With summer being just a couple of months away, it would be the perfect time to bring the entire family out for a camping trip. To cool down on a hot summer’s day, it would be a great idea to invest in a tent with an AC port to easily install an air conditioning unit at any time.
When choosing a tent with an AC port, pick a polyester fabric with a silicone coating since this material doesn’t warp and is highly durable. Make sure the opening is situated on the side or bottom of your tent and can fit your AC type. Avoid shelters that have a mesh roofing at all costs.
Popular choices amongst campers
Although there’s a great interest in these types of tents, the market doesn’t seem to present to many options. Most of the times you’ll find people trying to adapt an existing tent to fit an AC unit.
Here are some of the best tents with an air conditioning port that you can buy today:
Candora Speed Open Tent Outdoor 4-6 People
If you open the Amazon page for this tent (check it here), you’ll find some mid-range reviews and I really don’t know what’s to complain about a cheap glamping tent. It sleeps up to 6 people, has big openings, an ac cutout, and side windows. Everything you need is included. I’ve read reviews that it leaks at the bottom, quoting “water pools up all around in the bottom seam that makes a cup and holds water”; I’m not sure if this is not due to a poor site selection and bad installation.
Wenzel 8 Person Klondike Tent with AC port/flap
This tent is ideal for trips with lots of friends or a big family. It can sleep 8 persons, it has the ac opening, but the thing that’s amazing about this one is the open porch area. It’s almost half the size of the tent. Check the product page for more information and price updates. Speaking of price, you’ll often find it on sales and it’s way cheaper than other brands that sell less for more.
Check if the tent has the AC port in the right position
The AC port should be positioned on the side or the bottom part of your tent. Having the port position directly on your head can cause health risks. An air conditioning unit cools the air and lowers the amount of humidity within a given space.
According to studies, low temperatures stimulate the nerves on your face responsible for chewing which is why we chatter our teeth when we feel cold. With cold air directly blowing on your head, the chattering starts and would cause blood vessels to contract to preserve heat. This will cause a headache or, in severe cases – a blood clot.
Portable camping AC units are usually elevated and easy to reposition. There should be no problem in adjusting the placement of the device as long as your exhaust hose is securely fastened on the tent’s AC hole.
Make sure the air con opening has the right size or it can be adjusted
Before buying your tent, you must first determine the type and size of your air-conditioning unit. The framing of window units of 5,000 BTU come in a standard size of 12 inches by 16 inches. Larger units may not be ideal to use for camping since you would want to have everything compact and easy to carry.
Most AC port sizes will give you an allowance of 0.5 to 1 inch on each side for you to be able to fit in your device, and adjust it accordingly. This wiggle room allows you to move your unit in with ease, not having to worry about accidentally ripping your tent during the process.
Other tent models come with an elastic band or mesh sheet that will allow you to make sure that the cooling unit is completely sealed in. It is essential to seal the gaps before switching on your AC. These gaps will just let hot air in and will not allow your unit to cool the space efficiently.
Camping AC units have a different structure and installation procedure. These units come with an exhaust hose that needs to be lead outside of the tent. So, if you are planning to use a portable AC, you would need an adjustable AC port to be able to fasten the exhaust hose securely through the opening without any gaps to ensure that the unit efficiently cools the area.
The air con needs more attention during use. On a humid day, you must drain the reservoir frequently since it fills up fast due to condensation.
Don’t forget to check the quality of the fabric
It can be quite overwhelming to choose the right fabric especially when there are dozens of materials in the market with a variety of coatings and specifications. The materials range from cotton to a series of cotton blends to nylon. For this article, we will be focusing on the top two, best fabrics for an air-conditioned tent.
Nylon and polyester are popular choices among campers. The nylon fabric is lightweight and easy to use – hikers highly recommend these. However, this material is not UV or heat resistant making it susceptible to damage in the extreme heat.
Polyester, on the other hand, is very durable, easy-to-maintain, affordable and ideal for large tent structures. This fabric isn’t exactly breathable, which means it’s the best choice for using an air conditioning unit with.
