The Best Camping Tents, According to Outdoor Experts

About a decade ago, after years spent enjoying the occasional day hike or weekend campout, I got into pretty serious mountaineering. With it came all the necessary outdoor gear — the recreational clothing and the camping gadgets and the family camping essentials. And it all accumulated fast. (At present, I own seven tents, which is a lot, to be sure…but they each serve a somewhat different purpose and I swear I needed them all.)

But for anyone who isn’t interested in filling their garage with camping gear or discovering their favorite tent for camping by trial and error, you’d be wise to consult our list of the best camping tents below. Knowing exactly what kind of tent you need and investing in a quality option that will last a long time is important.

To bring you the best advice on this front, I’m combining my years of personal camping experience with input from backpacking and outdoor adventure experts who know a whole lot about what makes a solid camping tent. I checked in with Joseph McConaughy (AKA Stringbean) who, among other accomplishments, holds Fastest Known Time (FKT) records on the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. He’s spent more time than most in a tent, often when leading backpacking trips as guide and instructor.

I also spoke to Derek Temple, category merchant manager with REI, who shared his thoughts on the best four-season tents and the best tents for solo camping, both of which require an extra level of quality and reliability. So whether you’re heading for the summit of a 14er solo or planning to spend a weekend in the wilderness with the whole family, the best camping tents outlined below will have you covered.


Best Camping Tent For Families

Coleman Carlsbad 6P Dark Room Tent

When it comes to camping with the family, size matters. For a family camping trip, McConaughy advises “not to worry about weight, [but to] care more about durability. And from kids, not elements.” Having spent a couple dozen trips to the woods sleeping in this tent with kids, a few nights that did indeed involve heavy rains, I can tell you the Coleman Carlsbad is a great choice for standing up to both children and Mother Nature. And it’s packed with clever features that make camping with kids less stressful.

Its interior is kept darker than most tents thanks to the Dark Room fabric of the walls and rain fly. That (potentially) lets the fam sleep in a bit later after sunup and might even let you put the kids to bed before sunset. A screened-in vestibule gives parents a bug-free space to chill outside the tent proper. The windows zip open for airflow, a loop at the top off the dome can hang a lantern or fan and two side pockets allow for stashing phones, flashlights, toiletries and more. Also, despite being cavernous inside, the tent sets up in well under 10 minutes once you’ve done it a few times.


Best Camping Tent For Solo Adventurers

Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL Ultralight Backpacking Tent

Temple calls this lightweight option from Big Agnes “a tent that has the solo adventurer in mind.” He adds that “its simple, connected poles pack small and make set up easy, it offers good headroom, and has space in the vestibule to store gear.”

The tent weighs less than two pounds and rolls up to a four-inch by 19-inch package, so it can tuck into or strap onto any pack of decent dimensions. While the footprint isn’t much larger than space to accommodate your sleeping bag and pack, the tent is tall enough for even a larger camper to sit fully upright for comfort. And with the fly cover secured, you’ll stay dry and warm even when rain and wind come blowing through thanks to an exterior waterproof coating and fully taped seams.


Best Camping Tent For Car Camping

REI Co-op Base Camp Tent

“A solid all-around camping tent that’s easy to set up with a stable design,” the Base Camp is a customer and staff favorite at REI, according to Temple. “It also comes with a full rain fly keeping you snug and comfortable when weather turns adventurous.” At nearly 21 pounds it is on the heavier side, but that fits in with advice from McConaughy, who says that for car camping, when you might get to the site well after dark (and maybe in the rain), “you want a quick set up tent that handles rain well. And don’t worry about a larger tent, because weight isn’t a factor here.”

forbes.comREI Coupons | 50% Off In November 2020 | Forbes


Best Lightweight Camping Tent

Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2

Practice setting this tent up a least a half-dozen times in the comfort of your own yard or living room before you try to pitch it in the backwoods, because there is a definite learning curve to Hyperlite Mountain Gear tents (I know from experience). But with the added complexity of setup comes such a reduction in gear weight that if you’re hiking on a multi-day adventure or climbing a mountain, the effort and the price tag are well worth it.

This tent weighs in just shy of 19 ounces — lighter than most water bottles — yet it can keep you warm, dry and safe even in high Alpine conditions. McConaughy agrees that such “ultralight pyramid tents that rely on a trekking pole and stakes to stay in the ground… are obviously more technical to set up.” But that comically low weight makes this tent a great choice when every ounce counts.


Best Camping Tent For All Seasons

The North Face Mountain 25 Tent

If you need a tent that can truly keep you safe and comfortable 365-days a year, you’ll want to invest in the TNF Mountain 25, which Temple calls: “One of the most trusted, long-standing tents for all-season adventures. While not the lightest, [the Mountain 25] is one of the most stalwart in adverse conditions. [It has a] roomy interior and two doors and vestibules that help keep gear dry and organized.”

This tent has been tested in temperatures down to -60°F that one might encounter in the Arctic or Antarctic, and it can handle heavy snow loads, driving winds and buckets of rain. Plus eight interior pockets help with organization, which come in handy when you’re stuck inside for days on end.


Best Camping Tent For Backpacking

Marmot Crane Creek Backpacking Tent

Conventional camping wisdom says that when weight is not a factor, always go with a bigger tent. A three-person tent is actually comfortable for two campers, a four-person for three and so on. But when you’re trekking overland, you need to balance gear weight with nighttime comfort. And if two people will be sharing the tent at night, then two people can share the weight on the trail by splitting up the tent’s hardware.

The Crane Creek 2P weighs in at four pounds, 13 ounces, putting it in the sweet spot, according to McConaughy. “A two person tent in this category will generally be between 3.5 to seven pounds,” he explains. Dual doors and vestibules provide easy in-and-out and some extra gear storage space helps ensure the interior of the tent stays dry.


Best Low Cost Camping Tent

Coleman Sundome Tent

When you close your eyes and quickly picture a camping tent, it probably looks a lot like the Coleman Sundome, one of the best-selling tents on the market today. And there’s little mystery as to why. Relatively quick to set up, suitable for use in moderate rain and wind, and available in two-, three-, four- and six-person sizes, this is a fine tent for most any casual campout. And of course the very reasonable price tag seals the deal. But this isn’t a cheap tent in the pejorative sense; in fact, with more than 11,400 reviews posted on Amazon and counting, Coleman Sundome tents score a solid 4.6-star review.