The term tent air conditioner can refer to anything from a refrigerant-filled AC to a fan, at least as you read posts on it.
This Tent Air Conditioner guide discusses:
Tent Air Conditioners Types
As noted, there are many things that outdoor enthusiasts search when wanting to stay cool in their tent or at the picnic table.
- Personal or large evaporative coolers (Easily the most popular)
- Portable air conditioners (Least common)
- Genuine air conditioners including window air conditioners on a stand made for tent use (Best cooling)
- Zero Breeze air conditioner (Cordless AC)
All these tent AC types are discussed below with top options in each category. Tent air conditioner pros and cons are included for each.
There is also information about tents with an AC flap and a stand for raising and supporting a small window air conditioner.
Tent Air Conditioners Types and Prices
|Tent AC Type||Cost Range||Average||Square Feet|
|Personal Evaporative Cooler||$30 – $75||$50||10 – 20|
|Large Evaporative Cooler||$150 – $1,500||$400||100 – 1,000+|
|120V Portable AC||$300 – $850||$385||100 – 400|
|Window AC||$175 – $1,400||$275||150 – 1,000+|
|Cordless Portable AC||$900 – $1,700||$1,400||50 – 200|
There are two very important notes about the chart:
1 – We considered only including prices for tent air conditioners in the small-medium size range. But have you seen how large they’re making outdoor tents now? Some have multiple rooms and exceed 400 square feet! Therefore, we give the whole range. Of course, a personal evaporative cooler is just that – it will cool you if you’re right in front of it.
2 – Square feet given are for indoor use, so you can’t expect that in a tent. If by camping air conditioner you mean something for your RV, then a portable air conditioner is the best choice, and the sizing might be close. In a tent, it depends on tent insulation, if flaps are open, outside temperature, wind conditions and other factors.
In the Buying Guide/FAQ below, one topic discussed is how to get to best efficiency and performance from a tent air conditioner.
Tent Air Conditioner Top Models
Here are the best camping air conditioners in each type.
#1 Personal Evaporative Air Conditioner Fan
- USB/Battery Operated
- Timer up to 12 Hrs.
- Low/High Fan Speed
- Adjustable Airflow Direction
Best Personal Evaporative Cooler
#2 Zero Breeze Mark 2 Portable AC
- Bundle AC & 2 Batteries
- 24V Output, 240W Adapter for Plug-in
- 30-day $-back Guarantee
#3 Portable Mini Air Conditioner Fan
- USB Rechargeable
- 3 Fan Speeds
- Night Light
- 2 angle oscillation
#4 MightyKool 12-Volt 120/12-volt Evaporative Cooler
- 12V Plug and 120V Adapter
- Dual Adjustable Airflow Ports
- Easy to Fill
- Carrying Handle
Best Large Evaporative Cooler
#5 SereneLife 10,000 BTU Portable AC
- Heat for Fall/Winter Camping
- 12K Portable AC Avail. Too
- Fan-only Mode
Best Portable Air Conditioner
#6 Frigidaire FFRA051ZA1 AC
- Light – About 40lbs
- Heater for Fall Camping
- Fast Cooling/High Fan Speed Mode
- Easy Manual Controls
Best 5,000 BTU Tent AC
#7 LG 10,000 BTU 115V Window-Mounted Air Conditioner with Remote Control
- AC and Fan-Only
- 3-speed Fan
- Remote & Timer
- Energy Star Efficiency
Best 10,000 BTU Tent AC
Camco Adjustable Height AC Stand
- Adjustable/Collapsible Legs
- Non-Slip Rubber Feet
- Aluminum – Won’t Rust
- Supports Up to 1,000lbs
Tent AC Stand
Bushnell Shield Series Cabin Tent w/ AC Flap
- Flap Works for Portable AC Hose
- 6 & 9 Person Versions
- Heat Shield Insulating Coating
- 60-Second Setup
Port for Stand & Window AC
Note: Many readers search for a Coleman tent air conditioner since the brand is so big in camping. However, the only thing like a Coleman tent air conditioner available is this fan that hangs from the ceiling and a Coleman RV air conditioner used for replacement of original equipment.
Best Tent Air Conditioner Reviews
Here are in-depth reviews that will help you differentiate between the top tent AC models on our list.
