I love to camp but sometimes when it’s really hot outdoors, camping isn’t the dream place to be. The summer months bring about hot, dry air, often at record-breaking temperatures.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have the fantasy camping life that also included a nice cool tent? You are in luck!
This post will not only remind you of how awesome camping can be, but it will help you to see how you can maintain the authentic outdoor experience camping brings while keeping your tent nice and cool.
8 Ways to Air Condition Your Camping Tent
I’ve listed eight ways you can air condition your tent:
- Window AC Unit
- Free-standing Air Conditioner
- Tent Fan
- Tent Insulation
- Maximize Ventilation
- Improvised swamp cooler
- Set Up in a Shaded Area
- Create Your Own shade
The most common way to air condition your tent is with a window air conditioner unit. When you choose this option, a smaller-sized unit works best, and here is why: you will have to transport and move the AC unit around, so the smaller the better.
Also, a smaller window AC unit will typically have fewer BTUs. That is a good thing because it will keep the tent from becoming too cold or damp inside.
Even though a tent is not very insulated it is an extremely small space and using a large window unit meant for a large room can overwhelm a tent with cold air.
One thing though, if you use a window AC unit for camping you need to make sure your tent has an AC port. Having that will allow you to attach the window AC unit to the side of the tent.
There are a couple of different ways to accomplish this, but the best and easiest approach is to purchase a camping tent with an AC port or AC flap already built into the tent. The other way is to cut a hole in the side of your tent and DIY a camping tent with an AC port.
DIY is not for the faint of heart, especially when it comes to having to cut a hole in the source of protection and comfort for your camping experience. So, tread lightly with this, and seek help if you need to.
If you choose to go this route, make sure to take your time as you only get one shot at cutting the right size hole in the side of your tent. You will also need to seam the edges of the hole to prevent the fraying of the tent material.
Also, using a window AC unit to cool your tent requires a stand to support the weight of the air conditioner. Tent walls are too flimsy to support the weight of an AC unit by themselves.
A lot of things can serve as a stand, like a milk crate or a storage tote. To have the most supportive stand without having to spend a lot of money, you may want to DIY if you’re looking for a more professional-looking stand.
The other way to air condition your tent is with a portable AC unit or freestanding air conditioner. Rather than having the AC units on the side or outside of the tent, the unit can sit inside the tent with you. It comes equipped with a hose that runs outside.
These types of AC units are great to work with because of their stealthiness and the fact that they do not require a tent with an AC port. With a free-standing AC unit, the only thing visible on the outside of the tent is a small hose that can be run outside of any hole that can accommodate a 6 or 8-inch hose.
Having a stealth tent air conditioner is a great option because it doesn’t attract unwanted attention and it reduces the chances of theft. Another advantage is that they do not require an AC stand. They sit directly on the ground.
However, one drawback to the free-standing AC units is that they can take up precious interior space. As you know, spacing is limited when it comes to camping.
So, having to give up even a little of your already small space can seem like an inconvenience. On the other hand, you get to sleep comfy in nice, cool air at night, so, you be the judge of what’s the priority.
However, if you decide to air condition your tent, air conditioners use too much electricity to run them practically from batteries or solar power. It will need a source of electricity.
Because of this, a reliable source of 120V electricity is a must when camping with air conditioning. If you don’t have access to 120V electricity while camping, you might want to consider an evaporative cooler or swamp cooler instead of an air conditioner, as they use 75% less power than a standard AC unit and can run off of batteries.
You might also want to consider powerless ways to cool your tent.
Outside of using an AC unit, a tent fan is an affordable and space-saving option for creating more air throughout your tent. Understand, the results won’t be as effective as having an AC unit, but they are a lot more compact and can be hung from the ceiling of your tent.
Some also double up as a light, which makes it more practical, especially if you have a smaller tent.
Insulation doesn’t just work for cold-weather temperatures, it’s also just as effective in extreme heat conditions. While in the winter you’d insulate your tent from the inside using a reflective foam or emergency foil blanket, in the summer months you can reverse this principle by covering your tent on the outside.
That ensures the reflective side is facing up to send any heat back to where it came from.
Tents often feel stuffy and dry due to a lack of ventilation, particularly in single-walled tents. Some double-walled tents allow you to maximize ventilation by removing the rainfly.
Some tents also allow you to open the windows, however, leaving a mesh covering to keep bugs out. Maximizing your ventilation is an easy way to stop the air inside the tent from becoming stale.
However, this way is not always practical if it’s raining during your camping trip, as you’re sure to let water inside your tent.
Another way to increase the effectiveness of a tent fan is to place a bucket of ice water in front of your fan. As the water evaporates, the fan will blow the cool water over you. That works well as an improvised swamp cooler but won’t be as effective in very humid conditions.
If all else fails, you can also make it as easy as possible to keep your tent cool by selecting the shadiest spot to set up your tent. This sounds obvious, but being out of the sun, or shaded by some trees and bushes will make a big difference.
If finding the shadiest spot is not an option, DIY and create your own shade out of a tarp and some rope. You can even tie it to some trees and hang it directly over the tent as an extra layer to block out the sun, or alternatively take along some extra poles to fix it to.
This is also extremely handy and can double as a rain shelter. You can set it up to be away from your tent to have an area to socialize or cook under.
Depending on how you choose to air condition your tent, it can get costly. Here are some tips to keep costs down when air conditioning your tent, especially if you’re purchasing an AC unit:
- Adding extra insulation to your tent can save lots of money. Tent fabric has no insulation. Adding just half an inch of any type of insulation would increase the value.
- Check for air gaps. Air is in constant movement, even inside a tent, especially if it’s being blown by a fan or AC. Sealing all the gaps will increase the performance of the AC unit and lower the costs.
- Choose the properly sized unit. A smaller unit will have difficulties cooling down the required volume of air, and a much bigger unit will turn on and off too many times to be efficient. Having the proper size AC for your tent will reduce costs.
There’s no exact science when it comes to air conditioning your tent. You may have to try a few of these options before you find the one that works for you.
The easiest and most effective way to air condition your tent is with a specially designed AC unit, however, if you don’t have the power outlet or space available to accommodate one of these, you may have to consider other options.
You may even need to combine some of these options to get the most comfortable cooling remedy for your tent. If you’re a DIYer, this is a great time to get creative. If you’re not a DIYer, you may be able to get some ideas here.
Hopefully, at least one of the options I’ve listed here will work for you.