Updated Jun 27, 2022 4:14 PM
Whether you are looking to replace a tent that has reached the end of its life with you or you’re investing in one for the very first time, we’ve collected our top picks for the best camping tents to help guide your search.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Camping Tent
Read through our buying considerations before getting to our top picks for the best camping tents. That way, if you can’t find a tent that fits your needs (or budget) on our list, you’ll have the knowledge you need to make the right choice.
If you’re looking to buy a new tent, then you likely have an idea of what you plan to use it for. This may seem like an obvious consideration, but it is an essential one if you want to find the right tent for your camping needs.
Buying a tent that works well for long-distance or ultralight hiking is one thing, but do you want to use that same tent when you are setting up a spike camp for elk hunting? Probably not. Identifying the intended use will help you narrow down your choices much faster and allow you to hone in on essential dimensions, features, and accessories that can enhance your camping experience.
Type of Tent
There are so many different types of tents. We will not feature all of them in our top picks, but knowing them can help you as you shop. Each type of tent has its strengths and weaknesses. Not all stand up well in the wind, while others are designed to withstand extreme elements atop mountains.
Most common types of tents:
- A-Frame Tent: Also known as a ridge tent, they are identifiable by the cross pole or ridge running down the middle. One of the most traditional and sturdiest tent designs, not many tents hold this specific shape anymore. There tends to be less space and headroom, which is why many tent designs got away from the A-frame style. A-frames are still commonly seen when making tarp tents or for survival purposes because they do not utilize many materials to create a sturdy shelter.
- Dome Tent: These create a dome-type shape requiring poles to go around a curved structure. The shape allows for more interior space, and these often require a rainfly for additional weather protection and the creation of a vestibule. Dome-style tent designs are the most commonly used for camping tents today.
- Pop-Up Tent: Less suitable for camping, pop-up tents require minimal setup and are popular for things like festivals or playtime in the backyard. The frame and the fabric are all one piece with this style tent. It pops open, ready for use by either unfolding or uncoiling. Due to the convenience, these tend to be more expensive, but they have limited application in inclement weather.
- Backpacking Tent: Small, lightweight, and highly portable, backpacking tents are among the most practical camping tents. They aren’t necessarily the best tent to sit and hang out inside while camping, but they serve the purpose of creating a safe, dry place to sleep at night. Since they tend to be small, they are easy to set up and take down alone and provide ample protection from various weather conditions.
- Geodesic or Semi-Geodesic Tents: Great for areas with high winds, geodesic tents are a more intense version of a dome-style tent. They will have poles that criss-cross, making hexagons or triangles, and have a complete dome structure. These tents look a lot like the dome jungle gyms on playgrounds and are often utilized for extreme weather conditions that can be found when mountaineering.
- Tunnel Tent: Awesome for big families or camping areas with a lot of bugs. Usually, you can stand up inside a tunnel tent, and there is a mesh porch area nearly the same size as the sleeping interior. They create a tunnel shape and are quite long, so you need ample room to pitch this tent. They do not stand up to high winds very well, but most are relatively water-resistant and have material to cover porch mesh if needed.
- Inflatable Tent: Requiring an air pump to inflate, inflatable tents are almost as convenient as pop-up tents. Once the tent is inflated, it will stay erect until deflating the structure like an air mattress. These are quite expensive with limited practical application for camping due to the risk of punctures and difficulty securing the structure.
- Wall Tent: These can also be known as a canvas tent, wall tents are large and require a frame to set up. These are great for setting up a basecamp of some kind and aren’t necessarily easy to set up, take down, or transport. The materials are sturdy and create one of the best-insulated and roomiest camping experiences. If you stay in one camp for an extended period and want an inside place to sleep, cook, and hang out, wall tents are an excellent option.
- Multi-Room Tent: Also called pod tents, a multi-room tent has several “rooms” separated by a piece of fabric or a door. Multi-room tents are popular with large families that want to keep the kids close but still want some privacy. They work similarly to other camping tents and adopt many dome and tunnel-style features.
- Suspended Tent: Comparable to a hammock tent, suspended tents do not sit on the ground but must be suspended from trees. These are a relatively new tent design and can be challenging to set up correctly, let alone find the perfect place to pitch the tent. If you want to be suspended above the ground, a hammock tent will be easier to transport and easier to set up.
