10 Best Camping Tents Reviewed & Tested In 2020 ( 2,4,6-Person Car Camping Tents )

campers gathered on the table early morning

A tent is a vital piece of gear while camping. Without a tent, your nights spent under the stars can be cold, wet, and windy. With a tent, you can enjoy the great outdoors from the comfort of your sleeping bag without having to worry about the weather.

That being said, there are so many different tents out there today that it can be difficult to know precisely which one is best for your needs.

To help ensure that you find the perfect tent, we’ve created your ultimate buyer’s guide to tents, complete with reviews of the ten best outdoor tents that money can buy.

 

The 10 Best Tents of 2020: Outdoor Empire Reviews

Here are our recommendations for the ten best outdoor tents on the market today:

  1. Best Budget #1: The North Face Stormbreak 2
  2. Best Budget #2: Big Agnes C Bar 2
  3. Best 2-Person #1: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2
  4. Best 2-Person #2: Nemo Dragonfly 2
  5. Best 4-Person #1: MSR Papa Hubba NX 4
  6. Best 4-Person #2: Marmot Limestone 4
  7. Best 6-Person #1: The North Face Wawona 6
  8. Best 6-Person #2: Big Agnes Titan mtnGLO 6
  9. Best Car Camping #1: CORE Lighted 9 Person Instant Cabin Tent
  10. Best Car Camping #2: Coleman Evanston Dome 8

 

CategoryBest 4-personBest 6-personBest Car Camping
ProductMSR Papa Hubba NX 4
MSR Papa Hubba NX 4

North Face Wawona 6
North Face Wawona 6

CORE Lighted 9 Person Instant Cabin Tent
CORE Lighted 9 Person Instant Cabin Tent

Weight7 lbs20 lbs 15 oz3 lbs
Packed Size21 x 7 in10 x 27 in48 x 13 in
Rainfly Material20D ripstop nylon with 1200 millimeter Xtreme Shield PU coating68D polyester68D polyester
FreestandingYesYesYes
Best forSmall families and groups that want a durable, efficient tentCar campers who prioritize comfort and functionality in their tentLuxury campers and large families that value personal space more than anything in the outdoors
CostCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

 

1. Best Budget Tent #1: The North Face Stormbreak 2

The North Face Stormbreak 2

Built with the budget camper in mind, the North Face Stormbreak 2 is a durable two-person tent for casual outdoor adventures. The Stormbreak 2 has an easy-pitch design to make setting up camp a bit easier, while high-low ventilation helps keep things cool during the summer months.

This tent uses a unique shape to provide ample headroom and living space as well as two doors with sizable vestibules for convenient entry and exit. The fly fabric is made from 68D polyester, which is waterproof for those summertime storms.

The best part? The Stormbreak 2 is a budget-friendly option for people who don’t want to spend a lot of money on their gear.

Most Important Specifications

  • Weight: 5 pounds 5 ounces (2.41 kilograms)
  • Packed Size: 7 inches x 22 inches (17.8 centimeters x 55.9 centimeters)
  • Rainfly Material: 68D polyester with taffeta 1200mm PU coating
  • Freestanding: Yes

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Lots of headroom and interior space
  • Two doors with vestibules for gear storage
  • Easy-pitch design
  • High-low ventilation for breathability

Cons

  • Very heavy
  • Polyester fly is bulky and heavy

Who is this tent for: Budget-conscious campers who want a tent that won’t break the bank.

 

 

2. Best Budget Tent #2: Big Agnes C Bar 2

 

Big Agnes C Bar 2

 

Are you new to camping and need a tent that can help you experience the joys of the great outdoors without costing you a fortune? That’s where the Big Agnes C Bar 2 comes in the picture.

This budget-friendly tent is made for backpacking and car camping in the summer months, so it’s a great starter model for your outdoor adventures.

Featuring a single DAC angle hub pole, the C Bar 2 is easy to set up in just minutes. It has one large door and vestibule for entry and exit as well as an oversized ceiling pocket to help store your essential gear. The C Bar 2 is even made with a fully waterproof polyester rainfly that can keep you dry, rain or shine.

