Camping in the summers can be scary if you hate extreme heat and sweat. The idea of sweltering in a tent without temperature control is not a pleasant one.
Especially if you are comping away from established campsite with no power.
In such a scenario, the thing that you need to carry with you is a battery operated air conditioner that can bring the tent or car temperature down to bearable levels.
Sounds too good to be true. Right?
In this article, we are going to explore what portable air conditioners are, how they are powered, their effectiveness, and then look at a few good rechargeable portable AC for camping.
Battery powered air conditioner for camping – do they work?
Some of us might be skeptical about an air conditioning unit that works on battery power. Traditionally, we have seen large AC units installed in our homes that consume a lot of power to work.
Then how can an AC unit work with a battery? Well, they do.
A battery operated portable air conditioner for camping and traveling is usually not huge in size compared to house AC units. They also have less BTU rating which means they won’t cool down a very large room or tent.
But, if you are using one to cool down your 1-person tent or a cabin of your parked trailer, it should be enough.
Challenges to cool down a tent or car cabin
While looking for a battery air conditioner for camping, you have to keep in mind two things and manage your expectations according.
- Your portable air conditioner is not going to drop your tent or car temperature to chilling 60 degrees Fahrenheit. There is not enough power in the small compressor running on a battery to remove that much heat.
- Your car or tent does not provide very good insulation to stop the ambient heat to get inside even if you are running your AC. Your camping AC for the car or tent is not working in a well-insulated space.
With these two challenges in mind, you have to manage your expectation of what a rechargeable Air Conditioner for camping can and cannot do.
Types of portable air conditioner for camping
The term air conditioner is often exploited because of the way people use it. Usually, when we say “air conditioners” we mean the ones with air compressors and refrigerants.
But manufacturers usually market their non-compressor type devices (aka air coolers) as ‘air conditioners’ as well.
Technically, they are right but this might confuse a good number of users who think it is compressor type.
The same is the case when you search for a battery powered portable air conditioning unit for camping. Not all of them will be compressor types. Some are just simple air coolers masquerading as air conditioners.
So, let’s understand the different types of portable air conditioner for camping use.
1. Air Conditioners (Compressor type)
This is the most common type you might expect when looking for a ‘true’ air conditioner. This type of air conditioner has one main component that is absent in all other types i-e COMPRESSOR.
The compressor is a rotary device that runs on electricity and compresses refrigerant gas. It is usually attached to the backside of an AC unit and is usually painted black in color for improved thermal performance. If you are looking for actual battery powered cooling, this is the device you should be getting.
Portable AC for car or camping works using the same principle as your room AC unit. It uses the compressor to compress a refrigerant gas that absorbs heat from your tent/car and expands. The hot gas is then compressed again outside your tent to release the heat into the atmosphere and the cycle continues.
2. Swamp Air Cooler (Evaporative type)
Swamp air coolers are simpler than air conditioners and don’t have a compressor at all. They just use water evaporation to create a cooling effect. Since they don’t have a compressor and a close cycle assembly, they are relatively cheap, slightly bulky (because of the water bucket), and less effective, especially in a high humidity environment.
With air coolers, you can drop the temperature of the room by 5 to 10 degrees Celsius depending upon the relative humidity of the air and outside temperature.
Air coolers are not replacements for an actual air conditioner. They are just slightly cooler fans due to the air passing through wet pads and cooling down. With an air cooler, you cannot set the desired temperature or control it much.
You can use them as a cheap replacement portable car air conditioner but never trust them enough to leave your pet inside the cabin with windows closed.
If the air is highly humid (due to recent rain or camping near a water body) your air cooler can only act as a fan without any actual cooling.
3. Dry Air Cooler (Non-evaporative type)
This one is a cross between evaporative air coolers and compressor types air conditioners. It is still not as effective as a compressor air conditioner but has slightly better performance than a swamp air cooler.
In a compressor air conditioner, gas is compressed and circulated through evaporator coils. The gas expands in the evaporator coil and cools them. Air is then blown through the cold coils and into the room.
In the non-evaporative type air coolers, cold icy water is circulated through the evaporator coolers (instead of compressed refrigerant) and then air is blown through the cold coils to cool the air down.
