Which tents are the fastest? Our guide to quick-pitch and inflatable tents

inflating tentNo-one wants to start a camping trip with an argument over the best way to pitch the tent. What you need is a tent that’s easy to put up.

So, which are the fastest to pitch? 

We’ve taken a close look at what’s available in quick-to-pitch tents – inflatable tents, pop-up tents, quick-erect pole tents and even bell-tents and tipis. Here’s our easy guide for tent buyers.

Latest update: August 2019

 

Quick-erect tents – Coleman, Khyam, Queedo, Slumit

Coleman FastPitch Instants

Our favourite quick-erect tents these days are the Coleman Instants. They’re nice-looking fast-pitch tents with pre-attached poles, at around £150 for the largest, which sleeps four to five.

These are compact tents without a separate living area (extensions available), but are very light and simple to use.

Choose from Hub tents (2,3 or 4, shown below), Dome tents (3 or 5) or the Tourer (4 people).

Khyam Quick Erect

Khyam’s system of quick-erect Rapidex tents is unique and stunning too. The tents have built-in poles that enable the tent to be folded up a bit like an umbrella and then clicked into place. They really couldn’t be easier to put up and take down.

Some of the Campfire team have used the lovely two/three-person Igloo and the old-style Chatsworth (no longer available)

Khyam’s smaller tents are gorgeous. Who wouldn’t want a black and orange tent. The Biker Plus, shown here, sleeps three and has that useful porch/canopy area. From around £250.

Queedo Quick Up

German company Queedo make a range of four Quick Up system tents. These are very affordable. The Pine sleeps three (porch); the Maple sleeps four, the Ash sleeps two, and the Oak (porch) sleeps three.

Here are the Pine and the Maple – £80 and £120 and in a choice of colours. Set up in under 30 seconds too.

They have a similar system to the Khyams, with preattached and hinged poles that lock into place.

The largest (the Maple for four) packs down to 88x18cm and takes around 10 seconds to put up (minus guys).

 

 A bell tent? Really?

A bell tent can be surprisingly easy to put up because there’s usually just one central pole. The rest of the work is in pegging and guying. The advantage is the space and headroom. Lots of choice – from heavy, but durable canvas to lightweight polyester – and from less than £200 to thousands. See below for more…

Vaude exoskeleton

Not quite a pop-up, but worth a mention is the Vaude Terra Hogan. This two-person tent uses a clever exoskeleton design where the poles are simply attached with a wrap-over cord. Weighs just over 2kg and designed to withstand a strong wind (unlike small pop-ups). Around £200.

Slumit Flashframe tents

Thanks to reader Mike, who suggested the Slumit tents. These have a Flashframe system that means you can pitch both the inner and outer in less than a minute. 

There are four sizes (from the one-person Inca and two-person Cub to the four-person Grizzly). Very lightweight and all between £70 and £130. 

A trend for tipis, bell-tents and yurts – they’re looking good!

How about an Aeroyurt? An inflatable yurt from Robens with roll-up sides for air and a view. Stunning and so spacious. Available on Ebay at around £980 or Amazon at £1,100.

At the last camping show we went to, not only was there a better proportion of tents to caravans and motorhomes, there were some eyecatching alternatives to the usual dome or tunnel tent.

 

There seems to be a new trend for tipis (teepees?) and, as mentioned above, these kinds of tent, including bell tents, are often fairly fast to erect.

Best of the ones we saw were the Robens – not least for the enormous range of shapes and sizes. Even the smallest tipi was roomy. They do a Trail range of lightweight models with aluminium alloy poles, a whopping air yurt that sleeps eight (and weighs 30kg) and an Outback range of six teepee-style tents in heavier polycotton, sleeping from four to 10 people. Optional inners, porches and flooring. 

If you’re after a traditional bell tent in a range of sizes from 3m up to party-size, Bell Tent Boutique is worth a look.

