6 Best Portable Air Conditioner Units for Camping (2020 Buying Guide)
Camping isn’t always a reinvigorating experience. Although we may head out on our camping adventure, predicting peace and tranquility sleeping below the stars, the opposite is often true. Nature’s peace and quiet will only get you so far, if you’re waking up in a tent in the middle of summer that feels like a sauna, dehydrated and stressed out.
But if you’re willing to invest in the right kit, then you might even be able to catch up on some beauty sleep in the great outdoors, and have the lie-in of your dreams! And the kit that could transform your summer camping experience is a portable air conditioner unit for camping. Read on to find out more, and to see our complete buying guide.
Can I really air-condition my tent?
Tents, obviously, don’t come with a centralized cooling system, or electric power. They are, after all, just tents. But often the thin layers of canvas don’t give you the protection from the elements you really need to get a good night’s sleep. Many people see this as a necessary side effect of camping: and see camping and roughing it as synonymous. But even in cold weather conditions, you can heat your tent, so you’re no longer shivering on your winter camping excursions. For our buying guide on the best tent heaters, click here.
Just as you can heat your tent when it’s chilly outside, you can also air condition your tent when the weather is fair. But, as we mentioned, tents have no power source. So air conditioning your tent requires you to be a little inventive. Depending on where and how you like to go camping, there are a few different options of portable air conditioner units for you.
If you are fond of going car camping or plan to set up your tent near your car, then a great option for you is to take a generator. You can plug your portable air conditioner into the generator, and use it for many other purposes, like heating water to wash dishes or charging your phone in the great outdoors.
Or, for the slightly less adventurous camper, who’s fond of stating in well-serviced campsites, there’s another option for you. Choose a campsite with electric hookups, so you can just plug in your air conditioner unit straight into the power source. However, this sometimes means that you have to put up your tent in the RV section of the site, as this is often the only area where full hookups for electric are. This isn’t a good option if you’re looking for a back-to-nature experience.
For avid campers, who like to go out into the sticks, you should consider looking at our options for air conditioning units that run on battery power. This is especially useful if you’re looking to go primitive camping, or backpacking without a car.
You can set off, with your portable battery-powered air conditioning unit, and set up a comfy sleeping quarter for yourself even in remote locations. We predict this will bring you an unprecedented sense of luxury in your off-piste camping adventures. There are even some models that have solar panels, which is the perfect option for eco-conscious campers.
Best Portable Air Conditioner Units for Camping – Overview
1. IcyBreeze Cooler Chill Package
- Rugged Polyethylene Construction. Ice Lasts up to 7 Days at Temps up to 90 When Not Using Air Conditioning. Holds 30lbs of Ice. 38qt Interior Holds 49 Cans.
The IcyBreeze Cooler Chill Package could be your saving grace in really hot camping conditions. This is because it not only continually cools the air in your tent but also holds up to 30 pounds of ice to keep your drinks and perishables cool. If you choose an option without a cooler, check out our recommendations for foods to take camping without a fridge. The unit used a 3-speed fan to circulate the fresh air at different speeds, at up to 25mph, meaning you can cool your tent to just the right temperature to suit your needs.
However, there’s only one nozzle for the cool air to come out from, so it might take longer to cool your tent than the other models we’re reviewing. But, with the double whammy of being able to cool your tent in the morning while you sip a cold beverage, the dual usage of this product may outweigh the slower cooling speed.
Another benefit of this product is that it has two variations in model, to suit your power needs and requirements. If you purchase the 110V model, you can plug it into wall receptacles, and run your IcyBreeze cooler continuously. This is only good for those with full electric hookup, which can be difficult to locate or could leave you camping in an RV park which is not an experience we would recommend.
However, with the 110V model, you can also charge the battery pack with the battery charger provided, meaning you can set off on your camping or backpacking trip without the need of hookup. However, your use of this model is obviously limited by the charge time.
The other option of size is the 12V. We would recommend the 12V if you’re going car camping or setting up your tent near your car. This is because the IcyBreeze 12-Volt power supply cord plugs into the cigarette lighter or car charger in automobiles for continuous cooling without using the rechargeable battery.
