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Pop-up Tents: Are they worth it?

With camping season in full swing around the US and Canada, I know that I can’t wait to get out into the fresh air again. It is the perfect way to destress. For some though that stress can’t go away until after the tent has been set up. Pitching your tent is one of the most time-consuming activities of the camp setup process. Not to mention fighting with those poles! Pop-up tents are a quick and easy way to set up your campsite. They have an incredible appeal to them because you can have your site up and going in minutes. Is it really worth it though to save time with pop-up tents?

Let’s explore some of the pros and cons of a pop-up tent. These will help you better understand if this form of tent is worth it for you.

What are Pop-Up Tents?

This type of tent is exactly the same structure-wise as a normal tent. It will have poles, fabric, a door, windows, and a rain fly. You mostly will not be able to tell the difference once the tent is set up. Though space may be at a premium, more on that later.

Pop-up Tents
Pop Up Tent

As you can likely guess from the name, pop-up tents are a way for your shelter to just pop up. Setting up literally only takes the release of a band in most cases. Pop-up tents take all the hassle away of putting your tent up because they seem to instantly be ready. However, you should still spend the time to stake it down!

Pros of Pop-Up Tents

Finding the right tent is critical to enjoying your outdoor adventures. These pros will help you determine whether a pop-up tent is right for you. I wanted to start with the good and then balance with the bad. Make sure to read both so you are well informed about your pop-up tent before you buy it.

Great Beginner Tent

This is kind of a multi-pro of pop-up tents. First, the tent is great for beginners because of the ease of setup. It does not take much experience or knowing how to set the tent up.

Second, if you are just starting out with camping you are likely trying to build all of your gear up from scratch. This can be an expensive undertaking unless you are renting your camping gear. Pop-up tents can ease this initial investment because they tend to cost less.

Third, a beginning camper needs to practice to make sure they are ready for the elements. This tent can allow you to practice on the spur of the moment with its quick setup.

Fourth, and finally, this is a great beginner tent because you do not have to worry about a bunch of different parts that can all get lost.

Quick Setup Tent

As I mentioned in the opening to the article the major draw of this type of tent is that it has a quick setup. Not only is it quick but it is easy. Normally it can be done with a single person and without reviewing any instructions. There may be some quick unbuckling to complete. Otherwise, simply push and latch the pieces together and you have a tent.

Pop-up Tents
Time is of the essence when setting up and tearing down. Get to the outdoor fun faster with a pop up tent.

Some of these tents can literally be set up in under thirty seconds. Now staking is another issue but to have a tent up and in place in thirty seconds would be a lifesaver. If you tried to set up a normal tent in this time frame you will fail every time.

Rapid Tear Down

If you thought the setup was a breeze, wait till your trip is over! After a long weekend of hiking, canoeing, and biking I know I am tired. The last thing that I want to do is break down a tent and pack it away. With a pop-up tent undoing the setup takes just as short a period of time. Then it is a matter of just getting it in its storage bag.

The other great part about the tear-down is the storage. When storing a tent it is important that the tent stays dry. It prevents mold. When you get home after your trip it is much easier to set the tent back up to air it out.

Learn more about proper tent care tips now!

Family Friendly

I don’t know about you but my children love to put their hands on everything. In the first family tent that we had my son took the poles and used them in some sort of karate attack against a tree. After a quick sit down on proper behavior around the campsite we realized the pole was broken. In pop-up tents, the poles tend to be internal to the construction, or at least connected in a way that they are not independent. This prevents creative children from damaging important parts.

Not only that but the quick setup and tear down means that you can quickly get to doing the fun parts of camping. Better still, start cooking dinner sooner, after your drive to the campsite. Heck once your children are coordinated and strong enough get them to set up the tent! Just be sure to understand the safety protocols listed on the tent instructions!

Secondary Tent

Pop-up Tents make great secondary tents. Since they are set up so quickly you can use them at the beach, at sporting events, waiting in lines, or even backyard camping. We use ours for sleepovers in the living room. It makes for a fun place for friends to gather and still gives them some privacy. Having a handy tent that you can pull out and use at a moment’s notice certainly aids in its benefit.

Cons of Pop-Up Tents

It can’t be all rainbows and sunshine with these tents! There are some drawbacks that may dissuade you from investing in them. Though, depending on your situation, these may have less weight for you.

Single wall

Most of your standard camping tents are double-walled. This provides more breathability. This characteristic of a tent is important to prevent condensation in the tent as temperatures fluctuate. While there are some double-walled pop-up tents on the market you will need to search for them. Many sacrifice ventilation for convenience. So in a hot environment, you may not be as comfortable as you would be in a standard double-walled tent.

Bulky and awkward to carry. Unfortunately not as cute as this pup.

Bulky Tent

Most tents are bulky so this is not a con just for pop-up tents. If you are car camping this isn’t really an issue. However, if you are backpacking there are not many, like near zero, options for a pop-up tent. Due to their internal suspension systems, they are heavy. They also tend to be awkward in size because the poles do not have the advantage of being able to collapse in the same way as a standard tent. Some even go into odd shapes like a disc.The larger the tent you need for your family the heavier it is going to get. To aid in stability and folding action the larger the tent gets the more metal is included. More metal equals more weight. Due to this, the weight of pop-up tents can get quite high. Larger pop-up tents may also not be as cost-effective as a standard tent. Mo’ weight, mo’ money!

No Weatherproofing

Pop-up Tents
Weatherproofing is important for long-term camping gear. This one is from Coleman.

Some of the tents come with a built-in rainfly. Though it is likely you will still need to adorn the top of your tent with a fly. This can take some extra time to complete. These simple steps add some standard weatherproofing that most tents are going to need.

Many lower-cost pop-up tents are not designed to withstand strong rainstorms. Instead, they are made as quick shelters to get the sun off. The ones that are meant to be light shelters are clearly advertised as such. Read the outside of the packaging before purchase to ensure that your tent doesn’t end up blown into another campground. Look for keywords like waterproof, taped seams, or sealed.

You can add your own waterproofing to a tent, but if it wasn’t designed to handle rainstorms then you may be putting yourself in danger. Use your tent as advertised for a safe experience.

Take Some Strength

Start that workout now to carry these and get stronger!

These tents can be easy to set up. However, some have some tricky latching mechanisms that require some strength to latch them together. The internal suspension can also fight against you as it tries to go back to the popped-out position. Like any camping activity, it will be important to practice popping up and tearing down your tent. This will help ensure that you don’t break it while out camping.

Additionally, you are still going to need to stake the tent to the ground. Even with gear, the tent can be lifted off of the ground in high winds. Not to mention that with the rain fly you will need to stake the guy lines down to allow for ventilation. carrying a hammer with you and pounding stakes into the hard ground will still take effort.

So Should you Buy a Pop-Up Tent?

The bottom line here is that it depends. I know I hate that answer too. However, it is true. Whether you get a pop-up tent or not really depends on what you are looking to do. If you are looking to go backpacking it is not a great option. Are you a beginner camper that is looking to car camp? Then this could be your option. You will need to balance the pros and cons above for your situation. Once you have done that you can decide whether pop-up tents are right for you.

However, I will add that getting an inexpensive pop-up tent even to have on hand as a backup tent is a great idea. They come in handy for so many different events beyond camping that it just makes sense to have one on hand.

What is your best or worst experience with a pop-up tent? Tell us in the comments below, on our Facebook, or on Reddit!