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10 Best Camping Tents of 2019

A camping tent can make or break your vacation. You know what we mean. Most of us can conjure a memory of an experience with a lousy tent. A frustrated dad, poles snapping in the wind, cramped quarters, a long wet night. Sound familiar? Fear not! We’re here to help you find a tent that’s easy to set up, spacious and comfortable to sleep in, and will keep you dry and warm in stormy weather.

When you’re in the market for a new tent, you’ll quickly find there are A LOT of options out there. That’s why we put together this list of the best camping tents on the market. We’ve spent hundreds of hours researching and testing to narrow this list down to the very best of the best at a variety of price points.

For more of our favorite gear recommendations, have a look through these popular CleverHiker Gear Guide links:

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Why Trust Us?

We fully understand how tough it is to find trustworthy gear advice, and that’s one of the main reasons we built CleverHiker. We live for outdoor adventure, and we take these guides very seriously. Here are some of the reasons you can trust us:

  • Our choices are completely independent and based on personal experience.

  • We’ve logged over 10,000 trail miles and test outdoor gear for a living.

  • We own and field test every product we recommend, which is sadly not the norm.

  • We travel to industry trade shows to learn about upcoming product innovations.

  • We constantly update our guides when new products launch.

  • We treat our recommendations as if they were for our family and friends.

  • We’re lifelong learners and we’re always open to constructive criticism. If you think we’ve missed a product or got something wrong, we’d love to hear your feedback.

Dave (6’2” tall) Inside one of our top picks: the  REI Kingdom 6

Dave (6’2” tall) Inside one of our top picks: the REI Kingdom 6

What’s Most Important to You?

Price - You’re looking for the best inexpensive option that you can use for an event or vacation and probably won’t go camping more than a few times per year. You want a tent that’s simple, practical, and a good value. For the highest quality affordable option, check out our Top Budget Picks: the REI Passage Series & REI Half Dome Series.

Versatility - You want a versatile tent that you can use for camping, backpacking, or bike touring. You’re willing to pay a little more for better technology and more interior space, but you still want to keep your tent light and compact. For our favorite camping tents that are still backpacker-friendly, check out our Top Crossover Picks: the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL Series, MSR Hubba NX Series, REI Half Dome Series, and Marmot Tungsten UL Series

Space - You want a spacious camping tent to stand up, stretch out, and be comfortable in, whether you’re camping alone or sharing space with family and friends. Packed size and weight aren’t a huge concern and you don’t plan on camping in super stormy/windy weather. For our favorite tall and roomy options, check out our Top Spacious Picks: the REI Grand Hut and Kingdom Tents.

Ease of Setup - You will likely be setting up alone or you don’t want to have to put a lot of time and energy into pitching or breaking down your tent. You may have been frustrated with cumbersome tents in the past and prefer a tent that’s quick and easy to assemble above all else. For our favorite tent that’s really simple to set up, check out our Top Easy Setup Pick: the Caddis Rapid 6.

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Pros and Cons of Large vs Small Camping Tents


Large Tents

PROS:

  • Room to stand up

  • Spacious and comfortable

  • Compatible with cots/air beds

CONS:

  • More susceptible to wind damage

  • Heavier/Bulkier

  • Require larger campsite

Small Tents

PROS:

  • Less prone to wind damage

  • Lightweight and compact

  • Easier to find a campsite for

CONS:

  • Can feel cramped

  • Less room for gear, kids, dogs, etc.

  • Low-profile sleeping pads only


The spacious and affordable  REI Grand Hut 4

The spacious and affordable REI Grand Hut 4


If you plan on backpacking with your tent, it's critical to keep weight and bulk to a minimum. If backcountry travel is more of a priority than interior space and camping comfort, check out our list of the 10 Best Backpacking Tents.


What Tent Size is Right For You?

The sad reality with tent sizes is that most of the time manufacturers exaggerate how many people will be able to sleep comfortably in them. For example, most 2-person tents are a pretty tight fit for two average sized people. The same is true for 3-person, 4-person, 6-person, and 8-person tents as well. For that reason, it’s common to size up when you’re considering which tent model to purchase. If you plan on sleeping a family of four in your tent, it’s probably a good choice to choose a 6-person tent size.

Do I Need a Footprint?

