Best Instant Tent For Record Speed Setups

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Video best 4 person instant tent

You know the drill: Pull out the bag. Untangle the tent. Snap the poles together. Fumble with keeping one side still while you try to secure the other. Setting up your tent is kind of a chore, if we’re being honest. Same goes for putting it away, except now it’s also dirty, and probably wet, too.

Instant tents change all that by cutting your setup and break down time down to as low as 60 seconds. These are the most convenient shelters money can buy, and will elevate your car camping experience by giving you more time to focus on enjoying the wilderness around you.

With that being said, finding the right instant tent can be as much of a chore as pitching a regular one. Lucky for you, we’ve already spent countless hours researching and analyzing all the best and most popular models out there so you don’t have to.

Our favorite instant tent currently available is the Caddis Rapid 4 instant cabin. We love the Caddis because it combines a large interior and stand-up height ceilings with upgraded materials, reliable weatherproofing, and a fast-as-lightning setup.

We’ll dig into the details of instant tents in our buyer’s guide down at the bottom to help you decide if the Caddis Rapid 4 is the right tent for you. If it isn’t, that’s ok: We’ve also included several other popular models in our list below, so you’re sure to find the right size and style tent for your next outing down there somewhere.

All right, let’s talk instant tents.

Best Instant Tent OverallHighest Quality OverallBest On A Budget

Best Instant Tents

Caddis Rapid 4 Tent: Best Overall

Specs:– Weight: 20.5 lbs lbs (9.3 kg)– Packed size: 50” x 9” x 9” (127cm x 23cm x 23cm)– Floor size: 96” x 96” (244cm x 244cm) – Peak height: 80” (203cm)– Rooms: 1– Shape: Cabin– Occupancy: 4 (6 also available)– Best for: Three season camping– Price: $

Taking our top honors as the best instant tent overall is the Caddis Rapid 4, a well-rounded shelter that combines simplicity, performance, and durability, and does it all at a price that’s tough to beat

The Caddis follows the same essential design of the classic Coleman Instant Cabin below with its lightning-fast attached pole design and large square floorplan, but then adds in all the things Coleman left out in the name of cost-savings. That includes a nice long rainfly, an open mesh ceiling for sunny days and clear nights, and stand-up height ceilings throughout the interior.

We also love that Caddis cuts no corners in terms of material quality and durability here. The Rapid 4 uses a thicker 190D polyester taffeta in its canopy, the same fabric in the rainfly, and an even thicker 210D polyester in the floor. This instant tent also benefits from upgraded hardware, and we’re particularly impressed by the Caddis’ 21mm thick steel poles.

As far as instant tents go, this is a tough one to complain about, especially if you’re considering the classic Coleman Instant Cabin below, which is easily its closest competitor. The materials are thicker, the floor is larger, the ceilings are higher, and a large rainfly is included for the price. Of course that price is a bit higher than the Coleman, which would be the only real drawback for us, but if you’ve got the extra cash to spend, you really can’t go wrong here.

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Gazelle GT400R T4: Highest Quality Instant Tent Overall

Specs:Weight: 32 lbs ( 14.5 kg)- Packed size: 67” x 8” x 8” (170 cm x 20cm x 20cm)- Floor size: 94” x 94” (239cm x 239cm)- Peak height: 78” (198cm)- Rooms: 1- Shape: Cabin- Occupancy: 4- Best for: Three season camping for two- Price: $$$

Taking our top spot for highest overall quality is the latest Gazelle T4 instant tent, the Gazelle GT400R T4.

The T4 gets our vote for its highly durable materials, which include rugged 210D polyester fabric in both the canopy and rainfly, a full 300D oxford polyester material in the floor, and YKK zippers on every door and window.

