How to Air Condition a Tent (2 Best Ways)

Summertime is the perfect time to go camping with family and friends.

But what do you do when the temps reach unbearable levels, and the humidity is through the roof?

You air condition your tent, of course!

Below you’ll learn step-by-step how to air condition a tent using the two best methods possible. Plus, tips to keep your tent cool whether you use an AC unit or not.

How Do You Air Condition a Camping Tent?

You can effectively air condition an outdoor camping tent with either a window AC unit or a portable air conditioning unit. A window AC unit will require an AC port on your tent, while a free-standing, portable unit does not.

Both methods of air conditioning a tent have their pros and con. So, let’s look at how to set each one up, tips and tricks to get the best results, plus the pros and cons of each.

How to Air Condition a Tent With a Window AC Unit

To air condition a tent with a window AC unit, you will need a tent with an AC port, a window air conditioner, an adjustable stand to set the AC unit on, and an electrical source.

Related: Camping Tents With AC Ports (Top Picks)

If you don’t already have a tent with a window AC port, we highly recommend the Bushnell Shield Series Instant Cabin Tent. It comes in 6, 9, and 12 person sizes. It not only comes with an AC port to hook up your window AC, but it also features Heat Shield Technology which blocks UV rays keeping the tent noticeably cooler.

Bushnell Shield Series 6 Person / 9 Person / 12 Person Instant Cabin Tent

Bushnell Shield Series 6 Person / 9 Person / 12 Person Instant Cabin Tent

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The Ozark Trail 12 person, 3 room instant cabin tent is an excellent option, as well.

And while there aren’t specific tent air conditioners (the closest thing are portable air conditioners for outdoor use), you can use a window AC for your cooling needs. We recommend the FRIGIDAIRE Mini-Compact Air Conditioner as its compact size makes it easier to carry to your campsite and setup. Plus, it features an extra-long power cord, temperature control, and 5,000 BTUs (perfect for a tent up to 150 sq ft). It’s one of the best tent air conditioner models that we’ve found.

FRIGIDAIRE 5,000 BTU 115V Window-Mounted Mini-Compact Air Conditioner

FRIGIDAIRE 5,000 BTU 115V Window-Mounted Mini-Compact Air Conditioner

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And if you need a stand, this Camco Adjustable height aluminum step is durable enough to hold your window AC and makes for a clean-looking installation.

Camco Adjustable Height Aluminum Platform Step

Camco Adjustable Height Aluminum Platform Step

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Once you have everything you need, it’s time to set it all up.

  1. Pitch your tent on a flat level surface that is preferably out of direct sunlight (this will help keep your tent cool with or without an AC unit).
  2. Set your adjustable stand on the ground next to the AC port and adjust the height so the top of the stand is level with the bottom of the port.
  3. Set your window AC unit on the stand and attach it to the port per the tent manufacturer’s directions.
  4. Plug the camping AC unit into the electrical power source and turn it on.

As you can see, the setup process is fairly straightforward. A few pro tips from campers who have used window AC units include:

  • You don’t necessarily need a special adjustable stand for the AC unit (though it will make your life a little easier and make for a cleaner-looking install). You can potentially use a milk crate, box, or any solid, sturdy items you like as long as you can line the AC unit up with the port.
  • You don’t need a large, powerful window AC unit to effectively keep your tent cool. Even though tents don’t have the best insulation, their small square footage only requires a minimal amount of BTUs to keep cool. Plus, a smaller AC unit will be easier to transport when camping.
  • Depending on the tent’s port and the size of the AC unit, you may need to fill in the gaps around the unit to seal it off. Don’t worry about critters getting in as most AC ports are screened.
  • Placing a tarp over your tent will help keep the cold air in and the warm air out. The rainfly is not enough. Placing a tarp on your tent and a rainfly over that is ideal.
  • While a campsite with electrical hookups will be your best bet, a powerful generator should be able to run a modestly sized window AC unit. While a generator will come in handy when there are no electrical hookups, they do add to the noise level already created by the AC unit.
Pros
  • An effective DIY method to air condition a tent
  • Takes up no space inside the tent
  • Can be less noisy compared to a portable AC unit
Cons
  • Requires a stand and careful setup
  • Requires a tent with an AC port
  • Not as portable or easy to move and install as a portable AC unit

How to Air Condition a Tent With a Portable AC Unit

To air condition a tent with a portable AC unit is simple – all you need is a tent, a portable AC unit, and a power source (an electrical hookup, gas-powered generator, or a solar-powered generator).

BLACK+DECKER Portable Air Conditioner with Remote Control

BLACK+DECKER Portable Air Conditioner with Remote Control

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To most effectively cool down your tent with a portable AC unit, you’ll want to:

  1. Pitch your tent on a flat level surface that is preferably out of direct sunlight (this will help keep your tent cool with or without an AC unit).
  2. Place the portable AC unit inside your tent.
  3. Run the duct hose from the AC unit to either a port that leads to the outside of the tent or you can use any opening.
  4. Plug the AC unit into the electrical power source and turn the unit on.

Like the window AC units mentioned above, portable units have their pros and cons, as well.

Pros
  • An effective method to air condition a tent
  • Does not require a special stand or AC port to operate
  • Designed for easy portability and installation
  • It’s not visible to fellow campers, making it less likely to get stolen
Cons
  • Takes up space in the tent
  • Can be loud

Is There A battery Operated Air Conditioner for Camping?

Yes, there are battery-operated air conditioners that you can use when tent camping. Battery-powered air conditioners come in several types: rechargeable, USB powered, and 12v car battery-powered units.

But, we need to be realistic here. Cheap battery-powered fans and evaporative coolers that use ice will not provide much comfort in a hot tent.

There are, however, more expensive options that are designed for outdoor, off-grid use.

For example, the Zero Breeze MARK 2 portable air conditioner features a 650 Watts / 2,300 BTU cooling capacity that can lower ambient air temperature by 30°F within 10 minutes! And its rechargeable lithium-ion battery allows it to run for up to 5 hours. Pretty impressive!

Zero Breeze Mark 2 Battery Powered Portable Air Conditioner

Zero Breeze Mark 2 Battery Powered Portable Air Conditioner

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Tips to Cool Down a Tent

Here are a few tips you can use to cool down a tent that doesn’t require running an air conditioner and even work without electricity.

Using these tips in conjunction with an AC unit or in situations where running an air conditioner isn’t possible will help keep your tent as cool as possible.

  • Tent Location: Pitch your tent in a location that is out of direct sunlight during the hottest times of the day. This is good advice whether you are using a camping tent, event tent, or a party tent. Also, wait until after sundown to pitch your tent, if possible, so it doesn’t collect heat all day long.
  • Choose the Right Color Tent: Believe it or not, the color of your tent will dictate how much heat it absorbs. You can effectively help keep your tent cool by choosing a tent that is bright and preferably white. See our guide titled What Color Tent Is Coolest in Hot Weather for more important information.
  • Tent Material: The material of your tent can play a large role in how much heat it lets in and its insulating capabilities. Canvas tents provide excellent insulation, helping to keep the cold air inside the tent and the hot summer air out. 
  • Use a Tarp: Tents are not well-insulated, so a lot of the cold air escapes the tent when using an air conditioning unit. You can help trap some of that cold air in and keep the warm air out by placing a tarp over the top of your tent and then the rain fly (if you have one) over the top of that.

Check out our guide on how to cool a tent without electricity for more tips!

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