Tents With Aircon? Finding The Best Camping Tent Air Conditioner

While some minimalist campers might scoff at the idea of an air-conditioned tent, sometimes in really stifling conditions, a/c is the only option – especially when several people are all sharing the same tent.

If you’ve ever wondered what the options are for keeping your tent at a cool and comfortable temperature, I have the answers for you. Here, I provide you with a guide for choosing the best camping tent air conditioner to make your camping trips more pleasant.

Buyer’s Guide

When thinking of investing in an air conditioning unit for camping, there are several things to consider. The first question is whether you even need an a/c unit for your type of camping. If you decide you do, you will need to consider which style to buy as well as the features you prefer.

Do You Even Need An A/C Unit For Your Tent?

Different Types Of Air Conditioners

An air conditioner for a tent is a bulky item and they can be expensive. The first question is whether you really need one. Most tents have a ventilation system which in many climates is sufficient. You can also pitch you tent in the shade to decrease the heat inside.

If you are camping in moderately hot regions or you have a low tolerance to heat, there may also be some cheaper and less bulky options that might be more suitable. A simple electric or battery-powered fan may be sufficient to increase the air flow in the tent to make it more bearable.

If you need something a bit more substantial than this, an ice cooler fan or evaporation coolers may also do the job. However, if you are camping in excessively hot areas and you want to get a good night’s sleep, a full a/c unit is no longer a luxury but a necessity.


Window Or Free-Standing A/C?

Having decided that an a/c unit is really necessary, the first decision to make is whether to go for a window a/c unit or a free-standing a/c unit.

Window a/c units are the less expensive option and will give you more cooling ability relative to the amount you pay. However, they will probably require you to customize your tent, for example, cutting a hole in the wall or a window, to install it.

Free Stand Air Conditioner In Camping Tent

10,000 BTU A/C In A Camping Tent
Via Pinterest.com

A free-standing room a/c unit is easier to transport and set up although they are more expensive, they take up space in your tent and they offer less cooling power than a window version.


Features To Look For In Tent Air Conditioners

Size And Weight

Window Air Conditioner In The Back Of A Camper Truck

Window Air Conditioner 5,000 BTU In The Back Of A Camper

Most a/c units are not designed specifically for camping although many can easily be adapted for this purpose. A key consideration for campers is the size and weight of the unit since this affects how easy they are to transport.


Power

Portable Air Conditioner Blowing Cool Air On White Background

The power of an a/c unit is measured in BTUs and you will need a higher BTU rating for larger tents. If the BTU rating isn’t high enough for the tent you plan to use the unit in, it won’t be powerful enough to have the required effect.

In general, a 5,000 BTU unit is strong enough to cool an average-sized family tent. If you need to cool a larger tent, you may need to think about buying an 8,000 BTU model. For the very largest tents, you may even need to go as high as 10,000 BTU.


How Is The Unit Powered?

A Battery Operated Air Conditioner For Camping

Some smaller units are powered by batteries and if you only have a small tent, this kind of a/c unit might be sufficient. If you need to cool a larger tent, it may be necessary to choose an a/c unit that plugs into the mains supply.

When considering which version to opt for, you need to think about whether you will have access to an electricity supply. If you wish to use an a/c unit away from a powered campsite, a battery-powered version will be required.


Noise

If you are spending your money on an a/c unit, part of the reason is probably to help you get a good night’s sleep. This means that you won’t want a noisy unit that is going to keep you awake. If you are a light sleeper, this might be a point you wish to consider.


Timer

Some a/c units include a timer so that they can be programmed to switch themselves off in the night. This is a useful function and while it might not be the most important feature, it might be something worth remembering.

EdgeStar Extreme Cool 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner - Silver

Via Amazon.com


Remote Control

You may wish to choose an a/c unit that comes with a remote control so you can operate the unit from a distance without having to get up and do it manually.

Hand Wth Portable Air Conditioner Remote Control

Price

Finally, you will obviously want to consider the price. If you are willing to spend a lot of money on an a/c unit, you will be able to buy a top-end model. However, it may not be necessary to spend that much money to obtain a unit that is perfectly adequate for your needs.

Reviews

BLACK+DECKER BPACT08WT 8,000 BTU

BLACK+DECKER BPACT08WT 8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner with Remote Control

Via Amazon.com

Quality

Price

Our Rating

This free-standing 8,000 BTU unit from Black + Decker is designed to cool a 15’x20’ room. It weighs 59lbs and features a timer and programmable electronic controls. It is also controllable by remote control. It includes a filter that slides out easily for maintenance.

This is a handy a/c unit that is quick and easy to set up and install. What I really like about this is the electronic controls which are easy to use and the timer which means you can cool your tent just when you need to. The remote is also good as you don’t have to get up to change the settings.

The problem with using this a/c unit as a camping option is that it is a quite heavy and so not the easiest to transport, although it is by no means impossible. I did also find that this a/c unit was a little noisy so I wouldn’t recommend it for lighter sleepers.

One problem that is annoying rather than anything is that the exhaust hose doesn’t attach firmly and is awkward to fix on.

This is a good unit for someone who requires a medium-strength unit for cooling their tent and who likes ease of operation. I wouldn’t recommend this unit for someone who is looking for a smaller unit that is easier to transport.

Pros

  • Timer and programmable controls
  • Easy to set up and install
  • Remote controlled
  • 8,000 BTU adequate for medium-sized tents

Cons

  • Slightly large for camping
  • Awkward exhaust hose
  • Noisy

EdgeStar Extreme Cool 12,000 BTU

EdgeStar Extreme Cool 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner - Silver

Via Amazon.com

Quality

Price

Our Rating

This free-standing unit is a large and powerful 12,000 BTU unit with three fan speeds that is capable of cooling a space up to 425 sq. ft. It weighs 69lbs and includes a washable pre-filter and replaceable carbon filter. It has an auto-drain system to remove condensation in all but very humid conditions.

