Camping is a great activity that takes us away from everyday life, work, and other stresses. This article reviews our favorite air conditioners for tents to help you pick the right one for your camping needs.
It is easier to fall asleep and stay asleep when the area you’re sleeping in is at a lower temperature. So next time you’re invited on a summer getaway but feel hesitant because you don’t want to sleep in the hot, sticky air, just come equipped with one of these awesome, true air conditioners.
We cover all types of air conditioners for camping with the main goal of providing quality products that are guaranteed to keep you cool.
Our Reviews of the 8 Best Tent ACs For Camping
Below are our list and reviews for the best tent air conditioners. Each has several unique features that may appeal to different camping scenarios so be sure to check them out and find the top AC units for camping and tent.
1. Zero Breeze Mark 2 – Best Battery Operated AC For Campers (24V)
|Max Tent Area||< 60 sq. ft.|
|Noise Levels||52 dBa|
|Dimensions||20 x 10 x 11 “|
If you’re a regular camper, it’s really worth investing in an air conditioner for camping as well as several other quality products. From your tent to your sleeping bags, enjoying camping can really boil down to having the right equipment. Your air conditioner is no exception – tents can get hot and sticky, especially if you’re camping in the warmer months.
The Zero Breeze Mark II tent air conditioner is perfect for campers, as it’s highly portable and compact, fitting into your tent easily.
Arguably the best portable air conditioner, the Zero Breeze ideally works to cool down an area of about 40 square feet or a 3-person tent. This is an increase from the previous Zero Breeze Mark 1 camping AC (sometimes known as the Z-19 model) as it was designed for a 2-person tent camping.
With these latest design changes, you’ll be able to maintain your ideal temperature inside a larger camping tent easily, even in the heights of summer.
With a cooling power of 2300 BTUs, this tent air conditioner is pretty powerful! Again, this is almost double the previous model’s 1100 BTU capacity. The 24V micro-compressor, again, doubled from the Zero Breeze Mark1 model, allows for multiple charging options. Standard power supply or electrical outlet can and should be used but a 24-volt DC car is also available.
Arguably one of the best battery-powered AC units today, the Zero Breeze Mark II ‘smart’ battery comes with several options, including USB, 12V, etc. We recommend adding this as part of any purchase.
Performance-wise, most users have been impressed with what the newest Zero Breeze can do. It’s designed to be leak-/drip-proof and comes with a gravity drain system for removing runoff.
Another updated feature for Zero Breeze Mark 2 is the dual hose function. Previously, only a single hose venting system was used. With the dual hoses, the air is dragged into the device, converted to cold, fresh air, with the hot air escaping out from the back of the unit. This reduces the annoying sogginess or dampness from condensation that some tent air conditioner can generate inside a tent!
While others have given this system a 6/10, we believe it’s more like an 8/10 when used for camping. There really is nothing like this personal space cooler on the market, and although it may not be perfect, it certainly provides relief in small-to-medium-sized tents, cars or campers.
In our experience using the Mark 2, this unit is good, but you will have to calm your expectations of what it can do. It is not cheap, will only cool small areas, and can feel loud inside a small tent. It also requires users to follow set up and instructions closely.
For peace of mind, it does come with a 30-day money-back guarantee and a 1-year warranty when purchased on their website. They also offer some regular discounts at the Zero Breeze website.
The Zero Breeze Mark 2 is best suited to regular, experienced campers and caravaners who want a little extra comfort.
- Converts to a heater
- Battery power
- Strong airflow
- Large evaporator
- Offers lithium ion rechargeable battery
- No control board
- No control over airflow direction
2. IcyBreeze 4038A – Best 12V Battery Powered Portable Cooler
|Max Tent Area||< 30 sq. ft.|
|Dimensions||17 x 19 x 25 “|
It’s not quite as reliable as most of the electric portable or window air conditioning units, but if your next camping adventure is off-grid or you’d just like to be as green as possible, then the IcyBreeze Evaporative Cooler Blizzard Package may be the right choice for you.
