A Comprehensive Buyer’s Guide to Tent Air Conditioners
One of the very best things about tent camping is the feeling of the cool night air as you’re drifting off to sleep – especially after a long, hot week of working or a long, hot day of hiking.
Many of us, though, live or camp in really hot places, or enjoy getting away during the hottest time of the year, and, far from drifting off in cool comfort, we may even struggle to fall asleep because of the heat in our tent.
Thank heavens, then, for portable tent air conditioners, which allow us to camp in otherwise inhospitable climates and during even the hottest times of the year!
Still, we are surprised by how many people have never used an air conditioner for tent camping – maybe they think it is too complicated or difficult, or too expensive, or they just don’t know which tent air conditioner to buy.
So we’ve put together this buyer’s guide and review of the best air conditioners for tent camping in 2023.
Our list of best tent air conditioners will include 3 basic categories:
1. In Tent Portable Evaporative Coolers – Best for Small Tents; Dry Climates
While technically not an actual air conditioner, an evaporative cooler offers a really nice solution for intent use – especially for a smaller tent. They tend to be small and quiet, and require no special installation or setup whatsoever (other than filling them with water). And our top choice is even battery-powered!
2. Window Mount Air Conditioners – Best for Medium-Sized Tents; Hot & Humid Climates
These units must be fitted onto a tent, which requires a tent with a built-in air-conditioner flap or a modification (cutting and sewing) to your existing tent. They will also require an AC/mains outlet, like at a campsite or RV park, or a power generator. They tend to be worth the extra fuss, though – they will put out really cold air and work well medium-sized and even larger tents and in hotter environments. They also tend to be better for more humid climates.
3. Free-Standing (Outside) Ducted Air Conditioners – Best for Large Tents; Hot & Humid Climates; Max Cooling
Another great choice for larger tents, hotter and more humid climates, or just for really strong cooling, free-standing air conditioners will stand outside the tent, and the cold air will be ducted in through a flexible tube. This can often be accomplished without a special tent, or without cutting up your existing tent – you can, for instance, run the duct into the tent at the door zipper, and wrap a towel around it to keep the cold air in and the mosquitoes out.
We have decided to leave out in-tent true air conditioners – we’ve always found that they take up way too much space, are noisy, obtrusive and sometimes messy, and don’t work as well as mounted or outside units. And as they don’t actually improve or enhance our camping experience – often just the opposite – we don’t want to recommend them to you.
That said, we were a little tempted to include the Zero Breeze Z19-Y, which is featured in so many other tent air conditioner buyer’s guides all over the web. But we haven’t tried it, and to be honest the reviews on Amazon and on the Manufacturer’s website look a little fishy and unbelievable to us. For that much money, better safe than sorry, and we have a sneaky suspicion that the Zero Breeze may make its new owner sorry…
Please enjoy our list of best tent air conditioners for camping available in 2023 – we’re sure you’ll find some really cool choices below!
In Tent Portable Evaporative Coolers
Editor’s Rating: 4.7
- 3-IN-1 COOLING – Evapolar evaCHILL cools &...
- NATURAL PERSONAL COOLING – Efficiently...
- ENERGY-EFFICIENT & COST-SAVING – consumes...
- 100% SAFE FOR BREATHING. The cartridge inside...
- POWERED BY patented evaBREEZE technology,...
The Evapolar evaCHILL portable evaporative air cooler is my favourite for many reasons:
- It is affordable and offers really good performance and value for the money.
- It is small and unobtrusive.
- It doesn’t need AC/Mains power.
- It has an inorganic filter, which improves air quality and won’t breed or distribute mould or bacteria.
- It is the simplest way to go – just plug it in, add water and chill!
The Evapolar evaCHILL is an evaporative cooler, which means that it uses water to cool the air. This means the unit does not use Freon or other chemicals. Evaporative coolers will also humidify the air, making them really nice in dry climates, and the Evapolar’s inorganic filter makes that air pure and healthy.
The evaCHILL sits inside the tent and needs no special vents or ducting, making it really easy to use. You will need to empty the water and fill the reservoir occasionally, though, but that’s only every 9 hours or so, so you can sleep all night in a cool, healthful environment.
The Evapolar evaCHILL is perfect for small to medium-sized tents, its four-speed fan making sure the entire space is filled with cool air.
The evaCHILL evaporative cooler uses DC power, which comes through a USB cable. This means you can plug it into a power bank (which many people bring camping anyway) and use the cooler even where there is no AC/Mains outlet.
You can also connect the evaCHILL to a USB charging station, if you have AC/Mains outlets at your campsite, or if you use a generator. A nice basic USB charging station is the 6 Outlet charging station.