Most Important Specifications

  • Weight: 4 pounds (1.81 kilograms)
  • Packed Size: 6 inches x 19 inches (5×48 centimeters)
  • Rainfly Material: Polyester taffeta with 1500 millimeter PU coating
  • Freestanding: Yes

Pros

  • Overhead gear storage pocket
  • Vestibule for outdoor gear storage
  • Budget friendly
  • Relatively compact for a budget tent

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Small interior space
  • Only one door

Who is this tent for: Infrequent campers on a tight budget.

 

Big Agnes C Bar 2 is also available at:

Moosejaw

 

3. Best 2-Person Tent #1: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2

 

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2

 

The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 is a solid all-around lightweight backpacking tent for use on any summer camping trip. The Copper Spur was recently revamped with new features, such as a large vestibule that can be propped up to act as an awning on particularly sunny days.

The tent itself provides ample interior living space and has an assortment of pockets and storage options inside to help organize your gear. Easy to set up, the Copper Spur uses a single hub-style DAC Featherlite pole that is light, yet durable.

Oh, and the tent has plenty of mesh paneling to help aid ventilation during the warm summer months for more comfort while camping.

Most Important Specifications

  • Weight: 3 pounds 2 ounces (1.41 kilograms)
  • Packed Size: 5 inches x 6 inches
  • Rainfly Material: Ripstop nylon with 1200 millimeter PU coating and silicone treatment
  • Freestanding: Yes

Pros

  • Easy to set up with durable DAC Featherlite poles
  • Lots of mesh paneling for ventilation
  • The fly door can be converted into an awning on sunny days
  • Plenty of interior gear storage options

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not great in very windy conditions

Who is this tent for: Backpackers who want a versatile tent for a variety of conditions.

 

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 is also available at: 

Moosejaw

Outdoorplay

 

4. Best 2-Person Tent #2: Nemo Dragonfly 2

Nemo Dragonfly 2

The Nemo Dragonfly 2 is a do-anything lightweight tent for weight-conscious summer backpackers. Thanks to its lightweight, hub-style, color-coded poles, the Dragonfly 2 is very easy to pitch in just minutes.

While it has a fairly narrow footprint, the Dragonfly provides plenty of headroom for added comfort on the trail.

It features two large vestibules for outdoor gear storage while an assortment of interior pockets makes staying organized a breeze. Plus, the Dragonfly 2 has Nemo’s proprietary Divvy sack system, which makes it easy to split the weight of the tent between two people.

Most Important Specifications

  • Weight: 3 pounds 2 ounces (1.41 kilograms)
  • Packed Size: 54.5 inches (50 centimeters x 12 centimeters)
  • Rainfly Material: 15D ripstop nylon with silicone coating
  • Freestanding: Yes

Pros

  • Large vestibules for gear storage
  • Divvy stuff sack system makes it easy to split the weight
  • Lightweight, hub-style, color-coded poles
  • Plenty of interior gear pockets
  • High ceiling

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Thin rainfly fabric is prone to rips
  • Narrow footprint

Who is this tent for: Hikers who need a light, compact tent for quick trips in the mountains.

Learn more about the Nemo Dragonfly 2. 

 

5. Best 4-Person Backpacking Tent #1: MSR Papa Hubba NX 4

MSR Papa Hubba NX4

An award-winning four-person backpacking tent, the MSR Papa Hubba NX4 is a comfortable shelter for nights under the stars.

Combining livability with functionality, the Papa Hubba has a number of premium features, including Easton Syclone MAX poles, which are easy to use but provide ample durability in a storm.

This four-person tent has two large doors and two oversized vestibules for plenty of gear storage, as well as easy access to the tent. It also has a fully waterproof rainfly that can be adjusted to protect you from the rain or to give you an excellent look at the night sky above.

Most Important Specifications

  • Weight: 7 pounds
  • Packed Size: 21 inches x 7 inches (53 centimeters x 17 centimeters)
  • Rainfly Material: 20D ripstop nylon with 1200 millimeter Xtreme Shield PU coating
  • Freestanding: Yes

Pros

  • Packs down smaller than most two-person tents
  • Very durable Easton Syclone MAX poles
  • Easy to set up
  • Large doors and vestibules for gear storage

Cons

  • Somewhat heavy
  • Expensive

Who is this tent for: Small families and groups that want a durable, efficient tent.

 

 

6. Best 4-Person Tent #2: Marmot Limestone 4

 

Marmot Limestone 4

 

Designed with comfort and livability at the forefront, the Marmot Limestone 4 is an ideal car camping tent for small groups. This oversized tent can comfortably fit up to four people and offers plenty of interior space, thanks to its vertical walls and ample headroom.

