Tent Air Conditioner
A tent air conditioner removes excess heat and humidity from a family camping tent and offers campers a good night's sleep as well as relief during the daytime. It is especially useful on days where the humidity is as difficult to tolerate as the heat.
For tent campers in very warm, humid climates, an air conditioner can make the difference between enjoying tent camping and staying home.
Because tent air conditioners need to remove both heat and humidity from the tent body, they consume a fair amount of electric current and require a 120-volt power source at the campsite.
Window air conditioners
Tent campers favor window air conditioners over other types.
Window a/c's are widely available in various sizes and offer the most cooling power for the price. However, they need to be mounted through a tent doorway, window or wall.
Portable room air conditioners
Room air conditioners are upright units, which sit entirely inside a chamber and feature an exhaust hose to vent warm air out window opening or a tent doorway.
Water condenses into a reservoir that needs to be emptied as often as every few hours in humid climates.
Although easier to set up than a window air conditioner, these units are costlier and heavier for the same amount of cooling ability.
Tent air conditioner sizes
Window air conditioners suitable for tent camping come in various sizes.
A 5000-BTU window air conditioner is the most popular size for family tent camping. These units are often designed to be as small and as quiet as possible.
A 5000-BTU a/c is suited to about any size family-dome tent.
It should also perform for a medium-size cabin tent with a 10' by 10', or a 100 square-foot floor plan.
A 6000-BTU window air conditioner will cool a large or x-large cabin tent to approximately a 15' by 10', or a 150 square-foot floor plan.
An 8000-BTU window air conditioner is available for oversize cabin tents or for campers in large tents who want to camp on exceptionally hot and humid days.
Tent air conditioners with good ratings are available online with free shipping, making it economical to shop from home.
Getting good performance from a tent air conditioner
Pitch the tent in the shade during the hottest part of the day. Shade trees should be to the south or west of the tent.
Direct sunlight striking a tent will cause it to heat up inside, possibly 15 degrees more than the outside temperature. It will be very difficult for the air conditioner to keep up with this "solar gain" heating issue.
If there are no trees near the campsite, either
- rig a tarp over the tent, or
- lay a reflector blanket on top of the tent rainfly.
Keep the shiny side of the reflector blanket up, in order to reflect sunlight away from the tent body.
In order to keep too much air from passing through the ceiling mesh, it may also be helpful to lay fabric or plastic over some of the mesh netting. Leave enough ventilation for breathing.
These tent air conditioners should all run comfortably on the basic, 120 volt, 15 amp electrical service that is available to any electric campsite.
There will be electrical capacity left over for other small electrical devices.
Campers should use an outdoor extension cord rated at 15 amps or higher.
The extension cord should be in good condition, with no gaps in the insulation.
Rain and electrical tips
The front of the a/c should be sheltered from rain.
Tent campers should try not to run electrical devices when the ground has been wetted by rain.
Before rain can soak the ground, turn off any devices, put on shoes or boots, and carefully unplug the extension cord from the campsite outlet box. Wait for the ground to dry and then plug the extension cord back in.
Keep extension-cord connections off of the ground and sheltered from rain.
Most readers can stop here and go look for a tent air conditioner. Campetent wishes you many enjoyable camping trips in warm, humid weather.
The following information is for readers who would like more information to help them determine a suitable a/c for a special situation.
Sizing an air conditioner to a tent.
The best tent air conditioner is the smallest that will do the job.
A tent window air conditioner should be able to reduce the temperature inside the tent approximately 15 degrees F (8 deg C) and should be able to remove much of the humidity. This should make the tent body comfortable for most campers.
A large difference in temperature inside the tent body is less conducive to tent camping, where campers are in and out of a tent, in order to spend more time outdoors. Campers shouldn't expect a tent body to be quite as cool as the inside of a house.
If the a/c is too large for the amount of space inside the tent body, it will remove the heat before it can remove much humidity. The tent body will feel cold and damp.
If the a/c is too small for the space inside the tent body, it may be able to provide some spot cooling directly in front of the unit, but will not be able to make the tent comfortable.
Estimating an a/c for your tent
Campetent has applied some basic arithmetic in order to devise the BTU vs tent-size guidelines shown above.
For campers who would like to determine their own results...
5000BTU vs tent size
A 5000 BTU window a/c is often rated to cool a room with 150 square feet of floorspace.
Assuming a 7-foot ceiling, this would be a space of about 1000 cubic feet.
Houses insulate and seal much better than family tent walls and mesh ceilings. A 5000-BTU a/c cannot be expected to adequately cool a 1000 cubic-foot tent body.
Let's de-rate the room-size rating by 30 percent, in order for campers to get more satisfactory performance from a 5000-BTU a/c inside a tent.
So a 5000-BTU a/c should adequately cool a 700 cubic-foot tent body in warm, humid weather, as long as campers keep it out of strong sunlight.
Assuming a 6-foot tent ceiling for a medium-size tent, this determines a floorspace of a bit more than 100 square feet, or approximately a 10' by 10' floor plan.
A medium-size cabin tent would have these floor dimensions.
Many tents with this amount of floor space have dome ceilings, which means sloped walls and substantially less interior space. This allows for larger floor dimensions. These larger dimensions should be enough for most all family dome tents.
6000 BTU vs tent size
A 6000 BTU window a/c is often rated to cool about 225 square feet of floorspace.
Assuming again a 7-foot ceiling, this determines approximately a 1500 cubic-foot room.
Adapting this to a tent gives approximately 1000 cubic feet of space in the tent body.
Allowing for a 7' ceiling in a larger tent, this would allow for approximately 150 square feet of floorspace. This would be about a 15' by 10' floor plan.
These floor dimensions cover most large and x-large cabin tents.
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