Obviously, as noted, not all of the most popular “tent air conditioners” are true air conditioners. Some are swamp coolers, aka evaporative coolers. How does an evaporative cooler work? It is explained in the buying guide – Hint: They work well in dry climates but poorly when the air is humid.
There are several true air conditioners on the list too including a very cool, and fast-cooling , small portable air conditioner for outdoor camping. If you have a grand+ to spend, you’ll love the Zero Breeze Mark 2.
OK, the reviews follow, but first here’s something of a warning about most tent ACs:
Quality is Poor! We Pick the Best
There are dozens of products sold as tent air conditioners for outdoor camping.
We’ll be honest, as always at PickHVAC, because we value your trust.
Most of them are junk. The majority have ratings on Amazon of less than 2 Stars to maybe 3.3 Stars.
We can’t recommend units like that. Sure, sometimes a camping air conditioner gets listed as a good one because it gets 4+ reviews. But over time, the quality can diminish, or they start breaking down, and it suddenly starts getting poor reviews. That can sink a good rating. We try to keep current with ratings.
That’s why we recommend the tent air conditioners that we do. The latest ratings are good to excellent.
And that’s what we recommend our readers do – focus on the most recent reviews in deciding which of the products on our list to buy.
1. Personal Evaporative Air Conditioner Fan
Excellent ratings for this tent air conditioner battery powered unit combine with affordability to produce the best evaporative personal cooler for camping and, frankly, any location. When you check it out, you might be impressed with its affordability and the number of verified purchasers that love it.
This small portable air conditioner for outdoor tent using is easy to fill and runs off batteries, which makes it a nice personal tent air conditioner, and USB. The USB turns it into a useful personal cooler in the dorm, office or at home.
Or you can run this mini tent AC off this rechargeable RAVpower power bank that’s ideal for off-the-grid camping and charging your phone too.
How it Works:
It starts with opening the lid and filling it with water. You can add ice if you have it, but the truth is that adding ice won’t make the air it produces much cooler. That’s something of a myth.
If you’re using batteries, open the battery lid, and turn the switch to “ON.” When using USB, connect the power cord, and flip the switch to “ON.”
The fan will start pulling in air. The air passes through the wet filter, and water will immediately begin evaporating off the filter, taking heat with it. You know how you can feel chilled when getting out of the lake or pool? That’s because moisture is evaporating off you, taking heat away.
That’s how this works. The evaporating moisture removes heat, so the air coming out the front of the personal tent air conditioner is cooler.
Battery or USB power, 2 fan speeds, Water-level Window, Timer 1 or 2 Hours. Fan Mode too. Louvers for manually adjusting airflow. It has a carrying handle.
Portability. 2 power options. Cools nicely if it is right next to you. Adds humidity, which can be a good thing if the air is very dry. Fan-only mode is nice to use for white noise or when you just want a breeze. The cover is removed easily for cleaning. We recommend you clean it once in a while with a 50-50 solution of water and white vinegar. It will get the job done and won’t harm the unit.
Just keep in mind that this is a personal evaporative cooler designed to cool and humidify a small area. It isn’t a true air conditioner. Using water with heavy mineral content in it will shorten its life – as with any appliance that uses water. Evaporative coolers rely on the air being dry to facilitate evaporation. If the air is humid, the cooling effect will be reduced. A simple battery-powered fan would provide better cooling.
Best Use/Bottom Line: Ideal for off-grid camping when plugging in a fan or air conditioner isn’t possible. But once you have one, you’ll probably want to use it in the house too. It’s great for a desktop, nightstand or placing near your pet’s bed.
2. Zero Breeze Mark 2 Portable Air Conditioner
Innovation is about pushing technology to achieve better results. The Zero Breeze Mark 2 is on the cutting edge of air conditioner technology. Because it is the vanguard, it is also “bleeding edge,” meaning it is not cheap. In 5 years, it will likely be half the price, and you’ll have a dozen brands to consider. This is an impressive small portable air conditioner for camping.
We can’t offer this to you. We wish we could, but it can be bought on the manufacturer’s website and nowhere else.
However, our commitment is always to bring you the best of what’s out there, and that’s why this unit makes our list.
How it Works:
This is a true tent air conditioner battery powered unit.
The battery is rechargeable, and extra batteries are available.
