Inflatable ‘air tents’ have only been around for a few years, but in that time they’ve understandably become popular with anyone who finds pitching a tent stressful. Inflatable tents are wonderfully easy to put up, with cavernous designs taking no longer than 15min to pitch and with none of the – put pole B in slot B – to worry about. Arm yourself with a good pump and you’ll be relaxing in no time.
For this feature, we’ve sourced the very best inflatable tents currently available and have included options to suit any budget. As a new technology, inflatable designs cost a premium, but bargains can be had if you know where to look.
Take the time you need to make the right decision on which inflatable tent is right for you. It will make all the difference on your holiday, whether you’re heading to a field or a festival.
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How to choose the best inflatable tent for you
What features do I need?
Compared to a traditional pole tent, putting up the vast majority of inflatable designs generally involves pegging out the base, connecting the pump and giving it some welly until your tent rises from the ground.
Inflatable tents come in various shapes and sizes though, with different supporting inner tube structures. Some have a single valve that pumps up the entire tent, while others – typically larger models – have multiple valves and separate sections, which offers peace-of-mind if one section does spring a leak.
But one of the most overlooked elements of any inflatable tent is how easy it is to pack away again. While pumping air into a tube is incredibly easy, getting all that air out again is anything but, which means folding and rolling the tubes and canvas can be hard work. Like anything, it takes practice, but in our tests we’ve had infinitely more issues deflating and packing than we have pitching. As with all tents, a generously oversized bag is a must.
It’s also worth remembering that inflatable tents don’t tend to pack down as small as traditional designs, so double check the dimensions if you’re short on car space.
As with our other tent guides, we strongly recommend designs that use blackout material to line bedrooms, keeping them cooler and darker for longer. If you want a lie-in, you need a blackout bedroom.
Look for a sturdy, sewn-in groundsheet with a coated nylon floor to keep you warm and dry, a waterproof rain fly (this is the outer layer of the tent) and plenty of guy ropes for stability. And the more loops, hooks and pockets in the tent’s interior, the better, for hanging up lanterns or stashing belongings.
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What size inflatable tent do I need?
Tents are sized by the number of adults they can feasibly sleep (two-, four-, six-person etc.), but unless you’re looking for an ultralight adventure tent for one person, the rule of thumb is that if you half the stated person number, you’ll get the number of adults the tent will actually sleep comfortably. A four-person tent will give two adults plenty of extra space for bags and not being squashed, but if you’re camping with kids a six-person tent (with separate bedrooms) is ideal.
What happens if my inflatable tent bursts?
You’ll be amazed by how robust inflatable poles can be, and super-durable materials will protect them from all but the sharpest objects. But accidents do happen and valves can develop faults, so thankfully most models come with a puncture repair kit for on-site emergencies, and brands are now starting to offer replacement parts that should help with longevity.
How much should I spend?
As a relatively new camping technology, inflatable designs cost more than traditional designs, but as their popularity grows the prices will fall. You can pay anywhere between £200 and £3000 for an inflatable design, but a good four person design will typically cost around £400 to £600. Check your chosen tent comes with a pump included, because not all brands do. Pumps cost between £20 and £40.
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The best inflatable tents to buy in 2021
1. Vango Antrim Air 600XL: Best inflatable tent
Price: £787 | Buy now from Go Outdoors
Part of a collaboration between the National Trust and Vango, this mightily impressive six-person inflatable tent is made using 301 recycled plastic bottles, making it one of the most eco-friendly designs we’ve seen. Impressively, Vango has calculated that the collaboration will see over 269,700 bottles collected and recycled this year.
But being eco-friendly isn’t enough these days, and thankfully the Antrim Air 600XL excels in every department. And, while you’ll need a large boot or sturdy roof rack to find room for it, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful, hard-wearing, spacious pied-à-terre for the whole family.
Both bedrooms are large. It’s rated as a six-person tent, but we think the sleeping area makes it perfect as a four-person design right up until the kids want their own tents. Naturally, they have blackout liners to keep early risers asleep for a little longer, and, as we’ve come to expect from the latest range of Vango tents, the innovative racking system throughout the tent makes it easy to hang up lighting and storage. Once everything is neatly stored, the massive 10.45sqm living space and 3.8sqm porch is a blessing in bad weather.
Key specs – Size: 6 person; Standing room: Yes; Bedrooms: 2; Pitch time: 10 minutes; Weight: 24.3kg; Waterproofing: 4000mm HH; Packed dimensions: 70 x 43 x 39cm; Pump included: Yes
Buy now from Go Outdoors
2. Quechua Air Seconds 4.2 XL Fresh & Black: The best value inflatable tent
Price: £300 | Buy now from Decathlon
This is an inflatable version of the fantastically versatile Arpenaz Decathlon 4.2, but with the added bonus of inflatable pol