The Complete Guide To Choosing The Ultimate Tent Air Conditioner For Your Camping Trip
Camping is great. But staying in a tent with still humid air can make it hard to sleep. That’s why a tent air conditioner can be your best friend on these hot summer nights.
Here’s the thing: You book these camping trips weeks in advance. You can’t really rely on any long-term weather forecasts when making this decision. You didn’t know it was going to be 92 degrees during the day and drop to a brisk 82 at night.
This is particularly tricky when traveling with young children, whose sleep schedule is volatile enough, to begin with.
Retiring at night to a cool tent with a tent air conditioner after a big day in the heat could be the best sleep they (or you) have all summer.
Let’s help you pick a tent air conditioner.
How to Choose a Tent Air Conditioner
Pick The Right Size
Bigger is not necessarily better here. You don’t need an air conditioner that is capable of cooling a three bedroom apartment. This is a small space, and too much power could be pretty wasteful.
Don’t spend too much money or overshoot on an air-conditioner you plan on using camping, and less you have it earmarked for other purposes too.
Basically, a portable air-conditioning unit between 7000 to 10,000 BTUs (British thermal units) can do a great job of cooling a space 300 ft. or less. That’s what you would use for a single room or small apartment.
So unless you have a giant sultan’s tent, that should be just fine. This would also be a good size unit to use in a mobile home, fifth wheel, or camper as well.
Don’t Forget About Draining
Will your tent air conditioner need to drain into a pan or bucket? This is something you need to know when advance.
Because if the bucket is in the tent, you don’t want to kick it over in your sleep or while you are getting comfortable. Especially when you add children to the equation.
You should definitely make this part of your research and buying decision. Some air-conditioners drain into a pan, some into a bucket.
Other newer models have a really cool moisture evaporator technology, which is great because there are no spills and no mess.
Aim for Maximum Efficiency
Just to reiterate the point above, one of the best ways to make sure you’re being efficient is not buying too much air conditioner for your space. So you definitely won’t need anything over 10,000 BTUs.
But the efficiency of your model extends beyond just your BTU rating. You will also want to look at the energy-efficient ratio (EER). This basically measures the BTU rating divided by the wattage. 10 is a good number.
You can expect most of the air-conditioners you would use at home to have a rating of 10, so you want to be as close to 10 as possible for your tent air conditioner.
And of course, do the little things to maximize the efficiency of your usage. Get in and out of the tent as quickly as possible, and don’t leave the door open for very long.
Also, make sure that you zip up nice and snuggly. If you’re still seeing a bit of a gap at the bottom where the cool Air can escape, feel free to block it with a sock or other piece of clothing for a nice tight seal.
This is one you may not have thought of until it was too late. An air-conditioners noise level is never a problem, until it’s a problem.
A tent air-conditioner can provide a nice amount of background noise. If you’re someone who falls asleep with white noise, that’s great. But if not, it could be a bit of an adjustment for you.
This machine is literally going to be sleeping next to you in the tent, so you need to be OK with the noise level. Take the annoyance you feel by somebody snoring, and multiply it by about 50. That’s what can happen if your air conditioner is too loud.
It can really ruin your entire camping experience, leading you to get no sleep and being tired and cranky the next day in another scorchingly warm afternoon.
Also be cognizant of the noise level for your fellow campers. You don’t want something that’s too loud to ruin their camping experience.
Other Perks to Consider
Your tent air conditioner may also come with some other value-add ons to help your camping experience.
Your unit will probably have an automatic mode, which will shut on or off in accordance with keeping the space at the temperature that you requested.
It will also probably likely have a fan-only mode, which can do a great job of just keeping the space cooler, by keeping the air moving.
Some other models may have heat options for reverse cycle options, or a drive out for dehumidifying.
And an on/off timer is a pretty handy option to have as well.
If you know you’re going out for a late hike, trip, or boat ride, you can set your air-conditioner to come on automatically at a certain hour, so you come back to a nice cool tent, without having it run the entire time you were gone.
Of course, there is always the remote control option too. It’s a pretty baller move to flip the air conditioning on in your tent from the campfire to cool things off before bed.
The Best Tent Air Conditioners You Can Buy
Here are your top models, as selected by the experts (Us).
Honeywell MN12CES MN Series
This is pound-per-pound, the best portable/ tent air conditioner on the market today, and is more than enough to be your tent cooler.
You’ve got more than enough power with 12,000 BTUs, with a rock solid Energy Efficiency Ratio of 9.6.
Most importantly, this model has a very quiet running level, with powerful air flow. You’re going to operate at about 55 dbA. So you should have no trouble sleeping.
