Tested: 4 Different Inflatable Tents

4-inflatable-tents-go-head-to-head

If you’ve been interested in getting a family tent, I’m sure you have come across the many varieties of inflatable tents that are out there. But which one is best for you?

We inflate four different tent brands to see how they compare.

Why choose an inflatable tent?

Before we compare the different tents, let’s consider why you might want to get an inflatable tent.

Well, there are two good reasons. They are easy and fast to pitch.

When Vango introduced their AirBeam tents all those years ago, I was a little sceptical, but thanks to Outwell, we’ve been using an inflatable tent for over two years now. They certainly can be easy and quick to pitch, but as we find out, not all inflatable tents are equal.

The Tents

The tents we tested were the Outwell Montana 6SA, the Vango Ravello 500, the Coleman Valdes 6L, and the Zempire Aero TXL.

Not all of these tents are equal. For example, the Vango Ravello 500 is a smaller weekend tent; the others are large family holiday tents. So, by being the smaller, the Ravello should be easier and faster to pitch. However, I’ve tried to take that into account in how I show the results. So, let’s dive in.

Easy Pitching – Which is the simplest inflatable tent to inflate?

I’m going to split ‘Easy to Pitch’ into simplicity and effort.

Simplicity means that it is not complicated. However, that is entirely subjective. So, here’s my view.

Outwell Montana 6SA

Camping in the Montana 6SAThis tent is part of Outwell’s Smart Air collection, which means it has additional air tubes to give the tent a better structure and a single inflation point, rather than having to inflate each tube individually. The Outwell Montana 6SA is the only tent in this test that has this feature.

While the single inflation point should make it the simplest to pitch, you do have to remember to close the ‘Out’ valves on each air tube. If you forget, you might spend a lot of effort pumping without the tent raising.

Deflating the Outwell Montan 6SA is straightforward. You just turn the tap on the ‘Out’ valves. However, as an additional safety feature, the tent has isolation valves on the tubes inside the tent. You must remember to open these before deflating; otherwise, the tent won’t completely collapse.

None of this is complicated, but they are a few additional steps to remember.

Vango Ravello 500

Inflating the RavelloYou have to inflate each tube on the Vango AirBeam tents. This concept is quite an easy concept to understand.

Vango has designed the valve on the AirBeam tubes so that the same valve can inflate and deflate. Plus, their pump locks onto the valve, which makes pumping easier.

Overall, this system is quite simple to inflate.

Deflating wasn’t as simple as the Outwell Montana 6SA though, as you had to push and twist a button in the valve, which I found a little fiddly.

Coleman Valdes 6L

Coleman Valdes 6LThe inflation of this tent is very similar to the Vango in that it has a single valve on each tube, and the pump is supposed to lock into place.

I say ‘supposed’ as I found it hard to tell that the pump had correctly locked into place.

All of the valves are on the inside of the tent. Some you have to access through special openings that you unzip. Having the valves on the inside of the tent made attaching the pump very awkward.

Furthermore, I often found that when detaching the pump, I triggered the deflate button on the valve, which meant I had to pump some of the tubes several times.

Zempire Aero TXL

Inside the Zempire Aero TXLAs with the other tents, on the Zempire Aero TXL, you inflate each tube.

The tent has a single valve that inflates and deflates. The valve design is the standard valve system you might find on inflatable boats and canoes.

The pump doesn’t lock into place on this one, but inflating and deflating was simple to understand.

Inflation Simplicity Score

  1. Vango Ravello 500
  2. Zempire Aero TXL
  3. Outwell Montana 6SA
  4. Coleman Valdes 6L

Deflation Simplicity Score

  1. Zempire Aero TXL
  2. Coleman Valdes 6L
  3. Outwell Montana 6SA
  4. Vango Ravello 500

Effort in Pitching

Now this one is a little harder to judge.
What can impact this is the size and weight of the tent. For example, a higher quality tent fabric may weigh more, and so inflating such a tent could be harder.

The tents on test here are all different sizes and materials, so take this with a big pinch of salt.

  1. Vango Ravello 500 – This was the easiest to inflate. But, this was the smallest tent with only three air tubes to raise, so it should be the easiest in this test. Larger AirBeam tents might not be so easy to inflate.
  2. Zempire Aero TXL – For the size of the tent, this was surprisingly easy to inflate, though there were obviously more air tubes to pump up than the small Vango Ravello 500.
    The Zempire also has a system on their pump to inflate two tubes at once. I didn’t test this, and I would expect this might require a bit more effort at the pump.
  3. Outwell Montana 6SA – This required a bit more effort on the pump. That is because the pump is inflating all the tubes at once. Plus it has heavier tent fabric than some of the other tents in this test.
    (Note, that Outwell has other inflatable tents where you pump each tube separate. This single inflation point is just a feature of Outwell’s SmartAir collection).
  4. Coleman Valdes 6L – Effort in inflating a tube is not too much. However, as I stated earlier, I found it too easy to knock the release valve when detaching the pump, which meant I had to pump this tent much more than all of the tents combined.

