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?
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 be exactly what you’re after in the perfect camping tent for family camping and backpacking adventures alike.
- What is an inflatable camping tent?
- The benefits of inflatable tents
- How to repair an inflatable tent
- The 9 best inflatable tents in 2020
- What are the problems with inflatable tents?
The below comparison table gives a quick overview of the best inflatable tents available in 2020, with even more excellent options in our notable mentions section.
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|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||$$$$$|
|Berghaus Air 6XL Inflatable Tent||6 people||Family camping and glamping||6.7kg||$$$$|
|Quechua 6 Person Inflatable Family Tent||6 people||Family camping||25kg||$$|
|Vango Inspire 600||6 people||Family camping||17.5kg||$$|
|Outdoor Revolution Ozone 6.0XTR Vario||6 people||Family camping and glamping||50.8kg||$$$$$$|
|Gybe Bus Tent||n/a||Van life||11kg||$$$$$$|
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 of air. When these air beams are inflated they do an impressively excellent job of providing structure to your tent. Clever hey?
The benefits of inflatable tents
So are inflatable tents actually 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’s why:
01They are easy to put up and take down by one person
Unlike almost all other large family tents, inflatable tents are a breeze to put up on your own. You don’t need a second pair of hands to hold things in place whilst you attach this pole to that pole. This is especially important if you are camping with babies who need to be kept an eye on.
To put up an inflatable tent you simply secure the base of the tent down with pegs or stake, pump up the inflatable poles, and peg out the supporting guy lines. Bingo!
Taking inflating tents down is even easier: 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.
02They take no time at all to set 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. Putting up mega huge marquees sized tents, that actually do take a couple of hours to erect, can be a painful process at the best of times.
Inflatable tents take under 10 minutes to put up, no matter how huge they may be!
03You don’t need an instruction manual to set one up!
Having just spent hours on the road getting to your campground, the last thing you want is to have get a 40 page instruction manual out just to understand how to put your poles together!
Add in some hungry and impatient little ‘uns, and camping with kids can suddenly seem like a terrible idea! The beauty of pitching an inflatable tent versus one with poles is that you can do it on your own without the need for a degree in engineering. Palm off the kids to the other adults in your group and enjoy putting up your inflatable tent with ease and calm!
04Inflatable tents hold 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 strong winds, especially bigger family tents. Windy weather causes solid poles to bend and become misshapen or snap – potentially ripping the fly sheet in the process.
Inflatable poles bend in the same way as solid pole, but instead of of becoming misshapen and damaged they just 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 vigor than the last. And better still, no more having to brave the weather in the dark, pajama clad, to assess the damage.
05They are very durable in bad weather
It may not take one single storm to break or snap the poles of a regular tent. But over time the elements will weaken the poles in the same spot over and over, eventually to breaking point. The tubes of inflatable tents, however, are built from super tough and durable material that are designed to be constantly put under pressure. And although it’s advisable to always take a puncture repair kit with you when camping in an inflatable tent, you’ll be pretty unlucky to ever have to use it twice.
06They do not puncture as easily as poles break
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 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 has cooled again, you just need to top the tubes up with air to their recommended pressure.
07Inflatable tents stuff away easily
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.
08They are easy and cheap to repair
The improved durability and inflation systems of current inflatable air tents is better than ever. But that doesn’t mean they’re invincible! So just in case your manage to get a puncture in the air beams of your tent you should always bring along a puncture repair kit. Thankfully, inflatable tents are easy to repair yourself and don’t require having to buy replacement pole parts from specialist suppliers. Read on to see how to repair an inflatable tent at the campsite.
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 in 2020
This selection of inflatable tents covers options for lightweight backpackers and family car campers alike.
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.
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!
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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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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Weight: 36.7 kg
The Berghaus Air 6XL is a spacious inflatable tent that’s large enough for all the family, kitchen sink and all! The tent splits into three main sections. There’s a darkened sleeping area with storage pockets and roll away dividers. This lets you choose between a three, two, or one-bedroom set up. Then there’s a spacious living area with a removable partition wall and a separate entrance. And finally a covered porch area that’s ideal for cooking, dining, or storing bicycles. Huge windows with adjustable height curtains let you balance daylight with privacy.
This is an inflatable family tent that you can use in all four seasons. The 6000mm HH flysheet is coupled with fully taped seams on the flysheet and groundsheet, as well as rain hoods over the doors and windows. It’s tough enough to use in heavy rain, strong wind, and even snow. Vents near the roof and base of the tent, along with mesh doors and breathable polyester material, make it comfortable to use in the middle of summer too.
The tent comes with a pump, value tightener, repair kit, and a wheeled storage bag. Plus, it can be set up in under 10 minutes!
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With two darkened bedrooms, a spacious central vestibule, and a removable third bedroom, the 6 Person Inflatable Family Tent from Quechua, offers plenty of living space. Each bedroom is large enough to fit two single air mattresses (70cm each) and made with dark fabric that helps you sleep late and sleep comfortably. The central hub offers 210cm head height along with storage pockets, a ventilated flysheet, two huge entrances, and windows with blinds. The tent’s fabric provides 50+ UV protection while the 2,000 mm polyurethane-coated polyester flysheet withstands rain equivalent to a tropical storm. Plus, this mid-priced tent takes just 10 minutes to pitch and comes with a five-year guarantee.
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This exceptionally high quality air frame tent is one of the best value options for group and family camping, especially if you are likely to be standing up to the elements. The Odyssey Air 600 boasts a durable and tough Protex 70D polyester flysheet that has a waterproof rating of 4,000mm HH. The simple layout gives plenty of sleeping space for 6 campers in with a large porch to chill out in – ideal for families and car campers who love having space without compromising on durability and quality. And with a inflation time of only 8 minutes it is also one of the fastest setups around!
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If epic amounts of living space is what you are after then look no further than the Outdoor Revolution Ozone 6.0XTR Vario. It sleeps 6 adults in two separate rooms plus a huge porch area than can also be divided into a an open porch with a closed inner vestibule. Boasting a set up time of under 5 minutes, Outdoor Revolution claim the Ozone to be the quickest to set up inflatable tent on the market! This is one of the best inflatable camping tents when it comes to liveable space, but at 50.6kg it is also one of the heaviest!
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For those who aren’t quite ready to totally leap into the world of inflatable tent camping, there’s another option! Providing you have yourself a VW or Mercedes Campervan (yep, only the best!), these blow up awnings for your van are the ideal addition to your road trip adventures. With a set up time of under 10 minutes, the inflatable beams of the Gybe Bus Tents add a whopping 7.9 m² of living space, making van even more sweet than it was before! The inflatable shelter weighs around 11kg and there are a couple of different options to choose from, depending on your van size and connection options.
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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.