Here are some of our favourites.

Grand Canyon Indiana

One central pole to pitch and you have a 4m diameter tent with a 2.5m central headheight. Weighs under 10kg and sleeps eight.

Around £240 on Amazon and £250+postage (new) on Ebay.

Quest Bell-Tents

A choice of sizes in these traditional-meets-modern bell-tents. Canvas so a bit heavier than some, but they still promise that one person can pitch them easily (depends on that one person maybe!).

Cotton canvas is breathable, but will take longer to dry out. The zip-in groundsheet is heavy-duty PVC.

The 4m version weighs around 26kg. Costs around £450.

Robens Cone, Field Base and Field Tower

The smallest and cheapest in the Robens tipi range. The Green Cone is simple and weighs under 5.5kg. It sleeps four. The Field Base and the Field Tower sleep five and eight. We like the zip-in groundsheets. Sewn-in ones add to the weight and lack versatility. £290 to £520. 

Robens Klondike

Available in a six– and nine-person size, this is a polycotton beauty with one central pole. Weighs either 16 or 21kg. Zip-in groundsheet.

Around £530/£800.

Touareg bell-tent

This Touareg is beautiful and big enough for a party at 5m x 4m.

It’s made of water-repellent cotton treated against mould and has a zip-in groundsheet and a springloaded centre pole.

Costs around £600. Lots more in a range of sizes at Bell Tent Boutique.

Inflatable tents

The main difference – apart from overall tent quality – between the inflatable systems used by manufacturers is whether the air ‘beams’ are separate or connected.

Vango, for example, uses three or more separate beams that you inflate independently of each other. In fact, that’s true of most of the bigger family tents. Some, however, have connected tubes with isolation valves – Outwell, for example.

Nothing looks quite like a Heimplanet tent. Show off your inflatables! Around £900 and sleeps four to six.

While the Outwell people believe this makes everything faster and easier, the Vango people are convinced separate beams are better because, should there be a problem with a valve or air tube, you only need replace the one section. Outwell counter with the fact that their tubes have isolation valves so that if one fails, the whole tent won’t collapse.

Will it get punctured?

For us, any talk of things going wrong with valves, punctures or leaks is a bit scary. Snap a regular pole while camping in the wilds of Portugal and you can always rig something to keep your tent upright. We weren’t sure how quick and easy it would be to find a leakage problem and fix it on-site, let alone get a replacement part.

This really comes down to confidence in the tent manufacturer, so we would certainly advise against buying an unusually cheap inflatable. And, if the materials or design seem a little low on quality, we would definitely not take the risk that their inflatable system would be trouble-free.

How do they work?

You lay the tent out in position, peg it loosely and inflate the air beams using the two-way pump (supplied by most manufacturers). The beams fill with air and the tent rises magically. You then shut off the valves. To unpitch, you open the valve and the air races out under pressure, though there may still be a bit of squeezing out to do to get a tight pack. 

Inflatable tents do tend to be a bit heavier than those with poles and the bags can be quite big – in fact, some of the larger family tents come with wheeled bags.

Decathlon and Quechua

The Quechua Air Seconds XL for four people.

Quechua at Decathlon have some of the most unusual-looking and most affordable inflatable tents.

The Air Seconds (that’s seconds as in time, by the way, not slightly faulty ones!) series offers tents to sleep three to eight people.

We love the lightblocking lining on the Fresh and Black range. Some Quechuas can also be customised with extra rooms, a shelter roof, awnings and so on. A 10-year guarantee is great.

Prices from £120 to £700 for the biggie.

The 8-person Quechua tent.

Outwell’s air range

There are 21 tents to choose from and range in price from around £550 to a whopping £2,250. Some combine inflatable with steel poles and some with fibreglass.

There are models for three to eight people and the choice means you can select the ideal combination of size, quickness-to-pitch and weight.