In this type of air cooler, the air doesn’t come in direct contact with the water. Due to this, there is no evaporation and hence the humidity of the room doesn’t increase when used for a longer period.
This also works equally well at high humidity levels, unlike the evaporative type air coolers which are useless at high humidity levels. The dry air coolers make perfect portable air conditioners for camping and outdoor use.
The below table gives a comparison of all 3 types of air conditioners/coolers.
Swamp Air Cooler
Dry Air Cooler
Cooling medium Compressed Refrigerant Water evaporation Cold water circulation Lowest temperature 68 °F (20 °C) 5-10 degrees
Works in high humidity? Yes No Yes Weight Heavy Lightweight Lightweight Power requirement High Low Low Size Compact Bulky
(with water bucket)
(with water bucket)
How to power portable AC for camping?
Rechargeable battery air conditioners
Portable battery operated air conditioner for camping needs a considerable amount of power to run the compressor. That’s why, most of the models you will find will be powered via rechargeable lithium-ion batteries – the same batteries commonly found in your cell phone.
Some models include these batteries as part of the air conditioner (either built-in or removable) and others run on portable power station battery packs commonly used by campers. The same power station can also be used for other devices like battery powered kettles to make a quick cup of coffee or battery operated heaters during the winter camping season.
Car plugged air conditioners
Car plugged air conditioners and air coolers are meant to be used inside your car cabin. They can be powered up directly from your car battery either using the cigarette port or through a direct connection to the dashboard via wires.
If your air cooler is running on a 12v DC power, you can plug it directly into your cigarette plug. It would probably come with a compatible plug as well. Some portable air conditioners run on 24v DC and would not work with your 12v cigarette plug.
Best Portable Air Conditioner for Camping
The market is full ofportable battery operated AC for camping and outdoor use. Some are true compressor-powered air conditioners while others are simple air coolers branded as air conditioners.
Also, not all of them are suitable for your tent or car camping.
Below, I have shortlisted 4 small portable air conditioners for camping that can make your outdoor stay cool and breezy. The research took me over 2 days to gauge the suitability of each (because I was looking for one myself as well so it was partially a personal endeavor).
|Air Conditioner||Power Source||Type||Weight|
|EENOUR QN750||Power Station||Air Conditioner||22lb|
|Zero Breeze Mark 2||Rechargeable Battery||Air Conditioner||28 lb|
|Airo Portable AC||Power Station||Air Conditioner||67 lb|
|Evapolar evaCHILL||Mobile Battery bank||Evaporative Air Cooler||1.65 lb|
This is my most recommended product if you are looking for a portable air conditioner for camping that just works.
EENOUR is a Japanese brand so you can be sure that you are not buying some cheap Chinese product. It looks, works and lasts like a solid product meant for harsh outdoor conditions.
They make two different Portable AC models – the QN750 & QN650. The QN750 is the upgraded version, is slightly larger and has a higher BTU rating. Both models use Panasonic Twin Cylinder Compressor for long-lasting performance.
You can run this portable AC on 100V AC, 220V AC, or 24V DC directly from your portable camping power station. The maximum power consumption on the highest setting is just 210W to make sure it can be used all night with a power station.
It has a dual hose system that circulates outdoor air to avoid building any negative pressure inside the tent or cabin. The powerful twin-cylinder compressor cools down air temperature by 16°F in just a few minutes.
For a compressor-type AC unit, it is quite portable. It just weighs 22 lb and you can carry it in one hand easily. It has a handle on top that facilitates easy carrying.
Overall, this will be my go-to portable tent air conditioner because of its lightweight, low power consumption, reliable Panasonic compressor and its ability to run on a portable power station or generator.
Battery Powered Portable AC
- Uses a reliable Japanese Panasonic compressor
- Low power consumption
- Portable & easy to handle design
- dual hose system, no negative cabin pressure
- Runs on a generator or large power station
- A relatively new brand founded in 2020
This is one of the very few truely battery powered air conditioner for tents in the market that works as advertised. Zero Breeze started as a Kickstarter project back in 2018 and they raised over 1 million dollars in crowdfunding to make the next-generation portable air conditioner.
2 years later, they released the Mark 2 – a more advanced and improved version of their initial design that saw an improved compressor performance and change to the overall design of the unit intake and outlet.
