Instant tents have become more popular recently as people have realized how bad it sucks to set a tent up.
No, seriously. If you've gone car camping and spent 20 minutes trying to set up your tent only to realize you were missing one of the poles, you can imagine why you'd want an instant tent.
This page will take a deep dive into everything you need to know about instant tents as well as the best instant tents for small families, large families, people on a budget and people who just want the best of the best.
What Is An Instant Tent?
Instant tents are similar to traditional camping tents with one exception:
They have the frame pre-assembled and built into the tent. This means you can just pop the tent open and snap the poles into place.
The benefit to this is that you can set up an instant tent in 1-2 minutes vs the 5-10 minutes that a traditional tent takes to set up. Here's a helpful picture showing this in action:
Instant Tent vs Regular Tent
Other than the obvious difference I just explained, there are a couple of other things you should know about instant tents before you decide to get one.
First, they're intended to be use when car camping. If you're going camping in the back country and plan to carry your tent with you in a backpack, an instant tent might not be a good idea.
In addition to being heavier/bulkier, you can't split the weight with other people. Since the instant tent has everything attached to the frame, you can't have one person carry the poles and another carry the tent. 1 person will be stuck carrying the entire tent and they're much bulkier than regular tents when collapsed.
What To Look For In An Instant Tent
You might think that most instant tents are the same but there are some really important differences that can be the difference between a happy camping trip and a collapsed tent that's full of rain. Here's what you should look for when you're shopping for an instant tent.
How Many People Can Fit Inside?
The first thing to figure out is how many people you'll need to fit in your tent. There are some gigantic tents out there so you shouldn't have any problem finding one that will fit your entire group in it. Here's what a 16 person tent looks like on the inside. It's practically a portable house.
But obviously that'd be overkill for a family of 4. Which is why the first step is to figure out how many people you want to fit in your instant tent.
After that, you can move on to the next requirement, deciding how many rooms it should have.
How Many Rooms Does It Have?
Depending on what you plan to use your tent for, you might want to have some separate rooms inside of it. For instance, a 4 person tent might have a divider to create some privacy for parents and children when sharing the tent.
A 12 person tent might have additional dividers to create separate bedrooms and create a living space.
The most common setup is just a single divider, splitting the tent down the middle to create 2 separate rooms. There are even some 10 and 12 man tents that have a single divider meaning 5 or 6 people will share a single "bedroom".
So after narrowing down your party size, make sure you keep an eye on the number of rooms so you have enough privacy for your group.
Is There A Porch/Screened In Room?
There aren't a whole lot of features you can pack in a tent. But there is one option you can choose that makes a big quality of life difference which is having a porch.
It might sound insane to have a porch on a tent but it helps a lot with keeping dirt out. Camping is a fairly dirty activity and when people get back to the tent they can easily track dirt in and out. Then later on you step on it while you're barefoot.
Even worse, if it's raining, you have to try to take your shoes off outside of the tent while you're getting soaked. It sucks. Enter, the porch.
Porches are pretty easy to find on most instant tents. They don't have to be big; just big enough for an adult to take off their shoes and set them aside.
Some tents have larger areas outside the tent for hanging out and relaxing so if you want to do that, look for a porch area that's at least 8' x 8' so you can fit the whole family.
How Many Doors And Windows Does It Have?
Most people tend to go camping when the weather is nice. Unfortunately that means sometimes it gets hot. And being inside of a tent when it's hot means you'll be really hot.
Having a way to air your tent out and get some wind flowing through can make a huge difference. Most tents come with 2 doors. The first door is a solid fabric like silicon nylon which is rain proof. Behind that rain proof door is a screen door which you can use to air your tent out. The problem is if you only have 1 door, you don't get much air flow.
Since instant tents are so large, it's common for them to have 2, 4 or even more 'windows' that can be opened to improve airflow. Here's a great example of what good windows look like. They're large and easy to use.
What Materials Are The Poles and Tent Made Of?
Most instant tents are made of silnylon (a silicon nylon hybrid) and use steel poles. Since weight isn't a concern, it doesn't make sense to use aluminum or fiberglass poles like you'd normally find in backpacking gear.
Just make sure your tent has a rainproof coating or you can apply one yourself with something like this.
Besides those main features, there are a ton of other unique things you can shop for. Some tents have closets inside, others have lights, air conditioning ports, black out curtains, the list goes on and on.
Since these tents are meant for car camping and supporting a lot of people, it's usually a good idea to get a larger size than you think you need so you can store your stuff. You may also want to consider getting a model that will allow you to easily run extension cords so you can power any appliances you want on the inside of your tent.
Now that you have an idea of what to look for, here's a run down of some of the best instant tents in each category. We'll start with the overall, best instant tent for camping.
Overall Best Instant Tent
You can probably tell from all the criteria we just covered that it's hard to come up with a one size fits all tent recommendation. Your tent selection depends so much on the size of your group and your specific needs that there won't be any single tent that works for everyone.
But....we can try.
If I had to recommend just 1 instant tent as an overall best in class, it would be the Core 9 Instant tent.
Core 9 Instant Tent - Best Overall Instant Tent
The Core 9 Instant Tent is a jack of all trades. It has a ton of space on the inside, comfortably fitting 9 adults.
It also has a divider that can be used to separate the tent into two separate bedrooms or to create a porch.
