Top Camping Air Conditioner – Buyers Guide

Camping Air Conditioner

There are many things to love about nature and the great outdoors, like quiet solitude and fresh air. However, even with these amazing benefits, your camping trip can be ruined by endless nights of restless sleep in a hot and stuffy tent.  Not to worry though the camping air conditioner can help elevate these issues when sleeping outdoors.

In fact, you might be surprised at just how efficiently a camping air conditioner can turn a hot and stuffy tent into a cool oasis on a hot summer night.

Types of Camping Air Conditioner

The camping air conditioner can be broken down into three main categories, the portable air conditioner, the evaporative cooler, and the basic camping fan.

They each have their own advantages and disadvantages when cooling down a tent on those hot summer days.  So let’s take a look at each type individually to see what makes them tick.

Top Camping Air Conditioner and Guide

There are two different types of camping air conditioners including the window AC unit and the portable air conditioner. 

Camping Window Air Conditioning Unit

Some of the smaller window AC units can make a great camping air conditioner for tents.  However, some prep work will certainly be in order to use a window AC unit with a tent.

Tent Air Conditioner

Tent walls are made from either nylon or canvas and can’t support the weight of an AC unit.  In order to attach a window AC unit to the side of the tent, you must support the weight of the unit.  The best way to accomplish this is by supporting the unit from the outside of the tent.

The next thing to consider is how to physically attach the window AC unit to the side of the tent. Tents do not typically come with openings or flaps large enough to accommodate an AC unit. So in order to attach the air conditioner, some modifications will be in order. 

The best option is to use an existing window in the tent for the window AC unit.   This will allow you to add the AC unit with the least amount of modifications to the tent.  Also, make sure that any modifications that you do make are reversible.  As air conditioning, while camping is not always necessary during certain times of the year and you want to be able to remove the air conditioner without leaving a big hole in the tent.

Camping Portable Air Conditioner

Window AC Unit Tent

While the window AC unit needs to be mounted to the side of the tent, the portable air conditioner sits inside the tent.  The units are a little bigger than a kitchen trash can and have casters mounted on the bottom for mobility.  

Portable air conditioners are great because they require fewer modifications to the tent.

All air conditioners require venting but portable air conditioners can be vented by a hose ran outside.

Portable Air Conditioner

This venting design makes the portable air conditioner great for tent applications versus the window AC.  Where the window AC unit requires a large hole on the side of the tent for venting.  The portable air conditioner can accomplish its venting through a hose that is typically only around 6 inches wide.

Window AC Unit vs Portable Air Conditioner for Camping

So which design makes for the best tent air conditioner?  Below is a list of pro and cons for each type of air conditioner to help you decide on the best solution for your camping needs.

Window AC Unit

– Takes up less space inside the tent. 

– Condensation drains outside of the tent.

– More challenging or difficult installation.

– Requires larger hole in tent for venting and installation.

Portable Air Conditioner

– Easy venting with hose.

– Quick and easy installation.

– Portable with built in casters.

– Takes up floor space inside the tent.

– Condensation drains internally. (While most modern portable AC units use self-evaporative technology a condensation reservoir might still need to be occasionally emptied.)

BTU’s and Camping Air Conditioners

You might be asking what exactly is a BTU?  BTU stands for British thermal unit and it measures the required amount of heat necessary to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree.  

In regards to camping air conditioners, the more BTU’s the unit has, the more cooling power and electricity it will use. 

Keep in mind that bigger is not always better when it comes to BTU’s and camping tent air conditioners.  Even though tent walls and ceilings have little insulating benefits.  Tents are typically small and compact spaces so it is not necessary to pick the AC unit with the highest BTU’s.

In fact, picking the highest BTU AC unit can create an uncomfortably cold and damp tent.  Not to mention, units with higher BTU ratings use more electricity, are heavier, and less compact compared to their lower BTU brethren.  

So what’s the right BTU size for a camping air conditioner?  

The best size AC unit for tents typically falls in the range of 5000 to 8000 BTU.  This size AC unit offers the best balance of portability and cooling power for a tent application.

Electricity and Camping Air Conditioners

As you might have guessed, air conditioners like the ones mentioned above do require standard household electricity.  The units draw too much wattage to run off of batteries or other alternative power sources. Without advancements in battery technology, the battery-powered tent air conditioner, is just a pipe dream on those hot summer nights.  

So if camping in an area without electricity, standard air conditioners will not work.  

Not to worry though there is another option for tent cooling, which does not require electricity discussed later.