The main component of the ZB Mark 2 is its proprietary designed pure sine wave air compressor that works on 24v DC. It is powered by a monster 630 Wh rechargeable battery that sits perfectly below the AC unit and clips on perfectly. It can run for 5 continuous hours or even an entire night if sleep mode is activated.
The compressor consumes 240W power and can bring down the room temperature considerably. As we discussed above, for best results, make sure your tent or car cabin is richly insulated.
Since this is one of its kind actual battery-powered air conditioners the company knows what they created and they are charging for it. At the time of writing this article, it was available for a little over 1300 USD (check the latest price on Amazon).
As more companies know the demand for this product and start producing them, the price should be accessible. The price is high partly due to the large battery but in my opinion, it should be around 600 USD in a fully competitive market.
Battery Powered Portable AC
- Compressor-type AC designed specifically for camping
- Compact and portable size for easy handling
- Comes with its own rechargeable battery
- 24V operating voltage for running on battery station
- Reliable and low-maintenance compressor
- Heating & cooling circuits too close resulting in low efficiency
- Battery gets hot during operation
This one is a different product. It is designed as a full-fledge powerful air conditioning unit for homes. Although it is portable, it doesn’t come with its own battery and is not specifically designed for camping.
It needs a 115v wall output. But since we are looking for portable AC solutions, there is a workaround to use this one for camping.
If you are camping out of a car or RV and have enough capacity to carry a bigger AC unit along with a power station (fancy word for camping battery bank), you can make this solution work. Regular campers carry power stations on camping to power up their electronics and other items.
A big power station (like the Yeti 6000x) that can provide enough Watt-hours to run the AC for a good part of the night. The Yeti 6000x stores up to 6000 watt-hour energy and can power the 800 BTU Airo portable AC for up to 7 hours or all night.
I am not saying it’s a cheap solution but it is a solution that you can consider if you really like a good night of sleep (and have enough cash to burn). The power station alone costs up to 7 Grands.
Heavy Duty Portable AC
- Full fledge high powered air conditioner (14,000 BTU)
- Can be used both outdoors and indoors
- Easy to move and install without special tools
- Comes with a washable filter
- High power consumption due to high BTU rating
- Not suitable for long running on a portable power station
If there is a contest for the cutest battery powered cooler in the world, I am sure the Evapolar will win it by a margin. It is small, well built, and lightweight to carry anywhere (only 1.65 lb or 750 grams). It comes in 3 different colors with an LED panel for lighting.
This one is not a compressor-type air conditioner but a swamp air cooler that uses evaporation to cool down the air in your room. It is powered by a 2A 5v USB cable that you can plug into anything that can charge a smartphone. You can run it off your laptop or even your small battery bank. Since it has no compressor, the only power-consuming component is its fan motor.
Since this is an air cooler, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
- It will not reduce the temperature of the whole tent or cabin considerably. It only cools down the air blowing out of the vent.
- It will increase the humidity of the air if used inside a closed area. Without proper ventilation, the increasing humidity will decrease the rate at which your body sweat evaporates. If your sweat does not evaporate, your body temperature will rise and you will feel quite miserable.
- You will have to replenish the water bucket every few hours since the water is evaporated with the air. If you run it without water, it’s just a regular small battery operated fan, not a cooler.
5V Evaporative Cooler
- Small in size & highly portable
- Can be operated via car charger or a battery bank
- Patented evaBREEZE technology provides excellent cooling
- Filters out dust particles
- Not a true compressor type AC but an evaporative cooler
- Ineffective in high humidity areas
- Increase close cabin humidity when operated for long
Battery powered air conditioners and air coolers can make your outdoor stay comfortable and sweat-free but before getting your AC or cooler, you have to keep in mind a few things we discussed above. Let me recap this for easy reference:
- Not all air conditioners are compressor-type ACs. Most of them in the market are just fancy coolers.
- Compressor-type portable AC consumes a lot of power so keep in mind their performance limitations and how long can they run on batteries.
- If you are carrying a camping power station, you can use it to power any portable AC but carrying both the power station and AC is a huge logistic challenge.
- In high humidity areas, you can only use non-evaporative type air conditioners (either compressor type or dry air coolers).
