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Updated Aug 1, 2022 10:23 AM

If you’re the one at the campsite who’s always struggling to get their tent pitched properly, then you should consider an instant tent. They only take minutes to set up, thanks to their pre-attached tent poles and intuitive design. You simply extend the poles, lock them in place, and you are ready to camp. In fact, some of these tents are so simple you probably won’t need to look at the instruction manual. I was able to test six different models to see which ones covered a variety of camping styles and had quick setups. With one of the best instant tents in your kit, you can spend more time enjoying the trip and less time figuring out which tent poles go where.

Things to Consider Before Buying an Instant Tent 

Convenient Design 

Most instant tents are so easy to set up you don’t need an instruction manual to do so. They have pre-attached poles, an integrated pole system, or at least poles that are super easy to install. Most rainflys, if they aren’t already attached, should also be fairly simple to install. If you can’t put your instant tent up in a few minutes, its design is flawed—or you didn’t buy an instant tent. 

Materials 

You shouldn’t have to trade convenience for solid construction. Some high-end instant tents, and even some affordable ones, feature materials that are waterproof, UV-resistant, and strong enough to outlast bad weather. You should also expect tent poles and stakes to perform just as well as regular a tent. They shouldn’t break or bend easily and should stand their ground in windy conditions. 

Ventilation 

Summer camping conditions can get pretty steamy. And unless you have a camping fan you plan on using, you’ll want a tent that circulates airflow, especially at night. Look for tents that feature windows, multiple doors, and multiple mesh screens to circulate air and so you don’t sweat through your sleeping bag. After all, fresh air is why you came camping in the first place. 

Capacity 

Camping solo? With a friend? Or maybe with your five children? Whatever your camping adventure brings, you will want to pick a tent size that will fit your needs. One- to two-person tents are usually lightweight and portable for backpacking and hiking while four- to six- to nine-person tents are better for packing in your car and setting up at a nearby campsite. Larger tents usually offer more room for all of your gear, and some easily allow you to stand up inside. 

Price

Depending on how much time you’ll realistically camp, you’ll want to consider how much you’re willing to spend on an instant tent. If you’re a recreational camper you may consider a lower price point than if you spend every weekend sleeping on the ground. Instant tents can vary greatly in price depending on their size, shape, and brand. Below are a few pointers to show you what to expect at various price ranges. Of course, like everything, there are some exceptions, and some instant tents at lower price points may perform just as well as their higher priced competitors. On the other hand, I’ve used more expensive tents that didn’t make it through many camping trips. 

$100 and Under

This price range usually includes smaller, one- and two-person instant tents that are suitable for backpacking and hiking. There may also be other budget-friendly tents in this range for the occasional camper. 

$100-$200 

At this price, you can expect instant tents with some higher quality construction. This could come in the form of fiberglass tent poles, full waterproofing design, welded and inverted seams, and better ventilation. These tents might also have higher ceilings and better ventilation. Typically, tents in this price range can accommodate four to six people and are made to stand up to rain and light wind. 

Over $200 

At this price point (for the most part) you should expect durable, rugged, and lightweight tent options. Tents in this price range can typically be used for 3-season camping and withstand varying weather conditions. Instant tents in his price range might also feature multiple rooms, doors, vents, or easily accommodate more than five people. Though, just because you pay more for a tent doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be able to fit more people in it, so make sure the inside dimensions can accommodate the number of campers you need to fit.  

Instant Tent Shapes 

The Cabin 

Cabin tents are popular for large families or bigger groups. They feature vertical walls so they technically resemble a cabin when set up. The vertical walls make the interior of the tent very spacious with plenty of room for gear and to accommodate several campers. These tents are also great for people who don’t want to bend over or desire to use a big blowup mattress inside the tent. Cabin tents sometimes have room dividers or even multiple rooms to divide space. While cabin tents are spacious, they aren’t easy to pitch anywhere. They are also not great against high winds and are usually recommended for mild weather camping. 

