The summer is the perfect time for finding hidden swimming holes or taking your kayak out on the water. But if you’re a tent camper, you may dread sleeping in a greenhouse instead of an air-conditioned tent. Your tent doesn’t have to be this way! There are AC units for tent camping that will keep you cool as you enjoy adventuring this summer. Let’s look at the different types of air conditioner units, what to look for, and the best options for tent camping. Let’s dive in!
Can You Use An Air Conditioner in a Tent?
When the summer heat hits, don’t put away your tent. Enjoy summer camping with a tent air conditioner. Yes, you can have an air-conditioned tent. Let’s examine the different types of ACs for tent camping so you can get what best serves your camping needs.
Types of Air Conditioners for Tent Camping
The only tent-specific air conditioners are small portable DC-based units that can run off battery or shore (120V) power. There are only a few of these units on the market as we have tested the Zero Breeze unit. Being extremely lightweight and portable these units are easy to take with you on a camping trip. Because these are true air conditioners they work in all climates and dehumidify the air for additional comfort. The biggest drawback is power consumption but will have the lowest consumption of any unit available if you will be using it on battery power or a power station.
Another type you can bring on your next tent camping trip is a portable residential unit that uses 120 or 240V power. Although this article of ours is specifically about using a portable air conditioner in RVs, it also applies to tent camping. Window-type air conditioners are also usable in a tent with a little more planning. These units are more powerful but also very power-hungry and will require an external power supply like a shore power plug or generator.
A third type of air conditioner is Micro Evaporative Coolers. However, these only work in dry climates. If you tent camp in humid conditions, this option won’t work for you. These coolers pass outdoor air over water-saturated pads. Through evaporation, the air temperature decreases, and it releases cooler air. Although this article is RV-related, there are takeaways for tent campers about Micro Evaporative Coolers, too.
Finally, ice chest coolers distribute cold from a stored source, usually ice. Icy Breeze is a trendy brand that manufactures these types of coolers. Instead of electricity (directly), these products use ice-cold water or ice cubes. These products use ice to absorb heat energy like a battery. However, they cannot remove humidity from the air which makes them less functional in humid climates and could actually make things less comfortable.
What to Look for in a Tent Air Conditioner
There are a few things to look for in a tent air conditioner when you start shopping. First, how noisy is it? You want to be able to sleep, and you don’t want to annoy any neighbors. Second, how easy is it to transport? If you’re hiking to a campsite, you want something lightweight and capable of running on a battery or generator. If you’re tent camping frequently in the summer, your tent air conditioner may take a beating as you handle gear.
You also want to consider its ability to pump heat outside and dehumidify. Just circulating the air won’t do it in 90-degree temperatures. A fan can do that. You want an air conditioner that will remove the heat and humidity. Half the battle in being comfortable is getting humidity under control.
Finally, the last consideration is the power rating. Take special note of the BTUs. If you have a single-person tent, you won’t need as powerful of an air conditioner as a family of five sleeping in a two-room tent. Look at the square footage and choose accordingly.
Pro Tip: Want to bring a sweet treat while camping? Check out our guide on How to Keep Ice Cream Frozen While Camping This Summer.
6 Best ACs for Tent Camping
Now that you know the types of tent air conditioners and what to look for when shopping, here is our list of the six best ACs for tent camping. Depending on your style and your needs based on how large your tent is, we’re sure one of the options will give you the relief you need this summer!
1. Best DC Micro AC: Zero Breeze Mark 2
The only AC on our list designed specifically for cooling a tent takes the top spot for a few reasons. The Zero Breeze Mark 2 is the most portable and lightweight AC we have ever tested at only 17lbs (without batteries). It also however is the lowest power unit we have ever tested as well making it only good for small spaces. Luckily tents are very small spaces, and this is a real air conditioner. We don’t believe the unit would work well for a tent size much over 4 people. This is mainly for nighttime cooling too, don’t expect it to compete with heat loads from the sun.
The unit does have very good dehumidifying properties which help to keep a tent far more comfortable overnight. The unit only draws a bit over 200 watts at max power which makes it capable of running on battery. A battery is available for the unit but only provides about 3 hours of run on max power. To get more runtime an additional external power supply will be needed but a 1kwh power pack keeps it going all night.
To make the best use of this unit in a tent half the unit needs to be inside the tent with the other half out. This can be accomplished by zipping it through a door. The air intake needs to be inside the tent to take full advantage of the dehumidifying. Its very important that it be angled back to properly drain the water it collects, outside.
At over $1000 this unit is not something for every camper, but if you want the most comfort, or to show off the top-of-the-line tech at the campground look no further than the Zero-Breeze Mark 2.
2. Micro Mini Split: Ukoke USPC06C
Small is key for cooling a tent and this is the second smallest AC unit that we believe is a good option for a tent. This unique unit operates similarly to a mini split AC unit with two parts connected only by a set of hoses. While not specifically designed for tent use it could be setup to work in a tent with the two parts zipped through a door. The unit does require about 600watts AC so a power supply or generator would be needed.
