Most of us prefer to camp during the summer months. The weather is nice, kids are out of school, and parks and campgrounds are open. We snuggle into sleeping bags at night and enjoy waking up to the crisp morning air. Then the afternoon comes, and temperatures rise. Tents and campers turn into ovens.
A good portable air conditioner can alleviate the heat and keep our tests cool. This will give everyone respite from the mid-day heat, which can cause heat exhaustion. We have considered a wide range of units to find the best portable air conditioners for camping.
There are a few key considerations when looking for the best portable air conditioners for camping. We considered the unit’s size, power, and style to showcase the best choices for your camping setup. Our buying guide explains the options that are available and will highlight the benefits and concerns about different air conditioning units. We will also go over the basic setup of each unit to help you understand how it will work with your other camping gear.
While every adventurer will have different preferences based on their needs, tent, and other gear, you are sure to find the best portable air conditioner for camping with your friends and family somewhere in this list. Having a cooling unit will make your afternoons as comfortable and relaxing as the rest of your time spent enjoying nature while camping.
hOmeLabs 7 Speed
Black & Decker with Heater
Emerson Quiet Kool
Uninex SAC1800 KOOLZONE Mobile Spot Cooler
EdgeStar with Dehumidifier
IcyBreeze AC & Cooler
Costway with Dehumidifier
There are several key factors to consider when purchasing a portable air conditioner. The best portable air conditioner for camping will be the one that best suits your needs. You will want to consider the size, style, and power of the unit. There is a wide range of options for how you power your portable air conditioner, in addition to a range of BTUs. BTUs are used to measure the amount of power generated by the air conditioning unit.
Different sizes of tents will have different cooling requirements. Larger tents will require more cooling power, while smaller tents will stay reflect refreshingly chilled with a smaller air conditioner. While it is easy to find charts online that recommend specific air conditioner power amounts that match certain room sizes, these do not apply to a camping setup.
Because tents are not as well insulated as most homes, your power needs will differ from those listed on many of these charts periods of course, your expectations may be different than those of a portable home air conditioner as well. In your home, you likely expect an air conditioner to chill a room quickly and keep it consistently cold throughout the day.
In a tent, you are more likely to want an air conditioner that can keep the interior of your tent comfortable during the heat of the afternoon. You may not be striving for a specific temperature, and it is likely that you simply want it to stay cooler than the outside air.
If you have a small, dome-style tent, you will likely be satisfied with the smallest of air conditioners. If you have a large, cabin-style tent, you will want to upgrade to a larger air conditioner. If you are looking at a cabin-style tent with more than one room, you should consider one of the largest portable camping air conditioners available.
Cabin style tents often pair well with window units too. On the other hand, most other tents work better with portable or cooler style air conditioning units. Consider all of the other factors as well when choosing the best portable air conditioner for camping for you and your friends and family.
Choosing the right air conditioner for your size of space to be cooled is a bit like playing Goldilocks. If your air conditioner is too large for your tent then you are likely to find that the air inside your tent feels a bit damp, despite being cold period, on the other hand, if the air conditioner you have chosen is too small for your space, only the air immediately around the unit will feel cool while the rest of the tent continues to feel hot and humid.
Portable air conditioning units come in a wide range of sizes. Some are really designed to stay in one room of a house. This means that they are portable only in the sense that they can be placed in any room period they are not practical for camping because they cannot easily be moved with your other camping gear.
When choosing the best portable air conditioning for camping, you will want to look specifically for a small air conditioning unit that can fit inside your tent. This means you need to consider the size of your tent when selecting an appropriately sized air conditioning unit. The smaller your tent, the smaller the unit you will want.
While many of the best tent air conditioners are on castors to make them easy to move, this does not always translate well to the hard earth of a camping site. This means that you will want to choose an air conditioner that is lightweight enough for you to carry. Many tents also have limited height. This means that shorter air conditioning units work better.
All of the air conditioners that we are featuring in this guide meet most requirements for large tents. They are light enough for you to carry, but you may want to choose one of the smaller ones if you have a smaller tent. Dome tents typically require the smallest air conditioner possible.
