How To Air Condition A Tent

How To Air Condition A Tent

Do any of you guys absolutely hate camping in the heat of summer?

I used to, and I know exactly what you mean and how you feel. The combination of heat, humidity, and mosquito sucks.

Personally, I had always avoided camping in the summer ever since I ended up in the hospital after heat exhaustion a couple of years ago. It was no fun at all.

I was much better camping in the cold, and I lived by the theory that you could always put on more clothes and start a fire to stay warm. But you could only take off so many clothes to stay cool.

Unfortunately, my family didn’t share that view, so I knew I had to come up with ideas to beat the heat.

And as I later came to find out, it doesn’t take much to avoid the dreadful sunburn.

Hydration is key—drink loads of water.

Also, consider setting up your camp in a shaded area, preferably near a water stream where you can take a dip to cool off.

But the big problem is the above solutions are of little help at night. Camping tents can get ridiculously hot and uncomfortable.

And this is why I consider the best tent air conditioner as the most effective way to relieve your living space from the searing temperatures.

A good tent AC unit controls your indoor space’s temperature, humidity, and air quality and will provide a pleasant experience.

Now, I’m assuming you’re here to learn more about how to air condition your tent.

The good news is I’ve been lucky enough to turn my addiction to summer camping into my entire life.

And in the guide below, I’ll share some of the hard-learned lessons about summer camping and the different ways to air condition your tent.

Air Conditioning a Tent

Two of the critical elements to consider when air conditioning your tent are the air conditioner and source of cooling power.

We’ll start with the tent camping AC unit.

Types of Tent Air Conditioners

Types of Tent Air Conditioners

There’re generally three types of best tent air conditioners;

1)      Window unit

2)      Freestanding AC units

3)      Evaporative coolers

Window AC Unit

The window AC units are exactly like their name suggests; they’re mounted on a tent’s window, with part of the appliance sitting inside the tent and the other outside a windowpane.

They’re by far the most popular tent air conditioning systems, and I’m a big fan of them.

I love the window air conditioners because they’re powerful and come in handy at cooling my living space, even in the hottest summer conditions.

Some of the window camping AC units are also compact, so much more than portable tent air conditioner coolers, and are great to have when you’ve to lug other camping gear.

Finally, the window air conditioning units don’t require a lot of accessories to run, which makes them quite a reliable cooling solution.

But there’s a catch with the window air conditioner.

Window AC units need a place to mount on your tent and will only work with tents with an AC port or AC window/AC flap.

You might have to make some adaptations for the regular tents, such as cutting an AC hole on the tent walls so the camping AC can fit.

Freestanding Tent Air Conditioners

The freestanding tent air conditioners are also known as portable air conditioners.

These air conditioning units don’t hang on a window like the previous option but actually sit inside the tent.

A big advantage of portable tent air conditioners is stealth. They sit inside your tent, and the only sign of an AC is a small hose running outside the power supply.

A stealth camping air conditioner doesn’t create unwanted attention and lowers the risk of theft.

Another benefit of the portable AC unit is it doesn’t require a tent with an AC port. I can use them with literally any of my tents.

But what I really like about the freestanding air conditioners is their portability.

They come with wheels, so I can literally move them to any location.

Are they flawless?

Definitely not.

A mark-down with the freestanding tents is they gobble a vast real-estate of my interior tent space, so they’re not fit for my smaller tents.

Evaporative Coolers

A collective drawback for both the freestanding air tent cooler and the portable AC cooler is there’re no battery-operated or solar variants.

These air conditioners only work if you’ve access to the electrical grid or a power generator. This poses a problem when I camp off-grid and out of town.

But the evaporative coolers solve the power problem.

When I don’t have access to a reliable source of at least 120V of electricity, an evaporative cooler or swamp air conditioning unit comes in handy.

A swamp cooler uses less power than the traditional party tent air coolers, and so a nice option when I can’t access the power grid or a generator.

They’re also an inexpensive purchase, and I find them great for beginner campers or those working on a tight budget.

Unfortunately, evaporative coolers have some drawbacks.

You shouldn’t expect magic from swamp coolers. They’re less powerful, and I wouldn’t generally recommend them for a tent camping trip.

Also, note that an evaporative cooler isn’t a true air conditioner. It keeps the tent cool by adding more humidity to your living space instead of ridding warm air as the typical air conditioners do.

So, you should always keep your tent’s air vents and windows open for air circulation unless you want to get “swamped” and drenched in moisture. Long-term use may also result in the formation and growth of mold.

Installing a Window AC Unit

Installing a Window AC Unit

Tents with AC ports aren’t necessary, but if you plan to a portable AC, then you definitely need one.

I find the built-in flaps convenient and necessary for mounting my window AC.

And here’s the best part, if I decide not to carry a tent conditioner, the AC port will double up as ground ventilation. I can also close the flap during spring or fall when I don’t need my AC. Win-win.

This versatility makes me a huge fan of tents with an AC port.

But if you have a party tent without an AC port, you can still make several iterations for a window AC fit.

And in the section below, I’ll take you through a step-by-step guide I followed when making my tent window AC-compatible.

1)      Pitching a tent

Pitching your tent gives you an idea of where exactly your window AC will go.

Next, measure the size of your heat exchanger and note down the dimensions.

2)      Positioning the window AC

The next step is determining the position of my window AC.

It’s one of the important steps for keeping my tent cool because I try to avoid the window AC blowing directly on my face and head.

