When the weather is nice, it can be a shame to let pesky bugs, harsh sunlight, or even a passing rain shower drive you into your home or camping shelter. If you prefer to take in the sun and fresh air free from insects and other nuisances, a screen tent can be a welcome refuge.
High-quality screen tents are easy to set up and provide enough space to move around, dine, and relax. While their main purpose is to prevent bugs and furry food snatchers from ruining the festivities, screen tents can protect against the sun, wind, and even light rain.
Keep reading to learn more about the factors to consider when shopping for these handy and portable party spaces, and then explore some of the best screen tent options on the market in a variety of categories.
- BEST OVERALL: Coleman Screened Canopy Tent
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Alvantor Screen House Room Outdoor Camping Tent
- BEST FOR CAMPING: Coleman Instant Screenhouse
- BEST FOR BACKYARDS: Suntime Outdoor Pop Up Gazebo Canopy
- BEST FOR PATIOS: Ideaworks JB5678 Outdoor 9-Foot Umbrella Table Screen
- BEST ONE-PERSON SETUP: CLAM Quick-Set 12 x 12 Foot Escape Portable Pop Up
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Screen Tent
While screen tents are an excellent addition to a backyard or campsite, not all of them have the same setup or serve the same purpose. Before choosing the best screen tent for your needs, there are a few key considerations that are helpful to know. Below are several of the most important factors to keep in mind while shopping for a screen tent.
Before deciding on a screen tent, think about how you plan to use it. Are you taking the tent on a camping trip or setting it up in a backyard? Are you primarily using it to keep bugs out, or does the tent need to serve as sun and rain protection?
If the screen tent is headed to the campsite, should be lightweight and compact when collapsed. There are plenty of models that fold down to the size of a large duffel bag, making them an excellent choice for stowing in a car trunk.
Look for heavy-duty screen tents with tightly knit roofs if they are intended for protection against UV rays or water. Be sure to check the product description for these types of screen tents so that they meet your specific needs.
Screen tents are available in a wide variety of sizes. Some are large enough to cover a picnic table and several chairs, while others offer just enough space for a small table and chair set. In general, most screen tents offer more than 6.5 feet of headspace.
If you have a big family or like to entertain, a larger screen tent is the way to go, and many of these measure 12 feet by 12 feet. While some oversize screen tents take more work to set up, there are models that require only one person to erect.
A variety of smaller screen tents for tighter spaces are also available. Some are not much larger than a traditional picnic table but still offer enough headspace to stand up and move around with ease.
Canopy & Frame Material
The frame and canopy materials are worth some serious thought when choosing the best screen tent. Striking a balance between durability and reduced weight is key. Steel frames are incredibly strong and usually inexpensive, but they tend to be heavier than aluminum frames. As for the canopy, heavy-duty nylon is more durable than polyester, but it also comes with a significant weight boost (though both materials are easy to clean).
Some screen tents can also successfully handle the elements better than others, thanks to their wind- and water-resistant panels. Do keep in mind that water-resistant screen tents are just that: water-resistant. They are not waterproof. After a prolonged rain or thunderstorm, they will take on water, so don’t leave water-sensitive items in these tents for long during rainy weather.
At its core, a screen tent is just a tent: It offers shelter, so you need a way to enter the tent to protect yourself from insects and the elements. Whether you choose two flaps with magnetic closures or one zippered panel, how a screen tent opens and closes should be a consideration.
Magnetic closures are easy to navigate, but they’re often the least insect-proof and weatherproof. Zippered entries can be difficult to manipulate one-handed, but they do help to ensure unwanted pests aren’t able to pass through to steal food or leave a mess. Regardless of the entryway style, many screen tents feature convenient tiebacks to hold the screen open when you want to pass through freely.
Most screen tents aren’t for sleeping as much as they’re for relaxing, dining, and other activities requiring plenty of headroom. For that reason, most options offer comfortably tall openings, so the height of the entryway is rarely an issue.
