What is a Pop up Tent?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

Erecting a traditional canvas tent at a campsite often involves encasing a heavy wooden framework with a bulky canvas skin, then stabilizing the entire structure with ropes and spikes. Transporting all of this material to the campsite can also be physically demanding, and a single camper likely couldn't hope to accomplish the task by himself or herself. One popular solution to this camping dilemma is a lightweight and portable pop up tent. This is a type of collapsible tent that can be easily carried into a campsite on a camper's back, along with a bedroll and backpack. A camper places the collapsed tent on a suitable site, then manipulates it until the framework snaps into place.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

There are several different types of pop up tents, each with their own set-up mechanisms. One of the earliest, and still popular, types contains a series of flexible ribs attached to a canvas or polyester skin. The collapsed tent is long and thin, making it as easy to carry as a long beach umbrella. Once the camper locates a suitable spot, he or she presses down firmly on the top of the tent, forcing each rib to bow outwards evenly. At some point, the expanded frame pops into place and the result is a dome-shaped tent with room for bedding and a securely zippered doorway. This type also allows the camper to use stakes and ropes for additional stability.

Another type of pop up tent uses lightweight carbon, plastic, or metal rods and an arrangement of springs and hinges in order to erect itself. When collapsed, it can fit in a specially designed circular travel bag. Once a suitable campsite has been selected, the camper simply removes the collapsed tent from the bag, unsnaps a strap, and allows the tent to expand on its own. This type may not be as tall as a dome tent, but it does provide enough linear space for one or two campers to set up their bedding. The tent is supported primarily by the tension of the internal springs and support rods. Once the camper is ready to leave the campsite, he or she can easily collapse the tent and pack it back into the travel bag.

Most outdoor sporting goods stores carry a selection of tents, from large dome tents capable of sleeping three to four people to ultra-compact models that provide enough protection for a single camper. It is important that beginning campers learn how to properly set up a pop up tent in order to prevent an unsafe collapse in the field. Because this type of tent is not tethered to the ground, additional equipment such as tent spikes, hammers, and rope may also prove useful. As with any other consumer product, potential campers may also want to compare safety ratings between the different options and choose the one best suited for the environment. Portability may be more important than stability on a wilderness hike, for example, but stability and comfort may count more on a family excursion to an improved campsite.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments


It would be nice to have pictures for reference.


We love going camping and do it regularly. I have 3 sons and they think they are too big to sleep in the tent with us now. We bought them a kids pop up tent and they love it. We put it right beside ours and it gives them a sense of independence.


This site has enriched my knowledge regarding tents.

Thanks and Regards. -- PK Ray

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