Interestingly enough, the Gazelle is the first tent with fiberglass poles The Wise Adventurer has ever given the “highest quality” designation, but in Gazelle’s case, there’s a reason for it. Gazelle tents use a unique “pop-out hub” design for their tents, which consists of a sturdy metal hub at the center of each wall or roof panel attached to four independent poles connected to each of the four corners. By using fiberglass, Gazelle is able to get enough flexibility out of their tent frames to allow them to bend under tension without breaking, which makes the freestanding hub design possible. You’ll definitely want to stake out the Gazelle from every angle, but the pole material isn’t a quality concern in this case.

Aside from the unique (and incredibly easy to pitch) pop-out design, the Gazelle T4 has a few other standout features. For one, it’s a four-person tent with two separate doors, which always earns bonus points in our book. It’s also got well over six feet of headroom inside, and tons of interior space due to the convex shape of the walls. Ventilation is solid thanks to six interior windows and a mesh roof, and storage is plentiful with four large interior pockets and a mesh gear loft.

Our main complaint with the Gazelle T4 is that although its removable floor is convenient for cleaning, it’s also attached using velcro. Granted, the velcro is thick, and the T4 holds up just fine during rain, but you’ll want to be careful about where you pitch this tent as it’s just not built to keep standing puddles of water at bay.

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Teton Sports Vista 2 Person Quick Tent: Best On A Budget

Specs:Weight: 6.3 lbs (2.9 kg)- Packed size: 33” x 7” x 7” (84cm x 18cm x 18cm)- Floor size: 82” x 60” (208cm x 152cm)- Peak height: 41” (104cm)- Rooms: 1- Shape: Dome- Occupancy: 2 (1 person also available)- Best for: Portable shelter for 1-2 persons- Price: $

Want a fast-pitching tent but don’t need a ton of space? Check out the Teton Sports Vista Quick Tent.

The Vista is essentially a classic backpacking-style tent that uses a pre-attached pole design where you’d normally find a standard collapsible pole set. Set-up is pretty cool to watch, as you just unfold the tent then pull the drawstring and watch the tent magically spring into shape.

Pretty much everything else about the Teton Sports Vista is classic backpacking tent style, including the tall tub-style waterproof floor, the lightweight mesh ceiling, and the seam-sealed rainfly. This tent comes in both one and two-person models, but we prefer the two-person for the extra space, and love that Teton sports included double doors for the Vista to add livability for two.

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We don’t really have any complaints with the Teton other than the limitations of its size and weight. At just over 6 pounds, it’s a little too heavy for serious backpacking duty, especially considering it can’t be meaningfully split between two hikers due to the pre-attached pole design. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s smaller than your average car camping tent, although it will comfortably sleep two just fine. Still, if you like the sound of a compact tent that goes up in about 60 seconds, this one won’t break the bank.

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Core 9 Person Instant Cabin

Specs:Weight: 27.6 lbs (12.5 kg)- Packed size: 48” x 11” x 12” (122cm x 28cm x 30cm)- Floor size: 168” x 108” (427cm x 274cm)- Peak height: 78” (198cm)- Rooms: 2- Shape: Cabin- Occupancy: 9 (12 person also available)- Best for: Large family/group camping- Price: $$

Core camping tents have become widely popular in recent years, and the Core 9 is a great example of why people love them. It’s a huge tent with two rooms, two doors, tons of floor space, and stand-up ceilings.

Setup is a breeze thanks to the pre-attached hubbed pole design, meaning all you have to do is unfold this instant tent and then extend its telescoping steel legs into place. Weatherproofing is solid all-around thanks to Core’s “H2O Block” technology, which uses a combination of heat-sealed seams and water-resistant fabric to keep the wet at bay.

Several long-term owners report weathering many a rainy night without a single drop getting into the Core 9, and surprisingly the Core even does well in moderate winds (25-30 mph) despite its near-vertical walls and tall stature.

Complaints with the Core 9 are minor, but our biggest one is the use of 68D polyester fabric throughout the tent. Sure, it’s much stronger than your average backpacking tent, but it’s also lower than several of the other instant tents on our roundup.

