Coleman 4-Person Cabin with Instant Setup Review
Cons: Low headroom, overall construction is less than thrilling
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
Small but mighty… fun? Handy? Cute? Yes, yes, yes. The Instant Cabin has no award-winning qualities unless you give yourself a medal for spending less money and recognizing it has unlimited value as the kid's tent or easy gear storage. With an interior height of less than 5 feet, it doesn't fit adults super comfortably, but it has found its way into our hearts as that "what if…?" piece of equipment you dream about as you doze off with snoring kids, feisty dogs, dirty bike helmets, and wet towels draped over and around you…
Space and Comfort
Space is not going to be something synonymous with the Instant Cabin. As one of the smaller "4-person" tents out there — and the smallest in our review group — it relies on its simplicity, fast set up, and "cozy comfort" to win hearts and minds. With only one door, three windows, low overhead, and a couple small pockets, it's the camping equivalent of a Hobbit's den.
As comfort is often what you make of it, the Instant Cabin obviously comes with a floor and walls to keep you separate from bugs, critters, and some of the elements, and thus all tents being equal with your eyes closed, a comfy pad underneath you, and your favorite pillow, you'll do just fine in a prone position getting zzz's in pleasant weather. But sitting will be a chore with anything close to the four people it claims to hold and forget standing up unless you're well under 5 feet tall.
This is the epitome of a single-walled tent as it doesn't even come with a rain fly or anything else to separate you and the elements. The Coleman site says it has an "integrated vented rainfly," which sounds like it might have a rainfly that's sewn on and just tucked into some stash pocket. In actuality, this just means the tent itself is coated/treated for weather/water resistance, as are the door and window covers. So if it's raining or blowing, you're gonna know it pretty quick as the barrier is thin.
The one advantage to smaller sized tents is that, lo and behold, there's LESS material for the wind to catch! So with the compact form factor, if staked out well with the guy lines, this will stand up to a fair amount. Unfortunately, like some other Coleman products we reviewed, the floor material doesn't wrap up the sides "bathtub style" to keep the seams off the ground. The seams are pretty much at ground level (maybe bending up a little bit depending on how taut you stake it out), so this is always (in just about any tent) a spot to watch for when things turn wet and soggy.
Ease of Set-Up
Now we're talking! It. Simply. Doesn't. Get. Any. Easier. Than. This.
Unfold. Pop Up. Done.
Again, if compact has something to do with durability in the tent world, then the Instant Cabin does okay here. A lot of the durability factor has to do with how it takes on the elements, and the form factor makes it at least more structurally sound than 4-person tents that are twice the volume. That said, despite the poles being made of steel, we're leery of all the moving parts. There are four free-moving hinges at the four top corners, a rather large plastic hub atop the whole structure with plenty of screws and hinged connectors, and the telescoping "rapid" legs that lock into place with a tiny metal 'pop' button.
The actual tent and floor material are standard Coleman "issue" — burly, somewhat rough polyester that can at least withstand some tramping and just about anything your kids can throw at it. It's a get-what-you-pay-for item that will either last you a few years or be a lemon out of the box.
The Instant Cabin goes back down almost as quickly as it goes up. We say almost because you'll probably have to compress a little air out of the fabric to get it back in the case. BUT, the case has a tear-away strip that leads to an expansion compartment, giving you more room to pack this back inside.
Value + Instant Cabin = A Good Deal. There's little question that unless you do get a total lemon straight out of the bag, you should get plenty of value out of this very affordable tent. We're just not sure for how long.
Coleman has a variety of budget-friendly tents (and other gear!) that hit a sweet spot in the value-vs-amenities-vs-craftsmanship matrix — and this Instant Cabin is no exception. As we thought a lot about who this might appeal to, it became clear by looking at Coleman's own promo photos: they feature kids getting in and out! It's sized and priced right to have this along as a Happy Camper second tent, or simply as a no-worries option for quick two-person getaways to the beachside or balmy climes.
— Rick Baraff