Up and Away in this Outwell inflatable tent

Outwell’s Pendroy Comfort six-person tent

Last year, we liked the five-person Up and Away (around £600). This year’s Pendroy tent, which sleeps six, has the advantage of tinted windows and a darkened bedroom (around £750).

Khyam

Just one big inflatable from this maker. It sleeps six, or eight with the extra inner. The Airtek is a tunnel tent with lots of light for around £1,000.

Vango Airbeam

The Vango Amalfi comes in two sizes and green or blue.

The Vango Airbeam range is pretty nice-looking. They use separate airbeams and the 19 models are quick to pump up. They deflate well too.

Prices start at around £300 and go up to £2,000 for one with kingsize bedrooms, a lighting track and lots of features that turn camping into glamping.

There are good ranges at decent prices at Amazon and on Ebay.

The Amalfi (available as 400,  500 or 600 size) is around £500-£600…and very smart. For a big family, the Taiga 500XL seemed a decent price.

The Winfields-only Lomond from Vango

Winfields Outdoor have an exclusive range of new Vango tents and camping gear. The best we found was the family-sized AirBeam Lomond 500 Air Tent at under £480.

Easycamp

The smart-looking Blizzard is a bit lacking in light inside.

Although the Easycamp range is often the cheaper end of the market, they do some nice-looking inflatable tents. 

Their three- or five-person Blizzard is popular and costs less than £300/£450, and the five-or six person Tempest has great access. Separate inflation tubes and nice light porch areas, though better suited to three or four people. Around £400/£650.

Zempire

The Aero TXL is a sturdy and handsome beast.

Zempire’s tents are some of the most attractive around and the range is also huge – from an enormous family mansion for around £4,000 to light and breezy two-person inflatable tents.

The best prices we’ve found are for Zempire tents on Ebay (new ones, of course). Try Amazon for special offers. At the time of writing, they were cheapest for the six-person Aero TXL.

They’re full of nice touches like blackout bedrooms, storage pockets and no-noise zips!

Coleman Air FastPitch

Keeping their range short and sweet, Coleman do the FastPitch Air Valdes in a four- or  six-person version, with a large and extra-large option on the six-person. Valdes prices are around £500-£800.

We like the black-out bedrooms and we LOVE the hinged door Coleman is using on a lot of their range (including our favourite octagonal pole tent, the Cortes).

Couldn’t resist a picture of the lovely Cortes. One of our favourite non-air tents. Around £200 and full head-height, hinged door and colour choice too.

Outdoor Revolution

Thanks to another reader for their recommendation of Outdoor Revolution‘s affordable family inflatable tents.

The ranges are the Airedale, the O-Zone and the Cruiz and there are options for between two and more than seven people.

The things that mark them out are the big windows and the amount of space inside. Prices range from about £350 to around £1200.

Pop-up tents

Pop-up tents are mainly thought of as children’s, festival or two-person backpacking options. Coleman, though, now has a two and four-person Galiano pop-up that’s simple and costs £60/£100.

Quechua, has added three-person options to its range of pop-up tents.

Quechua pop-up tent

No wonder they discontinued these family-sized pop-ups! The Quechua fights back.

These tents come in a circular pack and are held flat by Velcro and straps. You peg out a separate groundsheet and then release the fastenings on the tent package. The built-in poles ‘explode’ the tent into shape and you then fasten it down with pegs and guyropes. Don’t try to get them back in the pack without having first watched the instruction video…you’ve been warned!

Quechua 3-person pop-up with blackout lining.

What’s your fast-tent tent pick? Or are you a pole person?

We’re updating this article every so often. The links will take you through to options and prices, but apologies if these change. If you’ve got a tent recommendation, do leave a comment below.

If it’s an awning you’re after, we’ve got some recommendations in our feature on lightweight, driveaway awnings.

And have a look at our choice of multipurpose camping shelters for extra space, rain/sun protection or an outside kitchen/dining room.

