Best Pop-Up Tents

Updated September 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

25 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
349 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best pop-up tents

Last Updated September 2020

If you like the idea of setting up a tent in the great outdoors but don't have much in the way of camping know-how, a pop-up tent is the ideal choice. Just shake it out and it pops into shape, then you peg it down and you're ready to camp. This way, you could be making s'mores and telling ghost stories minutes after your arrival rather than wrestling with a tent for hours.

Perhaps you’ve decided you definitely want to buy a pop-up tent, but which one? First, you need to choose between true pop-up tents and instant tents (which are considered types of pop-up tents). Then you'll need to decide on the size and capacity, as well as more basic considerations like color and built-in storage options.

See our top five pop-up tent choices above for some inspiration or keep reading for our full buying guide to pop-up tents to learn more.

Learn before your trip how to break down your pop-up tent. Many tents need to be twisted in a certain way, which can be difficult if you don't know the method.

Key considerations

Pop-up vs. instant tents

Pop-up tents: True pop-up tents literally pop open as soon as you get them out of the bag and give them a shake. All the poles are already in place and don't need to be connected or extended. If you want the quickest and easiest tent to pitch, choose a true pop-up tent.

The downside of these tents is that they have a few flaws and quirks. Since they need to be simple in design to pop open the way they do, they rarely have porches or compartments for storing gear, plus they're not the best at keeping out the rain.

Instant tents: These tents belong under the pop-up tent category but don't pop open. The tent poles are all in place, but you need to attach the separate pole joints together to give the tent its structure. While this isn't completely instant like a true pop-up tent, it’s extremely simple  and shouldn't take one person more than a minute or two. Instant tents are often available in large sizes as well as small, and they tend to be more practical in terms of storage and waterproofing.

Capacity

All tents list the number of people they fit, but be cautious when using this information since it indicates the absolute maximum capacity. For example, a four-person tent might fit four adults if they sleep shoulder to shoulder with little or no gear in the tent, but it won't be particularly comfortable.

If you want a little more space for gear or want to sleep on inflatable pads, we'd recommend choosing a tent with a capacity of twice what you need. If four people will be sleeping in the same tent, choose an eight-person tent. It's worth noting that true pop-up tents tend to be fairly compact. Two-person and four-person options are the most common. Instant tents can be larger, holding up to a dozen people.

Waterproofing

True pop-up tents tend to be water resistant rather than waterproof. They might keep you dry if there's a light drizzle, but they won't keep out even a moderate amount of rain. As such, we'd only recommend using a true pop-up tent if you're relatively sure that there won't be any rain. Instant tents, on the other hand, are usually fully waterproof and may even have a separate rain fly to improve their water resistance.

EXPERT TIP

If you often arrive at your campsite after dark, it's far easier to set up a pop-up tent than a standard tent in low light.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Color

Under normal conditions, the color of your tent isn't too important, but if you have several color options to choose from, you might as well pick your preferred hue. If you're taking your pop-up tent to a festival, you'll thank yourself for choosing a distinctive color or print that will make your tent stand out in the sea of tents at the campsite.

Weight

Pop-up tents tend to be relatively lightweight, which is a bonus if you need to lug your camping gear a fair distance from your car. Of course, the larger the tent, the heavier and bulkier it will be.

Components

Storage: It's extremely useful to have side pockets or other built-in storage in your pop-up tent. Storing some of your gear off the ground gives you more floor space in the tent.

Ventilation: Make sure your pop-up tent has some ventilation, such as mesh panels, so the interior doesn’t get too hot or condensation doesn’t form inside.

Some tents can be tricky to pitch without an extra pair of hands, which makes pop-up tents great for solo campers.

Accessories

Air mattress: Coleman QuickBed Single High Airbed Mattress
If you want to camp in comfort, pack an air mattress. This twin-size model is perfect for solo campers and can be pumped up using a manual or battery-powered pump. Avoid air mattresses with built-in pumps unless you'll have access to a power outlet.

Sleeping bag: MalloMe Camping Sleeping Bag
Pop-up tents are best used in warmer months since they're poorly insulated, so a lightweight to medium-weight sleeping bag, such as this one from MalloMe, is ideal.

Camping stove: Esbit Lightweight Camping Stove and Cook Set
If you want to cook some basic meals or even just make coffee on your camping trip, you need a stove. If you’re using your pop-up tent for festivals or short camping trips, you probably want to pack light. A stove that uses solid fuel, like this one from Esbit, tends to be the most compact and lightweight option.

Pop-up tent prices

Inexpensive: Small, basic pop-up tents cost as little as $30 to $60. These usually have a capacity of two people and aren't completely waterproof.

Mid-range: These pop-up tents cost around $60 to $150. This range includes a mix of larger true pop-up tents and some small and midsize instant tents.

Expensive: High-end pop-up tents cost $150 to $300. In this price range, you'll generally find large instant tents that sleep up to a dozen people from well-known brands.

EXPERT TIP

A lantern hanging point is a useful addition for lighting your pop-up tent after dark. It's much easier than trying to find items in the dark using your phone's flashlight.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Remember to pack a rubber mallet. If you don’t have a rubber mallet, you might find yourself trying to push tent pegs into the ground using your bare hands or hammer them in with a shoe.
  • Consider the weather when camping in a pop-up tent. Pop-up tents are perfect for dry weather, but you might not have such a great time if it rains.
  • Check if your chosen tent has a porch. This is extremely uncommon in true pop-up tents because they are designed to be as simple as possible, but some instant tents have a porch or separate sleeping and living compartments.
  • Know the packed size of your pop-up tent. Because the poles are already in place in the tent, a folded pop-up tent can be slightly larger than a folded standard tent. Pop-up tents aren’t heavier, but the added bulk can make them more awkward to carry.
Most pop-up tents have a built-in groundsheet. Not only does this make them simpler to pitch, but it also helps keep out bugs and drafts.

FAQ

Q. Is pitching a pop-up tent completely foolproof?
A.
If you have no clue about camping, you might be concerned that you won't have much luck even with a pop-up tent. You needn't worry. Pop-up tents are extremely easy to pitch, so even a novice camper can manage it. True pop-up tents are the easiest to pitch but not always the most practical. Instant tents require a little more effort but are still simple enough for first-timers.
 

Q. Can I use a pop-up tent for family camping trips?
A.
Of course, you can use a pop-up tent for family camping trips, but it isn’t always the most practical choice. True pop-up tents tend to be fairly small, so you won't be able to fit the whole family and all your gear in one tent. If your kids are old enough to sleep in their own tent, however, you could buy two or three pop-up tents for your trip. Instant tents are often available in larger sizes, which makes them better suited for family getaways. Plus, they tend to be more effective at keeping out rain than true pop-up tents, which may or may not be an issue on your trip, depending on where you're camping and at what time of year.
 

Q. My kids want to have a play tent for the backyard. Is a pop-up tent a decent choice?
A.
Yes, pop-up tents are excellent for this kind of use since they're so quick and easy to set up and take down. In fact, your kids can probably do it themselves, though younger children will need help with the tent pegs.

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