Camping is a great way to get back in touch with nature and shed some of the stress caused by a busy professional life. Falling asleep to the sounds of the forest and waking up to the fresh morning air can be great for your soul. Where better to spend those special moments than in one of the best camping tents?
Choosing the best tent for your camping trip can make “roughing it” a breeze. This guide will serve as your compass on your tent-selecting adventure, helping you choose the right type of tent for your woodland getaway.
- BEST OVERALL: ALPS Mountaineering Taurus 4-Person Tent
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Coleman Sundome Tent
- BEST FOR BACKPACKING: Featherstone 2 Person Backpacking Tent
- BEST SOLO TENT: ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1-Person Tent
- BEST 2-PERSON TENT: ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 2-Person Tent
- BEST FOR FAMILIES: CORE 12 Person Instant Cabin Tent
- BEST FOR COLD WEATHER: GEERTOP Backpacking Tent
- BEST 4-SEASON TENT: Snugpak Scorpion 3 Tent
- BEST POP-UP TENT: Gazelle 22272 T4 Pop-Up Portable Camping Hub Tent
- BEST ROOFTOP TENT: Smittybilt Overlander Tent
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Camping Tent
Choosing the right shelter can make your trip much more enjoyable. An easy setup, having plenty of space, and staying dry can make all the difference between a trip to remember and one you hope you forget. Whether you’re backpacking through a state park or taking the family on a weekend fishing trip, it’s important to choose the right tent for your circumstances. Familiarize yourself with these important considerations so you can choose the best tent for your upcoming trip.
Choosing the best camping tent for your trip has a lot to do with the type of camping you plan on doing. Some tent styles work better in certain scenarios than others, so you need to consider how you’ll be camping and who is coming with you.
If you’re heading to a campground for a weeklong trip with your family, you’re going to need space. You’ll have a lot of camping gear, sleeping bags, and bodies to contend with. Large family-size tents are ideal in these situations.
If it’s a backpacking trip you’re after, you’ll prefer something lightweight, mobile, and easy to set up. These tents fold up into small packs that you can strap to or place inside your backpack, allowing you to move from campsite to campsite quickly and easily.
Some tents are happy mediums between spacious and easy to assemble. Four-person tents have plenty of space for small families to sleep in and are easy to set up, but they don’t provide a ton of room for storage. Overlanding or rooftop tents sit atop SUV roofs, allowing you to set up quickly while using your vehicle to store the rest of your gear.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make on a camping trip is being unprepared for bad weather. Much like you need clothing that will keep you warm and dry in nature, you need a tent that provides shelter from the elements.
Summer rainstorms can wash away a good time in a flash, which is why you want to be sure that your tent is waterproof and has sealed and taped seams. A good tent should also have a rain fly that you can stretch over it to deflect rain.
Cold-weather camping requires a double-layer tent—one layer traps your body heat in and keeps the cold out—to provide extra insulation. There are four-season tents that you can use in some pretty chilly conditions, but for truly frigid temps you might also need a heater.
The material used in the construction of your tent will have a lot to do with its quality and weatherproofing. Most manufacturers use nylon and polyester for tents because these materials shed water well, dry quickly, and provide a bit of windbreak. They’re also lightweight and pack down nicely.
You may find some tents made of materials other than nylon and polyester. Canvas is still a popular material for outfitter-style tents because it’s strong and you can treat it with a waterproofing material like silicone or wax. Canvas is a bit heavier than polyester, but it can be more rugged and easy to repair.
There’s also ripstop material, which is a nylon fabric that has reinforced threads every 5 to 8 millimeters. These threads literally stop most rips before they can spread and ruin your shelter.
Size and Weight
Camping tents come in a wide range of sizes and weights, and it’s worth giving some consideration to these measurements before you decide on a model.
