Review: Coleman’s Instant Tent Great for Family Camping

Have you ever given camping a miss because of the hassle of putting up a tent? What if I told you Coleman has a tent that sets up like an umbrella in two minutes flat? Meet the Coleman Instant Tent.

It’s part umbrella, part Pack ‘n Play and 100 percent genius. The poles fold and telescope, and they’re attached to the tent. To put the thing up, you unfold it, telescope the poles and boom: Tent.

We purchased this tent for a family trip to Yellowstone this summer, and we gave it a dry run over Memorial Day. We outgrew our 4-man dome tent several years ago, and wanted to downsize from the 10′ x 18′ monster we’d been using since then. We were looking for three things: fast and easy set-up, room for four people plus gear, and enough head room for a six-footer to stand.

Price, size and set up

I looked at the Coleman 6-Man Instant Tent for several weeks before I bought it. At around $150, it was more than I wanted to spend, and at 9′ x 10′, it was smaller than some $70 10′ x 10′ or 10′ x 11′ dome tents. On the other hand, I liked the headroom offered by the cabin-style design, and I was sorely tempted by the set-up video – could a tent really go up that fast?

When the price dropped to $135, I jumped. Set up was a don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it affair. Our site was right across from the campground host who said we had it up in the time it took him to go inside, find a form and come back out. Putting the stakes in took longer than getting the tent up

Interior space

Inside, the tent is roomy. We had all of our gear, a queen air mattress plus a sleeping bag for a kid and we still had a wide aisle down the middle. My husband could walk upright in most of the floor space. The zippers pulled easily and did not snag, and the fabric seemed sturdier than other tents. Two small pockets attached to the walls keep small items like glasses, phones and car keys off the floor.

What about weather?

Now for the real test: weather. We checked weather reports before our campout and saw nothing but sunny skies and great temps. Imagine our surprise when a storm rolled in packing 40-knot winds and cold rain. With no rain fly, I was hoping the manufacturer’s claim about waterproof seams would hold true.

The tent survived like a trooper. It did not leak, and while the wind pulled up a few of the guy lines, the problem had to do with the stakes and not the tent itself. The stakes included with this tent are little more than a bent piece of wire. They turn in circles after they’re placed, and stepping on one is enough to bend it. This is my only negative comment for this tent – you will need to purchase real stakes.

Take down was a little more complicated than set up, mostly due to inexperience. The first time we rolled it up, it was too long for the bag. A second attempt, being careful not to let the tent material exceed the length of the poles, proved successful. While set up took less than five minutes, take-down took approximately 20. With practice, I bet we could get it to less than 10.

Summing up

Coleman’s Instant Tents are great for family camping. They cost a little more than the cheapest dome tents, but the price is well worth it for the fast set up and sturdy construction.

The good:
* Roomy interior with ample floor space for a family of 3 or 4.
* Good ventilation with two roof vents and mesh windows covering 40 percent of each wall.
* Good head space. Six-footers will be able to stand and walk around.
* Super-fast set up.

The bad:
* As with any tent, condensation can be a problem overnight. Leaving the windows partway open helps.
* I would have liked frogs or ties to secure the windows instead of tucking the unzipped panel in on itself.
* Included stakes are not up to the job.

Things to be aware of:
* The case is 48″ long by about 9″ around. Make sure it will fit in your car before you buy it.

Retail: $179, Often seen for $140 or so.