Our second gripe is with the windows and doors. The Core 9 has plenty of nice big windows, but there aren’t any toggles to roll them up and secure them to when you want to open them up, so they just hang down. It’s far from a deal-breaker, and the Core remains a great tent to have!

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Zempire Pronto 5 V2

Best Instant Tent - Zempire Pronto

Specs:– Weight: 32.3 lbs (14.7 kg)– Packed size: 28” x 16” x 10” (71cm x 41cm x 25cm)– Floor size: 109” x 109” (277cmx 277cm)– Peak height: 75” (191cm)– Rooms: 1– Shape: Dome– Occupancy: 5– Best for: Three season camping– Price: $$$

While most instant tents find a clever way to get their poles up as quickly as possible, the folks at Zempire do things their own way. Specifically, they throw out the poles altogether, and replace them with rigid inflatable beams.

This means pitching the Zempire Pronto 5 is as simple as staking it out and then pumping it up, and the entire production can be done in under three minutes with one person after a practice run or two. The same goes for taking it down, and thanks to Zempire’s use of multiple deflation points along the tent’s airframe, it takes about as long as putting away your favorite sleeping pad.

Aside from the unique airframe design, we’ve also gotta give Zempire some props for making one of the most well-ventilated tents on the market. Four massive zippable windows (and a full mesh ceiling) convert the Pronto 5 from a dark cave that’s ideal for sleeping into an open and airy screen room that competes with the best in the business. A reliable rainfly with dual vestibule storage rounds out the package, and we’re particularly fond of the massive convertible awning Zempire worked into the fly at the front door.

In terms of drawbacks, the main issue with the Zempire Pronto 5 is that the futuristic airbeam technology comes at a premium price, making this one of the more expensive tents on the market. We’ll also note that while the Zempire’s durability is outstanding overall (the entire tent is covered by a 2-year warranty), they still use fiberglass poles to prop up the sides of the fly for added ventilation, and at this price, aluminum DAC poles don’t seem like too much to ask for.

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Coleman 4-Person Cabin with Instant Setup

Specs:Weight: 18.2 lbs (8.3 kg)- Packed size: 40” x 8” x 8” (102cm x 20cm x 20cm)- Floor size: 96” x 84” (244cm x 213cm)- Peak height: 59” (150cm)- Rooms: 1- Shape: Cabin- Occupancy: 4 (6 and 10 person versions also available)- Best for: Fair weather camping for two- Price: $

Few instant tents deliver on their claims for setup time, but the Coleman 4-Person Cabin literally goes up in under 60 seconds. Just pull the tent out of the back, unfold it, and extend the poles. You’re done. There’s no rainfly to mess with, no vestibules to stake out, and no accessories to set up.

And while the fast and easy character of the Coleman is a selling point for many, we’ll also give this instant tent props for its surprisingly durable materials. Coleman specs their instant cabin with all-aluminum poles as well as tough 150D polyester fabric in both the single-wall canopy and tub-style tent floor. The zippers are a little lackluster, and we wouldn’t trust the guylines in any serious storms, but at a price this low, we’re willing to overlook those details.

And while the price is fantastic, the budget build comes with a few shortcomings you’ll want to be aware of. First, the tent uses an “integrated rainfly” rather than a separate/full coverage style fly. That means that the water-resistant outer fabric can’t be removed, which limits the amount of stargazing you’re able to do on clear nights. That also means the tent has no vestibule to shield the entrance from rain, and that the Coleman Cabin’s weatherproofing relies entirely on its canopy construction. Some owners report getting through extended rains without issue, while others experience the occasional leak. All things considered, we recommend adding an additional waterproofing treatment to this instant tent before taking it out in the field.