Evaporative coolers rely on ice and water so be sure to have access to those! It runs on a 12V battery, and when filled with ice and water will run for about 7 hours. This package comes in several different colors and with both a wall charging unit and a car charger adapter, which means that if you did have an electricity hook-up that you could still run it even if the battery is dead.
The major flaw in this product is that the battery is not removable. This means you cannot swap it with a back-up battery and keep using the same tent air conditioner, and when you’re charging it you must move the whole unit instead of just putting the battery in your car, for example.
It also produces minimal cooling power and doesn’t compare with a real and the best portable air conditioner. I have used one of these on a recent camping trip and found it was suitable for someone who needs a reprieve from the heat and doesn’t have any electricity options.
3. GoCool – Best 12V Evaporative Air Cooler When Camping
|Max Tent Area||< than 20 sq. ft|
|Dimensions||17.3 x 20 x 24″|
The GoCool 12V is made for small spaces and an ideal air conditioner for camping. As far as sleeping goes, this evaporative cooler would be ideal for a person camping alone or for two people sharing a very small tent.
The tent air conditioner is lightweight and easy to maneuver at just 33 pounds, and it can amazingly hold up to 40 pounds of ice.
What I love about most about this evaporative cooler is that because it runs on a battery, it is extremely quiet and there is never any exhaust that you have to worry about breathing in or sending off into the woods. This is one of the most eco-friendly portable, evaporative coolers available.
The downside to this product is that the battery only lasts about 6 hours, and unlike some of the other products we’ve looked at, the battery charger for this one is sold separately.
It is suited to those who want a small slice of relief from the heat without dealing with a complicated set up.
4. Ontel Arctic – Personal Air Cooler Fan
|Max Tent Area||45 sq. ft.|
|Noise Levels||48 – 52 dBa|
|Dimensions||7.95 x 7.95 x 10|
This next one isn’t exactly an air conditioner, but it works in a similar way to cool the surrounding air.
It’s a great choice like small enclosed spaces, perfect for a number of camping situations – whether that involves camping in a tent or small camper van. The name “personal space evaporative cooler” is exactly what you can expect from the Ontel; it cools your personal space, but it’s not suitable for cooling large areas.
The Ontel has 3 functions: Cooling, Dehumidifying, and Purifying. It works not only to cool the air but also to improve the overall air quality.
Here’s how it works: “Simply fill with water, plug it into any standard wall outlet or USB port and enjoy. It runs up to 8 hours per fill. Arctic Air is an evaporative cooler that allows you to create your own personal climate!”
This is by far one of the best evaporative coolers on this list, weighing just over 3 pounds for easy carrying and optimal portability. It may not have higher cooling power, but it still works well in a small space like tents, reading nooks, dens, home offices, campers, and small bedrooms.
The cooling space may be small (about 45 square feet), but most tents and campers aren’t much larger than this.
Another thing outdoor enthusiasts love about the Ontel is its quiet operation. It’s ultra-quiet, so you won’t be taking away from the overall experience exploring the great outdoors.
Aside from the lack of cooling power compared to traditional ACs, the Ontel doesn’t come with a heating option, so it won’t be of much use during cold-weather excursions.
- Whisper quiet
- Easy operation
- Purifies the air
- Little power consumption
- No heating function
- Lacks cooling power
5. Frigidaire FFRA051WAE – Best Window AC For Tents
|Max Tent Area||150 sq.ft.|
|Noise Levels||51.3 – 56.5 dba|
|Dimensions||16 x 15-1/4 x 12″|
I love that this little window-mounted air conditioner is about as easy of an appliance as they come. The temperature and mode dials are simple, and you basically plug it in and you’re up and running. It is 46.55 pounds, but it’s compact sizing makes it easy to carry.
I highly recommend this one for camping if your tent has a ground vent made to fit an air conditioner – it will be perfect!
This “little guy” easily cools off an area of 150 ft indoors, but if you’re in a tent will need to work a little bit harder since air will obviously escape more easily.
For that reason, I would recommend this for a 4-person to 6-person tent at most and areas of approx. 100 square feet. Larger BTU options are available for bigger tents.
