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Not everyone is ready to go entirely out of their comfort zone when camping and spending time outdoors. If you prefer having some basic comforts, and enjoy your time camping without feeling drenched in sweat and uncomfortable in the scorching hot days and nights, then a good air conditioner for camping is a wise investment to make.
The best camping air conditioners are portable enough to travel with you and to fit in your tent, RV, or cool your outdoor camp. But the size and weight are not the only factors to keep in mind when shopping for the best tent air conditioner.
Here is an overview of the types of air conditioners to choose from, the features to look for, as well as our top picks for the best camping air conditioners for 2020.
Off-grid or electrical powered
The first prominent feature to keep in mind when looking for the best AC tent unit for your camping adventures is whether you will be spending time off the grid, or at a campground which has available electrical power hookups.
If you have access to electricity, then you have a very wide choice of different types of portable air conditioners to choose from.
If you don’t have access to AC power, then you should narrow down your search to portable air conditioners or coolers which can be powered or charged via a DC charger in your car, solar power, or which run on batteries.
So, here are the main types of air conditioners for tents, RVs and for camping to choose from:
Types of camping air conditioners
The main types of portable air conditioners which are suitable for use during your outdoor adventures include:
Window air conditioners
Although it may sound strange to use a window AC in a tent, the fact is that some of these window style unit air conditioner units are portable, very easy to set up, and can cool an average-sized tent of up to about 150 square feet. This, of course, is possible, if you have a tent with a suitable ventilation opening which can fit the air conditioner. Even if your tent doesn’t have a dedicated opening for a window air conditioner, you can make some alterations to it, allowing for the easy installation and removal of such a device. We have included some of the best portable window units on the market which can easily fit and cool a tent.
Compact portable air conditioners
These standalone portable AC units are, in most cases, more powerful than the portable window units. You can find portable air conditioners for camping, which can cool areas of up to 400 sq ft, and have an output of about 12,000BTUs.
Unfortunately, some of the most powerful portable air conditioners can be pretty bulky, but they do usually come with wheels and convenient handles for moving them around.
Keep in mind that these units also require a vent of some kind, but the venting happens via a hose, so you can use one of your tent’s built-in openings and vents instead of customizing a door or other opening for it.
Since portable AC units, except for creating a cooling effect usually double as dehumidifiers, you can expect them to have a water reservoir or tray which collects the moisture from the air, and which needs to be emptied. Fortunately, most of the best tent air conditioners for camping come with an auto shut-off function and will power off as soon as the tank is full, to prevent spillage.
Read on to find out which our top picks for the best portable camping air conditioners for 2020 are.
These are the most powerful of all air cooling devices for camping and can run at an output of up to 15,000 BTUs. They are usually a preferred option for more permanent setups like workshops, sheds, or garages, but you can set one of these spot coolers on your camping site as well.
These are battery-powered air conditioners, which are the most suitable (and only) option if you are going to spend your time entirely off the grid, without access to AC electrical power, but still want inside your tent to be filled with refreshing cool air.
The 12V coolers are small, portable, and are suitable for small-sized tents. They usually work with ice or water, which is converted to cool air via a battery-powered fan. They are more suitable for personal coolers and for smaller tents.
Features to keep in mind when shopping for a tent air conditioner
Size and portability
The obvious factor which is essential when shopping for an air conditioner for camping in a tent is its size and weight. The smaller and lighter the unit is, the more portable it is. Depending on the space you have in your vehicle for an air conditioner alongside all of your camping gear and other belongings, you can pick between a variety of different best tent air conditioners.
Some of the larger and heavier ones which are more powerful too have wheels and can be rolled from one spot to another, so it is really a matter of how much space you have for an AC unit in your vehicle and in your tent.
The power level in BTUs
BTU stands for British Thermal Units and is the energy unit used for defining the power of cooling or for heating, and how much energy they need to cool or heat an area.
The higher the BTU of an air conditioner, the higher its capacity to cool larger spaces.
It is essential to choose the best tent air conditioner that is sufficient to cool your tent or RV and to maintain a consistent temperature whenever needed. If you buy an air conditioner which is not adequate to cool the tent that you have, then you will be spending money for nothing. But purchasing an air conditioner which is way too powerful for your tent is not a good idea either, because it will not be efficient at all, and will keep shutting off when the desired temperature is reached. So, make sure you choose the air conditioner for tents, which has a BTU power level and output, which corresponds to or is just a little over the internal volume of your tent.
