Do you dream of putting your tent up in under 5 seconds? Sounds crazy, right? Not so crazy! The world of pop up tents has really come around in the last few years and I’ve personally moved from hating them to owning two and loving them!
A pop-up tent, sometimes called an instant tent, is a tent that requires no manual set up, such as feeding poles through gulleys or pumping air poles up. They are usually really quick to put up and just need pegging down. Pop up tents come in all shapes and sizes and range from very cheap to very expensive in price.
In this post, we’ll take a bit of a dive into what a pop-up tent is, how they’re made, how they’ve come along in the last few years and how to pick a good pop-up tent. We’ll also be taking a look at what pop-up tents are NOT a good buy!
What Is A Pop-Up Tent?
Pop up tents are designed with integrated poles and most are fully clipped together. Some pop-ups require you to feed a pole into the porch area, but most are ready to go in a minute or two.
Pop up tents typically take less than 10 seconds to pitch, and usually, that’s under 5 seconds. They’re great if you’re on your own because there are no fiddly poles to worry about. This makes pop up tents really easy and really quick to set up, meaning you can get set up and on with your camping trip in under a few minutes.
The quicker the setup, the quicker the cup of tea!
How does a pop-up tent work?
There are, broadly, two different types of ‘pop-up’ tent available on the market, fibreglass poles and air poles.
The first type is the one everyone is used to, flexible fibreglass poles that have been bent and arranged into a tent form. These springy poles will hold the tent form, and bend enough to go back into the bag as long as you fold it in the right way.
Flexible fibreglass has been the most popular choice for pop up tents for years, you’ll still find the biggest range of pop-up tents if you look for a fibreglass pole construction tent.
Setting up a flexible fibreglass poled pop-up tent is really simple. Take it out of the bag, unclip and let it pop, peg it out and you’re done!
Air Poles and Inflatable Tents
Air pole tents are not pop up tents in the traditional sense, but they are almost as quick and easy to put up.
As you may have guessed from the title, air pole tents don’t have traditional flexible fibreglass poles, instead, they have high-pressure air-filled channels.
The set up for an air poled tent is easy, just lay the tent out, connect it to your pump, pump it up to the right pressure and you’re done!
Where a normal pop up poled tent may take around 15-20 seconds to unwrap and flip out, an air poled tent may take up to a minute to roll out and pump out.
Air poled tents are REALLY easy and they have the advantage over traditional pop-up tents because they come in all kinds of sizes, including enormous sizes for family camping, and even the bigger ones are really solid.
They have a downside over most pop up tents because they are much, MUCH, heavier and bulkier to pack. Air poled tents usually pack away into a more square-shaped bag and can weight upwards of 50kg when packed, standard pop up tents usually fold down to large circular bags and, although an awkward shape to pack, they’re generally fairly light.
Are pop up tents any good?
This is a hard question to answer. My initial response is yes, pop-up tents are just as good as traditional tents, but there is a HUGE caveat with this: only good quality double skinned pop-up tents are any good, the single skinned “festival” pop up tents are absolutely rubbish.
The difference isn’t usually huge in price. For example, my favourite pop up tent I have is the Quechua 2 Seconds XL, it sets up in seconds, I’ve used it in heavy rain, it’s fairly easy to pack away and it only cost around £90 which is a really good price for a tent.
The reason this is a good tent is because it’s got a double skin (an outer tent and an inner tent) and it has a 2000HH waterproof rating which is probably the minimum I’d go for. I use this tent during the summer and on camping trips where I know it might be a bit rainy but I probably won’t be facing a huge downpour.
On the other side of the equation, you have those horrible cheap nasty festival pop up tents that are marketed as the perfect “first tent” for someone going away for a weekend. I hate these because they are all rubbish. Single skin and they will leak, even though they say they won’t!
If you’re going to invest in a pop-up tent, make sure you do the same checks as you would for a non-pop-up tent. These are:
- Check the hydrostatic head (waterproof rating) this should be 2000HH minimum
- Get a double skinned tent – outer tent and inner tent
- Get a tent with a porch area, even if it’s only very small this will keep your shoes and cooking kit dry
- Look at reviews, what do other people say?