Stability once inflated

Before we look at the speed of pitching, the stability of the tent once inflated is important.

What do I mean by stability? Well, if you inflate all the tubes, does the tent stand up by itself, or do you need to peg out guy lines. A tent that falls over if inflated is not pitched.

All tents must be pegged out of course. But we’ve found that as soon as the structure is ‘safe’, other members of the family can start setting up the inside of the tent, while the rest of the tent and guy lines are pegged out. This teamwork makes it a lot quicker to set-up camp.

For this test, there is one clear winner, and that is the SmartAir system from Outwell.

The additional cross bracing beams inside the Outwell Montana 6SA mean that the tent will stand there once inflated.

Having used the older Outwell Hornet XL SmartAir tent for a couple of years, we found this system worked well. Plus, with Outwell’s pegging system, everyone in the family could understand what tent peg was supposed to go where.

None of the other tents in our test had this feature, which meant that you needed to peg out one end or both for the tent to stand up.

After the Outwell Montana 6SA, my experience found the Vango Ravello 500 was the next most stable, followed by the Coleman Valdes 6L, and then finally, the massive Zempire Aero TXL.

  1. Outwell Montana 6SA
  2. Vango Ravello 500
  3. Coleman Valdes 6L
  4. Zempire Aero TXL

Speed of Pitching – Which inflatable tent is the fastest to pitch?

Now once again, I’m going to be subjective here.

Yes, I could have timed each one with a stopwatch, but as I mentioned earlier, each one of these tents is a different size so that timing inflation wouldn’t be a fair test.

Out of the tents I tested, the small Vango Ravello 500 was the quickest to pitch, despite needing a guyline to hold the front in place. However, since this tent is much smaller than all the others, that should be no surprise. A Vango AirBeam tent of equivalent size as the other tents in this test may not be as quick to pitch.

Next fastest, I would say, is the Outwell Montana 6SA, which is the first of the huge family tents in this test.
The speed of inflation is down to the SmartAir system that provides the additional stability. Yes, you might need a bit more puff at the pump, but you can get a SmartAir tent up quite quickly.

Then I would rate the Zempire Aero TXL in this test, which was quite quick to inflate for such a big tent, but you did need to peg out the guy lines at each end before it was stable.

Finally, the Coleman Valdes 6L I found to be the slowest to pitch, despite the ironically named ‘Fast Pitch’. Unfortunately, this was down to two aspects. First, the awkwardness of trying to connect the pump on valves that are inside the tent. Secondly, the fact that I kept knocking the air release button when disconnecting, meant that I had to keep re-inflating it.
This test was my first pitch of the Coleman Valdes 6L. I suspect with practice the tent would be a lot easier and faster to pitch. I had pitched the Outwell Montana 6SA and Vango Ravello 500 a few times before.

  1. Vango Ravello 500 (because it was much small than the other tents in the test).
  2. Outwell Montana 6SA
  3. Zempire Aero TXL
  4. Coleman Valdes 6L

Based on the design of a Vango AirBeam that is of equivalent size to the Outwell Montana 6SA, I would expect the results to look as follows since the Vango AirBeam doesn’t have a single point inflation system.

  1. Outwell Smart Air
  2. Vango AirBeam
  3. Zempire Aero
  4. Coleman Valdes

Conclusion

If you are looking for an inflatable tent, hopefully, you have found my experience above useful or enlightening to the differences in some of the inflatable tents available.

Remember that inflation is just one aspect of your family tent. There are many other things to consider. You can click here to see our tent guide for other things to consider when choosing a family tent.

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Gav Grayston
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.
Gav Grayston

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2 Comments
  1. Excellent comparison. I love the idea of inflatable tents but I do worry a) about what happens if a puncture occurs (especially in the Outwell Montana, if all the pipes are inter connected), b) they seem more pricey, and c) the extra weight (especially as a family that tries to utilise public transport over cars).

    9:07 am on September 18, 2016
    • Hi Ashely,

      You make some good points.  Firstly, with the Outwell Montana, there are isolation valves on each tube that you close after inflation. If one tube gets a puncture, the air doesn’t escape all the tubes.  And yes, they are more pricey and generally heavier. I would recommend smaller lightweight tents for public transport.

      10:00 am on September 18, 2016

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