run it (separate extension required).
This unit is probably the best option if your site is not powered, however beware evaporative coolers works best in hot dry climates and less in humid ones.
ZeroBreeze Portable Air Conditioner
The ZeroBreeze is the ultimate in portable air conditioners. From the ground up it was designed to go camping or any other outdoor activity where there is no power.
It runs of its own internal battery and on a low setting it will last for 3-5 hours (3 hours on high setting). If power is available the 12v-charging adaptor can be used to save battery life. The air conditioner uses a rotary compressor for cooling (think refrigeration) and is powerful enough to cool a 50 sq./ft. space to 44 deg F. The 3 speed seeting helps to control battery life in any condition.
All of this by it self would have made this our top choice, but ZeroBreeze has added some amazing features. It has a build in 3W Bluetooth speaker, a LED light and has 2 USB charging port to charge any device.
The ZeroBreeze is perfect for a tent air conditioner although it’s a bit expensive, for a complete review of the ZeroBreeze portable air conditioner have a look here.
Frigidaire Mini Window Air Conditioner
This is an inexpensive, compact, light, window style air conditioner that has been a best seller for ages and is perfect for a tent. It is a 5000BTU air conditioner, so it is strong enough for most tents and it has a low voltage start-up to conserve power. It is a quiet air conditioner and has a high power efficiency rating and only weighs 35lbs. It can cool a tent of up to 150sq/f
Tripp Lite Portable Cooler
I really like this unit. It is a powerful portable air conditioner (12 000BTU) designed for spot cooling of data centers or electronic stacks. Its cold air outlet can be easily duct into the tent and it has a timer so that it can switch off automatically in the middle of the night. No stand is required or any modification of the tent or unit. Connect the 71”ducts to the unit, stick it in the tent and switch on. Done.
The downside it that the air conditioner is a little heavy, it weighs 68lbs but it is fairly compact. It is not designed for camping, but it is doing a great job, and you will have to try hard for a better alternative.
Some campers will pull their face when they see a tent with an air conditioner, but they obviously never camped with one. If you have the space in your car and power is not a problem do you self a favor and try camping with one, you will never go back.