For first-time campers, the thought of fiddling around with poles, ground sheets and inner tents can put them off having an outdoor adventure altogether.
Tent building used to be an art seemingly known only by a few Bear Grylls-types, and classic designs remained unchanged for centuries.
All that changed in 2004, when the modern pop-up tent was invented and changed the landscape of camping forever.
Who invented the modern pop-up tent?
Bournemouth University graduate Franziska Conrad is credited with inventing the Quick Pitch SS in 2004 as part of her final year product design project. Brought to market with outdoor company Gelert, it’s the tent you’re most likely to spot at festival camping fields.
Three big reasons explain its popularity: it’s lightweight at around 2kg, affordable at around £35, and takes just seconds to put up and peg down.
Gelert’s rival outdoor company Quechua lays claim to inventing the 2 Seconds tent, dreamt up by its tent project manager Jean-François Ratel in 2003. After six months of development, it launched a double skin pop-up tent, which would offer campers more protection and insulation against the elements. The idea of "a tent that you can throw in the air and that will assemble itself!" had been engineered into existence.
Why are pop-up tents so popular?
It’s little surprise that festival goers and casual campers went wild for this triple boon of bonuses, who are also likely to be carting around a bulky rucksack, sleeping bag and camping chair.
From camping to criminology, the tent also offers more practical uses - for police crime scenes, and as Conrad explains, as instant shelter for disaster zones: "thousands could be dropped from a plane in an isolated area, even if we were to scale it up in size.”
How do pop-up tents work?
Already threaded with super light telescopic poles in the canvas, the circular sections coil around in a double loop, or folded figure of eight, until they’re stacked compactly on top of each other. An elastic loop holds the compressed poles together so you don’t have to wrestle them in an out of their carrybag.
Chances are you won’t notice this when you get to your pitch and unleash the beast from its cage, but it’s a handy thing to remember when it’s going home time.
How to repack a pop-up tent
While the theory may help in folding your tent back up, there’s nothing like getting in some practice first, especially if you want to keep the tent for future adventures.
Just as you can set up the tent single-handedly, so too can you fold it back by yourself. Halfords explains how with this easy video guide:
So now you know, there’s no stopping you. Pick a campsite, pack your bags and head for the hills with a stylish pop-up tent.
Shop our edit of the nicest looking styles below.
Gorilla Tents Emoji Night Glow
A pop-up tent with added light power, Gorilla Tents’ Emoji patterned tent is a thing of real beauty.
Not only can it be set up single handedly in less than five minutes, but it’s a treat to carry at just 3.9kg in a bag with carry handles so you can sling it over your shoulder, or fasten to the loops of your backpack. The double-lined tent is 100 per cent waterproof and features a 90s smiley face pattern that’s bound to evoke admiring looks from your neighbours.
We liked the fact that the inner tent is slightly separated from the outer at the front door, creating an alcove of sorts to keep muddy boots and anything else you’d rather not have rolling around inside with you.
Aside from the spot-it-a-mile-off pattern (which also glows in the dark), the design also comes with a AA battery-operated remote control light which works from up to 50m away so you can find your tent even in the early hours of a festival when your coordination and navigation will probably be impaired. Genius.
Buy now £39.99, Gorilla Tents
Regatta Malawi Tent
Regatta’s Malawi tent is one of the most popular styles around, but you’ll usually only find them in standard tent colours like navy and green. There are some funkier designs available, like this geo-patterned look which comes in black, blue and orange. The 100 per cent polyester instant tent is made for warmer weather so keep it for spring or summer breaks. If you don’t have any luggage, you can fit two people inside.
Buy now £74.39, Amazon
Trespass Waterproof 2 Man Pop Up Tent Patterned Swift2
There’s no chance of missing this bright and bold pop-up tent in a mass of tents: the purple and pink colourway means it will stand out, even in the busiest of tent cities. Perfect for short breaks, the tent is waterproof to 2000mm and features taped seams to keep the wetness out. There’s also a mosquito net door to keep you safe from insects. It’s billed as a two-man tent - but you know the drill by now - comfortable enough for a solo sleeper.
Buy now £39.99, Trespass
Regatta Malawi Two Person Pop Up Tent
Malawi, but now in a blue botanical print, this beginner’s tent is ready and waiting to go on all sorts of outdoor adventures, be it traditional camping or even a fishing or beach trip. Two mesh pockets inside give you modest storage abilities for your most precious essentials.
Buy now £37.00, House of Fraser
Decathlon 2 Person Blackout Pop-Up Tent
Pop up tents seem like a good idea at the time - practically set up in two seconds flat, what’s not to like? Well, we’ll tell you. The pack up can be like wrestling with a demon made of tarpaulin or requiring a masters degree in origami.
No such trouble with Decathlon’s time-saving design, which promises easy dismantling as well as construction. It’s an eco-design too, thanks to the greige and rope dyeing processes (leaving them in their raw state sidestepping the need for harmful chemicals).
A handy thing to have in the cupboard for hiking and fishing trips as well as weekends away, the single internal chamber has space for two but we think it’ll be more comfortable for one sleeper - and it should be easy to carry solo at 4.7kg.
Best of all, if you’re trying to get a few hours kip between bands, the blackout fabric means you can expect 99 per cent darkness inside, even in broad daylight.
Buy now £119.99, Decathlon
Regatta Malawi 2 Pop-Up Tent
At nearly half the weight of Decathlon’s pop-up tent, this 2.5kg is an attractive proposition for first-time festival-goers; but make sure you watch an instructional video showing you how to fold it away after use.
The design is kept lightweight thanks to a single skin and fibreglass poles. While this style of tent claims to sleep two people, from experience, we say it’s more of a single-berth situation - especially when you factor in clothes, shoes, wellies and your other festival bits.
There are internal pockets to help you organise essentials like your toothbrush, wallet and contact lens kit, and plenty of mesh panels to allow air to circulate without letting rain in. Hydrafort fabric on the flysheet acts as a further shield to stormy skies. It packs down to 75 x 10cm.
Buy now £87.50, Cotswold Outdoor
N / B Tent
Weighing an astonishing 7.7lbs (or 3.49kg), this four person pop-up tent is made with ultra light fibreglass poles. Unlike the other options on our list, it not only features a front and rear door - perfect for allowing through breezes when the sun is out - but there are windows too, upping the ventilation aspect. Mind you, there’s plenty of features to keep the rain out if the weather turns: think double layers, taped seams and a rain cover. It’s a roomy design with space for two double air beds to fit inside, so certainly one for the whole family.
Buy now £246.97, Amazon
Coleman Pop Up Tent Galiano
This fast pitch tent is perfect for a little more breathing room when you’re out enjoying nature’s bounty. This pop up tent from Coleman comes in a four man version as well as a smaller two man. Wind-resistant and waterproof to 2000mm HH.
Buy now £109.99, Amazon
Outsunny 4-5 Adult Pop-up Tent - Green
A party pop-up if we ever saw one, Outsunny’s XL design has enough space for up to five adults to sleep comfortably inside. The design also features two mesh windows for air circulation as well as two PVC window panels to allow daylight to stream inside. At night, affix your lantern onto the integrated lamp hook so you can keep the good times going if it’s too cold or rainy outside. Side storage pockets means you can keep easy track of your essentials.
Buy now £99.99, The Range