The Limestone 4 is quick and easy to set up, thanks to its color-coded clips and poles system, which means you can spend less time pitching your tent and more time enjoying your trip.

The Limestone 4’s fly is well vented yet highly waterproof, and it can easily be removed for added breathability and a great view on starry nights. There are even interior pockets in the Limestone 4 to help organize your gear, so what’s not to love?

Most Important Specifications

  • Weight: 10 pounds 13.5 ounces (4.9 kilograms)
  • Packed Size: 28 inches x10.5 inches (70 centimeters x 26 centimeters)
  • Rainfly Material: 68D Polyester Taffeta
  • Freestanding: Yes

Pros

  • Straight-sided walls for maximum headroom and livability
  • Interior pockets to organize gear
  • Large doors and vestibules
  • Color-coded poles and clips for easy setup

Cons

  • Very heavy
  • Large packed size
  • Not great in high winds

Who is this tent for: Car campers who want a very comfortable tent for a small group.

 

Marmot Limestone 4 is also available at:

Walmart

 

7. Best 6-Person Tent #1: The North Face Wawona 6

The North Face Wawona 6

As one of the world’s premier car camping tents for small groups, the North Face Wawona is hard to beat. This single-wall tent is highly waterproof but easy to pitch, thanks to its exterior pole design.

It has a huge vestibule with two entry points that adds a whole lot of extra living space to your tent as well as plenty of space to store your gear.

The tent itself has large mesh windows for a view and a breeze, as well as pre-bent poles that provide ample interior space and ceilings high enough that adults can stand fully upright.

The Wawona 6 has interior gear storage pockets to help you stay organized, as well as internal drying lines and hanging loops for added functionality during your camping trip.

Most Important Specifications

  • Weight: 20 pounds 15 ounces
  • Packed Size: 10 inches x 27 inches (25.4 centimeters x 81.3 centimeters)
  • Rainfly Material: 68D polyester
  • Freestanding: Yes

Pros

  • Incredibly spacious
  • Huge vestibule for gear storage and extra living space
  • Large mesh windows
  • Very comfortable

Cons

  • Very heavy
  • Very bulky
  • Not good for backpacking

Who is this tent for: Car campers who prioritize comfort and functionality in their tent.

 

 

8. Best 6-Person Tent #2: Big Agnes Titan mtnGLO 6

 

Big Agnes Titan mtnGLO 6

 

Do you like a little bit of luxury when you glamp? Then the Big Agnes Titan mtnGLO 6 just might be what you’re looking for. This spacious six-person tent has an easy-to-set-up external pole design with color-coded clips to simplify the pitching process.

Inside, the Titan 6 has attachment points for multiple gear lofts for added storage space, while the high ceilings provide ample living space.

While the tent is highly breathable and waterproof, you can also choose to attach an optional vestibule system, which provides added living space and a covered outdoor area to store your gear.

The best part? The Titan 6 has a built-in LED light system so you can hang out, relax, and enjoy your evenings outdoors in your tent with just the push of a button.

Most Important Specifications

  • Weight: 15 pounds 7 ounces (7 kilograms)
  • Packed Size: 29 inches x 9 inches (74 centimeters x 23 centimeters)
  • Rainfly Material: Ripstop polyester with 1500 millimeter PU coating
  • Freestanding: Yes

Pros

  • Built-in lighting system
  • Easy to set up with color-coded webbing and buckles
  • Lots of ventilation

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Heavy and bulky
  • No vestibules
  • Not ideal for bad weather without the optional vestibule

Who is this tent for: Car campers who like a bit of luxury in their tents for summer camping.

 

 

9. Best Car Camping Tent #1: CORE Lighted 9 Person Instant Cabin Tent

CORE Lighted 9 Person Instant Cabin Tent

Do you hate setting up tents but also like to camp in style? Well, then the CORE Lighted 9 Person Instant Cabin Tent just might be what you’ve always wanted. This tent is incredibly spacious, with enough room for nine campers in sleeping bags or two queen-sized mattresses.

It features a cabin-style design with straight walls and high ceilings that maximizes interior living space and takes just one minute to set up. This tent’s roof can be removed for added breathability and for a bit of extra natural light on sunny days.

