Dad knowledge, Product reviews

Are air tents good for family camping?

are air tents good for family camping

We recently tested our first inflatable family tent – the Easy Camp Base Air 500 – and loved it. But in general, are air tents good for family camping trips? Here’s our verdict.

I’m quite a late convert to camping. Mostly because the hassle of pitching tents and dealing with poles and pegs has always put me off. Then just as I was starting to get used to using all the usual camping equipment, along came blow-up air tents.

Up until recently a couple of things have put me off using air tents: price, and fear they’ll pop in the middle of the night. But we recently got the chance to test out the Easy Camp Base Air 500 (in our garden, thanks to COVID-19 lockdown) so we’ve had chance to put those worries to rest.

Here’s what we found out…

are air tents good for family camping

How easy are air inflatable tents to pitch?

I had an idea in my head that they couldn’t possibly be as easy to pitch as I hoped they would be, but if anything the Easy Camp Base Air 500 inflatable tent was even easier. All you need to do is peg out the base, then pump up the three big tubes that run across the outside of the tent, using the supplied pump. Those tubes replace the long, tricky-to-put-together poles that usually create the frame of a tent this size, and take little more than a couple of minutes to pump up. Then you simply tension the rest of the tent by pegging out the guylines, and you’re done!

are air tents good for family camping
This excellent hand pump is included with the Easy Camp Base Air 500 tent
are air tents good for family camping
And the supplied pump fits perfectly onto these valves to make inflation simple

How sturdy do air tents feel once they’re up?

I’m only basing this opinion on the one tent I’ve used, but the Easy Camp Base Air 500 is towards the bottom end of the inflatable tent scale in terms of price and feature set, and it still felt rock-solid once inflated. We followed the instructions by not over-inflating the tubes due to fluctuations in temperature causing the air pressure to rise or fall, and it felt completely sturdy for the two days we had it pitched. The conditions were fine but very breezy and we had no issues at all.

are air tents good for family camping
One of the three tubes running across the top of Easy Camp Base Air 500 to create the frame

Are inflatable tubes as good as tent poles?

In my opinion, from the tent we tested, absolutely yes. I’m not saying I’d trust them for wild camping on top of a mountain in a hurricane, but once this air tent was inflated it felt as solid and durable as any of the big family tents we’ve tested in the past. With the added bonus that it takes less than half the time to pitch.

are air tents good for family camping
The Sleep-Tight inner tent in the Easy Camp Base Air 500

What are inflatable tents like to sleep in?

If our experience with the Easy Camp Base Air 500 is anything to go by, the answer is good! This tent comes with a Sleep-Tight inner tent that has a divider down the middle to create two bedrooms. The porch/living area is so big that we easily fitted our picnic table inside, and the bedrooms were easily large enough for double mattresses. There was very little noise or rustle throughout the night from the tent material or inflatable tubes, although the fact the Easy Camp Base Air 500 doesn’t have blackout material meant we were woken up early by the sun!

are air tents good for family camping
The Easy Camp Base Air 500 has a huge living area with plenty of standing room

So are air tents just like normal tents, minus the poles?

In essence, yes, but don’t forget all tent models are different. Pay more and you’ll get more high-spec features, which will make the tent feel more premium and probably boost performance. As mentioned above, the Easy Camp Base Air 500 is towards the lower end of the scale in terms of price for an inflatable family tent of this size, so it isn’t fair to compare it with one three times more expensive, but I’d say it stacks up well against a similar spec pole tent.

are air tents good for family camping

Are air tents worth the extra money?

That’s a tough question to answer, because that all depends on what value you place on your time and the ease of pitching. Using Easy Camp as a price comparison, their most expensive 5-person pole tent costs £400. Whereas, the Base Air 500 is the cheapest of their two 5-person air tents at £640. That’s a big difference in price, but the fact I’ve now used the inflatable tent twice in the past fortnight, whereas I’ve used our equivalent 5-person pole tent twice in the last three years, sums up how much I prefer the blow-up version. I can’t speak for long-term durability because we’ve only used ours for a few weeks, but so far it feels like a great investment for family camping.

are air tents good for family camping

Outdoor Dad Verdict | Are air tents good for family camping?

It’s an overwhelming yes from our family. Our 5-person inflatable tent feels every bit as solid and reliable as our 5-person pole tent, but takes less than half the time to pitch. Our kids love it, and we’ll hopefully be taking it on family camping adventures for many years to come!

The Outdoor Dad, May 2020

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