Instant event shelter

Finally…if basic camping is more your style, here are some good ideas for bivvying, including sleeping comfortably in the trees!

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When we find a new piece of camping or outdoor equipment that we love and that really works, it’s here. Everything you see – from barbecues to mosquito repellent – has been tried and tested by a member of the Campfire team and is now one of their actual camping essentials …
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21 Comments

  1. Richard Taylor

    Carole
    Our 12V fridge works OK on one but we have a battery pump which may be cheaper than a mains converter
    If you get one check first how many amps the pump needs
    🙂

  2. adaptorCan I ask a question
    I have a 12V pump but need to put air tent up in the back garden and car doesn’t reach. Has anyone used one of these. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06Y2BGRMZ/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll1&tag=campfmagaz-21&linkId=93767003c0b63afad03c1a3b9c063164&language=en_GB

  3. Jane Sommerville

    I love inflatable tents! We have had various inflatable awnings for our teardrop caravan which were adapted Campervan drive-away awnings. Best for quality was an Outdoor Revolution. We have now moved onto a folding camper, but hate poles with a passion, so have an Air Opus. The brilliant thing about air beams is their resilience. We camped on top of a Welsh cliff top in a proper gale. All the tents around us collapsed as their poles snapped like Twiglets. Our air beams swayed and bent a bit but were fine.
    As far as leaks are concerned, it is important that each beam is properly isolated. So long as this is done, then even if a beam fails, then the main tent should stay up. Replacing the inner bladder is pretty straightforward if necessary.
    These tents are heavy and bulky and not really suitable for backpacking. I would recommend not buying the cheapest, though a Sunncamp air awning that we have is very basic and simple but well made and survived heavy use last year while touring.

  4. We bought an Easycamp Tempest online, after reading about it here and on the manufacturer’s website. It arrived within 2 days and we took it away on a trip without trying it out. I’ve never been a fan of tents as they’ve always been a pain to put up and take down.
    Compared to our two previous tents, which always seemed to be Basil Fawlty style farces, this was a joy in comparison – it was out of its bag and looking like a tent in practically no time. One person could easily do it themselves, unless it was windy. After reading here about some tents having quality issues, and this brand not, I can confirm that this looks and feels like a quality product. Lots of clever features too, like the little velcro pockets for the guy lines. Time will tell as to its durability of course, but this has changed my mind about camping. Thanks to this site for the review, otherwise we’d never have known about this type of tent (and would likely still be trying to figure out our Australian geodesic dome with no instructions…). ED: That’s lovely to hear. Thanks so much for sharing that with us. Here’s hoping you have many, many years of hassle-free camping.

  5. David hodgson

    Wouldn’t buy inflatable tent again. Waste of good money. Poles are the best. Take it from someone who bought one, took it back after 2nd time we used it. Leak in valves, not just one either. They replaced for another one, but lasted only once. All valve pipes decayed and we’re still waiting to here from Go Outdoors. They don’t care.
    ED: Sorry to hear that, David. I certainly wouldn’t buy a cheap inflatable tent (not that I’m suggesting you did!). There’s a lot to go wrong with them and, unlike a pole tent that could be worked around if a pole broke, once the wind’s out of your sails, you’re stuck!

  6. Interesting, but no mention of Slumit quick pitch tents in this article? ED: There is now, Mike!.
    I have been using the Slumit Cub tent for over 3 years. Fantastic quick pitch tent, goes up and down in seconds. They have different sizes using the same system. Worth a consideration. Slumit tents

  7. My problem with tents is not just the pitching it’s all of the other gear. We have 2 kids so with the beds, kitchen unit, two wardrobe units, the ever so long pitching of our trailer awning (which made us sell it in the end as it took longer to pitch than our old Outwell bear lake 6), this has put my wife and 16yr old daughter from camping as it always takes 2/3 hours to pitch up and take down everything.

