Updated Jun 21, 2022 10:43 PM
With camping being one of Americans’ most loved outdoor activities, many of us are in need of a tent to fit this need. In fact, research shows that in 2019, more than 41 million Americans over the age of 6 participated in camping, up about a million from three years earlier. And there’s little wonder why camping is so popular. Many people love to get out into nature and enjoy all of the opportunities a night—or week—sleeping out in the woods has to offer. Don’t let yourself plan a few nights out in the woods, without purchasing the best tent for your campsite, first.
The one piece of camping gear that can make your trip a boom or bust is the tent you use. Get the perfect tent for your situation, and you’ll likely be satisfied with the way it performs. Get one that doesn’t fit your specific needs, and even the best tents can be more of a liability than an asset on your next camping trip. Fact is, there are so many different styles, shapes and sizes, and unless you do your research, it’s hard to know what camping tent will be best for you. When shopping for the best tents for you (and/or your family), consider this advice.
Things to Consider Before Buying Tents
A camping tent is the most critical piece of equipment on a camping checklist for an enjoyable outing in Mother Nature. However, finding options that will be the best tents for you and your family requires a close look at the variety of different features available.
Need a Family Camping Tent?
Your camping style will change your choice dramatically. If you and your family are going to drive your car, pickup or SUV right to your campsite, you can easily haul along a pretty large camping tent. On the other hand, if you’ll be carrying yours to your camping area in a backpack, a much smaller, lighter tent is in order.
For family camping, a group of four or five needs a big tent in order to keep everyone inside yet somewhat spread out, and also store any camping essentials that needs to be kept out of the elements. An 80-to-100 square foot tent will usually suffice for a family of four to six. Large four or six-person tents with dividers to make separate rooms allow everyone more privacy, making for a better experience.
Note that putting up a tent with the help of an entire family can be much harder than doing so alone. Opt for one that goes up easily if you can find one that meets your other criteria. You’ll be glad you did when the kids start pitching in with setup.
Do You Plan to Go Winter Camping?
While it might not sound fun to some fair-weather campers, winter camping is actually quite popular. It allows you to enjoy nature when campgrounds and trails aren’t quite so crowded, or allows you to extend a winter hunting outing.
Winter camping requires different equipment than summertime camping. Not only do you need specialized clothes and outdoor gear for surviving cold weather, a good 4-season tent is more likely to keep you warm than one not made with winter camping in mind. A good 4-season tent is made for camping in nearly all conditions and will get you through a cold night if you have the right sleeping bag and clothing. Be sure whichever you choose for winter camping is waterproof, as nothing is more dangerous in the woods in winter than getting both cold and wet.
Will You Be Carrying the Tent in Your Pack?
Few outdoors enthusiasts are more weight-conscious when it comes to their camping checklist than serious backpackers. That’s because everything they plan to have in camp has to be carried in on their backs—including their tents. A good backpacking tent should be light enough to carry all day, yet sturdy enough to withstand a storm while back in the boonies. It should also pack down to a small enough size that it can easily be stored in a backpack without taking up unnecessary room. When it comes to choosing the best backpacking tent for you, think small, light, and strong.
Need a Tent for Your Pickup?
For camping enthusiasts who own a pickup, several manufacturers make specialized truck tents that mount on the back of the truck, utilizing the bed as the sleeping area. This is super convenient for those who travel a lot and like to camp alongside the road, or who are going to always drive right to their camping spot.
The best truck tents have plenty of windows and high-quality zippers. Ones that have a window that opens into the rear window of your truck are extremely handy. Some even have tent bottoms so you don’t need to find something else to cover your truck bed when camping.
One thing critically important about choosing the best truck tent is making sure you get one that is the proper size. Many are specific to certain models of trucks and won’t fit other models properly. Others are sold by their dimensions, so be sure and measure the size of your pickup bed before you start shopping for one of these.
Are You Going on a Couple’s Camping Trip?
For many couples, going on a tent camping trip together can be a romantic getaway without breaking the bank. Sitting around a campfire under a starry sky with the one you love can be quite a fulfilling experience. However, finding the perfect tent for such an outing is easier said than done. You need something big enough for the two of you, but not so big that you won’t get that cozy feeling. You’ll also want to make sure you get a waterproof tent, since nothing can put a stop to that loving feeling like cold water dripping down your neck or back.
On hot nights, something with large windows will help keep the air circulating, ensuring that you get a good night’s sleep no matter how cuddled up you are. Make sure those windows have high-quality zippers, and you can enjoy that same tent on cool spring or fall nights, too!
Are You on a Budget?
While a true top-quality tent doesn’t come cheap, the best camping tent for you doesn’t have to cost $100 or more. If you only plan to use yours a night or two a year, shopping budget tents isn’t a terrible idea—but don’t skimp on important features like weatherproofing, or those one or two nights can get mighty wet and miserable.
Why It Made the Cut
The MSR Habitude is a durable and versatile tent that packs well and holds up to three seasons of weather, kids, dogs, and travel.
- Weight: 12 lbs 10 oz
- Set up dimensions: 95″ x 95″ x 73″
- Packed dimensions: 23″ x 9″
- Full coverage rainfly
- Standing height
The MSR Habitude Family Camping Tent is a durable, all-weather tent for any group or family that doesn’t want to cut corners. It has a durable construction with a full-coverage rainfly. Plus, parents won’t have to worry about a complete setup with only three lightweight poles. It won’t feel too crowded inside with over six feet of standing height inside. Want more room? This tent also comes in a six-person version.
