Coleman Instant Tent 6 Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
At 90 square feet with a head height of 6'2", the Instant Tent 6 is fairly spacious. Coleman makes the claim that you can fit two queen-sized air mattresses in the Instant Tent, and while that's technically true, it would leave exactly zero inches between them, basically turning your entire tent into a bouncy castle. That said, you could conceivably fit the stated capacity of six in the Instant Tent, though it would be more comfortable at four.
Windows or a door on all sides, pop-out vents on the top, and a ground vent in the back keep the air moving and temperatures reasonable inside the tent. One feature that is noticeably absent is a vestibule. While many tents of this size include some form of vestibule to keep your shoes or other gear out of the tent, but also out of the elements, the Instant 6, does not.
The Instant Tent 6 only has one door. This may not be a deal-breaker for many, but it's worth noting. Sometimes it's nice to be able to come in and out both ends of a tent, especially if you're pushing the capacity. Nobody likes being stepped over or having to step over others for a late-night bathroom trip.
It also lacks somewhat in interior storage space. There are only two moderately-sized pockets in opposite corners. It's nice to have a place to put the small things you carry around in your pockets all day (car keys, phone, wallet, etc.), and the Instant Tent 6 can really only meet the needs of a few folks in that regard.
At the risk of belaboring the point, the simple fact that you can have the Instant Tent 6 set up in a minute or two, should add to its comfort level. Just imagine kicking back, tent up, favorite beverage in hand, watching your friends continue to struggle to get their tents set up. Sounds comfortable, doesn't it?
In the end, the Coleman Instant Tent 6 is adequately comfortable. It's not fancy, it's not innovative, and it doesn't set a new standard. But it is roomy, easy, and readily vented.
If you're already reaching for your credit card, just itching to get your hands on the Instant Tent 6, you might want to skip this section. The biggest issue we had with this tent is its severely inadequate rain fly. It really only covers the top of the tent, venturing meagerly down the sides, and leaving most of the walls vulnerable to the elements.
But wait, they must have made the rest of it waterproof to compensate, right? Nope. Coleman's patented and much ballyhooed WeatherTec technology only uses a weather-resistant, coated polyester fabric. This means that any part of the tent not covered by the rain fly will get wet and leak in moderate to heavy or consistent rain.
To their credit, the floor of the Instant Tent is tarpaulin. Even then, it stops right at the edges and doesn't run up the sides even a few inches to further guard against ground wetness. As long as the weather cooperates, you won't have a problem, but if the forecast calls for much rain, you'll want to look elsewhere for either a tent or a drier place to go camping.
The Instant Tent 6 is set up pretty well for windy conditions. The thick, sturdy poles, give it strength, but the bending, jointed corners can be compromised in moderate to heavy wind. That said, as long as you stake the Instant Tent down and make use of the guy lines to anchor the tent to the ground or close trees, it holds up just fine. It's a small point, but also worth noting that the guy lines are woven with reflective material, so they'll pop out at you when you hit them with a flashlight in the dark. Anyone who has spent much time outside has kicked through a stake or guy line in the night.
Ease of Setup
Admittedly we were skeptical when we read the claim on the storage bag, Instant setup in 60 seconds or less. Sure, we thought. Right. That'll be the day. When you put the words Instant Tent in your title, you're setting a high bar for yourself. The Coleman lives up to its billing. The only variable factor in set-up time is how fast you feel like walking around the tent unfolding the poles and pulling them to their full length.
If you're speedy, you can probably have the tent up (sans rain fly) in 45 seconds. If you prefer to take your time, you'll probably take more like 60 seconds. The Instant Tent 6's poles are pre-attached to the tent so that all you have to do is unfold the tent and get the poles facing the proper direction, then pull the poles apart to extend them to their full length, at which point they click into place, attach a couple of easy clips to each pole, and voila! Instant Tent.
The rain fly might take another couple of minutes, but it's also a very simple set of buckles that even one person can handle with ease. If you've always had a more traditional tent, you'll find yourself laughing at how quick and easy the Instant Tent 6 goes up.
Six-person tents are not made to be compact. They are not made to be hauled many miles through the wilderness or get blown away in a light breeze. While the packed away Instant Tent 6 is one of the larger tents we reviewed (44" in length), it's still easily manageable and storable, so it shouldn't be an issue.
Most of us will be transporting the Instant Tent by car, not packing it away for a through hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. The bag has a zipper that runs through the middle from one end to the other and all the way through the ends to the ground. You'll have to be moderately careful rolling it back up to get everything neatly in the carrying case, but it's relatively easy to do. There's nothing revolutionary about the Instant Tent's storage bag. It's what you'd expect in most tents of this size. It's not great, but it's certainly not a reason to shy away from purchasing one.
What's odd is that the Instant Tent's shortcomings in weather-resistance seemingly add to its quality in workmanship. In only making the tent's walls water resistant, the folks at Coleman did make them thicker and more reinforced than your average tent, meaning they should last longer and be less prone to rips and tears.
As mentioned earlier, the tarp floor is a nice touch as well. Because the pole system relies on hinged/jointed corners, you're unlikely to stress any poles to the point of bending or breaking. The Instant Tent is built sturdy and should have a long life.
This is where the Instant Tent 6 shines. it's one of the least expensive tents we've reviewed. Does it have its flaws? Sure. But it's still a great value at that price-point. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you might want to look elsewhere, but if you live in California, Colorado, or any other state that typically sees 300+ days of sun a year, the Instant Tent 6 would be a worthy choice.
Another thing to consider is how flexible your camping plans typically are. If you make reservations six months in advance and stick to them, even if Hurricane Tentzilla is bearing down on you, this might not be your tent. On the other hand, if you find yourself watching the weather and altering your camping plans to avoid wet weekends in the woods, the Instant Tent will treat you right.
With a full rain fly, we'd be jumping up and down and doing cartwheels of joy over the Instant Tent 6. It's hard to ignore the spaciousness and how ridiculously easy it is to set-up. As it stands, it's still a nice tent. It just isn't going to be your jack-of-all-trades (or conditions).
Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.Learn More