Oh the joys of summer camping – laying out by the lake, floating in a river, late night bonfires, no escape from the scorching summer heat… wait, what!?
If you’ve ever been on a summer camping trip with no AC, you might know how uncomfortable you can get being outside in the sun for days at a time.
But if you have a pop-up camper, there’s an easy solution to give you some rest during those sweltering summer days–air conditioners!! Yes, air conditioners do really work in pop-up campers. I’m here to help you decide which one is the best option for your pop-up camper.
Choose wisely and you’ll be able to really up the comfort of your summer camping trips in your pop-up camper…
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Why It’s Nice to Have Air Conditioning in Your Pop Up
- Air conditioning helps you rest easy. If you’re a warm sleeper like me, you know there’s no way you’ll be getting any sleep in your pop-up camper if it’s a million degrees. Even a small air conditioner can help you and your family sleep way better.
- It’ll widen your travel range. If you don’t have air conditioning, there are some places you just cannot visit in the summer months. Having air conditioning ensures you’re not limited to only visiting places where you’ll be cool enough to be comfortable.
- Air conditioners can extend your stay. In summer months, having a pop-up camper air conditioner means you can take longer trips. We can only withstand so much time in the heat, and an air conditioner ensures you have a cool place to retreat to at any point during a camping trip.
- They help keep humidity at a minimum. In humid areas, moisture can build up inside your popup camper. Not only is this incredibly uncomfortable, but it can lead to larger issues like mold and mildew growing inside your camper (YUCK!). Cool air helps wick away moisture so you and everything inside your camper stays dry.
Do Pop Up Camper Air Conditioners Actually Work?
Pop-up camper air conditioners do really work!
You might assume that because pop-up campers are constructed of canvas material, an A/C unit wouldn’t do much inside your camper.
But really, the canvas material does insulate (to a certain extent) the interior of your camper. So an air conditioner inside of it will cool the air, almost as it would in any other RV!
Can You Add an Air Conditioner to Your Pop-Up Camper?
Yes, you can add an A/C unit to your pop-up camper. Some pop-up campers come equipped with air conditioning, but many do not. Don’t worry though! There are several different options for keeping you cool in your pop-up camper including a rooftop unit, window unit, and small portable A/C units.
Let’s talk about the different types of A/C units now!!
Types of A/C Units for Pop Up Campers
When shopping for an air conditioner for your pop up camper, you’re going to have three general options:
- Rooftop A/C
- Window A/C
- Portable A/C
Each of these options has its benefits and drawbacks that might make you lean towards one over the other. Let’s go through those…
What it is: a rooftop air conditioner is just that–it’s a cooling unit that is attached to the roof of your popup camper. You may often see these on large passenger vans, or RVs, but they also work for pop-up campers.
They take in air from the outside, cool it down, and blow it into your pop up camper from the ceiling. Of all the options we’re covering here, rooftop A/C is the most popular for cooling down a pop-up camper.
- Powerful and efficient
- Many come with special features like a built-in thermostat, some double as heaters
- Permanent option
- Priciest option
- Requires professional installation and maintenance
What it is: A window air conditioner for pop-up campers is the same kind that you’d have in your house. They’re attached to a window, plugged into power, and blow cool air through the window.
These aren’t quite as practical as rooftop units, but they’re inexpensive and can be a good option if you already have one on hand.
- Easy to use
- Not made for campers
- Hassle to put in and take out
What it is: Portable A/C units are small portable air conditioners that are plugged into power and usually sit on the floor. They’re far less powerful compared to window and roof A/C units, but they are a popular option because of how inexpensive and convenient they are.
- No install necessary
- Don’t take up much room
- Can be moved around to different areas of the camper
- Not a permanent solution
- Not as powerful as window AC
*Shopping for a pop-up camper? Check here for some great options: 9 Best Pop Up Campers & Tent Trailers
What to Consider Before Purchasing an AC for your Camper
Before you go shopping for your pop-up camper air conditioner, you’ll want to have a few things in mind. Here’s what I’d have all planned out before I went shopping for an air conditioner. These aren’t cheap so you want to make sure you get one that works well for you.
BTUs (british thermal units) essentially refers to the cooling capacity of the ac unit. The higher the BTUs listed on an ac unit, the stronger its cooling power will be.
Generally, if you have a larger pop-up camper, you’ll want to look for an air conditioner with higher BTUs. However, you’ll also want to consider how much energy it’s gonna use (which we’ll talk about later).
If you’re comfortable with your pop-up camper not always being super cold, or you don’t want your ac unit to be eating a ton of electricity, then you don’t need to shoot for one with super high BTUs.