- Car Top Tents: A popular option for overlanding or long-distance travel, car top tents are tents that are stored and sit on top of your vehicle. These can pop up like a traditional camping tent with a platform and ladder that extend to one side of the car. Other car top tent designs have a roof that cranks upholding a mattress. The crank-up designs are convenient but only are big enough to sit up inside and will only fit up to two average adults.
This is not an exhaustive list of tent types, and you may see other variations on top of what we listed here.
The durability, water resistance, weight, comfort, and more often come down to the tent’s materials. Most tents will be a mix or blend of different materials, increasing the durability and application of the tent.
Most commonly used tent materials:
- Polyester: Among the cheapest tent material to produce, polyester is a petroleum-based synthetic fabric that tends to be very durable and breathable. It works well during all weather conditions and does not shrink or sag with moisture buildup.
- Cotton: Primarily used for canvas tents; cotton is a traditional tent material. Canvas tents work well when building a basecamp when the materials do not need to be carried far. Cotton is ideal for insulating the tent in cold and hot environments. These tents should be less prone to condensation if they have gone through weathering process before use or come with a waterproof coating of some kind.
- Polycotton: Another material now used for canvas-style tents. Polycotton is a blend of cotton and synthetic, usually polyester. These are lighter weight and repel water better than traditional canvas tents, and almost all of them come standard with a weatherproof coating or chemical treatment to repel water.
- Nylon: A popular synthetic material, nylon is a bit lighter than polyester. Some tents may be a blend of synthetics, including nylon and polyester. Nylon does not absorb moisture, but it should still be coated with a waterproof treatment. Nylon tends to be more expensive to produce than polyester but is arguably more durable, making it a more popular choice for high-end, extreme weather tents.
Tent fabrics, especially ones like cotton, can have a PVC (polyvinyl chloride) fabric coating. A PVC-coated tent makes it more prone to condensation and needs additional ventilation to counter any interior buildup. PVC-coatings are seen on some tents that have been “weathered” to make them ready to use right out of the box. Note that PVC emits toxic fumes during production and after application. That’s why you may notice a plastic or chemical smell coming from PVC-coated tents.
Other tent components, like the tent poles, can also have varying materials. Tent poles can be made from:
- Steel: Commonly used for square or framed tents. They are not flexible and will not bend over traditional camping tents like other materials listed. Although steel is durable, it is still prone to rust and should be coated to prevent it.
- Glass-Reinforced Plastic (GRP): Also known as fiberglass poles, GRP is a popular material because it is inexpensive to produce and very flexible. They are made out of strands of glass held in resin. They aren’t entirely made of glass, but they can splinter out if broken, producing glass splinters.
- Aluminum Alloy: Lightweight and strong, aluminum alloy can bend around tent curves much like GRP materials. These tend to be the standard for backpacking tents since they are lightweight, but they are also more expensive to produce.
- Carbon Fiber: A higher-end, more expensive material, carbon fiber is a strong, lightweight, and flexible tent pole material. It may be one of the most effective options available for camping tents, but it will also be one of the highest-priced.
Things like the groundsheet or footprint and the tent stakes and guylines can also have varying materials. These can be upgraded or replaced more easily while the tent, rainfly, and poles come standard with the tent and should be considered more closely.
Size and Capacity of Tent
The size and capacity of the tent is going to be directly related to the style and intended use. You can essentially find a tent of any size and for any activity. However, just because something is labeled as a two-person tent, your comfort level with two people in that tent may vary according to personal preferences, body size, and the gear you have.
- 1P Tent: Comfortable enough to fit one average person and some gear. Gear often must be kept in the vestibule.
- 2P Tent: Works well for one person and a lot of gear or a person and a dog. You can fit two average-sized adults but will not fit gear inside the tent, only in the vestibule. Your sleeping pads will likely touch, so make sure you two like each other.
- 3P Tent: Works best for two average-sized adults, especially if you have a small child or a dog. Gear can also be kept inside with two adults.
- 4P Tent: Great size for a small family tent as you can fit two adults, a child, a dog, and most of your gear. It can work well for families with several children as a kids tent. Four grown adults may have difficulty getting comfortable in a four-person tent.