Most tents indicate on their packaging or in their descriptions the number of people that they can sleep. This measuring mode might work for the average person, but you still need to think about the tent’s actual dimensions (and maybe even measure them out on your floor) before you decide if it will be comfortable for you. If you’re tall, you might prefer a family-size tent, even if it will only be used by you and one other person. Many family-size tents have a peak height near 6 feet, allowing you to move around without crawling on your knees. Also, a family of four will feel pretty cramped inside a four-person tent on a rainy day.
The downside is that a large tent will be heavier and the tent poles longer. Dragging around a 50-pound tent (which some family-size tents actually weigh) on a backpacking trip will get old pretty fast. Instead, aim for a tent that weighs less than 10 pounds so it doesn’t weigh you down on a long hike.
As mentioned earlier, tents come in sizes such as “one-person,” “two-person,” “four-person,” and so on, holding up to 12 people. This rating refers to the number of people that a tent can sleep. You should definitely pay attention to this number, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
A two-person tent might be warm and cozy, but it’ll be hard to move around with both people inside. Grabbing a book from your pack at the foot of your sleeping bag might feel like an expert-level yoga pose. Likewise, a four-person tent is great for a two- or three-day family trip, but it might start feeling tight over the course of a week.
Huge tents are great because they’re roomy and you can easily move around inside them, but they’re heavy and can be challenging to set up. Also, a large tent for only two or three people might not feel as warm as a smaller tent because body heat won’t warm the space as easily as it would with double or triple the occupants.
Choosing the tent with the proper capacity can be a bit of a balancing act, but getting it right will help you enjoy your wooded retreat that much more.
In order to make you feel truly at home in your pop-up abode, outdoor product manufacturers often include additional features and creature comforts in their tents. Built-in storage compartments and device pockets are convenient features to have, as are power-cord flaps that allow you to keep the lights on and your devices charged and safe.
Some tents have features that help with the actual comfort inside of the tent. You’ll find screened windows with zippered covers that you can open to promote ventilation on a warm night. Other models have dual doors, allowing you to open both sides of the tent to air it out on a breezy day.
Some tents come with additional accessories to help you stay comfortable and relaxed on your trip. Your tent might include a rain fly to help shed rain before it makes its way into your tent. You might also find flaps that double as vestibule areas where you can take your shoes off outside of the tent without exposing them to the elements.
If you can, it’s always a good idea to bring a small tarp with you while camping. You can lay a tarp down under your tent to add a small layer of insulation and comfort, but most important, waterproofing. You can also throw a tarp over the top of your rain fly in a storm to double your protection from the elements.
Ease of Setup
Most folks dread the idea of setting up a tent, but tents have gotten a lot easier to put together in recent years. There are plenty of tents on the market that “pop up” in seconds. They have flexible metal loops that spring to shape when you take them out of the bag.
Even the more traditional-style tents aren’t as difficult to set up as they used to be. Some have hubs that the poles slide into, allowing you to tie them together quickly and easily.
Whichever tent you choose, make sure it sets up relatively easily. No one wants to spend the first day of their camping trip fighting with a set of poles (or their partner) as they try to get their shelter in order.
Our Top Picks
Now that you know what to look for when choosing the best camping tent, you’re ready to see what the market has to offer. This list of recommendations includes a wide variety of sizes, weights, and functions.
If you’re looking for a high-quality tent for a quick family getaway, the ALPS Mountaineering Taurus 4-Person Tent is worth a look. This polyester tent is a two-pole design that’s sturdy and easy to set up. It weighs just over 10 pounds and measures 7.5 feet wide by 8.5 feet long, with a center height of 52 inches, providing plenty of room for four people to sleep. It comes with a rain fly, and the floor has a waterproof coating to keep you dry.
The Taurus has some excellent built-in features as well: It has two doors so you can climb in and out of the tent from either side. When combined with the zippered screen windows, opening both doors will provide plenty of ventilation for airing out your sleeping quarters. This camping tent also has an interior gear loft for storing items and for hanging a camping lantern.
