The Best Instant Tents (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021
Take the stress out of pitching your tent with these cleverly-designed instant tents.
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BY Lisa Conant / LAST UPDATED ON February 14, 2021
Camping is a popular activity for many nature lovers, but putting up a tent can be a hassle and a source of frustration for some people. However, erecting a tent no longer needs to be a dreaded task. Nothing has quite revolutionized camping like the instant tent. Gone are the days of struggling, sweating, and cursing while trying to erect a mess of poles, tent pegs, and nylon ties.
With modern advances in design, tent camping has become easier and more enjoyable than ever. The new generation of instant tents are quick to set up with very little effort. The instant tent is often easier to set up than the air mattress that goes inside of it. As they continue to grow in popularity, the options for instant tents have become more numerous and diverse. We examine some of the best instant tents currently on the market in our guide below.
- This tent features inverted seams and welded corners that keep it watertight
- One of the best features is the “dark room” option that blocks up to 90 percent of sunlight
- May be too big for people who like to travel light or don’t need a huge amount of space
- It is both water-resistant and UV resistant, making it one of the more durably constructed tents on the market
- It breaks down super compactly to be easily carried through hours of hiking
- Extremely compact and doesn’t offer much extra room to store your gear or protect it from rain and mud
- There’s plenty of room for people and gear
- It comes equipped with two detachable room dividers, allowing the tent to be separated into three separate rooms
- It also features two separate entryways
- This tent is the largest on our list, making it the least ideal for backpackers, hikers, or campers that are short on space for transporting gear
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Benefits of an Instant Tent
- Easy setup and take-down. Probably the greatest benefit of an instant tent is that it is ridiculously quick and easy to set up and take down. Most instant tents can be completely set up in less than one minute and taken down in less than two minutes. There’s no crazy instructions or need to wrestle with tent poles and gear to get your shelter ready.
- Less gear to keep track of. Most traditional tents have separate tent poles, pegs, and rainfly, which are items that can get lost or forgotten every time you travel. Most instant tents come with an all-inclusive set-up in which all the tent poles are permanently sewn into the lining of the tent, leaving you with just tent pegs and maybe a rainfly to keep track of.
- Great for entry-level or beginner campers. Aside from being super easy to set up, many instant tents are offered at a very reasonable and inexpensive price point. These two points are huge selling options for newer campers who may be less familiar with setting up tents, or who may be hesitant to invest a lot of money into camping gear before they’ve decided if they love camping or not.
- Kid-friendly. With no tent poles to fuss with and their super easy setup, instant tents are a great and safe option for kids who want to help with the tent. There’s less chance of them injuring themselves or someone else by pinching their fingers in the tent pole assembly or poking or hitting someone accidentally with a long tent pole since all the tent poles are already integrated into the tent itself.
Check out our favorite pop-up tents here.
Types of Instant Tents
Dome tents are the most common, classic style of tents. They feature two or three poles that form an arch over the top center of the tent to give it a dome shape. A two-pole tent will have a square shape, while a three-pole tent will have a hexagonal shape. These tents have their tallest peaks at the center and slope downward to provide less headroom the farther from the middle you go.
These types of tents are quite popular with large groups. They’re easier to set up and less expensive than the other styles of multi-room tents. These tents are usually a single space that can be split into two with a removable divider. These tents have a large, rectangular floor space with walls that slope slightly inward. They offer quite a lot of headroom throughout, unlike dome tents that have more steeply sloping walls. These tents will usually also include a taller entrance, making getting in and out of it easier. One drawback to these tents is that they don’t tend to withstand strong winds as well as some other models, but they’re great for casual camping.
These tents take the cabin tent to the next level. Like cabin tents, they’re usually one large space that can be divided into two separate rooms by a removable divider. These tents offer the maximum amount of headroom throughout since the walls don’t slope down as much as in dome or cabin tents, making them a great option for taller campers. They also usually have multiple doors for entry and exit, so as not to disturb your fellow campers. This design does tend to make them blow around a lot in windy conditions, however.
The A-frame tent is the triangular, classic tent that was popularized by the military decades ago. Fittingly, it looks like the letter A, with a rectangular floor large enough to sleep one or two people. It’s free-standing and has quick-clips for a fast and simple setup. These are not super popular when it comes to instant tents, but they are great options for backpackers and hikers due to their small size and lightweight. They’re also a preferred choice of many minimalist lifestyle enthusiasts.
These are also known as “Vis-A-Vis tents” since they have several off-shoots, or rooms, from a centralized, dome- or tunnel-shaped space. They can easily accommodate multiple people. There is usually enough headroom in the center of the tent for an adult to be able to stand fully upright, but the rooms surrounding it are shorter and squatter. These tents originated in France, and in French, vis-A-vis means “face-to-face,” indicating that the sleeping rooms all face into the center room. These tents are generally heavy and require a lot of time and patience to set up. The benefit is that you can have separate rooms for sleeping and storage if you need it.
Learn more about our recommendations for the best camping tents.
Based out of Kansas, Core Equipment develops products that enhance your outdoor adventures, whether they’re in the mountains or the back yard. It’s a small team of camping enthusiasts that proudly make products like the 12 Person Lighted Instant Cabin Tent and the 30 Degree Alternadown Cold Climate Sleeping Bag.
A well-known name in the camping gear industry, Coleman has a wide range of products that includes tents, camp stoves, sleeping bags, air mattresses, lanterns, and much more. Some of its top products include the Coleman Aluminum Deck Chair with Swivel Table and the 54 Quart Steel Belted Cooler.