Your tent size
Speaking about camping tent size, it is not sufficient to simply consider your tent a 2-person, 4 person tent, or another tent capacity when you are choosing the most suitable tent air conditioner for it.
To find the best air conditioners for a tent, you should measure the volume inside the tent, as well as how many people will be sleeping in it, because the more people – the hotter it will be inside.
Also, make sure you measure how much space you have available for an air conditioner when all your sleeping pads or beds and other gear is set up inside the tent before making the mistake of buying an AC which cannot fit in your camping tents and will ruin your camping adventures.
The power source
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the most essential feature for choosing the appropriate air conditioner for your tent or RV is the power source that you will have available. If you are going to spend your trip on a campsite where there are available electrical hookups, or if you have a generator powerful enough to power a camping tent air conditioner, then opt for an electric-powered one that best suits your needs.
Make sure you check how many amps are allowed for the campsite hookups, or how many amps your generator can support without cutting the power or blowing a circuit.
All air conditioners except the battery-powered coolers require ventilation to eject the hot air. As mentioned previously, window air conditioners will require a vent that can fit the entire air conditioning unit, while portable ones need a considerably smaller vent to fit a hose.
So, look at the vents available in your tent, or think about making alterations to it by using a door or window for one, or making a hole, before choosing the best tent air conditioner.
The noise level
When buying an air conditioner, be it for your home or camping, checking its noise levels is essential if you want to be able to enjoy your trip and use it at day or night without being disturbed by the loud noise.
Of course, when camping outside, there will likely be outdoor sounds that can block some of the noise of the AC unit, but nevertheless, it is a good idea to check the decibel level of the air conditioner before purchasing it.
60 dB is a reasonable noise level for a tent air conditioner and will allow you to use the unit without staying awake or keeping your neighbors up. Units which operate at 70dB or higher could be a problem as they may disturb your sleep, your peace and quiet, and annoy your camping neighbors too.
Obviously, you should choose an air conditioner for camping which is within your price range. The rule of the thumb is to buy the best one offered, which is in the price range you are ready to pay.
Since owning and using a tent air conditioner is still considered a luxury by many, you can expect these units to be somewhat expensive. So, be careful when choosing the one to buy and opt for the tent air conditioner, which offers the best value for the price asked.
Also, check whether it comes with a warranty, in order to make sure that you are making a wise investment in the long run.
Now that you know what the main features are for finding the best tent air conditioner for camping for your specific needs take a look at our top recommended picks for 2020.
Cooling capacity: up to 400 square feet
Power: 14,000 BTU
Size: 35 (H) x 18.75 (W) x 15.75 (D) inches
Weight: 72.8 lbs.
Noise level: 49-55 dB
Additional options: dehumidifier option, 3-speed fan, 24-hour timer, remote control
The EdgeStar AP14003W is an excellent option if you want a reliable, portable, and easy to use air conditioner for a tent which is up to 400 sq ft. The unit has a 14,000 BTU according to ASHRAE-128 Standard and utilizes a self-evaporative technology to cool the space efficiently.
The portable AC has a dehumidifying function and can be used as a fan for improving the air circulation inside the tent.
It has easy to access and use controls with a LED display on top, which you can use to adjust the desired temperature settings or to choose between the fan or dehumidifier modes. The fan has 3 speed settings.
The temperature range of the device is 62 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit, and it has the capacity to remove up to 71 pints of moisture from the air per day when used as a dehumidifier. Since the appliance features a self-evaporative system, it will drain the collected moisture from condensation without the need for draining it.
This tent air conditioner has a useful 24-hour timer and comes with a remote control, so you can toggle the cooling options and settings without having to get up.
You can set it to work in auto mode or to shut itself off after the set time is over for energy saving.
It has a CFM of 238-292.5 and uses safe RoHS compliant R410 CFC free refrigerant.
The size of the EdgeStar portable air conditioner is 35 (H) x 18.75 (W) x 15.75 (D) inches and weighs 72.8 lbs. It has smooth-rolling casters, which make it easier to move the air conditioning unit around when needed.
