To get the most out of your camping trip, you need to have good gear. This includes a tent of course, which is the centerpiece of any camping trip.
Your new tent must provide good protection and easy setup — inflatable tents offer just that. You get to skip using poles and cut the pitching time significantly which leaves you with more time and energy to do things you enjoy doing.
When they first appeared, many people were hesitant to give inflatable tents a chance. They have since made significant progress and reached a level where they are reliable in every situation. Like other tents, you can choose size, design, build quality, and many other features depending on your needs.
In this article, we present 5 different types of inflatables on our list, so you can easily pick out the best inflatable camping tent for your intended use. Be sure to check the buying guide too, and get detailed information on what to look for, to be certain you’re getting a durable product you’ll be happy with.
How To Choose An Inflatable Tent – Buying Guide
Since a tent is something which has a large influence on the quality of your trip, you should put some thought into selection. Inflatable tents were made to save you time and trouble, compared to regular tents. You can set one up without anybody’s help, which isn’t always the case with traditional tents, especially if they are on the larger side.
Inflatable tents are a great solution when camping with kids for example because one adult can set up a tent while the other looks after them. On the other hand, depending on the size and weight, some inflatables can be used for backpacking too. However, these inflatable tents can be a bit pricey, so it’s important to learn as much as possible about the features so you don’t regret your purchase later on. Take a look.
The biggest upside of self-inflating tents is that you don’t need to deal with poles. The frame supports itself thanks to a system of beams that are filled with air and placed in protective casings. This way you get everything pre-attached and you only have to inflate it. Your new tent should have quality valves that will hold the air inside without leakage. Some have dual caps so you can both inflate and deflate the tent quickly.
This type of tent is generally very stable, even though it comes in different shapes. The best choice is the geodesic shape if you plan to expose it to more extreme conditions, but they all work well if you anchor it down properly using tent stakes and guylines, as you would do with any other tent. With no poles to fail, some inflatable tents perform surprisingly well in strong winds.
The design has drastically improved since these tents first appeared, so they are now much more reliable than they were in the beginning. Damage is not very common and doesn’t occur any more often than any other tent type. The best inflatable tents come with a repair kit included so you can solve any problems on the go. As with any tent, it’s also a big plus if the manufacturer sells replacement parts if something is to happen to your tent.
Inflation and Deflation
One of the most important things to consider when buying your new tent is how much time you need to inflate and deflate it. Fast setup is one of the main selling points of this type of tent, so be sure you can do it much quicker than pitching a regular tent. Also, the deflation process often takes a bit more time, since you need to remove almost all of the air inside to pack it down and put it back into the bag.
Air beams require a certain amount of pressure to be able to support the tent. While this varies from one product to another, it’s usually around 6 or 7psi. This is something we aren’t able to achieve with our lungs, so you will need a pump to do it. A manual pump will do the job just fine, and some tents come with a pump which is a plus. You can also use an electric pump (given that you have the proper adapter), but this isn’t required as the manual ones are much more budget-friendly.
As with other tent types, there is a varied choice when it comes to size — as you had the opportunity to see in our inflatable tent reviews. Manufacturers usually specify the number of occupants the tent can fit, and also the dimensions of it both packed and set up. The number of users stat usually describes a snug fit inside.
If you want a more comfortable fit, consider getting a 4-person tent for two or three users. This way you will have room for equipment inside the tent and some extra space to move around. There are also products like the Odyssey Air 800 which can accommodate larger groups.
Related Review: 4 Person Tent
It’s not just the floor space that matters, but the height of the tent too — giving you adequate headspace. Some are very tall and allow you to fully stand up inside whereas others provide enough height to sit down or kneel. The tent should at least be tall enough, so you don’t hit your head on the ceiling when sitting up straight.
Even though inflatable tents are often lighter than traditional ones (if they are the same size), these tents are by no means light as a feather. Consider the total tent weight when deflated, especially if you need to carry it to the campsite.
A smart layout can make things better, especially if we’re talking about a large tent for six or eight people. Some compact tents will have a single living space and won’t include a vestibule to leave your shoes and backpacks in. On the other hand, some will have several living and sleeping spaces as well as a vestibule (or more, if your tent has more than one door).
Related Review: 6 Person Tent
These separate rooms are something which is a huge upside if you’re sharing the tent with your kids or other adults. You can get some privacy and peace, without other people waking you up. Don’t forget to give this a thought before buying. Even if it means getting a slightly bigger tent, you won’t regret it.
Doors and Windows
Proper positioning and the number of doors and windows increase the functionality of your tent. Some tents (especially the larger ones) have more than one door which makes entry and exits much easier while other tent occupants are sleeping in the tent. The door shape also varies from one product to the other, and while a T-shaped door gives you the easiest access, other designs can offer better protection.
Windows are something almost every tent has, but it’s somewhat different when it comes to inflatable tents. Many products have PVC windows which are excellent in keeping the water and bugs out but won’t allow air circulation. For this reason, always check the breathability of your tent and whether it has some air vents included in the design. Otherwise, you may end up with condensation forming on tent walls, which is not very pleasant.
It’s certainly a plus if the windows have a mesh screen that allows air to go through while keeping insects outside. Some windows have fabric flaps that you put on for weather protection and to reduce light levels inside. You can usually roll these up to let more sunshine and fresh air into the tent.