- 6P Tent: Perfect size for four adults plus all of the gear. Having 4+ people in this tent works if you are petite. Ensure the tent has several doors and vestibules for easy access and gear storage.
- 8P Tent: Ideal for a group of 6 or less.
- 10P Tent: Can likely fit a group of 8 if most gear is kept outside. Having 4-6 individuals plus a gear works a bit better.
Large canvas wall tents can likely fit more people, but tend to be used as a short-term living situation at a basecamp of some kind. That way, you can lounge, sleep, organize gear, and cook all under one roof. These are unnecessary for most people’s camping needs but are preferred for some activities.
The tent ventilation is an important feature to notice because it correlates to the season of use. Most 3-season tents will have far more ventilation than a 4-season tent since they are intended to be used during warm weather. Tents fabric walls and less ventilation make for a better 4-season tent.
Most 4-season tents will have ventilation on the top and the bottom with areas to open and close to the desired size. Using both the top and the bottom ventilation windows helps with airflow and minimizes heat loss during the night while still preventing condensation buildup.
The amount of mesh present on the tent can also be related to the weight class. For instance, ultralight tents tend to have essentially all mesh with a tub-style floor. This cuts down on the weight of the tent, allows for more comfort on hot nights, and then if needed, you can add the rainfly for weather protection or privacy.
Most tents on the market have some water-resistant coating added to the materials. The materials themselves are also likely relatively water-resistant and quick drying. The benefit of having a waterproof coating of some kind is that water and moisture can then roll off instead of sitting and soaking through.
While water-resistant coatings are nice, no matter the type or quality of the coating, if it is a solvent-based coating like DWR (durable water repellency), you will need to reapply or retreat the fabric from time to time. These coatings wear off with use and washing, and the tent will become less water-resistant.
Most tent manufacturers will have information regarding tent maintenance and how to reapply these coatings appropriately.
Some companies are beginning to integrate water-based coatings to their materials as a less toxic alternative. So far, these are rare, but they are gaining traction with some outdoor brands, especially because some of them never need to be reapplied and have similar if not identical water resistance as their solvent-based counterparts.
How you use the tent can also impact the water resistance. For instance, using a footprint can help protect the floor from moisture. Keeping gear away from the sides of the tent is also essential. When gear is allowed to lean up against the sides of the tent while it is raining or while you are sleeping at night, condensation and moisture can leak through.
When shopping, look at product descriptions and product tags to know what kind of coating is used.
Looking at the materials themselves will tell you a lot about the tent’s durability. The materials used matter from the tent poles, the tent floor to the rainfly, and the mesh. Not only that, but how they are constructed can also influence longevity.
Having reinforced and sewn seams versus glued seams is one example of material construction that can impact how long those seams hold up with use. Even if you aren’t going on a long-distance hike, you’re likely using your tent several times a year or more. I’ve had one two-person tent for over six years, and camp with large breed dogs almost every time. That’s a lot of wear and tear on a tent, but with the right construction, maintenance, and consideration when in use, tents can last a lifetime of use.
Ease of Use
How easy is the tent to set up? How easy is it to pack up and carry around?
How you intend to use the tent will help you narrow down how easy the tent needs to be to set up. If you usually camp alone, then having a tent that you can set up independently within a matter of minutes is helpful.
If you camp with a partner, a more complicated tent setup may be feasible because you have more help carrying the materials and setting up and taking down the tent.
In most cases, the lighter weight and smaller capacity tents will take 10 minutes or less to set up because they have a much simpler design. When camping with a large group or a family, the tent will have more pieces, which means it will take longer to get set up. Weigh the impact of convenience versus the level of comfort with your selected group mates.
Features and Accessories
- Rainfly: Having a quality rainfly is essential to protect you from wind, rain, snow, and even the sun. Some rainfly can be set up alone to function as a sunshade while others only work when connected to the tent. The type of rainfly can vary according to the kind of tent.
- Vestibule: A vestibule is an area created by the rainfly. On larger tents, this will be more of a canopy area that allows you to stand, while others will have a small entry cover over the door that provides a place to set your shoes and some other gear outside while still being protected. Tents that have two doors often have two vestibules. When looking at tents with a capacity for more than one person, this is useful.