It uses an input voltage of 115V/60Hz and 11.9 amps of electrical power.
The EdgeStar AP14003W portable air conditioner comes with a power cord of 6.1 feet.
The air conditioner comes with an optional drain and vent hose, as well as a window kit that is easy to use and remove.
It operates quietly with a minimum noise level of 49 dB, and a maximum of up to 55 dB.
The best part of this premium quality 3-in-1 air conditioner for camping is that you can also use it at home when you are not camping, in order to cool, dehumidify or improve the air circulation of a room of up to 400 square feet. So, you can use it all-year-round, and not only when you are on vacation or a camping trip.
Cooling capacity: up to 500 square feet
Power: 1,300 CFM
Size: 28 (H) x 22 (W) x 12 (D) inches
Weight: 16 lbs.
Noise level: up to 53.4 dB
Additional options: manual or continuous water filling, 2 cooling modes, 2 fan speeds
The Hessaire MC18M Portable Evaporative Cooler is an excellent option if you want a lightweight and compact cooler for your next camping trip, or you have a limit of the power you can use for air conditioning when camping.
The unit is only 28 x 22 x 12 inches in size and 16 lbs. when empty. It also has heavy-duty casters that can easily roll on all surfaces both indoors and outside. It also has a nifty carry handle on top for easy portability.
The cooler uses evaporation of water to keep the air inside your tent cool. It can cool large tents of up to 500 sq ft comfortably in one of the two available cooling modes.
You can also use the tent AC as a fan only, at one of the two available fan speeds.
The compact camping air conditioner has a capacity of up to 1,300 cubic feet per minute (CFM), and is among the best evaporative coolers for camping trips.
You can adjust the louvers in order to direct the airflow to the desired direction or to go both up and down simultaneously in your family tent.
The Hessaire MC18M doesn’t use as much electricity as other tent air conditioners with compressors. It will use about 1/10 of the power which the more powerful compressor camping tent air conditioners require to produce cool air. This is excellent news for those of you planning on going camping to a campsite where there is a limitation to the electrical amperage which can be used, or if you will be relying on a generator to power it. The motor is 0.7A and requires a 115V power supply.
The downside of this evaporative cooler is that you will need to refill the 4.8-gallon water tank with water every 3-4 hours in order for it to keep operating. If you have access to running water, you can connect it to a hose, and it will fill itself and control the water level automatically with the included brass garden hose adapter.
It has a water level indicator and a safety overheat protection function.
The portable air conditioner for camping has a rugged design and is constructed of sturdy ABS with a UV protection coating, so it will endure a lot of traveling, camping, and wear and tear. You can safely use it outdoors as well.
The portable swamp cooler by Hessaire is an excellent, durable, and small-sized indoor and outdoor cooler and fan which is reasonably priced, easy to use, and will serve you well for years. It is one of the best options for campers who do not always have access to reliable electrical power or who need a reasonably priced cooler for trips to places where it is not extremely hot.
Cooling capacity: up to 60 square feet
Power: 2,300 BTUs
Size: 20 (L) x 10 (W) x 11 (H) inches
Weight: 16.5 lbs.
Noise level: up to 52 dB
Additional options: 24V battery powered or AC powered, solar-powered or car charger options, super cool mode, 3-speed fan, sleep mode, long battery life
If you are planning a tent camping journey where there is no power source available, the Zero Breeze Mark 2 is among the best completely cordless portable coolers you will find in 2020.
It is very compact and portable, with a size of 20 x 10 x 11 inches, a weight of 1.65 lbs. and a comfortable carry handle on top making it easy to move and transport.
It is a perfect cooling system for small 3-person tents of 40-60 square feet and has a cooling power output of 2,300 BTUs. It is also an excellent option for cooling your truck, cabin, RV, boat, or other premises off the grid.
With its 650W cooling capacity, this little cooler can provide you with almost instant cooling as soon as it is switched on. In fact, it can cool down the ambient temperature down by 30 degrees Fahrenheit in just 10 minutes.
It has a cool and super cool mode, as well as 3-speed fan options to choose from.