The Dome 

Dome tents have been a popular staple of camping for a long time. These tents feature two or three poles that can be intersected to create an arch and form a dome shape. Many of these tents have their tallest peaks at the center and slope downward. These tents are practically freestanding, meaning they don’t need staked guylines to keep them in place (though I would just in case). They are also incredibly easy to set up and some models can be stable in strong weather conditions. The only downside to dome instant tents is that they don’t allow you to use all your floor space equally and don’t give you as much room for gear. 

The Pop-Up

As the name suggests, these tents pop right off the ground. Sometimes they can have automatic lifts or some type of pole you pull on to get them going. Some dome tents may even incorporate a pop-up design. While pop-up tents are extremely easy to set up they are not as stable in windy conditions. 

Best Overall: Coleman Skydome 2-Person Tent with Full-Fly + Vestibule

Coleman

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Key Features

  • WeatherTec System 
  • Mesh storage pockets 
  • Full-fly vestibule 
  • Weight: 10.3 pounds
  • Packed size: ‎24.5 inches  x 7.5 inches x 7.5 inches

Why It Made the Cut 

This instant tent became an instant favorite of mine. It is extremely easy to set up and comes with an impressive weatherproof vestibule, plenty of places for storage, and its own door mat. 

Pros

  • Sets up in under five minutes
  • Full-fly vestibule creates a weatherproof entry and adds extra storage space 
  • Sturdy
  • Wide door makes it easier to move gear in and out of the tent 

Cons

  • Rainfly can be a little tricky to install alone 

Product Description

Small in size, and huge in benefits, the Coleman Skydome instant tent became an instant hit for me on a recent camping trip. The designers behind this two-person tent thought of everything. From a full-fly vestibule to keep water out, to an e-port to bring electric power inside, this tent has several thoughtful features. The tent also has mesh storage pockets, a door mat, and a color-coded system to put the rainfly on. After two nights of camping in the rain, I couldn’t believe how well this small tent did. 

The full-fly vestibule kept the tent extremely dry while the roof vents and mesh back wall provided a lot of airflow. This tent also has near-vertical walls which provide a surprising amount of sleeping space. My friend and I slept comfortably and soundly in this thing. When I initially went to unpack the tent, I thought it would just be another small instant tent, but this tent is like a small luxury you can’t camp without. Even with the color-coded system for the rainfly, I still found it a bit tricky to install by myself, so if you’re looking to camp solo, this is something to consider.  

Quickest Setup: Toogh 3-4 Person Tent 

Toogh

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Key Features

  • Two-door access 
  • 1-year limited warranty
  • Weight: 13 pounds
  • Packed size: 40 inches x 6 inches x 6 inches

Why It Made the Cut  

This tent tops the list for being the fastest to assemble. It sets up in less than a minute, and it’s surprisingly spacious too. 

Pros

  • Super fast setup 
  • Mosquito netting provides ventilation and protects from bugs 
  • Accommodates at least four people 

Cons 

  • Not made for strong rain and wind 

Product Description 

The Toogh 3-4 Person Instant Tent is super simple to set up. All you have to do is lift up the top of the tent and then press the end of the poles to automatically lock everything into place. It can be done in about a minute or two and is super convenient when you roll up to a campsite, especially if you happen to get there when it’s dark. The tent itself has just two poles that cross like a dome tent, although it feels more like a cabin tent.  It comes with a rainfly that has a bit of an overhang at the entrance to keep rain and bugs out. 

This tent feels very spacious and could fit four people who don’t mind sleeping close to one another. Inside the tent, there is enough room for a queen mattress and duffel bags or backpacks.  It also features a double pocket on both sides and a net in the center for added storage. There is also a spot to hang a light or fan from the middle if you choose to do so. I liked all of the thoughtful details and felt like the tent fared pretty well in the rain. The rainfly isn’t the strongest, but the tent is definitely breathable and provides adequate space.

Best for Large Groups: Core 9-Person 

Core Equipment

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Key Features

  • Core Instant Hub Technology and pre-attached poles 
  • Water-resistant PU coated fabric and taped seams
  • Adjustable ventilation
  • Weight: 37 pounds
  • Packed size: 48 inches x 11 inches x 11 inches

Why It Made the Cut  

Large tents typically have a larger-than-life setup process, but this tent is surprisingly easy to set up and extremely spacious. 

