Summer means heat, and heat means you need a way to stay cool while camping. Fortunately, you have plenty of options to stay cool that don’t involve bringing along a bulky, loud fan. Best of all, portable air conditioners exist for all types of camping.
Modern camping air conditioners are designed to keep you cool longer without disturbing your sleep, which is why they use less energy and make less noise than their predecessors.
Keep reading to learn all about the best camping air conditioners for 2023 for every type of camping. We’ll walk you through our favorite picks, then provide you with a buyers’ guide and frequently asked questions by buyers of camping air conditioners.
Our Top Picks
Zero Breeze Mark 2
Best for RVs
Coleman Mach 15+
Best for Cars, Vans, and Trucks
BougeRV Portable Air Conditioner
Best for Outdoor Spaces
HESSAIRE MC37M Portable Evaporative Cooler
The ZERO Breeze Mark 2 is the most innovative camping air conditioner on the market. It’s the world’s first ultra-portable air conditioner. This camping air conditioner is lightweight (at only 16.5 pounds) and drops 30 degrees in just 10 minutes.
It fully charges in 6 hours, and its battery lasts 3-8 hours, depending on the setting. Settings include cool, fan, sleep, and strong. You can also choose between buying one or two extra batteries when making your purchase.
This camping air conditioner reaches 2300 BTU and cools 25 to 40 square feet.
Noise: 52 dB
- Easy to bring with you anywhere
- Cools areas quickly
- Supports recharging via power station, car, solar, and while in use
- Not able to cool a whole RV
Best for RVs
If you own an RV, you seriously need to consider investing in the Coleman Mach 15+ Air Conditioner. This air conditioner sits on your rooftop and is capable of cooling your entire RV at 15,000 BTU. This is the most powerful camping air conditioner on the market!
If you’re going to be camping in an area without an electric hookup, you will need a generator designed for RVs to run this air conditioner.
(This AC unit requires at minimum a 3,500-watt generator and a dedicated 30-amp service. Using a lower-rated generator may cause trouble when you start the AC unit, or you may need a soft starter.)
Noise: 70 dB
- Strong and powerful
- Limited 2-year warranty
- Can be installed to a ducted system
- Uses significantly more wattage than other camping air conditioning options
Best for Cars, Vans, and Trucks
You don’t want to run your vehicle’s AC the entire time while you’re car, truck, or van camping, so invest in the BougeRV Portable Air Conditioner Portable Air Conditioner which cools 54 square feet of enclosed space at 2899 BTU. This is also an ideal camping air conditioner for cooling down tents.
The EVA Foam Board can be purchased separately to easily vent the BougeRV Portable Air Conditioner through your vehicle’s window, which will greatly improve the cooling effect of this product.
You can pair this camping air conditioner with a Jackery Explorer Power Station (which can be charged with solar panels to conserve energy plus help keep the air conditioner and generator running off the grid). This camping air conditioner requires a power station with at least a 360W AC adapter.
This camping air conditioner has four modes: strong, sleep, cooling, and fan. It’s super lightweight and easy to move around. It includes dual exhaust venting hoses that are adjustable from 30, 60, 90, up to 180 degrees
Wattage: 250 Watts
Noise: 50 dB
- Runs on 120v, 24v, or 12v (with converter)
- Fast cooling in 15 seconds
- 12-month warranty and lifetime technical support
- Customers mention issues with contacting support
- Cannot use car battery to run this camping air conditioner
Best for Outdoor Spaces
If you’re just looking for an option to cool down your campsite but not your tent or RV, take a look at the HESSAIRE MC37M Portable Evaporative Cooler. This portable 40-pound camping cooler is perfect for setting on your campsite and cooling down the outdoor space on a hot day.
While this is technically an evaporative cooler (also sometimes called a swamp cooler), not an air conditioner, it is efficient at shooting cool air farther than many camping air conditioners, covering up to 950 square footage.
It uses little energy, which makes it perfect for camping with a low-wattage power station like the Goal Zero Yeti 500X. You can attach it to a garden hose for continuous use or fill water in the tank for 3-4 hours of cooling.
This is also what we recommend having at your campsite if you plan on sleeping in a hammock on a hot summer night.
Hessaire also has portable evaporative cooling fans available to cool various square feet, so you can choose the best cooling fan for your budget and needs. Check out the models for 500-square feet, 700-square feet, and 1600-square feet.
Wattage: 85 Watts
Noise: 53 dB
- Compact in size
- Wide cooling area
- Simple manual dial control with four settings
- Louvers that can be moved up for adjusting air up and down
- Requires you add water, which could be challenging while camping in some areas if water sources are limited
- Not designated for inside spaces
Camping Air Conditioner Buyer’s Guide
You might decide to pay close attention to energy ratings if you’re trying to reduce your carbon footprint.
