If your campsite is powered, almost any air conditioner will do the job as a tent air conditioner. Obviously, you would like a mini portable air conditioner, but it must still be powerful enough to cool your tent. 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 ft 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.
Weight: 10 Pounds
Height: 21 Inches
Evapolar started as a crowdfunding project and raised almost $2.5m, and was the winner of the 2019 Red Dot Design award. Of all the mini air conditioners, Evapolar is the best quality build. Initially, Evapolar only had one model, but due to popularity, Evapolar now has 3 different models, the EvaChill, the EvaLight, and the EvaSmart. The EvaChill evaporative cooler is our top pick. It is simple to use, compact, power-efficient, and also the cheapest providing the most "bang for your buck".
The EvaChill 3-in-1 personal air cooler is an evaporative cooler, it blows the air through a moist filter which creates the cooling effect as it humidifies and purifies the air.
Thanks to the evaporative material used, this cooler completely filters the air, making it safe to breathe. This means there is no chance of mold, or bacteria developing. As this cooler uses water, it may concern you about leakages, this is not a problem as the leakproof system will not allow for leaking. The extra-large water tank allows up to 9 hours of continuous cool airflow. With the EvaChill, noise levels are kept to a minimum at 25 to 50 dB.
16.51 x 16.51 x 16.51 cm
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(about the size of a 3 man tent). 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.
Size: 20"L x 10"W x 11"H
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
We 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.
Companion Maxi Evaporative Portable Cooler
Companion is an Australian company that has a reputation as being a leader in producing and manufacturing quality camping products for the last 80years, including portable coolers and air conditioners.
The Maxi Evaporative Portable Cooler is a powerful and portable solution for your cooling needs, with the option of it being operated from either 12V or 240V. The adaptors are included in the pack. We like the Maxi Cooler as it has both AC/DC charging capability, and an impressive 250m3/hr air flow rate, giving you 6.5hrs of cool air, it is simple and easy to operate, and the top carry handle means it can be moved around with ease. All of this will keep you comfortable and cool for longer, whilst saving on power.
2 fan speeds
240V AC/12V DC rechargeable and adaptors included
Fan only mode
Tilt shut off switch
Easy to refill, detachable water tank with a level indicator
Fan air volume: 250m3/hour
1200ml water tank capacity
1500ml/hour water consumption
Dimensions: 33W x 34H x 18D cm
Batteries: 6V, 6Ah Rechargeable Lead Acid
Battery charge time: 12hrs
Run time: Low speed - 5.5 hours
High speed - 3.5 hours
Honeywell Portable Camping Air Conditioner
Honeywell is a dependable well-known brand. This portable air conditioner is also a dehumidifier & fan with a dual filtration system. It cools rooms up to 550 sq/ft.with an impressive 12,000 BTU cooling power, this air conditioning unit is sure to keep you cool whilst camping this summer. The unit has thermal overload protection as an added safety feature. The automatic vertical wind motion helps to distribute the powerful cool air evenly for consistent cooling. The dual filters are designed to protect from dust and hair which is a perfect added feature, much needed when camping. There is a full set window kit included for quick and easy installation appropriate for vertical and horizontal windows. (The max. hose length is 4 feet)
Cooling power 12,000 BTU
Floor Area 550sq. ft.
Dimensions 18.9 L x 15.7 W x 31.3H
Auto evaporation / built-in dehumidifier removes 86pints / 24hours with a continuous drain option
Weight 64 Pounds
Control method Remote
Self Timer duration 24 hours
Transcool Portable Evaporative Air Cooler
The Transcool EC3 is advertised as a "personal spot cooler", meaning its optimal usage is ideal for tent camping. In addition to camping, it is a lightweight, portable cooler that can be used whilst boating. It is perfect for RVs and caravans as it plugs into any 12 or 24-volt power source, and is perfect for the shed when it's hot working indoors. For pet lovers, it is perfect to keep your dog cool.
Included in your Transcool EC3 pack is a larger 5-liter water tank to keep you cool throughout the night or for longer periods. Also included is a 10ft cable, to run from your 4x4 into your swag or roof topper, connected to the cigarette socket.
For our full review of the Transcool EC3 go here.
Length - 240mm
Height - 220mm
width - 220mm
dual 12 or 24-volt power source
connection for cigarette lighter, battery pack
or any vehicle or outlet supplying either voltage. Also includes a 110/240v transformer, so you can switch between DC power (vehicle battery) and AC voltage (household electricity).
TYPES OF TENT AIR CONDITION UNITS
When choosing an air conditioning unit for your tent there are 3 types to choose from. In popularity, a portable AC unit comes in at number 1. selling 45.5%, evaporative coolers come in at #2, selling 30.3% and wall-mounted air conditioners are 3rd most popular selling 24.2% of air conditioners for camping.
Here is a quick guide as to how much BTU (cooling power) you will need for the size of your tent.
2 person tent 5,000 BTU
4 person tent 7,000 BTU
8 person tent 10,000 BTU
10 person tent 14,000 BTU
The figures above are based on the cooling power for non-insulated tents. For insulated tents, you can take off between 2,000 BTU for small tents-4,000 BTU for large tents. The cooling demands on the air conditioner are not as high due to extra insulation & airtightness.
Cordless Air Conditioning unit:
These types of mini portable airconditioners are fairly new to the market. With the advance in battery technology and capacity, it is now possible to have a very compact unit with no external power supply needed. The only downside is that they tend to be very expensive.
These air conditioners work great in hot dry climates and are much simpler than compressor-type units (you can even make your own DIY evaporative/swamp cooler here). They are less power-hungry and can be very compact.
Portable air conditioners
These units are designed to roll around your home. Although they are portable they tend to be on the bulky side.
Window air conditioners:
These units can be very compact and come in a large range of BTU output. They are also very budget-friendly.
Things Too Consider When Buying a Tent Air Conditioner:
You will need to decide what area and conditions you will need to cover. Do you have a 2 or 8 person tent, is the tent insulated or not. Most are not, the figures above reflect this.
Will the air conditioner you purchase be for multi-purpose use - for the shed, under the car, for fishing?
Unpowered Campsites / Remote Camping
For the situation when you are camping in a remote location, or happen to book the campsite just before school holidays start and miss out on a powered campsite. A camping generator will solve your problem of accessing power when no external power is available.
We recommend doing your research when it comes to purchasing a portable air conditioner, as there is no point in spending a good amount of money on a unit that does not accommodate cooling your tent properly.
Battery operated camping air conditioning units are not recommended. The reason, the battery will find it hard to cool your tent at a comfortable temperature, as too much power is required.
Price does make a difference when it comes to buying an efficient, reliable Tent air conditioning unit that will also cool to a comfortable temperature. The best air conditioning unit should perform as expected and reasonably priced. Most Expensive is not always best.
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.