We love camping. According to Statista, every year more than 40 million Americans go camping. Favorite season: Summer. If you don’t want to sweat profusely in your tent during those hot afternoons, you really need to check for the best tent air conditioner for camping.
The tent air conditioner you can use on camping trips? Is that actually a thing?
As of 2016, we have a true portable air conditioner for tents. No cords. Only cooling.
However, before we look at the best (and only true) air conditioner for tents, invented in 2016, let’s make one thing clear:
There are several devices that marketing people dub ‘tent air conditioners for camping’. Just because they are sold as tent ‘air conditioners’, doesn’t actually mean they either work as air conditioners. Nor are they capable to decrease tent temperature in any meaningful way.
These ‘tent air conditioners’ include:
- Evaporative coolers. Basically, a fan that evaporates water. Doesn’t cool down a tent at all.
- Portable air conditioners. They do work and can have up to 15,000 BTU cooling effect. But they also need a 120V electrical system; something that you will hardly in camping places.
- Window air conditioners. Even worst idea; you need 120V and have to fix the air conditioner on your tent. Big, clumsy, and not convenient at all.
Here’s the deal with these ‘tent air conditioners’:
An evaporative cooler, in short, does nothing to decrease the temperature inside the tent. You can pour a bucket of water on top of the tent and let it evaporate; it’s the same effect. Virtually non-existent cooling effect with 0 BTU.
The only true tent air conditioner is the cordless battery-powered air conditioner made by Zero Breeze. It’s not without its drawback – primary among those is the high price of the unit itself – but it’s miles ahead of all those fake tent air conditioners. And it actually works splendidly:
Below you will find a shortlist of all the best air conditioners for 2-person, 2-6 person, and 10-person tents:
Skip To List Of Best Tent Air Conditioners For Camping
But let’s first dive specifically into what requirements every true tent air conditioner for camping should have:
Key Requirements True Tent Air Conditioner Should Have
If you put yourself into camping-mood and try to figure out what kind of air conditioner for your tent you would need, here’s what you’re likely to come up with:
The perfect tent air conditioner should be:
- Portable. It should work on its own; without the need for power outlets. It should also be light, especially if you are hiking to the camping site.
- Sufficiently powerful. A camping air conditioner should decrease the temperature in your tent sufficiently. For that you don’t need big 10,000 BTU units; however, nor should you settle for weak 1,000 BTU units.
- Silent. You’re in nature. To be a part of nature, your tent air conditioner shouldn’t produce 60+ dB noise levels. A quiet tent air conditioner will let you and the animals in the nearby woods sleep easier.
Let’s delve into each of these 3 aspects:
Portable Power Source (120V Is Bad, Battery-Powered Is The Best)
Camping usually happens in the woods, camping sites, and so on. All these are places that don’t have 120V electrical grid. A great majority of air conditioners cannot operate without the standard electrical grid you find in your home.
To have a truly portable air conditioner, you either need a generator to produce a 120V grid (big, clumsy, not appropriate for camping) or battery-powered tent air conditioners.
Fortunately, the innovation in battery-powered appliances in recent years has impacted air conditioners as well. The new Zero Breeze Mark 2 battery-powered unit is for air conditioners as is Tesla for cars.
1 battery will cool down 2-6 person tent for up to 5h (if you run it at top speed, at 2,300 BTU). You can get multiple batteries for a longer stay, or recharge the battery quite easily with in-car charging and a 24V car power adapter.
Sufficient Cooling Capacity (Measured In BTU)
How many BTUs should a tent air conditioner have? All the BTU calculation you find are designed for room sizes, and rooms have 8-9 feet high ceilings. Tents have other dimensions entirely.
A good rule of thumb for a tent air conditioner is this:
500 BTU/hr per person.
For example, a good air conditioner for a 2-person tent should have at least 1,000 BTU of cooling power.
Keep in mind that those fake tent air conditioners – evaporative coolers – produce 0 BTU. They aren’t designed to actually bring down the temperature; at best, they are glorified fans that only circulate the hot air.
Note about portable air conditioners: These create 8,000 BTU, 10,000 BTU, and so on. That’s far too much for camping tents. Unless you’re planning to have a tent for 10+ people, ordinary 120V portable air conditioners are extreme overkill for camping.
Lightweight Design (Below 20 lbs)
All camping gear should be lightweight. Even something as complex as a tent air conditioner should be lightweight.
In the best case scenario, you will park your car 10 feet from the camping site. If you have some strong arms, you can carry a 50 lbs portable air conditioner those 10 feet. But it’s a drag.
In the worst-case scenario, you have a couple of miles to your camping place. Places that are little removed from the forest roads are usually the best. However, you have to carry an air conditioner for your tent with you. Your dire wish should be that the whole device is as lightweight as possible.