Window air conditioning units have a small design that makes them an appealing option for many people with smaller tents. They do not tend to work well with dome-style tents but are a great option for cabin style tents. They should be placed by the window or door of the tent and supported by something sturdy. Many people use their cooler or a spare camp stool to support their tent’s window air conditioning unit.
Do not forget to consider your sleeping arrangements within the tent. As you think about what small portable air conditioning unit will fit in the area, be sure to measure the length and width of your sleeping bags and consider how many extra bags you may want to keep in the tent with you as well. If you have three people and they all have backpacks, this may take up a large portion of your interior tent space.
The power output of an air conditioner is measured using BTUs. This number gives an idea of how much cooling power a unit has. The higher the BTU, the larger space the air conditioner can cool. While there are many charts that make it easy to convert BTUs to square footage in a home setting, it is a bit trickier when out in the woods.
Because tents are not insulated, they do not follow quite the same rules as a home. This means that the number of BTUs that are best for your situation will vary from those recommended for different square footage is inside a home. Unfortunately, tents often act as a greenhouse and heat up when in bright sunlight.
Even the specific campsite can impact the amount of power output that you need. If you are able to place your tent in the shade, this will greatly reduce your need for air conditioning power. Consider where you camp most often. If you are typically on the plains or in wide-open spaces, you will want to go with an air conditioner that has higher BTUs and higher power output.
For simplicity, we will break tent air conditioners into three basic groups. A small tent air conditioner will likely produce around 5000 BTUs. A medium-size air conditioner will achieve closer to 6000 BTUs, and a heavy-duty tent air conditioner will reach 8000 BTUs.
If you are using a dome-style tent, a 5000 BTU air conditioner is likely plenty to keep your space cool. This should be the case, no matter what your setting. If your dome tent is kept in the shade and the humidity is low, you may not need an air conditioner at all. Of course, your tent air conditioner will reduce humidity along with the temperature, so sticky days and nights will be more comfortable if you bring along your portable AC unit.
If you are enjoying the luxury of a cabin-style tent, you want to upgrade to a larger air conditioner. The specific size you want will depend on the specific size of your tent and the location where you are camping. Remember a tent in direct sunlight will have much more trouble cooling down than one kept in the shade. Humid locations will also benefit from additional air conditioning power.
A one-room, cabin-style tent that is not in direct sunlight can easily be cooled by a medium-sized air conditioning unit with about 6000 BTUs. A multi-room cabin tent or a cabin style tent that is in direct sunlight on a humid day may need a bit more power. To keep these tents cool, you will want to invest in a tent air conditioning unit that has 8000 BTUs.
As a general rule, you’ll want to have electric hookups to power your portable AC for camping units. There are some options if a power hookup is not available. Unfortunately, air conditioners powered by non-electric sources are not as effective as the electric units.
If you have an electrical hookup, the sky is the limit. Pretty much any tent cooling system will work with your electric connection. You will want to pay attention to the size of the connection, though. Most campsites give you a choice between a 30 amp hookup or a 50 amp hookup. A larger air conditioner may require the 50 amp connection.
Do not worry about the connection itself, though. Adapters can easily do a 50 amp connection work with a unit that only requires 30 amps. Some air conditioners will work with a 10 or 15 amp connection, but that is not true for all air conditioning units. Be sure to look at the specific requirements for your air conditioner when planning your camping trip.
Some air conditioners do work on battery power. While these are not the most powerful air conditioners, they do work well in small, dome tents when you just want to bring the temperature down a few degrees. Typically, these are evaporative cooler style air conditioners, sometimes called swamp coolers.
This means that the air conditioner itself acts as a cooler. You fill the cooler with ice, and a small battery pack runs a fan that circulates the cool air from the ice around the tent. It is important to note that you will need to refill the cooler with ice regularly. It also means that you will use a lot less electricity or can power it with battery power alone.