Almost every tent on this list comes with the option to buy a “footprint” that will help extend the life of your tent. A footprint is simply a sheet of material that is about the same size as your tent floor. It goes under your tent and will protect your floor from abrasion, tree sap, and wear/tear. Footprints are not strictly necessary, and many choose not to use them, but they will help protect your tent floor if you’re looking for maximum durability. In the end, it’s totally a personal choice. 

Not Enough Stakes & Guylines Included

As you read through this list, you’ll see that it’s sadly common for manufacturers not to provide enough tent stakes and guylines. There are almost always enough stakes/guylines for a basic pitch, but when the weather gets nasty, you’ll want more guylines and stakes to fully secure your tent and protect it from wind damage. We recommend picking up extra tent stakes and guylines to make sure you’ll be fully prepared and protected when bad weather strikes.

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10 Best Camping Tents of 2019


MSRP: $299

SIZES AVAILABLE: 4P & 6P

SIZE WE TESTED: 4P

THE SIZE WE TESTED FEELS: luxurious for 2P, comfortable for 3P, and tight for 4P

PACKED WEIGHT: 14 lbs. 2 oz.

DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 100 x 86 x 75 in.

PROS: Affordable, quick & easy set up (color-coded), high-quality poles/materials, fully seam-taped, room to stand, near vertical walls, 2 large doors, zippers function smoothly, 2 large vestibules, good ventilation, interior zippers to access rainfly vents, door stash pockets, and ample storage pockets

CONS: Won’t fair well in heavy wind due to height (though staking out all guy-out points will help), guylines not pre-attached, and not enough stakes/guylines included for all guy-out points

BOTTOM LINE: The Grand Hut 4 has a superb balance of quality to affordability as well as interior space to ease-of-use. Of all the tents we tested that were tall enough to stand in, we found the Grand Hut to be one of the most equipped to handle stormy weather, with a full-length rainfly that has large vestibules, roof vents that can be accessed from the interior, and extra-thick poles. We also found the Grand Hut to be one of the quickest, easiest, and most intuitive tents to pitch and pack up due to its hubbed pole system. The Grand Hut 4 is also exceptionally long width-wise and would be an excellent shelter for tall people who want to be able to lay down comfortably and still have a little extra space at the head and foot of the tent. On the whole, the Grand Hut stands out to us as having the excellent traits of weather protection, affordability, durability, spaciousness, and practicality.

TOP PICK: The REI Grand Hut Series is our top all-around value choice for camping tents. Check out our full review of the Grand Hut here.


MSRP: $469

SIZES AVAILABLE: 4P, 6P & 8P

SIZE WE TESTED: 6P

THE SIZE WE TESTED FEELS: luxurious for 4P, comfortable for 5P, and tight for 6P

PACKED WEIGHT: 21 lbs. 6 oz.

DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 120 x 100 x 75 in.

PROS: Room to stand, near vertical walls, high-quality poles/materials, fully seam-taped, room divider, ample storage pockets, 2 large doors, door stash pockets, zippers function smoothly, large vestibule/front awning, good ventilation, interior zippers to access rainfly vents, rainfly rolls back halfway for star view, color-coded setup, and excellent backpack carrying case

CONS: Expensive, won’t fair well in heavy wind due to height (though staking out all guy-out points will help), slightly cumbersome to set up (though pretty easy with 2 people), guylines not pre-attached, and not enough stakes/guylines included for all guy-out points

BOTTOM LINE: REI’s Kingdom 6 feels spacious, open, and cavernous with plenty of room for a family of 4 to spread out. The Kingdom is well-designed for groups, having giant doors on each end, large storage pockets all around, and an adjustable room divider to create privacy or separate spaces. The Kingdom may bow a little in really windy conditions, but it’s fully rain-ready with sealed seams, a protected front entryway, and a huge vestibule for storing wet/muddy gear. Though the Kingdom is quite large, it still fits into a compact case with convenient shoulder straps that make it easy to carry. The Kingdom came in a very close second to the Grand Hut on our list, and that’s mostly due to its price. But the Kingdom is also a truly excellent and roomy camping tent, so if you pick one up, you won’t be disappointed. Check out the Mud Room and Porch accessories if you’re looking to maximize storage and hangout space.

TOP PICK: REI Kingdom Tents are our top all-around luxury choice for camping tents. Check out our full review of the Kingdom 6 here.