Plus, it has a built-in LED lighting system with three different light modes so you can enjoy comfortable summer evenings in your tent without a headlamp.

Most Important Specifications

  • Weight: 3 pounds (18 kilograms)
  • Packed Size: 48 inches x 13 inches (121.9 centimeters x 33 centimeters)
  • Rainfly Material: 68D polyester
  • Freestanding: Yes

Pros

  • Built-in lighting system
  • Instant set up
  • Very comfortable
  • High ceiling height
  • Removable roof for added ventilation and natural light

Cons

  • Extremely heavy (not suitable for backpacking)
  • Very bulky
  • No vestibules
  • Not ideal in a storm

Who is this tent for: Luxury campers and large families that value personal space more than anything in the outdoors.

 

 

10. Best Car Camping Tent #2: Coleman Evanston Dome 8

Coleman Evanston Dome 8

If you love maximizing your time outside while camping, the Coleman Evanston Dome 8 is an ideal shelter. This dome-shaped tent features a large screened porch, which means you can sit outside and enjoy the sun without getting eaten by the bugs.

The Evanston Dome 8 is easy to set up, thanks to its Insta-Clip Pole Attachments and snag-free continuous pole sleeves. Inside the tent, there’s plenty of living space as well as a six-foot ceiling height for maximum comfort.

A great mix of comfort and functionality, the Evanston Dome 8 is an affordable family tent for summer camping weekends.

Most Important Specifications

  • Weight: 5 pounds (11.1 kilograms)
  • Packed Size: 5 inches x 10.5 inches (72 centimeters x 27 centimeters)
  • Rainfly Material: Polyester fly with WeatherTec
  • Freestanding: Yes

Pros

  • Large screen porch provides ample outdoor living space
  • Comfortable design
  • Easy to set up
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Very heavy
  • Not good for backpacking
  • Not very durable in a storm

Who is this tent for: Large families that love outdoor living space in their tent.

 

 

Tent Types

different tents on mountain peak

Tents come in many different shapes and sizes, each with their own unique advantages and disadvantages. If you buy the right tent, camping can be an enjoyable way to spend time outside.

Buy the wrong tent, however, and you might spend the night wishing you booked yourself a room at the Holiday Inn, instead.

So, here are some of the different tent types that you should be aware of as your shopping around:

 

Budget vs. Premium Tents

different tents on grassy land by the river

No one likes to spend more money than they have to on a piece of gear, and tents are no exception. However, when it comes to equipment like outdoor tents, there is generally quite a substantial difference between a budget tent and a premium alternative.

Here’s what you need to know about budget and premium tents before you buy:

 

Budget Tents

crooked tent on the seashore

Budget tents, as the name suggests, are an affordable version of an outdoor shelter. While there might not be too much of a difference between them and a premium model as far as looks go, when you start diving into the nitty-gritty of it all, you’ll see that there are some important differences.

First things first, a budget tent is either going to be durable or lightweight. Unfortunately, there is really no such thing as a durable, lightweight, and affordable tent.

When you buy a budget tent that’s durable, you’ll get a tent that’s built with very thick fabrics and heavy poles that can certainly hold up in a storm. Unfortunately, the materials used in budget tents, like polyester for the rain fly and thick aluminum poles, do weigh quite a lot.

Plus, these materials also tend to be quite bulky in your pack.

A budget tent can also be more on the lightweight side of the spectrum but that means it uses less-durable materials.

In a budget tent, you’re just not going to get top-of-the-line materials as you would in a premium tent, so you’re effectively choosing either durability or weight savings in exchange for a cheaper product.

 

Premium Tents

tent on the lawn during a sunny day

While a budget tent is designed to be friendly to your bank account, a premium tent is going to be made with the best materials and construction available.

Some of the high-end fabrics you might see in a premium tent include ripstop nylon and Dyneema while you’ll often see tent poles made out of special aluminum alloys or carbon fiber.

Additionally, premium tents will often feature some cutting-edge technology, like pre-bent poles and pole hub systems that make set-up easier. They’ll also often have very robust designs to withstand the forces of a big storm, especially in the high alpine.

Of course, all of this comes at a price, but if you spend a lot of time in the backcountry, it might be worth it.