This is an excellent, luxury accessory to hot camping days and nights. However, it does come with a price tag to represent this. At $289.99, this cooler is an investment, but it might be worth it if you were thinking of investing in an ice cooler anyway, and enjoy a product that does it all.
- 3-speed fan
- Air speed up to 25mph
- Multiple power outlet options
- Also an ice cooler
- Small nozzle for cool air to exit
2. Arctic Cove MBF0181 18-Volt Bucket Top Misting Fan
Although not technically an AC unit, this misting fan qualifies. And the main feature and benefit of this fan is the cool mist… what better way to freshen up you and your tent after a long, hot sleep? With this fan, you’re guaranteed 2.5 hours of full strength run time from one charge, or about 7 hours if you change the setting to low. Some of the benefits of this model are that it’s affordable, portable and cordless.
What’s great about this model, too, is that there are different charging options, meaning that it can act as a shambles, adapting to your next unique camping trip. You can charge the battery, and use it once on your trip. Alternately, you can take with you additional rechargeable batteries, but these can be a little expensive. If you’re camping near electric hookup, and want to save those extra batteries for your next adventure, you can also plug the unit into an outlet. You can also either use a 5-gallon bucket for a water source or plugin a hose.
One of the criticisms we have of this model is that the fan can get a little noisy in your camping tent. However, for the relief from the heat it provides, it might be a trade-off you’re willing to make. Also, the bucket isn’t included, and it may add some extra weight to your camping journey bringing the bucket and the extra water. Depending on whether you’re going camping with your car, or don’t mind hauling around the extra kit, this may be a sacrifice you’re willing to make.
- Cool mist
- 7 hours of cooling on low setting
- Multiple power outlet options
- The fan can get noisy
- Relatively expensive at $179.99
- Have to carry gallons of water
3. YACHANCE Personal Space air Cooler
As you can see from the other reviews, investing in a portable air conditioner isn’t cheap. However, if you’re working with a smaller budget, and especially if you’re looking to cool a smaller tent, then the YACHANCE Personal Space Air Cooler could be the perfect option for you. It is a little portable cube-shaped product, which can even be loaded with water or ice. This air conditioner doesn’t have the power to cool a large tent, but it could offer you the perfect relief of cold air in a small tent, or even to just cool your body as you wake up under the sun’s rays.
Although the YACHANCE Personal Space Air Cooler doesn’t work as a traditional AC in terms of cooling all the air in the room and lowering the general ambient temperature, it does filter out bacteria and dust, and with the added water feature it will mean that you get a steady flow of cool, fresh air. And the flow of air can last too. On its lowest setting, this conditioner promises six hours of cooling. There are three different speeds for the fan, meaning you can regulate the temperature to fit your needs.
So, as you can tell, this model does fail a little when it comes to power. We would only recommend this as a personal air conditioning unit, or for small groups. However, this could be seen as a plus, as by using only 10w of power, this cooler is energy-saving and eco-friendly. It also has the added benefit of LED backlights, helping you navigate your tent in the dark! Chargeable with a micro USB, this is an easy model to take with you, but not the most reliable of the air conditioners we have reviewed.
- Internal air filter
- LED lights
- Add water or ice cubes for cooling
- Energy saving
- Can make area damp
- Water can spill if not kept level
4. LifeSmart Indoor/Outdoor Single Port Air Cooler
If you’re looking for a cheaper air conditioner, then this is a more reliable model than the YACHANCE Personal Space Air Cooler. The LifeSmart cooler is a great option for you if you think you might be near electric hookup for some of your camping trip. Although you can run this cooler easily from mains power, you can also keep it running on 12v, meaning that you can bring a battery to run it if you’re leaving camp to go backpacking for a couple of days.
This is also an evaporative cooler, meaning you’ll have a lovely refreshing mist when it’s in use, the perfect option for ultimate cooling and dehumidifying on a really hot day. However, you should take note that evaporative coolers work best in dry, hot conditions rather than damp conditions. This cooler claims to have the cooling power to lower the room temperature by 30 degrees. This works well in dry, hot conditions, but we have heard that it can fail from overuse, or if the conditions aren’t right.
