Camping doesn’t have to be difficult – if you’ve got the right tent
Whether you’re looking to hit the summer festival circuit, want to try sleeping under canvas for the first time, or fancy taking the family away for a few days in the countryside, you can now buy tents that take just seconds to pitch. The latest pop up and fast pitch tents involve little more than taking them out the bag and pegging them into the ground, which leaves you more time to enjoy the great outdoors.
For this feature, we’ve sourced the very best pop-up and fast pitching tents on the market and have included options to suit any budget. We’ve also included some high-quality designs that, while not advertised as a pop-up, are exceptionally easy to pitch. Nothing here takes more than 10 minutes to pitch, even if you’re a total novice.
Before we ‘pitch’ our favourite tents to you, though, have a read of our buying guide, to make sure you get the right design whether you’re heading to a field, a festival, or plan on conquering Ben Nevis.
Best pop up tents: At a glance
- Best pop up tent: Decathlon 2 Seconds Fresh & Black XL | £140
- Best fast pitch tent: Decathlon Quechua 2 Seconds Easy Fresh & Black | £130
- Best fast pitch tent for longer trips: Slumit Grizzly IIII | £175
How to choose the best pop up or fast pitch tent for you
What features do I need?
The most important feature of any pop up or fast pitch tent is, unsurprisingly, the ability to be put up quickly. Pop-up tents are supplied in large round bags, with the pre-fitted poles flexing significantly, and held in position with clips and elasticated straps. Undo the straps and the tent literally ‘pops’ up, leaving you to peg each corner into the ground and tighten the guy ropes.
The most overlooked element of any pop-up tent, however, is how easy it is to pack away again. Trust us, they’re far easier to put up than pack away, as demonstrated by countless tired people on the Monday after a festival, as they wrestle the high-tensile poles and impossibly small bags. Designs are getting better now, with – at the very least – colour coded sections that help you fold the tents down without snapping a pole or bursting a blood vessel.
Fast pitch tents, like pop-ups, have the poles fitted to the canvas already, but the poles fold and clip open using clever joints. To pitch, you unfold the poles and then either press down or pull up on the top section, which puts the poles under tension and snaps them into position. These tents tend to have traditional dome shapes, are larger than pop-ups and take a fraction of the time to pack away again. However, there are a lot more parts that could potentially go wrong.
For light sleepers, families with small children and late-night festival goers, we highly recommend tents that use blackout material to line bedrooms, which keeps them cooler and darker for longer.
Look for a sturdy, sewn-in groundsheet with a coated nylon floor to keep you warm and dry, a waterproof rain fly (this is the outer layer of the tent) and plenty of guy ropes for stability. And the more loops, hooks and pockets in the tent’s interior, the better. They’re useful for hanging up lanterns and stashing belongings.
Pop up or fast pitch, which is the best tent for me?
The classic pop-up tent is ideal for one person or a very cosy couple looking for somewhere to sleep, rather than basecamp in for any length of time. The large round bags are awkward to carry, so a car is generally needed, even though they’re quite light.
The new generation of fast pitch tents look similar to traditional dome tents and can feature practical awnings for rain shelter and storing equipment. These are better for longer camping trips and families, where more space is needed. They are generally heavier than a standard pitching tent of the same size, and most will be too heavy for backpacking.
Alternatively, some hi-tech backpacking and mountaineering tests have been designed to be pitched as fast as possible, even in the worst conditions. These tents have ultra-light poles that magnetically clip together to create a frame in seconds.
While they take a little longer to pitch than pop-up designs, inflatable tents, especially large six to 12 person designs, take a fraction of the time to pitch compared to standard large tents. Just peg out and pump them up. They’re expensive and often hard to deflate, but great if you’re planning a week or so under canvas.
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What size tent do I need?
Tents are sized according to the number of adults they can feasibly sleep (two-, four-, six-person and so on), but unless you’re looking for an ultralight adventure tent for one person, the rule of thumb is that if you halve the stated person number, you’ll get the number of adults the tent will actually sleep comfortably. A four-person tent will give two adults plenty of extra space for bags without being squashed but, if you’re camping with kids, a six-person tent (with separate bedrooms) is ideal.
That being said, pop-up and fast pitch tents are generally small and designed for two adults at most. Some of the latest fast pitching designs have a little more space – with room for young children – but if you need an easy-to-pitch tent for a large family looking to camp for more than a long weekend you’ll need to invest in an inflatable design. These come in sizes that sleep up to 12 adults.