Once you have chosen the fabric material, the next thing you should check is the Denier (D). The Denier is the standard unit of measurement used to assess the weight and thickness of the threads used in the tent’s fabric. A higher Denier count would mean a thicker and stronger material.
For example, a 150D Polyester would be stronger than a 75D polyester. Tents with higher Deniers can withstand prolonged exposure to the sun and other elements. Heavy duty tent shelters and event tent tops use a 150D, whereas common camping tents have Deniers ranging from 15D to 75D.
By the time you’re done choosing the fabric and Denier, you can select different coatings and other specifications that would work great with your need. Most nylon and polyester fabrics can be coated with a waterproofing spray like Polyurethane (PU) or Silicone.
Polyurethane is the most common coating used for tent fabric. It functions great as a waterproof barrier and is definitely more affordable than silicone. Over time, the layer may wear down due to UV exposure and improper storage.
Silicone, on the other hand, can reinforce the strength of the fabric as well as provide waterproofing. The coating repels water which allows you to simply shake it off the tent.
You also have the option to use two coatings (the Silicone coating is placed on the outer side whereas the PU coating is placed on the inner side of the tent). With a Silicone-Polyurethane (Sil/PU) coating, you can maximize the benefits of both.
One thing to avoid is purchasing tents with a mesh design that is poorly sealed; most would have a velcro seal which won’t eliminate the gaps in between. These gaps would eventually leak the hot air and defeating the purpose of having an air conditioning unit in the first place.
When choosing the material the first thing on your mind should be durability. You would want to be able to keep your tent for a long time and be able to maximize what you spent.
Find out what problems other people have with these tents
Most people would assume that having a heavy duty electrical device in a lightweight tent would cause the fabric to melt. But because the AC unit is actually situated 10 to 12 inches above the ground and only the cooling unit is directly touching the tent’s fabric, this has not been an issue at all.
The condenser in the outside unit of the AC is situated far from the tent’s fabric so that the probability of melting or heat causing damage is nearly impossible.
If you have chosen the correct tent material, rips wouldn’t be a concern at all. Designers who add AC ports onto the tent would opt to use high Denier fabric around the area of the port. These ports are sewn with extra layers just to avoid fraying over time.
Thanks to the fly trap installed, users wouldn’t have an issue with rain either. The fly trap is designed to keep the rain and other elements off the AC’s outdoor unit and completely seal the port when it is not in use.
However, one major concern users face with having a tent with an AC port is not being able to fully seal the indoor unit of their air conditioner. We’ve mentioned earlier that most tent AC ports have an allowance to accommodate the frame of your AC unit. This gap is often left unfilled and has been a source of discussion among users.
Some would opt to just seal the gap with cloth or tent fabric, while others take a more creative approach. One user actually went ahead and purchased some rubber pipe insulations and cut it according to the size of the port and used it to seal the edges. The insulations created a barrier that filled in the gaps and also provided as extra support for the cooling unit of the AC.
Some companies have come up with a couple ways to improve the design by using a mesh, zippers or velcro to solve this issue without reducing the current size to accommodate your AC unit.
A DIY solution will work, but you have to do it properly
If you have already purchased a tent that does not have an AC hole, and you’re really not looking to spend more money on another one. You can definitely modify your existing tent with a few household items.
There are actually two methods on how you can create your own AC port. First, if you are skilled in sewing, all you need is a sewing machine, zippers or velcro strips, and fabric glue. Simply, measure out the size of the port according to the AC unit you plan to use. Mark the portion you plan to attach your zipper or velcro onto.
It is important to coat the area with fabric glue, before stitching. The reason behind this is to prevent the tent’s cloth from fraying when you start sewing. The tent’s fabric is very different from ordinary cloth, a small hole can eventually get bigger cause a rip and that’s something you would want to avoid from happening.
Once you have spread an even amount of fabric glue, and have completely dried the area – you are now ready to start sewing the zipper or velcro onto the cut-out. This will now serve as the resealable flap of your AC Port.