MSRP: $329

SIZES AVAILABLE: 1 Plus, 2 Plus, 3 Plus & 4 Plus

SIZE WE TESTED: 4 Plus

THE SIZE WE TESTED FEELS: luxurious for 2P, comfortable for 3P, and tight for 4P

PACKED WEIGHT: 7 lbs. 10 oz.

DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 92 x 92 x 48 in.

PROS: Affordable, high-quality poles/materials, fully seam-taped, quick & easy setup (color-coded), fairly lightweight, compact, 2 doors, zippers function smoothly, door stash pockets, 2 vestibules/awnings, good ventilation, ample storage pockets, and rainfly rolls back halfway

CONS: Can’t stand up inside, guylines not pre-attached, and not enough stakes/guylines included for all guy-out points

BOTTOM LINE: If you prefer the convenience of a smaller camping tent and you want the option to do some light backpacking or bike touring, consider REI’s Half Dome Plus Series. Though the Half Domes are not as spacious as some camping tents and you won’t be able to stand up in them, they do tend to be roomier than the average backpacking tent. Also, Half Domes are more stable in high winds due to their lower profile, they take up less space in your car, they’re built to last, and they’re very easy to pitch and take down. The Half Dome is a solid tent that looks sleek, feels comfortable, and performs well in any weather. 

If you do plan on backpacking with your Half Dome, we recommend sticking to REI’s size recommendations (ex: get the 2-plus size for two people). These tents have a bit more room than the average backpacking tent, so you’ll still be able to use wide sleeping pads, and keeping weight/bulk down is critical for backpacking. If you’ll mostly be camping in your Half Dome, feel free to size up for extra space.

TOP PICK: The REI Half Dome Plus Series is our top crossover choice for campers that also want a backpacking-friendly option. For lighter backpacking tent options, check out our best backpacking tent list.  


MSRP: $319.95

SIZES AVAILABLE: 4P & 6P

SIZE WE TESTED: 4P

THE SIZE WE TESTED FEELS: luxurious for 2P, comfortable for 3P, and tight for 4P

MIN. TRAIL WEIGHT: 12 lbs. 10 oz.

DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 96 x 90 x 68 in.

PROS: Room to stand (under 5’6”), near vertical walls, quality poles/materials, fully seam-taped, 2 large doors, zippers function smoothly, door stash pockets, 2 large vestibules, awning option, quick & easy setup (color-coded), good ventilation, ample storage pockets, 2 gear lofts, and includes all guylines & stakes

CONS: Can’t stand up (5’7” or taller), won’t fair well in heavy wind due to height (though staking out all guy-out points will help), asymmetrical design (1 rainfly door different than the other), and guylines not pre-attached

BOTTOM LINE: Eureka’s Space Camp 4 is a bright welcoming shelter with nearly vertical walls and lots of options to open the rainfly in various combinations. With the rainfly zipped down there are 2 generous vestibules to protect your gear when weather hits. The Space Camp is made with high-quality materials including stout poles and a rainfly capable of keeping heavy rain at bay. 3 high kickstand vents provide good ventilation and a low vent in the door promotes airflow. The main downside of the Space Camp 4 is that it isn’t quite tall enough to stand up in if you’re over 5’6”, but the Space Camp 6P has a peak height of 6’4” if more headroom is what you’re looking for. It should also be noted that the ceiling of the Space Camp (without the rainfly) is a white breathable fabric instead of mesh, so if stargazing is your something you love to do, this may not be the best choice, though you can still see out through the enormous doors on either side. The Space Camp is among the highest-quality affordable camping tent options.


MSRP: $359

SIZES AVAILABLE: 4P & 6P

SIZE WE TESTED: 4P

THE SIZE WE TESTED FEELS: luxurious for 2P, comfortable for 3P, and tight for 4P

PACKED WEIGHT: 11 lbs. 11 oz.

DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 100 x 86 x 61 in.

