Going out into the wild can be a challenging task especially when not properly prepared. Nowadays more and more people go for long hikes enjoying the nature and despite the centralization of the population, young people opt for a more peaceful life in areas which are surrounded by nature. This environment by itself can motivate anyone to pack up and go for a field trip. Such trips can feel as cozy as a person wants, especially with the newest models of tents and camping gear. A particular piece of equipment that is easy to carry around and takes zero time to set up is the instant tent. We are here to give you some helpful insight on how to choose the best instant tent for you and your friends.
Before we go deeper into this topic let us give you our top five choices for some of what we consider the most well-rounded tents out there. To kick things off, here is a comparison chart between them:
Best Instant Tents Comparison Chart
Big Agnes Flying Diamond 8 Tent
BigAgnes have always been pioneers in making tents and the Flying Diamond series is their newest addition. These tents aren’t just regular camping tents – they are everest-proof dining rooms capable of withstanding anything the weather decides to throw at them. This particular model is also the biggest variation from the Flying Diamond series. The all-season characteristics of this tent, the two separate rooms, combined with the roomy interior makes it the perfect addition to any big family’s trip luggage.
Coleman Tenaya Lake Tent
Ever thought you’d be able to go out into the wild and have a separate closet in your camping tent? Well, the designers at Coleman thought that’d be a great idea and it sure was. With the Tenaya Lake Fast Pitch 8 Person cabin tent not only you get space enough for two families but you also get a lot of other features such as a closet to store all your camping goods away, waterproof materials, and a wind resistant structure allowing you to camp at further from ideal conditions. If you plan to use the maximum capacity of this tent, there is a room divider to keep things apart when everybody is ready for night time. All those and many more distinctive features make this tent a go-to choice for big families and groups of mountain climbers.
NEMO Wagontop 8-Person Tent
Every piece of Nemo equipment is always on par with some of the best products on the market. The Wagontop 8-Person tent has a few small disadvantages compared to its competition but its spacious design and well-made high walls make up entirely for it. If you are planning on camping in mild climates and are willing to ignore that it isn’t the most waterproof tent out there, this is a great choice. The tent shows its strength when everybody is inside and you are having a chat before bed. The hangout space in this model surpasses almost all other 8 people tents and that is a good enough reason for most people to opt for it. The hubbed aluminum poles provide immense structural integrity to the tent and the overall breathability handles a tent full of sleeping people wonderfully. The best part about this model is that if you are into a certain color scheme, it most likely will be available!
Hui LingYang Outdoor Instant Tent
This is the smallest and cheapest tent on our top five list but nonetheless it has features that allows it to go face to face with some of the best tents in the world. This four-person instant tent is spacious enough to fit your whole family when you decide that you want to take a break from the everyday life in the city. It is made from polyester which is always a good thing due to the various qualities of the material. The installation is one of the simplest we have ever seen since there are no installation poles or manuals. You just throw it in the air and the tent does the rest for you. The zippered screen, two windows and exterior door closure add up to the convenience this model brings to your trip. There also are numerous storage pockets throughout the whole tent and also a hanging loop for your night lamp. If you want to invest in a decently sized tent which is made of quality materials, this is the right choice for you.
REI Co-op Kingdom 8 Tent
Last but not least comes the Rei Co-op Kingdom tent. It presents itself with a spacious design which easily fits up to 8 people, even though we couldn’t manage to fit that many when everybody carried his luggage inside. The tent’s ability to stay stable in windy conditions and completely dry in soaking rains is what blew us away. The abundance of pockets and hanging points make it ideal for when it’s dark outside and everyone is gathered inside. Still, the installation was a hassle and required a joint work from at least 2 people, even though the tent is advertised as an instant one. Yes, it is raised up relatively fast compared to traditional tents but there is room for improvement in that area nonetheless. In conclusion, if you want a tent for a larger group of people which has enough endurance to meet most weather conditions in the mountains the Kingdom 8-Person tent is the way to go.
Instant Tents Buyer’s Guide
To kick things off, let’s first clarify what exactly is an instant tent? Those are the tents which can either set themselves up (called pop-up) or models which have their poles built-in into their structures already. This means that you can easily set it up in a matter of minutes usually without needing extra help.