The 6500 BTUs chill up to 200 square feet which is way more than needed for a tent. This unit also features an efficient compressor and eco-friendly R32 refrigerant. Finally, the noise level is only around 46 decibels so you and your neighbors can sleep soundly.
This unit does pump the condensate to the outside unit so you will need to mount the outside unit elevated a bit and put something under it to collect the water. Otherwise, you could install a hose to drain it away from the tent.
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2. Best Window AC: Midea U Shaped Window Air Conditioner
If you’re looking for a window unit, the Midea U Shaped Window Air Conditioner can cool up to 350 square feet with 8,000 BTUs. There are also 10,000 BTU and 12,000 BTU options but this would be way overkill. You can set this unit in the doorway and zip your tent around it to fully cool your space. Also, it’s ultra-quiet at only 33 decibels.
This AC is incredibly efficient and draws around 800 watts running. However, this unit operates like full mini split and can vary the compressor, exterior and interior fan to operate at the lowest possible power. The Midea is an amazing unit but again requires 120V power so a power pedestal would be needed to comfortably run it. This unit is also not exactly portable and while it could work, would take some modifications to hold it in the proper position through the tent door.
- ULTRA QUIET - The U-shape design of Midea U Smart Inverter AC...
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- SMART CONTROL - Midea U Smart Inverter AC is Wi-Fi enabled and...
3. Best Portable AC: BLACK+DECKER 8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
One reliable portable tent air conditioner is by Black+Decker. However, this is vented. So you’ll need to ensure you have the hose leading to the outside of your tent. Like the window AC, you can set it in the doorway or you can run the hose through a window. You can fully operate this unit with a remote, with AC, fan, or dehumidifier options. This Black+Decker portable AC cools up to 350 square feet with 8,000 BTUs. There are also other options with higher BTUs and heater options if you enjoy winter camping. It is about 45 pounds, so you’ll want to keep that in mind.
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5. Best Ice Chest Air Conditioner: Icy Breeze
Icy Breeze is one of the best ice chest air conditioners available. There are two options and both come with a lifetime warranty. The V2 Pro tent air conditioner draws in air from the hidden vents, and as the air moves across the exchanger, it cools and releases it. The Icy Breeze Platinum operates in the same way but features two run modes. The standard mode keeps cold air blowing as long as possible while the extreme cool mode kicks the AC into overdrive. These chests hold 30 pounds of ice.
We have tried out one of these units and while they can lower the temperature, we found that the lack of dehumidifying does not help much with comfort in humid climates. The melting ice also only has a short lifespan before it needs replenishing. These drawbacks make these options less than ideal choices for us.
6. Best Mini Evaporative Cooler: Evapolar evaCHILL Personal Evaporative Air Cooler
Finally, if you like the evaporative cooler option, the Evapolar evaCHILL is one of the best for your air conditioned tent set up. It’s also one of the cheapest solutions to fight the summer heat. Weighing less than two pounds, it’s extremely portable. It’s also very quiet, operating at only 25 decibels. There are four fan speeds so you can choose the best for different times of the day. Finally, the evaporative technology doesn’t use Freon like other personal air conditioners. Keep in mind that this is a personal air cooler and won’t be effective in large tents.
- 3-IN-1 COOLING – Evapolar evaCHILL cools & humidifies the air...
- NATURAL PERSONAL COOLING – Efficiently cools your personal...
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Pro Tip: If you’re camping in a van instead of a tent, check out our article about How To Stay Cool in a Camper Van.
Tips for Staying Cool in the Summer Heat
Besides investing in a tent air conditioner, there are a few other things you can do to stay cool. Most of these won’t cost a penny but may take a little extra work.
Be Mindful Where You Setup
When you get to your campsite, try to set up in the shade facing the breeze. This isn’t always possible. But when you can, find a good spot that will help alleviate some of the heat. The shade will help during the hottest part of the day, and the breeze will be welcome coming through your mesh windows and walls.
Use a Sunshade But Not a Rainfly
If there isn’t rain in the forecast, remove the rainfly. This accessory, although essential when raining, isn’t effective when it’s hot because it hugs your tent and doesn’t allow for airflow when it isn’t air-conditioned. It will keep the heat inside your tent, which is not what you want. Instead, use a sunshade that sits about 12 inches above your tent to keep you cool.
If you are using an air conditioner keeping the rainfly on however can help trap the cool in the tent as well. Just keep in mind that if you are set up in the sun, air conditioning will likely struggle.
Don’t Let the Summer Heat Keep You From Camping!
The heat of summer shouldn’t keep you from doing what you love. Decide which type of tent air conditioner you prefer and figure out the amount of space you need. Then pick up your tent AC unit and hit the trails and waterways. You’ll appreciate coming back to an air-conditioned tent after a day of adventuring.
What do you think of these AC for tents camping options? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!
→ If you’re into cold weather camping, check out our article about the best tent heaters to keep you warm this winter!
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