I know there is nothing more unpleasant than camping during the hottest summer days. I have memories of staying in overheated tents. You can’t sleep, you feel tired and you feel horrible. The only relief is a cool nearby stream or a sip of ice water.
Depending on where you live, the summer heat inside your tent can be unbearable. This can become enough to make camping a bad experience. You can sleep under the stars or keep your rain fly off. But then you are at risk for bug bites or getting soaked from rainstorms.
Many think an air conditioner is a luxury. Yet, it becomes a necessity if you are camping in a hot place. With nighttime temperatures at 80 degrees or more, a tent air conditioner will aid sweaty nights.
In this article, we are going to review the following tent air conditioners:
- BLACK+DECKER BPACT08WT Portable Air Conditioner
- SHINCO SPF2 8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
- Honeywell MO08CESWK Compact Portable Air Conditioner
- Global Air 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner Cooling
- hOmeLabs 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
Can you use an air conditioner in a tent?
Yes, of course. As long as you set it up safely then you can use an air conditioner in a tent. A good tent air conditioner can cool the tent completely and will also offer more than one mode.
What features to look for when purchasing a tent air conditioner?
Size and design
The best tent air conditioner is lightweight, especially if it’s an extra item on a camping trip. You should also look for one that is portable so that you can carry it to your campsite without any trouble. Consider design features like easy mobility so that moving it into your tent is easy. Look for castors and integrated carry handles to help you out.
Look for a tent air conditioner with a high tech spec that is easy to use. Features like LED electronic controls help to operate a unit easily. Digital controls offer precise temperature adjustments. Also, remote controls allow you to power the unit as you rest on your sleeping mattress.
There are also AC units that will operate on their own when you are sleeping. It is also important to look at the square foot that the unit is able to cool. Make sure it is large enough for your tent.
You may prefer an AC unit that has a self-evaporative system over a water tank. This depends on personal preference. If you are ok with emptying the tank periodically.
What are the benefits of a tent air conditioner?
Makes camping a more pleasant experience
If you are camping in 100 degree weather, then you aren’t going to have a fun camping experience. The benefit of a tent air conditioner is that you can escape the heat. Stay cool throughout your camping trip.
Prevents perspiration and fatigue
The worst part about hot weather in a tent is that your tent transforms into a sauna. This makes you uncomfortable and soaked in sweat. Not to mention, tired and fatigued from intense heat.
Reduces horrible heat inside the tent
The greatest benefit of a tent air conditioner is that you can have cool relief on a hot summer day. Enjoy a break in the midday heat. Also, you can sleep cool at night without worrying about staying awake because of the hot weather.
Tents can get too hot when there is direct sunlight above them. How hot your tent gets, will depend on the fabric and also the level of direct sunlight on it. Most tents are synthetic fabric (nylon, polyester) and natural materials (cotton). Most manufacturers use synthetic fabric since it is breathable and also water-resistant. Also, polyester and nylon heat less than cotton fabric.
Allows you to sleep easier on hot nights
It is a scientific fact that a cooler environment will help stimulate sleep. It will also allow you to cycle naturally through sleep stages. Temperatures outside this rage can disrupt your REM (rapid eye movement) stage. This is a restorative phase of your sleep. With great sleep on your camping trip, you will be able to fully enjoy your days. You will have plenty of energy for long hikes in nature.
A tent air conditioner prevents heat stroke
Heatstroke is a risk if you are camping in high temperatures. This happens when your body overheats. It is usually a result of prolonged exposure to high temperatures. The most serious form of heat injury is heatstroke. This happens when your body temperature rises to 104 F or higher.
—> You might also be interested in our reviews of the best tent with an AC port here.
How to set up a tent air conditioner?
This process is not as difficult as you might imagine. All you need is a power source, heat output, and also wastewater discharge.
You will need to be sure you have a consistent power source as well as a cord that can reach one. The power-hungry compressor will create a lot of heat that will need to be vented.
Venting hot air
Some tents come with an ac port where you can vent the hot air. Be careful not to direct this at fellow campers’ tents. Most portable AC units come with an exhaust hose that you can put out the side of the tent.