Setting up tent camps can be a gruelling task if all of the tents are manually set and raised. Over the years, this created a need for easier tents to set up, especially when time is of the essence. For example, if there is a storm coming by and you need a quick shelter from the wind and rain, you won’t really have half an hour to raise a tent, will you? This is why this new trend of instant tents has been gaining popularity with great speeds in the last decade.
How Do These Tents Work?
Depending on the manufacturer and the specific style of the tent there are a lot of possible models. As we already pointed out, there are two main types of instant tents:
- Pop-up Tents
- Extended Poles Tents
The pop-up models are the true instant tents as you simply have to throw them in the air and they unpack in front of your eyes. They are usually folder in such a way that unfolding is done automatically when you release the securing cables around them. Once unfolded, all you have to do is secure them to the ground. Still, those can be shaky and not so stable in faster winds. Furthermore, the biggest pop-up models can handle up to 4-6 people since a bigger pop-up structure would be impossible to manufacture.
Tents with extendable poles are the ones which we reviewed and the ones people get the most mainly due to their elemental resistance and their capacity. After you raise the tent all you have to do with them is extend the already built-in poles. After that, they become a much more stable structure than a pop-up tent and thus campers prefer them better.
Why Would You Need An Instant Tent?
Most people really don’t mind the experience of setting up a tent, especially if they are camping in normal conditions on a regular basis. Sometimes spending half an hour with your kids having fun with the family tent can add to the overall experience of the trip. Still, there are lots of other scenarios where an instant tent would simply be a better choice. Here are some of the benefits of these tents that can surely make up your mind:
- They are quick to set up. All it takes are a few minutes (some do that in a few seconds!)
- No stress involved. Sometimes you can be the only one who is experienced in deploying a tent and the rest of your party members won’t really be able to give you a proper hand. In these scenarios instant tents are a pure bliss.
- It is dark outside? Don’t worry, as your instant tent doesn’t really require visual cues when being set up.
- Is it raining or really windy? Same thing again! The time you save with these models is insanely valuable in conditions where a few minutes can get you soaked and frozen.
- You can’t lose the poles. Since the poles are already attached to the tent they cannot move around too much, not to mention be lost somewhere along your journey.
- Quick to assemble. Apart from them being lightning fast to deploy, those tents tend to be just as fast in the reverse process. All it takes are a few moves and your tent is ready to be put back in its case.
Picking The Right Instant Tent For You
Now it’s time to discuss all the different aspects of a tent, which make for the perfect buy when you know what to look for. Here are the most important aspects of a great tent:
- Size, Weight, And Capacity
- Waterproofing And Windproofing
- Which Seasons Will It Be Used In?
- How Easy It Is To Set Up
Size, Weight, And Capacity
The size of a tent isn’t just about its dimensions, and the people you will be able to fit inside. It’s also a strategic point. If you often camp in narrow places and uneven terrain you might want to consider a smaller (but for example longer) tent. The size of the actual tent while being folded is also a key factor because of how easy it will be to carry around. Weight also affects this and always must be taken into account. When checking the weight of a tent consider that it will most likely be half of your luggage when going up the mountains. One very important advice is to know your limits especially if you are camping alone.
If you are curious about some more solo hiking tips, check out our dedicated article on the topic.
When it comes to capacity it is entirely up to how many people at once you think there will be inside your tent. We always suggest going for 2 more people above your initial plan since that way you will always be able to shelter fellow campers during bad weather conditions or any sort of emergency.
Useful Tip: If you are getting a bigger tent, consider getting one with two doors. It always makes things flow easier especially in the 8-person tents.
The difference between materials is noticeable when you put two tents from two different price points one next to each other. Spending a little bit more will get you more quality materials all around your tent and will generally make it last for quite some time. Even so, spending a few hundred extra dollars for a durable tent when you only go camping once or twice a year and in good weather seems pointless, so you should always think ahead when choosing your new tent.
