Camping in the summer is fun. With the sun shining brightly and the summer warmth penetrating right into the thick of woods, it’s a truly enjoyable experience.
A possible challenge, however, is too much heat. Although we all love a bright, shiny day, sometimes the sun shines just a little too hot which can make the inside of a tent stuffy and sweaty.
This is where a small portable air conditioner for camping comes in. Armed with a good tent air conditioner, you can relax knowing that no matter the level of heat out there, you’re covered. This guide is meant to help the avid camper find the best portable air conditioner for their next camping exhibition.
Before we discuss how to go about choosing the best tent air conditioner for camping, let’s begin by reviewing some of the top small air conditioners for campers. Owing to the competition among manufacturers, most camping ACs share several features. So, we had to carefully examine each manufacturer’s top products to come up with this list.
Best Small Portable Air Conditioners For Camping
Last update on 2020-10-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The Zero Breeze air conditioner is one of the best air conditioners a camper can find. Not only is it 100% portable, complete with a handle, the Zero Breeze comes with smart interchangeable batteries that operate for up to 5 hours, meaning you might only need to change the battery twice in a day. Even at full capacity, the battery still lasts at least 3.5 hours. Instead of the battery powered model, you can choose a fully electric model, but it’s slightly expensive, so be ready to spend about $1,200.
In terms of specifications, the Zero Breeze has a BTU Cooling Rating of 1100BTU/hour and can use either the smart battery or a 110-220VAC/12VDC power adapter as a source of power. The power generated is sufficient to cool up to 50 square feet. The AC weighs 12.8 lbs (5.8kgs), making it light enough to carry around. It’s also relatively small in terms of size, measuring 28x20x48.2 cm.
When making the purchase, we encourage you to include the smart battery in your order (it’s optional). The order will also include a power adapter, the Zero Breeze itself, a 104cm exhaust pipe made from high-quality PVC, and a drain pipe.
- Doubles up as a dehumidifier
- Strong airflow
- Large evaporator
- No control board
- No control over airflow direction
A 3-in-1 air conditioner, the EvaLight is a small portable USB air conditioner that spreads fresh air naturally in the same way air gets cooled in nature. Many users report an airdrop of as much as 15 degrees Celsius. But, it’s not just cooling. The EvaLight also purifies and perfects the air it releases so you can breathe healthy air for an enjoyable camping trip.
Several things stand out about the EvaLight. For one, it’s incredibly portable, and can be powered with a power bank or even a laptop. The air conditioner only consumes 10 watts of electricity per hour. It uses a unique evaporation technology known as EvaBreeze, which has helped the company develop compact, powerful, silent, an energy efficient air conditioners. The air conditioner doesn’t contain organic elements and is one of just a few models that don’t create conditions suitable for bacteria growth. It is also 100% safe for pets and children.
This AC comes with various controls to help you get maximum value for your money. A precisely adjustable fan speed setting allows you to control the sound level as you wish while in-built LED light controls make it possible to match your lighting to the color of your interior.
The EvaPolar EvaLight air conditioner measures 6.7 x 6.7 x6.9 inches in size and weighs 2.87 pounds. It can cool up to 33 square feet, approximately the size of a bed.
- 3-in-one cooler, humidifier, and air conditioner
- Easy to set up and use
- Lightweight and portable
- Lowe energy consumption
- Extremely quiet
- Cools a small area
Another exceptionally small portable air conditioner for campers to consider, the Frigidaire has received rave reviews for its low price and high output.
Priced at less than $200, the Frigidaire works both as an air conditioner and a dehumidifier. Working as a dehumidifier, it removes up to 1.1 pints per hour while as an air conditioner, it cools up to 150 square feet in record time. Remember that this is better than what both the EvaLight and Zero Breeze offer. For sustained efficiency and round the clock effectiveness, the air conditioner comes with two cooling speeds and two fan speeds.
It gets even better; the Frigidaire’s filer is fitted with an antibacterial mesh with side, slide-out access. The role of this mesh is to remove any particles and harmful microorganisms from the air so you can enjoy quality, healthy in-tent air. The quiet operation ensures that you remain cool without unnecessary noises.
This small window AC controls are another thing you’ll instantly fall in love with. Mechanical rotary controls allow you to manage the cooling closely. For example, you can choose top, full-width, or two-way air direction; a setting that isn’t available in many portable air conditioners.
The Frigidaire FFRA0511R1 is easy to set up and use, consumes very little power at startup, and is incredibly energy efficient, boasting an Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) of 11.1.
- 5,000 BTU power
- Cools a large area, up to 150 sq. Ft.
- Doubles up as a dehumidifier
- Two cool speeds and two fan speeds
- Incredibly energy efficient
- Large in size compared to other portable ACs
- Heavier, compared to the other camping ACs
The Nakatomi KoolZone Spot Cooler is visibly different from other air conditioners. The models we’ve seen are white with characteristic light blue attachments to distinguish them from other air conditioners. The air conditioners also feature a horn-like air outlet projecting from the top right of the unit.