Finally, it has tons of windows and doors which make it easy to ventilate and keep fresh. It's also waterproof and sturdy so you don't have to worry about leaks.
The Core 9 is super roomy. Even though I only go camping with my wife and 2 children, having space for up to 9 people means you won't feel cramped when your inside the tent. This is especially important if it rains while you're camping since you'll be couped up inside all day and tight spaces can get old real fast when you're stuck inside a tent with kids.
Seriously, this tent is freaking huge. Check out how much space you have with 4 people.
The other thing I like about the Core 9 Instant Tent is that it has 6 windows/doors for ventilation as well as the entire roof being made of mesh. This is super important when you have 9 people in the tent because it can get hot and stuffy quickly without enough ventilation.
With all of these mesh windows, there's a constant flow of air going through the tent to keep it fresh and cool.
As far as set up time goes, the Core 9 is right up there with the other top of the line instant tents. It sets up and tears down in just 60 seconds.
Normally you'd expect a tent like this to be extremely expensive but the Core 9 costs about half of what other similarly sized tents will cost.
Because of the affordable price and abundant space, this tent wins my top choice for the best instant tent.
- Instant 60 Second Setup; Sleeps 9 people; Fits two queen air mattresses; Center Height:78
- CORE H20 Block Technology and adjustable ground vent
- Features room divider and wall storage pockets keep items neat and off the tent floor
- Electrical cord access port (port is fully closable when not in use)
- Includes rain fly, tent stakes, and carry bag
Last update on 2020-07-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Best Budget Instant Tent
If you're looking for a cheaper alternative, then you should consider our best budget pick, the 4 person Coleman Instant Cabin.
4 Person Coleman Instant Cabin - Best Budget Instant Tent
The Coleman 4 Person Instant Cabin is the best budget instant tent.
You'll be giving up a couple features like a screened in porch and the additional roof ventilation, but due to the smaller size, the tent doesn't feel any warmer than the Core 9.
The obvious downside to this tent is that it's only meant to fit 4 people. There's no divider either so you'll be sharing the same living area with all of your fellow campers.
I mentioned earlier that the best tent is going to depend on your specific situation and this is why. The Coleman Instant Cabin is awesome if you only have 4 people, but any more than that and it just won't work for you.
Unfortunately there's really no way to avoid paying more if you want a bigger tent. The Coleman Instant Cabin does come in different sizes but the most affordable option is the 4 person tent.
By decreasing the size and cutting out the additional ventilation/dividers, Coleman was able to drop the price point on this tent to less than half of comparable instant tents. If you want to get into the instant tent world as cheaply as possible, this is your best bet.
- WEATHERPROOF: Welded corners and inverted seams keep water from getting in; integrated rainfly offers extra weather protection with better airflow
- BUILT TO LAST: Double-thick fabric stands up to the elements season after season
- INSTANT SETUP: In as fast as 1 minute
- ROOMY INTERIOR: 8 x 7 ft. with 4 ft. 11 in. center height; fits 1 queen-size air bed
- 1-YEAR LIMITED WARRANTY
Last update on 2020-06-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Best Instant Tent for Small Groups
If you're looking for a great instant tent that can fit a small group (4-6 people), then the Huilingyang 4 person instant tent might be the best option for you.
Runner Up - Best Instant Tent for Small Groups
The Huilingyang instant tent can fit 4 people while still offering features you'd only find on larger tents.
The tent has a mesh screen door, 4 windows and an additional vent to help keep the air fresh inside the tent.
It also has a separate porch area on the outside of the tent where you can keep your shoes and other gear.
The biggest draw back to this instant tent is the small size. The inside height is just 51 inches which means you won't be able to stand up inside of it. But if you only need to fit a few people inside, this instant tent is an affordable option that gets you features only found on higher end competitors.
Best Instant Tent for Large Groups
If you're planning to camp with a larger group or if you just want more space, then the best instant tent to fit everybody is the Ozark Trail 12 person 3 room tent.
Ozark Trail 12 Person - Best Instant Tent for Large Groups
The Ozark Trail 12 Person Instant Tent is an absolute beast. It has 3 separate rooms and a large porch area covered by a roof.
The inside of the tent is a whopping 256 square feet and it can comfortably sleep 12 people.
This tent is as close as you can get to a portable house.
The Ozark Trail 12 person beat out the competition thanks to a couple features:
- The 16x16 floor space means you have over 250 square feet of living space.
- The covered porch area is a convenient spot to store your gear and keep it dry.
- There are 2 dividers which separate the tent into 3 different living areas.
- The cost of this tent is comparable to other 8 person tents with the same features.
The Ozark Trail instant tent is a joy to use. It's incredibly spacious and high quality. The rainfly on the tent is sturdy and covers the porch area so your stuff will stay dry. Ozark didn't screen the porch in or include a floor so they could keep the costs down while still keeping your gear dry. Since there's no floor, your stuff might get a little dirty but at least it will be dry.
- 16' x 16' instant cabin tent
- Sleeps 12
- Fits 3 queen airbeds
- Sets up in under 2 minutes
- 7 fully closeable windows
Last update on 2020-06-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Instant Tent Wrap Up
All of these instant tents are great choices. From the budget 4 person instant tents all the way up to the 12 person instant cabins, there's a ton of options and a lot of variety in the competition.
Make sure you know exactly what you want to do with your instant tent before you buy it. That way you can narrow down your options and find the right tent for your use case and budget. Happy camping!