Inflatable Tents Guide

vangotentFestival season is still a few months away, but if like me you’re already dreaming of cider in the sun and kids dancing themselves silly this is probably a good time to start thinking about camping kit and keeping an eye out for last season bargains.

In 2015 our big kit purchase was an inflatable tent – and we loved it!

What are they?

Inflatable tents are just like any other tent, but instead of poles there are inflatable tubes, integrated into the canvas. So rather than assembling the poles, figuring out which one goes where and threading them through, you just pump up the tubes and the tent is ready to go. Most of the major tent manufacturers produce inflatable models and there is a huge range of sizes and styles available.

Pitching

The big selling point for inflatables are the claims about how quick and easy they are to pitch. Something which is especially valuable if you’re in a festival field with young children itching to run off, or getting soaked in the rain (or usually both). I was a little skeptical about the claims that you can put up a six man tent in ten minutes but it does sort of work and it is certainly a lot less complicated than similar sized pole tents.

To start off you simply roll out the tent, find the corners and peg them down (definitely don’t skip this part – especially if it’s windy!). Then pump up the inflatable tube/tubes and up comes the tent. I found the pumping up pretty hard work and generally left that to my husband but we actually could go from finding a spot to having the tent up, with the kids in it, in less than 10 minutes. You then have to go around and attach all the guy lines which still takes time, but at least children and kit can be safe and dry while you do it.

Taking it down is even easier, simply remove the guy lines, open the valves and it drops – ours really does go with a bang and turned a few heads on the campsite!

The kids eat lunch while the tent goes up
The kids eat lunch while the tent goes up

Durability

A lot of people asked us about our tent at last year’s festivals and one of the common questions was: “Won’t it blow away?” perhaps people thought we were sleeping in a giant bouncy castle, but I can say from experience that the answer is no. One weekend we found ourselves camping on a recently ploughed field in pouring rain with winds gusting to almost 60mph. I can’t claim it was a great night and we did have to bang some pegs back in a few times but in the morning we were dry and intact while many others were salvaging wet kit from between snapped poles and flooded groundsheets.

Another FAQ was “what if it pops?” We actually did get a slow puncture in one of our tubes at our last festival of 2015. It wasn’t a big deal though, the other three tubes and the guy lines kept it up and almost in shape, we just topped up the tube a couple of times a day and patched it up like a bicycle inner tube when we got home. You’d need to ensure that the tubes are at the correct pressure, but ours came with a specific pump which measured that and you’d have to be pretty blooming strong to overfill it!

Plenty of space for a warm, dry breakfast
Plenty of space for a warm, dry breakfast

Buying Tips

Tempted? – Here are a few tips for picking the right inflatable tent:

How many of you are there?

Ideally get a tent designed for one more person than you have so you have room for all the stuff that inevitably comes with camping with kids. 

Single or multiple tubes?

Some inflatables have all the tubes connected so you only have to pump it up from one place, but if the tubes can’t be isolated that means one little puncture brings the whole thing down.

Canopies

The festival kidz team agreed that a canopy or porch is a must-have. A covered outdoor area attached to the tent gives you somewhere safe to cook in bad weather and means you can get into the tent without letting the rain in with you.

The Festival Kidz team tents

Kirsty (me!)- Our tent is a Vango Lumen 600 XL a 2014 model. It has great headroom and a huge living area so it would be quite comfortable for a week long holiday as well as weekends at Festivals.

Naomi also has a Vango Airbeam Capri 600. Which has a fully covered porch for cooking under on wet days.

Catherine has a slightly less space hogging Kelty Mach 6 which has a different layout to the Vango’s with two sleeping chambers and a central living area.

A couple of other suggestions

The Decathlon Air seconds 6.3 XL is a lot cheaper than similar big brand tents, coming in at £399

If you really want to splash out there is the Zempire Airforce One, which will sleep up to ten and costs over £3000 (It does look rather fabulous though).

You should also check out our Top 5 Tips for buying a family tent here!

Now – is it summer yet?….


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