We have previously covered some of the best tent heaters to take camping, but what about portable air conditioners when things start to hot up? Going camping is a wonderful experience but sometimes you need the best tent air conditioners to ensure your base camp doesn’t get too hot or humid. After all, you’re more vulnerable to the whims of nature in the great outdoors. Air conditioners are fast becoming an essential to the modern tent and camping vacation.
Things to look out for when choosing the best tent air conditioner include compactness – any size or build shape may be great for your home but you still need to transport it on site safely and without having to leave some of your favorite gear behind because you car or pickup isn’t big enough. When it comes to picking an air conditioning unit you usually opt for ones that have a BTU rating suitable for your room sizes. This is great at home where your walls and ceiling are insulated but not so much for a tent.
As a rule of thumb you need to pick a more powerful heat removing machine than the stated area would recommend. After all they are going to have to work harder to keep your tent temperature down. A third factor is of course how loud the air conditioner is. A busy campsite with lots of coming and going means you might not really notice it but, trust us, if it’s more secluded you will regret buying a loud machine! Finally – and probably – the most vital consideration is your power options. The units we recommend typically all run off mains power so please check with your destination that this will be available
A BTU rating?
BTUs – or British Thermal Units –are defined as the energy required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. BTUs per hour is the standard measurement you use when shopping for your air conditioner. If you’re after a unit to cool a family-dome style tent look for 8,000 BTU or if your tent is a larger – a cabin tent for example – then up to or over 10,000 BTUs is desirable.
Window or portable?
For most people, a portable air con unit is the most practical form factor for their tent. For this reason we’ve selected our choices of the best portable tent air conditioners you can buy with confidence.
Before you switch on
Just a friendly reminder, if you transport your air conditioner on its side or if it gets shaken up en route to your destination you’ll need to leave it around 24 hours before you switch it on. The refrigerant will need to settle to prevent damage to your unit.
- Whynter Elite ARC-122DS 12,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner, Dehumidifier
- Emerson Quiet Kool EAPC8RD1 Portable Air Conditioner with Remote Control for Rooms up to 150-Sq. Ft.
- JHS 10,000 BTU Portable AC Unit WIFI Control, Air Conditioner Portable with Dehumidifier and Fan, Remote Control, Digital LED Display,
- DeLonghi Pinguino Deluxe Portable Air Conditioner 600 sq. ft. White 14000 btu
Whynter Elite ARC-122DS 12,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner, Dehumidifier
- This portable air conditioner has won numerous awards including and top votes from the likes of Wirecutter and Good Housekeeping
- Can be used also as a dehumidifier in your home
- Noise level <52 db, ideal for camping
- Remote control is perfect when your tent is pitch black
The Whynter Elite is one of our top choices. It packs an impressive 12,000 BTU air conditioning unit into a surprisingly compact design. On top of that you get extra features such as a remote control and a range of useful settings. Let’s take a deeper look.
Portability is by means of casters which roll well although you’ll need to take care if you are moving it over an un-asphalted surface. Its size is 17” x 29.5” x 16”. It weighs a sprightly 60 lbs – well, sprightly for this kind of appliance! Living with the Whynter Elite is a walk in the park; it operates with a noise output of less than 52 dB, suitable noise level for camping. The remote control is a handy tool, when after a hard day’s hiking you just want to relax and not want to get up to keep changing the Elite’s settings. It does have a 24 hour programmable setting too which can be useful when you are away from your tent for long periods.
It features three operational modes that cover you in most situations, cooling, fan only and dehumidify. The dehumidifier includes a patented automatic draining facility that completely exhausts the condensate through the included 60” dual-hose system. While it can be operated as a single hose unit, the double hose makes for more efficient and effective cooling. Although most real-world camping set-ups will be vented through a zipped tent flap, the Whynter does come with a window kit with a maximum width of 46” should you have a suitable window in your tent.
Complying with the latest standards, this air conditioner uses CFC-free refrigerant and lead-free RoHS components. The refrigerant is the non-ozone-depleting product R410a. This has now become the standard refrigerant in all brands currently available in stores. Air conditioners do use quite a bit of power and the 12,000 BTU Elite is no exception but with an hourly power rating of 1,000 W at 9 Amps it is surprisingly reasonable.
The Elite has a range of comfortable temperatures it can be set to from 61° – 89°F. In optimal conditions its dehumidifying ability comes in at 76 pints per day! And most, if not all, of this condensate is dealt with by the self-evaporative system that means you don’t need to constantly empty the hopper. We also like that the plug has an LCDI – the leakage-current detection and interruption technology – that gives you an extra level of protection in the outdoors.
Emerson Quiet Kool EAPC8RD1 Portable Air Conditioner with Remote Control for Rooms up to 150-Sq. Ft.
- Portable air conditioner for cooling a room up to 300 sq. ft.
- 8000 BTU (ASHRAE-128 Standard) / 4900 BTU (DOE 2017 Standard). Decibel rating: 52 dBA and decibel rating (indoor): 52 dBA
- Auto-evaporation technology and single-hose exhaust system for hassle-free spot cooling
- 1-2-5 years warranty! (1 year labor, 2 years parts and 5 years compressor)
- 24-hour timer allows you to preset the time to turn on or off the machine
Emerson’s unit trades top line cooling power for well thought out design and features. At 8,000 BTU the Quiet Kool is no slouch however and is aimed at floor sizes of 150 sq. ft.