The batteries last up to 5 hours, so the more battery power you have, the cooler you can stay on your camping trip, off-road rally, hiking expedition or staycation in a tent in the backyard.
Genuine AC mode, 4-speed fan, energy-saving Sleep mode, and energy-consuming Super Cold mode. It weighs about 16lbs – the same as 2 gallons of water. The exhaust is dual hose. That means it pulls in fresh air and exhausts hot, humid air through separate hoses. That makes it more efficient than single-hose portable air conditioner models.
It is exciting that we’ve come to the point of having a true walk-around portable air conditioner..
This product comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you buy it, take it out of the box within a few days, and put it through its paces to make sure you’re happy with it.
Best Use/Bottom Line: If you love the latest technology and can afford it, this is an impressive unit you will probably enjoy.
3. Portable Mini Air Conditioner Fan hominn
This unit makes the list for its quality and for two other reasons:
First, it is rechargeable using a USB cord in the charging port. Or it can be run continuously if you have the right gear (see How it Works).
Secondly, it has a nightlight, and that can be very handy in a tent or at home when you need to find something or get up in the night.
How it Works:
This is an evaporative cooler, like the model above. Slide out the fill tray, use the fill tank to add water, slide it back in, and turn it on.
For powering this tent air conditioner battery powered unit: Recharge it or get our power from one of two devices. If you have electricity at the site, use something like this USB Wall Charger that plugs into a standard outlet. Off the grid, the RAVPower power bank is perfect.
This camping cooler has several features the top model doesn’t. The unit’s built-in battery is rechargeable. It has an LED light that makes a great nightlight. The fan has 3 speeds. An included water tank with a fill tube makes filling easy with no mess.
This evaporator AC has a lot of nice features, listed above, that you will enjoy.
We found that the fill tray is a little shallow and tricky to get back into the device. You might slosh out a little water the first time or two until you figure out how to smoothly slide it back in. Works best in dry/arid conditions.
Best Use/Bottom Line: All personal evaporative coolers are designed to cool the few square feet in front of it. This one does a good job of that. It’s important to have realistic expectations of what an evaporative cooler does and does not do.
4. MightyKool 12-Volt 120/12-volt Evaporative Cooler
This is a next-level evaporative cooler with solid ratings. We made it our best large evaporative cooler.
Instead of cooling the immediate area, this unit is powerful enough to serve a tent with 2 or 3 occupants. As a bonus, it has a 12-volt plug for your vehicle that will help keep you cool if your car AC is on the blink.
The unit also has a 120-volt adapter, so if you’ve got power, you’ll have cooled air.
How it Works:
It’s an evaporative cooler, but larger than the two above. Water is added that soaks into what MightyKool calls a “wicking filter.” It absorbs water, and the fan pulls in air. As warm air passes through the filter, moisture evaporates and takes heat with it.
The unit comes with 2 wicking filters. Each filter is good for up to 100 water fills depending on the mineral content of the water. Use distilled water, and they last a long time (but that’s a hassle when camping).
Cool air is blown out at 25 miles per hour to improve its ability to cool you and those nearby.
It is built with a powerful fan motor that briskly moves the air. You have two options to power it: 1). A 12 volt plug that fits into the power supply in an outdoor environment like car, boat or camper, or 2) A standard 120 volt plug adapter. Dual cooling ports feature manually movable louvers to help control directional airflow. The power dial is like a rheostat – you can set it anywhere from Off to High. There’s a handle for comfortable carrying.
It’s more powerful than a personal tent air conditioner, more like a small tent AC. It’s pretty light too and has a carrying handle. Size is less than a cubic foot at 12”x11”x8”.
It requires power, and it works best in arid/dry climates. If you’re camping in Georgia in July, this unit probably won’t help much – no evaporative cooler would. In a dry climate, you’ll be impressed with its “swamp cooler” effectiveness.
It costs more too, but you’ll have greater confidence in its ability to deliver cooled air to a larger space.
Best Use/Bottom Line: Again, it’s ideal and will do the job in arid climates. The drier the better – true for all evaporative air conditioners – coolers.
And when you’re not camping, this unit works well in vehicles. Many verified buyers bought the MightyKool evaporative cooler for their car or truck to use while driving or if they take a pet with them and want to keep their furry friend cool while they run into the bank or store.