- Get a good brand – I like Quechua as they may excellent tents, but Vango also do some good quality ones
- Never buy a “festival” or a “weekend” tent – these are generally really poor quality and you’ll end up wasting your money
How do you put up a pop-up tent?
Pop up tents are, by their very nature, incredibly easy to put up!
Step 1: Get it out of the bag
Most pop up tents will be clipped together in a few places, simply unzip the bag and allow the first bit to unravel until it won’t pop anymore
Step 2: Unclip and Pop
Find the sections that are clipped together and unclip them, from here the tent will more than likely want to pop. In some cases it’s easier to throw it and let it pop in the air, in other cases, for older pop up tents, or pop up tents that have been used a lot, you might need to give it a helping hand by doing a bit of unfolding
Step 3: Straighten It Out
Make sure your pop up tent is standing right, all poles should be unravelled and none of the groundsheets should be scrunched up. Some pop-up tents have detachable back pieces, meaning the back of the inner tent and the back of the outer tent may need to be pegged separately.
Step 4: Peg it out
This is VITAL for the safety of your pop up tent, you must peg out all of the available pegging areas. Every loop, every guy line. Pop up tents get their stability from the guy lines, which means you must peg them out even if you don’t expect high winds.
Step 5: Enjoy!
This should have taken you about a minute in all, the next step is to fill your tent with your sleeping bag, your bedding, and everything else that will mean you have a comfortable camping holiday!
How do you collapse a pop-up tent?
Every pop-up tent is different when it comes to taking it down, and for this, it really is useful to look at the instructions that come with your tent!
Here’s how my pop up tents go down, these instructions will be the same for all similar style tents, but may vary slightly if your pop up tent is bigger or has multiple rooms etc.
- Unpeg – unpeg all of the pegs and guy lines and put the pegs in the bag. On both of my pop-up tents the bags have a little compartment sewn in for the pegs to go, I don’t bother winding up the guy lines at all.
- Grab and pull the red grab handle – Both of the styles I have (tunnel type tents) have a grab handle inside along the back seam of the inner tent. This grab handle is coloured red and needs to be brought out of the tent (folding it down as you go) and to the corresponding red clips on the outside.
- Clip the red clips – The red clips are clipped together and the whole thing flipped up on the other side.
- Clip the yellow clips – there are two yellow clips that need clipping together, these are on the opposite side to the red clips.
- Squash to figure of eight – from here there’s a pulley which squashes the poles down in a figure of eight style. At this point, it’s very springy so I’d suggest doing it really quickly!
- Fold it over – Fold the figure of eight over so it feels like one big circular mess of poles and tents and loop the holding line over to keep it all together.
- Bag it – Once it’s all together in the mess of tent and poles it should feel like a big disc, this will fit in the bag fairly easily, put the bag over the top like a had and flip it over, zipping it ad you go.
As a bonus, pop up tents are usually MUCH easier to get into a bag than a standard poled tent or even air pole tent!
Getting a pop-up tent back into the bag can be a bit of a mission the first time you do it, and there might be crying and throwing of things (there was when I did it at first!) but once you’ve mastered getting it back into the bag it really shouldn’t take much longer than set-up.
Pop up tents usually take around 20 seconds to set up from start to finish (about 5 seconds to actually pop) and should take about 30 seconds to put down, excluding the unpegging time.
I genuinely love my two pop up tents. Neither are very big, my green one is actually really small, but they’re perfect for both me and the dog to enjoy together.
I think a good pop up tent is the perfect introduction to camping, whether you’re a singleton or a couple that want to start out, or if you’ve got an older child or teen who wants their own private space on your campsite. I would really recommend a good pop up tent!
I hope that was helpful if you have any questions or comments don’t forget to check out our Facebook Group ‘Go & Camp’ where you can ask questions and get involved, I’m in there all day and happy to help. If you loved this blog please consider pinning it and visit our YouTube channel for more exciting camping content.