The unit has one of the most energy efficient compressors available in the price range. It’s one of the quieter models too with a noise rating of 52 dB and something you need to bear in mind if you are going to be sharing your tent with it! The Quiet Kool uses a single hose system that is intended for spot cooling without all the extra space a second hose would take up (both around the tent and in your transport). This unit also features auto-evaporation technology giving you less hassle day to day.
One aspect we love about Emerson’s is their range and length of warranty. Okay, so yes you get the standard 1 year labor but also 2 years on parts and 5 years on the compressor – the actual component that does the job. This helps give you an idea of how much faith the company puts in its products.
You can set the 24-hour timer to run the machine while you’re away and it also comes with a remote control so you can operate it from your cot or from your BBQ. It sports a sleep function too which we appreciate! The large display is simple to read and is an attractive blue LED affair.
On hard ground it’s remarkably portable with good-running casters but of course the usual caveat for moving across grass needs to be remembered. It does come bundled with a universal window vent for openings between 26.6” and 48.5”.
It has three operating modes: cooling, moisture removal and fan. We like the automatically swinging louver that helps direct the cooled air flow around the tent not just blowing it upwards. The Quiet Kool has a reusable filter that you can knock dust out of or wash for extra cleaning.
This air conditioner measures 17.32” x 12.8” x 27.36” and is one of the lightest on test weighing in at just 52.9 lbs. Emerson are the industry leaders, so you are buying quality.
JHS 10,000 BTU Portable AC Unit WIFI Control, Air Conditioner Portable with Dehumidifier and Fan, Remote Control, Digital LED Display,
- Can be controlled using an app, aslong as you have wifi/4G access at the camp site
- Can cool a 300 sq ft tent
- Doubles up as a dehumidifier when you get home
- Easy to pack in your vehicle
JHS is another power house in the portable aircon industry, selling products in 50 countries. The JHS model is a handsome unit whose large vents and proud appearance tells you it means business. It doesn’t have the most catchy name – A016-10KR/B – is not likely to set your pulse racing but it’s got it where it counts.
With an efficient compressor the JHS is rated at 10,000 BTUs of cooling power. We love the smart app that works on Android and Apple devices. It gives you total control over fan speed, temperature and even lets you create a schedule of operational times for a whole week.
The unit serves as an air conditioner, a two-speed fan and a dehumidifier which can extract over 50 pints of water per day in optimal conditions. In practice the JHS does a great job of keeping your tent’s atmosphere crisp and fresh.
The JHS has omni-directional casters which roll freely in any direction. The unit weighs only 50 lbs but you still need to take care when moving it on grass or dirt tracks. It’s a single hose air conditioner which takes just minutes to install. It has the option of venting through an appropriate window thanks to its adjustable venting kit which is suitable for openings between 9” and 57”.
Thanks to a bit of clever technology, this unit uses a self-evaporation system that recycles the condensate from dehumidifying to improve the cooling effectiveness. While possibly not necessary for most campers, a drainage hose is also supplied so you can operate the dehumidifier without needing to empty the hopper. It’s a neat touch.
The JHS generates under 54 dBs and, to us, this is like a mild white noise – not an annoying hum. You can reduce the noise by knocking the fan speed down to its lowest setting. This unit also features a pair of antibacterial filters which capture bacteria, pollen and dust and generally make your air better to breathe!
The unit is supplied with a current leakage detection plug and an automatic restart function in the event of a power cut. Its size is a reasonably compact 14” x 13.3” x 27.5”.
DeLonghi Pinguino Deluxe Portable Air Conditioner 600 sq. ft. White 14000 btu
- Acts as a 3-in-1 unit can be used for camping and in your home
- Can cool a 600sq ft family size tent/li>
- No water leaks in your tent
The DeLonghi Pinguino is one of those air conditioners that tick all the boxes. It’s a very easy machine to fall in love with at first sight. Behind its designer exterior and suave looks lies an extremely capable machine. Rated at a whopping 14,000 BTUs the Pinguino is suitable for the larger tents such as the marquee variety or for improving the air in a particularly humid or extremely hot environment. Remember that air conditioners in tents have to work much harder than when they are indoors so always consider a more powerful unit than you would expect.
This DeLonghi unit is another multifunction device; it’s equally at home being a reliable cooler, multi-speed fan and powerful dehumidifier. Unlike most of its competitors, the Pinguino incorporates silver in its filter. The BioSilver Filter prevents mold growth and mildew affecting the quality of the air coming through. The filter is removable and washable, and thanks to the silver you will be able to have many years of odor-free clean air.
Installation and daily use is super easy and user friendly. It has four great quality casters so you can maneuver it with ease (on a hard surface at any rate!) The handles help a fair bit, too. Installation is a breeze, it’s a tool-less set-up, all you need to do is run the single hose outside or through the bundled adjustable vent and you’re good to go.
The cooling mechanism recycles condensation internally and banishes thoughts of leaks with its no-drip technology.
It is remarkably straightforward to operate. The electronic controls have a well-lit large display, integrates an adjustable thermostat, triple speed fan setting, 12-hour timer all within the Sensor Touch panel. Did we mention that the display is actually forward facing? Well it is and that really helps when you try to view it from a distance. The Pinguino also comes with a full functioned remote control to cover you for every eventuality.
The DeLonghi measures just 16.2” x 14” x 31.5”.
We’ve covered our favorite air conditioning units that suit any pocket and will make your camping experience that much better. So if you’re off to Hawaii, Minnesota or Louisiana to name but few, remember to pack your air conditioner!