Check out the Coleman Sundome Tent if you’re looking for an affordable four-person tent with plenty of space for a small family. This tent weighs just 9.75 pounds and measures 9 feet by 7 feet, with an interior height of 59 inches. It features a two-pole design for the tent and a one-pole design for the included rain fly, allowing you to set it up quickly.
The Sundome has a few features that some campers might really enjoy, including built-in storage pockets and a zippered and sealed electrical cord port. Its ground-level vent flaps and the large screen windows allow for plenty of ventilation. The Sundome’s WeatherTec System, consisting of welded and sealed corners and coated polyester fabric, keeps out water and foul weather.
If you’re a backpacker looking for a lightweight and compact tent for your next adventure, be sure to take a look at the Featherstone 2 Person Backpacking Tent. This compact tent measures 84 inches long, 51 inches wide, and 43 inches tall. It provides enough space for two sleepy travelers, and with a weight of just 6 pounds, it’s also compact and light.
This Featherstone takes a less-is-more approach and doesn’t boast a ton of special features, but it does have a ripstop polyester floor that’s coated in polyurethane for water resistance. The tent also has a ripstop rain fly for covering the no-see-um-proof mesh canopy. It comes with 12 aluminum stakes, reflective guy lines, and a waterproof footprint.
Camping with friends and family is fun, but not everyone wants to share a sleeping space. If that describes you, the ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1-Person Tent is worth considering. This one-person tent uses a two-pole design that’s easy to pack and set up. It has a small footprint, measuring just 32 inches by 90 inches, with an interior height of 36 inches at the center. The total weight for the entire tent system is just over 4 pounds, which makes it an excellent choice for throwing in a backpack.
The Lynx might be small, but it offers plenty in the way of comfort. The polyester fly keeps rain out of your tent and resists UV damage from the sun. It provides a bit of exterior storage space and built-in interior storage pockets for keeping your gear organized and on hand. You’ll also appreciate the gear shelf that hangs directly above for storing books or hanging a lantern or a tent heater.
If it’s a cozy weekend away that you’re after, consider the ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 2-Person Tent for your shelter needs. This polyester tent uses a two-pole design that’s sure to be frustration-free. It measures 58 inches wide by 88 inches long, with an interior height of 38 inches. With the tent body, fly, poles, and stakes, it weighs just 5.5 pounds.
The Zephyr’s unique shape and design make it a great choice for two campers. Its trapezoid shape means you’ll have plenty of shoulder space and headroom, even in a compact tent. It also has two doors, so either camper can get in or out without disturbing the other. The included rain fly keeps you dry and creates a vestibule outside of each door, allowing you to store items outside while still protecting them from the rain.
Large tents can be challenging to set up, but the CORE 12 Person Instant Cabin Tent makes shelter prep easy. This tent sets up in minutes, with its preassembled telescoping poles. It measures a massive 18 feet long by 10 feet wide. The center interior height is 80 inches, and the entire tent with all of its parts weighs 52 pounds.
The CORE Instant Cabin has plenty of room inside. It has three separate areas that you can configure for sleeping, eating, or lounging in your camp chairs. It has both a front and back door, as well as a port for an electrical extension cord. The tent and included rainfly are made of durable polyester fabric construction, providing water resistance and durability. It also comes with 20 stakes for securing this massive tent to the ground. It has a mesh storage shelf for lanterns, batteries, books, and other small items.
Cold-weather camping requires specialized equipment, and the GEERTOP Backpacking Tent can easily meet your needs. This two-person, four-season tent has two layers of tear-resistant protection: a standard breathable inner tent and a waterproof polyurethane-coated outer fly. The outer fly is full length, reaching the ground on the six sides of the tent. Its built-in snow skirt will keep snow out and help prevent wind from making its way into your sleeping space.
Though this is a two-person tent, it’s pretty spacious. It measures 78 inches long and 55 inches wide, with a center height of 41 inches. The tent, fly, stakes, and poles weigh only 6.4 pounds, allowing you to take it on backpacking or hiking trips, especially when cold weather looms.
