Last Updated on 18/05/2023
This article explains the most common inflatable tent problems and shares the reasons why you might want to avoid air tents until the teething problems are taken care of. We also share the easiest ways to avoid problems with air tents for camping.
According to this patent documentation that I found, the inflatable tent design was first recognized in 2011. Since then, it has become a massive trend for large family tents to be made using air poles that you just need to inflate. The obvious risk is that they get a puncture and deflate while you’re asleep. Let’s fully define what we mean by an inflatable tent before jumping into the main problems with air tents.
What is an Inflatable Tent?
An inflatable tent uses air-filled beams for structural support, as opposed to traditional aluminum or fiberglass poles. These beams are inflated using a pump, forming a sturdy frame just like a regular tent. The beams are integrated into the tent, so you don’t have to mess around with any instructions.
The main advantage of an inflatable tent is its ease of setup. With no rigid poles to assemble, the tent can be erected quickly and effortlessly, often by a single person. This, combined with their robustness to weather conditions and never having a snapped tent pole again, makes them a good choice for car camping and campsites. They aren’t without their problems, though.
The type of air tents we are talking about are for camping and not the see-through inflatable globe tents you might have seen at fancy restaurants.
12 Inflatable Tent Problems
Here are the 12 most common problems you are likely to encounter with inflatable tent poles:
The most common problem with inflatable tents is the risk of punctures. It’s what puts many people off in the first place. Sharp objects, rough terrain, or poor handling can easily cause a puncture, leading to a deflated tent. The worry is that this happens at night or during a storm when repairing it would be next to impossible.
Believe it or not, punctures in inflatable tents aren’t very common. Unless you camp too close to a prickly bush or tree on a windy night, it is very unlikely an accident is going to cause a puncture to an inflatable tent. What is more likely is that a leak will form from one of the seams somewhere.
How to avoid: Don’t camp next to any kind of foliage that could puncture or rub against the air poles of the inflatable tent. Also,
Leaks are my biggest worry with any kind of inflatable product, but especially with a tent. I know that a puncture is relatively easy to repair once you find where it is, but seams are much harder to repair if they start to leak. Leaks at the seams are easier to fix the earlier you catch them.
The way to find a leak or a hole in any inflatable tent is to use a soapy water solution to cover the entire area. The leak or hole will cause bubbles to form at the point where the failure happens. I like to use a spray bottle, but if you are camping, then a bit of soapy water rubbed on with your hands will do.
How to avoid: Inspect the seams after every camping trip so that you can send your air tent back to the manufacturer before you need it again.
Air Pressure Changes
Changes in temperature can affect the air pressure inside the air beams. Cold weather can cause the air inside the beams to contract, making them softer, which means they can drop a little at night when it’s cold. Hot weather can cause the air in the beams to expand, potentially leading to overinflation and damage in direct sunlight.
How to avoid: In cold weather, add some air right before bed if needed, and in hot weather, try and camp in some shade and release some pressure if it builds too high.
While most inflatable tents come with repair kits, fixing a puncture in the field can be challenging, especially if the hole is not immediately apparent. You can spend a very long time looking for a tiny hole if you don’t have a few simple tools.
It is hard enough to repair a broken air tent in good conditions, but imagine it is raining and windy at 2 am and you need to make a repair… Not possible.
How to avoid: Try very hard not to get a puncture and do regular maintenance when the weather is good so you don’t have to do it in the rain.
The valve is where you pump air into the tent. If it fails or breaks, it could be difficult to inflate the tent. Valves can also leak over time and are difficult to repair. Valve failure is a significant inflatable tent problem that is usually covered under warranty but can be the end of a tent if its bad.
How to avoid: Store your inflatable tent correctly and keep the valve safe from being knocked.
Inflatable tents tend to be heavier than their traditional counterparts due to the additional material required for the inflatable beams. This might not be an issue for car campers but could be problematic for backpackers. I watched my neighbor try and fit one into his car the other day and he could barely lift it onto the bed of his truck.
How to avoid: Shop around for the more lightweight options out there or split the tent parts up into separate bags where possible.
Inflatable tents are generally more expensive than traditional pole tents because they are still relatively new. The additional cost might not be worth it for some people, especially occasional campers. That being said, the prices are dropping slowly to where they can almost compete with traditional pole tents.
How to avoid: Buy secondhand or wait for deals online.
Lack of Rigidity
Although inflatable tents are generally very sturdy, they might not hold up as well in high winds as traditional pole tents. The rigidity of a pole won’t let the roof cave in (it could snap, though), whereas an air tent being battered by the wind could invert on itself and become very annoying if you’re trying to sleep.
How to avoid: Avoid camping sideways onto the wind and make sure to fully inflate and seal all the valves tightly.
Inflatable tent beams often don’t keep their true shape and can look a little wonky unless you pitch them perfectly. Not only are these slight deformities inefficient, but they can lead to further problems like water pooling on the roof or the wind stretching the fabric to breaking point. This generally happens if the pegs need stretching out because they were placed too close together.
How to avoid: Try and stretch the pegs out to their correct position so that all the air beams for the correct shape.
Inflatable tents can sometimes make a bit of noise as they move with strong wind, which might be a problem for light sleepers. They are also noisy to inflate due to needing a pump which can disturb other campers if setting up late or have to add more air at night.
How to avoid: Pitch your tent during daylight hours whenever possible and try and be respectful to neighbors.
Size When Packed
Inflatable tents tend to be bulkier when packed due to the inflatable beams, which may take up more space in your vehicle. Even a standard 4-6 person inflatable tent won’t fit in the trunks of many small cars and roof boxes. Then you have the issue of carrying such a large tent which is often more of a two-person job.
How to avoid: Check if the tent’s pack size will fit in your car before buying.
Dependence on the Pump
Inflatable tents can be blown up with your mouth, but it is incredibly hard work and very difficult to inflate them to the pressure you need. This makes them quite dependent on the pump you need to blow up the beams. If, for any reason, you forget, break, or lose the pump, then it makes life much harder when camping.
How to avoid: Always check you have your pump before going camping with an inflatable tent and look after it after you have used it.
4 Best Ways To Avoid Inflatable Tent Problems
Using what we know about air tents, we have created four ways to avoid the most common inflatable tent problems:
Do Your Research
Do your research before buying a new air tent. Just because they sound cool and look kind of funky doesn’t make them a good place to brave a storm. They are also heavy and bulky, so make sure you can carry and fit them in your car when fully packed.
Be Careful Where You Pitch
I know it sounds obvious, but check the ground for any sharp objects like broken glass, thorns, and sharp rocks before you pitch your tent. Also, don’t pitch too close to any plants or bushes that could potentially blow into your tent if the wind picks up. Try and find a shelter spot where possible so you can camp in the shade or block any wind from hitting the side of your inflatable tent.
Always Carry a Patch Repair Kit
With inflatable tents, more than any other type of tent, you need a solid tent repair patch kit to seal any leaks and patch any holes. If one of the air-filled beams starts to deflate, the hole structure could collapse in itself, so a quick repair using a patch is the best way to fix the problem.
Inflate as Much as Possible Unless Its a Very Hot Day
When you pitch your tent, it is best to inflate it as much as possible so that you can readjust where all the pegs need to go to get a tat structure. Then you might also want to add a little bit more air if you see any beams start to droop.
Thanks for reading this guide to inflatable tent problems and the ways to avoid them. let us know any of your problems with air tents if you have one.