PROS: High-quality poles/materials, near vertical walls, fully seam-taped, 2 large doors and vestibules, zippers function smoothly, door stash pockets, quick & easy setup (color-coded), and compact

CONS: Can’t stand up, asymmetrical design (1 rainfly door different than the other), limited ventilation, and not enough stakes/guylines included for all guy-out points

BOTTOM LINE: The Marmot Limestone 4P is a solid storm-ready shelter made with quality materials and extra-thick aluminum poles that are color-coded for fast and easy pitching. We don’t love how its asymmetrical design makes one door and vestibule slightly more generous than the other, but the opaque fabric on the back of the tent does provide good privacy for busy campgrounds. The Limestone has exceptionally large doors on either side and a mesh ceiling for great views and ventilation when the rainfly is off. However, airflow is a bit limited with the rainfly on since the 2 kickstand vents are pretty small relative to the size of the tent. The Limestone has nearly vertical walls, which makes it feel spacious, but it’s not tall enough to stand up in. The Limestone 6P is 15 inches taller for those who want more room to stand up, but the 6P is quite a bit more expensive. The Limestone 4P and the Eureka Space Camp 4 have very similar designs, but we slightly prefer the Space Camp since it’s 7 inches taller, has more vents, feels a bit brighter inside, and has a lower price point.


MSRP: $199

SIZES AVAILABLE: 1P, 2P, 3P

SIZE WE TESTED: 3P

THE SIZE WE TESTED FEELS: Comfortable for 2P, tight for 3P

PACKED WEIGHT: 6 lbs. 3 oz.

DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 88 x 72 x 48 in. 

PROS: Affordable, fairly lightweight, compact, quick & easy set up (color-coded), decent-quality poles/materials, fully seam-taped, 2 doors, zippers function well, door stash pockets, 2 vestibules, good ventilation, and ample storage pockets

CONS: Can’t stand up, limited headroom (no top crossbar for vertical walls), not enough stakes/guylines included for all guy-out points, and guylines not pre-attached

BOTTOM LINE: The REI Passage 3 is a great budget buy for individuals or couples who want a simple, practical camping tent that’s very easy to pitch. The Passage is a step up in quality from other affordable tents with good fabrics and solid poles that are built to last and offer good protection from the elements. The Passage is very affordable but has some of the same features more expensive tents have including 2 wide doors with stash pockets, 2 vestibules, kickstand top vents, and generous internal storage that make the space feel livable. And since it’s one of the most compact and lightweight tents on our list, the Passage could be also be used on easy/short backpacking trips. For those with limited space to store camping gear, a compact vehicle, or who are on a tight budget, the Passage is a versatile, smart choice.

TOP BUDGET PICK: The Passage tents are our top affordable camping tent choice.


MSRP: $254.99

SIZES AVAILABLE: 8P

THE SIZE WE TESTED FEELS: luxurious for 4P, comfortable for 5P, and tight for 6P

PACKED WEIGHT: 49 lbs. 5 oz.

DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 156 x 156 x 82 in.

PROS: Affordable, room to stand, near vertical walls, durable poles/materials, 2 doors (1 with a unique screen door hinge), good ventilation, room divider, includes door mats, color-coded setup, and includes all guylines & stakes

CONS: Heavy, bulky, no vestibules, storage/organization pockets only okay, small rainfly vents, no access to vents from inside tent, and fairly cumbersome setup & breakdown

BOTTOM LINE: The Coleman Octagon 98 (with full fly) is a unique and affordable room-style shelter for sleeping or gathering as a group. It feels like a yurt with a high ceiling, spacious interior, and window zippers that tie back like curtains for 360° views. A hinged front door that swings open and closed makes going in and out of the tent convenient as well. The Octagon is quite heavy and more cumbersome to set up than other tents, but it’s not too bad if you have two or more people to help. We wish its hard-bottom carrying case was a bit larger to make packing the tent back up easier. The structure of the Octagon is quite solid if all of its many guy-out points are staked down and secured. We expect the Octagon to hold up better than many large tents in windy conditions, but it’s still probably best for use on fair weather trips. The floor and rainfly fabrics of the Octagon feel durable and waterproof, though it’s lower quality than those on tents like the Grand Hut and Kingdom. All in all, the Octagon is an appealing tent, especially for families or small groups who want to create a luxurious hangout space for a few nights.

The Octagon 98 is also available in a less expensive basic version with a half-fly and fewer features.


MSRP: $279.95

SIZES AVAILABLE: 6P

THE SIZE WE TESTED FEELS: luxurious for 2P, comfortable for 4P, and tight for 5+P

PACKED WEIGHT: 25 lbs. 8 oz.

DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 120 x 120 x 80 in.