The Internet praises this product too, with 92% of customers saying they would recommend it to their friends. One thing that should be noted is that this one must be completely ventilated to the outdoors.
The back blows out warm air and failing to vent this would defeat the purpose of the product.
If using in a tent you also need to make sure that it’s not sitting on the level ground. It needs to be up on at least bricks to vent properly. It does come with a pleated window kit although in my experience, some stable wooden blocks or bricks will do the job just fine.
Also be aware and keep an eye on the draining condensation as this can build up at the base of your tent.
- The best air conditioner for 4 to 6 person camping tent
- Remote control
- Provides cold air, even in hot days
- Bulkier than other camping air conditioner models
6. Black + Decker BPACT14HWT – Portable AC + Heater For Camping
|Max Tent Area||350 sq. ft.|
|Noise Levels||65 – 75 dBa|
|Dimensions||17.1″ x 13.8″ x 28.1″|
|Heating Option||Yes (11000 BTU)|
Black & Decker has been a trusted brand for many years, and their portable camping air conditioners are high quality and long-lasting.
I first used a unit just like this one when I was living in an apartment in NYC. It was perfect because the exhaust hose was five feet long, which allowed me to point the air conditioner towards the living room during the day, and into the bedroom at night.
This 14000 BTU cooling power tent air conditioner is great at cooling a 350 square foot indoor space. It would easily keep a large family tent cool if you keep the indoor “walls” open to each other.
This portable air conditioner is 83 lbs and must be stored upright, so you’ll have to consider this when packing for your camping trip and making sure you give it enough space in the tent too.
But perhaps the best feature of all is that this air conditioner doubles as not only an AC unit but a heater, which makes it ideal for going camping in places that blows hot air during the day and super cold at night.
This is a superb choice for a commercial tent as well and once set up correctly can cool (or heat) large enclosures. It is not as quiet as the window AC although because it is best suited to larger spaces because it does not need to be drained and noise is then less of a concern.
Some of the unique features of this true air conditioner include three fan speed variations, 24 hour time, remote control, effective cooled air, trendy design and more.
- Low power consumption than most of the best camping air conditioners
- Offers remote control, three fan speed for even air circulation, exhaust hose, and 24 hour timer
- Quiet operation than other tent AC units
- Dehumidifies humid air to provide cooled air
- Corded electric power source
- Comparatively heavier than other small portable air conditioner models for tents and camping
7. Emerson Quiet Kool EAPC8RD1 – Best Portable AC For Tents
|Max Tent Area||150 sq. ft.|
|Noise Levels||52 dBa|
|Dimensions||17.3 x 12.8 x 27.4 “|
For smaller tents (that fit 2 to 4 people), the Emerson Quiet Kool is a fantastic option, especially for those searching for a portable air conditioner. There are a lot of features packed into this true portable air conditioner that make it ideal for a camping situation.
First, although it does weigh 53 pounds, it has both side handles and wheels for easy maneuverability. It will need a little space of its own inside your tent, but its nice ventilation system is can easily be put in a window or door vent of your tent.
And it might need to work a little harder in extremely humid climates, but the Emerson Quiet Kool tent air conditioner is also a dehumidifier.
Unlike some air conditioner/dehumidifier combos, this evaporative cooler has a built-in evaporation technology, which means you don’t have to empty a drip pan every 4 to 6 hours on a humid day. Win-win!
Most of the other reviews I read commented on just how quiet this portable air conditioner is, and it’s true! I would compare the noise that it makes to that of a refrigerator or 52 dBa which is the lowest of any system we have reviewed.
The remote control and timer options allow you to set and forget this system when out boating, hiking or fishing on your camping adventure.
8. Nakatomi X Uninex KoolZone – Large Evaporative Cooler For Big Tents
|Max Tent Area||75 sq. ft.|
|Noise Levels||60 – 62 dBa|
|Dimensions||27.4 x 20.2 x 11.7 “|
|Heating Option||Yes (max 104 F)|
I love evaporative coolers because they are just like bringing mini-versions of your home AC along with you (and they also come in extremely handy when your home AC isn’t working, too!)