Hope you find this guide helpful in selecting your battery powered air conditioner for camping and outdoor use.
Camping Air Conditioners – FAQs
Can I use an air conditioner in a tent?
Yes, you can use an air conditioner inside your tent. If it is a compressor-type air conditioner, make sure the tent is closed to retain the cold air. If it’s an evaporative type cooler, an open tent will avoid excessive humidity.
Do portable camping air conditioners work?
Portable camping Air Conditioners are designed to be light-duty with lower BTU ratings but they are effective enough to cool down your small 1-2 person tent. You can run them through a battery power station.
Which portable air conditioner works best?
EENOUR QN750 Portable Air Conditioners is a Japanese brand that utilises a reliable Panasonic twin cylinder compressor. It is low consumption AC that works best for camping tents.
Will a 5000 BTU air conditioner cool a tent?
A 5000 BTU air conditioner is enough to cool down a small to medium tent. You can run such low powered AC unit via generator or a portable power station.
- #1 – Zero Breeze Mark 2 Portable Air Conditioner.
- #2 – EENOUR Portable Air Conditioner, Home AC Cooling Unit, 24V DC & 100-240V AC.
- #3 – Icy Breeze V2 Pro Portable Air Conditioner & Cooler.
- #4 – HIFRESH Small Evaporative Air Cooler and Humidifier.
Liquid nitrogen is being used to power the world's first air conditioner that works without electricity. There are no wires, no power supply and no greenhouse gas emissions with the revolutionary Kensho unit, which has been developed and patented in Israel.Is there a battery AC? ›
The most battery-powered air conditioners you'll find are actually just prompted-up fans. There is only 1 battery-operated air conditioner that deserves to be called an air conditioner. We will definitely see more of these kinds of portable AC units developed.Is there a portable air conditioner that does not use a hose? ›
You can't get a portable AC unit without a hose. It's just not physically possible (a hoseless portable AC would break the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics). That, however, doesn't mean you won't be able to provide cooling for your room/s. Portable AC units without a hose don't exist.Can you run a portable air conditioner on a battery? ›
The short answer is yes. With the proper equipment and enough batteries, you can run your RV AC unit on batteries. In addition to the lithium batteries, you'll need an inverter to invert the DC battery power into AC power for most air conditioning units.Do portable battery operated air conditioners work? ›
Yes, battery-powered air conditioners do really work. It's important to remember that they don't have the cooling power of a traditional AC and are not designed to cool large spaces. A battery-operated AC works well, though, for personal, close-up cooling or small spaces such as a tent or RV.How do you play AC while Boondocking? ›
Run an Air Conditioner While Boondocking
Your first instinct may be to turn on the air conditioner. Doing this will usually involve firing up a power generator because air conditioners are very power hungry. If you really need A/C, consider using a portable 2000 watt generator that uses less gas.
- Ductless or mini split air conditioner.
- Window unit or portable air conditioner.
- Evaporative cooler or swamp cooler.
- Attic fan.
- Air cooling fan.
- Geothermal heating and cooling.
If using 6 volt batteries, at 200 AH, you will need about 12 to 14 of these batteries. Expect about similar overall weight, as these are heavier batteries. AGM Batteries – Look to getting between 14 to 18 of these batteries in 12 volt, 100 AH varieties, or about 8 to 12 in 6 volt, 150 AH varieties.Do they make a 12 volt air conditioner? ›
Nomadic Cooling Co.
Dometic recently released a 12V air conditioner, the Dometic RTX2000.