Also, no need to worry about drips or messes a with no-bucket design, as well as
dehumidification that can clear up to 79.2 pints per day.
The online reviews are almost all positive, and almost half are in the 5-star range.
One online reviewer even said this unit helped him get dates during hot Brooklyn summers and even led to him meeting his fiancee. We can’t guarantee that, but good to know.
Most positive reviews rave about the easy setup, the low electricity bills, and the quiet operation of this unit.
Honeywell MN10CESWW MN Series
This is another great product from Honeywell in the MN series. A really solid choice for a tent air conditioner.
This is a slightly more affordable model, as compared to the 12CES model. This one is going to give you slightly less performance (10,000 BTUs) at a slightly decreased efficiency rating (9.5).
We don’t think you’re going to notice the difference between this and the 12CES model if you’re using this as a tent air conditioner. You would notice if you were using this model to cool a space all summer long.
But a little bit less power and a little bit less efficiency aren’t going to really show up in a tent-sized space over a few days.
Like the other model, you can also enjoy the clean, no-bucket design to keep things nice and dry in the tent. And if you’re using this as a dehumidifier, you’re going to clear about 70 pints per day.
The online reviews for this unit are not quite as good as the 12CES. People still rave about the performance and the low noise levels. However, some people were not happy, claiming it died before warrantee and Honeywell would not replace it.
If you’re just getting this for camping purposes, it is probably a better value than the 12CES model. But if you’re also using this to cool a space bigger than 350 square feet, you might want to spring for the more powerful and efficient unit.
LG Electronics LP0814WNR 115-volt Portable Air Conditioner with Remote Control
This is a nice, compact unit that would fit nicely in your tent.
This model boasts 8,000 BTUs, so it is obviously good enough for the space you will be using it in. It’s also got an EER of 9.0, so that is a bit below the previous models we have reviewed. Its noise level is roughly the same at about 55 dB.
The online reviews are mainly positive. Many people praise the performance and the quiet function. Interestingly enough, most of the people who wrote the positive reviews criticized the negative reviews for having unrealistic expectations.
This is a good little tent air conditioner, at the strong price point. LG obviously has a great name in everything from laptops to dryers. So if you’re already brand-loyal to LG, you will definitely like this unit.
SPT 8,000 BTU Single Hose Portable AC
This is an OK model, but just Ok. We feel like you can do better for a tent air conditioner with any of the units above. It’s a bit pricier and no better.
This one comes with a self-evaporating system that expels moisture from the air. It is slightly quieter than the other models at about 54 dB, but we doubt you would notice the difference.
It does also come with a remote control and a programmable timer.
Other Things You Can Do to Stay Cool, Besides Buying a Tent Air Conditioner
Of course, your tent air conditioner is going to be a godsend and a game changer. But there are other things you can do help yourself while camping during a scorcher.
When camping in hot humid weather, you should always:
Hydrate and Eat Cold Food
We know you’re camping, but resist the temptation to want to barbeque every meal, or cook it on an open fire. Embrace cooler treats like Popsicles, fruit, and pasta salad.
Bring some quality cold cuts of meat and have sandwiches for lunch instead of hotdogs.
And hydration is going to be key. Drink water every single chance you get. And as much as it may hit the spot, remember that a cold beer does not hydrate you. Quite the opposite. So be careful of your alcohol consumption.
Set up in the Shade
Tent and camp positioning are actually really key. You don’t want your tent or your campsite baking in the sun all day. So try to set up in the shade, and definitely keep your coolers there to help your ice last longer.
If your campground has limited shade, pop-up shelters and tarps will help as well.
Wear Light-Colored Clothing
No black! We don’t care how good you look in it.
Always opt for light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. If you can find something dry fit or moisture wicking, that much better.
Set up Near Water
We shouldn’t have to tell you how glorious a nice breeze off the water can be on these hot days. Do whatever you have to do to get a campsite near the water in hot summer months.
Not only are you more likely to get a nice breeze, you’re that much closer to taking a dip to cool down.
Be More Active During Cooler Times
If you plan on going for a long hike, do it in the early morning or later in the evening when the sun is not going to destroy your energy levels. Not only is it less fun, it can also be dangerous.
If you’re going on a hike, soak a bandana in water and tie it around your neck.
If you’re planning on checking out some caves, that could be a good hot weather activity, because caves are a great place to cool down.
Ready to Buy a Tent Air Conditioner?
We want to help you make the most informed decision possible when shopping for an air conditioner of any kind.
You can read our detailed reviews of most any air conditioner by clicking here.