Unlike the units from the Portable AC section above, a spot cooler like this Nakatomi X Uninex will sit on the outside of your tent and will vent cool air inside the tent. That means more tent space for everyone and industrial strength cooling. This model is a top choice for smaller areas and comes with heating options for cold nights.
This evaporative cooler does have a dehumidifier that works like a charm, but unlike some of the other models the condensation will need to be drained every few hours in extra humid climates.
These units are quite bulky but are generally not too loud with a dBA of around 60. Due to their large size and the fact that they sit outside your tent, don’t be surprised if your camping neighbors want to come over and check this one out!
Great not only for camping, but many people find that evaporative coolers are essential to outdoor gatherings like weddings and celebrations.
There are many commercial grade portable AC systems available for large tents, such as our recommendation of the Movincool Classic Plus 26 Commercial Portable Air Conditioner.
Camping Air Conditioners Compared
Types of Air Conditioners Best For Camping in Tents
For camping, tent AC units require some planning and setup. Electric air conditioners will require a little more work on the set-up side of things but are more reliable than their battery-operated counterparts. Because most small portable air conditioners are also completely functional for home or apartment use, they are easier to purchase and there are more products on the market.
There are a few different options for electric AC for camping:
These units are literally the same units that supply air to a bedroom or small apartment. They run on about 5000 BTUs and can keep an area of 150 square feet cool, which would make this the ideal choice for an average-sized tent.
This option, however, does require a ventilation spot that fits the entire unit, so you may have to alter your tent to accommodate it. If you are a serious camper these provide cooling comfort for most tent sizes.
You will also need a power source, either in the form of a regular electrical outlet or a camping generator.
Small Portable ACs
Generally more powerful than window air conditioners, the best portable air conditioners are known to cool spaces up to 400 square feet at 12000 BTUs. The models themselves can be quite bulky (weighing up to 100 lbs) but are often set on wheels to help you maneuver them around.
Portable air conditioner units still require ventilation, but usually only a smaller hose instead of space for the entire unit. Most of these portable air conditioners also work as dehumidifiers and have an internal tray that collects water. If the water bucket fills up, the air conditioner will automatically turn off until it is emptied.
Spot or evaporative coolers are the heavy-duty models of portable air conditioners, and they often even resemble their full, permanent in-home cousins. Running at 15000 BTUs these air conditioners are the most powerful of the portable options.
Most people who buy an evaporative cooler are probably looking to use them for a more permanent location like a garage or workshop, but if you’re willing to put in the heavy lifting and extra setup, then they can be perfectly suitable for camping as well.
12V Portable AC
Battery-powered tent air conditioners are easier to setup and use but are less reliable and powerful than electric versions. Most 12V portable camping AC units are compact, so they are good for smaller spaces.
The main way that these battery-powered units work is that the user will fill the unit with ice (or water, in some cases) and a small fan will work to convert that energy into cool air. These air conditioners are recommended for smaller tents and personal use. This includes portable air conditioners for cars.
What To Look For When Buying A Tent AC
Key Camping Question: Do You Have Electricity?
Yes – Most public campgrounds have electricity hook-ups, but it will be best to make sure ahead of time that you will have access to AC. With electricity, you will be able to use any kind of portable air conditioner that you like, from small window units to full tower units.
No – If you’re heading off-grid to where there isn’t an electricity hook-up, you can still have a portable tent air conditioner.
Several tent air conditioner models on the market run on 12V batteries and many have options to be charged in your car. These truly portable air conditioner units are usually less reliable and obviously won’t run as long, but they are still better than the alternative.
Portability is an interesting factor in choosing a camping tent air conditioner, because what one person deems as portable will not always be the case for everyone. For example, some people will have no problem at all bringing an 80 lb tent air conditioner to the camping where they can pull up to the campsite and easily get it out of the back of their pickup.
For others, this task is going to seem nearly impossible. Before purchasing your portable tent air conditioner, ask yourself how much you’re willing to carry, how big of an evaporative air cooler are you able to transport, and how will you maneuver the tent AC throughout the trip.
