Camping is great fun, but setting up your tent can be a hassle, especially if you're inexperienced, arrive at the campsite after dark, or simply don't have much time. Pop-up tents take just seconds to pitch and peg down, and you're free to enjoy your getaway.
This guide contains all the information you'll need to choose your perfect pop-up tent. We've also included a few of our favorites at the end, such as the Coleman Four-Person Pop-Up Tent, which features taped seams and a rainfly to keep water out.
Considerations when choosing pop-up tents
Instant tents vs. pop-up tents
Instant tents fall into the pop-up tent category, although they don't technically pop up. What's the difference between the two?
A true pop-up tent has all its poles built in and fully in place. It can be bent in such a way to fold the tent flat and fit it in its storage bag. When you open the bag and remove the tent, it automatically pops up into a full-size tent ready to peg down and sleep in. These tents are the easiest to pitch but have some constraints -- they're usually on the small side and may not keep the elements out entirely.
An instant tent doesn't pop up when you remove it from its bag, but it does have built-in poles. These poles separate in places so you can pack the tent down, but it does mean you need to attach the poles together in order to pitch the tent. Depending on the tent size, this can take anywhere between one and five minutes, so it's still a quick process.
All pop-up tents list their sizes in terms of how many people they can fit inside. Pop-up tents range in size from two-person up to 12-person, though it's rare to find a true pop-up tent that sleeps more than four people -- instant tents are the ones more likely to have larger options. It's worth noting, however, that the listed capacity is the maximum. For example, a six-person tent fits six adults shoulder to shoulder, but if you want a little more room or to sleep on air beds, it probably sleeps three people comfortably with a little room for gear.
Make sure your chosen pop-up tent has some ventilation -- such as roll-up or pop-out windows lined with mesh -- to keep you comfortable on hot days.
Want to keep your tent tidy? Storage pockets on the inside walls of the tent can hold some of your belongings, freeing up floor space.
You can find some small, basic pop-up tents for less than $50, but high-end models can cost $300 or more.
Q. Are pop-up tents waterproof?
A. This depends on the model you choose. True pop-up tents generally aren't designed for camping in extreme weather, so they may be water-resistant but are rarely 100% waterproof. That said, some high-end models are fully waterproof. Instant tents are more likely to be completely waterproof since they're halfway between true pop-up tents and standard tents, but always double-check before buying if you require a tent to keep out heavy rain.
Q. Are pop-up tents suitable for experienced campers?
A. Pop-up tents are often considered an option for inexperienced campers only, but there's no reason why an experienced camper can't use one. They may not be right if you're camping on a mountain ridge or in the middle of winter, but for a quick overnight trip in good weather, even experienced campers can enjoy the benefits of a pop-up tent.
Pop-up tents we recommend
Best of the best: Coleman Four-Person Pop-Up Tent
Our take: A true pop-up tent that takes mere seconds to pitch and sleeps two comfortably or four at a push.
What we like: Taped seams and rainfly make this tent actually waterproof rather than water-resistant like most similar models. Well-ventilated. Built-in storage pockets.
What we dislike: Tricky to pack away.
Best bang for your buck: AbcoSport's Pop-Up Tent
Our take: This highly affordable pop-up tent is perfect for a single camper, though it can fit two if you don't mind getting close and giving up storage space.
What we like: Extremely easy to pitch. Lightweight and compact. One door on each side for easier access. Plenty of ventilation.
What we dislike: Not 100% waterproof.
Choice 3: CORE's 9-Person Instant Cabin Tent
Our take: Sleeps up to nine but fits just two queen beds, which cuts the capacity to four if you want to sleep in style.
What we like: Tall center height of six and a half feet. Central room divider. Fully waterproof. Well ventilated. Takes less than five minutes to set up.
What we dislike: Not great at retaining heat due to high ceilings so better for warm weather camping.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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