- Doors: As mentioned with the vestibules, having more than one door is nice in some situations. For standard camping tents, multiple doors allow for better organization and convenience for the campers. For canvas wall tents, having only one door may be more functional simply because of the setup and design.
- Footprint: Some tents come with a footprint, while others must be purchased separately. Footprints are put down before setting up the tent to help protect the floor. Using a footprint isn’t always necessary, but it is recommended to keep moisture out and increase the tent floor’s longevity.
- Storage: Tents with pockets or a way to hang things on the interior help keep your gear organized. The specific use often correlates to the tent’s type of interior storage, which should be listed in the product description. Additionally, look at how the tent is stored when it isn’t in use and needs to be transported. Not all tents are easy to store or transport.
- Lights: You can find tents that have lights built into the interior. Most of these are battery-powered and can pack up with a tent for transport. Other tents have optional lights that can be bought as an additional accessory. Most tents will have a center pocket or attachment point to allow for the use of a lantern. Having a light source in the tent is nice but isn’t necessary as you can always utilize a headlamp.
Best Camping Tent Overall: Marmot Halo 6
- Materials: 100% polyester
- Floor Area: 90 ft²
- Best Use: car camping
- Easy to set up and take down
- Very roomy interior
- Front and rear vestibule
If you are looking for an excellent all-around tent, the Marmot Halo 6 is easily the top pick. While it is somewhat heavy, it is a functional design easy to set up and take down. It works best for car camping experiences and is durable enough to stand the test of time even with kids and dogs in the mix.
The canopy, floor, and rainfly fabric are all variations of polyester with the fly, including some ripstop and water-resistant treatment for added protection. The rainfly creates two amazing vestibule spaces—one having enough room to cook inside them during inclement weather.
The poles are designed with color-coding to make the setup a breeze, even when the kids are involved. It comes with backpacking-style stakes, so more robust ones can be a good investment if you camp on hard ground often, but they get the job done.
If you’re someone that likes a lot of space in the tent or needs to share with a group, then this is a durable, long-lasting option. The only downside we spotted with this tent is that it has a high price point, and there will be similar size options on the market for a much lower price. If it is within your budget, though, you’ll be happy with the investment with ample interior storage, tons of headroom, and space for gear, people, and pets inside.
Best family tent
Big Agnes Spicer Peak 6 Spicer Peak Tents
- Materials: polyester taffeta with a 1500mm waterproof polyurethane coating
- Floor Area: 82 ft²
- Best Use: family car camping
- Interior standing height
- Two doors and vestibules
- Great ventilation
- Sealed seams
- High price point
- Footprint sold separately
Another six-person tent, the Big Agnes Spicer Peak 6, is ranked in our best family camping tents roundup. It is relatively comparable to our best overall camping tent, with a slightly smaller floor area.
The dome-style tent offers excellent head and standing room inside the tent. While it would be pretty snug with six adults sleeping in the tent, it can be done. This tent is more suitable for a family of four, providing enough space for parents, kids, gear, and potentially a pet. The two doors and vestibule areas allow for easier access and better gear organization.
Several interior pockets make staying organized in a group a breeze. This one ranks above other similar market options because of the weatherproofing. All of the seams on this tent are taped to enhance waterproofing, there is a full-coverage rainfly, and polyurethane coating.
The footprint is sold separately, and using a ground tarp of some kind will improve the durability of the tent floor.
Best wall tent
Elk Mountain Standard Model Wall Tent Elk Mountain
What It Made the Cut: The Elk Mountain Standard Model Wall Tent is our top pick for a wall tent you can use as a basecamp when you’re out hunting, with the family, or the scout troop.
- Materials: Polycotton
- Floor Area: 169 ft²
- Best Use: hunting, basecamps, scout troops
- Ridge flaps to accomodate a wood stove
- Can set up with two people
- Very sturdy design
- Polycotton canvas is breathable and weather resistant
- Heavy in comparison to other tent types
- Poles not included in purchase
Elk Mountain has several sizes and models of wall tents that any outdoor person will enjoy. They utilize a polycotton canvas material to improve durability and weather resistance. Don’t let the frame and size of the tent fool you. These tents are not challenging to set up with at least two people.
