Introduction: Air Conditoned Tent for Those Hot Months

Picture of Air Conditoned Tent for Those Hot Months

Well for those who live in areas where it is almost impossible to tent camp during the hot part of the year this is should be a welcome cost efficient solution. Hot camping is no fun, epically in places where it does not cool down very much at night and is humid like Florida. So I was looking for ways to air condition my tent since I have a 5000btu window mounted air conditioner at my disposal. After looking I found 2 methods which look very promising. The AC Boot ( and this nice creation by Andrew Davis ( I decided to build something like the ac boot since I needed to travel light and didn't want to bring along all that ducting required for the second idea.

Step 1: Gather Materials

Picture of Gather Materials

- 1 Tent (Cost: free hopefully)
- 5000 BTU Window Mounted Air Conditioner Arpox. (Cost Variable)
- 2 Yards of Ripstop Nylon which will be more than enough (Cost: Aprox. $14.00)
- 1 Bottle of Fabric Glue INSERT NAME OF GLUE HERE (Cost: $6-10)
- Bungee Cords (Cost: $3-5)

Note: Sundays a lot of the craft stores have 40% off coupons which can save you some money on the glue or fabric.


Step 2: General Plan

Picture of General Plan

First measure the size of the air conditioner, and then apply this to the tent and ripstop fabric with a marker. Use spray on glue or Beacon fabric glue to apply the re enforcing fabric to the outside of the tent. Once done with outside the ducting part of the project needs to be created by measuring the size of the air conditioner unit and leaving a few extra inches on that end for easy fitment. On the other end the duct will need to fit the size of the hole which has been reinforced already and the duct will be adhered to the inside of the tent (see diagram below).

The black is where the hole will be for the ac, the white is the duct which is cut out to fit to the tent. The tent is the gray part while the red will be a piece of fabric like on the outside to reinforce over the top of the duct connection point.

EDIT: After using the unit sticking the A/C unit so it was in the tent was better than having the connecting tube, better flow of air.

Step 3: First Step

Picture of First Step

Clean the tent if it has been sitting around, the glue will work much better on a clean surface water and a rag will work good.

Then you need to select an area where you want to put the A/C unit, you need to take into account how high up the unit will be off the ground and not to have to cut through the lower tarp like moisture barrier. I have some simple diagrams below to help in choosing a proper location.

Measure the size of the A/C unit so that you can have it fit when you cut out your reinforcing material and the tube to connect the A/C.

Step 4: Trace and Cut Material

Picture of Trace and Cut Material

Apply the sizes which you took of the A/C unit to the ripstop fabric with a marker. Use spray on glue or Beacon FABRI-TAC glue to apply the re enforcing fabric to the outside of the tent. NOTE: its easier to collapse the tent and pull it taught so there are less wrinkles when gluing the fabric on, I used some heavy lead I had laying around. This reinforcement will help so when you cut the hole out of the tent it will not start to rip the tent (thus the name Ripstop)

Once the fabric is applied and the glue is set well you can cut out the tent material in the middle of the reinforcer.

Now you could put the Ac unit in the hole if the fit is right, Mine fit perfectly with small gaps around the bottom and it cooled off the tent very fast, the OAT (Outside Air Temperature) Was approx. 89 F and the inside was below 75F within 2 Minutes.

The next step we start to build the A/C tunnel.

Step 5: Creating the Connecting Tube

Picture of Creating the Connecting Tube

Ok so you need to measure the distance around the A/C unit at its longest points so the tunnel will fit around the unit without ripping. My Unit was About 64 Inches around, So i had about 66-70 inches for the circumference of the tunnel fabric. It is up to you for the length of the tunnel but longer will only make it easier to cut down or just fold over later. Mine was more than enough so I folded it back a few times to make it shorter.

Make sure when cutting and measuring the fabric for the tunnel to account for a few inches of overlap when you glue the tube together. 2 to 3 inches should be more than enough overlap to make a strong bond, press and make sure the glue does not bond to the bottom part of the tube.