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Bushnell Shield Series 9 Person Instant Cabin

Specs:Weight: 44lbs (20kg)- Packed size: 42” x 24” x 24” (106cm x 61cm x 61cm)- Floor size: 15’ x 9’ (457cm x 274cm)- Peak height: 78” (198cm)- Number of rooms: 2- Shape: Cabin- Occupancy: 9 (12 person also available)- Best for: All-weather three-season family/group camping- Price: $$$

The Bushnell Shield Series 9 is a spacious instant tent that’s got all the features you want in a plus-sized shelter. We’re talking two separate doors, two separate rooms (using the included divider), plenty of integrated storage for as many people as you want to host, and enough ventilation to keep it comfortable through three seasons.

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We’re also big fans of the tough 150D polyester fabric that Bushnell uses throughout the body of the Shield instant tent. We’re talking floor, canopy, rainfly: Everything. That same quality is continued through the instant/preattached pole design, as Bushnell uses aluminum poles throughout the Shield’s construction.

Setup for the Bushnell Shield 9 is as simple as it gets. Just take it out of the bag, unfold it, then extend each of the four corner poles to its full height. Throw the rainfly on if you’re expecting any questionable weather, or leave it off for maximum ventilation from the fully-mesh ceiling.

Speaking of the rainfly (and questionable weather), weatherproofing is the only semi-common complaint we’ve heard about the Bushnell Shield series. On the one hand, the rainfly design is great, provides ample coverage, and even features a reflective backing that keeps the interior cooler in hot summer months. On the other hand, some customers report moisture getting past the rainfly and making its way into the tent. Bushnell builds their entire Shield line with fully-taped and sealed seams as well as water-repellant fabric, but it seems to struggle with extended or wind-blown rainfall. We recommend hitting the main canopy with an extra layer of waterproofing, and taking extra care to properly tension the included rainfly if you’re expecting any serious weather.

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Moon Lence Instant Pop Up Tent

Specs:Weight: 10.3 lbs (4.6 kg)- Packed size: 33” x 7” x 7” (83cm x 18cm X 18cm)- Floor size: 114” x 121” (290cm x 308cm)- Peak height: 52” (133cm)- Rooms: 1- Shape: Dome- Occupancy: 4 person- Best for: Light use in good weather- Price: $

While the Moon Lence Instant Po Up Tent wouldn’t be our first choice for a shelter (or even our first choice on a budget), it is the least expensive instant tent money can buy.

This tent is severely limited by its budget build (we’ll get into that down below), but it’s got a few highlights worth mentioning as well. First, the pop-up design is as simple as they come, and only takes about a minute to unfold and click into place. Second, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the Moon Lence Instant Pop Up specs a thick 210D oxford polyester floor, which is as solid as it is waterproof.

Unfortunately, water tends to fall from the sky rather than the ground, and the rest of the tent isn’t built to handle any wetness outside of a mild to heavy fog. The zippers leak, the seams leak, and the rainfly is just a strange little hat that covers up the hub for the tent poles.

Speaking of the tent poles, the Moon Lence uses thin fiberglass poles mounted to cheap plastic hubs, neither of which is going to hold up to any serious wind or the test of time. Ultimately this instant tent is better suited as a backyard play place for children or an easy-up sunshade for beachgoers. Still, if you only camp once or twice a year on clear sunny days and don’t want to invest in a serious shelter, the Moon Lence is a small investment with an even smaller learning curve.

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Coleman Tenaya Lake Fast Pitch Cabin Tent

Specs:Weight: 33.2 lbs (15.1 kg)- Packed size: 40” x 12” x 12” (102cm x 30cm x 30cm)- Floor size: 156” x 84” (396cm x 213cm)- Peak height: 80” (203cm)- Rooms: 2- Shape: Cabin- Occupancy: 6 (8 person also available)- Best for: Three season family camping- Price: $$

The Coleman Tenaya Lake is a back-to-basics style instant tent with some unique extra features built-in.