Top Picks for Camping Portable Air Conditioner

EdgeStar AP8000W Portable Air Conditioner
 EdgeStar AP8000W Portable Air Conditioner

  • 8000 BTU
  • Programmable Timer, Three Speed Fan
  • Dehumidifier Function


Black+Decker BPACT08WT Portable Air Conditioner
Black+Decker BPACT08WT 8000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

  • 8000 BTU
  • Remote Control
  • LED Digital Display


hOme 5000 BTU Window Mounted Air Conditioner
hOme 5000 BTU Window Mounted Air Conditioner

  • 5000 BTU
  • Two Way Air Flow
  • Seven Cooling Speeds


Top Portable Camping Evaporative Cooler and Guide

Unlike typical AC units that use refrigerant gas to cool the air.  Evaporative coolers use the process of evaporation to lower the temperature.  

Typically a reservoir in the evaporative cooler will hold water to be used in the evaporation process to cool the air. Some evaporative coolers even give you the ability to add ice to the unit to cool the air even faster.

Why Humidity Killed the Evaporative Cooler

The camping evaporative cooler does have one major disadvantage though depending on what part of the country you will be camping in.  Because of the process the unit uses, its cooling benefits are greatly reduced in humid climates.

Evaporative Cooler Map

Photo Credit:  Honeywell

An evaporative cooler will work best in dry climates as water can be evaporated much easier and faster in dry air than humid.

To get the best cooling results with an evaporative cooler it’s best if the humidity level is under 40% and not above 55%.  Ideal places to camp with an evaporative cooler would be out West where the air is typically much dyer.

Powering a Camping Evaporative Cooler

Cooling air through evaporative cooling requires much less power and energy than typical AC units.  In addition, evaporative cooling is a natural process that is better for the environment compared to traditional air conditioning.    

However, even though camping evaporative coolers use much less energy than typically AC units, usually less than 50 watts.  Evaporative coolers still draw too much current to run them on batteries or 12V power and need to be powered by a standard outlet.  

Top Picks for Evaporative Coolers

Honeywell Portable Evaporative Cooler


Honeywell Portable Evaporative Cooler

  • Low Power Consumption
  • Brushless Motor
  • Five Speeds


Luma Comfort EC 110S Portable Evaporative Cooler

Luma Comfort EC 110S Portable Evaporative Cooler

  • Three Fan Speeds
  • Oscillating Fan
  • User-Friendly Display


Top Camping Fan and Guide

There are times using a portable air conditioner or evaporative cooler is just not practical due to a lack of electricity or a remote campsite. 

However just because you don’t have a camping air conditioner when camping in remote areas doesn’t mean you need to suffer in a hot and stuffy tent all night.

Just the act of moving air through or around the tent can immensely improve your comfort level inside.  

No Electric, No Problem

Unlike camping air conditioners or camping evaporative coolers camping fans are very capable of running off battery power.  

So even if you are camping in a remote part of the wilderness you can still enjoy the cooling benefits of the camping fan.

Camping Fan Size

Camping fans are on the smaller size as they are powered by batteries.  But camping fans can still move a surprising amount of air especially in the compact space of a tent.

Placement of the camping fan can make a big difference too in its cooling effects.  Placing the fan near a tent window to draw in or exhaust air can help compound the cooling effects of a camping fan.

Top Picks for Camping Fan

Odoland Portable LED Camping Lantern with Ceiling Fan

HAITRAL 2IN2 Portable LED Camping Lantern with Ceiling Fan

  • Fan and LED Tent Light
  • Two Fan Speeds
  • Built-in Hook for Hanging


O2COOL 10-Inch Portable Fan with AC Adapter

O2COOL 10-Inch Portable Fan with AC Adapter

  • Fan Size 10 Inch
  • Two Speed Fan Operation
  • Durable Construction


Battery Fan, EasyAcc Rechargeable Fan

Battery Fan, EasyAcc Rechargeable Fan

  • Three Speed Fan
  • LED Decorative Light
  • Rechargeable Fan


Choosing the Right Camping Air Conditioner

Choosing the right camping air conditioner really comes down to personal preference and matching the right camping air conditioner with your style of camping.

If camping in a humid environment with access to electricity and you want maximum comfort and cooling.  Then the camping air conditioner will be the right choice.

If camping in a dry environment with access to electricity than the camping evaporative cooler might be the best choice.  Using an evaporative cooler also has the added benefit of using less electricity and being more environmentally friendly.

If camping in remote areas with little or no access to electricity and looking for a more simplified camping experience.  The camping fan is a great choice.  

Jason Kidd

Jason is an avid lover of camping, hiking, and well just about anything outdoors. He is both a writer and editor for Outside Pulse and has been camping and hiking for over 20 years.

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