What I like about this a/c unit is that its power enables it to effectively cool even the largest of tents so you don’t need to worry about it not being up to the task. It is also really easy to set up and you can just place it in your tent, plug in and away you go.

The main problem with this unit is that it is probably overkill for most tents. You probably don’t need such a powerful a/c unit in your tent so this might not be the best choice unless you need to cool something huge.

I also find that it’s a little noisy. For me, that’s not such a problem but I can imagine that some people might find it disturbing. Also, I think the warranty period is a little short which means you won’t be able to get support if you have any issues.

Overall, this is a simple and effective a/c unit that would be a suitable camping option for the very largest of tents but is probably a bit too much for most regular camping setups.

Pros

  • High power output
  • Easy to set up and install
  • Auto-drain system

Cons

  • Large size
  • Overkill for average tents
  • Noisy

Frigidaire FFRA0511R1 5,000 BTU

Frigidaire FFRA0511R1 5, 000 BTU 115V Window-Mounted Mini-Compact Air Conditioner

Via Amazon.com

Quality

Price

Our Rating

This Frigidaire window a/c unit is an affordable 5000 BTU option suitable for smaller tents. It is capable of cooling a room up to 150 sq. ft. but probably not more, and it can dehumidify up to 1.1 pints an hour. It weighs 48lbs and has two fan speeds, two cool speeds and two-way air direction.

This unit is a no-frills basic window model and does the job it was designed for well, namely, it effectively cools smaller spaces. It is also easy to install although since it is a window unit, it may require a little DIY work on your tent. It is powerful for its size.

The main problem with this unit is the amount of noise it makes so it’s not a good choice for light sleepers. It is also not suitable for larger tents as the 5000 BTU rating does not give you enough cooling power.

This is an inexpensive unit and you shouldn’t expect it to be made of the highest-quality materials. Another problem is the fact that you will probably need to make some permanent alterations to your tent which some people might not like doing.

I think this is a good option for someone looking for an inexpensive a/c option for camping trips in a smaller tent and who doesn’t mind doing some work on their tent. It’s probably not the right choice for someone who has a bigger tent or who doesn’t want to make the alterations for installation.

Pros

  • Affordable price
  • Simple and effective
  • Several options for fans and air direction
  • Easy to install

Cons

  • Mediocre quality
  • Noisy
  • Requires tent alterations

Whynter 12,000 BTU Dual Hose

Whynter 12,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner, Frost White (ARC-12SD)

Via Amazon.com

Quality

Price

Our Rating

This 12,000 BTU option from Whynter is a high-performance free-standing a/c unit with plenty of power for even the largest of tents. It has a digital display and remote control and has three operating modes, a/c, fan and dehumidifier. It has a dual hose and auto-drain system.

I think the dual hose system is a great feature on this a/c unit as it really increases its efficiency. The auto-drain feature is also helpful as it means you only have to drain it manually in the most humid of conditions. It’s also quick and simple to set up and get running.

One disadvantage with this unit is that it’s heavy and bulky so it might not be the most adapted to use as a tent a/c unit. It is also more expensive that some other options.

One small gripe I have is that although I like the digital display, it’s very bright and may cause problems for people who can’t sleep with a light on in the room. Aesthetically-speaking, I also find the large double hoses quite ugly.

This is a good option for someone looking for a powerful a/c unit to install in a large tent and who doesn’t mind spending the extra money. This is probably not a good choice for someone looking for an easily transportable and affordable option for a regular family tent.

Pros

  • Dual hose
  • Auto-drain system
  • Simple setup
  • Powerful a/c unit

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Bulky
  • Expensive

Haier HPB08XCM 8,000 BTU

Haier HPB08XCM Portable Air Conditioner, 8000 BTU

Via Amazon.com

Quality

Price

Our Rating

This unit from Haier is a relatively affordable 8,000 BTU unit with three cool settings, three fan settings and a dehumidifying mode. It weighs around 40lbs and is capable of cooling a space as large as 250 sq. ft. It can be operated by remote control.

This unit is relatively quiet for a free-standing model but the noise may still bother the most sensitive sleepers. I like the remote control which makes for easy operation. This is a basic a/c unit which performs its role adequately. At 40lbs, it is also not too heavy to transport about.

I think the major issue with this unit is that the instructions for installation are not as clear as they could be, making it a little complicated. You may also need to modify your tent slightly if you choose this model.

Overall, this is a good, solid option for someone who needs to cool a medium-sized tent with an easy-to-operate a/c unit. It is not recommended if you need a unit to cool the largest sized tents. Bear in mind, the installation is not simple.

Pros

  • Simple to operate
  • Light
  • Powerful
  • Remote controlled

Cons

  • Installation complicated
  • Bright display

Conclusion

While none of these units is specifically aimed at campers, all of them can be pressed into service and all will perform well in different situations. For me, the Frigidaire is a good inexpensive window solution but I’m not sure about making the alterations to my tent to fit it in.

The Edgestar and Whynter models are good but maybe a little too big for the requirements of camping. The Haier is an appropriate choice for regular-sized tents. But for me, the overall winner is the Black + Decker, which combines ease of use and ease of installation at an affordable price.

What do you use to cool your tent? Do you prefer a free-standing a/c unit or a window one? Let me know about your solutions for hot and stuffy tents – and if you enjoyed my article, please don’t forget to share!

Julie McClain
 

Chief editor here at Outdoorzer. I'm an outdoor lover and ever since I was a little girl, I've worked hard to learn all I could from my Dad about Camping, Hiking, RVs and surviving in the woods.

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