Pros 

  • Extremely easy setup
  • Can be divided into two separate rooms
  • Very generous height (up to 6.5-feet) 
  • Electrical access port for RV campers

Cons

  • Large rainfly takes two people to install 
  • Pricey
  • Heavy

Product Description 

Go big and don’t go home. This instant cabin tent might feel like a spacious home away from home.  I couldn’t believe how easy this huge tent was to set up. The tent body is permanently fixed to the frame and the six poles are telescoping, which makes the setup a breeze. And you can go from out-of-the-box to finished in just minutes.

Another awesome feature of this instant cabin is the ability to have two divided rooms. This allows you to fit two queen air mattresses comfortably. You can also make one room a screen room for air to cool the main cabin. Speaking of air, another big advantage of this tent for summer camping trips is its excellent ventilation. This tent features multiple mesh windows, a mesh ceiling, and an adjustable ground vent for plenty of air circulation to stay cool during the summer months. 

The only drawback to this spacious tent is the weight that comes with it. At 37 pounds, this is the heaviest tent by far in my test. And the packed size takes up a lot of space in your car. But if you’re looking for a large tent that can be put up in minutes and fits the whole family, this is the tent for you.

Best for Winter: Woods Pinnacle 4-Person 4-Season Tent

The Woods

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Key Features

  • PowerLite aluminum poles
  • Material: poly 68-D 210-tex flame resistant 
  • No-see-um mesh panels
  • Weight: 12 pounds
  • Packed size: 21 inches x 8 inches x 17.5 inches

Why It Made the Cut 

The Woods 4-season, 4-person Tent is a great option for those who want to camp all year round or in the alpine.

Pros

  • Economical use of space
  • Mesh panels provide excellent bug protection
  • Reflective piping for night visibility

Cons

  • Pricey  

Product Description 

As a native Wisconsinite, I have camped in some frigid temps. Subzero temperatures and blistering winds aren’t easy on many tents. Luckily, this tent from The Woods is one of the best instant tents for cold temps. 

This 4-person, 4-season tent is true to its name. And I wouldn’t hesitate to use it in less than ideal conditions. It has four lightweight poles that are easily assembled to set the tent up. It also features a large door for easy exit and entry with a convenient vestibule to store your belongings. Inside the tent it is surprisingly spacious. It also comes with a large amount of stakes to ensure the rainfly stays planted and stable during extreme conditions. If you are looking for the ultimate instant tent for winter camping, The Woods Pinnacle 4-Person 4-Season Tent is a heck of an option.

Best for Backpacking: North Face Stormbreak 1 

The North Face

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Key Features 

  • Fully seam-taped canopy and floor
  • Mesh pocket
  • Weight: 3 pounds, 7 ounces
  • Packed size: 6 inches x 22 inches 

Why It Made the Cut 

This one-person tent is extremely easy to set up, weighs practically nothing, and can be easily packed into one of the best hiking backpacks. 

Pros

  • Easy-pitch design
  • Packs down incredibly small 
  • Sturdy
  • High-low ventilation for optimal airflow

Cons

  • Doesn’t have much storage space for gear 

Product Description 

If you’re looking for a dependable one-person tent to take backpacking, the North Face Stormbreak 1 is a great option. I couldn’t believe how small this tent packs down and how easy it is to pitch. In about one minute I set it up without looking at the instructions. The poles are made from strong lightweight aluminum, and the low profile design makes this tent super sturdy during windy conditions.

North Face Stormbreaker with Rainfly is the best instant tent
The rainfly on the Stormbreaker kept a tight fit even after a day of windy conditions. Theo Harris

I tested this tent during a night of rainfall and it stayed completely dry. It has room for only one person but doesn’t feel claustrophobic by any means. The fully seam-taped canopy and floor felt durable, and the mesh windows also provided excellent breathability. Overall, I was very impressed by this tent’s simple design and how compact it packs down. I would not hesitate to reach for this tent for my next backpacking trip. 