Now you need to measure the 4 corners in the hole of the tent and apply them to the tunnel to make flaps to connect to the tent. I used about 3 to 4 inches of flap length to secure the tunnel to the tent.

Once everything is done you can use bungee cords to secure the tunnel to the A/C unit and then roll the tunnel up to fit better, the tunnel should be stretched so it does not sag and reduce air flow but do not pull too tight.

EDIT: Once again the tube could be shorter since I ended up having the actual A/C unit poking into the tent (see picture).

Step 6: Testing

Picture of Testing

Well i'm leaving for the Florida Keys tomorrow for 5 nights and last few times I was tent camping there over the summer it was hell at night sweating and waking up multiple times because of the humidity and the heat. So I will add pictures and info on how the tent held up.

Update, Back from Bahia Honda State park and it worked really great, ended up not using the tunnel like previously intended but the tunnel was more of a weather shroud which kept water out and cold air in. Condensation which drips out of the unit needs to be taken in account ours just dripped off the side which was next to the tent, it never got anything important wet. The A/C really made sleeping comfortable, it got pretty cold and turned the temp down a lot of the time, and it kept us in bed longer than we wanted to since it was so nice in there. But once the sun was directly on the tent in the afternoon it was impossible to cool down, so if you want to use it during the day I suggest getting a tarp over the tent which I saw a lot of others around us do. There were many other people who had Air Conditioners in their tent with duct tape. They used wood stands for their units like 2x4's and plywood any of those would seem fitting as long as the weight is not too far to one side.

I'm looking forward to tent camping in the summer again now, and I hope that this is helpful to some of you even though the summer is winding down already.


dwosullivan (author)2010-05-23

 When i first saw this I honestly thought it was a joke. I mean seriously,  un- environmental.
If your hot open the doors!, or better yet just use the mosquito mesh without the fly
never been to florida but i did spend 3 months in the amazon living in a hammock underneath a $2 tarp and slept like a baby. 

PaulaP75 (author)dwosullivan2018-01-11

We live in West Texas and go camping every summer where the daytime high is 120F and the nights get down to a chilly 80F. So yes, a/c is not optional if you plan on surviving the fun.

zmatt (author)dwosullivan2010-05-23

Well not all of us are hippies that don't want to use power when we go on a trip, i wish that i could sleep in the high humidity and heat but its not fun.

_Scratch_ (author)zmatt2011-06-14

Haha, yea the 95% humidity and 105F weather can be kind of harsh with no A/C...

barefootdude (author)dwosullivan2011-03-06

I'm so glad you can do that and I could too when I was a lot younger but now in my mid fortys I dont tolerate the Alabama heat and humidity very well at all so in order for me to breath and be healthy I need AC and I have long ago fashioned one for my tent because I love to be outdoors and considering that my electricity comes from renewable energy I am quite green thanks to hydroelectricity but regardless of how the electricity is generated, I would choose being able to breath over smotheing in the humidity of the South!

roulopa (author)dwosullivan2010-12-22

thanks I thought I was the only one thinking this was a crazy idea...

acastonguay (author)2015-07-20

was thinking why the tunnel version didn't work for the air flow. the front of the ac as 2 parts, the air intake at the bottom and air vents at the top. intake get the warm air in, and the top lets the cooled air out.. look into splitting the top and bottom in the tunnel itself... i'm thinking a box that fits over the intake at the bottom, with a flexible air duct (like a plastic coil tube for a dryers or bigger) comes out, and hang at the top to suck the hot air in... while the vent can just push the cool air out, as it doesn't get sucked back in the unit... OR the opposite, push the cool air at the top (make the vent for the output instead of input..).. just a tought...

sportxlh (author)2012-09-12

I followed your directions almost exactly and just spent a very enjoyable long weekend in Curray Hammock State Park (Marathon) in early September. I don't think I've ever slept so well in a tent in the Keys: thanks for posting such a great idea!!