Do all portable air conditioners have to be vented out a window? No. With a ventless portable AC system, you don't need to vent anything out the window—but it will be harder to circulate the hot air from the room without one, so you'll need to come up with another solution (like a fan).Does arctic air ultra run on batteries? ›
Yes, the Arctic Air Pure Chill can function well on its battery, which is rechargeable. However, you also have the choice of using the Arctic Air Cooler with the cordless option as long as the battery is charged. You can recharge the battery on the Arctic Air Pure Chill by plugging it into a USB port.Is there a portable air conditioner that doesn't vent outside? ›
Yes. The truly ventless cooling devices are called evaporative coolers or 'swamp coolers'. They create airflow and cool you like a cool wind; they do not, however, lower the overall temperature of the room like portable air conditioners that need to be vented.Do mini portable air conditioners work? ›
Do personal air coolers work? Yes, personal air coolers work like a charm. Furthermore, they can keep you cool while cutting energy costs. They evaporate air and turn warm air into cold air to reduce the temperature in the room.Do portable air conditioners need electricity? ›
A portable AC uses 1.176 kWh of electricity per hour, 9.41 kWh per day and 35.27 kWh per month, on average.Is it cheaper to leave portable AC on all day? ›
First things first, yes, it is more efficient to leave your air conditioning on. This doesn't mean what many people assume, though. You shouldn't be leaving your air conditioner on full blast 24/7 by any means. There's a right way and a wrong way to do this, which we'll explore shortly.Do portable air conditioners work as well as window units? ›
Window and portable air conditioners are both designed to cool a room, but their performance is not equal. A window AC cools a room the best and is more energy-efficient and affordable. A portable air AC is easier to install and is useful when your window is too small for a traditional unit.Do all portable AC need water? ›
Do You Have to Put Water in a Portable Air Conditioner? You don't have to fill in a standard portable AC. However, if you have an evaporative portable room air conditioner or otherwise known as a swamp cooler, you'll have to refill the reservoir with ice and water.Can a portable AC be left on all night? ›
A window AC or portable air conditioner can run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without shortening its average lifespan. Running continuously will not cause overheating, excessive wear and tear to the unit, or any other damage that will shorten its life.Can a lithium battery run an air conditioner? ›
Even though lithium batteries offer more available power off-the-grid, an AC units draw too much power for most battery banks to handle. It's not recommended you run your air conditioner off grid unless you have a generator.
A small portable fan goes a long way to move warm air, create a breeze, and cool your RV. During the evening, set up one fan in a window pointing inward to pull cool air in, and one fan pointing outward to pump hot air out of your RV. During the day, use shaded windows to draw in cooler air.How do Boondockers stay cool in RV? ›
- Camp in higher altitudes. This is what most boondockers do. ...
- Camp along the Pacific Coast. ...
- Stay Away From High Humidity. ...
- Get a Dehumidifier. ...
- Buy a Portable Air Conditioner. ...
- Position Your RV Awning Against the Sun. ...
- Use Reflectix Sheeting. ...
- Use heat reflective paint on your roof.
You just need a fan and two plastic soda bottles to make this air conditioner. Modify the bottles by cutting off the end and punching holes in the sides. Then strap them to the back of the fan and fill the bottles with ice. Voila!How can I get colder without AC? ›
- Stay hydrated. ...
- Take a cold shower or bath. ...
- Use cold washrags on your neck or wrists. ...
- Use box fans. ...
- Close your curtains or blinds. ...
- Sleep in breathable linens. ...
- Install energy-efficient light bulbs. ...
- Cook in the morning, with a slow cooker or outside.
This unit is the most widely purchased brand, and highest rated portable AC unit in the 5,000 BTU range. Four (4) 100 amp hour lithium phosphate batteries (also known as “LiFePo batteries”) will keep this AC unit for running about four (4) hours maximum. This is assuming these batteries are fully charged to begin with.How many hours does AC battery last? ›
How Long Do C Batteries Last? The lifespan of a C battery depends on the specific model and size, as well as the power consumption of the device where it is being used. On average, a standard 1.5V LR14 battery should last more than 18 hours when discharged at a rate of 200mA (milliamps).How long does AC cell battery last? ›
On average, a standard C-size 1.5V battery can last for more than 18 hours when discharged at 200 mAh.How long will a 12V battery run an air conditioner? ›
Usually, cars running on the standard 12-volt lithium battery can run an air conditioner for up to 30 minutes. Batteries with amp-hour ratings higher than 40 could potentially run AC for longer.Is 12 volt AC the same as 12 volt DC? ›
No 12 Volt DC and 12 Volt AC are not the same thing. They are extremely different given the extremely different properties of AC and DC.Can you use a portable air conditioner in a room with no windows? ›
Yes. For window AC insulation, most portable ACs require a window to vent out warm air, there are other options to consider when your room is windowless. You can vent out the warm exhaust air through the wall, the ceiling, the door, or the dryer vents, depending on your most convenient option.