Most manufacturers use polyester as their material of choice for making the largest part of these tents. The body, floor, as well as protective casing for air beams are usually made from this material. It’s a synthetic material that performs great in terms of strength, durability, weight-saving, and weather protection. Sometimes a layer of PU (polyurethane) is added to block the ingress of water, so you remain completely dry inside your tent even during heavy rainfall.
One more material that often goes into the combination is nylon, especially ripstop nylon. It’s sometimes used for the floor because it has added strength and it’s more difficult to tear. The air beams are usually made from TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) or a similar material. It mustn’t puncture or tear quickly, while also being completely air-tight so your tent doesn’t deflate.
The materials used are in direct connection with the overall quality of your tent, which makes sense. While the best inflatable camping tents aren’t necessarily the most expensive ones, always think about what you’re getting even if you pay a bit more because it will pay off in the long run.
It’s always nice when your tent has some added features which make your stay better. Mesh pockets are a big plus because they allow you to keep some small things close at hand — a mobile phone, flashlight, or multi-tool. In addition to pockets, some tents have gear lofts, which are overhead compartments where you can place some of your equipment and keep the floors more organized. The walls on some tents have special zippered ports used to bring through an electric cable (if you have a hook-up available).
As for included extras, it’s much easier for you if the package comes with tent stakes and guylines. This way everything is in the same bag, and you don’t have to worry about bringing additional equipment from home (and possibly forgetting it). Like we mentioned earlier, some products come with a pump included, while for others you need to buy it separately. It’s a plus if the pump also has a reverse function, which helps you deflate the tent.
Q: What is an Inflatable Tent?
It’s a specially designed tent which has a frame made from air beams that give it support, instead of traditional tent poles made from aluminum or fiberglass. You use a pump to pitch the tent, which is very easy to do. You completely avoid assembly, which is a huge upside for some people. Besides, the air beams give the tent excellent stability.
Q: Why Use an Inflatable Tent?
There are many upsides to it. Most often, you can do the pitching on your own, even if it’s a large tent for 6 or 8 people. You won’t need anybody’s help to hold the bits and pieces or feed fiddly poles through. The setup is fast — most inflatable tents are up in under 10 minutes, you just need to spread it out and inflate. In terms of practicality, inflatable tents are at the top of the list alongside pop-up tents. As a bonus, you don’t need to study the instruction manual thoroughly to successfully put it up.
Depending on the material, inflatable tents can perform remarkably well in harsh weather conditions. And if something happens, you can often fix it on your right there on the spot, which you wouldn’t be able to be if a pole breaks on your conventional tent. These tents often come in oversized bags, so they are pretty easy to pack up. However, it needs to be noted that because of all these features and the unconventional design, inflatable tents tend to cost more than other types.
Q: How Stable are Inflatable Tents?
As we discussed earlier, despite having parts that are filled with air, these tents have a certain amount of weight which keeps them down. When you add stakes and guylines to that combo, you get a product that is in no way inferior to a pole tent, so you have nothing to worry about. Besides, inflatable air beams are very flexible and can’t be damaged by wind, while metal or fiberglass poles can get permanently bent or snapped if the wind becomes too strong.
Q: Are Inflatable Tents Reliable?
Yes, they most certainly are. There are some high-quality products in this category that are made to last. They can withstand a good share of wear and tear and aren’t more prone to damage than any other alternative out there. Just make sure you get to know the particular product so you know what to expect. Like we mentioned, replacement parts are available for inflatables like for any other tent.
Q: How Do I Set Up an Inflatable Tent?
It’s very similar to setting up a regular tent, without the complicated assembly of course. You should first clear the area where you plan to put the tent. Remove sharp objects like rocks on branches that might puncture the tent floor or create discomfort when you are inside. Afterward, spread out the tent footprint, if you have one. This is very useful because it serves as additional protection to the floor, and also keeps the tent dry and clean from underneath. If you don’t have a footprint, you can leave this step out or use a tarp instead.
After this, open the base of the tent and position it properly. Connect the pump to the valve and start inflating. Some tents can be inflated using only one valve, while others have beamed with separate valves.
In this case, it’s easiest to start somewhere in the middle and work your way to the sides. Once fully inflated, make sure to insert the stakes as well as connect and anchor the guylines, so the tent becomes fully stable.
Q: What are the Most Common Issues with Air Tents?
As you would assume, the most common issue you can encounter is having a puncture in one of the air beams. Luckily, this problem is not that common. If something like this does happen, you can locate the puncture and fix it yourself.
Remove the air beam from the protective casing, and if you cannot locate the hole by sound or with your fingers, you can put it in a bucket of water, where the small air bubbles will indicate its location. Then, you should use the repair kit as suggested, place a patch on it, put it back into its place and reinflate it.
The air inside your tent can change the volume of the outside temperature. This can create problems, because in cold temperatures the tent may be flimsy, while the pressure inside the beams can become too large when exposed to the sun. A certain variation in pressure does occur during different times of day, so it’s best to inflate to the point specified in the instructions.
Globo Surf Overview
Having one of the best inflatable camping tents is a good choice for anyone who wants to save time and try something a bit different. This tent design has made great progress over the years. In addition to reliable manufacturers like Vango, many others are now making excellent tents in this category. If you decide to buy one, you’ll be making a smart investment that will last for years and make you smile each time you go on a camping trip. You now have the knowledge to pick out the best air tent from our list above, and we’re certain you’ll be happy with it.
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Have you tried an inflatable tent that made it onto our list? Which model did you get? How spacious is your tent? Did it perform well in different circumstances? Please share your experience with us in the comment section below.