A tent that pops promptly into shape! You must have come across one while shopping for a tent. We love it because it’s a cheap bargain compared to other tent types. Not only that, but it’s convenient and makes for a terrific on-the-spot shelter.
Yet, many campers often wonder: are pop up tents good? Is it a good idea to buy one? The answer to that depends on how often you go camping and what you expect from your tent.
Keep reading to find out more.
Should I Buy a Pop Up Tent?
Surely it’ll take your mind off the hustle of setting up a tent. Just pop it up into the space you want. The only thing left is to peg a couple of guy ropes to secure the tent in place.
These tents are a practical idea for a quick stop and rest. They also offer protection if it rains or when the sun gets too hot to bear.
Related: Interested in a pop up tent but want to make sure you get your money’s worth? Check out our reviews of the top pop up camping tents.
Case in point, buy a pop up tent if you’re planning something light. For example, if you’re going on a casual family camping trip, a pop up tent would be perfect! Other ideas include a light hike, a summer get-together on the beach, or a bit of relaxation during a festival.
However, don’t depend on it for any plans that involve harsh weather. Pop up tents aren’t built to withstand strong wind. They’re also not leakproof, which means they won’t protect against heavy rainfall.
Once you start camping regularly, it’s better to invest in a more durable tent. It may cost a bit more and require some extra work to set up, but it’s a great way to stay comfortable and enjoy your camping experience to the fullest.
Pop up tents open up instantly. They take less than a minute to set up, which is why they’re categorized as ’instant’ tents.
Instant tents include tents that are manufactured with pre-attached spring poles. They have no separate parts to put together, so less work for you. You simply unfold it and secure it to the ground.
There are two typical shapes of instant tents – dome tents and cabin tents. Do take note here as pop-up tents only come in a dome shape, which means you’re cutting yourself off from other camping experiences.
As the name suggests, these tents have dome-shaped tops with extra height in the middle. In addition, the curved shape is a great advantage during rain, in which rain rolls down its slope easily.
Dome tents have a rectangular-shaped base floor reinforced with vertical poles going the full length over the top of the dome.
Unfortunately, the slanted walls make you feel a little hemmed in near the walls. There’s still plenty of headspace in the middle of the tent, though.
Generally, dome tents are the bread and butter of modern camping tents.
Cabin Tents – an alternative
Cabin tents are the most spacious tents on the market. They get their names from the vertical walls that make them look like actual cabins.
Some models even come with interior separators to make rooms for added privacy. The spacious interior makes them popular among large families and sizable groups.
However, their boxy shape is definitely not aerodynamic. This means that cabin tents are a fair weather tent only.
If you’re a family or a big group, do check out some instant cabin tents before buying a pop up tent, as you may prefer the additional comfort they provide.
Check out these five benefits of using a pop up tent.
Unfolding a pop up is a no-hassle one-person job and they’ll be set up in a matter of minutes. As soon as you take out your tent and untie it, the springs will pop open, forcing the poles to instantly expand.
Folding a pop up tent back is a little more difficult than unfolding it. It takes a few more steps and can be pretty confusing the first time. However, once you have the hang of it, it’s still more manageable than a regular tent.
Conventional tents will have you fit multiple poles through the fabric loops to construct the frame. In addition, you’ll go through the same ordeal when you’re disassembling them.
Most pop up tents are small, lightweight, and portable. This makes them great for short camping trips.
When you fold them, simply slide them into a backpack. Better yet, some are sold with portable carry-on bags to make it easier for you to just sling it over your shoulder and go.
The instant pop up tent is ideal for beginner campers. You won’t need any assistance when folding and unfolding it.
And when we say they’re great for beginner campers – we mean all beginners!
Pop up tents are often given to kids as their first tent. This is due to how easy they are to use and their affordable (i.e., replaceable) price tags.
And giving a kid their own tent can be a teachable experience too. It provides an opportunity to learn how to maintain their own space and take responsibility.
There are many varieties of designs and brands of instant tents. You can find one within an affordable price range or throw in some extra cash for one that’s a bit fancier.
No matter what your budget is, here are some criteria to consider;
- How well will it hold up to the elements?
- How many people will be using it?
- Will you need to stand in it or just use it for sleeping?
- Is there enough space to store your kit?
- Does it have good ventilation?
- How much does it weigh?
Camping and taking time away from our hectic lifestyle is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. This can be especially helpful for people who suffer from chronic health conditions or disabilities.
Pop-up tents help make that a possibility because they’re simple to set up and take down. They require minimal effort, which reduces the risk of injuring yourself or others.
