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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.

Best for Family Camping: MSR Habitude 4 Family & Group Camping Tent

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.

Key Features

  • Three-season
  • Weight: 12 lbs 10 oz
  • Set up dimensions: 95″ x 95″ x 73″
  • Packed dimensions: 23″ x 9″

Pros

  • Full coverage rainfly
  • Standing height
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Expensive

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 a long-lasting tent that your family can use for years to come.

Best Truck Tent: Napier Backroadz Truck Tent

This sturdy truck bed tent comes in five different sizes to fit nearly any pickup truck. Napier

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.

Key Features

  • Three-season
  • Weight: 16 lbs
  • Set up dimensions: Varies
  • Packed dimensions: Varies

Pros

  • Affordable price
  • Available in 5 models
  • Well ventilated

Cons

  • 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.

Best for Backpacking: NEMO Dragonfly 2

What It Made the Cut: The NEMO Dragonfly 2 is one of the best backpacking tents for its excellent balance between quality, durability, and functionality in the field.

Key Features

  • 3-Season
  • Weight: 3.16 lbs
  • Setup Dimensions: 88.1″ x 50″ x 41.5″
  • Packed Dimensions: 19.5″ x 4.5″

Pros

  • Roomy vestibules
  • Very lightweight
  • Easy to setup
  • Excellent ventilation

Cons

  • Tapered foot section

The NEMO Dragonfly 2 is our top choice for the best backpacking tent on this list. It checks all the boxes of durability, space, weight, and design. The tent is easy to set up, pack, and carry and is extremely well-designed to accommodate gear in the vestibules. Although there is plenty of space inside, the tapered foot section can make having two people sleeping inside the tent a bit crowded. Still, this intentional design is part of the reason it is such a light tent.

You can comfortably sit up inside the tent, and the lightweight allows this to be used for just one person. There is tons of space inside the vestibules for gear, but if you are a solo camper, you’d have room to store most of your gear inside.

We cannot overlook the weather protection this tent provides. Featuring a double-wall design, the full-coverage rainfly protects you from wind and rain. As a 3-season tent, it is essential to have enough ventilation while still being able to retain heat. There are no issues with interior condensation with the ventilation system here, making this a top pick for warm weather and even shoulder season backpacking adventures.

Best Two-Person: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2

What It Made the Cut: The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 is a roomy and lightweight tent that functions well as a backpacking tent for two individuals. 

Key Features

  • 3-Season
  • Weight: 3.09 lbs
  • Setup Dimensions: 88” x 42” x 40”
  • Packed Dimensions: 19.5” x 6”

Pros

  • Two doors
  • Lightweight
  • Spacious
  • Easy to setup

Cons

  • High price point
  • Not the most durable materials 

Most two-person tents feel overcrowded with two average-sized people inside, and not all of them have two doors or vestibules to accommodate gear on top of that. The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 is an excellent balance between space and weight. It is relatively roomy for two people to sleep inside, but to ensure you have room for everything, there are also two doors and vestibules. 

The lightweight design makes it feasible to pack this on a backpacking trip, but as it is so light, the materials are not quite as durable as some heavier options. So, if you plan on using this for car camping or festivals, it may be best to opt for a heavier tent made with more durable materials. 

Still, the weight is a big draw for many. It is easy to pack, easy to set up, and surprisingly weather resistant. Take good care of this tent, and it will prove to be durable enough to last you several years on the trail. 


Best 4 Season: Mountain Hardwear Trango 2

What It Made the Cut: The Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 is a tent built for basecamp and provides a roomy and livable space for winter camping and mountaineering.

Key Features

  • 4-Season
  • Weight: 9 lbs. 10 oz.
  • Setup Dimensions: 92” x 64” x 38”
  • Packed Dimensions: 8” x 24”

Pros

  • Extremely durable 
  • Secure in high winds
  • Bathtub floor
  • Roomy vestibule 

Cons

  • Expensive but you pay for quality 
  • Heavy 

If you are venturing into the mountains or are an avid winter camper, the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 is a tent that will catch your eye. It is built to be liveable in basecamps and withstand days of extreme weather conditions. 

The two-person design is excellent for one person and all of your gear. It is still worth noting that it does have a larger floor space than most other 2-person tents so it also works for two people relatively comfortably. The vestibule is roomy, but the interior can also hold much of your needs throughout your stay. The major con that most will point out with this tent is the weight. There is a reason it weighs this much, and that is because of the added space and features like an extended bathtub floor. 

If you are looking for a tent of the same caliber that can accommodate more people, Mountain Hardwear also has three and 4-person tents of this style. They will be even heavier, so keep that in mind if you haul them up a mountain.


Best Budget: Coleman Sundome

What It Made the Cut: The Coleman Sundome is a value tent that has enough room for the whole family.

Key Features

  • 3-Season
  • Weight: 7.5 lbs
  • Setup Dimensions: 7′ x 5′ x 4′
  • Packed Dimensions: 6.22″ x 6.14″ x 23.89″

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Easy setup
  • Spacious interior and vestibule

Cons

  • Not as durable or weather-resistant as other options

The Coleman Sundome tent is an affordable option for campers just getting started or someone that only goes a couple of times a year and doesn’t want to spend too much money. It is available in several sizes, but the 4-person tent is one of the most affordable and functional sizes.

Even with the low price, it has decent weather protection, but you may want to test the water resistance before you go. That way, you can waterproof the tent if needed. If you are in a storm with this tent, be aware that it is rated for winds up to 35 mph, but it must be set up correctly to do so.

The tent has pre-attached poles, making the setup extremely easy. Having a fast setup is great for family camping trips, so you can spend more time enjoying activities together. Keep in mind that it is still a value tent. It has good features and protection for its price, but it will not be as durable or functional as other tents. Still, it is an excellent option for the price.

If you are on a budget but want slightly higher-quality gear, consider shopping for used tents. Many large retailers offer used or refurbished options, or look to see if there is a gear consignment shop near you.

FAQs

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.

Final Thoughts

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.