What is a Pop Up Tent? Everything You Need to Know

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When looking for a new tent, you’ll undoubtedly come across a type of tent often referred to as a pop-up tent.

But what is a pop up tent? And how do they differ from regular tents?

In this article, we break down what a pop-up tent is, its pros and cons, and we’ll answer a few frequently asked questions about this popular type of tent.

What is a Pop-Up Tent?

Pop Up Tents are a type of ‘instant tent’ that simply ‘pop’ into shape.

While instant tents are known for going up in roughly a minute, most pop-up tents can be fully pitched in just 10 seconds!

Instant tents unfold, extend, and the frame poles click into place; pop-up tents require even less work as a fabricated flexible frame allows an even quicker setup straight out of the bag.

Sounds pretty cool. But, how does it actually work?

How Does a Pop-Up Tent Work?

Pop-up tents are sometimes called ‘self-erecting tents,’ and that’s because, unlike regular tents that require you to do all the work, pop-up tents set themselves up!

It may seem like magic, but the trick is in the frame where flexible, sometimes spring-loaded poles are stitched into the tent’s fabric and then folded down and contained with a strap. When that strap is unhooked and the tent is tossed into the air, the frames pop into place and pull the tent’s fabric open.

Taking the tent down, while still incredibly fast, can be a little tricky for first-time pop-up tent users. Unfortunately, they don’t just pop back down. Instead, you have to fold them in a specific way to get them to lay flat and fit back in their designated bag.

Tip: Practice taking the pop-up tent down before taking it camping for the first time, so you are familiar with the process. Check out our guide on how to fold a pop up tent for some helpful tips.

Difference Between Pop-Up Tents and Regular Tents

Pop-up tents use flexible and/or spring-loaded frames, so the tent pops into place. Set up takes as little as 10 seconds compared to the 10-15+ minutes it may take for a regular tent.

Pop-up tents still need to be staked and secured after the tent is opened to keep everything in place. Still, for a tent to be classified as a pop-up tent, the critical feature is that the majority of the setup is accomplished by tossing it into the air and it popping open.

Unfortunately, what you gain in quick setup time, you lose in durability.

The lightweight nature of a pop-up camping tent means that it’s not as durable and not as stable against the wind as regular tents, which depending on the brand, can be very solid even in extreme weather.

Let’s further break down the specific pros and cons of the pop-up tent.

Are Pop-Up Tents Good? The Pros

We’ve covered this extensively in our guide titled Are Pop-Up Tents Good for Camping, but let’s quickly cover the most important pros here.

Great Starter Tents

The lightweight and compact nature of the pop-up tent with its quick assembly makes it a great starter tent for:

  • Kids and teens
  • Beginner campers
  • Families with small children (setup is quick while keeping an eye on children)

Instant Shelter

As it takes less than a minute to set up, pop-up tents can provide instant shelter in situations when you decide to camp last minute or maybe don’t want to spend a lot of time setting up a tent, such as camping in the living room and spending the weekend backyard camping.

The quick set-up is also beneficial for day trips to the beach or by the lake, where the tent can be used for shelter from the sun, keeping supplies covered from the elements, and a discreet place to change into swimsuits.

More Affordable

Pop-up tents are affordable alternatives to expensive traditional tents. They may not provide the same protection from the elements as a 4-season tent may provide, but they are a great starting point for people who want to try camping and aren’t sure if they’re going to invest hundreds of dollars for a tent that they may only use a few times.

Easy to Assemble

No strength or coordination is required to set these tents up so even children can do their part when the family goes camping.

Pop-up tents only need a strap unhooked or the tent to be taken out of the bag and then a quick toss into the air to finish the setup.

After being “popped up,” the only other optional step is to stake the tent to secure it.

The Cons of Pop-Up Tents

Even the best pop-up tents have some downsides that you should be aware of. Let’s look at those a bit closer.


Pop-up tents are not the tents you want to have when you’re stuck outside in bad weather or extreme climates. What makes them a quick, affordable beginner tent also makes them less durable and less protective against the elements.

The spring-loaded frames that allow for easy setup are often made of less durable materials to keep them lightweight for carrying. If a frame piece is cracked or broken, mending it as it’s stitched into the fabric is not advised. Unlike regular tents, replacing broken parts of the frame can be difficult or impossible and may require a whole tent replacement.

Regular tents with their separate multi-piece frames allow the quick replacement of pieces directly from the manufacturer if they’re damaged.

Waterproofing is Minimal

Contrary to popular belief, many pop-up tents do come with some waterproofing protection straight from the manufacturer. For example, the Ayamaya Waterproof Pop Up Tent comes with a decent 3000mm waterproof rating and sealed seams right from the manufacturer!

However, it’s usually minimal and not going to be effective in hard rains.

This can easily be remedied by adding additional waterproof protection to your tent. Check out our guide on how to waterproof a tent for the exact step-by-step process.

As a general rule, if you intend to spend more time in extreme weather or camp in areas where the weather changes quickly, it may be worth looking for a higher-end regular tent that guarantees protection against the elements and is certified for low temperatures.


Polyester is one of the more common materials for pop-up tents because it’s cheap and lightweight, but it isn’t as breathable as other fabrics. Couple that with their single-wall design (they don’t have a rainfly, so you can’t ventilate it in any sort of bad weather), and you have a recipe for excess condensation.

To minimize condensation, try to reduce moisture in and around the tent by:

  • Keeping wet clothing like swimsuits out of the tent
  • Avoid camping too close to streams and lakes.
  • Increase air circulation by opening the windows. This circulation will allow moisture to escape while the tent is empty and helps to dry the tent’s inside.

Hard to Pack Up & Store

Pop-up tents offer quick setup but tear down, and storage can take a bit more work.

As mentioned above, pop-up tents don’t pop back down. You have to manually fold them down in a very specific manner. This isn’t necessarily a con once you have the process mastered, as it’s still faster than a regular tent. But, there’s usually a learning curve involved.

And once it’s down, they tend to take up more space than a regular tent. While they do fold somewhat flat, most pop-up tents fold down to a 3-foot(ish) wide circle, making storing and portability hard in certain cases.

Lack Features

Many popular features often found in regular tents, like a tent vestibule, rainfly, even large family sizes, are often hard to find in pop-up tents.

Newer, more expensive pop-up tents are gaining some of the features of more costly regular tents, but the pop-up’s low cost and basic nature mean those features can be limited.

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