 

Tent Shape

There are about a dozen different tent shapes out there, each of which is designed for use in a specific situation. Since each tent shape has its own pros and cons, here are some of the few you’re likely to see while you’re shopping around:

 

Dome Tent

tent pitched by the seashore

A dome tent is, as the name suggests, shaped like a dome. They are very common and generally feature two crisscrossing poles for durability and a rainfly for weather protection.

Dome tents have pretty high center points, which allow for more headroom, and are pretty good at holding up in the wind and rain.

 

Wedge/A-Frame Tents

wedge tent on green lawn

Although these were more popular a few decades ago, you’ll still find a lot of wedge tents on the market today. They are shaped like the letter A, with steep sides, and often have one pole at either end to give the tent its structure. Wedge tents are quite easy to set up but are often heavy and bulky.

 

Geodesic Tents

The North Face Geodome 4 set up in the woods
The North Face Geodome 4

A geodesic tent is essentially like a revamped dome tent that provides even more support and structure in high winds. They look like a half sphere and usually have many crisscrossing poles that provide a lot of durability in a storm.

Geodesic tents tend to be quite expensive, but when it comes to durability in remote terrain, they can’t be beaten.

 

Tunnel Tent

tunnel tents on the foot of the mountain

Tunnel tents have a long profile and are held up by two to four poles that get bent over the top of the tent and extend to the other side to give them a round shape.

While tunnel tents provide a lot of living space and are quite weather resistant, they are almost always non-freestanding tents, which means you really need to pitch them well for them to be effective.

 

Cabin Tent

cabin tents on an open field

A cabin tent is a large tent that’s designed to look a lot like a cabin. These tents feature straight-sided walls and relatively flat roofs, which helps increase their total livable space for added comfort outside.

They often have two or more rooms and are very popular among car campers. However, they are not very robust in a storm and are generally too heavy for backpacking.

 

Freestanding vs. Non-freestanding

tent in the woods
Non-freestanding

A lesser-known tent distinction, the difference between freestanding and non-freestanding tents is actually quite important. But what exactly is a freestanding tent?

Basically, a freestanding tent is one that can be pitched and hold its structure without having to be staked out on the ground. This makes them different from non-freestanding tents which need to be anchored to the ground to stay upright.

Many non-freestanding tents are very strong in the wind, but you need to pitch them well, or they won’t be terribly effective. So, if you’re not very confident in your tent pitching abilities, it’s probably best to stick with a freestanding model.

However, since non-freestanding tents get a lot of their structure from being anchored to the ground, they are often lighter and more compact than their freestanding cousins. So, there are some advantages and disadvantages to each type of tent.

 

Single-Wall vs. Double-Wall Tents

man starting camp fire
Double-wall

Another lesser-known distinction in the world of tents is that of the single-wall and double-wall models. Double-wall tents are the most common, by far, and they feature a mesh inner tent body and an outer rainfly for weatherproofing.

Single-wall tents are relatively new in the outdoor world and feature just a single layer of fabric between you and the elements. These tents tend to be much more expensive, as they are much lighter than double-wall alternatives.

However, while there are some incredibly waterproof and durable single-wall tents out there, they are often less breathable than the double-wall alternatives.

Therefore, they are better suited to remote backpacking and alpine climbing trips where weight and weather resistance is the biggest concern.

 

Buying Advice: How to Choose/Important Considerations

campers busy setting up

Before you commit to buying a tent, there are quite a few things you ought to consider. In this section, we’ll walk you through the basic features and factors you should think about as you’re looking for your next outdoor shelter.

 

How to Choose a Camping Tent

Choosing a camping tent to take on your adventures ultimately comes down to understanding how you plan to use it. Since there’s a tent out there for pretty much any kind of camping style, it’s important that you find the one that best fits your needs.

Here are some of the different things you should think about as you shop for an outdoor tent:

 

Intended Use

bikes parked outside of tents

There are many different kinds of camping out there. While some people enjoy a long backpacking trip, others prefer to set up camp at a campground and enjoy some of life’s little luxuries and the great outdoors all at the same time.

As you can imagine, the gear that a backpacker needs is very different from what a car camper would bring with them to a campground. So, your intended use will make a big difference in what kind of tent you should buy.

If you’re looking to do a lot of backpacking or alpine climbing, you’ll almost certainly want a lightweight, highly portable tent with a small packed size. Backpackers and climbers need tents that are very strong and sturdy in the wind and rain, but that also won’t weigh too much in their packs.

