A couple weeks ago I blogged about a way we’re beating the mosquitoes this summer. This is another “secret weapon” in our quest to beat the bug bites — a pop-up screen house. This style of screen house needs no poles, stakes or ropes. It sets up in seconds, popping up with a quick twist and shake when it’s pulled out of its bag.
Our pop-up screen house is about 8′ x 8′ x 8′ — it easily fits four chairs and a camp table inside. We’ve of course squeezed five people and our dog in here for trips and events too! The entire house collapses flat into into a circular bag that’s 3′ across — it fits easily in a vehicle’s trunk.
While we’ve owned this screen house for at least five years, I was compelled to write about it after our family used it again this past weekend. Our town held a movie-in-the-park night featuring Disney’s Big Hero 6 on a large, inflatable movie screen. Think all of the fun of a drive-in movie without cars! People were laying on blankets and sitting in lawn chairs while lighting citronella candles and spraying bug repellent like mad. The mosquitoes, as usual, have been out in force.
We packed the car with lawnchairs, a cooler, a bag of snacks, and our pop-up screen house. When we arrived at the park, we chose a spot to the side of the screen where we wouldn’t block anyone else’s view. We popped up the screen house, unzipped its door and quickly tossed our gear inside. Everyone hopped in, we closed the door — and we enjoyed the entire movie without a single mosquito bite!
The screen house has a fabric floor too, so as long as you don’t bring any bugs in with you when you enter, you’re pretty much guaranteed a bug-free environment for the entire time you want to enjoy being outdoors.
As avid campers, we also own a larger, traditional-style poles-and-stakes screen house that we use for outdoor entertaining or longer camping trips, but we use this one much more often. The ease of setup for this pop-up screen house cannot be beat. You can stake it down, of course, but if we’re just using it for a few hours, the weight of chairs and people inside is plenty to keep it in place.
During our recent movie in the park, several people came over asking where we got this screen house. Believe it or not, our screen house came from Jewel-Osco! Before anyone heads out to look for one though, again, remember that we’ve had this one for over five years. My mom bought it for us at Jewel during a summer clearance sale and paid a whopping $15 for it. (I’d say it has been well worth $15!) She bought three of them that year — one for us, one for my sister’s family, and one for her and my dad to enjoy too.
As much as we love this screen house, there are a couple caveats I should mention. The screen house is not waterproof. Obviously, its mesh walls wouldn’t be waterproof anyway, but the roof is just a lightweight fabric. If it starts to drizzle, it’s only a matter of time before the roof starts to drip on you. Due to the house’s design, the roof is concave, so water tends to pool right in the middle. I considered spraying the roof with a waterproofing camp spray, but we usually use it when the weather is nice. If it’s pouring rain, it’s not an effective shelter anyway. (Yes, we know from experience.)
The other issue may be a deal-breaker for some: Getting the screen house back in the bag can be challenging. If you know how to do it, it’s actually not difficult — but I will tell you that I think I’m the only one in our family who can easily accomplish it! My dad has remarked that he hates putting theirs away. The last time my sister had hers up during an outdoor party, she asked me to fold it and put it back in its bag. I guess I’ve become the family’s resident screen house expert.
I can say that practicing folding something like this at home before you’re trying to quickly pack up all your gear helps immensely. I can best describe the folding technique as “Twist and Shake.” It’s similar to the way another one of my summer must-haves, our pop-up beach cabana, folds up. If you keep in mind that the spring frame that holds it up wants to naturally coil back into a circle, you just work with that and twist and shake it. (In fact, my music-loving self sings a 90s glam metal song by the same name, “Twist and Shake,” when I’m folding my screen house up. That’s my secret technique, I’m telling you. It goes right back in the bag every single time.)
You can view the unfolding and folding process in this short video I found:
Now, where to get one? I honestly don’t know where to get one exactly like the one we own, which has no brand name whatsoever on the bag, tag or instructions (it is simply called “Pop Up Screen House.”)
However, a web search shows that SportCraft makes the same style pop-up screen house. Costco currently sells them for $89.99. Amazon has them for $119. If you’re not a Costco member, surprisingly, Ebay may be a good place to pick one up. Many sellers have brand-new SportCraft pop-up screen houses right around the $100 mark.
You can also look around for an end-of-summer clearance deal and perhaps score something similar like my mother did! Even though the heat of summer has finally rolled around, summer gear clearances are also taking place in stores. I love hearing about good summer clearances on outdoor gear, so feel free to share any good finds you’ve spotted too.
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