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The Best Instant Tents: Pop Up to Your Campsite in Style

If you’re the type of outdoorsman who absolutely hates setting up a tent because every minute of the experience is excruciatingly painful and frustrating or you just value convenience, then an instant tent is the right choice for you.

An instant tent, or pop-up tent, is a straightforward concept. It’s a camping tent that you can set up with little to no effort. For most instant tents, you just pull it out of a bag, toss it into the air, and it takes shape. Instant setup. Because you don’t have to mess with tent poles or a rain fly, you get a hassle-free camping experience.

However, as is the case with any piece of outdoor gear, with instant tents, you trade other qualities for convenience. Compared to traditional tents, pop-up tents tend to be weaker structurally, so they’re more susceptible to things like rain and wind.

Still, instant tents range in quality, materials, and size. That’s why we did the research and found not just the best instant tent — the Gazelle T3X Hub Tent — but came up with a list of the best instant tents available today.

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The Best Instant Tents

Best Overall: Gazelle T3X Hub Tent

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Image by Gazelle

Specs:

  • Materials: Polyester
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Season: 3 season
  • Dimensions: 82L x 76W x 68H inches
  • ‎Area: 61 square feet
  • Weight: 32.6 pounds

For the best instant tent, we picked the Gazelle T3X Hub Tent because it gets high marks in all departments, including ease of use, quality, appearance, and performance. The Gazelle instant tent contradicts the unfair narrative that all instant tents are low quality.

Owners of the Gazelle T3X Hub Tent say that it is super-well built and can endure inclement weather like hard rain and strong winds. Plus, it has pockets on every wall. Gazelle says the instant tent packs down to 60 inches in length, which is a great size for car camping but not so much for backpacking.

How these instant tents work is that once pulled out of the carrying bag, you just pull out the sides and they snap in place. The company says it takes less than 90 seconds and most reviewers say that’s a reasonable estimate.

When it’s set up, the instant tent spreads out to 82 inches long by 76 inches wide with 68 inches of headspace, so it’s plenty spacious. Gazelle says it’ll fit up to three people, but most reviewers said it’s a comfortable two.

With 4.7 stars on Amazon and 4.3 stars on REI, it has a hodgepodge of complaints, ranging from disappointment in the size to not liking the Gazelle-head logo because it looks like a spider.

Best Budget: Night Cat Pop-up Camping Tent

best-instant-tents
Image by Night Cat

Specs:

  • Materials: Polyester
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Season: 3 season
  • Dimensions: 114L x 79W x 48H inches
  • Weight: 8.5 pounds

For the best budget instant tent, we picked the Night Cat Pop Up Camping Tent because it has solid reviews in almost every category and it’s priced at less than $100. Reviewers say they love the size, performance, and overall quality of the camping tent.

Measuring 114 inches in length and 79 inches wide, the Night Cat pop up tent provides enough room for two adults. However, it stands a mere 48 inches tall, so you’ll have to crawl inside. Still, it has a cool door, which you can prop open like an awning and mesh window on the other three sides.

How you set up the Night Cat instant tent is you remove it from its bag and then spread it out, which extends the poles. Folding it up requires that you fold it up like the number “8” twice until it’s a circle, and then you put it back inside the bag.

The only complaint about the Night Cat instant tent is a little bit of leakage and there’s debate about how water resistant it actually is.

Best Four Person: Caddis Rapid 4 Tent

best-instant-tents
Image by Caddis

Specs:

  • Materials: 190-denier polyester taffeta
  • Season: 3-season
  • Dimensions: 96L x 96W x 72H inches
  • ‎Area: 64 square feet
  • Weight: 20 pounds 8 ounces

For the best four-person tent, we picked the Caddis Rapid 4 Tent because it has 64 square feet of interior space, which makes it more than capable of housing four people during their camping trip. Plus, it’s highly rated for sturdiness and ease of setup.

What people say they like about it is that it’s well-built. This three-season tent was constructed out of 190-denier polyester taffeta and mesh. It also has slots to slide in and out an extension cord, which is great for a camping trip in the backyard or car camping. Plus, it’s super easy to set up even for a single person.

How you set it up is you unfold it into its square shape, extend the pre-attached poles, and then lift. Some reviewers aged 70 say they can do it by themselves without issue and they can do it in as little as 30 seconds.

Out of more than a dozen reviews, the only complaint was an issue with the zipper because it’s easy to catch on a flap meant to shield it away from rain.

Most Living Space: Coleman Skylodge 8-Person Instant Tent

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Image by Coleman

Specs:

  • Materials: Nylon
  • Waterproof: Water resistant
  • Season: 3 season
  • Dimensions: 144L x 114W x 78H inches
  • ‎Area: 114 square feet
  • Weight: 38 pounds 2.2 ounces

For the most living space, we picked the Coleman Skylodge instant tent. Measuring 114 square feet, it offers ample space for up to eight people comfortably and at 32 pounds, it’s on the heavier side, but it’s a huge tent and it won’t blow away.

