Are instant tents worth it? When are they good?

You’ve heard about Instant tents and how they set up in a few minutes and even in seconds without consulting a 20-page manual. That sounds amazing, but is it for real?

You don’t want to buy one and then discover it’s all marketing hype and you’re standing at a campsite with an instant tent that makes you feel like an instant chump…

We’ve looked at all the pros and cons of instant tents and put them together in one place so you can see if getting an instant tent is worth it for you – or not!

Check out the list below so you know what you need to consider if you’re in the market for an instant tent!

Related: Looking for a great instant tent? Check out our guide to the best instant tents for camping.

1. Fast to set up

Instant tents are constructed to do exactly as they say – set up instantly. There really isn’t a faster setup than an instant tent. Some will set up in seconds and most under two minutes, making them perfect for when you have better things to do.

The main attraction of instant tents is their ability to go up correctly the first time in a really short time frame by a complete beginner. Gone are the days of an hour to set up a tent for the night! 

2. Moderately quick to take down

Depending on your proficiency, instant tents don’t take too long to refold into their bags. Because there are no separate parts, once you’ve got the sequence sorted, it’s definitely quicker than a conventional dome tent!

You will need a bit of practice but eventually, expect to take under two minutes to pack up most instant tents.

3. Many instant tents are suitable for summer only

Due to the construction of these tents and the fact that a lot of them are single walled and don’t have rain flys, most of them are really fair weather friends. 

Which is perfect for festival-goers, summer family holidays, and casual campers who have no intentions of being out in the rain. 

If you are thinking of winter camping or when the weather isn’t the best a three or four-season conventional tent will probably be best for you.

4. Good for beginners

Because instant tents are so easy to set up, the beginner will be thrilled to have a camping tent up in a few minutes and be able to start camping immediately rather than spend a few frustrating hours figuring out what pole really goes where!

Most instructions are a diagram without words and most you can work out from looking at a photo of the set up tent!

5. No chance of forgetting tent poles

Instant tents are one complete unit. There are no extra bags of parts or bits to remember – or forget! All the parts you need are in one bag, attached to the tent. You simply can’t forget a single thing!

6. Too heavy for backpacking

The mechanisms for instant tents are a lot heavier than the standard poles in a conventional tent. So if you are backpacking where weight is a big consideration, then these tents are unlikely to work well for you. 

Instant tents are more convenient for people camping with their cars rather than hiking from campsite to campsite.

People hiking with full backpacks in the scrub
Instant tents are often too heavy for backpacking trips as well as taking up a lot of space.

7. Takes up lots of space

Because of the construction of instant tents, they are bulkier than conventional tents so when you have them in your car or garage, they will take up a bit more room. Most people are ok with that due to the major advantages of having it all in one bag and the instant setup!

Backpackers usually go for tents based on their low weight and small size. Instant tents aren’t very small or very light in most cases. Packing size is sacrificed for ease of set up. 

8. Great starter kit for kids

If you plan to do summer holiday camping with the kids, then these are fantastic tents to start them off on. They are simple to put up and even the set up diagrams without words are easy enough for a child to understand.

These are also the perfect tent for camping in the backyard or even inside the house in the holidays for a bit of at-home camping fun!

9. Useful for festivals

When you are attending a festival, it’s about the music, the atmosphere, and the vibe, not about setting up a campsite and settling in. Instant tents go up in a jiffy, mark your spot, keep all your gear in one spot and give you more time to festival the days and nights away!

And should you meet up with new friends and want to move your tent closer to them, instant tents go down and set back up again – dare we say – instantly! 

10. Can cost more than budget conventional tents

The research and development that has gone into developing these new forms of tent technology, currently come at a price. Not every manufacturer is geared up to be able to produce these tents and so, the price of these tents is reflected in the price still. 

If budget is a big consideration, a conventional tent is a lot cheaper at the moment.

11. Harder to replace broken poles

Because these tents are all one unit and still a fairly new technology, replacement parts aren’t as easily available yet. In time the parts will be available and people will post workarounds for common breaks but at the moment, it’s much harder to fix instant tent poles if they break. 

