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I have not only Coleman’s Fast Pitch Skydome Tent, but also Coleman’s Instant Tent, both in a 4-person version, and in this blog post, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about fast pitch tents V.S. instant tents.
What is a Fast Pitch Tent?
A fast pitch tent is a specific type of Coleman tent, which is marketed to be set up in under 5 minutes by 1 person. An example of this is the Coleman Skydome Tent. I’ve got the Skydome 4-Person Tent, and check out what it says on the carry bag:
There are a few features that Coleman claims to contribute to the easy 5-minute set up. These include the following:
- Pre-attached poles;
- Fast-fitting feet; and
- User-friendly pole clips (instead of pole sleeves).
The poles of the Skydome Tent are pre-attached to the back of the tent, like so:
And here’s what the pre-attachment looks like, close-up:
In contrast, regular Coleman tents have poles that are not pre-attached in any way to the tent body. Here’s what they look like instead (completely separate from the tent body):
Coleman Fast Pitch Tents also have fast-fitting feet, which is this ball-like structure at the ends of the poles. These fast-fitting feet are to be inserted into the pole pockets sewn to the corner of the tent. Here’s a picture of both the feet and the pole pocket:
In contrast, regular tents, like Coleman’s classic Sundome tents, have these metallic tube-like structures at the end of each pole, to be inserted into the ring and pin system connected to the tent body. Here’s what they look like:
Pole Clips Instead of Pole Sleeves
Another feature that the Coleman Fast Pitch Tents have are pole clips (instead of pole sleeves). Here’s what the pole clips on my Skydome Tent looks like:
In contrast, regular tents have pole sleeves that you need to sleeve your tent poles through. For less well-made tents, these pole sleeves can be long and thus snaggy sometimes, which can be annoying. And that’s the frustration that Coleman is trying to avoid with their Fast Pitch Tents. Here’s an example of poles inside pole sleeves:
How to Set Up a Fast Pitch Tent
Now that you know all the important features of a fast pitch tent, here’s a quick run-through on how to set a fast pitch tent up. I’ll use my Coleman Skydome 4-Person Tent as an example.
First, lay the tent body on the ground, then go to the back of the Skydome tent, where you’ll find the 2 pre-attached black fiberglass poles.
Next, put both these fiberglass poles together. At the other end of each pole, you’ll find the fast-fitting feet, which is to be inserted into the attached pole pocket. This is sewn to the bathtub flooring of the tent.
Now, pick up both poles until they crisscross at the top. Then, while using one hand to hold the poles up, bend down and use your other hand to pick up the center pole clips.
The center pole clips are just 2 clips together, which you would need to clip to the middle of each fiberglass pole.
Now, clip the rest of the pole clips to the fiberglass poles. Just clip each pole clip intuitively to the nearest pole, and my Skydome 4 has 16 pole clips in total (2 center pole clips, 8 pole clips at the front, 6 pole clips at the back).
After clipping all the pole clips, the basic structure of your fast pitch tent should be set up. Next, all you’ve got to do is to attach the rainfly, set up the rainfly pole, stake down the tent, and then guy it out. This part of the set-up process is the same as a conventional tent.
What is an Instant Tent?
While a Fast Pitch Tent is exclusive to Coleman, an instant tent is not. In fact, many other tent brands have instant tents as well, not just Coleman. A few good examples include Gazelle, Core Equipment, Outdoor Products and even Ozark Trail.
Usually, an instant tent has these specific features, allowing for the ‘instant’ set-up:
- Pre-attached poles;
- A central pole hub;
- Pre-attached pole clips; and
- Pre-attached guylines.
Like a Fast Pitch Tent, an instant tent also has pre-attached poles. This is what the pre-attached poles typically look like in an instant tent:
Central Pole Hub
However, while a Coleman Fast Pitch tent has poles that are only pre-attached at one end of the pole, instant tents have poles that are pre-attached at both ends, and this is usually via a central hub.
As such, while I had to put the poles together in the Coleman Fast Pitch Tent, I didn’t have to do so for all my different instant tents. All I had to do was to prop the poles up, then extend each pole once. I’ll show you the actual process in the next section.
Pre-Attached Pole Clips
Another big difference between Fast Pitch Tents and instant tents is the pole clip pre-attachment. While Fast Pitch Tents usually have lots of pole clips (my Coleman Skydome 4 has 16 pole clips) that you need to attach yourself, instant tents have pole clips that come pre-attached, so you don’t have to attach any of them.