If you’re not really good with a needle and thread, you can also use “no-sew” adhesive to attach your zipper or velcro. Just like the steps earlier, be sure to measure everything accordingly before cutting.
Add a mesh fabric or netting around the port to keep out insects and completely seal the indoor unit within the tent.
Check what other gear will you need to complete the air conditioning system
Once you have your tent AC port ready. It’s time to set-up the Air Conditioning system, this process is fast and easy compared to actually picking out the tent.
For window type air conditioning units, you would also need to prepare a stand or crate that measure about 10 to 12 inches above the ground. This crate will hold your AC unit in the right place. It is crucial that your stand will allow your the AC’s outdoor unit to breath, if the outdoor unit is completely sealed off, the heat generated from the condenser can cause a fire.
Portable air conditioning units are a lot easier to install. All you need is to place the exhaust hose out of your tent, and you’re good to go. There’s no need to worry about your condenser causing a fire. The very design of the portable unit, allows the hot air to escape through the exhaust hose while the intake cools the unit down while it is on.
Of course, the most critical part is the power source. Without a stable power source, there’s absolutely no way you’d be able to make your AC unit function properly. Most campsites or parks would have electricity outlets you can directly plug your AC unit into, just be sure to be ready with adaptors that can convert your AC unit plug to a universal connector that would fit their sockets.
If you’re planning to camp out in the wilderness, you would need to invest in a small portable generator capable of handling your AC unit’s BTU. Theoretically, for a 5,000 BTU air conditioning unit a basic 4,000 Watt portable generator would be enough.
Once you have everything in place, the only thing left to do is plug in your AC and enjoy the comfort of your cool tent.
Ask the manufacturer how the AC port will work in case of a compartmented tent.
The cooling power of an AC unit greatly depends on the British Thermal Unit (BTU). The higher the BTU, the more powerful the AC unit meaning it can cool a larger space. The basic 5,000 BTU AC unit can cool up to 150 square feet; this is more than enough to cool a tent.
Large tents suited for 8 to 10 people are often divided into compartments for sturdier structural design. Ideally, when you do have a tent like this, you would have a large central area that would break out into smaller rooms. AC ports are usually situated in these large rooms and can distribute the cool air throughout thanks to the material of the fabric used.
Tents that are 15 to 20 feet wide would usually have a second port to be able to distribute the cold air evenly around the space.
Look for tents with better insulation
Most large tents would already come with an extra insulation cover or tarp that you can put over your tent during scorching days. The tarp would have a shiny side which faces outwards. The science behind this is pretty simple; the heat from the sun bounces off the reflector of the tarp, this keeps the heat off the tent instead of letting it get absorbed by the fabric.
If the tent you have purchased does not have this cover, there are other solutions. You can buy emergency blankets separately. These blankets are also equipped with a reflector, and all you need to do is put it over your tent and secure the sheet with clamps. They come in different sizes; small tents may require 1 to 2 blankets whereas larger ones would need 5 or more.
Finally, see what experts recommend
Based on user reviews tents that are easy-to-set-up are the most popular. Beginner’s or people with no experience in camping can quickly pitch their tent and install their AC units with no issue.
Large tents with movable partitions are definitely great especially when traveling with family. These partitions allow you to convert large rooms into smaller sleeping spaces. The AC ports for these types of tents are equipped with an adjustable frame, fly trap to protect your AC unit from the elements and a protective mesh to keep insects from entering through the port itself.
Cabin-like tents are great for big families. Some are able to accommodate over 10 people within a three-bedroom living space. These tents are usually equipped with two AC ports which distribute the air evenly across the three large rooms. It comes with a separate fly trap and insulator sheet should you need to prepare for heavy rains or intense heat. Tents like this may cost more but is definitely a great buy.
At the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to be able to be comfortable while you’re on your trip. By finding the best tent that suits your needs at an affordable price with all the added value features, you’re definitely going to have a home away from home. For summer days, a tent with an AC port is a “must have”. Find out what you need to know about them and how you can get the best one.