The cooler has a built-in 24V adaptive frequency micro compressor, and the battery power can last to up to 5 hours of continuous cooling per charge. It offers multiple charging options. You can recharge the battery via an AC wall outlet, solar panels systems, or your car with the included power adapter.
The smart battery also includes a 12V, 24V, and USB options.
Thanks to its gravity drain system and its leak-proof design, you won’t have to deal with spillages when dealing with the water collected from the condensation. while it keeps the tent cool.
It doesn’t cause condensation inside the tent thanks to the dual hose system, which is great news for any camper who dreads getting their clothes and gear soggy and wet.
The downside of this cordless camping air conditioner is that it is pretty expensive, but it does come with a 30-day money-back guarantee and a 1-year warranty by the manufacturer.
Other than its price tag, this is most definitely among the best air conditioners for tents and camping, if you prefer spending your vacations in isolated areas with no direct access to electrical power but still would love to enjoy some fresh cold air in your tent.
It is also very portable, so you can literally carry it and take it with you wherever you go – be it to work, on a road trip, or other.
Size: 15 (L) x 12 (W) x 13 (H) inches
Weight: 7.6 lbs.
Noise level: N/A
Additional options: Compatible with all Ryobi 18 Volt One+ batteries
If the Zero Breeze Mark II is outside of your budget for a camping cooler, but you still want a portable, battery-powered one for your outdoor adventures, then the Arctic Cove MBF0181 is a suitable option for you.
This cordless Bucket Top Misting Fan by Arctic Cove is powered by an 18V lithium-ion battery, which has a run time of up to 2.5 hours at high speed. It can run up to 7 hours on low fan speed with a 4.0 battery.
The camping cooler is one of the smallest and lightest ones on this list. It weighs only 7.6 lbs. and is 15 x 12 x 13 inches in size.
The fan is mounted on a special foot design which will allow you to set it up on a flat surface with a garden hose attached, or on top of a bucket as a water source.
The unit is straightforward to use and has a high and low fan and misting levels. In fact, you can use it as a fan only and as a mister to produce cold air.
The convenient portable air cooler is compatible with all Ryobi dual chemistry chargers and Ryobi 18V One+ batteries, so if you already own a power tool or other batteries, you can easily interchange them.
Even though the Arctic Clove Bucket Top Misting Fan is not really an air conditioner, it is an excellent cordless cooling solution for campers, fishers, sports event attendees, and others.
It is affordable, easy to use, compatible with the popular Ryobi 18V One + batteries and chargers, and can use a 5-gallon bucket or a garden hose as a water source, whichever is more convenient for you.
Plus, it is affordable, durable, and can keep you cool and comfortable with its cool mist or fan-only settings, even when you are off the grid.
One of the downsides of this model is the fact that it requires the use of a bucket or hose, which are not included in the package. Also, you may need to carry large amounts of water with you if you don’t have a water supply nearby in order to use it in your tent or outdoors.
Cooling capacity: indoors or outdoors for small to medium tents
Power: 600 CFM, 138W
Size: 14.7 x 13.6 x 13.1 inches
Noise level: N/A
Additional options: It can be used with or without the misters
The XPOWER FM-48 portable outdoor cooling misting fan is another inexpensive alternative to a portable air cooling system that you can use inside and outside of your tent when camping.
The compact misting fan is lightweight and can be used as a powerful cooling misting fan or as a fan only.
It is designed to be used outside with the mister function on, and inside as a fan. You only need to plug it in and attach it to a garden hose, and the unit will start cooling the tent area with a refreshing cool mist. It can lower the ambient temperature by 30 degrees Fahrenheit very quickly.
This portable misting fan is a perfect option for outdoor events, for patios, for gardens, and for campsites.
It has 3 adjustable speeds of its powerful 138W induction motor and yet uses only 1.2A of electricity.
The device is made of sturdy ABS plastic, which can endure a lot of use and outdoor adventures.
The mister direction can be adjusted easily in any direction you want.
The downside is that you do need an electrical and a water source in order to use it as a cooling misting fan. Without the water, it can be used as a mighty 3-speed fan too.
Cooling capacity: up to 150 square feet
Power: 5000 BTU
Size: 16 (W) x 15.25 (D) x 12 (H)
Weight: 41 lbs.