Best Budget: Night Cat 1-Person 

Night Cat

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Key Features 

  • 210D waterproof PED fabric 
  • Foldable fiberglass poles 
  • Weight: 4.4 pounds
  • Packed size: 16.5 inches x 4.7 inches x 4.7 inches

Why It Made the Cut 

For under $50 this tent is a steal. It takes only a few minutes to set up and comes with fiberglass poles, waterproof fabric, and a spacious design. 

Pros 

  • Waterproof tape on every seam
  • Mesh door and two mesh windows at the top provide plenty of ventilation 
  • Lightweight materials and fiberglass poles don’t rule it out for backpacking 
  • Room for gear inside

Cons 

  • Very small rainfly
  • Stakes are a bit flimsy 

Product Description 

This lightweight tent packs a lot for the price. At just under $50, it is perfect for one person to take camping. I was able to install the tent in only a few minutes without looking at the instructions and was surprised by how roomy the inside feels. The tent’s material seems well constructed and it has thoughtful details like a hook at the top to hold a light or fan. There is a small pocket inside to hold your personal items. And the double doors also make it easy to enter and exit the tent. 

Night Cat Rainfly
While the price of the Night Cat certainly is enticing, the rainfly left much to be desired. Theo Harris

The tent is breathable with its mesh windows, but it may need to be vented in warmer conditions. While the tent’s fabric did not leak in light rain, the rainfly is small, and I don’t know that I would trust it in places with frequent rain. However, for the price, this tent is highly packable, easy to set up, and great for the occasional camper. 

FAQs

Q: How do instant tents work?

Instant tents are tents that can be set up and taken down in a matter of minutes. Some instant tents come with integrated pole systems that can be folded or pulled to quickly assemble the tent. Other instant tents have pre assembled poles that can be easily popped into place. 

Q: Which instant tent is best? 

The best instant tent is the one that can accommodate the number of people and gear you plan on bringing. It’s also important to consider how you will be using this instant tent. Some instant tents are lighter and more portable to take backpacking while other larger instant tents are better for car camping. Look for instant tents that are easy to put together, constructed from high-quality materials, and made to withstand wind and rain.

Q: Can one person put up an instant tent? 

One person can easily put up an instant tent depending on its size and design. If the tent is a 6- to 10-person tent, it can be harder to set up and install the rainfly. However, if the design of the tent is simple enough, one person can probably still manage it. The instant tents recommended in this article are all easy enough for one person to set up.

Q: Are instant tents worth it?

Yes, instant tents are absolutely worth it, especially if you shudder at the thought of setting up a regular tent. They are quick to set up with very little effort and make camping very convenient and enjoyable. Most importantly, they eliminate the mess of multiple poles, tent pegs, and nylon ties. They also take the guesswork out of setting up a tent. In fact, many instant tents take less time than blowing up an air mattress. 

Methodology 

I tested a variety of instant-tents during a Memorial Day weekend camping trip in Central Wisconsin. During my camping trip, I had two nights of rainfall and wind gusts up to 20 miles per hour. The tents were left set up for 48 hours with continual use by myself and my two kids during that time. I tried to set up all the tents by myself without following directions to see how easy they were to assemble. I was able to assess how breathable and weatherproof the tents were during my trip, and I also assessed how easy they were to take down and pack up. I compared the top contenders to help narrow down the best instant tents in this article. 

Final Thoughts 

As an avid camper, I enjoy the convenience that instant tents bring, especially with kids. The best instant tents, in my opinion, are super simple to set up but don’t compromise quality. I was impressed by the Coleman Skydome 2-person because it required only a few minutes to set up, and it had the most thoughtful features for the price. Its full-fly vestibule, door mat, charging port, and storage pockets were a nice surprise on my camping trip. I also loved the lightweight, simple, and durable design of the North Face Stormbreaker 1. I look forward to taking that tent on more intense backpacking trips that I have planned in Utah and Colorado. If you have a large family and are looking for a tent you can easily pitch and hang out in, the Core 9-person is awesome. That tent lets you divide two rooms for you and your kids and is highly breathable. Really, you can’t go wrong with any of the instant tents in this article. Grab one and enjoy a more convenient camping experience.