My first camp hack was a redneck air conditioner that went horribly wrong…

It was our first camping trip. We had planned for weeks, and we were getting ready to take Addie and Emmie on a quick trip down to the state park in Glenn Rose, TX.

LaShera had borrowed a family tent from a friend. The temperatures were warm. And we didn’t relish being in a tent during a Texas summer without some sort of insurance against the heat.

So, I decided to tackle my first, cheap, DIY camping project — a redneck air conditioner for $25.

What is a redneck air conditioner?

In its basic components, a redneck air conditioner consists of:

  • Ice chest
  • Submersible pump (fish tank pump)
  • Radiator coil
  • Rubber hose
  • Ice

In general, the pump functions as a circulator to bring the chilled water to the radiator outside the ice chest, where a fan distributes the cooled air around the metal before the water returns to the ice chest.

It worked great the first night. We estimated that it dropped the temperature in the tent by 5-8 degrees, which brought it into a comfortable range in the 70s. It felt even better when it was directly beside the air mattress.

The second night wasn’t nearly as successful.

LaShera decided to get a head start on cooling the tent, so I added a fresh bag of ice to the chest and closed the lid. Then, we plugged it in and let it run while we enjoyed the fire outside.

About 10 p.m. we decided to retire to bed. But, when entering the tent, my wife discovered a floor covered in water.

The hose had kinked in the redneck AC, which caused the rubber tubing to force loose under the pressure and flood the tent. We spend the next 45 minutes removing everything — bedding, clothes, suitcases. The only things that were untouched were the items on top of the queen sized air mattress.

We then had to sacrifice the blankets, quilts and towels to soak up all of the icy water from the floor.

It was an incident we will never forget. That — along with the thieving raccoon who startled us during the night by opening the ice chest outside and gimping into the woods with a full package of lunch meat and Emmie’s hotdog, which she had left in her chair. (I opened the tent flap just in time to shine a light on his fat, striped fanny.) That — along with the fact that we didn’t realize there was a great swimming hole at the campground until the final day we were there.

What’s the point?

By so many standards, that camping trip should have been counted a failure. But, still — somehow, camping stuck.

We returned the borrowed tent and bought one of our own. I permanently retired the redneck air conditioner, although it lingered in my attic for a few years.

The children still bring up the great flood. And, Emmie still considers the raccoon to be her arch nemesis.

Our greatest family memories are sourced from the trips, and misadventures, we take together.

Take some misadventures of your own.

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