But if you want an AC that consistently cools your whole camper down to a comfy temp, shoot for around 20 BTUs per square foot of space.
Some air conditioners are incredibly pricey (like, over $1,000). They work really well, but if you don’t have the budget, they just might not be an option.
Luckily, you can get a good amount of cooling capacity for a couple hundred bucks. Before you shop, though, just make sure to rule out any options that aren’t in your budget.
Before shopping, consider how much AC noise you’re willing to deal with. If the white noise doesn’t bother you, this might not even be an issue. But if you find you’re unable to sleep or relax with loud AC noise, look for quieter options.
Roof AC units and portable ac units tend to be the quietest options while window ac units are generally the loudest.
Depending on your camping situation, you may be limited to ac units that only use a certain amount of energy. Plus, you should try to purchase a unit that has a good cooling output for the amount of electricity it’s pulling. But you’ll also have to balance your budget here…
In general, rooftop AC units are going to be the most efficient (but also most expensive), while window AC units will be the least efficient.
Size and Weight
Pop-up campers aren’t known for being super spacious. Unless you’re the only one living in a pop-up camper, you probably don’t want a huge clunky AC taking up a ton of floor space.
Portable air conditioners can take up that valuable floor space, which is one downside to these types of units. Window air conditioners don’t take up any floor space, but they’re pretty heavy.
Depending on the towing capacity of your vehicle, you might not have the allowance to add a huge heavy air conditioner.
*(BTW, here’s my guide to pop up camper weight for more info: How Much Do Pop Up Campers Weigh?)
So, when shopping, just make sure you’ll have room for the type of air conditioner you need, and that it won’t overload the towing capacity of your vehicle.
9 Best Pop Up Camper Air Conditioners
Okay, now that we’ve gone over the nitty gritty, maybe you’re ready to start shopping. I’ll help you get started with this list I’ve compiled of the 9 very best air conditioners I could find.
I’ve included a mix of portable, window, and rooftop units so no matter your budget, or cooling capacity needs there will be an air conditioner on this list that works for you.
Black+Decker Portable Air Conditioner
- Comes with a remote control
- Easy install
- Has a built-in dehumidifier
- Needs to be near a window
This Black+Decker portable air conditioner is a reliable choice for portable AC. It comes in 5,500, 6,000, and 10,000 BTUs for a variety of cooling capacities and has a built-in dehumidifier.
The included remote control allows you to set a temperature like a thermostat and the unit will automatically turn on until your camper reaches your desired temperature.
This portable air conditioning unit does come with an exhaust hose that you’ll need to install in a window of your camper. It comes with a provided kit that has a window adapter so it should be able to fit in any window.
Check the price on Amazon here.
Evapolar Mini Portable Air Conditioner
- Works well for small spaces
- Built-in humidifier so it’s great for summer and winter weather
- Super compact
- Not powerful enough to cool the whole pop up camper
If you’re on a budget or constrained by space, the Evapolar might be a good portable AC solution for you. It’s super small and sleek-looking and has very little power draw, which could make it great for boondocking.
(Speaking of boondocking, check out these awesome pop up campers designed for off roading 7 Best Off Road Pop Up Campers)
It also comes with a built-in air purifier and humidifier. The humidifier means this little thing might also be useful for dry winter months in your camper.
But really, the cooling capacity on this device is very low. It only cools down a 21 square foot area. This means it’s probably only best to use for one person, for example, if you have trouble sleeping in warm weather you could turn it on at night right next to you to keep you cool.
DeLonghi Penguino Portable Air Conditioner
- Built-in dehumidifier prevents moisture build-up
- Energy efficient
- Remote controlled
The DeLonghi Penguino is a similar setup to the Black+Decker portable air conditioner. It needs to be near a window so the exhaust house goes outside.
Installing is easy though, you just wheel the unit into your camper near a window, put the window adapter in, and then put the hose through.
This model comes in 11,000 BTUs and 11,500 BTUs, so it’s a bit more powerful compared to Black+Decker’s version. This air conditioner also comes with a remote-controlled thermostat and has a built-in dehumidifier. For all that, though, this is quite a pricey air conditioner.
Check Amazon’s current price here.
SereneLife Portable Air Conditioner
- Small footprint
- Remote controlled
- Noisey when not on “sleep mode”
The SereneLife portable ac unit is Amazon’s best-selling portable air conditioner. Likely because of its affordability, small footprint, and multi-functionality.
This portable ac unit comes in 8,000, 10,000, and 12,000 BTUs, so you have a variety of cooling powers to choose from. PLUS, two options come with heating capability, so you can use the ac unit in the winter as well as summer.