5. SereneLife 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
If you want a portable room air conditioner you can use at home and in the tent, consider this one. It also has a heater! If you enjoy camping into the fall when the colors are gorgeous and snow might start to fly, consider this camping air conditioner.
It is heavy, and the exhaust hose will have to run to the outside of the tent. And 110-120 volt 30-amp outlets must be available. The good news is that they are in most state park, national park and commercial campgrounds.
If you’ve got the muscle to move it, this is an option to consider.
How it Works:
Air is pulled into the unit by the blower fan. The portable air conditioner uses refrigerant to remove heat from the air. As the coil gets cold, it also condenses moisture out of the air. Heat is exhausted through the hose; cooled and dehumidified air is blown into your tent or RV.
Just keep in mind that the hose will have to be exhausted outdoors – out a flap or zippered entrance.
Pro Tip: If bugs are bad, use towels to fill the space around the exhaust hose to keep them out. If you’re not averse to repellant, spray some around where the hose leaves the tent. The towels will also stop unnecessary airflow that might diminish the efficiency or cooling effectiveness of the portable air conditioner.
4 Modes – Air conditioner, heater, dehumidifier for indoor use and fan-only modes. This technically is a heat pump – using the same refrigerant technology to pump heat from inside to the outside or in cool weather to bring it from outside into your tent.
AC and heat. Good reliability. It’s one of the highest rated portable air conditioners on the market. Do you own research, but we can assure you that it might be the best portable air conditioner available (and we’ve researched hundreds). Finally, condensation is removed through the exhaust hose, so you won’t have a puddle in your tent. Because this can be plugged in and run continuously, unlike a battery AC, it makes a good grow tent air conditioner too.
It’s pretty large and heavy. If you don’t have room in your vehicle or don’t want to lift it in or out, this portable air conditioner probably isn’t a good fit. Backyard camping with the kids or grandkids? This would work well.
Best Use/Bottom Line: If you like luxury tent camping – we’ve seen it called “glamping” for glamour camping – then this is a good option. See the window AC options that follow.
6. Frigidaire FFRA051ZA1 Air Conditioner
This is a 5000 BTU window air conditioner. It is one of the best 5K-6K window ACs available. This Frigidaire room AC is simple and effective.
Here is the premise for including window air conditioners aka room air conditioners to this list: Most tents have low-to-the-ground ventilation flaps. A very few have AC flaps. We included one below with a zippered AC port that stays securely shut and fits nicely around an AC and covers it when open.
Either way, a window AC can be set on a stand (see below) where it can extract heat from the tent and blow cooled air over you and others.
How it Works:
You’re probably familiar with it. The unit pulls in hot and humid air. Refrigerant and a coil are used to evaporate heat out of indoor air. The heat is dumped outside through a radiator-like outside coil.
The inside coil gets really cold, and moisture from the indoor air condenses on it. That moisture drains to the outside. If you’ve ever stood by the outside end of a window AC, no doubt you’ve felt the hot air it expelled and watched it steadily drip moisture. The more humid the climate, the more condensate is drained/dripped away.
Manual controls keep cost down. Being in a tent, you probably can get by without a remote for controlling the AC from “across the room.” It’s basic and affordable, the best tent air conditioner available when you want real air conditioning vs evaporative cooler “AC.”
Good cooling power. At less than 40lbs, it’s not too heavy (or large at 41.2 x 40.8 x 30.2 inches) to take with you to campgrounds with power. It is Energy Star certified for lower energy use and cost. It can be used as a grow tent air conditioner if you have a window and stand.
Window ACs aren’t light, and they require power, of course.
Best Use/Bottom Line: If you’ve got power at your campsite and a 30-amp circuit, this AC should work just fine.
7. LG 10,000 BTU 115V Window-Mounted Air Conditioner with Remote Control
The LG window air conditioner is a 10,000 BTU model.
This review details unique features for the model. In truth, most window/space air conditioners are quite a lot alike.
How it Works:
It functions like most room or window air conditioners. See the Frigidaire AC review above for details.
3 fan speeds, Remote, Dehumidifier mode for damp days when you want to get rid of humidity without cooling the air. Timer and digital display. In short, it’s fancier than the Frigidaire model above, and hence the cost difference.