If a part of the complex folding system fails, you might not be able to put up the tent for the night as fixing them on-site can be impossible. It’s also harder to use a broken instant tent as a blanket or tarp as the poles are often sewn in position and won’t come out easily.

You may have to replace the whole tent if a part breaks. 

Camo instant tent pitched in a paddock by a car
If you need rain protection, you might need to bring a separate rain fly or tarp.

12. Pop up instant tents can be difficult to fold back up

Pop up tents are a kind of instant tent that pop open when you take them out of the bag. Until you get your pop up tent folding technique sorted, you might find them much easier to set up than takedown. It’s a case of learning the sequence and technique and like anything new, it takes time to learn. 

The more you use the tent, the more proficient you will become putting it back inside its bag! 

13. Material quality and durability can be spotty

Quality manufacturers are bringing out great tents with quality parts and fabrics. Other not so reputable ones are copying them, cheaply and so it’s still a case of buyer beware. 

To be safe, buy your instant tent in person rather than online unless it’s from a quality manufacturer like Coleman tents that has a good reputation for conventional tents. Their instant tents will be of the same quality.

14. Instant tent poles can perform badly strong winds

Because of the way these tents have been constructed, they are not great in high winds. They tend to be boxier, lighter, flightier, and sometimes don’t have guy ropes to hold them down. 

If you think the wind will be part of the weather pattern where you are going camping, consider a conventional tent or think of a way to tie your instant tent down!

15. Instant tents are often single-wall – bad for condensation

The main disadvantage to a single walled tent is always condensation. Instant tents are nearly always single walled tents, although, some do come with a rainfly. 

Single walled tents aren’t as breathable as double walled tents and so if you don’t have adequate ventilation, you might end up a bit damp in the morning. Make sure you get one with a mesh panel, door, or window!

A lot of instant tents aren’t waterproofed. Read the ads and specifications properly to be sure. You may have to do your own weatherproofing by sealing the seams and using a waterproof spray if you are expecting rain at all.

Comparison criteriaConventional TentInstant Tent
Set up3/55/5 🏆
Pull down3/54/5🏆
Cost4/5🏆2/5
Waterproof rating5/5 Double walled tents🏆2/5
Wind resistance4/5🏆2/5
Space inside4/53/5
Weight4/5🏆2/5
Storage space /carry4/5🏆2/5
Overall rating31/40🏆18/40

Instant tents are a new technology and will develop over time. At the moment they are really fair weather tents, designed for people who have better things to do than spend all day setting up campsites. They are great for balmy days, families, festival-goers, and people who love the outdoors. 

If you have lots of things to do away from the tent all day but plan to be on the same site for days then instant tents are likely to work for you. They come in all shapes and sizes from small singles to large family and from simple screen rooms to multi-roomed tents!

Conventional tents have been developing since humans left the caves and we know how to make these stable, waterproof, lightweight, and portable. We’ve figured out a lot of the bugs and there is one for nearly every situation you would want to camp in.

Regular camping in different spots under different weather conditions will need a more robust, all-weather tent to keep the rain off and your tent standing in the wind.

Ultimately you will have to assess your camping style, families needs, your typical weather, a realistic budget, and what you need from a tent to decide if an instant tent is worth it for you.  

Large group of tents in a paddock in the early morning
Instant tents are perfect for people new to camping or who have an infrequent need for a tent.

Are instant tents worth it?

Instant tents have been designed for a specific person in specific situations and if that’s you, then they are fantastic and you should get one. 

If you are a conventional camper who is never sure about the weather, moves from site to site, and needs extra storage space, then a conventional tent will work better for you. 

Make sure you get the tent that will work for your camping style and that you will be happy camping with for years and years!

Happy Camping! 😊

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Author at Wilderness Redefined camping website

Kara grew up in New Zealand where camping in the backyard as a child turned into multi-night trips in the National Parks as a teenager and then a full blown backpacking adventure for a year in Asia, by herself in her early 20's. Camping, bush walking, car camping and road trips still feature heavily in her current life style. She lives right next door to a World Heritage National Park on Springbrook Mountain and highly recommends having them as next door neighbours!