AC Power Level (BTUs)
AC power levels is in close connection with our power source. A BTU is a British Thermal Unit, and are numbers given to appliances that indicate how much energy an appliance will use to either cool or heat a given space.
It’s right to assume that the higher the BTUs, the more power it has, and in general the more space it can cool. But when it comes to best tent air conditioner, the key thing to remember is that you would like a constant, cool temperature in your tent.
If you have a small, two-person tent but you have a large portable air conditioner that runs at 15000 BTUs, it will get your tent to the desired temperature faster but then will shut off until the temperature dips below that number again causing itself to cycle repeatedly.
This action will shorten the lifespan of your product because it is not working at a level that it was intended. Find the appropriate BTU outputting before you purchase your portable air conditioner.
Your tent size will greatly influence the type of portable air conditioning unit that you will need to buy. This article points out that tents are usually listed as either 4-person, 6-person, etc. but that they don’t often take into consideration extra space for gear such as portable air conditioners, or even extra baggage.
For this reason, you will want to know the square footage of your tent and how much space you will require for an air conditioning unit. In general, each person that you’re traveling with will require about 30 square feet of space to be comfortable.
You’ll also need to consider how many people will be sleeping in a shared space. It will be much easier to cool an area with one person than with eight because the air conditioner would have to work harder to surpass all the body heat being put off.
The first thing to consider when looking to purchase a portable air conditioner for tent camping is whether you will have electricity at your campsite. Many public campsites offer electricity hook-ups, but the voltage may vary by location.
If you are planning to go to a specific location with your tent air conditioner, make sure you understand how many amps their hook-ups allow.
In general, this number will range from 5 amps to 16 amps. Knowing this number will help you choose the right appliance for your trip and will save you from blowing a circuit (or worse, cutting the power for not only yourself but also your camping neighbors!)
If you decide to take the electrically sourced route, you will also need to consider buying an outdoor extension cord to reach your appliance. If you decide to use a 12V battery for your tent air conditioner, you will want to consider back-up batteries and/or how you will recharge the unit.
Air Flow & Ventilation
As with any tent sleeping experience, you will need to consider the airflow and ventilation for your air conditioner. 12V battery-powered tent air conditioners won’t require any extra ventilation other than what is built into your tent.
On the other hand, electric tent air conditioners will require ventilation to the outside. Window units require large vents, as the AC literally fits half in/half out of the tent.
Portable air conditioners and evaporative coolers require a smaller vent for a tube to exit the tent. Fortunately, tent air conditioners are growing in popularity and many tents are now being manufactured with a large vent to accommodate an air conditioner built right in. If your tent doesn’t have this feature, you may be able to work something out within one of your existing doors or windows.
The level of noise any AC emits is a key concern for buyers. When camping, however, this is less of a priority because your natural surroundings will likely soak up most sounds that come from your air conditioner.
Nevertheless, always look at a units decibel level or dBa. As a general rule, anything under 60 is good and won’t bother you or your neighbors. Once you get above 70 dBa it starts to become more of an issue.
Price / Budget
Nearly all things come for a price and as the saying goes “you get what you pay for.” Having a portable air conditioner with you on your camping trip, though growing in popularity, is still considered a luxury item with units ranging from moderately expensive to very expensive.
As with every other consideration though, the higher the price does not necessarily mean the better product. You need to look at all the considerations to choose the right portable air conditioner for your needs. And if all else fails, you can always do the tried and true DIY camping air conditioner of filling a 5-gallon bucket with ice and hoping for a breeze.
Is AC Even Needed When Camping?
Air conditioners for camping have benefits and drawbacks. We’ve made a list of the big influencers that might sway you one way or the other, to help you best decide your own cooling needs.
- Keep your tent cool
- Sleep better at a lower temperature
- Multi-functional: the best tent air conditioners are good at doing many things besides camping
- A portable camping air conditioner is easy to use and require almost no regular maintenance
- Runs on standard electricity, no special hook-ups needed
- Built to last: some of the best tent air conditioner units come with warranties guaranteeing that you will be able to enjoy them for years to come
- The comfort of home in the great outdoors
- Unlike window air conditioners, portable tent air conditioners are easy to move around
- Sometimes hard to transport/heavy/take up travel space
- Set-up and installation take time away from other camping activities
- Required to use a camp-site with electricity or bring back-up batteries
- Cost of the camping AC
- Noise of the camping AC
Considered a Cooling Fan Instead?
