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Pop Up Tent Guide

Pop up tent

If you are looking for a new tent, then a pop up tent might be for you. In this pop up tent guide, we will cover what a pop up tent is and the advantages and drawbacks of this style of tent.

We also cover: What is the best pop up tent?

The difference between an instant tent and a pop up. (A lot of campers get this one confused.)

The negatives of a pop up tent. (What you should be aware of.)

Also caring for the tent.


What is a Pop Up Tent?

How many will sleep in a tent?


A pop up tent is made to spring out and set itself up when released from its tent bag or strap. It is easy and quick to pitch.

They are like the fold up sun shades for your vehicle that pack into a flat circle or oval. Or like the collapsible soccer goals.

Closed pop up tent


Be careful if you buy one and want to see how it works and you release it up inside the house. If pops open quickly and can spring out and whack things if something gets in its road.

Because of this ultra quick action from the springy poles, it sets up quickly. All you generally have to do, is then stake it to the ground.

Most will come with guy ropes to help give it strength on windy days, but generally you can leave the off for nice weather that isn’t windy.

If you are camping for a few days or more, then you might peg in the guy ropes.

Depending on the brand and design, some pop ups will have side flaps that can be lowered in to minimize the mesh airflow panels. If you raise the wings up and out to the side, this opens up the air mesh panels and allows more airflow in. The front door entrance flap will also have a zipper that you can unzip to allow more airflow in.

The instructions should be kept in the tent bag. As packing them up can be fiddly and requires you to follow the instructions. It might pay to take a photo of the pack up instructions as well. My pop up has the instructions sewn onto the tent carry bag which is a great idea. Some brands have the step by step on how to set up the tent, printed on the tent carry bag.

Pop up tents aren’t designed to be carried along distance like a hiking tent. While they are reasonable light weight, they are too bulky (like a huge oversize pizza) when packed up, to carry any long distance.

With pop ups, you can also get them in a pop up en-suite style. Which are tall and some you can use for a toilet or shower, allowing privacy.

Pop ups are getting popular for beach goers as you can get them in sunshade tents with an open front.

The advantages of a pop up tent

pop up tent set up

I remember the old canvas tents that took multiple people to set it up in any decent time. Also the small “A” frame type tents that had too many connections and poles, that even for a small tent, would take ages to put up. So when I heard and saw the pop up tents many years ago come onto the market and they promised a quick set up, I was skeptical.

Every time I went to the camping stores, I would check them out. I always thought how they would break after a few goes. I saw them get more popular and realized they weren’t an overnight fad. I eventually bit the bullet and brought one. I am glad I did as my pop up tent has lasted many, many years. The pop up is just so quick to set up!

The quick set up time is the main advantage of this style tent. No fiddling with poles and elbow joints and threading the poles through the material. Simply fling it open and let it do its job.

Another positive is that because it is only a smaller four, three or to person tent is that it is reasonably light. Not as light as a hiking tent, but okay for weight.

The circumference when packed up is fairly bulky and a large round shape, even though it is thin. You might say it is like a big pancake packed up, so it can slide it the boot, or back easy enough.

Besides the quick frame set up, with most designs the only additional setting up is staking some pegs or guy ropes.

A pop up is good for extra room for kids to sleep in. As an example if you have a main family tent, and you are starting to get short of room, because the children are growing, then the pop up is ideal. When the kids get a bit older, it also gives them a bit of independence, sleeping in their own tent and they have privacy.

You could also use the pop up to store extra camping gear if the main tent is starting to get full.

Pop up tents are a great choice for the kids getting used to sleeping in the backyard as it can be pitched quickly.

Some people could use if for the pet dog to sleep in when camping for extra space.

You can get pop up tents with just the insect mesh for the wall.


Pop up tent sizes

pop up tent 2 person sizee


Pop up tents will normally come in one man, two man and three man options. Because of the set up design of the flexible thin poles, they are limited to a smaller tent size.

As well as limited floor size areas, pop up tents are not very tall. So with most designs you cannot stand straight up in them.