We rated the 13 x 13 standard tent, which is large enough to sleep up to six people. If you add a wood stove to the mix, it works best with four people. Most of the parts are included with the purchase of the tent, but poles are not. The poles not included could be seen as either a pro or a con. It is a pro for those that want to save some money and cut their poles to fit with the included angle kit. Others prefer the convenience of purchasing it all as a set.
The use of polycotton fabric has improved the tent’s durability. Anywhere the tent comes into contact with poles, the materials are reinforced with at least two layers of canvas. The main corners of the tent use velcro and ties to close, providing more flexibility and preventing the fabric from ripping when taking the canvas on and off the frame.
Best rooftop tent
Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3 Thule
What It Made the Cut: The Thule Tepui Explorere Kukenam rooftop tent is a versatile tent with ample interior space and top of the line weather protection.
- Materials: 260g polyester cotton, 600D ripstop fabric
- Weight: 130 pounds
- Best Use: car camping, overlanding, long distance travel
- Entrance awning
- Light enough to be used on smaller vehicles
- Qualty weather protection
- Side window awnings are not very versatile
There are many fantastic rooftop tent options available, and the type of vehicle you drive will influence your choice. Thule makes a wide range of options, but the Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3 is one of my favorites.
It is an excellent choice for couples that want to travel and can sleep up to three people if needed. The setup seems to take a bit longer than other Thule designs, but the included entrance awning makes it worth the few extra minutes.
One stand-out feature of this tent is that it offers 4-season weather protection without compromising too much on breathability. There are plenty of vents and side windows to accommodate warmer weather. Unfortunately, the side window awnings cannot be rolled up, which is a bummer, but they work pretty well in the rain.
The tent materials are also UV and mold-resistant, which is excellent when traveling from place to place. The ease of use, comfort level, weather protection, and the fact it can fit on top of most vehicle sizes make the Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam an excellent choice for a rooftop tent.
Best backpacking tent
What It Made the Cut: The NEMO Dragonfly 2 is rated our best backpacking tent for the superior quality of construction and balance of weight, features, and durability.
- Materials: 10D nylon, no-see-um mesh, 20D sil/PeU nylon (1200mm)
- Floor Area: 29 ft²
- Best Use: backpacking
- Roomy vestibules
- Only 3.16 pounds
- Adequate comfort level and ease of use
- Ideal weather resistance
The NEMO Dragonfly 2 is our top choice for the best backpacking tent on this list because of the outstanding balance they’ve found to accommodate weight, functionality, durability, and protection. Despite the light weight, there’s plenty of storage space inside the tent and well-designed vestibules to accommodate gear.
The tapered foot section is the one design aspect that some campers aren’t fond of. This helps to cut down on some weight without cutting out any headspace. It does make the interior feel a bit small, and it can feel cramped with another person. If weight is your main concern or you’re a solo camper, this feature shouldn’t bother you. If you are camping alone, you’ll also have no issue setting this tent up alone.
The tent is tall enough to sit up inside comfortably, and for just one person, you’d have space to store some gear inside along within the vestibules. As far as weather protection goes, it features a double-wall design and excellent water resistance with a full-coverage rainfly. There is plenty of meshing to make this tent usable in warm weather and shoulder seasons.
Best Tent for Camping with Dogs: Kelty Wireless
Best tent for camping with dogs
What It Made the Cut: The Kelty Wireless tent is an affordable, functional, and highly durable tent that stands up to even the rowdiest dogs.
- Materials: 68D polyester, 1800mm/40D no-see-um mesh
- Floor Area: 29 ft²
- Best Use: car camping, backpacking
- Great value
- Comes in three sizes
- Excellent weather protection
- Spacious even for two people
- Somewhat heavy to take backpacking
Kelty has long been known for making affordable yet durable tents. The Kelty Wireless is one of the best tents out there in terms of value, durability, and protection. If you’re someone who camps with dogs, you know that you want something durable and roomy, but you might not want to invest in an expensive brand just in case they damage the tent.
The Kelty Wireless comes in a two-person, four-person, and six-person capacity. Although I’ve only personally tried the 2-person tent, I can attest to the fact that it can comfortably fit two people and a large breed dog. You’ll have to store gear in the vestibules, but this isn’t an issue with two doors and two vestibules.
The tent does not come with a footprint, but even without that, the tent flooring stands up to dogs, even those that are aggressive nesters. If you want the floor to last longer, we recommend investing in a footprint and packing a small mat or blanket for your dog to put on the floor.