How much should I spend?
Don’t invest hundreds of pounds on a large tent – or hi-tech mountaineering design – that you only need for one weekend at a festival. In this situation, we suggest borrowing one from a friend.
Pop-up and fast pitch tents are aimed at novice campers and the price generally reflects this, with plenty of options available for between £60 and £150. Don’t expect a £60 tent to survive years of use, though, unless you take very good care of it. And also, don’t expect it to be impervious to much more than light rain and winds.
Inflatable tents are more of an investment, with prices between £300 and £2,000, depending on the size you need.
How we test pop up tents
Testing easy-pitch tents is a doddle since often all you need to do is open the bag, release the straps, and stand back! The true test of a pop-up tent is in the ease with which it goes back into the bag. We’ve wrestled with the bad pop-up tent designs so that you don’t have to.
As with our pick of the best family tents, we pitched as many options as possible, both in controlled conditions, such as the park or the garden, and while away on camping weekends with friends and family. We even loaned out tents to volunteers who gave us their feedback on pitching, comfort, and packing.
However, due to issues in the supply chain since COVID-19, some of the tents were not readily available for full testing, so in order to double-check that they still met our standards, we visited camping retail showrooms, brand offices, and trade shows to try them out.
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The best pop up tents you can buy in 2023
1. Decathlon 2 Seconds – Fresh & Black XL: Best pop up tent
Price when reviewed: £140 | Check price at DecathlonIt’s not the cheapest pop-up tent that Decathlon sells, but the combination of space, size and features makes it by far the best option. First, it has 210 x 210cm of bedroom space which is great for a grown-up couple, and with 115cm of height – at the tallest point – you can sit up with ease. That said, given how good the blackout material is, you’re not really going to want to spend any time in it during the day as it’s pitch black, unless you’re a fan of an afternoon nap.
Decathlon popularised the pop-up tent and revolutionised festival camping, but those early designs, while easy to put up, were extremely difficult to fold away again. Thankfully, the design has evolved and, while it’s still incredibly simple to pitch, it can also be put away without (much) swearing. Courtesy of colour coded straps and clips, it’s easy to fold the tent in half, after which a pull cord system then holds everything in place while you fold it again to fit the bag. It’s still a faff, but so much easier than previous versions.
The Decathlon 2 Seconds Fresh & Black XL has a small porch area for storing small bags and boots. There are several ventilation vents that will be very useful in the summer. The zips are reliable, the doors open wide and the guy ropes help make it very secure, even in storms.
Key specs – Capacity: Three people; Weight: 5.3kg; Packed dimensions: 85 x 9cm; Waterproofing: 2,000mm (5,000mm groundsheet)
2. Decathlon 2 Seconds Easy – Fresh & Black: Best fast pitch tent
Price when reviewed: £130 | Check price at DecathlonStylish, packed with features and fantastically fast to pitch, this style of pull-up tent could spell the end of the pop-up design as it’s just as quick to pitch, but packs away in next to no time.
To pitch, you simply pull on two chords that clip and bend the poles into position. With the flysheet, bedroom and groundsheet already fitted, you’re ready to go in 30 seconds, if that. Once pitched, you can move it into position and peg out.
With a bedroom of just 205 x 145cm it is just big enough for a couple, but with two doors, both offering storage space, you can both get out or get to your kit without having to climb over each other. Having two doors and a mesh bedroom compartment also means it’s great for ventilation in the summer. The blackout fabric works well, and we like the internal storage pockets and hooks that mean keeping a torch close by is easy.
It is a sturdy design with good waterproofing for summer storms, but the pop-up mechanism doesn’t have a lock, so cheeky campers (or, more likely, well-oiled festival goers) could collapse your tent with a firm press. But it’s this mechanism that also makes it a dream to put away, and we were able to get it back in the bag in less than a minute.
Key specs – Capacity: Two people; Weight: 4.7kg; Packed dimensions: 59 x 20cm; Waterproofing: 2,000mm (5,000mm groundsheet)
3. Jack Wolfskin Exolight II: Best fast pitch tent for backpacking
Price when reviewed: £615 | Check price at Jack WolfskinWeighing just 2.3kg, the Exolight II is a beautifully engineered tent, and perfect for backpacking adventures. It doesn’t ‘pop up’, but the exoskeleton is created using super light poles that, thanks to magnets, simply connect together, creating the tent’s fame with a quick shake.