By the way, someone asked about portable units: they can be pretty expensive: I picked up a GE window a/c for less than $100 at Walmart. The ripstop and glue set me back another $50 or so. Plus, I don't really give up any interior space.

zmatt (author)sportxlh2014-03-22

Glad to hear how well it worked out for you, I havent used my setup since I first built it but I'm hoping to get down to the keys this summer again.

valkgurl (author)2013-09-10

Love the comments about the "Modern Day RV's"---we are looking to move into one in a few years and they are hysterical! What if I don't WANT an indoor/outdoor TV? Or a FIREPLACE??? Seriously! We would need--ROOM not frills. Plans now to buy older non-frill unit and re-hab.

I too thought this was a funny but I remember the days of camping in tents and--it was NOT fun if it got hot n humid. Great idea!

We have a floor AC unit and it does vent thru our houses LR vertical window---it comes with a panel or two for this--and it works really well even tho the entire front of the house gets full Eastern sun til late afternoon--then the entire BACK of the house gets---well you get the pic! The unit cost about $300 at Lowes this past summer. We have three asthmatics so this became a need---we also run two small window units in BR's. Our power bill has not gone up that much--and we pay a LOT for power in NY. It does work better if you keep an eye on the vent and there is a small drain that you need to keep an eye on too--but this is very minor compared to comfort and no ER bills for us!

For those who are thinking of adding a window -house AC unit to an RV--or a pickup truck camper---some snooty campgrounds won't LET YOU IN with these. Just be aware and check in advance! They claim it is too "Low Class" for them.

paradiseranger (author)2010-01-23

when camping in the Florida Keys. I am having similar problem.. although local big box stroes now sell a portable a/c unit that I sit inside the tent out of the ranin and the exaust goes out thru a "pass thru" hole in the tent.. however, the problem is how to keep the cool air inside the tent..with a dome tent, if I add tarps on the outside, then the weight of the tarps causes the tent to want to collapse in high wind and rains (they have a bunch of that down there).. so I have the way to air condition, but not the tent or set up to contain it..I've been looking at some "excursion" and "safari" type tetns that might work.. anybody seen any tents that fit the scenario?.. rain repellant in tropical environment but "sealabe" to contain the cold air?

GVLiz (author)paradiseranger2013-07-03

It's the fly that's rain-repellent, not the tent, unless it's a 7' or 8' high cabin tent. Sounds like maybe the cooler is too weak to keep the air cooled (?)

cdltpx (author)paradiseranger2010-03-08

 If I camp I use a tent hammock this is the best way to keep cool when you have no electricity reason this works is you are off the ground surrounded by air and can swing to induce a breeze if you have none.
If I had the luxury of camping with a AC I would loose the tent all together and build a panel structure that had UV protection on the outside. this would be a bit bulky but would be very cool almost frigid. Odds are if you are using a AC you are using a car/truck?

drewgie89 (author)2012-06-20

Why not buy a portable AC unit and save the trouble of cutting a hole in your tent?|THD|GGL|D29|AirConditioners&skwcid=TC|14688|portable%20ac%20unit||S|e|10693567662

zmatt (author)drewgie892012-06-20

Cheapest portable unit that you listed was 230, while the window units can be purchased for much less. I did this project because I had a window a/c unit from a previous hurricane season which was not being used and a older cold climate tent which would not be used.

The window unit does a excellent job and you can control the settings from your bed.

Redstormx1 (author)2012-03-11

Does the air con ever get down to temp ? Does it get a rest like it would in a normal house .
Im assuming the tent which is highly uninsulated get hot again as soon as you turn it of.
Running the air con all the time would shorten its life . A portable unit with a hose would be an easier install.

ve2vfd (author)2009-08-05

I assume this is for car camping somewhere there is a power point on the site?

zmatt (author)ve2vfd2009-08-05

Yes, Almost all of the tent sites in Florida have power so its not a problem but some states aren't like that. A generator would do the job but I think that might be too much work for the A/C.