We say “back-to-basics” because with the Tenaya Lake, Coleman takes the old-school approach to fast setup, opting for a central hub design using detachable poles rather than the standard pre-attached/permanently attached designs. Some owners look at this as a con, but personally, we’re fans of the design. That’s because without fixed hubs, it’s less prone to failure, and should anything happen to break you can replace the parts instead of replacing the entire tent.

As far as unique features go, our favorite is probably the dual “gear cabinets” on the Coleman Tenaya Lake. These pop-out organizers are permanently attached to the tent about where the “headboards” of two air mattresses would be, and give you a place to stash your gear and essentials without taking up any floor space. It’s like vestibule storage with 360-degree protection from the elements.

This Coleman instant tent also comes with a fully-framed free-swinging door for entry and exit, which stays shut using velcro during the day for easy access, but can be fully sealed using a zipper from inside as well.

As far as cons go, we’ve got a few complaints with the Coleman Tenaya that we’ll share. First and foremost, Coleman’s “Fast Pitch” design is much quicker than your average tent of this size, but it’s not nearly as fast or easy as the pre-attached pole and hub designs you’ll see elsewhere on our list. You’re probably looking at about a ten-minute setup once you get used to pitching the Tenaya Lake.

Some customers also report a few drips making their way past Coleman’s “Weathertec” system and into their living space. Other customers report the exact opposite, so we recommend taking this tent for a shakedown in the backyard before actually sleeping in it out in the woods. An extra water-resistant treatment won’t hurt anything either.

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Instant Tents Buyer’s Guide

What Is An Instant Tent?

Put simply, an instant tent is any tent that’s been designed with the easiest setup possible in mind. Typically, that means the tent poles are already attached to the both through one mechanism or another, and you won’t need to spend any time putting them together or threading them through loops, hoops, or sleeves.

Manufacturers use a few different strategies to achieve these easy-pitching tents, so let’s dig into the specifics to find which is right for you.

Instant Tents vs Pop-up Tents:

These two terms get used interchangeably sometimes, but they’re actually two very different things.

Interestingly enough, if one of these types really deserves to be called “instant” it’s going to be pop-up tents. That’s because pop-up tents literally go up instantly, requiring zero effort on your part. Their entire pole system is under constant tension, which is held back by restraining straps when not in use. Undue the straps, and your tent instantly “pops” into its correct shape, leaving you to simply stake it into the ground and call it a day. If you’ve ever used a spring-loaded sun visor for your automobile, the design should be familiar to you.

Ultimately instant tents are much better suited for serious camping though, as the simplified nature of pop-up tents doesn’t lend itself to reliable performance in bad weather. We strongly prefer putting an extra minute or two into setting up an instant tent, especially considering they’re designed to go up as easily as possible while still providing a reliable frame. You’re still saving a ton of time and effort over traditional tent pole systems, and you’ll be happy you did if the weather goes south.

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Ease Of Set-up

A fast and simple setup/take-down is the main selling point of just about any instant tent. There are a few things to keep an eye out for when shopping, however.

The first and most important is that just because a manufacturer says their tent is easy to set up doesn’t mean it’s true. You’ll often see claims that the best instant tents can be set up with one person, set up in 60 seconds, or maybe even both. For some instant tents that may be accurate, but for others, it’s far from the truth.

The best way to determine an instant tent’s ease of set-up (aside from actually pitching it yourself) is to find a video of the tent being pitched in real-time. Not all manufacturers supply one, and those that do have a habit of making setup look easier than it is, but watching someone else pitch the tent in question takes a lot of the guesswork out of the buying process.

Portability: Weight And Packed Size/Shape

Instant tents tend to be a bit larger and heavier than traditional tents of the same size. That’s due to their attached frame designs, which typically incorporate hinges or hubs that add weight and bulk to the overall size of the tent.

