Are Pop-Up Tents Good for Camping (Pros and Cons)

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Pop-up tents are extremely popular because, by their very nature, can be pitched in less than 10 seconds!

But are pop-up tents good for camping? Or should they only be used as a kid’s play tent or a beach shelter, for example?

Using a pop-up tent for camping does have its pros and cons. Whether they are good for camping, however, depends on your specific camping style and needs.

Recommended Pop-up Tent for Camping

If you’re set on getting a pop-up tent for camping, then go with the Ayamaya Pop-Up Tent with Vestibule! It has one of the best waterproof ratings for a pop-up camping tent at 3000mm, has heat-sealed tent seams, is well-ventilated to reduce condensation, and even has a vestibule (a covered porch for a tent) to store your camping gear!

Ayamaya 4-6 Person Pop-Up Tent with Vestibule

Ayamaya 4-6 Person Pop-Up Tent with Vestibule

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Are Pop-Up Tents Good for Camping? The Pros

Let’s begin with how a pop-up tent (which is a type of instant tent) might work for a camping trip.

The Perfect Beginner Tents

Smaller pop-up tents cost less than $100, which is an affordable price for tents. You can use what money you would have spent on a bigger, more complicated camping tent toward other camping supplies.

Pop-up tents also don’t require a lot of time and assistance, so beginner campers don’t need to stress about wasting time setting up. Some tents only require you to pull the center of the tent up like an umbrella, and others simply pop open when you throw them in the air. It really is that easy!

Now, if you like to backpack or hike to your campsite, you might have some problems, since pop-up tents have a little more bulk and weight. However, if you’re more of an occasional car camper, pop-up tents are a fantastic choice.

You don’t even have to use a pop-up tent specifically for camping. If you’re going to have an outdoor event, a pop-up tent provides excellent shelter and doesn’t require a lot of money or setup.

Safer for Kids

Pop-up tents are much more kid-friendly, both in terms of safety and ease of setup. There aren’t too many complicated steps to follow for setup, and since there are no pointy tent poles, setup is also a lot safer for kids.

Surprisingly, tent poles can snap in two while you’re setting up a regular tent. In fact, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that around 800 people get injured each year from assembling and disassembling tents.

That’s not to say that there is absolutely no risk of injury whatsoever with pop-up tents. For example, the metal poles can fold in unexpected ways, or you might get in the way of a folding pole. Still, you aren’t directly handling tent poles with pop-up tents, so they are safer to use as a result.

Take Less Than Ten Seconds to Open

Even if you’re a pro camper, it’s much better for a tent to go up quickly and easily, and a pop-up tent will undoubtedly do that. Much of the time, setting up a pop-up tent doesn’t require you to even read the directions.

Now, some pop-up tents might require unbuckling or untying, but the tent naturally wants to expand into its unfolded form when untied. Unlike actual camping tents, which require extra hands, you can just unbuckle or untie the tent, and it will naturally expand to a full shape.

The smaller, 2-person tents will only take a couple of seconds to unfold fully, while larger ones might take a minute. And again, you can do it all by yourself, without extra tools or help required.

Come Down in Less Than One and a Half Minutes

On the other hand, taking the tent down might take some extra practice and help. The tent wants to expand naturally, so you’ll have to hold it together while you buckle everything into place. Luckily, once you practice folding the tent a few times, it’ll only take a couple of minutes.

Makes Traveling Lighter

Regular camping tents require various parts to set up properly. For pop-up tents, you don’t need any additional components at all: just the tent itself.

Some tents might come with tent stakes and a rainfly, which are designed to help protect the tent against inclement weather. However, tent poles are not necessary with pop-up tents, so the setup is, again, simple.

Another problem with tent poles is that they usually come in their own separate bag, which you can possibly leave behind. If you happen to forget these poles, you have no way to put your tent up. Pop-up tents don’t have that problem since they come in a single bag.

