Camping kit that has a number of uses is a fine thing. That’s why we’re keen on the idea of a utility tent, screenhouse or shelter to add to our packing list.
Here’s our round-up of easy-to-put-up, airy things that can be gazebos, dining tents, sunshades, rain shelters or driveaway awnings for campervans….
Latest update: May 2020
Now here’s an idea. The Sheltapod is an awning, tent and sunshelter all in one. It will fit on any vehicle (including cars) from 170cm to 240cm.
It’s based on a roll-up system so that you can be totally enclosed, as in a tent, or open to the air and sunshine. It has aluminium poles and comes with privacy panels, window blinds, a door panel, a groundsheet and an inner tent included.
All those panels and bits and pieces do make it a bit faffy, but putting it up is fairly quick. You need a large area to be able to handle the long poles.
- Size: 230 x 200 x 180cm
- Pack size: 84 x 24 x 22.5cm
- Weight: 11.2kg
- Price: From £195 and 10% off for Campfire Mag readers with code CAMPFIRE10
The unusual Cayman Pursuit is designed to work between two vans, but we think it has more to offer than that.
It works as a freestanding gazebo, has lots of window light (plus LED lights for night!) and is quick to inflate.
14kg and a pack size of 78 x 41 x 34cm. Around £300.
10T Outdoor shelter
The Pavilionia Arona is a gazebo and mosquito screen with good UV protection too.
Plus it’s BIG and less than £120. You can roll up two sides for entrances and there’s mesh to keep out the midges.
- Floor size: 540 x 470cm
- Height: 220cm
- Pack size: 75 x 25 x 20cm
- Weight: 15.5kg
- Price: £115
The Cinch Hub is big enough for around five people and takes seconds to pop up and away.
You can even add solar power with a special roof port with a power pocket to charge all your gadgets. Although the panel’s not included in the basic price, four LED lights are included.
This five-person shelter tent pops into position using a hydraulic, umbrella-type system and has great windows with mesh, plus an entrance canopy. Makes a great campervan awning too.
- Floor size: 240 x 240cm
- Max height: 195cm
- Weight: 6.1kg
- Pack size: Not stated
- Price: Around £135
Most beach shelters are just for sitting in, but this Easthills shelter has a bit more headroom.
It’s simple to erect and costs less than £90. Options of pale blue or beige. Very lightweight. It comes with a porch extension, bag, stakes and guylines.
- Floor size: 250 x 135cm
- Height: 145cm
- Pack size: 100 x 21 x 21cm
- Weight: 3.6kg
- Price: £85
Coleman make shelters that provide protection from the sun, the wind and the rain, thanks to their WindStrong™ system. The range has shelters of all sizes with vented canopies, shock-corded poles, patent-pending hubs and guylines.
A range of sizes – from family-sized to massive with sunwalls and groundsheet options. There’s a fast-pitch model in two sizes as well.
- Floor size: From around 300×300 to 460x460cm
- Max height: Around 230cm
- Weight: 15 to 22kg
- Pack size: 30 x 23 x 83cm to 100 x 22 x 35cm
- Price: From around £120 to £350
The Coleman Event Dome is a lighter version of the shelter, and there are two sizes available. Weatherproof and foldable walls give more shelter from rain and wind.
- Floor size: From around 350×350 to 450x450cm
- Max height: Around 218/228cm
- Weight: 11 to 15kg
- Pack size: 64 x 22.5 x 22.5cm and 65 x 26 x 26cm
- Price: From around £130
Up in seconds thanks to the spring out poles, the Pavilion is for sunshade and mosquito avoidance as it doesn’t have rain sides.
Looks lovely for a garden as well as any warm weather camping. Well-made and up in seconds.
- Floor size: 455 x 400cm
- Max height: 215cm
- Weight: 5kg
- Pack size: 130 x 20cm
- Price: Around £200
Not exactly a shelter, but a tent with versatility – and one of our favourite tents, in fact.
The Coleman Cortes Octagon has six large windows and hinged doors that open like real doors. The flysheet can be removed to transform the tent into a bug-proof screenroom.
- Floor size: 396 x 396 cm
- Max height: 215cm
- Weight: 20.7kg
- Pack size: 85 x 30 x 30cm
- Price: From around £185
Large and airy pop-up options from Quest. They say the spring-up frame system allows one person to get these set up in under a minute. It did take us a tad longer, but practice, practice!
Getting it back down…that’s always the tricky part. There are Pro versions too, which are more refined.
The standard screenhouses have optional sidewall blinds. Pro versions have zipped, roll-down side walls.
- Floor size: 244x244cm
- Max height: 220cm
- Pack size: 173 x 15 x 15 cm (173 x 20 x 25 cm)
- Weight: 8.5kg (10.8kg)
- Price: £180/£255
No longer recommended
Sad to say, we can’t recommend the Zempire shelter or the similar dome shelters by Trespass. They looked promising, but haven’t stood up to use. The Airgo shelter is also, in our opinion, a no-go, at least in anything above a light breeze!
If you’ve found a multi-purpose shelter you love – easy to put up, strong and handsome – do let us know. Oh, and have a look at our driveaway awnings choices too.
Providing you have the tarp clips, guyline and trees, it’s pretty easy to make yourself a shelter. But for extra versatility, add a few tarp poles like the Noorsk above to your kit.
Go for as light as possible and don’t forget to check how many eyelets your tarp has to accommodate the pole ends.
This Justcamp tent and tarp pole is fantastic for height (it’s telescopic up to 95 to 230cm), so it would work as the central pole in a lightweight bell tent or tipi.