If you have read my article on all about tents, I explain that the floor and listed people sleeping sizes stated by the manufacture isn’t ideal.

As an example a three man tent or pop up tent, will hold three people almost side to side squashed in. The internal room won’t allow three big sleeping pads, three pillows and three lots of luggage.

It is a good idea if you can see one on display all set up at the store. Stores like REI and Cabelas also have some helpful salespeople who are campers and can show you the ropes. Camping stores will sometimes have a few models all set up so you can get an idea of actual size inside the tent.

Basically with size though, you roughly half the number. A two person tent will fit one person comfortably with a little bit of camping gear.

A three person tent, will fit maybe two people and some gear.

If you want to be squashed up inside the tent, then follow the label. But if you want room to breathe in the tent, go one size bigger or more if you want a bit of space.


What is the difference between pop up tents vs instant tents?

Pop up tent vs instant tent

A lot of people get the instant up tent confused with the pop up tents, because they both can be put up in a few minutes or seconds.

Pop up tents are different to instants tents in their set up action. For more information click on – Instant Tents Guide.

A pop up tent will spring itself up once released from its strap or carry bag. The pop up tent frame will flex out automatically and you don’t really have to touch the poles or frame.

An instant tent is sometimes called an instant up tent, fast frame tent, turbo tent, fast pitching or quick tent, depending on brand name and model.

However, with the instant tent, you have to physically spread the poles out and click them in place. You might spread the tent material out, slide the poles and click them into position. You might have a separate rain fly you then put over the tent.

Because of the internal flexible frame of a pop up tent, it is limited on size and height. As the frame won’t support the material in a bigger tent, like an eight person tent.

The frame of an instant tent can support a bigger fame, height and tent size.

Instant up tents can come in three person, four person, six person tent, eight person and up to ten person, tent size. A twelve person instant tent is available, but you are starting to cross into normal tent design with more poles and a longer set up, especially if it has a couple of rooms.

Generally you can tell when the tent is packed up, the difference between and instant tent and a pop up tent. As the pop up tent will be flat and round in the carry bag, like a giant Frisbee.

An instant tent will pack up in a more traditional long rectangle type tent bag.

(A thumbs up for the tent manufactures that make a bigger oversize tent bag like Oztent. So you don’t spend two hours when packing up, trying to fit a big tent in a small carry bag. Aargh the frustration of packing up a tent.)

How often will you go camping?

Pop up tents for camping

Another point before you buy a tent is to ask yourself, how often will you use the tent?

While this relates to size again, if you are going for a couple of weeks straight, then a pop up tent may not be big enough and you can feel cramped up in it. You might have to look at a more traditional pitch tent or an instant tent, as you can get more head room standing up.

If you only camp a few weekends a year, or you camp often but a quick set up is more important than head room, then a pop up is a great choice.


What is the best pop up tent?

Coleman pop up two person tent

Let’s look at some of the best pop up tents available in different sizes. What makes these tents stand out, is the quality construction and ease of set up.

The fabric, waterproofing, construction and design sets these tents apart from a cheap low budget tent that won’t have any waterproofing.

Some of these tents can be found at REI and Cabelas and other camping stores.

Both online and brick and mortar camping stores are worth checking out for the best deals and sales when shopping for a new tent.


Brand / Name Sleeps Height
Outdoor Connection Easy Up 2 – Pop Up Tent


2 105 cm.
Coleman 2-Person Pop-Up Tent 2 89 cm.
Explore Planet Earth Speedy 3 Black Hole Pop Up Tent (LED Lighting)


3 105 cm.
Outdoor Connection Easy Up 4 Pop-Up Tent


4 140 cm.
Explore Planet Earth Speedy 4 Black Hole Pop Up Tent (LED Lighting) 4 120 cm.

Remember that you may need to go bigger in size if you want to have room for extra camping gear or larger bedding mattresses.


Caring for the pop up tent

Looking after a pop up, is no different than caring for any other tent. If it rains or gets damp, don’t pack it up, but let it dry first before storing it long term.

Pop up tents folding it up.


