What Is An Instant Tent?

Instant tents are growing in popularity for their quick setup times and sometimes roomy interiors. But what qualifies as an instant tent?

Instant tents are tents that have minimal setup time, with some taking less than a minute to be fully erected. 

Instant tents have a variety of applications and advantages as opposed to more traditional tents, but also have several flaws which lead them to be somewhat ineffective in some areas. 

Instant tents are sometimes also referred to as pop up tents due to the way in which they set themselves up by popping outwards. Some instant tents are built differently and sometimes require additional poles to be fed through, but they still generally require very little time to set up. 

How To Set An Instant Tent Up

Setting an instant tent up is normally fairly straightforward. Of course, each tent may have small changes in how they’re set up, so it’s always best to read the startup manual first. 

Generally speaking, instant tents can be set up using three steps:

  1. Unfold the tent on a flat surface – Remove your tent from the bag and lay it down on a flat surface. Make sure it’s completely unfolded in accordance with the instructions.
  2. Extend the poles inside the tent – This is to give the tent its shape. Making sure all the poles are fitted within the tent and extended provide the tent with structure and durability.
  3. Secure the tent’s guylines to the ground – Securing the guylines down will keep your tent stationary and add a little extra support against the wind and other harsher weather. 

Once the tent is secured using guylines, added tarp or rainflys can be added to the structure. 

Why Use An Instant Tent?

Instant tents are both practical and reliable. Whilst they may be flimsy compared to different types of tents, they’re still useful for many different applications. 

Rainy Weather

The fast setup time of an instant tent makes them ideal for camping in the rain or other unpleasant weather. While instant tents aren’t usually four season tents, they’re ideal for less-than-perfect weather conditions as their fast setup time prevents them from getting too wet or damaged as they’re assembled. Being able to keep your tent dry is useful both when setting up, and when packing away for storage

Saves Time

Easy and fast setup and disassembly is ideal for many situations you may be camping in. For example, instant tents are always abundant at festivals, hiking sites and holiday camping sites. They’re especially useful if you plan on repositioning your tent or taking it to different locations during your trip. The lightweight material that instant tents are also often made from helps when transporting it. 

It Can Be Accessorised

Instant tents can easily have extra components added to them for added support or comfort. For example, extra tarpaulin can be easily added to the exterior and interior of the tent, along with under the tent to protect the bottom. Additionally, you can add a rainfly and even secure another piece of tarp on the front supported by a pole to create a makeshift porch/shelter. 

Perfect For Beginners

The easy set up makes instant tents perfect for beginners, or people who don’t intend to camp frequently. They’re also great for children who want to help out when setting the campsite up. 

Differences Between Instant Tents and Conventional Tents

Aside from the assembly speed, there aren’t many differences between the two. One of the main differences is expense, as instant tents fluctuate in price depending on what model and size you’re looking for. Sometimes they can be more expensive than a traditional tent of the same size, but sometimes they can be cheaper. 

Smaller instant tents are generally a cheaper option compared to traditional tents of the same size, but larger instant tents tend to sharply increase in price. This is due to the added ease of putting one up, which is a decent trade-off, but it is definitely something to consider when looking at purchasing an instant tent. 

Instant tents also lack certain styles which traditional tents come in. If you’re looking for a specific style and shape of tent, you’d be best looking for a traditional option as opposed to an instant tent. 

Types of Instant Tents

Instant tents usually come in a limited number of shapes and sizes. Most popular are dome tents, which are small dome-shaped tents in which an abundance can usually be found at any campsite. Dome tents can usually sleep one to three people. Dome tents are handy in rain and wind due to their shape, allowing the droplets to roll straight off them. 

Larger instant tents exist, but are usually expensive. These larger tents often come in the style of a cabin tent and can house upwards of six people. Due to the flat top of these types of tents, they aren’t usually helpful in the rain as it can pool on top of the tent. These types of larger instant tents are ideal for camping trips with friends or festival stays. 

Disadvantages of Instant Tents

Instant tents also come with a series of disadvantages which can rule them out of certain climates and situations. 


Due to their structure, instant tents aren’t particularly durable, and whilst they’re handy in bad weather, they’re not advisable in torrential weather conditions. This is due more to the poles which are used inside to keep its structure, as they’re lightweight and typically aren’t as strong as other tent poles on the market. 


Sometimes instant tents can be a nuisance to carry due to their bulky shape. Due to their nature, some instant tents fold in unusual ways and need to be bagged in those ways. As a result, their bags can be cumbersome to carry and hard to clip onto a backpack


Due to their aforementioned shape and bulk, instant tents can also be harder to store as they collapse into one large piece of equipment. Not having sufficient storage can lead to damage to the tent or its bag, and could eventually lead to replacement if damage becomes bad enough. 

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