PROS: Affordable, quick & easy set up, room to stand, near vertical walls, high-quality fabrics, fully seam-taped, good ventilation, door stash pockets, gear loft, and includes all guylines and stakes

CONS: Bulky, heavy, only 1 door, no vestibule, won’t fair well in heavy wind due to height (though staking out all guy-out points will help), and zipper snags at times

BOTTOM LINE: The Caddis Rapid 6 has a high ceiling, near vertical sidewalls, and screened windows on all sides for a cabin-like feel. The Rapid differentiates itself by having pre-attached poles, making its set up very fast and easy. Simply unfold the tent, extend the legs, raise the structure, and stake out the corners and sides. Without being fully staked out, the Rapid looks a bit frumpy, but once it’s pulled taught it’s much tidier and more attractive. Overall, we found the Rapid to be sturdy and weatherproof with a rainfly that provides more coverage than many cabin tents. For those who’s top priority is ease of set up and lots of headroom, the Rapid is a good choice. It should be noted that the Rapid is a tad more difficult to pack up because it captures a lot of air in the folding process, and it also has a relatively long and skinny packed shape, which might be problematic for those with compact cars.

Caddis Sports doesn’t sell a specific groundsheet to go with the Rapid, but any 10 ft. x 10 ft. footprint will work to increase tent floor durability. If you’re looking to expand your bug-free living space there’s also a Rapid Screenhouse Shelter available at REI.


MSRP: $199

SIZES AVAILABLE: 2P, 4P

SIZE WE TESTED: 4P

THE SIZE WE TESTED FEELS: Comfortable for 2P, and tight for 3P or more

PACKED WEIGHT: 8 lbs. 13 oz.

DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 100 x 86 x 56 in.

PROS: Affordable, quick & easy set up, relatively lightweight, compact, decent-quality poles/materials, fully seam-taped, 2 doors, zippers function smoothly, door stash pockets, and ample storage pockets/gear loft

CONS: Can’t stand up inside, limited interior space, limited ventilation, not color-coded (but still easy to set up), zipper snags at times, not enough stakes/guylines included for all guy-out points, and guylines not pre-attached

BOTTOM LINE: The REI Camp Dome 4 is an affordable basic camping tent with relatively good quality materials and a simple set up. The Camp Dome’s poles are aluminum, which is an upgrade from fiberglass (prone to splintering and breakage), but they’re not quite as durable as high-end aluminum poles like those used in the Half Dome. The Camp Dome has nice large doors on either side, which is great for access and helps with ventilation, but since this tent doesn’t have vestibules or top vents, it’s livability is limited when the doors and windows are zipped up in stormy conditions. Realistically, the Camp Dome 4 sleeps 2 comfortably, but the length of the tent is generous and could accommodate someone up to 6’6”. Since it doesn’t have a cross bar to help maximize the interior space, the walls of the Camp Dome lean inward a bit too much to allow for 3 or more adults to sit up comfortably. If you’re looking for a simple, classic-style dome tent with 2 doors and don’t care about having vestibules, the Camp Dome is a good affordable option that should last far longer than a most cheap camping tents. 

If you’re only sheltering 2 people, we recommend comparing the Camp Dome 4 with the Passage 3 (typically about the same price), which is a bit tighter but has a few more features and better weather protection.


MSRP: $199.97

SIZES AVAILABLE: 8P

THE SIZE WE TESTED FEELS: luxurious for 4P, comfortable for 5P, and tight for 6P

PACKED WEIGHT: 45 lbs. 14 oz.

DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 132 x 144 x 84 in.

PROS: Affordable, room to stand, near vertical walls, screened porch, good ventilation, color-coded setup, corner gear shelf

CONS: Heavy, bulky, won’t fair well in medium+ wind due to height (though staking out all guy-out points will help), single-wall (condensation), lower-quality materials, not fully seam-taped, only 1 door, and fairly cumbersome set up & breakdown

BOTTOM LINE: The Ozark Trail (8-Person) Family Cabin Tent (with Screen Porch) is among the best of the large affordable tents you can buy from a big box store. For small groups (4-6) whose priority is maximum space for minimum price, the Cabin is an alluring option. The Cabin is very spacious, has a super high gabled ceiling, and a welcoming screen porch to hang out in when bugs are bad. Since the Cabin is heavy, bulky, and relatively complicated to set up, we only recommend it for those who have 2 or more people to help pitch it, break it down, and will be camping for more than just one night. The instructions are somewhat confusing, but the pole structure is color-coded which is helpful and critical. The poles, while strong, are a bit wobbly and will likely bend if the tent fabric catches heavy wind and turns into a sail. This tent won’t fare well in sustained rain either, since the rainfly only covers the top of the tent and it’s not fully seam-taped. But for those who mostly camp in favorable weather, the Cabin is a fun and spacious option. 