If you’re not quite ready to purchase an air conditioner for camping, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to go without any cooling relief. There are many portable fans on the market that cool as well as ACs. Some are even more portable than other tent air conditioners.
My favorite fan for camping is this HAITRAL 2IN1 Portable LED Camping Lantern with Ceiling Fan. It sounds like a mouthful, but this little fan is super small and super powerful. It has a special clip that allows you to hang it up in your tent or even on your hiking backpack. It takes just two D batteries and can last up to 50 hours, which I find quite impressive.
I also recommend this O2COOL 10-inch Portable Camping Fan with Light as a travel option because it will completely fold up and fit in your backpack. The only downside to this one is that it requires 6 D batteries instead of 2.
How To Set Up A DIY Tent AC
If you consider yourself a handyman or gal, then a DIY Tent AC is not out of the question!
Many YouTube videos will show you how to make a tent AC (electrical, solar or battery powered) that will keep you cool for hours, indoors or outdoors.
- Cooler chest
- PVC pipe
- Ice or frozen water jugs
- Small fan – can be electric or battery powered
- A drill and saw to create the openings in the cooler
- Duct tape
How To Set Up Small Window AC In A Tent
- A tent vent large enough for window air conditioners
- A standard size window air conditioner
- A 12” milk crate to rest the window AC unit on – The air conditioner must not sit on the ground or it will not work correctly. Bricks are also a suitable choice.
- Items to seal any gaps: extra tent material, small towels, etc.
- A large drip-pan to collect the condensation from the unit so that it doesn’t run under your tent and create a damp environment
Common Tent Air Conditioner Questions
How will humidity levels affect my air conditioner?
Humidity will cause the air conditioner to work a little harder to cool you off and potentially have more ‘run off’. Many models have a built-in dehumidifier that can be extremely helpful. Be aware of which area your AC unit is draining towards.
How can I insulate a tent to help the AC?
For safety reasons, it is not recommended that you alter the tent in any way that would insulate it beyond its original specifications. It would be best to purchase a tent more suitable to your needs or to find an AC unit that will work more efficiently with the space you have. In saying that, place your tent in a shaded area is a smart idea. Consumer reports suggest blocking the sun so use a darker colored and waterproof ‘fly’ will help cool the space inside.
I have a larger tent. Which is a good choice?
Portable ACs and evaporative coolers both work well for larger tents. We highly recommend this Black & Decker model that can double as a heater. This is because of the higher BTU’s (14000) it provides. This option should sit close to the front door out window cutting so it can drain any excess fluid.
I have a small 1-2 person tent. Which AC should I use?
If your tent has a proper vent, installing small window AC units for tents like the hOmeLabs Window Air Conditioner would be ideal and will keep you plenty cool. This is because it is slightly smaller than the Frigidaire option. If you are squeezed for space, you might consider looking at one of the 12V options instead.
Is it safe to use AC inside a tent?
Many portable tent air conditioners are safe to use inside a tent if you follow the instructions and use proper ventilation.
Which tents come with a hole for my Air conditioner?
As portable AC units become more popular, many tent manufacturers are adding vents specifically designed to fit AC units. We recommend this family sized tent by Ozark Trail.
Camping has come a long way from the bare bones outdoor adventure that it used to be, and now we can even bring along our portable AC units for a little home comfort and better rest. We hope this guide has served you well in your search for a portable air conditioning unit for your next camping trip.
We highly recommend both small camping air conditioner units like the Frigidaire FFRA0511R1 and larger units like the Nakitomi Spot Cooler. For those with a bigger budget and serious camping needs, check out the ZeroBreeze. Whether you’re traveling alone or with a group of twelve people, there is a portable AC unit that will be just right for your next trip.
Last Updated on July 8, 2022
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