Instant Tents ( What are they, How they work, Pros and Cons )

Depending on the type of camping you are doing, some tasks might be difficult. Hiking into your location, catching your dinner, or even building a fire may present a challenge.

However, setting up your tent doesn’t have to be hard. With an instant tent, the task of preparing your shelter can be surprisingly easy. This article will discuss what an instant tent is, how they work, and what types of weather and camping they are best suited for.

What is an Instant Tent?

An instant tent is a tent that can be set up quickly with minimal effort. These easy to prepare shelters are characterized by their tent poles being pre-attached to the fabric paneling.Instant tents internal pole system does most of the work for you, all that remains is staking the tent. Some instant tents advertise a complete setup in as little as sixty seconds. Because the poles are pre-attached there are no complicated directions or minutes spent searching for which pole belongs to which channel and which attachment.

Pop-up tents are tents that spring into shape when taken out of their carrying bag. Some people may refer to these tents as instant tents. However, instant tents even with their pre-attached poles do not always spring into shape.

The ease of instant tents has quite a few advantages. They can be useful for solo campers as they can quickly and easily be set up by one person. Additionally, if you plan on changing campsites frequently an instant tent will make relocation a smooth and fast process.

Besides the internal quick set up pole system, instant tents are pretty much the same as other typical tents. They contain durable and sometimes waterproof paneling, and usually zippered screen doors and/or windows for ventilation. Some may come with a rainfly for extra weather protection.

Instant tents can come in a variety of sizes. They can be sized for only one to two people or as many as sixteen. The larger the instant tent the more time set up will take as more staking will be required.

Instant tents, especially large ones, can be a little bulky. Because of the pre-attached poles, they are not able to fold into a compact and small size. This may make them difficult to carry into your campsite if it is located a great distance away.

Many instant tents are pretty basic in terms of tent accessories. Most of them do not have a vestibule, though some have awnings. Additionally, many instant tents do not have room dividers, pockets, or hanging storage but consist of just a large open space inside.

Because of their specialty design, instant tents may cost a bit more than traditional tents. They are somewhat durable and can make your camping trip considerably less complicated, so you should hopefully see a good return on your investment.

Coleman instant tent from Amazon 

How Do Instant Tents Work?

When you take an articulated pole instant tent out of the bag, the corner poles will be pre-attached to the guide loops running down the sides of the tent, to the top joint, and the bottom corners or feet. You should set up the tent so the poles are in the correct position with the feet spaced accordingly, and the top joint is propped up.

Then, by pulling out the poles to their full length and locking them in place the tent will pop up into shape. After the tent is constructed you will need to stake any guy ropes, this is usually the most time-consuming aspect.

After staking the guy lines your shelter is essentially complete. You can attach and stake any rainfly or awnings if you have them.

Some people may refer to pop-up tents manufactured with fiberglass hoops, as an instant tent. If you are using this type of tent you simply take it out of the bag and it should “pop” into shape.

What Type of Weather and Camping are Instant Tents Good For?

Instant tents come in different season ratings. One to two season ratings, three-season ratings, four-season ratings, and five-season ratings.

One to two season rated tents are meant for warmer months. This includes late spring, summer, and early fall. These tents cannot withstand heavy rainfall and extreme precipitation. They don’t have a great deal of insulation or waterproofing and are meant for the average seasonal camper.

Three-season tents can withstand a little more precipitation and a bit cooler temps. They are certainly usable during the summer but also during the rainy and windy spring months and during the light snow that can accompany the late fall months.

Three-season tents have an adequate of both ventilation and insulation to keep you cool in the summer and warm in the fall. Because of their increased durability and specifications they can be more expensive.

Most instant tents are one-season, two-season, or three-season tents.

Four-season and five-season tents are made out of very durable and sturdy materials. This increases their price. They offer a substantial amount of protection against the elements. Five-season tents are usually considered expedition tents and are manufactured for extreme climates and conditions.

Most instant tents are not four-season or five-season rated because they are manufactured primarily for convenience and not attic temperatures or shear winds.

Instant tents can be beneficial if you are moving from campsite to campsite and frequently tearing down and setting up, but they can be bulky and heavy to carry.

The poles cannot be removed as they are permanently attached to facilitate easy setup. This means that the tent cannot be rolled up or stuffed into a backpack or sack. The packs containing them are usually quite hefty and you have to take care when packing them so as not to damage the poles.

This makes them not ideal for backpackers, those that have to hike or travel by water to their campsite, or minimalist campers.

If you do damage the poles or paneling they can be difficult to repair. The poles are specifically fashioned to telescope, lock, and fasten to the tent. If they break there is likely not a simple duct tape fix, this is not optimal for rugged backcountry campers.

Instant tents are best suited to occasional campers camping during the regular camping season at an easily accessible campsite. They are preferred by car campers who desire an easy-to-use tent.

The Pros and Cons of Instant Tents


  • Easy to erect
  • Can be set up by a single person
  • Suitable for typical weather conditions
  • Come in a variety of sizes
  • Come in a variety of season ratings
  • Poles are attached so equipment cannot be lost or forgotten


  • Bulky and heavy
  • Difficult to pack, store, and carry
  • Not extremely durable
  • Difficult to repair
  • Typically not suitable for extreme weather conditions, especially heavy precipitation

The most noted drawbacks to instant tents are their size, weight, and lacking durability in extreme weather.

Coleman may be the most popular instant tent manufacturer and their four-person instant tent weighs close to forty pounds. Additionally, the tent does not have its own rainfly, though it is weatherproof. This means that in anything more than a vertical rain you will likely want the mesh windows zippered up and the inside of the tent could get muggy and stuffy.

That being said, instant tents are perfect for car campers who camp predominantly in fair weather; and this is typically the majority of campers.

Specialized Instant Tents

Even though most instant tents do have their drawbacks concerning weather and size, there are some newer tents on the market that have increased durability, flexibility, and mobility. These features come at a much higher price point.

Some of the more specialized instant tents can be set up in thirty to sixty seconds. This can be done by one person and without the use of any tools. Their takedown time is also advertised to be less than sixty seconds.

Many of them have been overhauled in order to make them easier to store and carry. They typically can be folded up into a more compact size than early instant tent models, and come with their own carrying case.

Almost all of the specialized instant tent models have been treated with some type of weatherproofing on their polyester fabrics, whether it be WeatherTec or CORE H2O BLOCK technology. They also include a rainfly and occasionally vestibules to help keep the weather, dirt, and bugs out of the sleeping area.

A few of the larger instant tent models have bonus features. These include room dividers, elevated side pockets, shelves, and hanging space. But bear in mind, the more fancy attributes the tent contains, the bulkier it will be to pack and haul.

Is an Instant Tent Right for You?

No matter what type of camping you plan on doing and in almost any type of conditions, there is likely an instant tent that will suit your needs. They range from small to large and from extremely durable to best suited to fair weather. Their prices vary based on their accessories and specialization. However, they all have one thing in common, they are exceedingly easy to set up and takedown thanks to their articulated and pre-attached poles.

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Rickie Arms

Hi, I'm Rickie Arms, owner of Glampingorcamping.com. I am so invested in writing the best and most informative articles for you that I went out and bought a travel trailer just so I could write about it for you. I spend just about all of my off time both camping and glamping so I can share everything I have learned and will learn with you. I have spent my whole life camping and over the last 10 years, I have spent a large amount of time checking out glamping experiences with my wife and kids as well. Thank you for coming by and we hope to see you back here getting great information in the future. Rick Arms-

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