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Give me shelter…and make it multi-purpose

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

Instant event shelter


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

Outdoor Revolution Cayman Pursuit

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.

There’s a removable groundsheet, four entrances to allow for different uses and for connecting to a van and a generous bag to keep it in.

Floor size: 230 x 230cm
Height: 196cm
Pack size: 86cm round
Weight: 8.6kg

Outsunny shelter tent

This is a great find, not least because it’s big, simple and costs under £140.

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

Easthills instant shelter

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

Outsunny gazebo shelter

Another Outsunny bargain. This one under £95. 

Mesh windows and zip doors. Plus plenty of space. Carrybag included.

  • Floor size: 365 x 365cm
  • Height: 220cm
  • Pack size: 71 x 25 x 25cm
  • Weight: 8kg
  • Price: Around £95


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.

Event Shelter

Coleman event shelter

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
A cheaper option is the Dawson Living gazebo at around £90. No option for sidewalls, though.

Event Dome

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

Coleman Instant Pavilion

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

Coleman Cortes

Coleman Octagon tentNot 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


Airhub Hex

What a lovely-looking gazebo shelter. In a choice of colours, a single inflation point (three valves), three large side doors and six mesh windows. Detachable groundsheet and pump included.

  • Floor size: 340 x 390xm
  • Max height: 240cm
  • Weight: 14kg
  • Pack size: 70 x 37 x 37xm
  • Price: Around £360

Vango Hogan shelter

An event shelter that can be totally open or fitted with (included) side panels.

Pole and sleeve construction, lots of space and the versatility of using it open or closed.

  • Floor size: 350 x 350cm
  • Max height: 225cm
  • Weight: 13kg
  • Pack size: 66 x 20 x 24cm
  • Price: Around £150

Outdoor Revolution Outhouse Handi

This has the advantage of working perfectly alongside a van, or as a standalone utility tent. Plus, it’s super-cheap.

  • Floor size: 200 x 200 cm
  • Height: 180-240cm (van height)
  • Weight: 5.6kg
  • Pack size: 67 x 46 x 44cm
  • Price: Around £150

Outdoor Revolution Screenhouse

A simple shelter that pops up and has optional privacy panels. Also available in larger sizes.

  • Floor size: 180 x 180 cm (size 4)
  • Height: 195cm
  • Weight: 10kg
  • Pack size: 178 x 22 x 18cm
  • Price: Around £130

Quest ScreenhousesQuest Screenhouse 6

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.

Screenhouse 4 (and 4 Pro)

  • 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

Screenhouse 6 (and 6 Pro)

  • Floor size: 300x360cm
  • Max height: 220cm
  • Weight: 14kg (15kg)
  • Pack size: 185 x 18 x 18 cm (185 x 25 x 25cm)
  • Price: Around £230/£330 

Kampa Air Shelter

Easy to pitch, thanks to its inflatable columns. This shelter comes with four removable side panels.

  • Floor size: 400x400cm
  • Height: 230cm
  • Weight:8kg
  • Pack size: 64 x 30 x 30cm
  • Price: Around £350, including side panels

Kelty Screenhouse

Kelty Screenhouse

Very handsome and well-respected. A choice of medium or large.

  • Floor size: 274 x 335cm (M), 335 x 396cm (L)
  • Max height: 188cm (M), 193cm (L)
  • Weight: 6kg (M), 8.3kg (L)
  • Pack size: Around 25 x 60cm (details vary)
  • Price: £200 to £300 

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.

AND don’t forget the multipurpose tarp!

A simple tarpaulin, a couple of poles and some rope could be all you need to create shelter from the rain, a sunshade, a bit of extra space….we use this Unigear tarp.

Bungee cords for guylines

Thanks to ex-para and now car-camper Tommy Graham for his tip on using stretch rope or bungee cords when tying down tarps and other shelters. Go for reflective or bright-coloured

Tarp poles

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.


Just discovered Looprope too – an ingenious way of tying down loads or tarpaulins, and with a hundred and one uses. Never tangles and safer than hooked bungees. They start at around £20, which isn’t bad, but might work out expensive if you need a few to create a cargo net effect.

Clever fasteners

Buy yourself  extra tarp clips and ball bungees to make your tarp even more versatile. Also have a look at our 66 ways to use a tarp, for inspiration.

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One Comment

  1. Where can I get the Wenzel Horizon ( around £100 ) and the Easycamp Day Tent ( Also £100 )or the Kampa( 350sq at about £150 ),,

    Also any reader reviews.

    I want a fairly robust tent to use as an extra room for my Motorhome….Thanks.

    ED: The Horizon is listed on Amazon at just over £100. The Biscayne is slightly better thought of by readers. People do love them, but you need to remember that they were really designed for clement weather, so don’t expect them to withstand gales and downpours.

    The Easycamp Day Tent is another model best suited to fair weather, but still quite cheap. The Wenzel wins out for most readers, though.

    The Kampa Shelter isn’t really going to give you an extra room, as it’s designed more as a gazebo with optional sides. Sturdy, though. The Day Room isn’t currently available, I’m afraid. We’ve left the link in place in case it returns!

    The Kelty ones are probably the best for your needs, but rather more expensive. So, if you’re looking for a spare room mostly for good weather camping, we’d choose the Wenzels. If you want it to be useable in any weather, have a look at the quick-to-pitch tent article for some more ideas – some of these would do the trick? And how about an awning? We’ll be reviewing these very soon (subscribe or follow us on Facebook to get updates).

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