Plus, pop-ups are accessible and convenient to use. There are no flaps on the bottom to get in the way or trip anyone. Even getting in and out via a wheelchair is easy and hassle-free.
Nothing is perfect. Pop up tents have some disadvantages too.
Pop up tents are user-friendly, especially when folding and unfolding. It’s actually one of their best features.
Unfortunately, they tend to be heavy and bulky when folded. This is due to their built-in poles and springs and the fabric itself.
Therefore, they’re not recommended for long hikes and backpackers.
Pop-ups are made from water-resistant fabric to make them able to resist rain and moisture. Some regular tents come with a mesh top that you then mount a rainfly (a tarp) on top of. The rainfly provides waterproofing while the mesh lets air circulate.
Unfortunately, the design of pop up tents isn’t the best option for breathability. It comes with no rainfly and instead is all integrated into the one layer – i.e. less ventilation. This isn’t necessarily limited to pop up tents, cheaper regular tents often come with integrated rainflys.
Consequently, when temperatures outside drop, condensation accumulates inside. You might even wake up to find yourself sleeping in a puddle.
There are a couple of simple steps to reduce the condensation that already took place. Start by wiping the walls with a dry towel or cloth. Then allow the air in your tent through the vents or the door. Finally, make sure your pop-up is completely dry before folding it to avoid mold.
Not all pop up tents are waterproof. If you choose one of the cheaper models, you may end up with a tent that leaks.
The reason? Frankly – it’s the targeting of the market. Pop up tents are beginner camping tents. This means they prioritize affordability and easy of use over higher performing but expensive materials.
You won’t find super strong aluminum poles in a pop up tent, as this would double or triple the cost of the tent. You won’t find lightweight but strong nylon fabric used as the main material, as this would also raise the price. And likewise, build quality in pop up tents typically ranges from poor to okay (so make sure to pick a good quality pop up tent!).
So you should expect standard issues that come with cheaper tents, such as:
- Water leaking in around the seams
- Brittle tent poles that will snap in high wins
- A shorter tent lifespan
We do recommend that you pick up some waterproofing spray (try Kiwi Camp Dry) and apply it every half a year ago. This can go a long way to avoiding picking up leaks.
4. No Porches
Boots can’t help getting muddied up when you’re camping. It’s part of the fun!
Nevertheless, you certainly don’t want all that mud getting inside your pop up and messing up your gear. Yet, one of the drawbacks of pop-ups is they don’t come with a porch. So, there’s no place to keep your dirty hiking boots.
Yet, that’s not all porches are good for. They’re also used as extra storage to keep your equipment and make sure they stay safe and dry.
The unfolding part is easy enough. It’s the folding back up you have to worry about. While it’s not exactly difficult, it’s not as easy.
Designers are constantly developing new designs that make folding less of a hassle. For example, check out the Quechua 2 Second Easy Fresh & Black tent (Note – the Easy version is different to the standard Fresh & Black).
This Quechua tent has made the tedious task of folding up tents much easier. You simply have to press a few buttons in the tent to collapse it, then clump it all together and pop it in its bag.
Some steps are crucial before you fold your pop up. They ensure you don’t get any surprise dirt, mold, or find yourself with a broken tent on site.
- Brush off any dust or mud, or clean with soap and water if necessary.
- Dry the inside and outside of your tent completely by air drying or using a towel/cloth.
- Remove any guy ropes.
Pop up tents are made of affordable materials and, in particular, the fiberglass spring poles are vulnerable and can easily bend or break.
Replacement parts are typically non-existent and that is, in part, because they’re not really designed to be repairable.
If you find a replacement part, it can be challenging to fix the broken pole yourself. The seams of the fabric are either glued or sewn together. Whichever you have, it’ll be impossible to separate and connect them back without damaging the integrity of the material.
To find a tent that can survive the constant folding and unfolding, you’ll have to look for a more expensive, conventional tent.
So, are pop up tents good? If you’re a casual camper – Yes!
Basically, pop up tents set themselves up, with minimal work from you. They’re an excellent option for occasional campers and ideal weather conditions.
But they’re not a good choice if you often go camping or backpacking. They aren’t particularly durable and they don’t perform in bad weather.
Something to bear in mind is that you don’t have to stick with one tent forever. If you’re just getting started, there’s no harm in going for a cheap pop up tent for now and moving onto something a little more advanced later on.
Next up: Want to head camping but like the sound of keeping it easy? Grab the car, your pop-up tent and check our car camping packing list to get started!