Camping Tent Air Conditioning Guide (All Tent Sizes)


Camping is fun but the hot humid weather makes sleeping in a camping tent uncomfortable and sometimes unbearable. So, I did some research on camping tents to come out with an air conditioning guide for different tent sizes for camping lovers.

Air-conditioning a camping tent is possible with a sufficient power supply. Most camping tents are not insulated and some camping tents have mesh windows which make sizing the air conditioner different from standard homes. Furthermore, the so-called “tent air conditioner” may not work as expected.

Many people tend to promote tent air conditioners but some of these tent air conditioners are not actual air conditioners and they don’t meet the expectation of most campers.

Power Supply for the Air Conditioner in a Camping Tent

Air conditioners consume relatively more power than other appliances in a camping tent. Needless to say, if you are able to get a sufficient power supply, you can use an air conditioner in a camping tent. However, you also need to use a suitable air conditioner.

Campsite

Campsites have a plug-in power supply enough for an air conditioner in a camping tent. But, most campsites provide 120V power supplies only in either 30A or 50A. Hence, you need to use a 120V air conditioner as opposed to a 240V air conditioner that is commonly found in standard homes.

Generator

Most camping generators supply power at 120V. Hence, you need to use a 120V air conditioner as opposed to a 240V air conditioner that is commonly found in standard homes. Most of the time, a generator is the best power supply for the air conditioner in a camping tent.

Solar Panel

Solar panels produce 12V and 24V direct current which are not suitable for standard air conditioners unless it goes through a power converter. Besides, solar panels are expensive now and you’ll need many of them to power an air conditioner. Thus, it is not practical.

Cooling Capacity Needed for Different Tent Sizes

Most camping tents are not insulated like standard homes. Hence, the capacity rating on air conditioners can’t be used as a reference for a camping tent. Following is a table of cooling capacity needed for different sizes of camping tents:

Tent CapacityTent SizeCapacity Needed
2 pax40 sqft2000 BTU
4 pax60 sqft3000 BTU
6 pax100 sqft5000 BTU
8 pax140 sqft6500 BTU
10 pax160 sqft8000 BTU
12 pax180 sqft9000 BTU
Cooling capacity needed for different sizes of camping tents

Most air conditioners have the lowest available cooling capacity at 5,000 BTU. Air conditioners that are specially made for portable/personal may have an even lower cooling capacity.

As you can see from the above table, having a conventional window or portable air conditioner in a 2-pax camping tent is often too much and it can overcool the tent.

However, a 5000 BTU air conditioner is suitable for most camping tents which are about 100-140 sqft that is suitable for 6-8 persons. Some people suggested that having only 4 persons in a 6 pax tent is more comfortable.

If you have a large tent, a 9000 BTU air conditioner can provide not just cooling, but also decent heating if you opt for a heat pump model.

Suitable Types of Air Conditioners for a Camping Tent

I have not found an air conditioner that is best for a camping tent. However, there are some air conditioners that are suitable for a camping tent but you’ll need to compromise some other things.

Window Air Conditioner (Most Preferred)

To me, a window air conditioner is the most viable choice to cool/heat a camping tent. Window air conditioners are lightweight and they consume relatively less power.

Many window air conditioners start at 5000 BTU of cooling capacity which is suitable for most camping tents. Besides, many 120V models are available at a low price and the average weight of a 5000 BTU window air conditioner is 40 lbs only.

The main drawback of using a window air conditioner in a camping tent is noise. Depending on the model, many 5000 BTU window air conditioners generate noise at around 50 dB. To some people, it’s too noisy to sleep with.

However, there are some window air conditioners that create noise as low as 42 dB only. These window air conditioners are close to the perfect air conditioner for a camping tent.

Most window air conditioners cost around $150-$400. If you want to raise up the window air conditioner, you may use a box or buy a stand which costs you around $50.

Nevertheless, you can always use the window air conditioner that you already have in your house. Thus, a window air conditioner is a very economical solution for heating and cooling for camping.

Portable Air Conditioner (Second Choice)

A portable air conditioner is my second preferred choice for a camping tent. The problem with portable air conditioners is that they are noisier than window air conditioners. Furthermore, they consume relatively more power.

Similarly, many portable air conditioners start at 5000 BTU of cooling capacity. There are two capacity ratings on portable air conditioners and the lower one is more accurate when used in a camping tent.

The average weight of a 5000 portable air conditioner is nearly 55 lbs which are slightly heavier than the window air conditioner. Consider that you’ll need to carry so many things for camping, heavy appliances may be a concern.

If you have a small camping tent that has a low “ceiling height”, a portable air conditioner may blow air to the “ceiling” of the tent and cause the tent to wobble all the time.

Furthermore, portable air conditioners are known to be noisier than window air conditioners, generating noise at about 55 dB for a typical 5000 BTU model.

Most portable air conditioners cost around $300-$500. However, if you have a portable air conditioner at home, you can use it rather than buying a new one just for the occasional camping.

Evaporative Cooler (Uncomfortable)

Evaporative coolers consume water to cool the air through the principle of evaporative cooling. This type of air conditioner should not be considered as an air conditioner. Instead, they are just air-coolers.

However, many people promote evaporative coolers as “tent air conditioners” which confuse camping lovers into buying the wrong product and end up feeling disappointed.

Evaporative coolers are usually very cheap. Many of them cost less than $50 while some are priced over $100. You’ll need to constantly fill them with water.

Evaporative coolers produce high humidity air which quickly raises the humidity level of the air in your camping tent. Usually, evaporative coolers provide cooling for a very short period of time while making the air more and more humid.

When the humidity level reaches about 85%, the cooling effect stops and you’ll feel even more uncomfortable. So, I don’t think an evaporative cooler is suitable for a camping tent.

Mini Air Conditioner (Expensive)

Some companies came out with mini air conditioners that run on batteries. These air conditioners are often handheld, small in size and low in cooling capacity. Some people find them useful for camping.

However, these mini air conditioners are hard to make and thus, they are very expensive (more than $1000) compared to the window and portable air conditioners. Furthermore, you usually use a mini air conditioner while camping only, unlike window and portable air conditioners which you can reuse in your home too.

Hence, a mini air conditioner is most likely not a preferred solution for heating and cooling a camping tent.

My Recommended Air Conditioners for a Camping Tent

An air conditioner needs to be small, quiet, low power and easy to install. Therefore, I recommend you use a window air conditioner to cool/heat your camping tent. Otherwise, a portable air conditioner is also good but slightly noisier.

Here is a list of my recommended air conditioners for a camping tent:

Best Window Air Conditioners

See more about the Midea U-Shaped 8000 BTU window air conditioner in one of my posts including the first impression, unboxing review and technical comparison [read post].

Best Portable Air Conditioners

Final Thought

Camping is fun but an air-conditioned camping tent is better. However, don’t use an evaporative cooler although it is cheaper because it doesn’t work. Instead, get either a window air conditioner or a portable air conditioner.

If you ask me, I would recommend the Midea U-Shaped 8000 BTU window air conditioner. It has inverter technology, so it’s suitable for a camping tent with 4-12 pax capacity (60-180 sqft). Furthermore, its body design fits a camping tent easily with minimal sealing work to be done.

Lastly, remember that most BTU calculators and recommendations are designed for insulated homes. Because of that, a camping tent which is not insulated, will need more cooling capacity.

Yu Chang Zhen

Yu was working in the air conditioning industry for the past 7 years, covering from design to installation and maintenance. Yu wish to share all the things he learned with the people around the world.

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