Camping. It’s the ultimate summer pastime. Roasting marshmallows on the fire, sleeping under the stars, rope swings over rivers—these are the memories we treasure when winter rolls around.
You know what memories we’re not treasuring?
That 3 hour battle to put the tent up.
That time we snapped the fiberglass pole and ended up with most of the tent sagging in on us after lights out.
That short-lived feeling of achievement before we realize we’ve pitched our tent in the wrong spot.
But it’s 2020. And along with all the other technology we’ve come to rely on, there’s a new player on the camping scene: the inflatable tent.
If you’re ready to put the traumatic tent assemblies behind you forever, we’ve got everything you need to know about the best inflatable tents right here.
What Are Inflatable Tents?
The first thing you’ll notice about the inflatable tent is that it is entirely pole-free.
Instead of the traditional fibre glass or metal pole that needed to be sorted, assembled, and threaded together to create the skeleton of your tent, an inflatable tent has built-in, fully encased tubes. We fill the tubes using an air pump to create the tent’s structure. Once the air tubes have been inflated they are extremely solid and sturdy, enough to stand up to the wind better than most pole tents.
These tubes are commonly known as air beams, as the first inflatable tents for camping were brought to the market by Vango—creator of the popular AirBeam tent line. Some inflatable tents use a continuous airflow system through the whole tent—meaning you inflate one tube and the entire tent takes shape. This is a similar effect to an inflatable bed. Other air tents use a cell-structure for inflation—meaning you inflate it through several different tubes. This is similar to an inflatable pool toy with multiple compartments to pump air into.
Air tents—which are sometimes referred to as blow up tents—have been around in one form or another for almost a century. As with most things, the technology has developed into what we see today. Durable, resilient, and long-lasting, today’s air tent is taking up prime summer camping real estate across the country. A new type of inflatable tent known as a bubble tent has also started to come into fashion, but more as a semi-permanent structure for hosting events or general relaxation over the summer months. We'll be focusing on the camping variety in this piece.
After Vango introduced the concept, air beam tents entered the mainstream, followed by a host of inflatable camping tents, pump up tents, and even self-inflating tent models. Inflating tents come with the same general features you'd find in a traditional tent of the same size, including a porch area, equivalent floor area and storage space, a ground sheet, multiple sleeping areas - all the basics you look for when selecting your camping living space. Read on to discover what additional benefits they bring...
Benefits of Inflatable Tents
Let’s be honest: the reason inflatable tents have stolen the hearts of campers everywhere is speed. With a basic bike pump or a handy generator, your air frame tent can be fully inflated and pegged down within minutes, making for a quick pitch tent and an easy camp. And of course, deflating and packing it away is often just as quick.
Streamlining and de-stressing the tent-pitching process gives you freedom. Isn’t that what we all want from our camping experience?
So your inflatable air tent is up. You’ve been kicking back with a cold one as you watch your camp neighbors smugly. But are air tents any good, past that point? In a nutshell: yes.
Gone are the days of kneeling brokenly beside your half-pitched camping tent, desperately trying to fix a broken pole with duct tape. Or searching for the other half of the pole you’re trying to put together.
A poleless tent cuts down on the number of working parts that could malfunction at any moment - you can't snap air beams. Guy lines attached to tent stakes or pegs are still used to maintain the overall stability of the tent.
There is a common misconception that inflatable tents can be blown away by a strong gust of wind. In reality, blow up tents for camping are secured in exactly the same way as a traditional tent: with pegs.
We secure the tent by pegging down the perimeter and securing it with guy ropes. This means it is just as resistant to winds and rough weather conditions as any other tent type.
Inflatable tents are manufactured from the most advanced materials. State of the art materials are used to offer you a resilient and long-wearing inflated tent. The tent material will be difficult to puncture or tear and can take a beating from the elements. Features like blackout bedrooms and high hydrostatic head ratings for maximum water resistance are common on the higher end models.
Most inflatable tent manufacturers also offer replacement inflation tubes, too. These are straightforward to install, and make repairing damage easy and affordable, a key plus point for the family camping budget!
What to Look For In An Inflatable Tent
The key to shopping for an inflatable tent is convenience. Of course we want to know if inflatable tent camping is as good as traditional tent camping—and it absolutely can be.
To make sure you get the best result for the price tag, look for these key features:
· Full webbing straps for improved stability
· High arch roofing to increase headroom
· Side- or rear-attached eyebrow canopies for wet weather shelter
· Breathable panels for ventilation on hot summer nights
· Low and rear ventilation to minimize condensation and mold
· Easy-access inflation valves
· Interior cut-off valves to stop air-loss if the tubes get damaged
· Double zips for flexible entry/exit and security at night
· Adjustable pegging points
· Puncture repair kit for emergency use
· Replacement tubes available for purchase
These types of features can make a pump up tent a convenient option for your next great escape.
When you’re looking for your next—or first!—blow up tent for any purpose, from family camping to a 2 person backpacking tent, it pays to know what you’re getting into. Look for options that offer peace of mind—like replacement tubes and interior cut-off valves. Check the features list carefully.
Most of all, have fun with it on your next camping trip to the country—or the beach—or the backyard!