That means instant tents aren’t a viable choice for backpacking, so weight and packed size only need be limited by your ability to transport, carry, and store your instant tent. Larger “cabin-style” instant tents add bulk as they add room, so if you’re considering getting a four-person or larger size, you’ll definitely want to confirm that the total packed size will fit in your car or truck (along with all your other gear) before purchasing.

Weather Protection

Try as we might to plan our camping trips around good weather, if you sleep outdoors for long enough, you’re going to deal with some rain.

That’s where good weather protection comes into play, and this is one of the features that separates a good tent from a bad purchase. There are a few basic indicators you should be familiar with that keep a tent watertight.

The first is the use of fully taped/sealed seams in a tent’s construction. Taped/sealed seams prevent water from creeping in through the vulnerable spaces between overlapping materials. The best instant tents will use sealed seams throughout their construction, while more budget-conscious models typically feature them in the rainfly and/or tent floor, but don’t include them in the tent canopy.

The second factor is water-repellant treatments. Ofter referred to as “DWR” coatings (short for “durable water repellant”), these treatments add additional protection to the natural water repellency of materials like polyester, and increase a tent’s wet-weather performance all-around. As an added bonus, these coatings can be purchased separately and applied to your tent to bolster wet weather protection from the factory.

Ventilation And Condensation

Like any other camping tent, ventilation plays a major role in keeping your tent comfortable year-round.

In the summer months, good ventilation allows a tent to create a cross-draft, pulling cooler air into the tent from outside while pushing the hot air accumulating inside the tent back out.

In the cooler months, when your tent typically stays fully covered under the vestibule to keep heat inside, ventilation plays the important role of managing condensation build-up. That’s because as you sleep, you constantly exhale warm, moisture-rich air into the tent. Over the course of the night, this moisture builds up inside the tent, and collects on the tent ceiling. Good ventilation helps this moisture evaporate before it builds up and starts to pool.

Durability

All the usual rules on tent durability apply to instant tents, but there are also some unique ones you’ll need to consider.

First off are the tent materials themselves, which include both the fabrics used in the tent body as well as the poles used in the tent frame. Instant tents also typically include some form of hinge or hub in their design, which you’ll want to consider carefully as they can be potential points of failure.

Tent fabrics are typically synthetic materials like nylon or polyester whose durability is mainly dependent on their overall weight/thickness. If you want to get a good idea of the durability of a tent’s fabric, just look for the “denier” rating assigned to the canopy, floor, and rainfly.

Denier, which is typically expressed as the letter “D” after a number (like 30D, 70D etc), tells you the durability of a given fabric. So with all other factors equal, a tent with a 50D polyester canopy will be more durable than one with a 30D polyester canopy.

Sturdy fabrics are important, but they aren’t much use without quality tent poles to hold them up. The best instant tent poles are made from metal, with aluminum typically being the highest quality and steel being a heavier but similarly durable choice.

As tents go down in price, you’ll start to see them use poles made from fiberglass as well. Some tents use fiberglass in low-stress areas to keep both the cost and overall weight of the tent down, while others use them throughout the tent’s construction. Generally speaking, the less fiberglass you can get in your setup the better, as these poles are much more prone to breaking under stress from factors like wind and rain.

Conclusion

For all the factors described above, we found the Caddis Rapid 4 to be the best all-around instant tent for its outstanding durability, lofty ceilings, and fast and drama-free setup. The price of the Caddis Rapid 4 certainly didn’t hurt its case either.

Of course if the Caddis still isn’t fast enough for you, we recommend considering the Gazelle T4. There’s just no faster way to set up a full-sized tent than Gazelle’s pop-out hub design, and both the T4’s canopy and floor fabrics double down on durability, delivering some of the thickest and most abrasion-resistant materials in our lineup.

And, if you’re looking to go fast-and-light or just want a great instant tent on a budget, we’re big fans of the Teton Sports Vista and its backpacking-style take on the pop-up tent category. If you want to learn more about how to set-up the perfect campsite, don’t forget to check out our camping checklist!

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>