The first thing you need to know about this horn-like feature that isn’t available in many models is that it’s designed so you can keep it outside the house (or tent, in this case) and point the air outlet into your house/tent. This way, you don’t have to keep the appliance inside the tent, thereby freeing up valuable space.
In terms of performance, the Nakatomi KoolZone can effortlessly cool a 75 square foot tent, meaning it’s ideal for two person tents or smaller four-person tents. It packs 6,143BTUs, more than enough to maintain round the clock air conditioning in a small space, and is impressively silent. Some emit as little as 60 decibels.
Regarding size, the air conditioner is light enough to be carried around with ease. It measures 27.4 x 20.2 x 11.7 inches, making it smaller than the Frigidaire FFRAO511R1 and weighs just 58 pounds. Since the unit sits outside the tent, these metrics should only be used to determine ease of moving the air conditioner around rather than the space it would take up in the tent. Remember that the Nakatomi KoolZone can also work as a dehumidifier!
- Industrial grade, ETL certified, safe, and reliable
- Uses approved R410A refrigerant
- No assembly required
- Energy efficient
- Doubles up as a dehumidifier
- Aesthetically, not very pleasing
- Produces lots of condensation when used as a dehumidifier
The IcyBreeze looks like a standard cooler that you’d use to pack a few drinks and take with you to the beach. It even comes with a pair of wheels so you can quickly push it around, just like a portable cooler. However, it’s an air conditioner and uses a fan, along with the chilled air inside the cooler to blow out fresh air (at around 35 degrees below current temperatures), at speeds of up to 25 miles an hour.
Design-wise, it comes in a blue, red, or green plastic, with a grey lid and a handle. The plastic is thickened for durability, and you’ll find two cup holder indents on top of the lid and three-stop wheel to control the speed of the fan. Ports connecting to the power adapter are visible, and the package also comes with a flexible air hose.
Just by looking at it, you can see that the IcyBreeze is medium-sized. It measures 18.5 by 23.5 by 16.25 inches and can hold up to 30 pounds of ice or 49 can standard-sized cans. As for weight, it has a dry weight of 21 pounds, but the pull-out handle and wheels make it easy to rotate and pull around.
The battery takes about five hours to recharge and once fully charged can run for six hours on low load and up to 2.5 hours on high load. After switching the air conditioner ON, it takes about 20 seconds to begin feeling cool air inside the tent. At peak performance, you’re guaranteed up 35 degrees in temperature difference – better than 90% of all spot/portable coolers out there!
- Perfect for campers, boaters, and recreational sports
- 3-speed fan bows up to 25metres per hour
- Runs for up to 6 hours, sometimes even 7 hours
- Extremely portable and easy to move around
- The battery is non-removable
- Produces minimal cooling power
As the title suggests, Colzer packs 14,000 BTUs, the highest on this list, allowing it to power a 500 square foot area efficiently. Temperature controls, allowing you to adjust temperatures from 62 to 86 degrees, a 4-speed cooling fan, and a 24-hour programmable timer are other standout features.
A particularly intriguing control in the Colzer is wind angle. The air conditioner comes with various wind angle settings so you can select the best positioning for maximum air circulation in your tent. The unit also offers four operational models to choose from. Auto mode is an automatic mode that selects the operating mode and wind angle based on prevailing temperatures. Then you have the Cooling mode and Heating mode with four-speed fan operation, and finally, the Dehumidifier mode to keep your rooms cool and dry.
All these controls are accomplished on a sleek, intelligent control panel. The LED-touch control panel has, among others, selection buttons, up/down temperature adjustments, and fan speed selection. If you don’t feel like getting off the sofa, though, you can also give the AC directions via remote control! The Ac has a unique “Child Lock” function to keep your kids safe while the unit runs.
- Very powerful at 14,000BTUs
- 4-in-1 function
- Easy to install and use
- Child Lock feature enhances safety
- Two washable filters guarantee fresh air
- Remote control available
- Most expensive on this list
- Can take a bit of time to master
Air Conditioner For Camping Buying Guide
If you’ve considered your options and decided to purchase a small portable air conditioner for camping, the following is a detailed buying guide to help you pick the right product for your needs.
Types of Small Air Conditioners for Campers
1. Window air conditioners
Window air conditioners are often used to supply air to bedrooms and small apartments. Most of them are rated 5,000BTUs and will perfectly keep a 50-150 square feet area cool. This makes them ideal for average-sized camping tents.
The only problem is that you may need to alter your tent to accommodate the unit as window air conditioners require a well-ventilated spot. But, once you find a nice spot for the AC, rest assured of a great time throughout the camping period.
2. Small Portable Air Conditioners
Campers should also consider small portable ACs. Rated at around 1,200 BTU, these units are much more potent than window ACs and can cool up to 250 square feet comfortably.
Two challenges, however, are their weight and the need for ventilation. Some portable air conditioners can weigh up to 100lbs, meaning they can’t be carried around easily. For this reason, you need to choose a unit that has wheels to allow you move them around. With regards to ventilation, you don’t need as much space as when using window air conditioners, you might need sufficient space for the ACs.
