Coleman – Instant 4 Tent

Instant. It’s a funny old word which conjours up images of magical puffs of smoke and gasps from the crowd. Coleman’s use of the word to describe the pitching of this behemoth of a 4-man tent is ambitious, but does give an indication towards what you get in the massive bag.

Weighing in at a back-breaking 20Kg, the Coleman Instant 4 is a totally different beast from the breed of light weight, thin-poled tents which are more common these days. The Instant 4 has steel poles which are constructed in a one-piece knuckled frame that folds in on itself. They’re very strong and sturdy and give the impression of solidity and strength despite the fact that they have movable joints in them. The tent fabric is permanently attached to this collapsing frame structure and once you have the hang of pitching the tent Coleman reckon it can be done in a single minute.

4 of us managed to get it erected in about 8 minutes first time. But then we were 4 blokes, and we didn’t read the instructions. It’s definitely a tent where knowing the ‘knack’ to pitching and collapsing it helps enormously. However, having said that, for such a tall tent (it’s 215cm in the middle, so 6 footers can stand in it OK) it was remarkably easy to pitch for a shorty like me, with the poles extending neatly from the base.

Once up and pegged out the Coleman Instant 4 is an impressive structure. It’s a big tent, with a floor area of 4m x 3m that would be big enough to sleep 4 people in comfort and shelter them from torrential rain without too much of a claustrophobic feeling. The internal area has a sewn-in bucket-style groundsheet which kept the moisture from a very damp field out with no problem. A separate internal hanging section creates 2 double bedrooms, each of which is made from a material that, whilst isn’t like a black-out curtain, certainly does darken that morning sun to tolerable levels, which was a really nice touch. 

The two rooms are interconnectable via a zipper so there’s a degree of privacy from your cohabitees.

The Instant 4 has a few neat touches like a cable access point for those of you who like a hook-up electrical connection, and vent system to get some breeze through. It didn’t go very far in the way of pockets for storage, so if you’re used to more compartmentalised camping that could be a factor. It also has nice big windows in the communal section which let in loads of light and seal up perfectly when you don’t want the nosey neighbours spying on you.

It rained a little bit when we used the Instant 4, but not really enough to say that we ‘tested’ the waterproofing. Coleman say that it has a hydrostatic head of 3000mm. The tent stood up to some gusty wind without any bother whatsoever, and hi-viz guylines which you can wrap around the poles for extra security are fairly secure. The pegs supplied are bog-standard metal 7-shaped pegs, so I’d invest in something more sturdy for proper British use.

The large door of the Coleman Instant 4 opens up and becomes a sun shade, with 2 extra poles and guys supplied to keep it up. Equally, it rolls up out of the way to open up the tent to the elements, or zips down on both sides and the base to seal things out. One note, we found that if we pitched the Instant 4 with the groundsheet fairly taut then the door was really difficult to do up. Slackening off the front face helped with this.

The Instant 4 is a big bugger. Packed down it is 1.25m long (4ft) and too large to go in the boot of a smaller car. It’s also extremely heavy for a 4-man tent, and because everything is attached, you can’t separate it in to more manageable packages. So, whilst I’d say that the Instant nature of the pitching would make this absolutely ideal for family camping where you don’t want to spend too long playing with the tent, there is a consideration to make that a less-strong single parent could well struggle with the bag.

Price wise, the Instant 4 comes in at the expensive end of 4-man tents, at £400. However, when compared with other 6ft tall tents that have a good usable porch and very sturdy construction it isn’t too hideous a price. Sure, you can get a 4-man tent for £80, but it’s considerably smaller and less well-built. This Instant 4 would be some what of an investment piece of gear for those of you who camped for longer periods or more frequently. I have first-hand experience of how well the Coleman instant steel poles cope with a year’s worth of every-week use by untrained pitchers – they cope very well indeed.

SUMMARY: Coleman’s Instant 4 is a massive, heavy and quite expensive beast which would rule out a large section of people looking for a 4-man tent. But, it is quick and easy to pitch, very roomy and tall and made to last. The steel poles and weatherproof construction are great against British weather and hamfisted pitching, and once up the tent feels solid and comfortable. 


Update: June 2014.

All previous use of this tent has been either in good weather or light showers. We have recently had the tent up for an extended period of time in our garden and it has been subjected to some seriously biblical weather in that time and it’s revealed a rather irritating design flaw (in our opinion) that we feel the need to highlight.