Pre-attached guylines is actually one of the similarities between instant tents and Fast Pitch tents. In fact, both my Coleman Skydome Fast Pitch Tent and my Coleman Instant Tent came with pre-attached guylines.
How to Set Up an Instant Tent
Now, here’s a quick summary on how to set up an instant tent. I’ll use my 4-Person Coleman Instant Tent as an example.
To set up this 4-Person Coleman Instant Tent, first unfold the tent flat on the ground, except for this central hub.
Then, pull the 4 elbow joints outward until they’re propped up like this:
And after that, extend all 4 poles upward until the button of each pole pops out. For the Coleman Tent, this is called a ‘silver lock button’, and I’ll show you a picture of what it looks like (2 pictures down).
After that, the process is pretty similar to a conventional tent – Just drape the rainfly over the tent, secure the rainfly, stake down the tent body, and finally guy it out.
Differences Between a Fast Pitch Tent V.S. Instant Tent
Here’s a quick summary on the differences between a fast pitch tent and an instant tent. I’ll use both my Coleman 4-Person Skydome Tent and 4-Person Instant Tent as examples.
|Differences||Skydome Tent 4||Instant Tent 4|
|Set Up Timing||9.5 minutes||4.5 minutes|
|Take Down Timing||10 minutes||5 minutes|
|Pre-Attached Poles?||Yes (one end)||Yes (both ends)|
|Pre-Attached Pole Clips?||No||Yes|
|Poles Material||Fiberglass||Alloy Steel|
|Packed Size||25 by 9 by 9 inches||40 by 11 by 8 inches|
|Rain Test||~15 minutes||~10 minutes|
Let’s go through each of these differences in characteristics.
Set Up Timing
Setting up a 4-Person Coleman Instant Tent takes just 4.5 minutes, while a 4-Person Skydome Tent takes 9.5 minutes, or about double the time.
Take Down Timing
Meanwhile, taking down and packing up the 4-Person Instant Tent takes just 5 minutes, while the 4-Person Skydome Tent takes 10 minutes, also double the time.
This is mainly because the Coleman Instant Tent has poles that are pre-attached at both ends, while the Skydome Tent has poles that are pre-attached only at one end.
Pre-Attached Pole Clips?
Another big reason why the Instant Tent is much faster than a regular tent is because all the pole clips are pre-attached as well, so I didn’t have to clip them on.
Most instant tents come in cabin shapes with somewhat vertical side walls, so there’s more headroom in instant tents.
On the other hand, Coleman Fast Pitch tents can be either dome or cabin shaped. Its most popular Fast Pitch tent to date is the Skydome, which like its name suggests, is a dome shape. This gives it a little less headroom than cabin tents.
Most instant tents come with steel poles, which are much more sturdy and durable. This is because the poles need to be durable enough to support the entire tent, the instant tent mechanism, and the telescoping and retracting.
On the other hand, my Skydome Tent came with just regular fiberglass poles, which are the type of poles that you’ll find in conventional set-up camping tents as well.
From the 2 pictures above, look at the enormous difference in the ruggedness and thickness of the poles!
Instant tents tend to have an enormous packed size, compared to conventional camping tents. They can be anywhere between 50-100% bigger. This is because of the fully pre-attached poles. They can be compacted down to a certain degree, but not all the way.
On the other hand, Coleman’s Fast Pitch Tent packs down as small as a regular conventional camping tent.
This is because the poles are pre-attached only at one end, so it’s much easier to tear them down and compact it as small as possible.
One last significant difference between a Coleman Fast Pitch Tent and the Coleman Instant Tent is in the rain test and the rainfly coverage.
Instant tents tend to have really short rainflies that cover literally only the very top of the tent.
As such, because of the minimal rainfly protection, these tents will leak a few minutes (approximately 10 minutes) into heavy rain.
On the other hand, my Coleman Skydome Fast Pitch tent has a really long rainfly length on 3 sides of the tent, which didn’t leak even after 1 hour of super heavy rain.
While the front of the tent leaked a little after 15 minutes of heavy rain, this is because the rainfly is much shorter at the front. After sealing the seam that leaked though, it lasted for hours under heavy rain as well. So, it has much better rain protection.
Similarities Between a Fast Pitch Tent V.S. Instant Tent
And here’s a quick summary on the similarities between a fast pitch tent and an instant tent. Again, I’ll use both my Coleman 4-Person Skydome Tent and 4-Person Instant Tent as examples.
|Similarities||Skydome Tent 4||Instant Tent 4|
|Peak Height||59 inches||61 inches|
|Base Area||54.2 square feet||55.4 square feet|
Both my Coleman Skydome Fast Pitch Tent and Coleman Instant Tent come with pre-attached guylines.
