As a Cub Scout, the only tent I ever used was an old hand-me-down pup tent from my dad. And he had bought it from a garage sale before I was born. While not the perfect tent camping option, it held its own through a few rainy weekend trips to local state parks.
Nowadays, tent camping has gone ultra-modern. Lighter components, better fabrics, and engineering that seemingly comes from NASA make setting up a tent – and staying dry – easier than ever.
One type of tent that you might consider for your next outdoor adventure is the pop up tent.
What Is a Pop Up Tent?
A pop up tent takes the effort out of setting up a tent. Most old-fashioned tents have collapsible frames made of interlocking tubes. You’ll have to assemble (and disassemble) these tubes each time you set up and take down your tent.
A pop up tent has pre-assembled poles that remain inside the fabric siding. Simply remove the tent from its storage case, pick out a suitable campsite, and let the tent expand. Often setup of a pop up tent takes less than a minute (and in some cases just a few seconds!).
One type of pop up tent expands by itself when the center is pulled upwards, like this Lightspeed Periapsis tent.
Types of Pop Up Tents
Most pop up tents look like a dome or a tunnel. Tent designers are limited in the looks department because they have to ensure the mechanism that expands and contracts the tent can function properly, and won’t snag on the tent material itself.
While pop up tents are often smaller than full-sized tents, some can still sleep up to four people comfortably. Many models though are designed to sleep just two people. If the tent is too big, the pop up mechanism won’t have enough strength to fully open the tent and may fail.
Pop Up Tents Are Great For Kids
Because they’re so easy to setup, pop up tents work well when camping with children. Kids sometimes get bored quickly with tedious tasks, like pitching an old fashioned tent with collapsible, hand-assembled support rods.
- extra side entrances
- easy storage
- ability to connect multiple tents together (remember playing fort?)
- mini furniture for inside
- various sizes to make a ‘tent city’
Benefits of Pop Up Tents
You’ll have to ask yourself a few things before you buy your first pop up tent.
Some questions to consider include:
- What seasons will you camp in? Pop up tents arguably aren’t as durable as other four-season tents and sacrifice robustness for ease of setup. You can still find many solid three-season pop up tents, though.
- How many people need to sleep inside? Pop up tents mostly sleep just a few people. Although you can find models that sleep up to four comfortably, you’re better off with a traditional, manual setup tent if you want to sleep more than a few adults.
- Where will you place the tent? You can buy pop up tents designed for specific uses. For example, this tent works well on sandy beaches and has a special anti-UV coating.
Highly Rated Pop Up Tents
We found a few popular pop up tents you might consider buying if you’re new to this type of camping. We chose these to show you the different types of uses that a pop up tent can serve, from hanging out at the beach to providing shelter for a small camping party.
This nylon tent self-expands in just one second, and takes only three seconds to fold down. The three covered sides are made of T190 UV-protected nylon (50+ UPF) to block the sun’s rays and provide you with shelter on a sweltering day. With four plastic ground stakes and sand bag pockets on both side panels, you can be sure the tent won’t blow away during windy spells.
This inexpensive two person tent has a base that’s 78″ x 48″ and takes just one step to setup. Two way zippers make it easy to open and close the entrance flap from inside or outside of the tent.
An example of the tunnel variety of pop up tent, this particular model has two layer construction, meaning there’s a fly sheet and the inner wall material. A rain fly protects the entire roof. The tent ‘pops open’ in just a second and folds down to a dish 30″ in diameter.
Here’s a pop up tent that has a very specific purpose: keeping those pesky mosquitos off of you! The shelter pops up instantly, and there’s absolutely no assembly required. You could place this mosquito tent on a cot, bunk bed, inflatable mattress, you name it. Can fold down to a 20 inch diameter disk and comes with a tarp floor for long lasting use.
An example of a larger instant-setup tent, this model from Lightspeed Outdoors sleeps four adults and has a pre-assembled hub and spoke system. It’s classified as a three-season tent, with single-wall construction (no rain fly needed).