This is a quality room AC that will keep tents cool with 3-6 people in them, depending on outdoor weather conditions. Fan-only mode moves air when the temperature is OK, but the air is getting stale. The fan makes for great white noise too. When taking little ones camping, that comes in handy. It’s Energy Star certified for lower energy consumption.
You’ll pay more than if you buy an evaporative cooler – but you’ll get genuine air cooling regardless of the climate.
Best Use/Bottom Line: If you prefer a digital AC that gives you the benefits of a timer, this is a good choice.
Camco Adjustable Height AC Stand
If you buy a window air conditioner for use with your tent, which is a growing trend, an AC stand will keep it off the ground and position it to blow cooler, drier air into your tent. Window ACs weigh 35 to 90 pounds. This camping AC stand will handle whatever air conditioner you choose.
How it Works:
Most tents now have ground-level vent flaps. That is where the air is coolest. If you want to add a window air conditioner to the mix, you have two options.
1). Placing the AC Inside: Cut out the screen on a ground-level vent. Place the AC stand inside the tent. Set the AC on it so that the back of it, where condensation drains, is outside the tent. Use towels to pack the space around the AC if it’s a large opening and weatherstripping if it is a pretty tight fit. This will make it more efficient and keep insects out.
2). Placing the AC Outside: Set the AC stand up against a ventilation opening, preferably with an AC flap that can improve efficiency. Push the stand inward being careful not to damage the screening. The further into the tent the air conditioner is, the better the cooling efficiency. Just be careful not to damage the screen covering the vent opening.
This is an aluminum stand, so it won’t rust. The legs are adjustable to fit your tent flap height. This tent air conditioner stand supports up to 1,000 pounds. The stand has slip-resistant boots on the legs.
Heavy-duty construction that will last for decades. The adjustable height legs allow you to position the tent air conditioner at the right height to keep everyone as comfortable as possible.
There is little to complain about. This is the best camping air conditioner stand available. It is wide enough for any window air conditioner you’re likely to use as a tent air conditioner.
Best Use/Bottom Line: This stand for camping air conditioners will come in very handy if you use a window AC or through the wall AC to cool your tent while in the great outdoors.
Bushnell Shield Series Cabin Tent
This tent has an AC port in back! The 6-person and 9-person models do. The 12-person tents do not.
The number of tents made with a true AC flap or opening is small. If you search something like Camping AC or Tent Air Conditioner, you mostly get results showing tents with ventilation flaps that can be used for room or window air conditioners. Even most articles about tent ACs on sites like Tentsy and Competent feature tents with vent flaps rather than true AC flaps. Still, as described in the AC stand review above, it can and is done.
How it Works:
The Bushnell Shield Cabin Tent is designed to set up in a minute. Watch the video on the link to the product page below to see. Basically, you set it on the ground, unfold it and pull up the internal poles to form the frame and tent. Set your air conditioner on a stand, plug it in, and you’ve got cool air!
There are several flap areas with covers that are ideal AC locations. It has two coatings – Weather Shield water-repellent coating and Heat Shield, which is a reflective coating designed to prevent solar heat gain. If you’re using a tent air conditioner, it will help to keep cooled air in too. When you want ventilation, the large mesh windows allow it plus give great views of the landscape. Fully taped seams keep out driving rain. Heavy-gauge frame construction and tie-downs make this a very secure tent in windy conditions. Inside, there are several handy gear pockets.
True AC port, tons of features as described above, available in several sizes to meet your needs. Roomy!
The inside gear pockets are a little high, so if you need something at night, you’ll probably have to get up to reach it.
Best Use/Bottom Line: If you want a tent made with a window/camping air conditioner in mind, this is excellent. You’ll also appreciate its roominess and features that protect from the weather and allow you to fully enjoy your time away.
Tent Air Conditioner FAQ
The very idea of a tent air conditioner raises a lot of questions. We try to give the best answers here.
Why are evaporative coolers called air conditioners?
Technically, they “condition” the air by adding humidity and cooling it. But they do not use refrigerant, so they aren’t ACs in the modern sense.
Why are there evaporative coolers on your Best Tent Air Conditioner list?
Because many of the manufacturers market them as air conditioners, and many shoppers use the search term “tent air conditioner” or similar when searching for an evaporative cooler. It helps us get the products to people that they want. However, we try to be clear that these are not true refrigerant-driven air conditioners but rather air coolers.
