airbeam or pole tents - Bubbablueandme

Camping dilemma – pole or airbeam tent?

Every time we go camping we see amazing tents or features that would be ideal for us. It’s like tent window shopping. The current dilemma is whether to stick with our poled tent which we’ve had for the last 3 years or to upgrade to an airbeam tent.

I’d been looking all through winter, through the sales, and through all the chat about new tents on the Facebook tent group I’m in. All of our camping group has poled tents, and several of us have changed tents and/or added porches over the last 4 years we’ve been camping. But I’ve been dilly dallying and thinking as we don’t need to change.

Until one of our camping friends went to this year’s camping and caravanning show and bought a very nice inflatable tent. They need a bigger tent than us and they go camping more frequently than us. But now it’s really making me feel the need to make a decision. Especially as 2 years ago at 3 Cliffs Bay, one of my tent poles snapped in the strong winds. Thankfully it was on the last night and it didn’t rip through the flysheet.

We currently have a Vango Padstow 5 man tent. It’s a good size for the 2 of use although we’ve never had bad enough weather that we’ve been stuck inside. It would be too small for that. I like the porch area, and we have a side porch extension for extra storage space and for leaving shoes. We know our set up and it works.

But…airbeam tents.

airbeam or pole tents - Bubbablueandme

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I’ve seen some really nice XL size ones. They’re still 5 man but are wider and have bigger living areas. I love Vango for the easy oversized bags for repacking. And air beams are super speedy to set up – maybe 10 minutes faster than the current 20-25 minutes it takes me now (assuming I get the poles in the right order).

I found what would have been a perfect air tent for us – wider, longer, same layout (I could have probably still used the extension side porch on it). But not so long that it wouldn’t fit on a standard campsite pitch. And only up to 10 kg heavier than our current tent, making it still liftable in and out of the car. I found a great package deal, but I dithered and the last one was sold. Not to me! The Vango Edorus was sold out everywhere except at Vango themselves where of course it was on sale for the full price. So I’m rethinking and looking at alternative tents.

I’ve been to Go Outdoors which is our nearest outdoor shop, to try and lift various air tents. Up to 32kg was feasible but any heavier and I think I’d struggle until N is old enough to help me carry it. I’ve found a couple of alternative possibilities. Although one I’m not sure of the front shape as it’s sloping which isn’t great for keeping out the rain, and the flysheet waterproofing and denier isn’t any better than the tent we already have. If I’m upgrading I want to get improvements here too. The Kampa airbeam tents are great, but tend to be 6 man which is probably a bit too big for us.

So I’m now on the watch out for nearly new or returns of the tent I liked. And keeping researching others. Although the deals will reduce now as it’s getting nearer to peak camping season.

If you’re wondering what all the fuss it about airbeam tents or are debating whether to change yourself, here’s some points to think about.

Why airbeam tents?

  • Better stability in high winds
  • No poles to break
  • Fast to pitch
  • Investment in inflatable tents means they’re improving all the time as they’re becoming more popular
  • Easier for 1 adult to put up on their own.

Downside to air tents

  • Expensive compared to pole tents
  • Limited choice of brands / ranges
  • Much larger pack size and weight compared to pole tents of an equivalent size and style. You can add 10-15 kg with an airbeam tent
  • Harder to pack away (given we’ve always pitched in hot weather and frequently struck camp in rain…maybe poles are better)
  • You need more room to store them once home
  • In hot weather there’s a danger of bursting so you might need to adjust the air pressure

If I find an airbeam tent that’s at a good price which fits our requirements I will definitely upgrade. We can stick with out current tent at the moment. Hopefully over the next year as more air tents come on the market, prices may drop slightly. Then of course, I’ll need to make the decision whether to sell on my current tent or keep hold of it for smaller camping trips, or if friends come who don’t have a tent of their own.

What sort of tent do you have? Have you made the change to an air tent yet?

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  1. We have an Airbeam tent, and whilst we love the convenience of getting it up and down – we have had a few (let’s just say ‘interesting’ nights in ours – when it has been windy and we have felt like out tent is about to take off so P and I have been up half the night trying to stop the roof from folding inwards. Once (when high winds were forecast) we even packed up and went to a hotel for the night! I think this is because if you put any tent on an exposed campsite it can struggle on a windy night …. right?

    1. If you are going to go Airbeam – Berghaus had a great offer running at Countryfile Live at Blenheim … so worth a look to see if they do something similar this year.

      1. I missed the good berghaus offer over Christmas but the spec wasn’t as good on the waterproofing and it wasn’t a tunnel tent, it was vis a vis. I like having the porch on the front

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