Coleman 4-Person Instant Tent
By Matt Marine
Now that my two daughters are teenagers (it's not cool to camp with dad) and my wife doesn't really want to tent camp anymore, I find that I usually camp by myself.
My previous tent was a large six person Walmart special. It was a pretty good tent and lasted about 10 years without too many issues. But setting it up alone was a 30-45 minute ordeal. By the time I had fished the 20 ft poles through the holes, staked it down and put on the rain fly, I was exhausted. I needed a smaller, easier tent to set up.
I started searching the Internet for easy setup tents. My parents had bought the kind that you take out of the bag, throw, the poles snap out and viola! your tent's up. Easy and cool. But they found out that it was near impossible to take it down and get it back into the bag. After their experience, I knew I didn't want one of those.
I found the Coleman 4-Person Instant Tent listed on Amazon. It looked like a great idea, but I was skeptical. So I searched through some camping and outdoor forums. Most of the comments were positive with the exception of the tent leaking without the rain fly.
Arizona doesn't get much rain and I usually don't camp in bad weather, so I bought one. Still dubious, the first thing I did was set it up in our backyard. Being a guy, I didn't bother reading the directions and went forth on seeing how quickly I could set up this thing.
Well, Coleman fibbed a little on the time it takes to set up (at least initially). It took me FIVE minutes to set it up for the first time (I may have been able to cut it in half if I would have read the directions). Putting it back in the bag took about as long.
Learning from my first mistakes, I was able to put it up in three minutes the second time. What a joy! This thing is SO easy to put up. It's actually a little harder to cram into the bag when you take it down. I loved it.
A few weeks later, I took it for its first true field test - camping at Independence Mine near Wickenburg.
It worked wonderfully. Set up in less than five minutes, take down about the same. Click here to read about the entire adventure on the Offroad Passport forum. This was the trip I found out that I would have liked the windows a little lower than what this tent offered.
The next test was a month later as I went on a week long camping trip to New Mexico with 10 teenagers on my daughter's school sponsored trip. Again, it worked flawlessly. The other teachers and kids were very jealous. I was relaxing in my camping chair way before they finished putting up their tents. And it was SUPER windy during the trip. The second night we camped, three out of the six tents blew down. The Coleman Instant Tent barely noticed the wind.
I have been so impressed with the tent that I also bought the Coleman Instant Screened Shelter. I've used it once so far and found it's also just as easy to set up as the tent.
I will update this as I use the tent more. For now, here's the Pros and Cons of the Instant Tent:
QUICK set up and take down. To take the tent out of the bag and set it up and position takes 2-3 minutes. Give it another few to put in the stakes and rain fly if needed. Maybe 5 minutes. And that's doing it all by myself! EASY and FAST. Love it.
Performance in the wind. I recently took this on a week-long camping trip to New Mexico where it was so windy we couldn't camp in about 1/2 the places we wanted - not because of this tent though. While three of the six tents blew down the second night of camping, the Instant Tent barely even noticed it. My guess was the winds were about 30-40 mph. One night we tried again and the first tent we set up blew down in less than 2 minutes (~40 mph winds), but not this tent. This was one of the things I was concerned about when I bought this tent. Not anymore.
Weight and large packing space. This things weighs a lot! And it takes up serious room in the trunk or truck bed. If you're looking for something light and can be packed into small spaces, look elsewhere.
Size. It's 7 ft x 8 ft. I would have liked 8 ft x 8 ft. And a little taller head room.
Small windows (comparatively). This tent should have more window space. It only has windows on three sides. Not sure why they didn't do the fourth (stability)? And I would like more of a vent(s) on the roof. I would assume it's warmer than most open tents in the heat (though I haven't used it when it's been too hot yet). Also, I would like the windows to go a little closer to the floor. They seem abnormally high off the floor. It's tough for Cat-dog to lookout at night and I have to make her a pedestal.
Rain fly should come with tent and not extra. I know that Coleman states you don't need a rain fly with this tent, but if you read the reviews, you NEED a rain fly. Come on, Coleman. Just include the thing and take your lumps.
Cost. It's a little pricey compared to other similar sized tents. You pay for the ease of set up (and it's worth it). I paid $100 for this tent and another $25 for the rain fly.
Although there are many more cons than pros, in my opinion, the first pro outweighs all the cons by a huge amount. Although I have only used this tent a half dozen times, I am in love with it. If you camp by yourself and don't like spending all that time setting up/taking down your tent, this tent is awesome. I wish I would have had this tent ten years ago! I will let you know if anything changes as I use it more. For now, I highly recommend it. FYI: The six and eight person Instant Tents look just as good as the four person.