Here is a comparison of weight for tent air conditioners:
- Battery-powered cordless air conditioners: Below 20 lbs.
- Portable air conditioners: About 50 lbs.
- Evaporative coolers: From 2 lbs to 100 lbs. There’s a catch, though: They produce 0 BTU of cooling power – they don’t actually cool the air.
Silent Operation (You Don’t Want To Wake All The Camp Up)
Even at home, a noisy air conditioner can ruin your sleep. In the tent, an air conditioner will be much closer to you than at home – it better be a quiet device.
Camping sites are usually close to the woods. Animals are not used to have 60+ dB tent air conditioners running 24/7 in their neck of the woods. Be respectful to yourself and to the wood creatures and find a silent air conditioner that won’t disturb your sleep or nature.
With all these specifications in mind, let’s have a look at top-rated tent air conditioners. Below the comparison table, you will find individual reviews of all the tent AC units:
Best Tent Air Conditioners For Camping (With #1 Zero Breeze Mark 2 An Absolute Best Choice)
|Tent AC Unit||#1 Zero Breeze Mark 2||#2 Zero Breeze Mark 1||#3 SereneLife SLPAC8||#4 Hessaire MC61M|
|No. Of Persons:||2-6 Person Tent||2 Person Tent||10+ Person Tent||0 Person Tent|
|Power Source:||Battery-Powered||Battery-Powered||Needs 120V Electricity||Needs 115V Electricity|
|Cooling Capacity:||2,300 BTU||1,100 BTU||8,000 BTU||0 BTU|
|Power, Voltage, Amps:||240W (24V, 10 A)||150W (12V, 12.5 A)||900W (120V, 7.5 A)||430W (115V, 4.3 A)|
|Weight:||16.5 lbs||12.8 lbs||46.3 lbs||56 lbs|
|Noise Levels:||52 dB||65 dB||57 dB||63 dB|
|Availability:||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
1. Zero Breeze Mark 2 (Best Portable Tent Air Purifier For Camping, By Far)
|No. Of Persons:||2-6 Person Tent|
|Cooling Capacity:||2,300 BTU|
|Power, Voltage, Amps:||240W (24V, 10 A)|
|Noise Levels:||52 dB|
Mark 2 by Zero Breeze is, in addition to Mark 1, the only true portable air conditioner for camping. It took a big Kickstarter campaign to generate over $500,000 to create the world’s first tent air conditioner that is powered completely by the battery.
There are 2 things unique to Zero Breeze Mark 2 that no other air conditioner for camping has:
- Powered by battery; completely portable. A cordless air conditioner with an option to in-car battery recharge with a 24V car power adapter.
- Perfect size for 2-6 person camps. At the highest fan speed setting, it generates a total of 2,300 BTU of cooling power. Not too much, not too little; just right.
Needless to say, the Mark 2 has a good aesthetic appeal.
On top of that, it’s both silent and lightweight. At the maximum output, the Zero Breeze Mark 2 will generate up to 52 dB of noise. That is considerably less than most portable air conditioners. In essence, the Mark 2 is the quietest tent AC unit for camping.
What is more, it weighs only 16.7 lbs. If you are in good physical condition, you can literally carry it on the top of the mountain. Being lightweight makes all the handling and carrying of the tent air conditioner that much easier.
Mark 2 only has one drawback; the price. This is the world’s best and only true air conditioner for camping – the innovation that went into designing it is, therefore, costly. Mark 2 unit itself costs about $1000, and the battery costs about $700.
Both the unit and the battery are ground-breaking. With those two, you can create a cool atmosphere in your tent; it’s impossible to comfortably do that with any other air conditioning device on the market.
All in all, the Zero Breeze Mark 2 is a pinnacle of air conditioner engineering. It’s the only device that truly makes using a tent air conditioner easy and effective. If you add the aesthetic clean design, the Mark 2 is basically the Tesla of tent air conditioners:
2. Zero Breeze Mark 1 (Small 2-Person Tent Air Purifier, Outpeformed By Mark 2)
|No. Of Persons:||2 Person Tent|
|Cooling Capacity:||1,100 BTU|
|Power, Voltage, Amps:||150W (12V, 12.5 A)|
|Noise Levels:||65 dB|
Zero Breeze Mark 1 was the first-ever tent air conditioner, powered by a battery. The engineering basics for producing the true portable air conditioner were established with Mark 1. However, this model has quite a few drawbacks that were perfected in the Mark 2 model.
For one, the Mark 1 can produce 1,100 BTU/hr of cooling output. That was a solid spec in 2016 but for many people with 3-person or 4-person tents, the cooling output is too weak. Understandable, the Mark 2 output was thus increased (12V battery upgraded to 24V battery) to the perfect 2,300 BTUs.