Overall, this tent is easy to set up, pack, and use. It is a bit heavy for most when backpacking alone, but it can work quite well when splitting it up between two people to carry.
Best budget tent
What It Made the Cut: The Coleman Sundome is a value tent that provides quality weather protection, breathability, and a spacious sleep set up the whole family can enjoy.
- Materials: nylon
- Floor Area: 35 ft²
- Best Use: car camping
- Affordable price
- Easy to setup
- Large vestibule
- Plenty of interior storage
- It is a value tent, so it won’t be as durable as other options
The Coleman Sundome tent comes in several size options, with the 4-person tent being one of the most popular and affordable options. This is an excellent starter tent for small families or couples with pets. It has decent weather protection and can withstand up to 35 mph winds.
Especially if you are just getting into camping, the setup should be relatively easy with pre-attached poles. It may take a little bit of time to figure it out at first, but after one go, you’ll be able to set the tent up in a matter of minutes.
Compared to other tents on our list, this tent will not be the most functional or have the most headroom. However, it will be one of the most economical options available while still providing a decent value. Coleman has a long history of providing affordable camping equipment, and this tent is no exception.
How We Made Our Picks
Like most gear, choosing the best camping tent is a personal decision that revolves around your needs and the type of camping you enjoy. Although I haven’t owned all of the tents on our list, many of the tents listed are ones other members of the team have either tried or had for several years.
- Functionality: Not all tents are designed for the same purpose, but they should have a specific use in mind. Evaluate how well that tent functions for the intended use when choosing the best camping tent.
- Longevity: How long the tent lasts is another priority. Many members of the commerce team have had the same tent for 6+ years. Look for quality materials, construction, and companies that provide warranties, lifetime guarantees, and repair policies.
- Maintenance: The tents chosen also needed to include some maintenance recommendations to improve the tent’s longevity. Maintenance and general tent care greatly influence the longevity and functionality of the tent and should always be considered.
- Customer Satisfaction: Verified customer reviews are an excellent way to enhance any shopping experience online. They give you real first-hand accounts from multiple perspectives. Look at how people review the tent’s functionality, but also if their questions were answered and problems were addressed by the company.
We rely primarily on outdoor experience to guide our gear picks. Where we need to, we fill the gaps with company-specific research, recommendations from others, verified customer reviews, and the general industry or product knowledge.
Q: What size tent do I need?
What size tent you need will depend on the number of people in your group, the intended activity, and the level of comfort you prefer when camping. All tents have a listed capacity in their product description. In most cases, people are happy with a tent rated for one or two people more than their group size. So, if you have a family of four, using a six-person tent is ideal.
Q: What is the strongest tent?
The strongest tents are usually made from silicone-coated nylon ripstop material. This combination of materials provides the best protection, but it comes at a high price. Acrylic-coated tent materials are also quite durable and tend to be more affordable.
The North Face
Use the criteria outlined in the buyer’s guide at the beginning of this article to help find the best camping tent for your needs.
Q: Are expensive tents worth it?
No, not all expensive tents are worth it. The price of the tent often correlates to the quality of the construction, but this isn’t always the case. Look at the materials and projected longevity of the tent along with the intended use. Casual campers who value comfort and convenience will find expensive tents worth it. Other uses like backpacking or mountaineering can also justify a more expensive tent for better weather protection, durability, and portability.
Q: How much does a camping tent cost?
How much a camping tent costs varies greatly depending on the quality and use of the tent. Average camping tents range from $60 – $180, but low-quality tents can be as cheap as $20. High-end tents for more specific uses will be $200 – $1000+ with a mid-range of $400.
Q: What is the most waterproof tent?
The most waterproof tent material is going to be silicone-coated nylon. Other coatings such as polyurethane or acrylic can also offer waterproof protection, but they may not be as effective or long-lasting. Newer water-based coatings that are just entering the outdoor industry market are also quite effective but are harder to find.
The best camping tent is one that protects you from the elements, provides your desired level of comfort, and will last you for several years. The types of camping you enjoy may be much different from someone else, making the choice very personal. Even if you couldn’t find the perfect tent for you on our list, we hope the “things to consider before buying” section helps guide you to your next best camping experience.