A question we are always asked is "Which is better, air tents or poled tents?". Everybody in the camping world has an opinion on which is best, Pole or Air, but hopefully this post will help you on your way to deciding which is best for you.
We have both types of tents on display on our outdoor showground in Kent from mid-March until mid-September so we have a unique view of how both types of tent perform in all kinds of conditions.
First of all let find out a bit more about each type of tent and then we will give a few pros and cons of each type to help you.
Inflatable tents use air tubes instead of fibreglass or steel poles to provide the structure of the tent. They have been on the market for over 10 years now and each year the technology behind them gets better and better up tents rather than the usual fibreglass, steel rods. They have been on the market for a few years now and there are some great ones currently available to purchase.
Pitch time – Air tents are a lot quicker to pitch compared poled tents. Each airtube/AirBeam takes around 30 seconds to pump up, so even on a large family tent with 5 beams you can be undercover in around 5 minutes. Obviously, you still have to peg out the tent which will take up more time.
No poles – Obviously as it is an air tent there are no poles on the main structure so you don’t have to worry about getting broken, lost or forgetting to take them entirely.
Weekend camping – Air Tents open up weekend camping for large family tents. People are getting more use out of their air tents than their previous poled tents because they can go away on Friday night, possibly a last minute decision, and not have to worry about pitching the tent for over an hour when they get to the camp site.
Strength – We have found that air tents fair a lot better in windier conditions that their poled versions. When the wind really beats down on the tents the airtubes/airbeams flex and then regain their natural position. Obviously with poles there is only a very small amount of flew so there is a possibility of them snapping and then damaging the canvas.
Weight – Air tents tend to be heavier than fibreglass poled tents. Airtubes can take a greater amount of weight than poled tents so you may find that the canvas on these tents is thicker and therefore heavier. Also, as the airtubes stay in place you can’t distribute them to lower the weight, e.g. separating the poles from canvas and carrying them separately.
Cost – Air Tents tend to be more expensive than the standard pole tents
Air Pump – Although all the air tents we supply do come with a pump as standard some manufacturers do not include them. Always check before you buy that the tent comes with the pump.
Replacement parts – In the worst-case scenario that a airtube/AirBeam bursts then replacement tube aren’t always immediately available and cost around the £50 to replace if not under warranty. However, we have found that burst beams are very rare compared to broken poles and every air tent we sell comes with a puncture repair kit to get you through whatever holiday you are on. Fibreglass poles are available from most camping shops.
There are 3 different types of poled tents; Fibreglass pole, Steel poled and Aluminium poled. Each type of poled has its own pros and cons but here we have looked a poled tents as whole to give you an overall comparison.
Fibreglass Poles – Lightweight and easily replaceable.
Aluminium poles – Stronger than fibreglass poles but more expensive.
Steel Poles – Steel poles need maintaining otherwise they are at risk of corrosion. They are also stronger heavier than other forms of poles.
Price – Poled tents tend to be cheaper than air tents allowing you to get a larger family tent for less money.
Options available – Although there a lot of different air tents on the market now there is a far greater range of tents made with poles. We stock tents from Vango, Kampa, Easy Camp and Outwell.
Weight – Poled tents are usually lighter, have smaller pack sizes and therefore easier to carry and transport.
Pitching time – There is a lot more to when pitching a poled tent compared to the air versions. For example, the poles need to be put together and thread through the sleeves on the canvas and then stood up to create the tent. Whereas when you pump up an air tent the tent pitches itself. Also, pitching a larger poled tent really requires at least two people unless you’re very experienced.
Strength in winds – This isn’t to say that fibreglass poles don’t work well in windy conditions, they do, but Air tents work better. Fibreglass poled tents have been around for years and years and stand up very well in windy conditions if put up correctly.
As you can see there are many pros and cons for both types of tent. It really comes down to personal preference on which you feel is the right type of tent for you. At WM Camping we are lucky because we get to see how the tents perform outdoors on our showground, in all kinds of weather, and if it doesn’t perform well then we don’t stock it. So you can be sure that the tent you buy from us is one we trust.
We love both poled and air tents and have sold both very successfully for many years. Our overall view is that if your budget allows, then go for an air tent but don’t be put off poled tent because they are great too.
Our advice would be to go and see them on display at your local camping shop. Our shop is open all year round and between mid-March and mid-September we have a display of around 50 tents and awnings. This way you’ll get a better feel for the size of the tent and be able to see one packed up. You can find the location of our shop and showground by clicking the contact us link below