Camping in Australia is great fun, but the heat can get to you after a while, especially if you're camping away from the coast in the summer months. Using a camping air conditioner presents as an attractive option, but can they really keep you cool while you're camping?
The answer is yes, but it depends. Some camping air conditioners are effectively useless, but there are certainly a few models on the market that have potential. Here, I've taken a closer look at how camping air cons work and how to choose one. I've also outlined five attractive options for different uses.
Let's get into it!
My Review Process
So I'll be honest, I haven't ever owned a camping air conditioner. However, I have seen quite a few during my travels, and I've heard very mixed reviews.
To select the leading portable AC units available in Australia, I looked at several important factors. The best tent ACs should keep you cool, have low power requirements, come in at a reasonable price, and be relatively portable. Ideally, you should also select a model with a decent run time so you can stay cool overnight.
Every model I've selected excels in most, if not all of these areas. I've also heard great reviews of all five from fellow campers and travellers, so I trust that they work in Australian conditions.
If you're looking for a powerful all-around option and don't mind paying a little for it, the Shinco Mobile Air Conditioner stands out as an excellent option. It does require 240 Volt power, so you will need a deep cycle battery setup or access to mains power to run it - solar power is great if you plan to run an AC.
However, its 9000 BTU rating enables it to cool large areas very rapidly, and it comes with a built-in dehumidifier. It's designed for use in areas up to 22 square metres, so it should keep everything from 4-6 person tents to 10-14 person tents nice and cool.
I love this powerful tent AC because of its excellent effectiveness and what it brings to the table, and I'd seriously recommend getting your hands on one to keep your tent cold.
Looking for something small and compact? The Arctic Air Pocket Chill has you covered!
This miniature evaporative cooler is small enough to fit in your pocket yet powerful enough to run for a long period (up to 12 hours) without recharging. It's not suitable for cooling larger tents, but it's excellent as a personal AC to blow cool air on your face.
What's more, it's super affordable and won't blow your budget.
This is a larger unit from Arctic Air, but it works just as well. The Pure Chill 2.0 is an energy-efficient option that uses just 8-10 watts, enabling you to save money on your cooling costs. However, it does require 240 Volt power.
One thing I like about this medium-sized unit is that it uses evaporative cooling technology. It won't make your tent cool like a traditional air conditioning unit, but it's still a powerful tool for beating the heat. What's more, it holds enough water to run for up to 10 hours - giving you a cool, comfortable night's sleep.
You will have to pay for it, but this larger evaporation cooler from Honeywell is suitable for all types of camping tent. From massive tents to smaller hiking tents, it will keep you cool throughout the summer.
Like many of the models on this list, the Honeywell 525-729CFM Indoor Evaporative Cooler requires 240 Volt power. However, it's a super powerful unit, it comes with a remote control, and it can be used for an extended period without issue.
This small Evapolar evaporative cooler is rated at just 7.5 watts, which means that it effectively costs nothing to run - you'd have to run it for 133 hours to use 1 kWh of electricity, which costs well under $1, no matter where you are in Australia. It's also USB-powered, which means that you can run it off a portable battery pack.
I chose this compact AC unit over other similar models because of the innovative evaporative material that increases its efficiency. It's a little pricier than similar types of units, but it's definitely worth a look!
Camping Air Conditioner Buying Guide
Buying a portable camping air conditioner can be a very difficult process. There are a few different types out there, prices range from under $100 to well over $1000 for seemingly similar units, and not all work as well as claimed.
Below, I've listed a few things to keep in mind to ensure you make the perfect choice!
As always, it's important to set a clear budget before you start shopping. Portable units can vary in price significantly, and identifying how much you're willing to spend will help you focus your search.
Type Of Unit
There are a few different types of camping coolers on the market. The most widely seen is the evaporative cooler, which works by blowing air over water or a moist medium to cool it. These are quite energy efficient, but they don't work well in high humidity.
You will also find portable air conditioners that cool the air mechanically, along with a range of fans and "coolers" that don't actually have any air conditioning properties at all.
If you don't have much space, you may be forced to go with a mini compact unit like the Arctic Air Pocket Chill. Some larger and oversized units are still suitable for camping, but you will need a little extra space in your car to move them around.
A unit's BTU is a measure of how powerful it is. With a smaller airtight tent, you can get away with a unit with a few thousand BTU. However, I'd suggest going for 8000 BTU plus for medium size tents and above.
If you're planning to use your cooler while you're sleeping, it's important to get a relatively quiet one. Some performance units can be quite loud, which can make it difficult to sleep.
As I'm sure you know, the cost of air conditioning can be quite high if you're not careful. Some larger units chew through the power like nothing else.
But the good news is that some camping ACs are much more energy efficient, especially if you go for an evaporative cooler.
Some portable ACs have special requirements that you will need to be aware of. For example, evaporative coolers need to be filled with water regularly, or they simply won't cool.
Many camping units still require 240 Volt power as well, which can be frustrating. I'd suggest either camping at powered sites or setting up a solid solar panel and reverse cycle battery system.
Still other units require an exhaust pipe that leads to the exterior of your tent.
The Shinco Mobile Air Conditioner is the best overall camping air conditioner available in Australia. It's super effective and can cool large areas rapidly. The Arctic Air Pocket Chill is a nifty personal cooler, and the other three units on this list are absolutely worth considering.
Alternatively, you might like to go for a camping fan rather than an AC - they tend to be more space-efficient and affordable.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.