Portable air conditioners can be remarkably convenient for many homeowners and renters, and they are an affordable way to bring a little cool air into your living space. They can also be a lifesaver if your regular air conditioner is broken — you can get them up and running quickly while you wait for repairs.Does arctic air Ultra have to be plugged in? ›
About Arctic Air Ultra
Arctic Air Ultra is a personal air cooler that draws in hot, dry air and converts it to cool and humidified. Operation is simple and only requires the water tank to be filled and the unit to be plugged in to a wall outlet.
It is a rechargeable device that runs for 10-12 hours after one full cycle of charge. The bonus part is that Arctic Air Pure Chill users do not have to buy a humidifier and air purifier separately.How long does Arctic Air battery last? ›
When fully charged, they will last a good 4 hours plus on low or medium settings.Do single hose portable air conditioners pull air from outside? ›
Single hose portable air conditioners work by pulling stagnant air from inside the room. The motor inside the unit then cools the air for circulation throughout the space. The unit also takes the excess warm air and moisture and funnels it through the hose and out the window.What is the best smallest portable air conditioner? ›
The Arctos Portable Air Conditioner Fan is the smallest portable air conditioner we've reviewed. It's diminutive at about 6.5 inches wide and 9 inches high.How can I cool my house without electricity? ›
- Close windows and blinds during the day. ...
- Only open the windows when it's colder outside. ...
- Dampen the curtains at night. ...
- Identify the coolest room in your home. ...
- Close the doors of rooms that aren't being used. ...
- Avoid cooking indoors. ...
- Wait until nighttime to turn on appliances.
Best portable AC for garage
For maximum flexibility, theBLACK+DECKER BPACT10WTcan roll in and out of the garage as needed when you'd like to freshen the space up on a hot day. The unit costs $379 and delivers 10,000 BTU to a space between 150 – 250 square feet.
An air conditioner would need around 1,200 watts of solar panels for each ton of cooling capacity. This is assuming the solar panel is exposed to 4 peak-sun hours per day.How long will a 200Ah battery run an air conditioner? ›
If your goal is to run an air conditioner in your Trailer or RV with your lithium batteries, know that one fully charged 200Ah lithium battery will give you about one hour of run time on a typical 15,000 BTU air conditioner, assuming no other loads.
Four 12 volt batteries is the very minimum needed to run a rooftop RV air conditioner. But then, that will only run an air conditioner for about 1 hour maximum. Of course, it depends upon the type of battery.What is the fastest way to cool a room without AC? ›
- Cover Windows. Leaving your windows uncovered during the sunniest hours of the day lets in a considerable amount of heat. ...
- Optimize the Use of Fans. ...
- Turn on Exhaust Fans. ...
- Turn Off Lights. ...
- Skip Heat-Producing Appliances. ...
- Open Windows at Night. ...
- Heat-Proof Your Bed. ...
- Get Low and Sleep Low.
- Check and update your home insulation. ...
- Purchase non-electric items for backup. ...
- Create some outdoor shade. ...
- Block out the heat. ...
- Let the breeze in. ...
- Cool down with water. ...
- Sleep outside or in a cooler room. ...
- Don't cook inside.
When fully charged, they will last a good 4 hours plus on low or medium settings.Can Arctic air run without being plugged in? ›
Yes, the Arctic Air Pure Chill can function well on its battery, which is rechargeable. However, you also have the choice of using the Arctic Air Cooler with the cordless option as long as the battery is charged. You can recharge the battery on the Arctic Air Pure Chill by plugging it into a USB port.Can you use a portable AC in a garage without a window? ›
Buying a portable air conditioning unit can help you cool a garage with no windows. However, you will have to drill some type of hole for ventilation. Portable air conditioners put out a ton of heat and are known for being less efficient on electricity.How do I get an air conditioner in my garage without a window? ›
- Open the Garage Door. Depending on the angle of the sun and how well-insulated your garage is, opening the door will provide a big breath of fresh air. ...
- Add Powerful Portable Fans. ...
- Try a Dehumidifier. ...
- Build a Low-Tech Swamp Cooler. ...
- Buy a Portable Air Conditioner.