There are a few coolers that are designed to work with solar power. These are hard to find and tend to be expensive. If you do choose a solar-powered air conditioner, you will need to be sure that your campsite gets direct sunlight. The solar panel will need to stay outside your tent while the air conditioner goes inside. Keep in mind that solar power will not work well in cloudy or rainy conditions.
While some air conditioners can be incredibly loud, others are almost silent. You will not struggle with the noise as much as you would in a small room, but you do want to be considerate of your camping neighbors. Most campers want to sit outside and listen to the sounds of nature like the wind in the trees and the birds chirping. No one wants to sit outside and listen to the hum of an air conditioner.
As a general rule, it is considered polite to keep any campsite noise below 60 decibels. Most tent air conditioners that are designed for camping will meet this requirement. If you choose a larger air conditioner, be sure to check the sound rating. Anything above 70 decibels will sound very loud, and sounds over 110 decibels can damage your hearing.
Here is the summary of factors to consider when purchasing a portable air conditioner for camping. You can share and download these tips if you like.
|Frigidaire Mini-Compact||Window Mounted||5000||50-55 decibels|
|hOmeLabs 7 Speed||Window Mounted||5000||57-65 decibels|
|Black & Decker with Heater||Portable||14,000||65-75 decibels|
|Emerson Quiet Kool||Portable||8000||Appx 52 decibels|
|Uninex SAC1800 KOOLZONE Mobile Spot Cooler||Portable||6000 +||60-62 decibels|
|EdgeStar with Dehumidifier||Portable||8000||53-56 decibels|
|MightyKool Converter||Evaporation Cooler||N/A||N/A|
|IcyBreeze AC & Cooler||Evaporation Cooler||N/A||N/A|
|Hessaire MC18M||Evaporative Cooler||N/A||Appx 53 decibels|
|Costway with Dehumidifier||Portable||8000||Appx 55 decibels|
This unit works well outside the window or door of your tent. It is small enough to rest easily on your cooler or camp stool and is not heavy enough to damage either one of those. It is energy efficient, though you will need an electrical connection to plug it in. The volume of this unit is quiet enough to avoid drawing attention or bothering your neighbors. It’s a great choice for small spaces and campers who want to keep their air conditioner outside their tent.
While this air conditioning unit is small, it does a great job quickly cooling small spaces. It works well in smaller tents and can easily rest atop any flat surface outside the tent. The speed controls will allow you to easily adjust the airflow to meet your preferences. There is also no remote or small parts to keep track of, and it automatically drains itself outside your tent.
This is the perfect choice for those who enjoy camping in many seasons. During the heat of summer, this unit will do a great job keeping you cool. During seasons when the weather turns cool at night, you can set this unit to heat and stay warm without need a separate unit. This can be a big advantage and may make camping more enjoyable for more of the year.
This is a high – tech option for those who want to comfort and convenience of modern climate control while enjoying the peace and beauty of nature. It works well in most tent settings, though it will take up a little bit of your floor space. It is a very quiet model and uses a bucket less design that rarely requires you to empty the reservoir. Most of the excess humidity is vented out though the window or door of your tent.
This air conditioner is powerful enough to cool almost any tent size but will not take up all of the floor space in your sleeping area. It will not need to have the reservoir dumped very often and offers effective cooling While it is not the quietest choice for an air conditioner, it does its job very effectively. It also uses a refrigerant that is environmentally friendly.
This is a versatile air conditioner unit that will do a great job as a dehumidifier too. It works well in most size of tents and requires little work to set up. While it will take some of the space forms the floor of your tent, it is one of the smaller units available. It includes a remote for your convenience, as well. It will require that you dump the water tank when using the dehumidifier setting.
The MightyKool is a great choice for the camper who wants to be able to use an electrical hookup when they have it, but also want the option to run on battery power when camping without power. This unit is an evaporative cooler that runs air over a cool water reservoir and that blows that chilled air through your space. It will not cool your tent as much as a portable or window air conditioner but will keep you comfortable.