The location where you’re planning to kick back and relax has a serious bearing on choosing the best screen tent. If it’s just a backyard getaway, a large tent that might be a bit heavy or difficult to carry is fine. However, taking the festivities off-grid requires a screen tent with some serious portability chops.
For portable screen tents, being lightweight and being compact are important characteristics. Some screen tents can be packed down to the size of a large duffel bag—a real benefit for car camping and other scenarios with limited space.
As far as weight, look for a screen tent that weighs enough to remain safely grounded in a breeze but not so heavy that one person can’t carry it. The sweet spot might be around 40 to 50 pounds. Lightweight models are great for transport; just be sure to invest in spikes if they aren’t included with the tent.
There are plenty of additional features or add-ons that can make a screen tent even more enjoyable:
- Solid panels lower to offer shade or privacy, providing more flexibility on where to set it up.
- Overhanging roof flaps and outward bottom flaps allow rain to drip off and away from the tent.
- Open-ground screen tents are open to the ground beneath them, making them lightweight and easy to fold up. These models are simple to install over a picnic table or even a hot tub, in some cases.
- Attached-floor models are particularly convenient, just beware that it won’t pack down as compactly and can be more difficult to clean.
If you’re concerned about looking like an old-timey cartoon character tangled in ropes, poles, and mesh during setup, it’s understandable. Some screen tents are downright impossible for one person to assemble on their own. However, there are plenty of options that allow for easy setup and breakdown with ease, even for one person.
Some tents feature accordion-style supports and telescoping legs, and they set up in an instant with a little bit of help. Others with pop-up wire frames are simple to expand but don’t offer much support in wind or rain. Screen tents with the most convenience and durability are usually constructed with collapsing panels that users can just pull from the center to set up.
Our Top Picks
With that primer on these bug- and weather-resistant shelters, choosing the best screen tent for an outdoor gathering becomes quite a bit easier. For an even simpler selection process, keep the abovementioned considerations in mind while checking out the following list of screen tents. These top picks feature some of the best products on the market in a variety of categories for protection from insects, the sun, and short rains.
For a luxurious campsite setup, the Coleman canopy tent is hard to beat. This large screen tent features a 12-by-10-foot surface area and plenty of headroom for taller adults. The screening is detachable, so users can easily convert the screen tent to an open-air canopy. The tent’s accordion-type supports and telescoping legs ensure a simple setup by two people.
This screen tent boasts a double-thick and water-resistant nylon fabric with UVGuard treatment for protecting users from afternoon showers and the sun’s rays. The two large zippered doors fully roll back for completely free passage from either side. When not in use, the tent can be transported in the wheeled carrying bag that fits inside most car trunks. At only 45 pounds, it’s easy to wheel right to the campsite or a backyard party.
An easy setup, portable design, and budget-friendly cost make the Alvantor model a desirable option for campers and backyard party animals alike. This 10-by-10-foot screen tent features 7 feet of headspace, offering enough room for several adults. It also boasts two full-height zippered openings as well as six panels of bug-protecting mesh. The polyester material provides protection against harmful UV rays, offering some refuge at sunny campsites or during beach days.
The screen tent’s folding wire-frame design sets up in seconds and fits easily in the included carrying bag. Because it weighs just 15 pounds, transporting this tent is easy—just toss it in the car trunk and go. Keep in mind that since this tent is lightweight enough to bring almost anywhere, it’s not ideal for windy days.
Whether it’s a backpacking trip or an RV park party, this Coleman canopy tent gives campers a lightweight and easy-to-set-up place to relax free from bugs, sun, and light rains. This tent measures 15 by 13 feet and 7 feet high in the center, with full-height zippered doors on both tall sides. The double-thick polyester fabric features a UVGuard treatment to prevent the penetration of the sun’s rays while also offering a bit of water resistance during light rains.