While not the highest quality, Ozark Trail’s product line focuses on large affordable family tents. Some of their other popular models are the 3 Room Instant Cabin Tent, 14’ x 14’ Instant Cabin Tent, and the Base Camp 14P Cabin Tent.


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Honorable Mentions

The following camping tents didn’t make our final list, but they’ve still got a lot of good things going for them. In this section we’ll try to briefly highlight each tents’s main strengths and explain why it didn’t make the cut. And you never know, maybe one of these tents will be the right fit for you.


MSRP: $99.99

SIZES AVAILABLE: 2P, 3P, 4P & 6P

SIZE WE TESTED: 4P

THE SIZE WE TESTED FEELS: Comfortable for 2P and tight for 3P or more

PACKED WEIGHT: 10 lbs. 3 oz.

DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 108 x 84 x 59 in.

PROS: Affordable, quick & easy set up, relatively lightweight & compact, includes all guylines and stakes, and includes door mat

CONS: Low-quality poles/materials, not fully seam-taped, can’t stand up inside, not color-coded for set up (but still easy), limited ventilation, only 1 door, zipper snags at times, no vestibule, and weak carrying case

BOTTOM LINE: The Coleman Sundome 4 is a very affordable tent that’s relatively light and compact, and comes in a variety of sizes. The Sundome is extremely popular because it’s so inexpensive (and almost always on sale), but it’s poles and materials are much lower quality than the other tents on this list. For that reason, we think the Sundome’s key strength is in its affordability. If you just need a simple and cheap tent for a few nights of fair weather camping here or there, the Sundome will do a fine job. If you plan on doing more than that, we recommend spending a bit more to upgrade to a tent with aluminum poles (like the Camp Dome or Passage), which are far stronger, and will perform better under pressure from wind and the stress of setting up and breaking down the tent repeatedly. You may also want a tent with higher quality materials, more than one door, at least one vestibule, and decent vents to control condensation. That said, if what you’re really looking for is a super affordable tent that will get the job done, the Sundome might be your guy. 


MSRP: $139.99

SIZES AVAILABLE: 10P

THE SIZE WE TESTED FEELS: Comfortable for 6P and tight for 8P or more (some being kids/pets)

PACKED WEIGHT: 30 lbs.

DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 240 x 132 x 78 in.

PROS: Affordable, room to stand inside (in the center), near vertical walls, room dividers, good ventilation, front awning option, and includes all guylines & stakes

CONS: Low-quality materials, not fully seam-taped, cumbersome set up, heavy, bulky, single wall, won’t fair well in heavy wind due to height (though staking out all guy-out points will help), no vestibule, only 1 door, and not color-coded for set up

The Ozark Trail (10-Person 3-Room) Vacation Tent is an affordable shelter for large families or groups who only plan to go on camping trips in fair weather. With a high ceiling in the center and 2 shorter wings off to the sides, the Vacation Tent seems ideal for parents who want to sleep in the middle and be able to monitor the entrance at night. The Vacation Tent can be separated into 3 rooms with dividers, but there is no convenient way to get past them (must un-clip and re-clip). There are some good qualities in the Vacation Tent, but it’s built with low-quality materials and the poles are likely to have durability issues over time. Additionally, you’ll need to seam seal this tent to keep the rain out, which is a pretty big task for a tent of this size and will lead to leaking in wet weather if you don’t. For those who intend to get a lot of use out of their family camping tent, we recommend upgrading to a higher-quality model like the Grand Hut, Kingdom, or Octagon 98, all of which are weather-ready and great for groups.