Compared to other instant tents, reviewers say this Coleman instant tent is roomier. People say they can fit up to two cots along with some air mattresses (or a double), and a dog.

Plus, reviewers love how easy it is to set up. While it takes several steps, it boils down to extending the legs, attaching the rain fly, and extending and staking the guylines. Coleman says it only takes about a minute and most people seem to agree.

While people love this spacious tent, they’re not always impressed with the quality over time. They say it does not have as durable materials as non-instant tents, but it’s good for occasional family camping trips.

Check out more 8-person tents here.

Best Privacy Shelter: Wakeman Pop-Up Pod

best-instant-tents
Image by Wakeman

Specs:

  • Materials: Polyester
  • Waterproof: ‎Water Resistant
  • Season: 3 season
  • Dimensions: ‎40L x 40W x 75H inches
  • Weight: 5.2 pounds

Out of all the different types of pop up tents we looked at, we probably like the Wakeman Pop Up Pod the most. Using a tent as a privacy shelter just feels like a good idea and for about $35, it’s definitely worth a try.

Standing 75 inches tall and 11 square feet, there’s just enough room to stand and change, shower, poop, or do whatever it is you need to do. Plus, the insides sports two pockets for whatever gear you need to do your business during your outdoor adventures.

However, reviewers say the Wakeman privacy tent has one main downside and that is it’s kind of a pain to fold up and that it might take a few tries to get it right.

Features of an Instant Tent

When you’re shopping for an instant tent, you should look for the same qualities as you would when shopping for a traditional tent. Besides a quick and easy setup, you should consider size and capacity, materials, portability, and other features.

Size & Capacity

Although size and capacity are two different metrics, one is a measurement and the other is an interpretation of that measurement. Experts say capacity is determined by the square footage of the floor space, so one person and his or her gear for every 15 or 18 square feet. You can come up with measurements of your own for a more precise understanding of your and your party’s needs.

Materials

Manufacturers construct instant tents using the same materials as they would traditional tents. More often than not, an instant tent will be made out of synthetic materials like polyester or nylon with UV and waterproofing coatings, use aluminum or fiberglass poles, zippers and other fasteners for securing openings, mesh panels for breathability, metal tent stakes, and tapered sealed seams to prevent water leaks.

Portability

When we say portability, we’re talking about weight and storability. Instant tents will vary by weight, but weight is often determined by size, so you can always presume that a larger tent will weigh more than a smaller tent. On average, a typical two-person tent weighs 2 to 5 pounds.

Besides weight, storability is another important aspect to consider. If you’re backpacking, for example, you’d want your camping tent to be as light as possible and pack down as small as possible. It’s inconvenient to carry anything large and bulky into the bush. If you’re car camping, you might not care as much. Either way, a carrying bag for the tent is always helpful.

FAQs about Instant Tents

How do I set up an instant tent?

It depends on the instant tent. For some, you literally just take them out of their bag, toss them into the air, and they take shape. Other instant tents require a little more effort, but not much. You might have to pull the legs out and snap internal poles together.

Can one person set up an instant tent alone?

Yes, that’s one of the major selling points of an instant tent.

Are instant tents durable?

If you search the internet, a lot of bloggers and vloggers have nothing but negative things to say about instant tents. However, just like any piece of outdoor gear, durability depends on the quality of the materials, construction, and sometimes brand. However, due to the nature of the design, they’re not as durable as traditional tents.

Check out the best four-season tents here.

Are instant tents waterproof?

Most instant tents are made out of waterproof material or at the very least, water-resistant material, but to make it truly waterproof, they need things like sealed seams so water does not have a way to penetrate the material.

How do I pack away an instant tent?

The way in which you pack an instant tent varies by brand and design. More often than not, you follow the steps to set it up in reverse.

Can instant tents be used in windy conditions?

Yes and no. While your instant tent might withstand wind during a night of camping, it might not survive multiple nights of camping or prolonged use. The reason is the design is not as robust as a traditional camping tent design.

Are instant tents suitable for backpacking?

When you’re backpacking, you generally want to carry the lightest and smallest gear you can find. While you can find lightweight instant tents, they’re not always compact. They tend to be pretty bulky when they’re packed down, so they’re better for short camping trips or car camping.

Check out the best backpacking tents, the best 2-person backpacking tents, and the best ultralight tents here.

The Best Instant Tents for You

Instant tents are great for short camping trips because they save you time and effort, so if you’re in the market for a simple tent, we recommend the Gazelle T3X Hub Tent. If you just want to try one or need something for the backyard, we recommend the Night Cat Pop-up Camping Tent because it’s less $100.

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