- 2 power options
- Evaporative, dehumidifying cooler
- Only works well in dry, hot conditions
- Best used at the site with an electric hookup
5. Honeywell MO08CESWK Compact Portable Air Conditioner with Dehumidifier and Fan
- Enjoy Powerful air flow in a Compact Air Conditioning Unit.
This Honeywell model provides powerful airflow and conditioning in a small and compact unit. We would recommend investing in this product if you were also looking to buy a portable air conditioner for your house or indoor use, rather than just a tent air conditioner.
This is because this model is not designed for outdoor use and is pretty expensive at over $300, so if you’re investing this much, you might want to have multiple uses for the product. The main failure in using this model for the outdoors is that it’s plugin only, meaning you’ll have to be in a campsite that has an electric hookup or an RV site.
Although this product is not perfectly suited for camping, it works probably the most efficiently out of all of the models we have reviewed. So this could be a good option for you if you’re really affected by the heat, and don’t mind sacrificing your camping location for the cool comfort. Also, at one of the lightest in its class weighing no more than 45/49 lbs, and with smooth-gliding wheels, this cooler is eminently portable if you’re camping with your car.
Another benefit of this model is that it’s quiet. At the highest speed, it produces 50-53 decibels, which is about the same level of sound as a normal conversation. So, combined with its 24-hour energy-saving timer and remote control, this could be the perfect option for leaving on white you sleep in really warm climates. It is also very easy to look after, with a washable filter and filter change alert for easy maintenance.
- Quiet fan
- Wheels for portability
- 24-hour energy-saving timer
- Designed for indoor use
- Over $300
Zero Breeze Z19-B Portable Air Conditioner is the only model we’ve reviewed here that really does it all. Zero Breeze is the first outdoor air conditioner manufacturer in the world, and this model has been updated with feedback from their first 1000 customers, so you know that it will be perfectly suited and adapted to your outdoor needs. It boasts a built-in 1100 BTU patented micro compressor and has enough cooling capacity to drop the temperature from 90℉ to 72℉ in a 50 square feet closed tent.
Because it’s been designed with camping in mind, this is not just an air conditioner. Most of the portable air conditioners on the market are designed for indoor use, but not this one. In fact, it’s more your all-encompassing camping companion! Zero Breeze knows what else their customers need in their outdoors experience. So instead of just being an air conditioner, it has four additional features: a fan, a USB charging station, Bluetooth music player, and LED lighting. So it can help keep you and your group not only nice and cool but also entertained, on your outdoor adventure.
Because Zero Breeze Z19-B Portable Air Conditioner is designed for campers, this model is also eminently portable. Weighing only 12.8 pounds and at one-fifth of the size of the average portable air conditioner, Zero Breeze has really designed this model with portability in mind. It also has a super quick installation: all you need to do is snap the exhaust hose and drain hose into the corresponding port, then insert the power cord.
This model also has multiple powering options, including from a wall outlet, gas, propane or lithium powered portable generator, and 12V car battery. Soon they will be launching a matching generator too, so stay tuned! With all these features and benefits, you might be thinking that this is the perfect portable AC for all for your camping needs. And you may be right, but that comes at quite a hefty cost. The Zero Breeze Z19-B Portable Air Conditioner is just under $900. As the first manufacturer to make these specific products, it’s hardly surprising that they’re top of the market in terms of price point, but you might have to think long and hard about whether this is the right investment for you to warrant the expenditure!
- 5 in 1 functions: AC, fan, a USB charging station, Bluetooth music player, and LED lighting
- Very light, and ⅕ of the size of average portable AC
- Specifically designed for camping
- Doesn’t come with a generator
- Costs a fortune
So there we have it: our top pick for the best tent air conditioner. We’ve chosen the Zero Breeze as our top pick due to the fact that it’s designed specifically with your needs in mind as a camper. However, at a third of the price, the IcyBreeze cooler is also well suited for the outdoors and is much better for those on a budget.
Tent ACs can be your saving grace on a really hot camping trip. Tent cooling is an option most of us couldn’t even imagine a few years ago, we just accepted that hot air was part of the experience, and made do with the refreshment of a cooled drink. In this buying guide we’ve presented 6 very different portable air conditioner units for camping. Turn the warm air in your tent to warm air under your wings, and liberate yourself from sweaty uncomfortable summer camping trips!