As per our main review above, the tent is accessed through one big, central door, this door can also be opened up on poles to make a canopy. This door has three zips to seal it up, one either side and one across the bottom. This one at the bottom has proven 9/10 times to be an utter pain in the butt to zip up, and usually involves much crawling on the floor and some rude words.


For comparison/reference in other tents of this sort of design that we have tested, one of the side zips usually comes down and does the under door bit as well, rather than it being a separate zip. It such a pain to do up – particularly in the dark – that more often than not it just gets left unzipped, which is fine on a balmy summers day/evening, but as mentioned earlier the weather has at times been very damp recently, and if this zip is not done up, the force of the water means the bottom of the door gets pushed in and the bottom of your tent starts to resemble a paddling pool.

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Once filled with water, due to the bucket style of the ground sheet getting it back out again is also a phaff and punctuated with some further rude words.

Coleman themselves no longer sell this tent and we are looking forward to testing their new Instant 5 man in the next few weeks, however this version is still available via stockists hence we felt it appropriate to make this update so long after posting the original review.


  • I recently bought this tent from AMazon for £242. Glad I tried to put it up in the garden first time, not only does it fold out differently from the ones demonstrated on You Tube, one of the legs was attached to tent incorrectly, a neighbour had to help fix it. I have since erected and taken it down by myself (39 yo female) without any problems! The only thing I worry about is it getting hot in summer: the windows have no mesh so the only opening is the door.

  • TJ 106

    This is a review of the COLEMAN INSTANT 4 tent (not to be confused with the INSTANT 4 TOURER which is the smaller version). The design of the tent is a brilliant concept; it features a 6 legged telescopic frame which remains attached to the outside of the tent by means of plastic hooks on short strap-loops sewn into the seams of the tent. Each leg has a plastic elbow joint joining the roof pole to the leg pole. The six roof poles pivot at a central hub and the lower ends of the telescopic leg poles attach to plastic fittings sewn at six points around the sewn-in groundsheet. Four of the six roof poles are also telescopic.

    Coleman advertises that this tent can be erected in under a minute, and with a little practice this is quite easily achieved. The tent arrives folded rather like an umbrella and erecting it is quite straightforward; after unfolding the legs and pulling the groundsheet corners outwards the four roof poles are extended then the six leg poles are extended then the sewn-in groundsheet is pegged down. Each telescopic pole has a button which clicks out when the pole is extended just like putting up an umbrella; the button is pressed in to collapse the pole. The frame relies upon the tension of the tent fabric to maintain its shape.

    We chose this tent because we believe Coleman have a good reputation for quality products and this particular tent can be erected quickly without the need to feed bendy poles through sleeves etc.

    We have now had two of these tents fail due to badly stitched seams. We bought the first tent from in May 2012 and used it for one weekend without a problem. The second time we used the tent it was quite windy and when we returned to the campsite on the second day we found the frame was broken and the tent had collapsed. One of the plastic elbow joints had snapped and one of the plastic hooks complete with its strap had been ripped out of the tent seam. Some friends helped out by binding up the broken elbow with string and tape and put up a central supporting pole inside to keep the roof up. An examination of the tent revealed that the stitching was poor where the hook and strap had been ripped out. Ours was the only tent on the site which had collapsed. We cannot fault Amazon’s customer service; they offered a no quibble refund or replacement straight away.

    We opted for a replacement tent which arrived promptly, and fortunately we decided to erect the tent in the garden before embarking on another weekend away. Whilst erecting the tent, we got to the stage of extending the six leg poles before the problems started. We had extended four of the legs but as we began extending the last two we heard a popping sound. A quick investigation revealed the seam had started ripping between the groundsheet and tent sidewall midway along one long side right where the leg pole attaches to the groundsheet. There was a gaping tear in the seam about four inches long and a distinct risk of it getting worse if we hadn’t have collapsed the frame immediately. A thorough examination of the tent again revealed that the stitching was poor particularly on a few of the hook straps which hadn’t been caught fully in the seam. These are points where the tension is high and therefore should be very strong. Badly sewn seams at these points are guaranteed to fail. Again Amazon agreed a full refund without argument.

    We have decided not to get another of these tents after these problems and think that Coleman have a quality problem where they are manufactured in the far east, which is a shame because the idea is great, they are quick and easy to erect but the stitching needs to be stronger. We cannot fault Amazon for their customer service.

  • A well written piece Andy
    I am looking for a tent and your opening line caught my eye.
    Enjoyed the helpful photos