- 【Tower Fan & Evaporative Air Cooler 2 in...
- 【70°Oscillating Fan & Ultra-quiet】This...
- 【Add Moisture To Dry Environments】The key...
- 【Lower Price More Efficient】By...
- 【Lightweight & Safe Design】 Lightweight...
Our second choice for in-tent evaporative coolers is the Air Choice Tower cooler.
This unit is a tower, which takes up very little floor space but stands almost 3 1/2 feet tall. A bit imposing in a shorter tent, but the Air Tower ATF-009L is quiet to the point that you won’t even notice that it’s there after a while. And the tower configuration and its oscillating fan really allow the cool air to fill a tent.
And while, again, evaporative coolers will not put out the really cold air you would get from a true air conditioner, this large unit does surprisingly well in cooling small or medium-sized tents, and the two ice boxes will make it even much more effective.
The Air Choice ATF-009L is an AC powered unit, which means you will need to plug it into a campsite’s AC/Mains outlet or a generator. Since it has low power requirements it will work great with even a smaller generator, like the excellent Suaoki 150 Wh Camping Generator.
Window-Mounted Air Conditioners
Editor’s Rating: 4.8
- Effortless Temperature Control: Our air...
- Easy-to-Clean Washable Filter: Capture dust...
- SpaceWise Adjustable Design Optional Side...
- Power Cord: Comes with an extra long...
- Effortless Restart: Automatically resumes...
Probably the most popular air conditioner for cooling tents, the Frigidaire FFRA051 is number one – amongst campers and on our list – for good reason.
Simple, rugged and durable, this Frigidaire offers great cooling for the money and should last for many years to come. It does require AC power, so you will either need a campground with AC/Mains outlets or a generator – a good match for this efficient unit would be the Jackery Portable Power Station.
With two well-marked controls to adjust the temperature – from 7 (Max Cool) to 1 – and to switch between High Cool, High Fan, Low Cool and Low Fan, the Frigidaire Compact couldn’t be simpler or more clear to use.
The FFRA051 puts out 5,000 BTU per hour, which is more than enough for any medium tent, and should even be fine for larger tents in all but the most extreme of conditions. And with a low noise rating, low energy usage and efficient dehumidification, this air conditioner ticks all of our boxes.
You will need to use a tent already fitted for a window-mount AC, or modify your own. Please remember that modification in this way involves actually cutting into your tent’s fabric, and cannot be undone – no control-z here! If you prefer a tent optimized for this type of unit, we’ve listed some excellent choices below.
You will also need a stand to set the Frigidaire on, like the Senville GS-380, as well as a good heavy-duty weatherproof power cord – we recommend the 100 Ft. Epicord. And, again, if you want to use this air conditioner with a portable generator, the Jackery Portable Power Station is a really nice unit and well-matched to the Frigidaire.
The Frigidaire FFRA051WAE is a great bargain and a great value – a little more effort to set up, but well worth the effort. It works really well, is simple to use and very reliable, and is our first choice for a best window-mounted air conditioner for tent camping in 2023.
Frigidaire FFRA051WAE Specifications:
- Cooling Type: Air Conditioner
- Refrigerant: R32
- BTU: 5,000
- Dehumidification: 1.1 pints per hour
- Noise Level: 56.5 db (on High setting)
- LOW NOISE PERFORMANCE: Operates at sound...
- MULTIPLE FAN SPEEDS: 3 cooling and fan speeds...
- MAXIMUM USABILITY: Easy to use electronic...
- AUTO RESTART: After a power failure, auto...
- COOLS ROOMS UP TO 260 Square Fee: LW6017R is...
Our second choice for best window-mount for camping tents is from LG, who are rapidly becoming renowned for exceptional engineering, build quality and reliability.
And the LW6017R window-mounted air conditioner is no exception and well deserves its place in our tent air conditioners buyer’s guide. About the same size as the Frigidaire above, LG offers a higher BTU rating for a little more money and is a bit better for larger tents and hotter environments.
With its electronic controls and LCD readout, this LG air conditioner is ultra-easy to use, and it also includes a remote control, and its 24-hour timer mode allows for full control and timed shut-off at night.
Fully able to dehumidify larger tents, the LG LW6017R removes 1.8 litres of water an hour from the atmosphere, making this a great choice for really humid environments.
And, with a full 6,000 BTU per hour output, the LG will get any medium to medium-large tent chilly in no time. And even in very hot or sunny climates or crowded tents, the LG will still offer more than enough cooling.