I prefer the AC blowing on my feet or lower than my mattress. You can set it to whatever position you like, but not directly on your face or head. It’s unhealthy.

3)      Cutting the AC Port

Next is cutting, and it can’t get more meticulous than this.

Remember, you only have one chance to do it, and there’s no going back.

A small hole won’t fit your AC, while a bigger hole will result to cool air escape and hot air to get inside.

Use the measurement you took earlier, and be sure to take your time.

4)      Sleeving

The final step is sleeving the tent fabric against the tent.

Take some fabric and glue it around the AC port to prevent heat exchange and provide a snug fit. I prefer ripstop nylon and duct tape for seaming the edges.

Plus, it doesn’t fray the tent material.

How to Fit a Freestanding Air Conditioner to a Tent

How to Fit a Freestanding Air Conditioner to a Tent

I must admit that cutting my tent for AC ports isn’t the most pleasant experience.

You only have a single chance, and once you do it wrong, you can never go back.

The good news is that I always don’t have to deal with the AC ports when other options are available.

I’m referring to the portable air conditioners. No mods are required with the freestanding tent air conditioners, but you’ll need to fit them correctly in your tent.

Here’s how to go about it:

1)      Consider the size

Freestanding air tent conditioners are positioned inside the tent, so you need to consider the size.

It shouldn’t take much of your internal tent space.

For example, it wouldn’t make sense to fit a 2-person or single-person tent with a massive air tent conditioner.

Instead, the appropriate AC unit size should match the tent’s size.

2)      Placement

Unless you’ve a round tent, the ideal location for placing your tent is at the corner, or at least I prefer mine there.

Having my portable air conditioner at the corner “saves” on the prime internal space while keeping the conditioner out of the way.

I hardly stumble on it when it’s there.

3)      Running the accessories

Placement for an AC unit is more than just convenience and functionality.

You need to consider how accessories will run outside from the conditioner.

For example, if your conditioner comes with a condensation hose, you need to consider how it’ll run outside.

Power and Cooling Capacity of Air Tent Conditioners

Power and Cooling Capacity of Air Tent Conditioners

The most important question to ask when selecting an air tent conditioner is whether it’ll cool your room.

Usually, conditioners are rated using the British Thermal Units (BTUs), which gives an idea of how effective a conditioner can cool your living space.

Generally, the BTU rating for air tent conditions ranges from 5,000 BTU to 13,000 BTU. The higher the BTU, the more effective it is at cooling your living space.

So, what’s the ideal BTU for my camping tent?

Unfortunately, it’s not a simple answer because the right size for an air conditioner depends on various factors.

Also, keep in mind that there’s no standard measurement of the tent’s cooling efficiency, so you need to use rooms and buildings.

However, the idealness and power rating of an air tent conditioner will mostly depend on your tent’s size or square footage.

Tents with compartments are challenging to come up with figures, but generally, larger tents will require a higher-rated power output.

For small tents, less than 150 ft2 or less, a 5,000 BTU air tent conditioner is perfect. On the other hand, larger tents in the 350 ft2 are served well by the 8,000 BTU air tents.

In general, you should be looking for 20 BTU for every square foot of your tent.

Of course, size aside, there’re also plenty of other factors that determine the cooling efficiency of an air conditioner.

For example, the shade coverage and ambient temperatures also play a huge role in the internal temperatures of your tent.

Consider Condensation

Now, it’s easy to think you can choose the highest-rated AC unit tent for the best cooling effect.

But sometimes, it’s not the best option, which is why I recommend using this guide from Energy Star to determine the right size for your air conditioning tent.

See, while the tent isn’t much insulated, it’s still a small space, and using a large air tent can overwhelm it with cold air.

The result is condensation, leading to humid living conditions and wetness. It can even result in the growth and formation of mold.

Increasing the Efficiency of a Tent Air Conditioner

Increasing the Efficiency of a Tent Air Conditioner

There’re a couple of genius solutions that I’ve found to enhance the overall efficiency of my tent air conditioner.

Extra Insulation

Insulated tents have better retention of cooled air than un-insulated ones.

The former will retain the cooled air better and maintain zero breeze.

While it’s still impossible to attain full insulation of a tent due to their fabric, adding a blanket layer over your tent can drastically improve the insulation values.

Campsite Selection

Pitching your tent in the shade will add great value to your air conditioner’s efficiency.

Besides the extra insulation, pitching in a shaded area reduces the overall ambient temperatures inside your living space for a more pleasant experience.

Here’s a recap of how to improve the efficiency of your air conditioner and other tips to keep your camping tent cool;

  •         Pitch your camping tent in a shaded area. Try as much as possible to avoid direct sunlight, which will help your conditioner’s performance.
  •         You want to keep and retain as much of the cold air inside your space, so it’s helpful if you insulate your tent. Along with covering your camping tent with a blanket, you can also maintain zero breeze in your air-conditioned tent by sealing all the gaps.
  •         Finally, consider the air conditioner maintenance. Pay special attention to the filters, and check whether they’re washable. Dirty filters decrease the performance of an air condition tent.

Wrap Up

Wrap Up

Now you’ve it, our guide on how to air condition a tent provides you with everything you need to know about setting up a portable air conditioner.

Depending on the type of tent, you can choose a window AC or freestanding air tent air conditioner.

Be sure to consider the power rating of your choice of cooler for the optimal air-cooling effect.

More importantly, consider the steps I’ve listed to help with the efficiency of your air conditioner.

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Picture of Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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