If you are looking for an affordable or inexpensive tent, this is not going to be the best option. Although it feels like quite the investment, you are paying for quality and long lasting tent that your family can use for years to come.
This lightweight backpacking tent weighs only 5.4 pounds, yet is both strong and durable. Clostnature
Why It Made the Cut
The Clostnature Lightweight Backpacking Tent is an affordable and effective option for beginner backpackers or anyone that wants a tent for fair weather just a few times a year.
- Weight: 5.4 lbs
- Set up dimensions: 7’3″ x 4’11” x 3’10”
- Packed dimensions: 16.5″ x 5.9″ x 5.9″
- Affordable price
- Durable for the value
- Easy to setup
- Not as weather-resistant as more expensive options
If you’re packing in several miles to your campsite, a lightweight tent like this is just the ticket. Easy to pitch with minimal pieces, the tent’s weatherproof material with factory-sealed seams will keep you dry and comfortable in all seasons and weather conditions. With plenty of room for two campers plus some camping essentials, this backpacking tent also packs down quite small for easy storage.
This sturdy truck bed tent comes in five different sizes to fit nearly any pickup truck. Napier
Why It Made the Cut
The Napier Backroadz Truck Tent is a roomy and well-ventilated sleep system that you can conveniently use to convert your truck bed into a tent.
- Weight: 16 lbs
- Set up dimensions: Varies
- Packed dimensions: Varies
- Affordable price
- Available in 5 models
- Well ventilated
- Can be tricky to set up at first
- Poles aren’t very durable
This truck tent gives pickup owners an excellent option for camping trips. It has two large mesh windows for plenty of ventilation, and has a center height of over five feet, giving users a decent amount of headroom. It also features a full rainfly for those wet nights in the woods, as well as a full floor to keep you from sleeping on whatever grime might be on your pickup bed.
This dome tent from Coleman is just the right size for a couple’s outing. Coleman
Why It Made the Cut
The Coleman Sundome Tent is a classic and affordable two-person tent option, especially for beginner campers or people that only need a tent once or twice a year.
- Weight: 7.5 lbs
- Set up dimensions: 7′ x 5′ x 4′
- Packed dimensions: 24.5″ x 6.4″ x 6.3″
- Four size options
- Very affordable
- Great ventilation
- Easy to set up
- Not the most waterproof
- Doesn’t come with a footprint
The welded corners and inverted seams on this Coleman Sundome two-person tent keep water from getting in, while the included rainfly offers extra weather protection when things get really wet in the woods. The tent’s strong frame is designed to withstand winds up to 35 miles per hour, and it has large windows for good ventilation. This Coleman tent also boasts easy setup and is available in two attractive color combinations.
This two-person tent can be used for hiking, camping, fishing, a kid’s indoor or backyard play space, or even shelter at the beach. Wakeman
Why It Made the Cut
The Wakeman 2-Person Tent is likely the most affordable tent on our list and is perfect for anyone looking for a cheap tent to pitch in the yard for their kids or for a spur-of-the-moment trip in fair weather.
- Weight: 2.75 lbs
- Set up dimensions: 77” x 57” x 40”
- Packed dimensions: 24.75″ x 4.5″ x 4.45″
- Very affordable
- Packable and lightweight
- Roomy enough for 1-2 people
With only two fiberglass poles, this cheap tent is very easy to set up and take down. Made of 190T polyester, this dome tent measures 84 inches long and 60 inches wide, with a height of 48 inches. Other features include a removable rain fly, plenty of ventilation and an interior storage pocket to keep your contents neat and organized while enjoying the great outdoors.
Q: What’s the most durable tent?
The most durable tent is one made with a strong nylon outer and strong fiberglass poles to keep you sheltered and dry under most camping conditions.
Q: Are expensive tents worth it?
As with many kinds of outdoor essentials, expensive tents can sometimes be worth it. Largely, the answer depends on how you plan to use it. If you plan to camp 10 or more nights a year or in challenging weather, an expensive one might pay off.
Q: What’s the easiest tent to set up?
Dome tents are the easiest tents to set up, and many can be built by one person in just a few minutes. Cabin tents are a little more difficult, and some truck tents can seem nearly impossible to set up without help.
Q: What should I look for when buying a tent?
Look for a tent that fits your specific needs, including the type of activity you will do and your budget. Keep in mind that not all tents are created equal or will perform well in all weather conditions. You often get what you pay for with a tent, but there are many excellent budget-friendly options that will still hold up to the elements.
Q: How long do tents last?
How long tents last will depend on the materials they are made from, their design and construction, and how they are used and maintained. Investing in a durable tent that is easy to repair and maintain is a great way to help a tent last longer. If a tent is well made and is well maintained for its life with you, it can easily last 10+ years of use.
In the end, the best tents for you or your family will be the ones that meet all your needs without costing an arm and a leg. Always consider rain resistance when purchasing, and after you buy your camping tent consider adding additional waterproofing, especially the seams, just to be safe. For size, pick something that has enough room for your needs, but remember that bigger isn’t always better. You should be able to easily take your tent with you, whether you plan to tote it in your SUV’s cargo area or in your backpack. Most of all, have fun out there enjoying nature.