And because the inner bedroom pod is already attached to the flysheet, once you’ve clipped the poles into each of the corners you just clip the flysheet to the poles and you’re done. This also means you can’t get the inner fabric wet if pitching in a storm. It took us less than four minutes to pitch.
The geodesic structure means it remains stable in high winds, and while small (215 x 120cm), the shape lets you sit up comfortably. There’s a 60cm vestibule for bags, too, and a removable mesh hammock-style shelf inside for stashing essentials.
The outer fabric is made from silicone coated ripstop that will survive any weather and there are two doors with mosquito net protection, so you can avoid clambering over people in the night.
You’ll want to take an eye mask if you plan on sleeping past dawn as it is very light in the mornings – but you’re using it for adventure, rather than sleeping off festival excesses.
Key specs – Capacity: Two people; Weight: 2.3kg; Packed dimensions: 45 x 15cm; Waterproofing: 5,000mm
4. Slumit Grizzly IIII: Best fast pitch tent for longer trips
Price when reviewed: £175 | Check price at SlumitWith a generous 230 x 230cm sleeping area and large, separate porch area, this is the largest fast pitch tent we’ve found. It’s ideal for a couple or young family who don’t travel light.
It’s a classic dome style tent, but thanks to the FlashFrame system you can have it popped up and ready to peg in seconds. The two-layer tent comes attached to its innovative umbrella mechanism frame so there’s no time wasted. To pitch, you just lift the poles at the apex and clip the two parts together. This simple operation locks the poles into position and gives the tent its shape.
Be warned, though, that you’ll need to be at least five-feet eight inches (172cm) tall and have a relatively strong grip to lift and clip the tent together.
There’s a locking mechanism to avoid unwanted collapses, and the only traditional part of the pitching involves sliding a separate pole into the flysheet to create the porch area.
UV protected fabric, good waterproofing and lots of internal storage options make this a thoroughly practical tent for anyone who wants a comfortable time under canvas but doesn’t have any interest in faffing about with poles and pitching.
Key specs – Capacity: Four people; Weight: 6.8kg; Packed dimensions: 85 x 19cm; Waterproofing: 4,000mm
5. Robens Green Cone 4: Best traditional tent for easy pitching
Price when reviewed: £350 | Check price at AmazonThe Robens Green Cone 4 doesn’t pop up, but with just one pole the classic tipi design is incredibly straightforward to pitch and offers plenty of internal space, extra head height and all-weather performance. It also looks great, offering bags of cool camping vibes.
Unlike many compact tipi tents, the pole is positioned off centre so it doesn’t impact the bedroom space. Instead, it mounts at the front of the opening and is held in place by a secure fabric loop. It’s an ideal size for a young family.
To pitch, you simply peg out the flysheet and insert the pole. The tent’s inner can be removed if you want to use it as a sunshade or bivvy, and if the weather is warm the centre pole can be extended to increase airflow.
It’s expensive compared to basic pop-up and fast pitch tents, but this high-quality design is made using tough ripstop polyester, has excellent alloy components and is extremely waterproof. It’s an investment, but will last for years.
Key specs – Capacity: 4 people; Weight: 5.2kg; Packed dimensions: 60 x 20cm; Waterproofing: 5,000mm ripstop polyester
6. Coleman FastPitch Pop Up Galiano 4: Best multi-person pop up tent
Price when reviewed: £89 | Check price at AmazonWhile the 90cm circular carry case is no bigger or more cumbersome than a basic two-person pop-up, this is a generously proportioned design with enough space for four people (who know each other well!). It’s also available in a smaller two-person design, but given the minimal difference in packed size, we can’t see why you would choose less space, even if there’s only one of you.
Pitching takes seconds and with only four pegs and two guide ropes you’re all set before most campers have found their groundsheet. Don’t be too smug though, because the time saved pitching may well get spent folding and bending this tent back into the bag. It’s not as simple as the Decathlon designs in this regard.
A great option for warm dry evenings, the whole roof section can be rolled back to allow for some star gazing, as well as maximum ventilation without being prey for any mosquitos. In fact, with waterproofing of just 2,000mm HH this is very much a summer tent, but will happily survive the odd downpour.
Key specs – Capacity: 4 people; Standing room? No; Bedrooms: 1; Pitch time: 2 minutes; Weight: 3.35kg; Waterproofing: DWR 2000mm HH; Packed dimensions: 90cm diameter