Remember that most portable air conditioners also work as dehumidifiers and come complete with an in-built tray that collects water. Whenever the tray fills up, the unit will automatically shut down until the tray is emptied.
3. Spot Coolers
Spot coolers are the most powerful ACs on this list. With some rated as high as 15,000BTUs, they can be used to cool a much larger area. Indeed, the majority of people who buy the ACs use them to cool more permanent locations such as garages and workshops.
However, if it’s extremely hot out there and you’re planning to put up a large tent on your camping trip, a spot cooler would do an excellent job. We, however, wouldn’t recommend them for smaller tents as the enormous power would go to waste.
4. Battery-Powered Portable AC
Finally, you can also choose a battery powered 12-Volt AC for camping. While not as powerful as their electric-powered counterparts, battery-powered air conditioners are compact and the most portable. As long as you have a good battery, you don’t have to worry about whether or not the camping site has electricity supply.
The way they work is simple. In most cases, you fill the unit with ice or water and a small battery-powered fan within the unit works to convert the ice/water into cool air. Of course, not all battery-powered ACs work this way. It’s your duty to find out how the model you’re considering works before you decide whether or not to buy it.
Factors to Consider Before Purchasing a Small Portable Air Conditioner for Camping
Aside from comparing the different types of ACs and how they work, the following are five other factors every camper need to keep in mind when shopping for a portable air conditioner.
When going on a camping trip, the last thing you want is an air conditioner you’ll have trouble moving around. Ideally, you want to be able to use and maintain the AC without undue strain. So, a heavy unit that may be difficult to install is not worth it.
The good news is that most of the AC options discussed above are light enough for an average-sized person to carry. Regardless, it’s still important to feel out each unit and see if you can carry it with ease. Test a few options and only choose a great AC that’s also light.
AC Power Rating
Power rating is an essential consideration for two reasons. First, you want sufficient power to cool your tent as and when needed, without signs of strain. If the AC is too small (power-wise), either you won’t get your air cooled to desired levels, or you’ll be forced to overwork the AC, potentially resulting in unnecessary breakdowns.
Secondly, you also want to keep the life of the unit in mind. Higher rated ACs, such as a 15,000BTU spot cooler, can cool a small tent to the desired temperature in an hour or less, which is excellent.
However, the way ACs work, once the desired temperature is reached, the unit will shut down, until temperatures dip again at which point the unit automatically resumes cooling. This ON-OFF action isn’t good for your AC. It reduces both cooling efficiency and the lifespan of the AC. It’s much wiser to find a medium-sized AC that will work continuously without going OFF and ON repeatedly.
We’ve already seen two power sources for small portable air conditioners – electricity and batteries. There are also models that use solar power. This is another factor you need to take very seriously when choosing an air conditioner for camping.
Electric-powered air conditioners are the best and most reliable option out there – but only if there’s electricity in the area. Unfortunately, not many camping sites have access to electricity. This means that you may not be able to use the AC in the first place. Battery and solar-powered air conditioners can prove worthy alternatives in such situations. A battery or solar-powered portable air conditioner can also be used in case of a blackout.
Size of the Tent
The size of your tent is another very important consideration when choosing a portable AC. Depending on the purpose of the camping trip, you may be planning to bring along a two-person, four-person, six-person, or a family tent. The larger the tent, the more the cooling power you’ll need. You should be able to quickly find out the size (dimensions) of your tent by looking at the package.
Aside from size, you must also consider the actual number of people who’ll be sharing the tent. Perhaps you’re planning to use a two-person tent just for yourself. Or, maybe you’ll be having six people sharing a four-person tent. The more the number of people sharing a tent, the more the cooling power required.
Price and Budget
First, carrying an air conditioner on a camping trip is still widely considered a luxury. Most campers only carry an AC in the heart of the summer when temperatures are unbearable. The majority, meanwhile, don’t bother with ACs at all, no matter the weather. So, it’s a good idea to inquire and explore your camping location and be sure you really need an AC. If not, then the money could be better spent elsewhere.
If you decide that an AC would be necessary, though, the next step is to consider how much you’re willing to pay for that extra convenience. As with other electrical products, paying more doesn’t always mean you’re getting a better item. Instead, identify the qualities you want in an AC and find a fairly priced model offering most of if not all of these qualities.
Two other things you may want to consider are ventilation and noise levels. Some air conditioners require significant ventilation to operate effectively while others, especially battery-powered types, don’t need extra ventilation. Also, some are impressively quiet while others produce a bit of noise. If possible, find an AC with no more than 60 decibels.
A tent air conditioner is a great addition to your camping gear. Just make sure you really need it. It’s also important to choose an air conditioner with several features. If you find a cheap option that can dehumidify, then we recommend you go with it. Lastly, make sure it is portable and easy to carry from one campsite to another, otherwise, you’ll regret.
Each of the units we reviewed on this list is among the best small portable air conditioners for camping. They have all the necessary features you may require and we believe they will serve you effectively.