If you do have to pack it up and leave the campsite by a certain time (like a camping siye) and it is still damp, then you can fold it away in the bag, but when you get home, you have to open it up again and let everything dry before storing it.

If the tent is wet, the material can get mold or rot.

Always store the tent dry.

Even if it hasn’t been raining, the underneath of the tent floor where it touches the ground can get damp. So check it and air it if it is damp.

A small tarp placed under the bathtub tent floor can keep the tent floor dry.

Then when it is time to pack up the tent the tent should be dry and you can pack it up quickly. You only have to dry the tarp, which is a lot easier than airing out the whole tent waiting for that to dry.

Check the guy ropes are dry as well. Wipe the dirt of the tent pegs on some grass or sticks. Otherwise if they are muddy, the dampness can seep through the peg bag onto the tent material and cause it to rot.

Another tent care tip is to be careful when putting the tent stakes in the tent bag with the packed tent as the sharp tent stakes can rip the tent material.

Avoid getting chemicals like petrol or insect spray on the tent material as it can damage it.

For windy nights camping, use the extra guy line ropes staked out from the tent for support. A car parked beside the tent, up wind can give some protection from strong winds when camping.

While the good quality pop ups are robust, the flexible frames can still be damaged. So follow the packing up instructions.

When setting the tent up, clear sticks and sharp rocks first, as they can puncture the tent floor.

I know this one from experience, but inside the pop up tents aren’t designed to be a WWF wrestling ring. My two boys think otherwise though.

Don’t set up the tent under overhanging dead tree limbs, or even live tree limbs as they can be rotten and fall on the tent.

Avoid setting up near dead standing trees. It doesn’t have to be windy for a dead tree to fall down. Hot still days can see the tree come crashing down and be as dangerous as a windy day.

When packing the car, don’t place too heavier items on the tent or sharp items on it, like the corner of a shovel as it can rip the tent material.


The negatives of a pop up tent

As mentioned because of the design, the pop up is limited to size. The biggest size is around four person, with smaller three and two person models being more common. So size is limited in a pop up design.

Now, I have mentioned how easy and quickly the pop up is to set up, however packing them up is a different story.

Pop up tent instructions

Above it two sets of instructions for a pop up tent. They are basically the same as you gather the tent up and fold it into itself.

They can a nightmare if you don’t follow the instructions to the “T”. I have seen campers get frustrated with their pop up tents and after spending a lot of not being able to pack them up properly, just try and squash them down as much as they design allows for and throw them in the vehicle or trailer.

I am probably exaggerating a bit, but sometimes they pack up easy, other times it can be harder to get the hang of it.

If you have set them up and packed it up a few times, it is not too bad, but if it is a long time between setting one up, you may forget how to do it.

As mentioned the tent is okay for weight, and thin packed up, but the large circular pizza shape isn’t good for carrying it a long way in the bush. You would never backpack with one, or not very far anyway.

Because of the frame structure and design, some pop ups don’t have a great mesh area to allow good ventilation on hot nights. The side wing models can lack the wide open mesh windows of some tent designs. See if you can look at one set up and check out the ventilation flaps and windows first.

If you live in hotter places like Texas or California, then make sure it has big enough windows and ventilation.

Airflow through the tent will also help condensation issues on chilly nights as well in cold areas.

Most pop ups won’t have a separate fly or rainfly, as the design of the tent incorporates it in. A single tent wall can be a negative as condensation and waterproofing can be a factor.

My pop up tent has no worries with being waterproof and has seen many storms and downpours. However, a hot night it can be an issue, but this is more because of its small size. Generally I am trying to fit me and a child in tit when we go fishing or camping and it can be squashy.

As mentioned, there isn’t much head room or height in a pop up tent. Which is a pain for getting changed. But you can sit up in it to change.


Conclusion of the Pop Up Tents Guide

Pop ups are a great tent that are very quick and easy to set up.

Pop up tents can be fiddly to pack up and are limited in size. But if you understand its shortcomings, it is one of the best tents for easy and instant shelter when camping just for a few nights.