Noise level: N/A
Additional options: dehumidifier
If you have a tent with an opening suitable for a window air conditioner, then this compact and portable tent AC unit by Frigidaire is one of the best window-mounted AC units for camping you can buy.
The affordable air conditioner is suitable for smaller tents of up to 150 sq. feet, and has a power output of 5000 BTUs.
The window unit is small enough to fit an average window or baggage slot in a tent easily.
It also works as a dehumidifier, which will help remove the condensation from your tent and keep your clothes and gear dry. It can remove up to 1.1 pints of moisture from the air per hour.
The Frigidaire Mini Window-Mounted Conditioner has easy to understand and use mechanical rotary dial controls to adjust the temperature and to pick one of the 2 cool speeds, 2 fan speeds or 2 way air direction options.
The unit is powered by a standard 115V power outlet and is Energy Efficient Ratio rated at 11.1. It has a low-power startup function, which will further save energy and reduce your bills.
The tent air conditioner is easy to mount and dismount with the included window mounting kit.
The Frigidaire FFRA0511RE has been a bestseller on Amazon for quite some time and is among the top-rated window-mounted air conditioners with this size and at this price range.
It will be an excellent addition to your camping gear and will allow you to keep comfortable, cool, and dry, no matter where you are if you have a tent up to 150 sq. feet with a suitable opening, and access to an electrical power outlet.
Cooling capacity: 150-200 square feet
Power: 8,000 BTU
Size: 16.5 (W) x 11.5 (D) x 26 (H) inches
Weight: 52.9 lbs.
Noise level: 75 dB
Additional options: dehumidifies while cooling
The Black+Decker BPACT08WT Portable Air Conditioner is another superb option if you prefer the convenience of having an air conditioner in your tent when you are on a camping trip.
The portable air conditioner is relatively compact and weighs just about 53 lbs. and will comfortably cool a tent or room up to 150- 200 square feet. The unit has a small footprint of only 15 x 20 inches so that it won’t take up too much floor space in the tent.
It also has wheels so it can easily be rolled from one room to another or inside the tent.
The device will also help dehumidify the air in the tent and prevent condensation from building up on your clothes, and camping and sleeping gear. Thanks to its self-evaporative feature, you don’t need to deal with draining hoses and buckets.
You can use it as a fan to enhance the air circulation inside too.
It is very easy to install and uninstall with the included 4’1” hose and window adaptor.
It has a cooling power of up to 8,000 BTUs and can cool the air down to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature and fan speed are adjustable in accordance with your needs.
The portable AC has a nifty Sleep mode, which is ultra-quiet and energy-saving. The air conditioner also has a 24-hour timer.
It has an easy to remove filter which can be washed out from the trapped debris and dust and reused over and over again.
It has an easy to use control panel and a LED display and comes with a useful remote control too.
The portable air conditioner by Black+Decker uses 9 amps and 115V/60Hz electrical power.
It is among the best tent air conditioners for people with tents, which are up to 20 sq. feet and have access to an electrical power hookup. You can also use it as an air conditioner, dehumidifier, or fan at home.
Cooling capacity: Up to 300 sq.feet
Power: 8,000 BTU
Size: 17.32 x 12.8 x 27.36 inches
Weight: 52.9 lbs.
Noise level: 50 dB
Additional options: a heat option, auto-evaporation, dehumidifier and fan
The Emerson Quiet Kool portable air conditioner is among the quietest of all ACs on this list. It has a maximum noise level of 50 dB for a peaceful and quiet camping experience.
Plus, it doubles as a heater, so it is suitable for all-year-round camping.
The portable unit has a small footprint of 17.32 x 12.8 inches and has casters for easier portability.
It can successfully cool a tent of up to 150-300 square feet and can be used as an efficient air conditioner for your home as well, thanks to the included hose and window kit.
The auto-evaporating air conditioner helps remove the condensation and moisture from the air and uses it to cool the air inside the tent. This means that unless you are in very humid conditions, you don’t need to deal with emptying buckets and risk spilling water all over the tent. It can remove up to 2.5 pints of moisture per hour.
The portable air conditioner has three modes – cool, heat, and fan, which you can set easily via the touch controls on top, or the included remote control.