  8. We have a four person Queenie pop up, has a living area and large bedroom. Squeezed two adults and two smallish children in. Seems easier to fold up than the smaller ones but lack size only good if car camping, too big to carry far but not c heavy!
    ED: Let us know what the Queenie is, so we can have a look.

  9. Abbi Brooks

    Can anyone please advise if the family ‘air beam’ style tents would be suitable for me as a single parent? I have a 12 year old to assist, but setup would be predominantly a one adult challenge!The inflatable style definitely looks as though it would be easier to construct than many of the more traditional style tents.

  10. Laurence Milton

    …..oooh, also consider, for lovers of plastic tents, the Slumit Flashframe series of tents. Very well thought of on various fora.

  11. Laurence Milton

    Bell tents, small ones such as Robens Fairbanks, and more traditional 2-3 metre ones are available, my 4 metre one (Blacks Solace), is 10-15 min pitch on my own, take any weather. Love them. Very quick to pitch, only one pole potentially.
    (Obviously not talking backpacking, but if you are, and want canvas, for around £30, yes £30, take a look at the Polish tent Lavvu/Pelerina Namioty (!)))

  12. CORIE FLETCHER

    Oztent rv series?

    Ed: They are nice-looking tents, but quite expensive. We hope to be reviewing their tents and awning very soon, and will report back on whether the cost is worth it. On first view, they do seem well-made, if a bit heavy.

  13. Overlooked in terms of ‘quick pitch’ but I would put one against a lot of these any day: tipi style. The ultimate Tentipi Safir 9 we can pitch in 10 minutes and take down in less.
    Also, the ‘daddy’ of inflatables not featured: Karsten. Yes you pay a lot, but you get a superb tent that will last long after these others have gone to the tent skip in the sky!

  14. Hi Doreen. Is this the sort of thing you’re after? It’s got good reviews?
    You might also want to ask the question over on the Camping and Campervan Chat group on FB.

  15. Can anybody recommend a small waterproof bell tent, for 2 or 3 people. Saw someone camping with one last week (one central pole – aluminium I think), but can’t track it down online Bendy fibre poles keep splitting, and I’m fed up with them. Ta!

  16. Try a bell tent, you’ll be pitched and sat having a cuppa before the pop-ups have untangled the guy ropes.

  17. A very disgruntled vango customer

    Beware,

    We bought a vango inflatable tent last year and one of the beams literally blew up in the middle of the day. We were stranded in Europe with no replacement and it rained – the tent collapsed and all our belongings were basically either destroyed and ruined. Vango were useless – they failed to replace the beam and then blamed us even though we had used it countless times and were well within the inflation guidelines. When I returned I found lots of others in the same boat. I will never buy one again. Buy a tent with poles at least they cant blow up!

  18. Pingback: What do we need? The real camping pack list - Campfire Magazine

  19. Mark Pittam

    I quite like the Airbeam tents; the fact I don’t have to faff about threading poles through fabric and worrying if the pole is caught on which requires someone else to try and sort out if its windy.

    I have a Vango Velocity 300 and a Vango Lumen V 400 and they are both cracking tents. Velocity is perfect for a quick pitch whereas the Lumen V 400 is great for either a long weekender or a week away from home.

  20. Cheap Camping Tents

    I do like pop up tents but I would never consider one if I was travelling or know that i’ll have to carry it for a while. The size of them is just too unwieldy, although they make great festival tents.

    Maybe i’m old fashioned but I just don’t trust the new inflatable tents. Poles – even the easily assembled ones – just seem more stable and as you point out, easy to bodge a repair when you’re in dire straights.

    I’ve never tried one though so I could be wrong!

  21. Matthew Hewitt

    We had a pop-up beach shelter last year and it put me off ever considering them again – just couldn’t get it packed away despite watching the video numerous times and the tems got damaged in the process of trying it out! The thought of arriving at camp and inflating a tent sounds fun, though…

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