Mark 1 is the most lightweight air conditioner for tents. With 12.8 lbs total weight, it’s even lighter than the Mark 2. Of course, it has much smaller battery capable of producing 150W while Mark 2’s battery can produce 650W, more than 3 times higher energy output.
The main concern with the Mark 1 is the 65 dB max. noise level. At the 1,100 BTU, the Mark 1 can get quite a noise. You can decrease the noise levels by decreasing the BTU output, but that will make the tent go hot again.
Given how much better the Mark 2 is compared to Mark 1, Zero Breeze is slowly removing the Mark 1 from their portfolio. Honestly, today it’s hard to get your hands on Mark 1 because everybody is buying Mark 2, a much superior tent AC unit for camping.
3. SereneLife SLPAC8 (Robust Portable AC Unit For Camping, Needs 120V)
|No. Of Persons:||10+ Person Tent|
|Power Source:||Needs 120V Electricity|
|Cooling Capacity:||8,000 BTU|
|Power, Voltage, Amps:||900W (120V, 7.5 A)|
|Noise Levels:||57 dB|
Now, portable air conditioners are perfect for room cooling at home. They are portable in only as much that you can move them around. You still need a 120V outlet to plug them in; without that, they won’t run. This presents a major restriction when you want to use a normal portable air conditioner for cooling tents.
Pretty much the only option is to have a 1000 Watt generator that produces 120V voltage. If you have that, and if you’re prepared to drag a generator to a camping site, in addition to the portable AC units, of course, you should look into SereneLife SLPAC8.
SereneLife SLPAC8 is the most robust portable air conditioner that may be under for tent-cooling. All the problems we talked about with non-battery-powered tent AC units are still there.
In addition to the 120V requirement (that’s hard to fulfill), the SereneLife SLPAC8 weighs 46.3 lbs and creates about 8,000 BTU of cooling output. Despite being one of the smallest air conditioners on the market, it’s still monstrously oversized even for a 5-person tent. 8,000 BTU can cool down a 10+ tent; it’s overkill for standard tents.
The good thing about the SereneLife SLPAC8 is its robustness. Camping sites come with all the dirt, grass, even mud after summer rainfall. Having a portable air conditioner fit enough to operate in a rugged campsite environment is definitely a plus.
It’s the that portable AC units like SereneLife SLPAC8 were the only viable option for tent cooling before the invention of battery-powered air conditioners. Today, however, the battery-powered AC unit are just that much more comfortable and well-balanced for camping, it would be crazy to get a portable AC for tent-cooling.
All in all, it’s nice that SereneLife SLPAC8 is robust, but portable air conditioners are very ill-equipped to help you cool down a tent. You will need a 1000W generator, the unit itself is heavy, and it wastes far too much energy.
4. Hessaire MC61M (Best Evaporative Cooler That Still Doesn’t Cool Tents)
|No. Of Persons:||0 Person Tent|
|Power Source:||Needs 115V Electricity|
|Cooling Capacity:||0 BTU|
|Power, Voltage, Amps:||430W (115V, 4.3 A)|
|Noise Levels:||63 dB|
There’s a lot of crazy things you can read on the internet. That evaporative cooler can be used to cool down tents like air conditioners have to be one of the craziest. All evaporative coolers – including the Hessaire MC61M – generate a grand total of 0 BTU of cooling effect. It would be absolutely mental to use an evaporative cooler as a tent air conditioner for camping.
Here’s how evaporative coolers “work”:
A very powerful fan will blow on the surface of the water. In turn, the water will be evaporated; this is an endothermic process. When water (sweat) evaporates from your skin, it takes away some energy, and you feel cooler.
Evaporative coolers do the same thing. One key difference; sweat takes the energy away from the skin and cools us. Water in evaporative coolers doesn’t take energy away from the hot air inside the tent; it takes the energy the fan produces. In essence, you have a 430W powered device inside your tent that generates more heat than its combined cooling effect. These devices – no matter how big or small – effectively increase the temperature within a tent.
No matter what some people in articles may say, the inner workings of evaporative coolers don’t support the claims that such devices can be used to cool down tents. They only create a humid airflow, and that’s it.
They are perfect for air circulation, but that’s all they do. No cooling. No BTUs.
Tent Air Conditioners FAQ
It’s understandable that there are many open questions when it comes to tent air conditioners, made for camping sites. We at LearnMetrics try to address a few of the most common ones here:
Can You Air Condition A Tent?
Yes, you actually can. In the past, people brought their portable air conditioners to air condition a tent. The limitation was obvious: You need 120V electric grid to run them, therefore you also need a power generator.
Ever since Zero Breeze has introduced their battery-powered air conditioner, more and more people use the Zero Breeze Mark 2 to air condition a tent.
It’s not without limitations of battery-powered devices and it has quite a high price for an average camper but it’s the most convenient and effective way to air condition a 2-person as well as a 6-person tent.
How Do You Keep A Tent Cool While Camping?
