Coleman 'Instant Tent'


Asphyxiation is rarely a concern on a family camping trip. But this month, on a stormy night in northern Minnesota, my wife and I awoke lightheaded and out of sorts. “I feel on the verge of hyperventilating,” my wife said.

It was after midnight, and our tent was crammed with two adults and three small sleeping kids. Rain tapped on the roof. The tent’s windows and top vent were closed tight. Inside, the air was clammy and hot, the tent a sealed chamber akin to a plastic bag.

Coleman Instant Tent copy.jpg

Coleman Instant Tent 4

The Coleman Company Inc., a self-proclaimed leader in “the innovation and marketing of outdoor products,” had struck out with its latest easy-to-erect camping tent. The Instant Tent 4, touted to set up in one minute or less, has heavy-duty walls and hinging poles that snap into place.

On our camping trip, the four-person tent, which costs just $136.99, did in fact set up with ease. Unfold the bundle of nylon and interlinked poles from its duffel bag and the shelter almost pops to its shape.

The compromise for this convenience is a poor-performing design. No doubt, the Instant Tent will work fine on a clear night. But if hard rain comes, look out.

The roof and durable floor will not leak. But the walls, which are made of fabric that’s “twice as thick” as standard tent fabric, according to Coleman, make for a stuffy place to sleep.

Need some air? There is no rain fly or awning to shield the windows. Unzip a window and you expose the screens, which are angled toward the sky, to the rain falling down.

Coleman Instant Tent (interior) copy.jpg

Interior of the Instant Tent 4

It was too hot inside the tent on our trip, despite temps in the 60s outside. We gave in after our midnight awakening and pulled the zippers open on each window a crack. Later, when the storm built up again, I zipped the shelter closed tight.

In addition to stale air, the sealed tent holds moisture in like a sponge. We awoke in the morning to a ceiling patterned with dew, the respiration-induced droplets threatening to rain down if an arm but glanced off the taut Coleman walls.

Further annoyances: Lying in the quiet of the North Woods, the tent itself was unusually loud. The floor fabric is crinkly and noisy when you move. The dual zipper pulls on the windows and door, which are made of metal, tap together with the breeze to make a quiet but persistent “ting-ting-ting” to interrupt the nature outside.

The Instant Tent 4 will no doubt find fans in car campers who hold setup convenience as a No. 1 trait. Anyone who knows tents will be disappointed in the clammy and poorly-designed Coleman camp shelter.

—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of

Posted by Scott - 06/06/2011 09:34 AM

I like Coleman’s durability. I have Coleman products that are older than me and still working. But this is a big Fail. This one is a big Fail. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by Matt - 06/06/2011 09:42 AM

I was looking at purchasing the larger version of these instant tents a couple months ago, but the lack of a rain fly didn’t sit well. We ended up with the Weathermaster tent from Costco.

Posted by David Haines - 06/06/2011 12:03 PM

Good to see the good and the bad on this review, Stephen. Some of the things you pointed out are very small, but very annoying things that can really add up and make for a less enjoyable trip, especially with the kids with. My current tent is much smaller, but I know I will sleep comfortably and more importantly dry, even when it is “sealed up” all night. And it sets up FAST now that I actually know what I am doing.

7 years, just had to replace some stakes

Posted by MattK@GearGuide - 06/08/2011 06:39 PM

These days, I’m finding Coleman to be pretty uneven in their product quality. Some products are outstanding, others are just middle of the road, or downright disappointing like this one. I did have a chance to try a Kelty 4 person tent — the Hula House — and found that to be a great product. If you’re looking for an alternative to the Coleman, you might check it out. Here’s a full review of the Hula House at GearGuide.

Posted by wayne slaughter - 12/11/2011 06:47 PM

I just bought one of these tents and I agree with your concerns. My family and I – 4 of us – went overnight camping in Lake Livingston State Park a week after we purchased the Coleman Instant 6 tent. The first thing we noticed was that it won’t accommodate more than 4 people, eventhough it’s advertised as a 6 person tent. We had a queen sized blow up mattress next to a twin size blow up mattress and there was barely enough room to walk around. At night the temp was between 35-40 degrees so we had the windows sealed up and the next morning the inside of the tent was moist. It wasn’t leaky moist, but it was clamy to the touch. All the moisture came from our perspiration. This might be remedied by opening the vent hood at the top and/or using a tent fan. But who wants to use a fan when it’s 35-40 degrees outside. The door zip was a problem too. You have to use two hands to zip it and it can be cumbersome. But I really liked the ease of setup and take down. It is the only tent I have that actually fits back into it’s original case without much effort. For one or two persons this tent would rate a B+. But for three or more, it’s too small.

Posted by Javier - 06/16/2013 03:50 PM

Coleman instant. Tent I own a 10 person instant tent with a fly , very nice tent , it s real easy to set up , I also own a really expensive 8 person tent , the coleman is good but you just need to have patience even thought it says 60 sec , take your time or you might break it , I have used it 3 times , held up very well , remember it is a family tent not a heavy excursion tent , treat it well clean it store it in a dry place it will, oh one other thing make sure you stake it well with large plastic stakes , you will have a great camp trip , see yah

Posted by Lee Ann - 06/18/2013 07:43 AM

We have used our Coleman Instant 9 person tent for the last two years and loved it. This weekend when we set it up the zipper broke. I love the tent but we have to fix the stupid zipper somehow. We had a storm and the ceiling vents worked well. We did end up with a puddle on the roof though that dripped inside slowly. not rainproof but only a couple of small puddles.

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