Critical Considerations

SLEEPING CAPACITY - One of the most important considerations when choosing your tent is capacity. Most of the tents of this list are available in a variety of sizes and can be scaled up or down to suit your needs. Capacity ratings tend to overstate the number of people (and sleeping pads) that will fit in a tent, so it’s best not to rely on that number unless you enjoy sleeping like sardines. A good rule of thumb is to upsize by at least 1 or 2 people for comfort and freedom of movement. If you’re an especially big/tall person, claustrophobic, or will be sharing a tent with children or pets, a little extra elbow room will make your trip much more enjoyable. Also, consider the option of using two or more small tents in place of one large one to accommodate groups. Kids that are old enough may find having their own tent to be fun and exciting. If you’re unsure what size tent would work best for your group size, check out our Tent Size Guide.

The  Grand Hut 4  is tall enough for 6’2” Dave to stand up fully

The Grand Hut 4 is tall enough for 6’2” Dave to stand up fully

PEAK HEIGHT - If you’re camping for multiple days and plan to spend a significant amount of time hanging out in your tent (other than just to sleep), you may want to choose one that’s tall enough for you to comfortably stand and move around in. Tents with high peaks and near vertical walls have the most airy, open qualities and usable space all the way to the edges. Do keep in mind though, that taller tents do have more problems in windy conditions. So be sure to use the appropriate stakes and guylines to help support larger tents and avoid issues. The peak heights of the tents on this list are listed as ‘H’ in the dimensions. 72 inches is high enough for a 6 ft. tall person to stand, but dome-shaped tent slope down from the center, so you may only have enough headroom to stand in the very middle.

VENTILATION- Good ventilation is important for controlling internal condensation and keeping tents reasonably cool when the weather is warm. Look for tents designed with adequate roof vents that allow fresh air to circulate, rain or shine. It’s not much fun being cooped up in a muggy tent full of mouth breathers without vents when the weather turns foul. Some tents have zippers that allow you to access top vents with kickstands from the interior of the tent, which comes in handy in tents with high roofs that are hard to reach on the outside. Be sure to stake out the sides of your rainfly for better air circulation. Rainflies that can be easily opened or closed without the need to remove them completely are most convenient for maximum ventilation and are ready to be deployed quickly if it starts to rain.

Two large doors on the  Eureka Space Camp 4  make entry and exit easy

Two large doors on the Eureka Space Camp 4 make entry and exit easy

NUMBER OF DOORS - Having more than one door in a tent is really nice, especially for couples and groups. Being able to enter, exit, and access gear and shoes in the vestibules freely without disturbing each other makes camping trips far more enjoyable. Adequate doorway and vestibule space are key when it’s rainy and everyone wants to clamour into the tent and get out of their wet or dirty clothes as quickly as possible. Avoid relationship friction from standing in the rain wet and cold, waiting for someone to move by getting a tent that has multiple doors.

VESTIBULES & AWNINGS - Vestibules are the “garages” of the tent, usually located just outside the tent’s doors. These covered areas are meant for storing gear or shoes outside of your tent, but protected from the elements. If you plant to camp in places where it rains often, make sure your tent has one or more good vestibules, so you won’t have to bring wet or muddy gear inside your sleeping area. Some vestibules can be converted into awnings for shade as well using pole accessories (not included). Some campers bring a separate shade or screen house that can be set up centrally, away from their sleep tent(s), while others prefer to use an awning directly attached to their tent like a porch.

the  REI Half Dome 4 Plus  has an intuitive and easy setup that can be pitched by one person

the REI Half Dome 4 Plus has an intuitive and easy setup that can be pitched by one person

The  Ozark Trail 8-Person Family Cabin’s  setup is more complicated and multiple people are needed

The Ozark Trail 8-Person Family Cabin’s setup is more complicated and multiple people are needed

EASE OF SETUP - Setting up any tent for the first time can be challenging, but with a little practice, your tent should be reasonably easy to set up. Many tents on the market today are designed to be easy, intuitive, and quick to pitch with color-coding, buckle clips, and simple directions. Be sure to choose a tent that’s a manageable size and weight for you to handle easily, especially if you’ll be pitching and packing frequently, like on a road trip, for example. If you prefer a large spacious tent, consider whether or not you’ll be setting it up alone or if you’ll have help. Large tents can be awesome, but don’t choose one that takes all the fun out of camping because it makes you so frustrated.