You’ll only need to know about a camping air conditioner’s energy usage if you are camping at sites without electricity (requiring you to use a portable generator) or if the campground you stay at charges for utilities by usage (rare, but some luxury campgrounds do).
If you are looking to buy a portable power system for camping off-the-grid or primitive camping, you will want to be positive your generator can handle your camping air conditioner’s energy needs.
All of the best camping air conditioners have a low decibel rating. A camping air conditioner that is too noisy can be bothersome for light sleepers, and no one wants to be kept up at night while trying to stay cool.
Cooling Space/Square Footage
You want to consider how much space your camping air conditioner will cover or needs to cover. Some options will require you to be right by the camping air conditioner to feel relief, but others will easily cool down the whole space.
Cooling power is typically measured in British Thermal Units (BTU). The higher this number, the more powerful the device is.
You might be wondering why an air conditioner’s cooling power is measured in BTU. BTU isn’t just about your air conditioner. It’s a unit of measurement used all over the world for measuring how much heat is needed to increase or decrease one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.
Follow this chart to determine how much cooling power you need. (Most 4-person tents range from 55 to 65 square feet, and a 40-foot RV typically is around 320 square feet.)
|Square Footage||BTU Needed|
Other factors like the number of people, sun, and even the color of the tent or RV’s roof can impact these numbers and require more cooling power to successfully remove heat from your camping area. RVs also are long and narrow, meaning they lose heat faster than a square or round area like a tent.
A camping air conditioner should be lightweight for easy transport to your campsite.
Many camping air conditioners will allow you to adjust the angle that the air shoots. Take a look at the angles that the camping air conditioner, so you can change the angle of the air as needed.
You will also need to note how your camping air conditioner will be positioned when in use. Can it be on the ground, or is it easy to mount on top of something?
A standard warranty period for a camping air conditioner is one year. If you purchase on Amazon, you’re guaranteed a 30-day return window if you are unsatisfied with your product.
Camping Air Conditioner Frequently Asked Questions
Can you leave a camping air conditioner on all day?
Yes, in most situations, it is safe to leave your camping air conditioner on all day and night.
Most portable air conditioners will automatically turn off once the temperature reaches your desired temperature, but that’s not the same as turning it off completely because it’ll continue to turn on and off throughout the day and night as temperatures fluctuate.
Keeping your camping air conditioner all night may not be practical on a battery, and it increases your carbon footprint if you’re connected to power. The EF Ecoflow Wave 2 uses clean energy that will help you stay cool longer while helping the environment and saving money.
How often does a camping air conditioner need to be drained?
This is going to depend on your portable AC and the humidity level. For example, the EF Ecoflow Wave 2 does not need to be drained if humidity levels are below 70% in cooling mode (though you will still need to drain it in heating mode).
A rule of thumb is to drain your camping air conditioner every 8 hours, but we recommend reading your device’s manual for drainage recommendations.
Do all portable air conditioners have to be vented out a window?
In most cases, you will need to vent your camping air conditioner because it needs to expel warm air – when your air conditioner is turned on, it releases heat. If you are not venting your camping air conditioner, that heat can be released right back into your space.
You don’t necessarily need to vent your camping air conditioner out of a window–you can vent it through a door, wall, or ceiling.
You may want to cut a hole in your tent for the vent if your tent does not already have an AC port or hole installed (which should be installed on the right side or the bottom side of your tent like the Bushnell Instant Tent).
Many campers prefer to just crack their door open to vent their camping air conditioner, but this can let in bugs.
The good news is if your camping air conditioner is 12V battery-powered like the BougeRV Portable Air Conditioner, then your tent’s natural ventilation will be enough (although you will still need to vent this air conditioner when used within the walls of a car, truck, or van for optimal cooling).
Wrapping up the Best Camping Air Conditioners
You’re ready to stay cool this summer with one of the best camping air conditioners, and you can even do it in an environmentally-friendly way with the brand-new EF EcoFlow Wave 2.
If you’re looking for more eco-friendly ways to stay cool, check out our recommendations for our favorite solar camping fans.
- About the Author
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Nicole Kinkade grew up in campgrounds in the Midwest with her family in their RV and has many fond memories around the campfire. She and her husband took many tent camping trips at the beginning of their relationship, and she looks forward to sharing the outdoors with her young son as he gets older.
She loves discovering new camping techniques and sharing them with the world. With a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Media Communication, she is a passionate writer who loves sharing her knowledge online.
Nicole can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org