Staying cool when RVing in hotter climes – especially in the states that stay warm year round and get super hot in the summer like Arizona and Florida – is a priority for most campers, but given the limited space, and power availability, in an RV a standard air conditioner is not an option. Fans are fairly inefficient, too, as they simply move hot air from one spot to another. As many experienced RVers know, however, there is another solution: an evaporative cooler, more commonly known as a swamp cooler.
Even if you are unfamiliar with the swamp cooler concept – and we’ll be explaining it in a moment – there are a surprising number of them out there to choose from. For this piece, we tested out a bunch of them, and came up with our top five choices for the best swamp coolers for RVs to share with you.
- Hessaire MC18M Portable Evaporative Cooler
- Hessaire MC37M Portable Evaporative Cooler
- ComfyHome Evaporative Air Cooler
- NewAir Swamp Cooler
- Aivant Portable Mini Evaporative Cooler
Before we get into just why we have chosen these models from the many available, we should explain just what a swamp cooler is, and how it got that strange name.
What is an RV Evaporative Cooler?
Although many models look like a standard fan or even an air conditioner, they operate in a rather different way. While (as we mentioned) fans simply move hot air from one spot to another, and air conditioners rely on refrigerants to remove moisture from the air and send it back out into the space cooled, an evaporative cooler makes clever use of simple cold water and a fan mechanism to cool things down.
Although the process will vary slightly from model to model, basically an evaporative cooler draws in heated air and runs it through pads which have been drenched in cold water. This procedure turns the chilled water into a gas, lowering the air temperature as it exits the unit.
Evaporative coolers, sometimes known as “swamp coolers,” as they are commonly used in areas where using an air conditioner would be hard, are particularly efficient in drier areas when humidity levels are already low. They may seem complicated, but they’re actually quite simple to use. All you have to do is fill them up with water, and you’re set to go.
Can You Use a Swamp Cooler in an RV? Do They Really Work?
So, about that top five list we tested. We based our choices on both our own testing and the reviews of other consumers who had tried out swamp coolers for themselves. Some of these options are better suited to certain situations and environments, but the one thing they all have in common is that we think they offered good value for money and should certainly at least merit your serious consideration if you want to try and evaporative cooler out on your next RV adventure.
Our Reviews Of The Best RV Swamp Coolers
Hessaire MC18M Portable Evaporative Cooler
This option is ideal for those who want to move the unit around their RV because it weighs only 16 pounds. Despite its light weight, it is efficient enough to work in up to 500 sq ft, making it ideal for your mobile home away from home if it’s a medium-sized model. In a larger RV you may need to make use of two units, but given its reasonable price point that’s not a stretch.
It’s also easy to use, with a simple control dial on the front of the device that allows you to quickly cycle between the five settings — including two cooling modes and two fan modes. We also love this option as there are no ice packs or extras to lose, or wear out, and preparing the unit for use is simply a matter of filling it up with some cold water and turning it on.
Hessaire MC37M Portable Evaporative Cooler
Another swamp cooler from Hessaire, this model can handle cooling down a much larger area, up to 950 sq ft, but as you might expect, that convenience does come with a heftier price tag.
It also has some filling flexibility, letting you choose between a continuous fill option that employs a float valve to keep it topped off when connected to a water supply via a hose, reducing the need for regular manual fill-ups. If you don’t have access to a running water supply – i.e. if you are dry-docking, a full tank will still operate for up to four hours if you run it manually.
Thanks to the four sturdy rolling casters, the unit is still quite easy to move about, even at a heftier 39 pounds. A great bonus is the long-lasting brass hose connection, which is very sturdy and makes connecting a hose a breeze.
ComfyHome Evaporative Air Cooler
Probably the first thing you’ll notice about this swamp cooler is how sleek, slim and just plain cool looking it is, as it resembles the kind of elegant tower fan you might have at home. It’s also a great space saver, a big plus in an RV where space is often at a premium.
Even though this is a slimline model, its evaporative cooling properties are still pretty impressive. It also has a lot of features, including four different speeds, an oscillation of 80 degrees, and a 15-hour timer, making it one of the most adjustable evaporative cooler options on our top five list.
The accompanying remote can regulate all of these settings, and the six-liter tank will last up to seven hours. This cooler is also easy to carry about the room thanks to a top-mounted handle
NewAir Swamp Cooler
While not the most powerful option on our top five list of evaporative coolers for RVs, we like this model for our travels for a number of reasons. The first is that it works great and can cool up to 100 square feet for up six hours.
The second big plus is the freezer pack and included remote, which not only controls the speed from a distance but also allows you to remotely reposition the louvers to redirect the air flow. This all adds up to a swamp cooler that is great for bedtime, especially since it can double up as a humidifier and fan too. The fact that it is rather cool and sleek looking is a nice touch as well.
Aivant Portable Mini Evaporative Cooler
This tiny evaporative cooler is perfect for a sleeping area in an RV or a small kitchen. It oscillates at 45 or 180 degree intervals horizontally, has several wind speed settings on the front panel, and you can manually manipulate the shutters to guide air up or down. The tank holds around 24 ounces (700ml) of water and has a broad top that makes it easy to fill. The rechargeable lithium battery, which is supposed to provide nine hours of cooling on a full charge, is also a bonus, as is the USB cord.
This little swamp cooler is obviously not going to cool the whole of your RV, but given that it is battery powered, and works well over small spaces, if you will be cooking, or heading to bed, and want to add a little concentrated cool where you need it most it’s still a great buy. The fact that the battery allows you to move it anywhere is also another plus.
Top Tips For Getting More From Your Swamp Cooler
Whichever of these swamp coolers you eventually buy – or if you opt for a different one altogether – there are some basic tips you can keep in mind that will help them operate even more efficiently.
Use the Coldest Water Possible
The colder the water is when it is placed in the swamp cooler the better. If you can, try to fill your swamp cooler with water that has been chilled for at least a few hours. Letting ice cubes melt might work well too. Do not use ice cubes directly though, as doing so might interfere with the basic function of the unit.
Keep Hot Air Out As Far As Possible
If you are going to make use of a swamp cooler in your RV treat it like you would the A/C at home and refrain from leaving doors and windows open on hot days as doing so will only mean that the unit has to work even harder to try to cool the hot air around it down.
Keep Cooking to a Minimum
Nothing will heat up an RV faster than cooking in it. On hot days, fire up a grill outside if you want hot food, or if that’s not possible, and you don’t feel like serving salad and sandwiches for dinner round up your camping crew and head out to explore the local (almost certainly air-conditioned) eateries instead.