mikedoth (author)zmatt2009-08-05

And noisy thus nullifying the need for the tent to sleep in.

zmatt (author)mikedoth2009-08-05

Heh its completely worth it in this heat and humidity, plus its not that noisy if you get a somewhat good unit. Its still a cheap way to camp comfortably in the summer.

tippmannphreak (author)zmatt2012-02-22

Yup. I live in NorthWest Florida and I feel your pain. Waking up soaking wet from sweat sucks!

lksmith (author)zmatt2009-08-09

we just zip the door around the output of the AC

JakeBlanton (author)mikedoth2011-09-10

Sleep with foam earplugs... They will cut down about 29-31 dB of the noise... They're also really good if the other people in your tent tend to snore rather loudly... The only drawback is that you might not be able to hear your alarm clock... But one could argue that on vacation, you shouldn't be letting your life be controlled by an alarm clock... :)

cheapchuck (author)2011-10-22

I have seen portable A/C units that discharge the hot air (and humidity) out through a tube. This type of unit might be nice for camping, especially if the tent has a vent at the top.

Oroka (author)2009-08-05

Just need to add a 32" TV, a microwave, a computer, and you are all set!

red-king (author)Oroka2009-08-13

doesn't that completely take the point out of camping? lol

JakeBlanton (author)red-king2011-09-10

Have you seen some of the RVs these days? Large screen TVs on the OUTSIDE along with satellite TV... Apparently, their definition of "roughing it" is a bit different than mine... Adding an air-conditioner to a tent is perfectly acceptable to me... Even if you run it off of a generator...When the humidity is in the 90s and the temperature is still in the upper 80s at night, an air-conditioner sure would make it nicer...

Oroka (author)red-king2009-08-20

No more than constant power and an air conditioner built in your tent. Personally, I go camping to get away from all the noise of day to day life, I really wouldn't want a A/C humming away all day, but I have seen people who show up in huge trailers pulled by their Escalade, they stay in the trailer all day, the kids watch DVDs on a pick nick table, or satellite in the trailer...

zmatt (author)2010-06-22

So now that summer is in full swing has anyone built their own and tried it out? I'd love to see some pictures in action. I wish I was in Florida right now to use it again but i'm stuck in even hotter Alabama.

bsmith-7 (author)zmatt2011-09-09

my brother cut a piece of ply wood for the back of his explorer and fitted a ac unit ,,but since the rest of us could,nt fit we kept unpluging him : )

calleman (author)2010-06-14

use a homemade a/c unit that doesnt require power or use a battery with a cheap fan and ice chest.

bsmith-7 (author)calleman2011-09-09

that would be a nice idea for places without a power hook up ,but it still takes power to make ice and power too store the ice till you buy it so not much savings there .

Frankie Pintado (author)calleman2010-09-26

Solar power won't work at night. You need a power source.

Hiblagrande (author)2011-07-24

I do use a small AC unit for our tent. I have a large Coleman Weathermaster tent that has a small screen room at one end. The nice thing about this tent is that the entire dividing wall is screen with a curtain like cover. I cut a hole for the AC unit in a small "wall" made of 32"X40" foamcore. I slide the foamcore over the front of the AC and place the unit on top of a milk crate. Then I butt the AC up against the screen wall and drop the tent room divider curtain over the back of the foamcore wall. In the screen room area the AC unit is protected from the elements and our folding table fits over the back side of the AC unit.

zmatt (author)Hiblagrande2011-07-24

Nice looks like a great setup, I haven't been able to use ours since we first used it.

