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Instant Tents Guide


Instant tent

Instant tents are great for camping, as they can literally be set up in minutes. In this article we will look at what an instant tent actually and the different sizes.

We also cover, what makes the best instant tent. As well look at, what the difference is between a pop up tent and an instant tent?


What is an instant tent?

Instant tent 4 person

Instant tents can also be called an instant-up tent, turbo tent, quick tent, quick frame tent and fast pitch tent, depending on the brand and manufacturer.

Most instant tent frames can be set up in under two minutes. Some in under thirty seconds for the frame.

But when you take into account staking the tent pegs in the ground, putting the rain fly on and pegging out the guy ropes, you can have it set up in under ten minutes. Which is still pretty fast. (With a lot of traditional pitch tents, you can take this long just connecting the poles and elbows together.)

A lot of instant tents will have the frame pre-attached on the outside, or internally in the sleeves of the material.

Instant tents aren’t designed to be taken hiking because of their bulk and weight. They are more designed for car camping.

Unlike a swag, hiking tent, bivvy bag or pop up tent, you can freely stand up in an instant tent.

Instant tents are good if you need more room to get changed, or don’t like the low roof height of a swag or backpacking tent.


What is the difference between an instant tent and the pop up tent?

Pop up tent vs instant tent

With a Pop Up Tent, you literally take it out of its cover bag, or strap and it will spring out by itself and pop up. You only have to peg it down once it springs out. (Be careful it can spring out and knock things over when released.)

Pop up tents fold away and spring out like the collapsible sun shade window screens for your car.

Most pop up tents have the fly on them, or are have a one piece shell.

A pop up tent is also limited on size.

Such as you can generally only get 2 man, 3 man and 4 person tents in the pop up size. The flexible frame won’t support enough weight of a larger 8 person or 10 person tent.

As well as the maximum size difference between a pop up tent and an instant tent, the main difference is how you set up the tent.

Instant tent hub connection


With the fast pitch tent frame, you have to manually spread the fabric out and spread the poles out. You then slide the poles and hinges out and click them or lock them into position.

Different tent companies like Coleman tents, Blackwolf, Oztent, Darche and Wanderer will have a different frame, pole and hub system. But generally you pull out the poles and lock them into position. Once the tent is pitched, you then peg out the tent floor.

With a quick frame tent or instant tent, the rain fly is normally separate and you put that over the tent, once the tent is pitched and tension the guy lines.

Another main difference is with a pop up tent you are limited on height and can’t stand up in them. With a turbo tent or quick tent, you can stand up in them.

You can also get instant tents for beach and sun shade tents. (And pop ups designs.)

Beach sun shade instant tent


What size instant tent?

The beauty about instant tents is their wide range of sizes available. They generally have from 4 person, 6 person, 8 person and 10 person tent sizes depending on brand.

Some brands do have a 2 man instant tent as well, but 4 person and above is more common.

You can even get a 12 person instant tent. But they are limited to smaller sizes or below the 10 man or 12 person tent, because of their fast pitch tent design though.

As discussed in the article on Camping Tents Guide, the size that manufactures state normally means that it can hold that amount of people sleeping side by side. But this number is the maximum amount it can sleep. It doesn’t take into account that:

You don’t want to be squashed up like a sardine in the tent.

You have a clothes bag or back pack or camping gear you want to put in the tent while sleeping in it.

You have a large sleeping mat or stretcher.

If you are camping in hot environments like Texas or California, a small tent will hold a lot of heat, so a larger one can allow more airflow.

Ideally you halve the number listed on tent size. So if it states it is a 4 man tent, you might be able to sleep two people comfortable and a little bit of camping gear.

Another example if the tent size states it is a 6 person tent, than it might sleep three people and some gear.

See if REI, Cabelas, or other camping shops have some instant up tents set up and you can see the actual room inside them.

