Inflatable tents are by no means a new concept as an alternative camping tent, and in recent years, the vast improvements in the designs and technologies behind inflatable tents have seen them steadily rise in popularity. But surely tents with actual poles have been doing a pretty decent job at providing shelter for humans for centuries? Are inflatable tents really all they’re cracked up to be or is it all just talk and hot air? Well there’s no denying that on the face of it, one can easily dismiss inflatable tents as just another money making gimmick. And although they’re not suitable in some camping scenarios, there are some seriously appealing reasons why an inflatable tent may just be exactly what you’re after in a perfect camping tent.
Check out the details of the best inflatable tents available.
|Nemo Morpho||2 people||Backpacking||2kg||$$|
|Heimplanet Fistral||1-2 people||Backpacking||2.5kg||$$|
|Heimplanet Cave||2-3 people||Car camping||4.8kg||$$$|
|Kelty Airlift||4 people||Car camping||8.16kg||$|
|Heimplanet Nias||4-6 people||Car camping/base camp||6.8kg||$$$$$|
|Vango Inspire 600||6 people||Family camping||43.12kg||$$$$$$|
|Wenzel Vortex||8 people||Family camping||10.2kg||$|
What is an inflatable camping tent?
You wouldn’t be the first person to picture yourself pointlessly trying to maintain your privacy in one of those see through bubble tents. As cool as they are, they don’t quite hit the mark when it comes to inflatable camping tents.
Inflatable camping tents perform in basically the same way as conventional camping tents. The main difference is that they are poleless! Well at least in the way we are used to. Fiberglass, steel or aluminium poles are replaced by columns or tubes, that when inflated, do an impressively excellent job of providing structure to your tent. Clever hey?
So are inflatable tents any good?
The short answer to this question is yes! Their improvements over the years have turned them into a highly desirable replacement for the more conventional styles of camping tents. Here are the main reasons why:
1Quick and easy to put up
For some people, spending a couple of hours perfectly pitching their tent is all part of the camping experience. And for the rest of us, getting it up as quickly as possible means we can get on with doing more fun things. This especially applies to those camping with kids. Putting up mega huge marquee sized tents, that actually do take a couple of hours to erect, can be a painful process at the best of times. Add in some hungry and impatient little ‘uns, and things can get downright fraught. The beauty of pitching an inflatable tent versus one with poles is that you can do it on your own in half the time. It really is a no-brainer.
You simply secure the base of the tent down with pegs, pump up the inflatable poles, and peg out the supporting guy lines.
2Even easier to take down
Take out the guy lines, open up the valves to deflate, and un-peg the rest of the tent stakes. It could not be any simpler.
3Holds up really well in high winds
Surprisingly enough, the tubes of air that support inflatable tents do an excellent job at standing up to high winds. Even the best poled tents will struggle in blustery conditions, especially bigger family tents. Windy weather causes solid poles to bend and become misshapen or snap – potentially ripping the fly sheet in the process. However inflatable poles bend in the same way, but then pop back up to their original shape almost immediately. No more lying awake at night fearing the worst as each gust attacks the side of the tent with more vigour than the last. And better still, no more having to brave the weather in the dark, pyjama clad, to assess the damage.
Although most inflatable tents tend to be bigger and slightly heavier than their solid pole counterparts, their lack of poles make them much more stuffable when it comes to packing up. You don’t have to struggle trying to get your tent package rolled up to the exact length of your folded poles, just to get the whole lot in its bag. Just stuff it in! This is ideal for canoeists to stuff into a dry bag, for cycle tourers to shove into a pannier, and bikepackers to squeeze into a saddlebag.
Do inflatable tents puncture or burst easily?
Early inflatable tents had issues with blow outs in hot temperatures. As the air expanded inside the tubes in the heat, the pressure increased and the then fragile inner tubes had no choice but to burst. Since then, not only have the tubes become much tougher, but the systems are also fitted with pressure releasing valves. These automatically let out small amounts of air if things are hotting up too much. Then once the air in the pole chambers have cooled again, you just need to top the tubes up with air to their recommended pressure.
