A battery-powered solution to sweltering camping trips.
Portable air conditioner
  • WIREDYes, you can now legitimately air-condition your tent…
  • TIRED…but only at substantial cost and if you’re willing to drag 26 pounds of noisy gear with you.
The 1995 movie Congo may be most noteworthy for Tim Curry’s over-the-top line readings (“A diamond mine of incredible bounty!”). However, I’ll personally remember it for an otherwise throwaway moment in which our jungle-bound diamond hunters are asked by Laura Linney’s character whether they’d like a portable air-conditioner for their tents. (“Well, I suppose it is a bit much…”)
Linney’s porta-AC units were no bigger than a small lunch pail, easily tossed into your backpack to help with those sweltering, sweaty nights in the bush. Sounds perfect for those of us with a distaste for heat. And so, when I heard about the  ZERO BREEZE Portable Air Conditioner, I had to wonder whether a high-tech fantasy posited nearly a quarter-century ago was finally coming true.
The answer is, well, yes and no. A quick visit to ZERO BREEZE’s home page reveals the  ZERO BREEZE Mark II unit in the flesh. (The first version was successfully crowdfunded some three years ago.) It looks tiny, but I was soon reminded that photographs can be misleading without a banana for scale. While the picture makes the ZB2 seem like it’s roughly shoebox-sized, when I received an early production unit to test out, I was instantly surprised by its significant stage presence. At roughly 20 x 13 x 8 inches, the machine looks and feels more like a miniature jet engine than a consumer gadget.
Portable air conditioner for camping
ZERO BREEZE pitched the unit to me as a 14-pound device, but a quick spin on the scale revealed otherwise: It’s actually 17 pounds, making for a pretty beastly machine no matter how hard you squint. Also: That doesn’t even include the massive external battery, which adds another nine pounds (and $500) to the kit. While the battery clips nicely to the bottom of the main unit, the two pieces have to be physically wired together with a beefy cable that must be attached on both ends with thumbscrews. Later, when you want to charge the battery, it must then be disconnected and attached to a gargantuan A/C adapter that can feed 575 watts of power to it; you can’t charge the battery while it’s powering the Zero Breeze. It’s also worth noting that if you’re near a power outlet, the unit can be operated without the battery, but this requires yet another A/C adapter different from the one that charges the battery. In other words, you’re getting into a lot of gear here.
None of this is complex, it’s just an awful lot to deal with, the sheer bulk of the machine being a particular problem for all but the glampiest of outdoor experiences.
Big Chill
The good news is that the ZERO BREEZE actually works as advertised. Fire it up with the easy-to-understand buttons that control the handful of settings (mainly the fan power) and the unit begins spitting out cold air. The output temperature typically stays in the 50F, per the digital readout, from the front of the device. Warm air is sucked in through one vent on the rear and hot exhaust goes out through another. You can also attach the included, extendable exhaust hoses to keep the ZB2 from simply recycling the same hot air if you’re in a confined space.
ZERO BREEZE’s promo video shows people happily basking in cool air while outside: on the tennis court, in the driveway, and on a boat. However, it’s best to temper expectations if you’re attempting to use ZERO BREEZE in an open-air environment. In this case, you won’t really notice more than a light breeze if you’re more than a few inches away from the vent.
The situation is much better when you’re in a smaller, sealed space (like a tent) with the exhaust directed outside. Here the ZB2 provides quicker and more sustained results, with the more generalized temperature control you get from a home window unit. In a small tent, the output air temperature can quickly drop into the 40F, to the point where it actually gets legitimately cold, though naturally, your results will depend highly on the ambient temperature.
The other thing you’ll immediately notice: Despite claims to the contrary, the ZERO BREEZE is loud—much louder than a window AC unit and not much quieter than, say, a small blender. In an enclosed tent, the unit can be deafening.
That beefy battery is no joke, though. On a full charge and blasting nonstop AC at maximum power, I managed to get a runtime of about three and a half hours out of the system. (Things started to sputter after that point, as the available power dropped off significantly.) Naturally, you can stretch that quite a bit if you run on lower power or in the new sleep mode, a long-running setting which is also incrementally quieter.
In addition to sleep mode, the Mark II unit has numerous upgrades over its predecessor, which includes more power overall and a dehumidifier mode. The battery pack now lets you charge other devices from it, via a 12-volt DC port or three USB ports of various types. There’s also a light built into the front of the device, and a remote control should you need to place the unit out of reach.
It’s all great stuff that The Sharper Image would have killed for, but lest you forget, the ZERO BREEZE is expensive, large, and loud. Ultimately, I’m not sure which would be more difficult: to sleep outdoors in the sweaty heat of a Texas summer … or to attempt to put the droning of the ZERO BREEZE out of your mind enough to get some shut-eye. Well, I guess there’s always earplugs.
Some Explanations from ZERO BREEZE:
The noise,
The main reason for the noise is that this is a prototype, not a finished product, and there are some damages during the continuous transportation from one spot to spot for review purposes. For the noise of the Mark II, we have optimized it through the experience of Gen 1st, and the noise is very small. The noise of the first generation mainly comes from the compressor, the front and rear fans. The Mark II can hardly feel the noise of the compressor and the front fan. The rear fan will have the same noise as the white noise, but the noise feeling in front of the air conditioner is relatively small. Of course, the Mark II's noise will be larger than the fan, but from our own experience, from the feedbacks of several Outdoor Shows, and Roadshows, all the on-site experiencers are not sensitive to noise and have not raised anomalies. Actually, we are also very confused about the noise problem that WIRED raised. We will find out the reason as soon as possible to ensure that the mass production machine is normal. We will also record a video of the noise test as soon as possible so that everyone can have a sense of the noise of the normal prototype.
All tests are now in the prototype phase. The material and structure of the finished machine will be more stable, the air duct will be smoother and the noise will be lower, and we will also enhance the wind noise response.

About the power section
The Mark II adapter can directly supply power to the air conditioner or charge the battery, but it can't be done at the same time. Here are the reasons:
1. If the power is supplied at the same time, the power of the adapter should be doubled, which is about 500w and high enough to cause safety problems. We hope to reduce the power to ensure our users a more safety experience.
2. The power adapter weight will also be doubled if doubles the power consumption, which will lose the conception of portable.
3. At the same time, the output interface will be more. We hope to make the operation as simple as possible. Now there is only one power port on the air conditioner and the battery. There are no more interfaces that may make users confused and the operation difficult.
It reduces the risk of misuse.

About weight
The weight of the product is 14.3lb. You can feel it with objects of similar weight.
From the feedback of experiencers on outdoor shows, the reason that you will feel it is heavy is due to the handle is a little bit wide, if your hand is small, you may feel uneasy to carry around, we have adjusted the design for this handling problem.

About the air outlet volume
Maybe WIRED is testing the 1 level of air volume, the Mark II air volume will definitely be much more effective and bigger than the first generation air volume. We will also have a test video about this very soon.

About Size
We are also very impressed by the imagination of "The 1995 movie Congo", lol. unfortunately, the technology can't reach to tiny small. but at least now Mark II is much smaller and more portable than all portable air conditioners on the market.
Finally, thank you again for the unbiased review of WIRED, thanks to all the supporters, thank you for joining us in the action of building a real battery-powered portable air conditioner, if you have any suggestions and ideas, please feel free to ask!

1 comment

  • Paul H Doucette

    Question, can the zero breeze mark 2 battery be charged with solar panels, for the off the grid person or remote cabin?

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