Amazing for Indoor or Backyard Camping

Instead of messing around with tent poles, just unfold a pop-up tent, and you’re ready to have a fun camp-in right in your living room.

Sometimes, kids can get tempted to play with tent poles and consequently break them. Pop-up tents are a much safer and less complicated alternative in that way.

Also, if you and your kids like to camp out in the backyard, they’re not going to need help setting up a tent. Just unfold a pop-up tent outside, and you’re all set to have fun in no time at all!

The Cons of Pop-Up Tents for Camping

As you can see, there are lots to love about camping in pop-up tents. However, there are some ways that it does not always work so well.

Pop-Ups Are Often Bulky When Packed

If you’re camping out of your car, a bulky tent isn’t that big a deal. However, backpackers might have a few problems.

Unlike camping tents, which you can roll into a travel-size bag, you can only fold pop-up tents. As such, pop-up tents are always bulkier than camping tents of the same size. This makes them harder to carry when hiking or backpacking.

For example, the Ayamaya 4-6 person Pop Up Tent folds into a disc shape and is 34.6 x 34.6 x 1.2 inch, while the MOON LENCE Camping Tent 6 Person Family Tent has a packed size of just 16.5 x 6.1 x 6.1 inches.

Pop-up tents may be light and easy to set up, but they just don’t pack as small as traditional tents, which may be necessary for some backpackers.

Can Be Less Breathable

Many pop-up tents sold today are single-wall, meaning they only have one waterproof layer that does not incorporate a rainfly or outer protective wall. Without a second protective layer, the material used for these tents is strong but not very breathable.

A double-wall tent, on the other hand, has a rainfly. That is, it has an inner wall made of more breathable material, like mesh, while the outer wall is made from a durable waterproof material to protect from rain.

Double-layered tents have better ventilation thanks to the air gap between the two tent walls. The inner mesh wall is lighter and more breathable, allowing less condensation to accumulate inside the tent, but the outer wall still protects it from wind and rain.

Poles Are Difficult to Replace

For some pop-up tents, the folding system is pretty intricate, with several joints that either collapse or expand. Thus, a failure in one of these joints can render the tent unusable.

These poles are also built into the fabric of the tent, making it difficult to replace or fix them if something goes wrong. In such cases, even with small joint failures, you may wind up replacing the whole tent.

With regular camping tents, you can purchase replacement poles or replace them with your tools, allowing quick and easy fixes.

Hard to Fold When Done

We’ve continually mentioned how easy it is to set up pop-up tents. Folding them back up into proper position is a different story, though.

Luckily, there are many sources for learning to fold a pop-up tent. YouTube is full of them, and we even have our own tutorial right here on Tent Hacker! Check out our guide on how to fold a pop-up tent for the entire step-by-step process.

You can apply those methods to your own pop-up tent, practicing with it several times before you take it out to the campground or backyard. As we mentioned above, once you get the process down, it’s fairly simple.

Less Expensive Tents Have No Weatherproofing

Pop-up tents, especially the ones under $100, are quick, accessible shelters. However, that means that they cannot always withstand heavy rainstorms or winds.

It’s not a manufacturing flaw, though. People typically use pop-up tents for brief events that don’t involve inclement weather.

If you want the best pop-up tent for camping, find one that is advertised as a waterproof pop-up tent (with sealed seams) or has a rainfly and tent stakes to keep it firmly in the ground.

And, if you need additional protection from the elements, you can do your own weatherproofing to stabilize and strengthen your pop-up tent. See our guide on how to weatherproof a tent for some tips and tricks.

Are Pop-up Tents Worth It for Camping?

Pop-up tents are worth it for camping if they fit your camping style. For example, they make sense if you set up camp near your car and camp in good weather conditions. They might not be worth it if you go backpacking and like to camp in harsher weather conditions.

So, whether a pop-up tent is worth it to you will simply depend on your specific camping style and needs.

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