When using an evaporative cooler, should tent vent flaps be open or closed?
They should be open, or you’ll end up with a lot of humidity inside the tent, and the cooler’s cooling power will be reduced. Small models are designed to cool air and blow it directly onto you, sort of a cool mist, though you may or may not feel the moisture. You will feel the cool.
Is a portable air conditioner better than a window air conditioner for camping?
It depends on the setup of the tent. If you have an AC port in the tent, we recommend using a window AC and stand like the products reviewed above. If there is no AC port or flap, then a portable air conditioner can be a good choice. You’ll have to run the exhaust hose out the door flap, and that might be inconvenient. But sweltering heat is inconvenient too when you’re trying to sleep!
If you’re starting from scratch and want tent air conditioning, our choice is a combination of:
- Frigidaire FFRA051ZA1 AC for a small tent
- TaoTronics TT-AC001 AC for a large tent
- The Camco Adjustable Height AC Stand
- Bushnell Shield Series Cabin Tent w/ AC Flap 6-person or 9-person (the 12-person tent does not have an AC port. Bad decision
Many reviewers claim their evaporative cooler doesn’t work. Do you know why?
There are two reasons. Many literally do not work. There are a lot of poorly made products available, and they arrive “dead” or fail quickly. That’s why we do the research to bring you the top models with a proven track record. We won’t put poor-quality options in front of our readers.
Secondly, an evaporative cooler works best in warm, dry conditions that facilitate evaporation and cooling. In humid conditions, less moisture can be evaporated, so the cooler “doesn’t work” as well.
Why isn’t there a Coleman tent air conditioner on the list?
Coleman doesn’t make a tent AC. The closest thing to it is this decently rated fan and light. It has 2 fan speeds and 2 light levels. It has a stand and attaches to the tent, like if you wanted to make it a ceiling fan, by carabiner or included magnetic plate. If you live in a humid climate, an evaporative cooler won’t do much more than fan you. So a fan is a better choice if you’re not in the market for a true air conditioner. Read the reviews to decide if it might be right for you.
Can an evaporative cooler be used as a diffuser?
That’s an intriguing idea, and technically it can be. However, if the scent is an oil, the oil will foul the absorbent material the cooler relies on to wick up moisture for evaporation. As oil saturates the wick, the unit’s performance will diminish.
Where is the Zero Breeze camping air conditioner available? How much does it cost?
It is sold on the Zero Breeze website. The AC and battery pack combo sells for $1,400.
What are the best features to look for on a camping air conditioner?
For evaporative coolers, we like those that can be powered multiple ways. In our list:
- The Personal Evaporative Air Conditioner Fan runs on USB or batteries.
- The MightyKool 12-Volt 120/12-volt Evaporative Cooler gives you the option of powering it from a 12V outlet in a car/boat/RV or a standard 120V outlet.
For true air conditioners, it depends on your budget. Those with mechanical controls cost less, but they cool just as well. If you have a large tent or want to be able to control it at night, a remote is a handy tool.
Also, if you tent in cool seasons, a unit with a built-in heater will be appreciated. Your options are a true heat pump like the SereneLife portable air conditioner above or a unit, usually window units, with a heating coil. Heat pump window units are available, but most are very expensive.
Do you have tips for using a tent air conditioner?
Sure. These will help you stay cool.
- Pitch the tent beneath shade trees. If you can’t get shade on all sides, situate it so that the shade is to the west of the tent to block the most afternoon sun.
If you can’t avoid overhead sun:
- Buy a tent with heat-reflective coating. The Bushnell Shield Series Cabin Tent is a good option.
- Drape a reflective blanket, like those used in survival kits, over the top of the tent and secure it with tape – reflective side up, of course.
- If the tent is sturdy enough, drape light blankets over its roof to help insulate it – keep heat from penetrating from above.
Is it safe to use a real AC for camping?
Yes, if you follow these safety tips:
- Always use a stand for the AC – never set it directly on the ground.
- Keep the connection between the air conditioner’s plug and an extension cord off the ground and covered to prevent it from getting wet.
- If heavy rains are expected, unplug the cord and wait for heavy rain to let up.
- Don’t let the front of the AC get wet.