All options come with a built-in deep humidifier. The unit also has a special “sleep mode” that makes the unit significantly quieter–but also lowers the cooling power.
Check the current price.
Related: Prep your kids for summer weather with these fun but protective sun hats!
Dometic Brisk II Rooftop Air Conditioner
- Very powerful cooling
- Cools large spaces quickly
- Sleek look
If you need powerful cooling, the Dometic Brisk II might be right for you. It has a cooling capacity of 11,500 BTUs, which is enough to quickly cool down a pop up camper of any size.
This air conditioner comes in both black and white and has a nice minimal look so it won’t be super apparent on top of your camper.
At 115V, it takes up around the same amount of electricity as a typical portable air conditioner, but it has more powerful cooling.
All of this does mean you’re going to pay more. However the price of this Dometic air conditioner is typical of most high-quality rooftop air conditioners.
Check the current price here.
Furrion Roof Air Conditioner
- Energy efficient
- Modern look
- Can cause moisture build-up
The futuristic look of the Furrion rooftop air conditioning unit really stands out to me. But, this is also a super powerful and very efficient air conditioner.
At 15,000 BTU and only 115V, the efficient design of the Furrion air conditioner is impressive. It can easily cool down your whole pop-up camper very quickly.
The only drawback here is that because of how powerful this unit is, it can create condensation very quickly. This can be an issue for your camper and you may need to have a separate fan to combat the moisture build-up.
See the current price here.
Advent Air Roof Air Conditioner
- Less expensive than other rooftop air conditioners
- Easy install
- 3-speed fan
- Not the most visually appealing
This 13,500 BTU air conditioner from Advent Air is the least expensive, and also the least powerful rooftop option I have listed here. However, 13,500 BTU is still plenty strong to cool your pop-up camper, so this shouldn’t be an issue.
The unit is very easy to install and comes with a 3-speed fan so you can easily change the settings. It’s not significantly cheaper than any other rooftop air conditioner, but it is a better option if you’re on a budget.
My only qualm with this one is that I don’t love the way it looks–I think it’s quite bulky–but that’s a pretty minor issue.
Click here for the current price.
*For more gadgets and accessories for RV life, check here: 55+ Ultimate RV Gadgets & Accessories You Can’t Camp Without
Frigidaire Window Air Conditioner
- Easy to use once installed
- Base model is not super powerful
The Frigidaire window air conditioner unit comes in 6 different cooling capacities, from 5,000 BTUs up to 15,000. (I have the 5,000 BTU version shown here).
The base model is nowhere near as powerful as a typical rooftop AC unit, but it’s also wayyy less expensive. So, if you don’t need super powerful cooling, and want a reliable and inexpensive option, I think this is a great choice.
One thing with window AC units is you may have to do some finessing to ensure it’s secure in the window (or side panel) of your pop-up camper.
Midea U Window Air Conditioner
- Super powerful
- Very quiet
- Built-in dehumidifier
- Works with smart devices
The Midea U window AC unit is probably the sleekest-looking window air conditioner I’ve ever seen. It has a very modern design and even works with smart devices like Alexa.
It’s designed to be powerful, but very quiet, and comes in 8,000 BTU, 10,000 BTU, and 12,000 BTU so you can decide how much cooling power you want to have.
The unique design of the Midea U is that it’s U-shaped and designed so that you can open your window if you need to. This does mean that the unit is quite bulky, though most of the “bulk” will sit outside of your pop-up camper.
And with all these special features, the price is still very reasonable.
Do air conditioners work well in pop-up campers?
Yes! As long as you purchase an air conditioner that has enough power (BTUs) to cool the whole space, that air conditioner will effectively cool your whole pop-up camper.
Are portable air conditioners loud?
Portable air conditioners can be loud but typically are not as loud compared to window air conditioners. However, it all depends on how much noise you’re willing to put up with. If you need quiet, your quietest option in a pop-up camper will likely be a rooftop AC unit.
How do I keep my pop-up camper cool?
Other than having an air conditioner, always make sure to park in shaded spots to keep your camper nice and cool. You can help air circulation by having extra fans, but try not to open any windows while the air conditioner is on.
How much power do pop-up air conditioners use?
Typical pop-up air conditioners use 800 to 2,000 watts of power depending upon how powerful and efficient they are.
Stay Cool for the Summer!
If you have the budget, and the roof space in your pop-up camper, I highly recommend picking roof-mounted air conditioners.
However, while portable air conditioning units are less efficient, if you need to cool down your camper they’ll do the job.
No matter what camper air conditioner you choose, it’ll be sure to make your summer camping trips at least a little more comfortable.