Keep in mind that a portable air conditioner for a tent will collect wastewater in a reservoir. You will need to periodically empty this. Especially at higher humidity, you will need to do this more frequently. This can be set up to discharge through a hose like a window unit.
With evaporative coolers, you only need to consider a power source. They don’t create much heat either and have no wastewater discharge.
The BLACK+DECKER ac unit offers immediate and uninterrupted comfort to your camping experience. It features easy-to-use LED electronic controls. It is also quiet while you sleep with 75dB in a high setting. Transport is not an issue as it comes with rolling casters and side carrying handles. You can maneuver it into place easily.
This unit will cool approximately 100 to 150 square feet or 10 x 12-foot tent space during the summer months. For a betting experience, make sure your tent is fully zipped up so that the cool air doesn’t escape.
- Stay cool. Keeps your tent and 100 to 150 square feet or 10 x 12-foot space pleasant and comfy during the summer.
- Remote control. Enjoy the convenience of accessing the features anywhere.
- LED digital display. The Control panel and display are easy to see and simple to operate.
- Slide-out filter. This can be easily cleaned and reused.
- Easy mobility. Easy transport with castors and integrated carry handles.
- Even though it has wheels, still clunky to move around
- If the filter is not cleaned could cause a smell
The Shinco portable AC unit will help keep your tent cool and comfortable. It has 200 square feet of coverage. It features electronic controls and a remote for easy operation. It is a 3-in-1 unit (cool, fan, dry) compact unit with front manual louvers and multiple speed settings. It is also easy to move around with wheels. It also comes with a window exhaust kit for quick and easy setup.
- Easy to transport with wheels
- Cooling capacity – 4500 DOE BTU / 8000 ASHRAE BTU
- Cools a tent up to 200 square feet
- Dehumidification up to 40.6 pints per day
- 3 operating modes include Cool, Fan, and Dry
- Front manual louvers to direct the airflow
- Top electronic control panel with easy-to-read LED display screen
- Choice of Fahrenheit or Centigrade degree temperature display
- 3 fan speeds with 24-hour on/off timer
- Temperature selection keys
- Full-function remote control to operate
- Sleep key located on the remote control
- Permanent washable filter screen – No ‘check filter’ warning
- Window exhaust kit included for quick and easy setup
- Hose attachment may take some setup time
- It may be considered too noisy
The Honeywell portable ac unit can cool a space of up to 350 square feet. It has auto-evaporation and a quiet operation. It also features a washable filter and filter change alert to make maintenance easier. There is also an exhaust hose and built-in dehumidifier. With digital controls, you can enjoy the simplicity and comfort of 2 speeds, a smart digital humidistat, 24-hour energy-saving timer, and remote control with digital display.
- More breathable tent space with filtration system.
- Save heavy lifting with light portable ac (only 45 lbs.)
- Save energy and money.
- Quick setup. Roll to the preferred cooling area.
- Quiet operation (same level as people having a conversation)
- Precise climate control with the Smart Digital Thermostat system.
- Set it and forget it.
- Easy to maintain and to store.
- A self-evaporation system means bucket-less operation.
- The unit will shut off when full of water
- It may be too loud for some
The Global Air portable air conditioner unit can cool a space up to 400 square feet. It has a 2-speed cooling and fan and 4-way air direction to help spread the air evenly throughout your tent. Its digital controls allow you to set the precise temperature. There is also a remote control to let you control from across the tent.
With the self-evaporate system, there is no water tank. The condensing water is recycled to improve efficiency through the cooling condenser. Like most units, it must be vented to the outside.
It also offers an over-cold protection three-minute restart-delay function. The wind blows upward and anti-frozen functions undercooling.
- 10,000 BTU of cooling power
- Cools up 300 square feet
- Partially cools up to 400 square feet
- 2 fan speeds
- 2 cool settings
- 4-way air direction
- Sleep and 24-hour timer settings
- Digital controls
- Remote control
- Washable and reusable filter
- 6′ cord
- Ease of transport with rolling wheels
- It may be too loud for some
- The unit is heavier than other units (60 lbs)
- Difficult to drain with a spout at bottom of the unit
The hOmeLabs air conditioner unit can cool a 450 to 600 square feet space. The unit is equipped with an automatic vertical swing function to evenly distribute the airflow throughout your tent.