But pre-attached guylines are not limited to just Fast Pitch and instant tents. In fact, all my Coleman tents came with pre-attached guylines.
The peak height in both my Fast Pitch Skydome Tent and Coleman Instant Tent is about the same, plus or minus 2 inches. Here’s what the Fast Pitch Tent looks like:
And here’s what the Coleman Instant Tent looks like:
And the last similarity is the base area. Both tents have about the same base area, plus or minus one square foot. Both tents were able to fit 4 sleeping pads, or just 1 queen bed.
Here’s what the Fast Pitch Tent looks like with 4 sleeping pads:
And here’s what the Instant Tent looks like with 4 sleeping pads:
I used the exact same sleeping pads in both tents for a more accurate comparison.
For more info on the differences and similarities between Coleman’s instant tent and Coleman’s fast pitch Skydome Tent, check out this other blog post that I wrote right here.
When to Choose an Instant Tent
Based on everything above, when should you choose an instant tent over a Fast Pitch tent?
Here are my recommendations. If these are your priorities:
- Fast set up (half the time of a conventional tent); and
- Cabin shaped tent (for more livable space);
Then, an instant tent would be great for you.
However, bear in mind that instant tents tend not to be great in rainy weather. Because of the lesser rainfly coverage, it doesn’t have as much rain protection and rainy day ventilation.
On the other hand, they tend to have humongous windows on every wall, so they’re actually really great for hot days and hot day ventilation.
When to Choose a Fast Pitch Tent
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a quick set-up, and you have your heart set on a Coleman Fast Pitch tent, I think you might be disappointed. After all, my Coleman Fast Pitch Tent sets up and packs up in about the same time as a conventional Coleman Sundome Tent.
|Timings||Sundome Tent 4||Skydome Tent 4|
|Set Up Timing||8.5 minutes||9.5 minutes|
|Pack Up Timing||7.5 minutes||10 minutes|
For more differences between Coleman’s fast pitch Skydome Tent and Coleman’s conventional Sundome Tent, check out this other blog post that I wrote right here.
But for now, here are the main reasons why Coleman’s Fast Pitch system doesn’t speed up the set up and pack away process.
Impractical Pre-Attached Poles for the Fast Pitch Tent
The reason Skydome Tents aren’t exactly Fast Pitch (despite being marketed as so), is because Coleman basically pre-attached the easiest part of the set up. After all, I still had to put the entire pole together, and then secure the other end, which is the more difficult part!
And also, when packing up each tent, I had to make sure that my pre-attached poles of my Fast Pitch Skydome Tent were neatly aligned with the tent body, before rolling it up.
On the other hand, for my regular Coleman Sundome Tents, I could just pack all the poles up separately, and roll the tent body up separately, which makes it a lot easier to do.
Too Many Pole Clips for the Fast Pitch Tent
Another reason is because the Skydome Tent has so many pole clips (16 of them in a 4-person version).
Coleman’s intention was to replace snaggy pole sleeves with more user-friendly pole clips in the Skydome Tent. However, because there are just so many pole clips, it didn’t speed up the process at all.
Regular Coleman Tents Have Snag-Free Pole Sleeves
On the other hand, for Coleman’s conventional set-up tents, Coleman usually does its best to make its pole sleeves as short as possible, so I actually didn’t have any issues with snagging, at all. In fact, I actually found my Coleman pole sleeves to be really user-friendly.
So, when I had to set up a whopping 16 pole clips for my 4-Person Skydome Tent, versus setting up just 2 poles through 2 pole sleeves, having the pole sleeves actually took less time than the pole clips.
So, if you want a quick set up, I can’t recommend Coleman’s Fast Pitch Tents.
They’re just not that good when it comes to a fast set-up. But they are perfectly functional as a conventional tent, and they do wonderfully in the rain with a little seam sealant.
On top of having just instant tents and Fast Pitch tents, Coleman also has their popular Pop Up Tent, which is a tent that basically pops open out of the carry bag.
In this blog post, where I bought and tested a whopping 14 Coleman tents, I compared not just Coleman’s instant tents, but their Fast Pitch Skydome Tent, their 2-Person and 4-Person Pop Up Tent, against tons of regular conventional Coleman tents too. I highly recommend that you check it out to find out which Coleman tent is best for you.