What don’t you enjoy when camping in the summer? It’s probably the heat that often becomes unbearable inside a tent.
Things, however, don’t have to be that way. All you need is the best small portable air conditioner for camping, and you’ll have a more relaxing camping experience.
Perhaps it’s not just the heat that scares you but poor air circulation when camping as a group. But still, a portable air conditioner can also help with that.
What’s more, the little machine can also heat your indoor tent space.
But owing to the availability of so many portable air conditioners, how can you buy the best? Well, that’s where I come in.
This post shall cover a complete buying guide to help you shop for the air cooler. I’ll also take you through the different types of portable air conditioners for camping.
In a hurry? Check out my top recommended portable air conditioners on Amazon below.
Best Small Portable Air Conditioner for Camping: 5 Hot Picks
- Black+Decker BPACT10WT Portable Air Conditioner: Best Overall
- Black+Decker BPACT14HWT AC: Best Large Capacity Portable AC
- Tongmao Portable Air Conditioner: Best for One Person
- Easy-Take Portable Air Conditioner: Best Cordless Portable AC
- SereneLife 12000 BTU 3-in-1 AC: Best 3-in-1 AC
Buying Guide for the Best Small Portable Air Conditioner for Camping
Below are must-consider factors when shopping for a portable AC for camping:
The last thing you would want as a camper is a bulky and heavy AC that you cannot move around. So, I’ve insisted that the portable air conditioner has to be light in addition to portable. You should be able to lift or wheel it around your camping tent.
So, you have to consider its weight, which should be easily moveable. If it’s slightly heavy, then it should have rolling wheels so you don’t have to lift it.
Additionally, your AC should be compact to fit in your car.
I consider two features necessary when using a portable AC for camping. The first one is the AC/heater mode; that means a particular AC not only cools the air but heats it too.
The second feature is the dehumidify mode, which means the AC can remove dampness from your tent space.
These modes explain why most ACs come with the 3-in-1 functionality for cooling, heating, and dehumidifying. But still, others come with an extra fan mode, and so they have a 4-in-I feature.
- Power Rating
You need to consider your portable AC’s power rating for two reasons.
One, you should go for a power rating that would adequately cool your camping tent. So, if the rating is so small, your AC will be overworked, and the cooling will be inefficient.
Two, a good power rating improves the life of your air conditioner. If the AC runs without going on and off often due to insufficient power, its life improves.
Preferably, go for an AC with a power rating of between 5,000 BTU (British thermal unit) and 14,000 BTU depending on your tent or camper size and budget.
- Noise Level
Given that air conditioners promote airflow, they are likely to produce some sound. However, there are a few better options that keep noise at a minimum, thus less distracting. So, consider such.
Usually, the noise level is expressed in decibels (dB), of which any rate below 60dB is acceptable. If you go for a 70dBa and above AC, then the noise can be bothersome.
Some air conditioners come with the silent mode to allow you to sleep while the machine is working. Such options are also worth considering.
- Tent or Popup Camper Size
The kind of portable camping air conditioner that you need for a 2-person tent is different from what you need for a 5-person tent. The bigger the tent, the more powerful the AC should be.
It’s typical to go for a more massive tent when camping as a group, and that translates to investing in a more potent high-cooling portable AC.
- Your purchase includes One Dometic Brisk II Rooftop Air Conditioner, 15,000 BTU...
- Air conditioner dimensions: 30.5” W x 15” H x 29” D. Weight 85 lbs
- Performance: 15,000 BTU/h. Input voltage (AC): 115V. Does not include Heat Pump
- Dampening brackets reduce noise and vibration
- The Brisk II's smart design and improved materials combine to maximize air flow...
Overall, an 8,000-10,000 BTU-rated air conditioner suits a 200-300 sq ft tent while a 12,000 BTU-rated AC suits a 400 sq ft tent.
- Power Source
All portable air conditioners are power-operated, and you may have to choose between electricity, solar, and 12V battery power.
Nowadays, most campgrounds have electric outlets, which makes them suitable for electric ACs. If that’s your case, then you should buy a portable electric AC.
But if you have fears about the electricity being unpredictable, it makes more sense to go for a battery-powered or solar AC. Besides, most battery-powered ACs can run for 10 hours or more before charging, which makes them reliable.
Usually, battery-powered ACs don’t need any ventilation space apart from your tent’s indoor space. The situation is different, however, for electric ACs.
Most electric portable ACs come with a small vent, which is good news. You’ll need, however, to consider a tent with a large vent in case your AC doesn’t come with a ventilation hose.
You’ll not have issues setting up most portable camping air conditioners. That’s because you only need to place them somewhere in your tent before switching on.
There are a few others, nevertheless, that require you to set up their vents and adjust the setting before powering on. That should also be straightforward.
The manufacturer should provide a step by step picture guide to help you set it up.
- Ease Of Use And Maintenance
Look for a portable AC with intuitive controls, preferably an LED display. You should be able to switch and adjust the temperature and humidity stress-free.
You also need to consider its maintenance. Is the AC easy to clean? Can you replace the filters on your own? If the answer is a strong YES, then it makes sense to proceed with the purchase.
Portable air conditioners for camping exist in four major categories:
1. Battery-Operated Portable Air Conditioners
These portable air conditioners run on 12V batteries, which have an average runtime of 10 hours. They are generally lightweight, weighing less than 70 pounds. The best battery powered air conditioner can cool your tent indoor temperature to about 350F.
2. Solar-Powered Air Conditioners
These air conditioners come with solar panels and use their power. Unlike battery-operated ACs, which use stored energy, solar power AC can use DC directly.
If that’s the case, there won’t be power issues that are usually linked to AC-DC inversion. But still, a solar portable air conditioner can run via an inverter in case the sun isn’t shining.