It is also easy to install as it has wheels and can be moved into place easily. All you need to do is attach the hose and plug in the power supply.
Other features include a built-in dehumidifier function. It will expel hot air through the exhaust hose while still cooling your room. Keep in mind, this unit requires a drainage facility as it discharges water during operation. There is a drain hose included and there is no built-in reservoir tank.
There is also a washable air filter to help keep your air clean. The indicator light will illuminate to remind you to clean the filter.
Also, remote control and digital display will help you set the desired temperature and change between modes.
- Portable, quiet, and energy-efficient
- Easy to install and not heavy to lift
- Built-in dehumidifier function
- Washable air filter
- Intuitive remote control and digital display
- The unit could be more durable
- The air in/out plastic hoses are made of plastic that could break easy
Is it safe to use a tent air conditioner? Is it healthy to use one?
Yes, a portable air conditioner is safe to use in a tent. But, there are a few safety precautions to keep in mind. Portable air conditioners will let off warm air which you will need to exhaust outside of the tent with a hose. If this isn’t installed correctly, the heat will circulate in the tent. This will prevent it from cooling and also make it hotter.
You should also remember that this is a closed system. Many people think that a portable AC unit removes heat and brings in the fresh air. This isn’t true. The unit will expel heat from your tent. It will not bring fresh air in.
Unless you ventilate your tent once in a while, then you will re-breathe the same air again and again. This is not healthy at all. This is especially unhealthy for anyone with breathing-related issues like asthma.
If you have concerns about exhaust hose issues, it is possible to lengthen the hose on your own. It’s recommended not to do this without the help of a professional technician. This is because you can cause damage and cause the air conditioner to overheat.
How much does it cost to air condition a tent?
You can estimate the operating cost of your AC unit by looking at the unit’s electricity use.
You can determine electricity use by the number of watts (“wattage”) your portable air conditioner uses. When you buy electricity, you are charged by the kilowatt-hour (kWh). For example, using 1,000 watts for 1 hour is one kilowatt-hour.
You can then use this formula to predict your AC unit’s use:
Wattage x Hours Used Per Day ÷ 1000 = Daily Kilowatt-hour (kWh) consumption.
So for example:
If your portable air conditioner uses 1,400 watts of electricity and you wanted to use it for hours a day. You would be using 5,600 watts (1,400 x 4 = 5,600). This is the same as 5.6 Kilowatt-hours (5,600 watts divided by 1,000 = 5.6 kilowatts. Then you need to know how much the charge is for each Kilowatt-hour. If it is $.10 USD then the portable air conditioner cost for your tent is $.56 USD in electricity for each 4-hour day or 14 cents an hour.
What are some other ways to keep your tent cool?
Besides investing in air conditioning, you can try the following:
- Avoid an east-facing campsite. The problem with facing east is that your tent has direct exposure to sunlight. This is from the moment the sun comes out and stays exposed until late afternoon.
- Take advantage of treetops. Place your tent underneath dense treetops to help block solar radiation
- Put a tarp over your tent. This will also help to block UV rays.
- If you aren’t using an air conditioner, increase ventilation with open windows and doors. Yet, when you are using a tent air conditioner you want to keep everything zipped up so that the cool air stays in.
How can you keep yourself cool?
- Stay hydrated. It’s also recommended to keep a camping cooler with refreshing drinks.
- If you are camping next to a lake or water source, then take a dip to cool yourself off!
- Set up a shade canopy
- Wear light clothing
- Avoid high-energy activity in peak sunlight hours. The hottest time of day is 3 p.m. and the heat builds up after noon when the sun is highest in the sky. Schedule hikes and activities earlier or later in the day.
The tent air conditioner you choose will depend on where you’re camping. Also, personal preference and also how accessible electricity will be.
If I had to choose my favorite from those reviewed, I would go with the BLACK+DECKER BPACT08WT Portable Air Conditioner. With many great reviews online, this portable tent air conditioner should help keep you cool as a cucumber.
This unit is also easy to use with electronic controls that allow you to program the temperature. Also, the filters aren’t too much of a hassle as they have a slide-out filter that you can easily refresh under a faucet.
At the end of the day, the AC unit you choose will depend on how you intend on installing it and the kind of cooling power you are looking for.