Hiblagrande (author)2011-07-24

Oh, and thanks for the instructable. It was my inspiration to do this. :)

knexinventer (author)2011-04-21

id think you would need a heater

spartancaver (author)2010-08-08

It looks simple enough. However, taking it from a professional building engineer, that tube thing could have serious drawback. Remember, that window unit only circulates room air through and over the evaporator (cooling) coils. They look just like that radiator looking thing on the outside of the unit. (Oh, yea. flatten or bend enough of those fins over and the unit will blow up and quit working because of no air flow) Problem with the diagram above. The air inside the tent must be drawn into the unit. The heat is removed and the cooler air is blown back into the tent. Now, if all the air can do is blow out and get sucked right back in, then what is happening on the other side of the tent? Nothing, no air flow. Point being, keep any ducting / tubing, down to as very short as possible for proper air flow.

welder85 (author)spartancaver2011-03-20

Its called short cycling. The face needs to be flush on the inside or a divider of some sort between the top (supply) and bottom (return). I'd try keeping the inside flush myself. And don't block any of the outside louvers. The biggest deal I see is condensation and getting it away from your tent. That's the water coming off the coil in the back. With a little work you can get pre made tin boots that fit tight over the supply and return front openings (square to round) and run insulated flex ducts into your tent just keep them a couple feet apart. The army does it all the time. Not as hard as you think.

IronManMC (author)2011-02-03

I think this is a wonderful idea. I've been camping far too many times when the heat made it impossible to sleep, even with fans and such. An AC would have been a godsend.

And please, can we cool it with the global warming guilt stuff? Just because you tolerate heat better than I do doesn't give you carte blanche to run roughshod over me, any more than my ability to tolerate cold better than you (probably) and therefore don't run my heater for most of winter makes me better than you. We all do what we can. I'm VERY concerned about warming and other environmental concerns, and already do much more than 95% of the general population. There's no harm in running a modern efficient small ~5000 BTU AC that draws around 3 amps @ 117 VAC (351 watts, minus reactive losses because I compensate for this.) Resistive losses are due to actual work done. Reactive losses are due to phase shift caused by inductance (+ j) or capacitance (- j) and do no work. Reactive power losses can be "tuned" out of electric devices with magnetic type motors (refrigerators, air conditioners, etc.), saving significant electricity waste. Any electronics engineer or halfway decent tech can explain power factor, inductive/capacitive reactance, operator "j", and how Xc neutralizes Xl and vice versa. Whatever inductive or capacitive reactance (measured in ohms) is present can be tuned out with the same value of capacitive or inductive reactance.

If you're concerned about environmental problems, you'll do more by learning about stuff like this than playing energy-cop with those who don't know better. Physician, heal thyself.

Apologies to anyone I may have offended. That was not my intent. You'll make more converts leading by example than lecturing.

-Mike "Saving energy because I can't afford to waste it" Curtis

kcls (author)2009-08-11

How do you power it?

oakback (author)kcls2009-08-13

Many camp sites in Florida state parks (not sure about other states) have power and water available at each site.

computerwiz_222 (author)oakback2009-08-21

called a 3 point hookup - consisting of water, sewer, hydro i work in a campground in ontario, so i have yet to see anything like this, this is just awesome

Every campground in the keys has cable TV hookups included.

kensue49 (author)2010-06-18

Why not pickup some MPI Survival Blankets(the brand I used, there are others) that are reflective on one side and different color on the other side. This would help reduce the solar heat gain when the sun hits the tent. In the summer turn the foil face up and during the cooler fall turn it foil side down to reflect any heat into the tent. It works well for pop-up campers.

mitchellhuth (author)2010-04-18

I wouldn't install it before you went to bed, it may get stolen and you would be left with no A/C  and a hole in your tent:(

imbabalu (author)2009-12-20

I'm curious, How did you power your a/c unit ?

zmatt (author)imbabalu2009-12-21

Most camp sites in Florida and around the country have power hook ups standard, if your crazy enough I guess you could bring a power generator to power it.

imbabalu (author)zmatt2009-12-21

Oh, I hadn't been to a real campsite before and didn't know.
I wondered about the size and noise from a power generator.
or if you had figured out a battery / inverter system that fit the bill. 

MT-LB (author)imbabalu2010-01-10

Generators are very loud and i don't think you can run them after a certain time. An inverter wouldn't be a smart choice, since batteries are super heavy and an A/C would drain them quickly. So look for a campsite with shore power.

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