WEIGHT- The weight of your camping tent isn’t as critical as it would be if you were backpacking. You will however, want to make sure your tent is easy enough to load, unload, and maneuver without hurting your back. If you do intend to go backpacking or bike-packing, an ultralight tent or crossover-style tent will be best. A tent that’s under 10 lbs. could be used for short, non-hardcore backpacking trips if divided up between the group, but for longer more serious trips, a shelter that weighs less than 4 lbs. is more ideal. If you’re interested in ultralight tents, see our Best Backpacking Tents list.

camping tents vary in size from compact and light to heavy and bulky

camping tents vary in size from compact and light to heavy and bulky

PACKED SIZE - The packed size of your tent is much more important for activities like backpacking, but it’s smart to consider how much space you’ll have for your camping gear in your car and storage space at home. A compact tent will be far less cumbersome to maneuver.

SEASON RATINGS

  • 3-Season Tents - 3-Season tents are the most common type of tent and are typically meant to be used during the summer months when the weather is fair. These tents tend to have the most mesh panels (good for ventilation) and will protect you from rain, insects, and provide privacy, but may not be robust enough to withstand storms with heavy rain or high winds, depending on the tent model. 

  • 3-4 Season Tents - Some 3-season tents can be used from early spring through late fall. They’re designed with more weather protection in mind and seek to offer a balance of ventilation, strength, and warmth-retention. These tents are often dome-shaped to shed rain and light snow with slightly more robust poles to give the structure rigidity to withstand winds. The rain fly will usually be more full-coverage and extend almost to ground with one or more vestibules to keep gear and shoes dry. 3-4 Season tents meant for “shoulder seasons” may incorporate less mesh to help stop wind from blowing through and retain more body heat as well.

  • 4-Season Tents - 4-season tents are advised for those who plan to camp in snow and inclement weather, but are overkill for typical 3-season car campers since they’re generally much heavier and less compact. They tend to have lower-profiles and are more dome-shaped to shed snow and high winds. One downside to 4-season tents is that they have a lot less ventilation, which can make the living area too warm and stuffy in summer conditions. 4-season tents are best reserved for winter camping or extended trips in heavy rains when it’s crucial to have a warm, safe reprieve from the harsh elements.

The  Coleman Octagon 98  offers a unique camping experience at an affordable price

The Coleman Octagon 98 offers a unique camping experience at an affordable price

Getting the Most Out of Your Tent

FOOTPRINT - Using a footprint will help improve the durability of your tent’s floor by protecting it from the ground. Some tents include a footprint, but most don’t. If you’re spending a significant amount of money to buy a quality tent, it’s well worth investing in a footprint to extend the life of the fabrics. If a specific footprint isn’t available for your tent model, a generic one will do. If bulkiness isn’t an issue, a tarp will work too, though backpackers prefer Tyvek groundsheets, which are exceptionally lightweight, compact, and inexpensive. Just make sure the footprint you get is the right size. A footprint that’s too large can collect water and cause it to pool under your tent instead of creating a barrier from moisture.

USE STAKES & GUYLINES - A freestanding tent can stand without stakes, but it isn’t wise to skip the staking process. A fully-staked tent is more taught for maximum interior space, looks much sleeker, and is far sturdier. Spending a few minutes to completely stake down and guy-out your tent could mean the difference between your tent lasting for years, or ripping to shreds in the wind. Tent frames that are secured to the ground are much stronger because the pressure is transferred from the fabric to the poles, and down to the stakes. Guylines also help support the structure and make it far less susceptible to wind damage. If your guylines did not come pre-attached, the best way to attach them to the rainfly is with a bowline knot. If your tent has a lot of guylines and stake-out points, consider bringing a small mallet to make the staking process quicker and easier. If your tent didn’t come with enough stakes to use all the storm guy-outs (which is very common), or if you’d like to upgrade, we recommend aluminum tent stakes, which are lightweight, strong, and inexpensive.

WATERPROOFING - Most high-quality tents come fully seam-taped or sealed to stop water from penetrating where the fabric has been stitched. If the instructions tell you to seam seal all the seams to increase weather protection, that means the tent isn’t stormproof off the shelf. Seam sealing isn’t difficult, but it can be time-consuming and somewhat tedious on a large tent. If your tent was once seam-taped, but you’ve noticed it starting to leak, it might be time to do some maintenance to extend the life of the tent by sealing the seams, replacing a peeling polyurethane coating and refreshing the durable water repellent coating on the rainfly. 

Camping Tents-332.jpg

MORE INFORMATION

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