Instant tents are also ideal if you are RVing or motorhome camping and need some extra room for kids or gear. Especially if you are stopping frequently and setting up camp at caravan parks and touring around. As you can get a few different sizes to select your room to store it in the vehicle or travel trailer and the internal tent size you need.


How often will you go camping?

Instant tent 6 person size.


A question to consider when looking at the different tents and designs is, how often you will go camping? This can then determine if an instant tent is right for you.

If you only go camping once a year or so and you are not concerned with head height room, then a pop up tent might be a better choice.

If you are a large family or group and you stay at a place for weeks, then a larger traditional family tent might be a better pick. As set up time is less important, but the amount of room in the tent is key, an instant tent may not be the best choice.

However, if you go many weekends fishing or camping then the quick set up and pack up design of the instant tent is ideal.

Also if you want more head height than a pop up, an instant tent would be a good purchase.

What is the best instant tent?

These ratings of the best tents are based on quality, brand customer reviews and ease of setting up and value.

Remember to allow more room for the sleeping size.

Brand / Name Sleeps Height
Coleman Instant Up Camping Tent 6 Silver Series Easy Setup Tent 6 190 cm.
Coleman Northstar Instant Up 4 Lighted DarkRoom Tent 4 190 cm.
Oztent RV5 Touring Canvas Tent 5 190 cm.

Caring for the instant tent

Instant tent with campfire


Like all tents, the fast frame tent needs to be aired and dry before you pack it away long term.

If it is raining at the campsite and you have to pack it up wet, make sure you set it up at home and dry it. I know it is a pain in the bottom, but airing it out in the garage or shed or out on a nice day and letting it dry properly is better than storing it wet and it becomes moldy or rotted.

When packing up the camping gear, avoid sharp edge tools or equipment close the tent. Like pulling out a shovel from the back of the pick up truck and the sharp edge of the shovel can catch on the material. Axes and hatchets should have their sheaths and masks on away from the tent when packing.

Be cautious when putting the sharp tent pegs into the main tent bag as it can rip the material or poke a hole in it. Even with a tent stake bag, the ends can stick through this bag and into the tent material.

Avoid setting the tent up under branches that might fall on the tent.

For safety obviously avoid underneath or close to dead or rotting trees and overhead limbs that may fall. Click on Safe Camping Tips for more information and practical tips of where to set up the tent safely.

Make sure you don’t have the campfire too close to the tent.

For windy areas use the guy ropes when setting it up.

Don’t spray with insect repellent directly on the material as it can damage the tent.

Don’t leave the tent stored in a damp shed or garage on wet ground as the material will rot or get mold. Keep it in a well ventilated dry area. Avoid storing heavy items on it as it can damage the material and frame.


The negatives of an instant tent

Many years ago the instant tents were very expensive as they were a newly manufactured item. Today they are getting cheaper every year, but are still slightly dearer than a normal frame tent.

Having said that you can get some great bargains at REI, Bass Pro and Cabelas. Look for REI camping sales at other outdoor stores, especially the holiday camping sales, Black Friday or Cyber sales.

One drawback of the instant tent is the size limit. While you can get a wide range of sizes from a 4 man tent to up to 10 person or even up to the 12 person tent, anything above that size is limited. This is because the fast pitch frame design won’t support the weight of a large area or heavy material.

For big families a larger traditional pitched tent might be the answer. Or two medium size tents can be put close together might be an option for more people.

In years to come the instant tent will be designed bigger to accommodate larger families or groups when camping.

If you do buy a cheaper no-brand instant tent, the fabric and poles won’t last long with the setup and pack up design. So make sure you buy from a reputable camping brand or outdoor store.


Conclusion of the Instant Tents Guide

If set up time is important for camping, then the instant tent is the design for you.

Instant tents have more head room then pop up tents and you can get them in a larger size for sleeping more people than the pop up.

While they are not as big as a larger family tent, they can range from 4 person up to 10 person, or 12 person instant tents.

If you think an instant tent is for you when camping, there are a wide variety of brands available that are easy and quick to put up.