You can also use the Sleep mode, which will make the device whisper quiet and allow you to relax and sleep undisturbed.
There is a built-in 24-hour timer.
The versatile air conditioner and heater for tents is among the most multifunctional of all products on this list. It is easy to use and maintain and will allow you to enjoy comfortable camping or glamping all-year-round.
Last but not least, this air conditioner is sold at a reasonable price and is backed by a 1-year warranty for labor, 2-years for the parts, and 5-years for the compressor.
The advantages and disadvantages of using an air conditioner for camping
If you are still deliberating on whether you should invest in an air conditioner for your camping trips, here are some of the main pros and cons you may want to consider:
- A more comfortable cool dwelling for sleeping and relaxing
- Better sleep when the air is cool
- Removal of condensation from the tent and your gear and clothes
- Easy to use, and little maintenance is required for most units
- Different power options for use on the grid or off it
- Most of these units are multifunctional, so you can use them at home or elsewhere as well
- Some devices double as heaters for 4-season camping
- Taking an AC with you camping can be a hassle if you have limited vehicle or tent space
- Most of the powerful tent air conditioners run on electricity, so you do need a hookup
- Setting up the unit can be a hassle for some of the models
- Most of them are pretty expensive
- ACs are designed to cool insulated and closed areas and tents are not entirely insulated
Camping air conditioners FAQs
Q: How to improve the efficiency of the air conditioner in my tent?
A: Since there are no air conditioners that are designed explicitly for tents, and most of them are made for closed spaces with insulation, you will need to ensure that you take extra precautions in order to increase the efficiency of your tent air conditioner. This includes setting the tent up in a shadier area, away from direct sunlight, using a fly to make a shade, ensuring that there are minimal gaps when installing the window-mounted unit or the duct, as well as close the windows and doors of the tent. Also, you will need to keep the filters of the unit clean to improve its overall performance.
Q: Should I close up all of the vents in my tent when using the AC inside?
A: It is not a good idea to close up all openings for ventilation in your tent. They have been designed and placed there for safety reasons, and to provide you with the air you and the other people inside need to breathe, sleep, and live normally. So, just close some of the larger openings like doors and large windows.
Q: Can I use solar power for my air conditioner?
A: It is possible if you have a solar power system which can handle the starting wattage of the air conditioner, and not only the running wattage because usually the starting wattage is much higher.
Q: Are window-mounted ACs better for tents?
A: In some cases, yes. This is because half of the body of the AC is actually outside the tent during operation, allowing for better removal of the hot air outside rather than relying on a hose. On the other hand, window-mounted air conditioners are usually less powerful than portable ones and are also more of a hassle to set up.
Q: Do I need to own a tent that has a dedicated hole for ACs?
A: It will help if your tent has a special hole for the window-mounted AC or for the exhaust hose, but you can also rely on the existing openings such as doors, windows, vents in your tent, or if you want you can easily accustom it yourself.
Q: Can I use an air conditioner for camping in high humidity areas?
A: Yes, you can because most portable tent air conditioners double as dehumidifiers, and use the moisture to cool the air. But keep in mind that if the humidity is extremely high, the air conditioner can have to work harder to keep the air comfortably cool.
Q: Is it safe to use an air conditioner inside a tent?
A: Most portable ACs are safe to use in a tent, but make sure you follow the instructions for allowing proper ventilation inside the tent and also beware that if the inside of the tent is wet, the use of any non-waterproof electrical appliance can be dangerous.
Q: Do I require special skills to set up an air conditioner in my tent?
A: The answer depends on the type of air conditioner you choose to use. Keep in mind that with any traditional portable air conditioner, you will need to think about a power outlet, an air exhaust for the warm air, and possibly a water discharge drain. If you have these handy, installing a portable AC can be easy.
When installing a window-mounted air conditioner in a tent, you will need a suitable porthole or something similar to install it.
Units with compressors will need a drainage trench or some kind of container to collect or keep the water flow out and away from the tent. With portable units, you may need to drain the collected water periodically, and with misting fans, you will need to provide a water source or refill them.
Evaporative coolers requires less power and generate less heat without any water discharge, so it is easy to install but not as powerful as a compressor AC.
Last update on 2020-09-29 at 18:24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API