Air Conditioning in a Camping Tent – Just Add Water

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Air Conditioning in a Camping Tent – Just Add Water

Camping in the heat of summer can be uncomfortable, especially with increased temperatures due to climate change. Thankfully, a University of Connecticut researcher has created a new fabric that could cool a tent’s inside by up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Air Conditioning in a Camping Tent - Just Add Water. Image of a Yurt in the desert.
Air Conditioning in a Camping Tent – Just Add Water. Image Unsplash

The fabrics currently used to make tents are engineered to block out winds and water to help keep their inhabitants dry and comfortable, but they tend to work both ways, preventing hot air from escaping from the tent. The tent can feel sweltering, even with plenty of ventilation.

You can always pack a portable air conditioner to drop the temperature inside your tent, but those require an ingredient that is often in short supply at rural campsites: electricity. Running a portable AC unit or even a simple fan on a solar panel for an extended period is impossible, and you do not want to carry batteries in your backpack.

Al Kasani, a researcher at the University of Connecticut’s Center For Clean Energy Engineering, drew inspiration from the way plants wick water from the ground and then sweat to cool themselves. Subsequently, he designed a self-cooling tent fabric that retains its thin and lightweight nature; with an added twist – it is fortified with titanium nanoparticles that absorb moisture from reservoirs at the base of the tent. This releases water across its surface, rapidly evaporating, resulting in a cooling effect that reduces internal temperature by up to 20 degrees.

Using either water sourced from a faucet at a campsite or water drawn from a stream in a rural setting, Kasani estimates that a gallon of water can keep a tent cool for up to 24 hours. You don’t need purified, clean water, evaporative cooling works with any water.

This upgraded fabric won’t be available in camping gear for a while—the material is still in the research phase—but according to the university, “industry interest has been high in Kasani’s technology.”

It will be interesting to see this type of product enter the mainstream. Any success with a passive cooling system like this will have spinoffs that can help in other ways. Suppose you can cool a camping tent by 20 degrees. In that case, you could also provide cooling shelters to protect vulnerable people living on the streets without access to air conditioning. A similar protection could be created for refugees or hospitals in hotter regions. Advances in technology might even find a way to use it to cool traditional buildings and reduce energy costs in warehouses. The potential is almost endless. 

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