In humid areas of the country a swamp cooler just adds to the misery, I remember spending a few weeks in Mena, AR at a paint shop. At 97 F and 90% humidity the sanding crew was dying from the heat in the shade, so the boss went out and borrowed or rented a swamp cooler. As I was just observing our aircraft being painted I could sit right in front of the swamp cooler all day, from walking around I discovered that the cooler feeling air only lasted about 4-6 feet from the cooler, after that the breeze felt ok and more than 10 feet away all you got was the noise of the huge fan.
The swamp cooler was about 6 feet square, it had a 5 foot tall fan blowing through some sort of paper strips that were being saturated with water being pumped over them from a large tank in the base. the base tank needed to be hooked to a garden hose to keep it from going dry. For all the water being evaporated I think the swamp cooler just made it worse inside the paint shop, and it made the paint jobs have problems.
the main reason air conditioning feels so nice in humid areas is that the air conditioner removes quite a bit of water vapor, dry air allows you to sweat, which is the way your skin gets rid of extra heat. Just look underneath your car or air conditioner and you will see a puddle on a hot humid day. In fact modern cars run the air conditioner on low when you select "defrost" to remove the excess moisture.
For those of us who don't want to lug an air conditioner in our trailers (or tents), and where a swamp cooler won't work, or where you would need a 50 mile extension cord or deal with a generator, I took a few different ideas from Instructables.com and put them together in my car.
Being from Maine, I bought a new car without air conditioning, since we only need AC for a week or two up here almost 25% of cars are sold without AC, saving about $800. Since then I got a job in central NH where the weather is much hotter than coastal Maine. I decided I needed some AC.
I bought a used heater core off of fleabay for $25, a cooler that would fit between my kids booster seats in the back seat $35, two computer cooling fans for $15 fleabay, and a 12 volt live bait well pump $30 wallyworld boating isle. When assembled as shown the heater core blew cold air on the back of my head, but was not enough to cool off my car with it's untinted windows and blazing sun shinning in. I also thought my heater core was garbage as water streamed from it while it was running, after pressure checking it I found it was still good, I had been condensing tons of water out of the humid air.
While this was a failure, I learned a few things, that if applied to a well insulated area (inside my TD which if you made it a cube would only be 160 cubic feet (5' W X 8' L X 4' H)) will work as long as enough ice is used.
I modified my "air conditioner" into a "body cooler" and now it works great, and the ice lasts forever.
Step 1: What are you hacking together?
-flexible hose and clamps
-12 volt bait well pump (I bought the 500 gph model, way over kill on the flow rate but cheap)
-cigar lighter plug
-largest cooler you can fit in the area it will sit. (air conditioners are rated in BTU's, the smallest ones for sale cheap are the 5,000 BTU ones, house and larger ones are rated in tons, this air conditioner will depend on how much ice you can put in it) I found the "marine" coolers the best for what I needed as they tend to be all white (less solar heat gain) and much more rectangular with less bulk (takes up space) mine also has large easy to hold handles (easy to strap into the seat belt in the car, and easy to carry full of ice and water) it also has an external hinge, most hinged lid designs have a air leak around the hinge, the external hinge type have a lid that will lock in place even if you remove the hinges.
for a 12 volt air conditioner you will also need:
-a car heater core (mine was from a jeep Cherokee, I figured one from an SUV or van would have a larger heat exchanging area than one for a small car)
-as many 12 volt fans as it will take to cover the grid section of the heater core.
-12 volt switches or a house thermostat (if you want the fan to go on and off at a certain temp)
-a drip pan that is larger than the heater core and some sort of drain line to carry condensation back to the cooler
for a body cooler:
-small diameter PEX plumbing and fittings (I used 3/8" but now I see 1/4" in some hardware stores)
drill and hole drills
pex ring crimpers (if you use pex) (my crimper is a two part C shaped set of jaws that you squeeze using vice grips, it has spots in it to crimp 3/8", 1/2", 3/4", and 1" pex copper crimp rings.