How to put up a Tunnel Tent

September 7, 2015

Tunnel tents are a popular tent design and are commonly found in family tents.

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  • They are simple to put up – just insert a tent pole into a sleeve at regular intervals.
  • The tent pole bends to create an arch.  This is both strong and provides a tent with a lot of head room.


Fortunately once you’ve mastered one tunnel tent the principles can be applied to most other tunnel tents.

Here’s 8 simple steps that while show you how to put up a tunnel tent, with a few useful tips thrown in.

1. Layout your tent position

Find an area that is level as possible.  Remove any stones, twigs, or other hazards.  Avoid areas with dips as these can fill with water.

[pullquote style=’right’]putting some form of groundsheet under your tent is highly recommended[/wpsm_quote]You may find that a tent footprint is an easy way to position your tent, as well as keeping your tent clean.  We use a tarp that is the same size as the tent.  You can read more camping tips on using tarps, which also includes how to pitch in the (relative) dry even if it is raining.

Putting some form of groundsheet under your tent is highly recommended, especially if it has been wet.  This will make drying your tent out and keeping it clean a lot easier.

2. Unroll the tent

This is where having a groundsheet or tarp is really useful, especially if it has been wet.

Although we’re talking about pitching the tent, here’s a tip for taking it down.  If you look at the picture you’ll see a lighter green bag on the tent.  This is the bag containing the tent poles.  When you take your tent down and roll it up, place the bag of tent poles at the start of the folded tent before you roll.  This will help compress the air out of the tent and create a tighter tent so that you can get it back into its original bag.

3. Unfold the tent

Unfold the tunnel tent to fit your groundsheet footprint.  All simple stuff 😉

4. Insert the tent poles

Straighten the tent poles and insert into the provided sleeved channels on the tent.

For a lot of tunnel tents you will find that it doesn’t matter which pole goes into which channel as they are all the same size.  For tents that have a more complex design, manufacturers will colour code channels to help you get it right.

It is at this point you want to check that the doors are unzipped.

5. Take up the tension in the poles

At the base of the tent, near to the sleeve you inserted the tent poles into, will be an eyelet or some other mechanism for securing the poles.  Fix the poles into it on both sides of the tent, which will force the tent poles to bend and create the arch shape.

It is easier to do this whilst the tent is on the ground.

Inserting the tent pole into the eyelet the second time (i.e. on the other side of the tent) may require a bit of force.  Check that the tent is not bunched up around the poles in the sleeve – the tent may of snagged on a joint in the tent pole.  If it is, just ease off the tension and adjust the tent fabric.  This is why it is easier doing this stage with the tent on the ground.

6. Pull the tent upright

Start with one end and pull the tent upright.

You will want to have a tent peg handy and secure the end lines of the tent.  This will help keep it upright whilst you adjust it.

[pullquote style=’right’]unzipping the doors you make it easier for air to fill the tent[/wpsm_quote]Oh, and why did you unzip the doors in the earlier step?  Well, when you pull the tent up, the space inside the tent expands, which creates a vacuum effect that can make pulling it upright difficult.  By unzipping the doors you make it easier for air to fill the tent and so lesson the vacuum effect.

However, now zip up the doors again 😉

You now need to adjust the tent by making sure it is fully stretched out.  If the doors were still open the tent could over stretch, making it difficult to zip up the doors once it is all pegged out.

7. Peg out the tent

Now go around the tent pegging it out, adjusting the lines, opening vents, and making sure any tarp or footprint is folded well under the tent (so it doesn’t trap rain water).

8. Put up the inner tents

Finally put up the inner tents (or get a helper to).

Putting up the inner tents is straightforward.  On most tents they have toggles on the inner tents that fit into loops sewn into the tent.  They will have a coloured toggle and loop, usually in the centre, where you start toggling from.

There you go, 8 simple steps to put up a tunnel tent.

Taking the tent down

Taking the tent down is essentially the reverse of putting it up.

[pullquote style=’right’]ferry the inner tents in and keep them nice and dry[/wpsm_quote]Yes, on a lot of tents you could leave the inner tents up so that you don’t have to do that step the next time, however we don’t recommend that.  If your tent is wet, or it is raining, you will want to keep those inner tents dry and separate.  The next time you turn up to camp it could be pouring down, and by keeping them separate, it won’t matter if your tent gets wet when you put it up.  You can then ferry the inner tents in and keep them nice and dry.

Keeping the doors unzipped when you fold your tent will help expel the air (opposite of the vacuum effect issue), and remember the tip with the tent pegs bag when rolling it up.

Read ‘how to roll up a tent and get it back into its bag‘ for more details.

Oh, one more thing

The tent shown here is the Coleman Coastline 6 Deluxe, which is a simple tent to put up due to this tunnel design.  You can also find it on larger models, such as the Coleman Fremont 6.

The pictures were taken at the Nantcol Waterfalls Campsite, which is a great place to camp with kids.

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Gav Grayston
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Gav Grayston Contributor

Father to 3 kids, who loves getting out and about (hiking, running, camping, cycling, canoeing...) Co-founded Get Out With The Kids to help other parents enjoy the outdoors with their family.

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  1. Can the Colman Coastline 4 ? Be erected by one person !

    • Yes. I used to put the Coleman Coastline 6 up by myself every now and then.  You’ll need to put in some tent pegs to hold it in place, such as when you are pulling it up.

  2. Thanks mate I’m new to camping, very useful info. Going this Thursday with the kids because we just bought a new tent etc.. I’m no good at putting them up so thanks again for the info!!!


  3. thanks a lot i have a tent putting up compotion today in scouts

  4. Please can you advise on how to put it away?!?

    The main tent we can see from the link you provide, but how to we put away the inner pieces? Do we do them separately or as one complete roll?

    • If it’s dry, you can leave the inner tents fitted to the inside of your tent usually, and roll them up while they are still inside. However, if that makes the tent too big to fit in the bag, you will have to take them out.
      If the tent is wet I remove the inner tents as rolling them up inside a wet tent might mean you have to dry the inner tents out when you get home.
      In that situation I put the inner tents in a separate bag, and keep them away from the wet tent.
      I hope that helps.

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