Car campers, on the other hand, tend to care less about weight and packed size and more about comfort and additional features. Most car camping tents will be large structures that provide plenty of internal living space.

tent set by the car

Often, they are big enough to allow adults to stand fully upright, thanks to their tall ceiling height and may even have more than one room.

However, car camping tents are designed for comfort over durability and weather resistance. Since they often have tall ceilings and straight-sided walls for added living space, they are going to be less robust in the wind and the rain.

Therefore, car camping tents are not ideal for use in very stormy environments.

 

Terrain and Season Considerations

tent on grassland foggy day

Every tent is designed for use in a specific type of terrain and during a specific season. So, it’s important that you buy a model that best aligns with the conditions you’re likely to face during your travels.

If you spend a lot of time below tree line or camp on rocks and dirt, you’re going to want a tent with a durable floor that won’t get filled with holes after one night of camping on rough terrain.

Alternatively, if you do a lot of camping above tree line and on snow, a tent that has a durable, waterproof floor is going to be of the utmost importance.

When it comes to the camping season, you’ll notice that tents are designated as either three-season or four-season models. Essentially, any tent that’s rated as three-season should not be used during the winter months.

tent blown by the icey wind
Three-season tent

Why, you might ask? Well, three-season tents just aren’t designed to handle the rougher conditions of the winter season. They generally are not strong enough to hold up in exceptionally high winds and are not sturdy enough to stay upright in heavy snow conditions.

Plus, three-season tents usually feature a lot of mesh paneling on their inner body, which is best for breathability in the summer months. However, this mesh provides no warmth or insulation, which is less than ideal in the winter.

Four-season tents, on the other hand, are going to be a bit more robust to handle the demands of winter. They will have stronger poles and thicker fabrics for stability in the wind. They will also have straighter walls to help encourage snow to slide off instead of piling up.

Finally, they will have less mesh paneling to help keep you warm at night.

Do keep in mind, though, that four-season tents are generally heavier, bulkier, and more expensive than their three-season cousins. Thus, it’s not a great idea to buy one unless you’re actually planning on camping in the wintertime.

 

Sleeping Capacity

sleeping bands inside the tent first person view

The sleeping capacity of your tent will have a direct impact on your shelter’s performance in the backcountry. However, this is one of the few tent considerations where we can’t tell you what kind of tent is best for your needs.

Instead, you need to think about how many people you routinely go camping with, as this will determine the size of tent that you need. If you often camp alone or with just one other person, a one- or two-person tent will do the trick.

However, if you generally camp with your family or with a group of friends, you might need a tent with more sleeping capacity. It’s also worth keeping in mind that you can always get a larger tent so you have more living space and more room to store your gear.

That being said, larger tents will be heavier, bulkier, and more expensive, so there are some tradeoffs.

 

Important Considerations

Now that you understand how to choose a tent, let’s talk a bit about the different features and factors you ought to consider as you’re shopping around. Here’s what you should keep in mind:

 

Weight

couple backpackers carrying gear in the woods

Depending on what kind of outdoor activities you like to do, the weight of your tent can have a pretty substantial impact on your experience. A heavy tent is sure to hold you back if you’re on a remote backpacking or climbing trip and have to carry all your gear in your pack.

However, if you’re going car camping or canoe camping, the weight of your tent might not make too much of a difference. Thus, you need to determine what kind of camping you like to do before you decide how much you want to value weight savings in your tent.

Keep in mind that some more affordable tents will compromise on overall durability in order to save weight. Alternatively, some heavier tents are incredibly durable, so we often have to make compromises when we decide between weight savings, durability, and cost.

 

Packed Size

backpackers hiking on a hot day

The packed size of a tent might not seem like a big deal, but if you have to pack up camp every morning on a backpacking trip, you’ll be much happier with a more compact shelter. Generally speaking, lightweight tents will be a bit more compact, as they tend to use thinner, high-performance materials.

Alternatively, a more durable tent might take up more room in your pack because it uses bulkier materials.

If you’re more interested in car camping, though, having a bulkier tent might not make too much of a difference and could allow you to save some money while also having a more durable shelter for the long term.

 

Ease of Set-Up

woman setting up a tent

If you don’t particularly enjoy setting up tents or you find that you often struggle with pitching your shelter for the night, it might be a good idea to invest in an easy-to-set-up model.