3. Window Portable Air Conditioners
These air conditioners are similar to those fitted in the bedrooms and smaller apartments. So, they are suited to small spaces (up to 150 sq. ft) and come with a power rating of about 5000BTU.
They, however, need a ventilation spot, preferably a window. So, if you are adamant about getting this AC, you may have to alter your camping tent to create a window-like space on the side to fit the machine.
4. Spot Coolers
Spot coolers are the most potent, heavy-duty portable air conditions that enjoy a power rating of about 15,000BTU or greater. Though portable, they are slightly heavy. If you don’t mind the heavy lifting, you can go for these portable air conditioners for tent.
The Black + Decker BPACT10WT Portable Air Conditioner is a quiet, powerful portable AC that suits tents that are up to 250 sq. ft. The powerful machine has a 10,000BTU power rating.
It comes with fan speed controls that you can adjust quickly and a sleep mode to help you sleep undistracted. The electric AC is easy to install and comes with wheels that improve its portability.
It features a 4’11” hose for ventilation and a top-mounted LED with a timer for precise temperature control.
The small portable air conditioner for camping is also easy to clean and comes with 3-in-1 functionality. So, it’s an air cooler, a dehumidifier, and a ventilator (fan).
It measures 16.5 by 11.5 by 26 inches and weighs 26 pounds.
If you are looking for a large-capacity AC with more functionality, then consider this portable option from Black + Decker.
The Black + Decker BPACT14HWT Portable Air Conditioner comes with a 14000BTU power rating, enough for a 350 sq ft tent.
It features 4-in-1 functionality, which means it is not just an air cooler and a fan but also a dehumidifier and heater. The AC is easy to install, operate, and clean.
It features an intuitive LED display for the timer and temperature control. Plus, it comes with a lengthy power plug and a 4’11” for ventilation.
This air conditioner for tent also features speed controls for the fans and a sleep mode to allow you to sleep noise-free.
It weighs 35 pounds and measures 17.1 by 13.8 by 28.1 inches.
The Tongmao Portable Air Conditioner is designed to create your perfect personal cold air when camping. So, it’s great when you only want to cool or circulate the air around you without having to disturb the other campers.
The compact air conditioner comes with 4-in-1 functionality. The mode allows it to operate not only as a mini AC and desk fan but also as a humidifier and air circulator.
This small portable AC unit for camping is Freon-free, thus energy efficient. It’s also quite safe to use around pets and children. More to it, it comes with a three-speed function, and a 7-color LED for personalizing the air conditioning.
The device operates at a low noise level to allow you to enjoy your sleep, and it’s generally user-friendly.
This portable AC weighs 2.4 pounds and measures 12.2 by 7.3 by 6.0 inches.
How about you go for a cordless portable AC? That’s what you get when you buy the Easy-Take Portable Air Conditioner.
Since it’s cordless, you have to charge it beforehand or carry a USB power bank to charge later in the camp.
The AC doesn’t take much of your space since it measures 8.0 by 7.5 by 7.0 inches and is generally lightweights (2.29 pounds).
The air conditioner comes with a powerful 2000mAh battery that can run for 30-50 hours before charging. It features a 7-color setting and a three-mode setting to allow you to sleep undistracted.
This tent air conditioner battery powered device enjoys a 3-in-1 functionality, which means it’s an air cooler, a fan, and a humidifier.
The SereneLife 12000 BTU Portable 3-in-1 Air Conditioner may be slightly heavy (70.2 pounds), but it’s quite portable. Don’t worry about lifting the AC as it comes with rolling wheels and so you only need to push it.
It’s 12,000 BTU power-rated, which makes it great for larger tents that are 450 sq ft or more extensive.
It has a 56 dB noise level, which means it’s not noisy like most. The portable air conditioner comes with remote control, which makes its operation seamless.
It has a 3-in-1 functionality that allows you to use it as an air cooler, a fan, and a dehumidifier. The default mode, however, is cooling.
The portable camper air conditioner measures 17.4 by 13.4 by 32.1 inches.
1. Why Should I Buy A Portable AC For Camping?
You need an air conditioner that you can carry or wheel when you go camping. So, it should be portable. Its portability also means you can use the device at home or the office.
Besides, most of these devices not only cool your air but can also heat and circulate it.
2. How Many Portable Acs Will I Need For One Tent?
You only need one small portable AC per camping tent. That’s why you need to shop for the best portable air conditioner for camping. Just pick any of the air conditioners on my list, and you’ll be good to go.
3. Are Portable Air Conditioners Noisy?
Yes, they are, but not all of them produce distracting noise. Besides, a majority of them come with sleep modes to allow you to silence them when sleeping.
Here are the top considerations when it comes to less noisy (those with sleep modes) air conditioners:
4. Which Is The Best Portable AC For Large Camping Tents?
If you have a tent that is at least 350 sq ft, you need a high BTU-rated camping AC. Preferably, the BTU rating should be 10,000-14,000BTU.
I recommend the Black+Decker BPACT14HWT Portable Air Conditioner, which comes with a power rating of 14,000 BTU.
5. Which Is The Best Portable AC For Small Camping Tents?
Most small-size portable ACs come with a 5000BTU capacity, which is excellent for tents that are up to 150 sq ft. A good recommendation on my list is the Black+Decker BPACT10WT Portable Air Conditioner, which comes with a 10,000BTU power rating.
Have you found your small portable air conditioner for camping? It doesn’t go beyond the items on my list. They are the best, and so consider them. You can use my guide to decide on what suits you the most.
Alex Mwangi is the creator of Outdoor Right and an outdoor enthusiast. During his free time he enjoys riding his road bike or traveling the world looking for his next adventure.