You can use a battery-powered air conditioner, of course. The best way to keep a tent cool while camping is to keep few things in mind:
- Position a tent in such a way that it will be in the shade during high noon and afternoon. That will limit the increase in temperature inside the tent.
- If possible, find a breezy area. A cool airflow can drastically decrease the temperature, especially in the evening.
- Camp close to water. Areas near water tend to be cooler.
- Choose a white or lightly colored tent. White color reflects sunlight away, black absorbs it. The lighter the color of the tent, the cooler it will be.
How to Keep a tent cool in the summer?
In the summer heat, these practices are often not enough. Having a ready cordless air conditioner in your tent is worth its weight in gold.
How Can I Cool My Tent Without Electricity?
Theoretically, you could cool a tent with liquid nitrogen. Practically, however, you can’t cool your tent without some kind of electric device.
All portable air conditioners require electricity to run. 120V electrical grid is a requirement, even with the best portable air conditioners.
That’s why the battery-powered air conditioner – the Zero Breeze Mark 2 – was such a great discovery. It runs on electricity but the source of electricity is a big battery. A battery is the most convenient way to transport electricity.
In short, it is more than possible to cool a tent without the immediate electrical grid. You can use a generator to produce the power, or invest in a cordless battery-powered air conditioner.
How Do You Make An Air Conditioner For Tent?
You should ask the Zero Breeze engineers just that. Having a truly portable air conditioner for a tent was a holy grail of AC engineering.
In 2016, a new Kickstarter campaign offered to solve just that: to make an air conditioner for a tent that runs purely on batteries. If Tesla could create a car that runs on batteries, why wouldn’t it possible to create an AC unit for tents that runs on batteries?
The first achievement was the Mark 1 model. The new and far superior Zero Breeze Mark 2 is the engineering masterpiece; it’s a blueprint of how to make an air conditioner for a tent.
If you have any other questions regarding the topic of tents and air conditioning, you can pose them in the comments below and we’ll try to answer them together.
Table of Contents
3 thoughts on “4 Best Tent Air Conditioners For Camping (Truth About Tent Cooling)”
Evaporative cooling _does_ produce a cooling effect. You repeatedly say it doesn’t, which is simply scientifically inaccurate. Evaporation is an endothermic process that sucks in energy from the environment, and therefore cools the air. Indeed, the way any AC works is by evaporation (in the case of traditional ACs it evaporates coolant in a heat exchanger, appropriately named the “evaporator”, this sucks in heat from the environment in order to evaporate the coolant, which is how it cools the air).
A big downside of evaporative coolers is that it increases the humidity of the air (and doesn’t work very well at all in high humidity environments). High humidity in turn can actually make any given temperature feel hotter.
That said, if you’re in the dry desert, an evaporative cooler can work really well. It does indeed reduce the temperature, and you’re in an environment that is too dry for comfort it actually improves comfort.
It is true that evaporative cooling is not going to cool down a space as much as an AC will, but it’s cheap, can run on very little power, and can be effective in some conditions. And bottom line, saying it’s “0 BTU” is simply not true.
Hello Sebastian, thank you for the interesting insight. Overall, if you put any device that needs power input to run, it will increase the average temperature in an isolated space (like a tent, for example) according to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. A good example is a refrigerator; when you open the fridge, you will feel the cold, but the overall temperature of the room will increase, not decrease (the back of the fridge produces more heat than the front of the fridge cools). If it were true that a fridge could decrease the temperature of a room, we wouldn’t need air conditioners, we would just use fridges. Basically, you can’t cheat physics.
Evaporative coolers do use the endothermic process of water evaporation to generate a cooling breeze. Basically, you’re boiling water at very low pressure and use a fan to propagate the cold released as a result of the endothermic process. Nonetheless, the input energy (wattage) that enables this process is still greater than the released cold; it’s just that you experience the cooling breeze and but you don’t see the warming of the air around the evaporative cooler. If you put an evaporative cooler in an isolated space like a tent, the net effect will be a temperature increase.
This is also why every air conditioner has to be vented; there needs to be heat exchange between two spaces. As such, we can talk about the cooling output of air conditioners that is measured in BTUs. You might notice that every AC unit has BTUs, and there is not 1 evaporative cooler that would have BTUs on the specification sheet.
We are aware that the physics here is not as intuitive as it usually is; that leads to a harder explanation and understanding of how evaporative coolers work. It’s completely understandable to find disagreements in this area but, again, physics can’t be bent. It might be useful to study the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, especially heat engines and heat transfer, to shine a bit more light on this issue; here is a chapter from Boundless Physics on 2nd Law of Thermodynamics might be quite useful.
You seem to have missed pointing out EnjoyCool’s outdoor portable air conditioner. I have it for a few weeks now and it does its best to cool down my 2-6 person tent with no isses