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….

Instant event shelter


Khyam are famed for their umbrella-style set-up that really is super-quick. So, you consider Khyam’s simple Screenhub. These are quick erect gazebos, but they make great awnings and offer more versatility too (garden party, anyone?).

A couple of the team used the older Screendome over a summer of sun and rain for their VW California Beach. They loved how fast it was to install – 20 seconds! Lots of head height, big windows and two full side doors, plus a sun canopy that can be attached to the side of your van using tarp clips and bungees (or another clever workaround of your choice!).

The Screenhub offers all these advantages, but less condensation and better design all round. You can add bedrooms, remove the side panels or clip in a groundsheet. It’s actually our top choice for versatility, but is a bit big when packed and one of the heaviest we’ve tried.

    • Size: W300 x L300 x H210 cm
    • Pack size: 108 x 32 x 32 cm
    • Weight: 22kg
    • Price: £400


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 £70 to £350

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 £170

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 £200


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

Hogan Hub

An event shelter that can be totally open or fitted with (included) side panels. Pole and sleeve construction in a choice of large or medium size. Groundsheet available separately.

  • Floor size: 350 x 350cm (280 x 280 M)
  • Max height: 225cm (210 M)
  • Weight: 9.43kg
  • Pack size: 66x20x24cm
  • Price: Around £200 (L) £140 (M)


Wenzel is a US company but they sell through Amazon and have lots of really good-looking models to choose from. They’re smart and offer great protection against midges and mosquitoes. They also do a choice of sunshade-style shelters, including the rather nice-looking, but flimsier Fairweather.


Biscayne Wenzel

Mesh walls and shock-corded fibreglass roof poles for easy set-up. Apparently, you can set it up and then lift it into place (over a picnic table, for example).

  • Floor size: 11.7 sqm
  • Max height: 213cm
  • Weight: 7.9kg
  • Pack size: 67 x 20 x 20cm
  • Price: About £95

ZephyrWenzel Zephyr

  • Floor size: 10.9 sqm
  • Max height: 216cm
  • Weight: 11.6kg
  • Pack size: 79 x 23.5 x 23.5cm
  • Price: Around £110


Sun ValleySun Valley Wenzel


  • Floor size: 13 sqm
  • Max height: 218cm
  • Weight: 9.1kg
  • Pack size: 70 x 22 x 22cm
  • Price: Around £100


EasyCamp Day Tent

 EasyCamp Day Tent

Day Tent

This dome-style shelter has fibreglass poles, four large side windows with curtains, a sewn-in groundsheet and large front and rear doors. The doors can be set up as a canopy. Some people complain of the build quality, but it’s a cheaper option.

  • Floor size: 290 x 290cm
  • Max height: 200cm
  • Weight: 7.9kg
  • Pack size: 75x21cm
  • Price: Around £65


Cheap and cheerful pop-up options from Quest. They say the spring-up frame system allows one person to get it set up in under a minute. Getting it back down…that’s always the tricky part. There are Pro versions of the two screenhouses that are a bit lighter and more refined.

Quest Screenhouse 6

Elite Screenhouse 4 and 6

With optional sidewall blinds.

  • Floor size: 244x244cm and 350x350cm
  • Max height: 210cm
  • Weight: 11.5kg and 15.5kg
  • Pack size: 167x16x16cm and 185x18x18cm
  • Price: Around £160 to £240. Also have a look on Ebay (new as well as secondhand)

Outwell Naples

Something a bit different – a sort of pre-arranged tarp from Outwell. The height can be adjusted by bringing in the sides, but we wonder whether it’s more limited in use than just a normal (versatile) tarp. It does have fibreglass poles and sandbags for beach use.

  • Floor size: 200-350 x 350cm
  • Height: 150-205cm
  • Weight: 5kg
  • Pack size: 62 x 14cm
  • Price: Around £90


Air Shelter

In two sizes and easy to pitch, thanks to their inflatable columns. They come with removeable side panels.

  • Floor size: 300x300cm and 400x400cm
  • Height: 225/230cm
  • Weight: 6.5/8kg
  • Pack size: 64 x 30 x 30cm
  • Price: Around £300/£350



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 £240 


Dome Shelter 

Fairly easy to put up (around 20 minutes) and has a waterproof canopy and mesh side panels to keep bugs out. The steel frame makes it heavy at 14kg, but it should stand up to stronger winds.

  • Floor size: 350 x 350cm
  • Max height: 210cm
  • Weight: 14kg
  • Pack size: 68 x 25 x 19cm
  • Price: £180


Decathlon’s own brand is famed for its small pop-up shelters like this £30 two-second one (150cm wide and 110 cm high).

They also have a few bigger options, including the Arpenaz Base Fresh (in medium for £80 or large for £130) and the £200 Air Seconds Base (inflatable). Nice-looking and lots of room and light.

The Camping Living Room/Arpenaz Camp

An exciting one from Decathlon, though getting hard to find. This is simple and versatile. A standalone shelter with three opening doors and a mosquito net. Excellent head height too.

  • Size: 300x300cmx220cm
  • Pack size: TBC
  • Weight: 14.9kg
  • Price: £130

Quechua Tarp FreshIf 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….the tarp range at OutdoorGear is great. 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.

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 £18, which isn’t bad, but might work out expensive if you need a

 few to create a cargo net effect.

Get yourself some lightweight tarp poles that are height-adjustable – it’ll give you more options for using your surroundings.

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

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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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