This screen tent features a traditional fiberglass pole setup, but it’s easily accomplished in under one minute. Both the tent and poles collapse to fit in a carrying bag similar to a medium-size duffel bag. Weighing just under 17 pounds, the tent is a convenient item to keep in a camping kit or trunk. And since it doesn’t have a floor, there’s no concern about leaving campsite dirt and sand inside.
Screen tents aren’t just for campsites; they can be equally useful in a backyard. Anyone looking for an attractively designed screen tent for a deck, patio, or backyard space should check out the Suntime model. This screen tent features four zippered side panels for keeping bugs and UV rays at bay during backyard soirees and relaxing mornings, and they’re easily removable to increase ventilation and sunlight. Measuring 10 by 10 feet (12 by 12 feet with the eaves), with a center height of 9.5 feet, the tent offers plenty of room.
This screen tent provides accordion-type supports and telescoping legs for an easy setup. The legs include holes for staking it to the ground, allowing users to leave the tent set up for a weekend or two of nice weather. The polyester roof and the extended eaves help to shed rain. This tent also includes a solar panel on the roof and four LED lights that are powered by solar energy from the panel or a USB cable. At 50 pounds, it’s heavy enough to stay put.
Patio and deck diners looking for protection from bugs but who would prefer to leave their space as open as possible should check out Ideaworks umbrella screen. This umbrella attachment creates a compact screen tent when it’s placed over a standard patio umbrella to keep out insects. The dual full-height zippered entries make it simple to enter and exit the tent, while the weighted bottom prevents crawling bugs from sneaking underneath—and the tent being carried by the wind.
Setting up this screen tent is simple: Just drape the netting over a standard patio umbrella and adjust the height so the bottom sits on the patio surface. Then, fill the base with water to make it bottom-heavy. Measuring 4 by 10 by 6 inches when folded and weighing just under 3 pounds, this tent is lightweight and convenient to store anywhere.
When it comes to screen tents that combine an easy setup, plenty of space, and built-in features, Clam’s portable gazebo fits the bill. This six-sided screen tent features collapsing side panels and sets up in under one minute, even if no one else is available to help. This screen tent measures 12 by 12 feet, with a center height of 7.8 feet, offering space for even the tallest adults while protecting from insects.
The durable nylon mesh fabric boasts water-resistant construction to keep both people and items dry in light rains. Additionally, the built-in roof flaps feature drip edges to prevent rain from running down the side panels. Should the sun pop out after the rain, the roof’s polyester fabric protects not only from rain but UV rays as well. The entire screen tent folds down into an oversize carrying bag and weighs just 37 pounds.
FAQs About Screen Tents
Now that you know a bit more about purchasing the best screen tent, there might still be some lingering questions or concerns. Read on for a list of several of the most frequently asked questions about screen tents, and be sure to check for your answer below.
Q. Why do most screen tents not have a floor?
There are a few reasons screen tents don’t have floors. First, they’re often placed over the top of items like a patio set or a picnic table. Second, the open floor means less fabric and less mess, making them lighter, easier to set up, and easier to clean up.
Q. Can you take a screen tent camping?
Yes! Choose a model that’s light, easy to set up, and built with campers in mind, like the Coleman Instant Screenhouse.
Q. How do I set up a screen tent?
Every screen tent—or screen house—sets up a bit differently. For those with accordion-type supports and telescoping legs, it’s helpful to first extend the legs before pulling the corners away from each other until you’re able to push up on the center support and lock the tent in place.
For standard tent-style screen tents, lay the tent flat on the ground, right side up. Assemble the poles and slide them across the roof from corner to corner. Start on opposite corners, and slide the pole ends into the corner pockets until the tent takes shape. Wire-frame tents simply pop open or unfold until they take shape.
Q. How long can I expect my screen tent to last?
A screen tent can last up to 10 years if properly cared for. Keep the tent clean, dry the tent before storage, and don’t leave it under sap-dripping trees like pines.