The beauty of this design is its dual function. It is an evaporative cooler that also works as a cooler. The reservoir holds up to thirty pounds of ice, food, and drinks. The ice keeps your food and drinks cold while providing the cooling necessary for the fan to keep your tent comfortable. This does mean that you will go through ice more quickly than a standard cooler, but you will not be wasting any space on a separate air conditioner.
This evaporative cooler is a step up for the battery-powered options. Its electrical connection gives the fan a power that the other units cannot match, along with 5 settings to give you more control over the air temperature and flow. You can also avoid refilling the reservoir when at a campsite with a water hookup, since this Hessaire unit allows you to directly connect a water hose to the air conditioner to keep the water flowing.
While the Costway has many features that are similar to other units, there are two things that stand out about this air conditioner. It sits a bit higher off the ground than many other options. This is a small detail that makes it a better choice for uneven surfaces, like the campsites riddles with tree roots. It also offers a quiet setting that prevents you from disturbing fellow campers after quiet hours have begun.
Having an electrical hookup will make it much easier to choose any air conditioning unit for your tent and camping setup. That said, if you prefer to camp without an electrical hookup, you do not need to go without any kind of cooling period there are a few options for battery-powered air conditioning.
While battery-powered air conditioners are not as powerful as electric ones, they will cool the air temperature up to 30 degrees. Most of them are evaporative coolers. These are commonly called swamp coolers. These allow a simple battery to run a basic fan. The fan sucks up air from a compartment with cold water or ice and blows it throughout your tent.
This is an easy way for the air in your tent to stay cool. It requires only enough power to run the fan, so a few batteries will be all it needs. While evaporative coolers are not very powerful, as long as you run them consistently, they will keep your tent more comfortable. Just remember to refill the ice or water inside them.
Unfortunately, most air conditioning units are not silent. That said, they are not terribly loud either. While some units can run as loud as Most will fall in the 50 – decibel range. This makes them as quiet as an ultra-quiet generator. That means, in most campgrounds, they will blend in with the sound of nearby generators.
If you are looking for an even more quiet experience, consider getting a battery-powered evaporative cooler. While these will not cool as quickly or efficiently, their running volume is almost silent. They use only a battery-powered fan, so there is very little noise with them.
Window mounted air conditioning units are surprisingly easy to adapt for use with a tent. They can be placed just outside a tent screened window or door. You will need something sturdy to rest them on. This is where the weight of the air conditioning unit can make a really big difference.
A lightweight window air conditioning unit can easily rest on something as small as a simple camp stool. On the other hand, if you go with a larger window air conditioning unit, you will need something a bit sturdier to rested on. Many people use a cooler for this purpose – just remember that it will make getting in and out of the cooler more challenging.
Using a portable air conditioner inside a tent is safe. You will want to keep in mind a few details. Your portable air conditioning unit will need to be vented to the outside of the tent. In most cases, this is done using a hose that can be wedged in the seam of your tent door. If the vent ends up venting inside your tent, it will release hot air back into the very air that you are trying to cool, but it does not pose a health risk.
Most air conditioning units also include a drip pan or tray. This will need to be emptied regularly. This does not present any problems with keeping the portable air conditioner inside the tent. Though if you forget to empty the drip tray, it will overflow and flood the inside of your tent. All of this is to say that there are no safety concerns about having a portable air conditioner in your tent, though you will want to be sure and care for whatever unit you choose. Lack of maintenance can lead to messes.
There are many advantages to having an air conditioner along on your camping trip. It can make for better night sleep when the weather gets hot and sticky and can prevent heat exhaustion during the middle heat of the day. For those with an electrical connection, the best portable air conditioner for camping is the Costway Air Conditioner with Remote Control and Dehumidifier offers a nice balance of convenience and power while staying quiet enough for you to enjoy the sounds of nature.
For those who are in a small tent and do not expect to have an electrical hookup, the IcyBreeze v2 Air Conditioner and Cooler is a fantastic combination of cooler and air conditioner. The same ice that keeps your food and drinks cold will also cool the air inside your tent. Since you will likely want to have a cooler anyway, it does not really take up any extra space. No matter what your setup, there is a portable air conditioner to keep your camping cool.