Polyurethane-coated tents have a better environmental resistance especially towards wind and water. Simple nylon tents generally do not last as much and can soak up in a heavier rain.
Waterproofing, Windproofing, And Ventilation
As we already pointed out in the previous chapter, with a higher price tag the qualities of your tent improve greatly. Camping in bad weather may be one of the few reasons justifying spending that much more on a tent in actuality.
Sometimes weather can get quite grumpy during summertime as well. This is something you should always take into consideration. Windproof tents are usually picked for people who climb mountains above 1500-2000 miles. There, wind can get up to very high speeds and having a strong tent to resist it is paramount.
Ventilation is an aspect of camping often overlooked. In a hot summer day the temperatures inside the tent can be some 10-20 degrees above the outside temperature if there is no proper ventilation or windows. For a tent to perform well in hot conditions you need proper vents or at least 2 windows on both sides. That way air can ventilate throughout the tent and people inside won’t struggle for air in the middle of the night. Tents who have a rainfly can greatly benefit in terms of ventilation if you simply roll it back.
Which Seasons Will It Be Used In?
Summer tents can have thin walls and be made out primarily of light non-waterproof materials. Furthermore, they need good ventilation and proper windows. Winter tents, on the other hand, need good windproofing, thick floor and waterproof materials. If you want to learn more seasonal camping tips, see our article on the topic.
This is one of the aspects that people pay the less attention to but once you start packing, unless you are going camping with your car, you will regret not thinking about this earlier. The portability of a tent is one of its most important aspects. Pay attention to how much it weighs and how compact it is when folded.
How Easy It Is To Set Up
Instant tents tend to be quite the wide category and most of them aren’t as “instant” as you’d like to think. Some of them might take up to 5-10 minutes. Now, don’t get us wrong, this is still fast compared to normal tents, but you should aim for the true instant camping tents which can be set up in under 1 minute.
Lastly, you should keep an eye on the price of the tent. Usually, it directly reflects things like the pole materials, design, how robust the tent is, and environmental proofing. The fabrics of your tent will improve in quality as the price goes up, as well as the inclusion of some bonus items such as rainflies.
Pro Tip: aluminum tent poles are superior to fiberglass ones, even though slightly heavier.
Last Few Tips
As a general rule you should always check the waterproofing properties of your tent. A poorly waterproofed tent has the potential of ruining your vacation. Check the water resistance rating of the tent, the materials from which its made and see if there are any user reviews on the matter. Purely nylon tents aren’t really water resistant. To fix that manufacturers add polyurethane to create a perfectly sealed waterproof coating.
Materials which isolate water are usually wind resistant as well, so just check one of these two factors. If you want to learn how to keep water out of your tent, check out our article on the topic.
If you go camping on a regular basis, consider spending a few extra bucks on a more resilient tent which will last you more than just the few years a cheap one would.
Consider how many people will most likely sleep in the tent. Most bigger tents come with open spaces but some come with compartments (rooms).
Check the instructions guide on the tent you’ve chosen before you buy it. Some instant tents aren’t really “instant” and require some 5-10 minutes to set up and at least two people. Try avoiding those, as there are plenty big ones which can be set in less than a minute by a single person.
Consider Additional Camping Gear
Since we already covered the topic of tents vastly, it is important to mention that there are other essentials you might want to consider. The next items which come at a second place both price-wise and size-wise are the camping mattresses and sleeping bags. When picking the right tent, you need to consider the size of a potential camping bed you want to buy, or how many people you will regularly have sleeping inside.
Depending on the locations you choose for camping, you might need a camping stove, which can be either electric (with a battery) or gas-heated. Camping chairs and tables are a common item as well, and you should consider them when planning your trunk space.
Footprints are another very important aspect of tent camping. It is a cloth which you place beneath your tent. Apart from the fact that it increases the overall comfort of your stay inside the tent, it also protects the tent from environmental damage such as mud, scratches, dust, water, etc. Some tents come with a footprint of their own
Lastly, a great camping backpack is a must. After all, this will be one and only item carrying all the rest for the duration of your journey. Pick a bag that has many pockets, separated containers and a high volume in the 60-80-100 liter range.