Thankfully, most tents these days come with some form of easy-set-up system that makes getting camp ready a breeze.

While you’re shopping, you’ll want to look for tents with fewer poles and a color-coded system for setting things up. These two features will significantly cut down on the amount of time that you spend pitching your tent when you arrive at camp.

That being said, if you really don’t like setting up your tent, you can always buy an instant-pop-up tent, which more or less eliminates the entire tent-pitching process.

These instant tents have preplaced poles and just need to be opened up and anchored to the ground. Often, instant tents are less durable than other models, but they’re very popular for car camping.

 

Durability

dome tent with open door

No one wants to spend their hard-earned money on a tent only to find that it breaks after a few nights outdoors. Thus, durability should be a top concern for all campers.

When shopping for a tent, you’ll want to look for a model that has a strong ripstop nylon tent fly and a thick floor to prevent punctures. Additionally, it’s best to have a tent with highly durable aluminum poles designed to hold up well in high winds.

Keep in mind, too, that a tent’s shape also affects its durability. Dome, tunnel, and geodesic tents tend to be more durable than cabin and wedge tents simply because their shape is better suited to hold up in foul weather.

Finally, it’s important to remember that budget tents will often compromise on durability in order to save weight or cut down on costs. So, if durability is a major concern for you, it might be worth investing a bit more in your tent at the start.

 

Weather Resistance

tent pitched on a snow covered peak

The main purpose of a tent is to protect you from the elements, so having a weather-resistant shelter is critical. Overall weather resistance, though, is a combination of a number of factors, including durability, shape, and waterproofing, rather than a single feature you can look for.

Since we’ve already covered durability and shape, we’ll just talk about waterproofing here. Modern tents will come with some sort of water-resistant outer fabric that’s designed to protect you from rain and snow.

More often than not, this outer fabric is made from ripstop nylon, which is lightweight, durable, and waterproof. However, some budget tents will substitute polyester for the outer fabric, which is heavier and less durable.

Additionally, most quality tents will have a durable water repellent (DWR) coating on their outer fabric, which helps water bead off instead of soaking through in a storm. They will also have fully sealed seams that prevent rain from seeping through and dripping on you at night.

Some budget tents, though, will require that you do your own seam sealing at home, while most premium tents will come factory seam-taped when you buy them.

 

Doors and Vestibules

yellow tent lit in pitchblack night

The doors of a tent might seem like a minor feature to pay attention to, but the shape and size of your tent doors can make a big difference in your camping experience.

Tents with multiple large doors make it easy to enter and exit the tent, which means less time spent crawling over your tent mates at night.

Additionally, tents with large vestibules are very useful on longer trips. A vestibule is basically a covered space around the door of your tent and is an ideal spot for storing gear while camping. However, vestibules add weight and bulk to a tent, so they do have some drawbacks.

 

Price

hand pulling out money from wallet

While we all wish that we could buy whatever gear we want, price is almost always going to be a factor in our decision making.

When it comes to buying a tent, we recommend spending as much as you’re comfortable with, as a little bit of extra investment can be the difference between a budget tent and a premium model.

In the end, $50 extra dollars now could get you a more durable tent that you won’t have to replace for years.

 

Best Tent Brands

Buying a tent is a major financial investment, so it’s understandable if you want to buy from a reputable manufacturer. Here are some of the most trusted tent brands on the market today:

 

The North Face

The North Face logo

The North Face is an American outdoor gear company that’s been making top-of-the-line products since 1968.

Founded by legendary climber Doug Tompkins, The North Face got its start as a technical gear company for rock climbing and alpine pursuits but has since expanded to include a wide range of products for land-based outdoor adventures.

Their line of tents is known for being some of the most durable in the world, and their gear is often used on high-altitude expeditions in the Himalaya, Karakorum, and the Alaska ranges.

While the company’s clothing is also popular in the lifestyle fashion world, their tents continue to be some of the most reliable on the market today.

 

Big Agnes

Big Agnes logo

Big Agnes is a Steamboat Springs, Colorado-based company with over twenty years of experience making some of the best gear in the industry. Big Agnes’ equipment focuses on comfort and functionality, and their tents are no exception.

These days, Big Agnes’ tents are best known for maximizing comfort without shirking on quality. While they make a lot of larger tents for car camping use, Big Agnes also has a line of ultralight tents that are perfect for backpackers and thru-hikers alike.