The LG LW6017R will also require a few add-ons to make it work best – the Senville GS-380 air conditioner stand, a good heavy-duty weatherproof power cord like the 100 Ft. Epicord, and a well-matched portable generator – again, we recommend the excellent Jackery Portable Power Station.
While the Frigidaire barely edges this LG air conditioner for first place – mainly because it is around 50 bucks cheaper – the LG LW6017R is still a great value for the money, is more powerful and better for larger tents and hotter climates, and is an obvious second place choice for a best window-mount air conditioner for tent camping in 2023.
LG LW6017R Specifications:
- Cooling Type: Air Conditioner
- Refrigerant: R32
- BTU: 6,000
- Dehumidification: 1.8 pints per hour
- Noise Level: 57 db (on High setting)
- Free-Standing (Outside) Ducted Air Conditioners
- Industrial grade, ETL certified, Reliable and...
- R410A Refrigerant (Contains no ozone...
- No assembly required, Portable, Indoor /...
- Energy efficient - energy cost $0.15/hour...
- [Certification]: Meets CAER Title 20, Section...
Ok, this may not be the most affordable unit on our list of best air conditioners for tent camping in 2023, but it has to be said that for an industrial-grade indoor/outdoor spot cooler, this Uninex N407TC air conditioner offers an almost unbelievably good value.
Indeed, while we have given two recommendations in each of the other categories in our 2023 buyer’s guide to tent air conditioners, this is the only player in this field and our only recommendation. Other outdoor spot coolers on this level cost thousands of dollars and have such enormous outputs you may need to buy an arctic sleeping bag as well.
A bit unconventional as an approach, the idea of having a spot cooler outside the tent, and ducting the cold air in, has many great benefits:
- They take up no floor space inside
- They make much less noise (at least inside)
- They are easier to install than window-mounts
- They are more powerful and suitable for larger tents
- They are also better for hotter and more humid climates
The problem is that, again, many outdoor spot coolers are really, really expensive, and they often put out way too much cold air for anything but a party tent.
But the Uninex N407TC offers the same true industrial-grade build quality, fit and finish, ease of set-up and operation, and an impressively high BTU output, for a lot less money.
The Uninex N407TC is an AC powered unit, so you will require an AC outlet – like at a campsite or RV park – or a power generator. A great choice for this more powerful air conditioner is the WEN 56203i Super Quiet 2000-Watt Portable Generator. In either case, you should also get a commercial-grade extension cord, like the reasonably priced Southwire 100 Ft Extension Cord.
Sitting outside the tent, with its cold air ducted in through a flexible hose, the Uninex N407TC mobile spot cooler offers maximum air conditioning performance without taking up any of your valuable tent space, and without adding any noise or heat.
For tents that are family-sized or bigger, and in hot and humid climes, this may well be the ideal choice, and is truly one of the best bargains in our buyer’s guide to best tent air conditioners. That’s why the Uninex N407TY is our first choice for best free-standing air conditioners for tent camping in 2023.
Uninex N407TC Indoor/Outdoor KOOLZONE Mobile Spot Cooler Specifications:
- Cooling Type: Air Conditioner
- Refrigerant: R40A
- BTU: 8,500
- Noise Level: 60 db (on High setting)
If the thought of cutting into your beloved tent to make a hole for a window-mount air conditioner makes you a little woozy, or if you just want to make sure that the AC unit will work at its optimum efficiency, here are some medium to large tents which are optimized for air conditioning – already fitted with air conditioner ducts and ideally ventilated.
Final Thoughts: What air conditioner is best for tent camping?
You will notice that our buyer’s guide and reviews for the best tent air conditioners available in 2023 is a bit shorter than others.
Although we have covered the most important and useful categories, as well as a range of price points and tent sizes, we have narrowed our choices down to only five really great cooling units.
This is largely because we do not want to recommend air conditioners that we have not tried ourselves, and we do not want to endorse products that – even though they appear on so many other buyer’s guides – don’t really work well, or have too many problems or issues.
We understand what it is like to purchase something based on an Amazon review, or a buyer’s guide which was itself put together wholly based on, well, Amazon reviews, and end up with a product that is not good, does not work or do what it, or those reviews, claimed.
If you have a small, medium or large tent, if you are camping in dry or humid conditions, hot or warm climates, or if you have a specific budget that you don’t want to move away from, the corresponding choices on our list are sure to offer the best and most efficient cooling for the money, as well as reliability, ease of use and an overall great experience.
Plus, more importantly, they will let you camp more often, in more places, and more comfortably – and let’s not forget that this is what it’s all about.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of best portable tent air conditioners for camping in 2023, and we hope your purchase lets you both camp more and enjoy yourself more.