The Coleman Instant Tent 6 is a phenomenal tent for the camping everyman. It's perfect for those of us who don't want to mess around with a bunch of poles and complicated, extended set-up time. If you frequently pull into a campsite long after dark, wanting nothing more than to have your tent up, your body horizontal, and your eyes shut, this is your tent. The Instant Tent 6 lives up to its name. It goes up quickly and comes down the same way. That's probably its most remarkable feature. Beyond that, the Instant Tent is a solid, reliable tent with one potentially fatal flaw. As long as the weather is good, you'll be happy with the Instant Tent, but if it starts to precipitate with any kind of fury, like us, you may begin to get a little nervous with a rain fly that only covers the top of the tent, neglecting most of the main tent walls. Of course, if you check the weather and actively avoid the wet stuff, this tent will treat you well given its frugal price.
Coleman Instant Tent 6 Review
Cons: Inadequate rainfly, the rest of tent is only weather-resistant, no vestibule.
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Our Analysis and Test Results
At 90 square feet and a head height of 6'2", the Instant Tent 6 is as spacious as any tent we've reviewed here. 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 being said, you could conceivably fit the stated capacity of six in the Instant Tent, though it would be more comfortable at four.
Windows on all sides (including the door), as well as pop-out vents on the top, and even a ground vent in the back keep the air moving and temperatures reasonable inside the tent.
One feature that is noticeably absent is the 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 Tent 6, does not.
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 need of a couple people in that regard.
It's also worth noting that 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 really pushing the capacity. Nobody likes having to step over (or being stepped over) for a late night bathroom trip.
Finally, 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. That will get the job done.
If you're already reaching for your credit card, just itching to get your hands on the Coleman Instant Tent 6, you might want to skip this section. The biggest issue we had with the Instant Tent was 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 meaning that any 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, but even then, it stops right at the edges and doesn't run up the side 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 is calling for much rain, you might want to look elsewhere for either a tent or a drier place to go camping.
Windy conditions in the Instant Tent 6 were a different story. With thick, strong poles, and bending, jointed corners. rather than curved poles, the Instant Tent was sturdy in moderate (15-20 mph) winds and we're confident it would hold up well if those gusts increased. You can also secure the tent further with guy lines to limit excessive wind buffeting. 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 dark.
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. That being said, 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, maybe 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 easy clips to each pole, and voila! Instant Tent.
The rain fly might take another couple 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 (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 fairly 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 Coleman 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 Coleman Instant Tent 6 shines. At a retail price of $260, it's one of the cheapest 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.
The Coleman Instant Tent 6 is a good choice for casual campers, the lazy, people who prefer to get to the "enjoying nature" part of the program as quickly as possible, and sunshine-chasers who don't mind being flexible with their weather-dependent plans.
With a full rain fly, we'd be jumping up and down and doing cartwheels of joy over the Coleman 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).
— Wes Berkshire