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The 4 best pop up tents

If you’re in need of a tent that’s quick and easy to set up, the best pop up tents are designed to be pitched in just a minute or two with minimal effort. Small pop up tents can provide one or two people with shelter, while roomier cabin-style tents can be more comfortable for groups as big as 10. Weight doesn't matter much for car camping, but if you're looking for a backpacking tent, you'll want to go with one that weighs less than 5 pounds.

The terms “pop up tents” and “instant tents” are often used interchangeably, but a pop up tent is actually a specific type of instant tent that uncoils and pops open on its own, while instant tents also include models with pre-assembled frames you lift and lock into place. All instant tents (pop up and otherwise) feature easy-to-use, foldable designs with attached frames and are typically quick to set up.

When you’re shopping around, look at how many people the tent is designed to fit (and keep in mind that sometimes having fewer people than recommended is more comfortable). Consider your camping environment, too; a tent with weatherproof fabric, sealed seams, or a rainfly can help keep you dry when it’s rainy, while mesh windows can keep bugs out and add much-needed ventilation on warm days.

Since instant tents are designed for their ease of use, they’re not always the most portable or durable. If you’re looking for more heavy-duty options, consider checking out these great cold-weather tents. But if you’d rather ditch the more complicated pole systems of regular tents, give one of these four instant tents a try.

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1. The genuine pop up

Capacity: 3-4 people

This ZOMAKE tent is a true pop up tent, which means it quite literally pops open on its own. With just a flick of the wrist or a gentle toss, the round tent unspools and is ready to use. The UPF 50+ polyester fabric provides convenient shade from the sun and some reviewers have used it as a good-weather camping tent. Two mesh doors, two mesh windows, and a mesh skylight (which can also be covered) allow for airflow while keeping bugs out. The tent doesn't have water-repelling technology so you won't want to use it in the rain.

The brand describes this as a four-person tent, but according to Amazon reviewers, it’s more comfortable for just two people. The interior measures 7.9 by 5.9 feet, and it stands 3.3 feet tall — big enough to fit one queen size mattress. It weighs only 5 pounds and folds into a disc carrying-bag with a strap. This tent is fairly lightweight but not the most compact option on the list, so it's probably best used for car camping. But it is available in four colors and it comes with a 90-day warranty.

One reviewer says: “This tent is perfect for quick camping. All you do is remove the strap and toss it up and away. It opens and, BAM, you got yourself a tent. Big enough to fit 2 people and backpacks for sure. It is also fairly light. Not [quite] backpacking weight, but it is light enough to carry around if need be. [...] But for car camping, this is a definite perfect little tent.”

2. The group cabin

Capacity: 6 people (4-person and 10-person models also available)

Families or groups who need more space should consider a larger, cabin-style option like this instant tent from Coleman. The walls of this tent are more vertical, giving you a little more room than a traditional dome-shaped tent. The interior measures 10 by 9 feet in size and is large enough to sleep six people or fit two queen-sized air beds. If crawling on your hands and knees to get around a tent is one of your least favorite aspects of camping, you'll appreciate that this one is a whopping 6 feet tall at the center. Two mesh storage pockets also help to keep your small items off the floor and organized.

The integrated rainfly, which features double-thick polyester fabric with taped seams, can stand up to a good amount of rain, according to reviewers. The welded floor with inverted seams also helps to keep you dry. (You can also purchase an additional rainfly if you want to add another layer of protection.) The tent has large windows on three sides for ventilation.

To pitch the tent, all you have to do is unfold, extend, and lock the pre-attached poles. The manufacturer says it can take as little as one minute to set up. At 24 pounds, this isn't the lightest option out there, but it has the credibility of a reputable brand name, a one-year warranty, and more than 2,000 five-star ratings on Amazon (and counting).

If this isn't the right size for your group, you can opt for the four-person or 10-person versions. And if you’re looking for a large model that's a little more budget-friendly, consider the popular CORE 9 Person Instant Cabin Tent.

One reviewer says: “I love this tent. It's extremely easy to take up and down it looks great. [...] It's very spacious extremely comfortable. My kids love it. We've had lots of great adventures this summer and plan on having many more.”

3. The one for backpacking

Capacity: 1 person (2-person model also available)

While serious backpackers might want to invest in a more expensive tent, this TETON Sports Tent has the lightweight profile of a backpacking tent with the convenience of a pop up. It can be set up in less than a minute, according to some reviewers — just unroll it, lock the poles, and pull the drawstring to raise the walls. The whole tent weighs just 4.6 pounds and measures about 6.6 by 3 feet (and stands 2.8 feet tall) when pitched. Some reviewers did note that its folded length is too long to fit in their pack, but others have managed to take it backpacking.

The tent is constructed of micro mesh and includes a standard tent-length waterproof rainfly. The mesh ceiling offers ventilation, plus a view of the stars when you're not using the rainfly. You can pitch it on the ground or atop a TETON Sports Outfitter XXL Camp Cot (or other oversized cot).

The Vista tent is available in one-person or two-person models, and it comes in yellow, brown, or green. You can also snag a cheaper, slightly pared-down Outfitter model.

One reviewer says: “I used this for 12 days of backpacking at Philmont. It isn't the lightest choice for a single, but it sure is easy to put up and take down. Self-supporting is a key advantage--it doesn't need to be staked-out like those tents that rely on trekking poles for their support. Very waterproof: Even during a downpour, when I could see runoff streaming under the tent floor, it did not seep through.”

4. The one for the beach

Capacity: 2 people

With built-in UPF 50+ sun protection, this Pacific Breeze tent is designed to keep you comfortable on hot days at the beach. It's an instant tent that takes just a minute or two to set up, according to several reviewers. It's constructed of water-repellent polyester and features large windows and an open front that lets in the breeze without obstructing your view of the beach. The polyethylene floor is water resistant too.

It's quite light at 4.5 pounds and it folds down to 5 by 5 inches around and 40 inches long. When pitched, it measures 7.25 by 4.1 feet and stands 3.9 feet tall. This tent features sand pockets and comes with stakes to keep it from flying away in the wind. On top of that, it comes with a one-year warranty and it's also available in an extra-large model for three to four people.

One reviewer says: “This tent was amazing. It was like a magic trick -- just popped right open! So easy to set up, and provided a great shelter from the sun for the kids when snack time came around. Filled the pockets with sand to keep it from blowing away in the breeze, and it worked just fine. Taking it down and packing it up took a little longer than set-up, but it was still totally manageable for a mom to do by herself while keeping an eye on a couple of kids. It was also easy to carry in a case with a strap.”