For serious campers, a quality four-season tent is a necessity. The Snugpak Scorpion 3 Tent will keep you warm and dry, even during setup. This two- to three-person tent is a fly-first design, which means that the fly attaches to the tent poles, and the tent body attaches to and suspends from the fly. This allows you to set up your tent in inclement weather without letting rain or snow make its way inside.
The Scorpion 3 measures 87 inches long by 69 inches wide, with an interior height of 43 inches. It comes with the fly, poles, stakes, tent body, guy wires, and a repair kit. Snugpak uses ripstop nylon for most of the construction, so it’s unlikely you’ll have to make repairs. The entire kit packs into a small duffel bag and weighs 7.5 pounds.
If you’re looking for a pop-up tent with style, the Gazelle 22272 T4 Pop-Up Portable Camping Hub Tent is worth checking out. This pop-up-style tent sets up in 90 seconds and provides 78 inches of headroom. You’ll enjoy that standing room throughout the interior of the tent, thanks to its cube-like shape. The T4 has plenty of floor space, too, thanks to its 94-by-94-inch footprint.
The secret to the T4’s quick setup is its center pop-up hubs, which you’ll find on all four walls and the ceiling. Its rain fly has integrated poles, which makes weatherproofing your tent a quick process. This camping tent also has a removable floor for easy cleanup, durable YKK zippers, two mesh storage areas, and built-in storage pockets.
If you drive an off-roader or traveling camper and you’re looking for a quick, easy, and spacious tent setup, check out the Smittybilt Overlander Tent. This rooftop tent attaches to your SUV’s off-road roof rack, giving you a place to rest on camping, fishing, or hunting trips.
The Smittybilt Overlander has a hinged design that folds out easily, with an attached ladder for climbing in. It has lightweight aluminum poles and heavy-duty steel hinges. The tent’s fabric is heavy-duty ripstop nylon, and it comes with a rain fly as well as a weatherproof PVC travel cover to protect the tent between sites.
The interior space measures 84 inches long by 60 inches wide, with plenty of seated head space. It weighs 116 pounds, however, so you’ll likely notice the weight of this tent on your roof while you’re driving.
FAQs About Your New Camping Tent
Now that you understand what to look for in a new camping tent and the kinds of products on the market, you might have some questions about the best camping tents. This section contains the most frequently asked questions about camping tents. If you still have questions after reading through this section, contact your tent manufacturer’s customer service department.
Q. How do you build a camping tent?
Setting up a tent varies from model to model, but the basic steps are as follows:
- Unfold and spread out the tent on a flat surface.
- Stake the tent corners into the ground.
- Extend folding poles.
- Slide the pole through the tent’s sleeves.
- Attach one end of each pole into the tent’s pole-pockets or brackets.
- One at a time, bend each pole and attach the free end to the tent.
- Throw the rainfly over the tent and attach to the poles.
- Stake guy lines into the ground and tighten.
Q. What is the best tent for cold-weather camping?
When choosing a tent for cold-weather camping, you need something that can keep snow and wind from freezing you out of your shelter. The GEERTOP Backpacking Tent can handle the job.
Q. What is the best waterproof camping tent?
A soggy tent can ruin any camping trip. The best tent for keeping rain and water from ending your camping trip is the Snugpak Scorpion 3 Tent.
Q. How do you insulate a tent for winter camping?
While it might seem like you need to insulate the tent, the better idea is to purchase a tent that can handle the cold weather and then insulate yourself. You certainly want to dress warmly and use a cold-weather sleeping bag. Using an insulated sleeping pad will help you stay warm while sleeping.
Q. How do you clean a camping tent?
If your tent isn’t dirty, it’s best to just let it air out and dry before packing it away. If your tent becomes soiled, you can wash its fabric by hand with a mild detergent and sponge. You might consider treating it with a waterproofing spray afterward, as the detergent can remove some of the original protectant’s effectiveness.