How to repair an inflatable tent
Having any tent break on you out in the field is super annoying. But a broken air pole is much easier to remedy than a snapped or bent solid pole. If your tent doesn’t come with a repair kit, then Tear Aid patches are stretchy and durable, and very easy to use. The inner tubes of inflatable poles can be fixed in much the same way as bike inner tubes; remove the tube from the inflatable panel, locate the puncture, patch up the hole, and replace the tube. Simple!
The best inflatable tents
As with choosing any tent, there are a whole host of things to consider before you commit to your buy. Take a read of our guide to backpacking tents and family camping tents to get the full picture. This selection of inflatable tents covers options for lightweight backpackers and family car campers alike.
Nemo Morpho – sleeps 2
Aside from the usual speedy setup time associated with blow up tents, the single wall Nemo Morpho is actually a really appealing lightweight backpacking tent option. At only 2kg, it weighs up averagely against the best two man backpacking tents out there, but provides a more spacious interior than many of the lighter tents are able to offer. It’s much more packable than poled tents and has a really spacious vestibule.
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Heimplanet Fistral – sleeps 1-2
This Heimplanet tent is another viable options for backpackers looking to keep things light and easy. The 2.4kg tent offers two entrances and vestibules making it highly user friendly when sharing the space with a second person. And the unique designs of Heimplanet tents are as equally appealing as the quality and durability that they offer.
Heimplanet Cave – sleeps 2-3
This may look horribly complicated, but the unique and super strong design of the Cave tent couldn’t be more straightforward to put up. The whole tent is inflated via one valve, and like all of the Heimplanet tents, the Cave adopts a Multi Chamber Safety System. Once inflated the system divides the inflatable chambers so that if one were to puncture, the rest of the tent would still hold strong. The most hi-tech cave ever!
Kelty Airlift – sleeps 4
The Kelty Airlift is one of the more affordable inflatable tents in this review. The integrated fly sheet and dual action pump (included), makes set up and take down a breeze – under 60 seconds in fact (or so Kelty claim). For a couple of luxury car campers or a small family, this is an excellent, zero faff choice that is ideal for those that like to enjoy the finer things that camping has to offer. A larger 6 person version of the Airlift is also available.
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Heimplanet Nias – sleeps 4-6
Another highly distinctive design from Heimplanet, the Nias won’t just wow your camping neighbours with its striking looks. The tunnel style tent with geometric stability through the air beams also provides versatility like no other inflatable tent; two spacious and removable sleeping cabins, a central vestibule with two entrances and plenty of ventilation. All that weighs in at an impressive 6.8kg. An excellent family tent or a base camp shelter for those with lots of gear.
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Vango Inspire 600 – sleeps 6
At a hefty 43.12kg, this is by far the heaviest of the tents in this review and its pack down size is a whopping 78x47x53cm too. But like many tents in the Vango AirBeam range, the Inspire 600 is a mansion of a tent, with plenty of living space and separate bedrooms. And it also claims to only take a minuscule 12 minutes to put up! Ideal for families, and strictly for car campers who love having space without compromising on durability and quality.
Wenzel Vortex – sleeps 8
Wenzel have managed to keep the weight of the Vortex down to an impressively low 10.2kg – average to low-weight for a non-inflatable family camping tent of this size. The Vortex also provides excellent value for money with a highly competitive price tag. Putting up a tent this size is where AirPitch technology really comes into its own, making it the perfect setup for large families or small groups of adults. Also available as a 4 man and 6 man.
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What are the problems with inflatable tents?
Figuring out which tent is for you is a highly personal affair, with lots of factors to consider. So whilst you are pondering the options, here are a few reasons why you might choose a conventional tent over an inflatable tent.
In general, inflatable tents are slightly heavier than solid pole tents, especially accounting for the addition of a pump. When car camping, this doesn’t pose much of a problem at all. And the smaller 1 and 2 man tents featured in this article are light enough to deal with carrying a lightweight pump too.
The extra large inflatable family tents tend to be much heavier than their non-inflatable equivalents. And bigger when packed down too. But inflatable tents really come into their own when it comes to family camping, with the extra weight being a small price to pay for their numerous benefits.
Most inflatable tents are a little on the expensive side, especially when compared with their non-inflatable friends.