Night Cat was launched in 2015 and is a subsidiary of the larger China-based parent company Guangzhou Buythem Import and Export Company, LTD. It prides itself on making good quality, affordable outdoor gear like its Night Cat Inflatable Sleeping Pad and its Night Cat Folding Stool.
Ozark Trail is a Walmart-owned line of outdoor gear and products that are best known for being both affordable and dependable. Some of its top sellers include the Ozark Trail 30F Degree Synthetic Mummy Sleeping Bag, and the Ozark Trail 12-Person Cabin Tent with Screen Porch.
Guide Gear is a company that specializes in making gear for hunters and outdoor enthusiasts. It has the distinction of selling more tree stands than any other company in the world. It’s known for its Guide Gear Hang On Tree Stand, but also its Guide Gear Deluxe 18' x 18' Teepee Tent.
Instant Tent Pricing
- Under $100: In this price range, you will find the most budget-friendly options for instant tents. This is also the price range that includes smaller, one- and two-person instant tents that are often used by backpackers and hikers. Tents in this price range are also suitable for the occasional camper.
- $100-$250: Here, you’re starting to get into some more innovatively designed instant tents that have higher quality construction with full waterproofing, welded and inverted seams, and fiberglass tent poles. Tents in this price range are also larger, usually accommodating 4-8 people. These tents are designed to last several seasons and give you reliable protection against the elements.
- $250 and up: This price range gets you the most ruggedly and dependably constructed tents that are made for the serious and discerning camper. They’re made from high-tech, lightweight, ultra-rugged construction materials to give you the most luxurious tent camping experience possible. Tents in this price range will often be able to accommodate 10 people or more and can have multiple rooms.
Durable, High-Quality Materials
A tent constructed from reliable and rugged materials that are waterproof, UV-resistant, and strong is one of the most important features to look for in a good instant tent. Tent poles and pegs that won’t break easily and will be able to hold up to windy conditions are also important features to look for.
Considering that most camping is done in hotter temperatures, you will want to select a tent that has lots of good options to promote airflow and breathability throughout it. Windows, ground vents, multiple doors, and a lot of mesh screens at the top of the tent that can allow for the breeze to flow through it are key factors for having a comfortable camping experience.
The amount of people you plan to sleep in the tent is going to determine the size of the tent you need. Are you going backpacking or hiking and want a tent that is super portable and light and only needs to accommodate one or two people? Or are you looking for a large, spacious tent that you can stand up fully when inside that has lots of room for multiple people or gear?
- Price. For many people, the cost of the tent can be a major consideration or deciding factor when narrowing down your options. For some, who are only occasional campers or are just getting into it, spending $300 or more on a high-end tent might not make sense.
- Shape. This matters for some campers who may want to be able to fully stand up inside the tent, versus just crawling into the tent to lay down and go to sleep. If you’re tight on space or limited in options for size, maybe picking a smaller dome tent or A-frame tent might be your best option. The shape of the tent can also determine how aerodynamic it is and how well it will stand up to windy or extreme conditions.
- Color. Do you want a tent that is easy to spot and stands out, or would you prefer a tent that blends in with the surroundings and can be less conspicuous, like a camouflaged pattern or color tone would? If you primarily use a tent for hunting trips or tactical or survivalist scenarios, you probably don’t want a loud, bright tent.
- Warranty. A tent is an investment and it should be able to last for several camping seasons. That being said, even the most durably constructed tents can have accidental defects or issues. This is where getting a tent with a solid and reliable warranty is a really good idea. That way, you’re protected against unplanned defects or equipment failures.
Best Instant Tent Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Be sure to set up your tent in your yard before you take it camping. This way, you can be aware of any manufacturer’s defects or issues and get a replacement before you’re stuck with it at a remote campsite somewhere.
- When choosing where to set-up your tent, look for a level, grassy area without a lot of rocks and with a decent amount of shade to help keep you cool and covered while you’re camping. Try to avoid direct sunlight that will overheat the inside of the tent and take hours to cool off.
- Take off your shoes before going inside the tent to limit dirt and debris getting in. Set a mat outside the door of your tent to wipe your feet off as added protection.
- Never put your tent away if it’s damp or wet. Putting away a tent that has even a small amount of moisture on it will lead to mold growth and mildew stains. Set it up once back home if you can to make sure it dries completely before storing it away.
- For off-season storage, stow the tent in a waterproof, airtight container or bin to protect it from moisture, but also keep it safe from damage that can be caused by mice or other critters that may try to make a nest in it.
Q: What is the best instant tent to buy?
The best instant tent is one that can easily accommodate the number of people and the amount of gear that you plan to bring. It will also be constructed from high-quality, materials that are waterproof, rust-resistant, and can stand up to harsh wind, sun, and rain when necessary.
Q: What is an instant tent?
An instant tent is a tent that can be set-up and taken down in a minute or less because the poles all come preassembled and all you have to do is pop them into place. Instant tents can usually be set up by one person, making them a great option for solo hikers or campers.
Q: What is the best brand of instant tents?
There are a lot of excellent brands when it comes to instant tents. The best brand is one that comes backed by a solid manufacturer’s warranty and a reliable track record for producing high-quality products.
Well, now that you know exactly what to look for in an instant tent and what some of the best options on the market are, whether it’s the Coleman Cabin Tent with Instant Setup, the Night Cat Backpacking Tent, or something in between, there’s sure to be the ideal tent out there for you. With their super easy set-up and take-down, you’ll enjoy camping even that much more now that you won’t have to struggle to get your tent set-up properly.
Do you have a favorite instant tent option that didn’t make our list? Let us know in the comments.