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The rise & rise of inflatable tents

We pick the best inflatable tents, to really get you pumped

By David Jones & Andrew Day, 27th March 2014

Picture the scene: you've crammed in all the kit and caboodle, navigated your way through snaking one-lane, sheep-jammed A roads, and endured the incessant chorus of "are we there yet?", only to arrive at your bucolic bolthole to face one of camping's little labours – erecting the tent. As all cool campers know, finding your perfect pitch then kicking back with a cold beer tentside is one of life's great pleasures... it's just the bit in-between that we could do without. Unwieldy poles, flimsy pegs that wouldn't stick in butter – putting up the tent can sometimes be a challenge. But thanks to the... ahem... 'rise' of inflatable tents, such traumas could now be a thing of the past.

Inflatable tents use robust, air-filled tubes in place of pole supports. Simply hook the pump up to input valves and pump away. Most models are quick to pitch with those that use an interlinked 'frame' inflating in around 60 seconds from just one inlet. And for those campers with childhood flashbacks of punctured bouncy castles, isolation valves ensure the tent remains fully inflated in the unlikely event of damage.

The entire tent comes as one single interconnected unit (ground sheet, fly, and outer fabric). And because there are no poles, some of these tents are suprisingly lightweight and easy to pack away. So whether you're a seasoned adventurer or just a festival goer looking for an alternative to the pop-up, check out our round-up of the best inflatable tents on the market. Trust us, we're not just blowing hot air...

best for… style & substance

heimplanet cave tent

This highly innovative, extremely fast-pitching tent is ready to go in under 60 seconds. Claiming to be 100% waterproof, The Cave's cool, geodesic design makes for a solid shelter. Made out of highly breathable nylon and a non-transparent mosquito net, it's also extremely lightweight, at a dainty 5kg. Comfortably sleeping three, The Cave packs away just as quickly as it was pitched.
£479.99 from Surfdome

Best for... Family Camping

Outwell Concord L

Roomy, robust and easy to erect, Outwell’s range of inflatable tents are perfect for family camping. Their patented ‘One-Go’ inflation system is a major plus-point; everything is inflated from a single point, which saves time and effort, and means it's possible to inflate the entire structure within a minute. Made from breathable, high quality poly-cotton – a better option than synthetic materials that many other inflatable tents are made from – these multi-roomed tunnel tents come with many marvellous standards, including floating guy lines, tinted windows (for privacy and UV protection) and Outwell’s trademark colour-coded ‘Easy Pegging’ system. Like all of Outwell’s tents, the Concorde has been tested in-house at their very fancy wind and rain facility (to a minimum of Force 9 gales), ensuring peace of mind when that dastardly wind picks up. Overall, this is a well-designed, reliable choice for families who intend to go camping regularly.

£1499.99 from Camping World

Best for... Flexibility

vango inspire 600 airbeam

For the privacy-conscious camper, look no further than the Vango Inspire 600 Airbeam. This ingenious six-manner not only boasts a massive living area but also features a range of multiple bedroom options. Vango’s Tension Band System ensures a solid shelter in even the harshest of climes, plus there’s lots of cool extras including a storage extension and carpet for a touch of home. We’re also reliably informed that it comes DofE approved. If it’s good enough for the nation’s sixth-formers, it’s good enough for us!

£999 from Outback Trading

Best for… strength

quechua 6.3xl family seconds air tent

Meet The Incredible Hulk of inflatable tents. Quechua's latest design has been tested under water jets and validated in wind tunnels and on a rotating plate, so even in the most extreme weather, this six-man abode stands strong. Looks-wise it might be an acquired taste, but you can't argue with the sheer space inside with three XL bedrooms (one of which is detachable) plus a huge main door-cum-porch that's perfect for sunny days.
£499.99 from Decathlon

Best for… value

sunncamp breton 500 air

Brand new for 2014, the Breton 500 Air tent sleeps up to five. Although not particularly spacious, it does feature a decent amount of standing room, ideal for small families seeking a spot of affordable, fuss-free camping. The five-berth bedroom can easily be converted into two or three berths, using the handy zipped divider.
£453.99 from World of Camping

Overall winner… The outwell Concord L

the Concorde is arguably the most stable, comfortable and intuitively-designed inflatable on the market and is a dependable choice for families needing a spacious, good-quality tent that is easy to put up and will last a long time.

Agree/disagree? Send your comments on inflatable tents to us at enquiries@coolcamping.co.uk; we'll publish the best ones here.