Perhaps the most unique technology that Big Agnes offers is its mtnGLO system, which provides built-in LED lighting in some of their tents.

 

Nemo

Nemo logo

Nemo is a New Hampshire-based company that specializes in creating some of the most innovative outdoor gear in the world. They offer a range of different tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, pillows, and camp furniture, each of which is crafted with some of the most high-tech fabrics and materials in the world.

One of Nemo’s unique technological innovations is its AirSupport system, which provides durability and stability in a tent without adding weight. They also make a line of incredibly lightweight yet livable tents, which are perfect for backcountry adventures.

 

MSR

MSR logo

MSR, or Mountain Safety Research, is a Seattle-based outdoor gear company. Founded in 1969 by Malcolm Smith, MSR is best known for its top-of-the-line stoves, snowshoes, and water filters, which are used by campers and mountaineers around the world.

However, their tents are second to none, thanks to their superior construction and high-quality materials. MSR’s Hubba series features a line of tents that can meet any three-season camping need without sacrificing comfort for functionality.

 

Camping Tents FAQ

Here are our answers to some of your most common questions about camping tents:

 

How Waterproof Are Tents? Should I Buy Tent Waterproofing Spray?

The vast majority of tents these days come from the factory fully waterproof. However, you will still probably want to buy yourself some waterproofing spray, as every tent will need to be re-waterproofed to operate at their peak performance.

You’ll know your tent needs to be re-waterproofed whenever it starts to allow water to seep through. In these instances, you likely need to reapply your tent’s DWR coating with a waterproofing spray to help water bead off the rainfly instead of seep through.

Additionally, you might need to buy some seam sealer to reseal the seams on your tent after every few months of use.

 

How Do I Insulate a Tent for Winter Camping?

If you plan on camping during the winter months, you’ll want to make sure you have a system for staying warm. While most people think that you’re better off trying to insulate the tent, however, it’s generally best to simply insulate yourself.

To stay warm while winter camping, you’ll want to do the following:

Get a warm sleeping bag. There’s no substitute for a warm sleeping bag in the winter months. It’s best to have a sleeping bag that’s rated for temperatures at least 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit colder than you will actually face.

Try a sleeping bag liner. If you find that your sleeping bag just isn’t warm enough, you can always try a sleeping bag liner, which can add up to 25 degrees Fahrenheit of warmth to your bag.

Use two sleeping pads. In the winter, it’s best to have one inflatable sleeping pad and one foam pad to help insulate you from the cold ground.

Wear a hat. Our heads are often the only part of our body that’s not covered in clothing, so don’t forget to wear a hat if you’re feeling cold!

Have a hot water bottle. If you have a hard-plastic water bottle, like a Nalgene, you can fill it up with hot water and take it into your sleeping bag at night for extra warmth.

 

What Do I Need for Camping in a Tent?

To camp in a tent, you’ll need to have certain pieces of gear to get a good night’s sleep. Here are the items you’ll want to have with you:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Camping pillow (optional)
  • Warm clothing/long underwear
  • Warm socks
  • Headlamp
  • Earplugs (if you have tent mates that snore!)
  • Water bottle
  • A good book

 

How Can I Make Tent Camping More Comfortable?

For many people, the idea of sleeping in a tent sounds rather uncomfortable. However, tent camping can be a fantastic experience, so long as you know what you need to do to get a good night’s sleep. Keep these tips in mind on your next camping trip:

Get a comfortable sleeping pad. The number one complaint we see from campers is that their foam sleeping pad is too thin. So, do yourself a favor and invest in a quality inflatable pad. You won’t regret it.

Use a camping pillow. While some people think a camping pillow is silly, if you’re used to sleeping with a pillow at home, a compact inflatable camping pillow can make a huge difference in your comfort levels.

Have the right clothing. If you’re cold at night while camping, you might not be wearing the right clothing. When you’re in your sleeping bag, you should wear long underwear and thick socks to stay warm.

Bring camp shoes. It’s nice to have a pair of Crocs or other slide-on shoes while camping so you can quickly slip them on if you need to answer nature’s call in the middle of the night.

Use a headlamp. Although you could just bring a flashlight, a headlamp illuminates your world while also allowing you to use your hands.

Continue reading, we also have separate guides on:

Backpacking tents

Family tents

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