When it comes to backpacking gear, the key to a successful expedition is the total weight. If you plan on overnight backpacking trips, one of the most important pieces of gear you need is a tent. Unfortunately, this is also one of the heaviest pieces of gear, so it is important that you find a tent that meets your needs and is a size that you can manage. The best tents for camping and backpacking do come with higher price tags that the tents that fit in the back of a big SUV.
Backpacking tents can be found at a reasonable price range, especially if you know what to look for. These tents are usually for one or two people. They usually have a small amount of square footage that is usually relegated to the floor of the tent rather than the height of the tent. Many of the best tents for camping will fit into compact spaces and the posts break down into sizes that will fit in the pockets of a good backpack, too.
How to Choose the Best Camping Tents
When you choose your camping tent, the potential weather should be a concern. If you are camping in the heat of the summer, your tent needs will be different than if you are camping in the fall or winter. In the spring and summer, tents take care of three situations. They protect you from bugs and rain. They also provide some privacy. In the winter, you need to have protection from wind and the weight of snow. Since winter camping is much colder, the fabric is denser and heavier than fabric used on tents created for warm-weather camping.
Big camping gear is easy to transport in a car or an SUV. Many of the tents come with features that make them easy to set up and take down. If you are tall, it is a good idea to consider the dimensions of the height and floor length. The tallest tents are cabin-style, because the walls are practically vertical. Dome-style tents do not have the same height, but they are better at shedding water and wind than cabin-style tents. Floor length varies from tent to tent. People who are over six feet in height will want a tent that has a floor with measurements that reach 90 inches. The typical tent has a floor length of 84 to 88 inches, which does not leave much room for tall campers.
Another consideration for all tents is the type of doors they have. Campers who are on their own only need one door, but families can benefit from two or more. It is a good idea to find tents with good zippers that do not catch on the fabric. Cabin-style tents have more doors than dome tents, so they tend to be better options for families.
Along with the number of doors, the types of additions that tents have can make a big difference in the happiness of the campers. Many tents have vestibules/shelters that provide more protection from bugs and the elements. Campers can come in and out of the shelter, then enter into the tent, so they do not have to worry about getting dirt or bugs in the tent itself.
When it comes to setting up the tent, there are a few elements that are necessary. Tent poles are necessary, but they can be infuriating – especially if the poles are difficult to use. Today’s tent poles allow tents to be set up without using stakes, making the tents easy to move. The easiest tents to set up are the ones that have the fewest poles. The best tents for camping use pole clips instead of sleeves or loops. Many other tents use color coding to simplify the setup, too.
Along with good poles, the best tents also have separate rain flies. These are like tarps that are customized to fit over tents. Some cover the entire tent and others cover just the roof. The type of rain fly you need will depend on the type of camping you plan to do. The bigger the rain fly, the more protection that they provide.
Tents also need protection on the bottom. Most tents do not come with a footprint, but they are incredibly useful. Tent floors are often reinforced because the friction they create with the debris on the ground. A footprint is like a tarp that goes underneath the tent. These are also custom fit to specific tents. The best footprints will keep rain from coming up from under the tent.
After you have found a tent or two that fits your family, the next thing to consider is the ventilation and the interior features. Ventilation comes from the doors, windows, and mesh panels. Often, the best ventilation comes from mesh panels on the roof that are covered lightly with the rain fly. On the inside, tents are being filled with pockets and loops. These features are designed to hold flashlights, lanterns, and other small items that should be off of the floor. Families appreciate having many pockets and loops so each family member can have their own spots for their gear.
Reviews 2017: Best Camping Tents for All Families and Friends
1. ALPS Mountaineering 5024617 Lynx 1-Person Tent – Best Tent for 1 Person
If you are camping on your own, there is no need for a big tent. The ALPS Mountaineering Lynx tent is designed to keep you protected from the elements without worrying about feeling trapped in a small space. The tent stands on its own, so it is easy to move. It is made of polyester taffeta and so is the fly making it UV resistant and weatherproof. The fly buckles on and there is a small vestibule for storing your gear, so you do not have to worry about you and your gear getting unnecessarily wet. The fly and floor seams are sealed by the factory. The walls of the tent are half mesh. The floor of the tent measures 7’6” x 2’8” while the tent height measures 3′. The entire tent weighs 3 pounds 15 ounces. The tent floor is poly coated for extra durability. It comes with a gear loft, aluminum stakes, and guy ropes.
2. Mountainsmith Morrison 2 Person 3 Season Tent – Best Tent for 2 Person
A good two-person tent provides enough room for the pair to sit and sleep comfortably inside of the space. It also provides space for gear that needs to stay dry. This tent fits those requirements. The Mountainsmith Morrison tent is a three-season tent that is freestanding and easy to set up. It has a “bathtub” floor with taped seams so the interior stays dry even in a soaking rain. The tent only has two poles that clip in place and the rain fly is color coded so it is easy to set up the whole thing. The rain fly has a 2000-millimeter polyurethane coating to truly keep the rain out. The polyester floor has a 5000-millimeter coating to keep debris from damaging the tent and rain from seeping in from the bottom. The tent floor measures 35 square feet and is 56” x 43” x 92” so tall campers have room to move. When the tent is packed up, it weighs just under five pounds.
3. HIGH PEAK South Col 4 Season Backpacking Tent – Best Tent for 3 Person
The High Peak tent is a free-standing tent that is easy to set up. This tent includes clip poles, guy ropes, and fits two or three campers. The tent only weighs 9.7 pounds including the tent, poles, stakes, and rain fly. It includes two large doors that also have storm flaps to keep the elements outside. The rain fly adds two vestibules to the tent making it easy to keep gear dry. On the inside, this tent is loaded with four gear pockets. High Peak designed this tent so that it can be set up by one person. All of the seams come taped and double-stitched to prevent leakage, too. The floor is treated polyester and it is coated with polyurethane to keep water from seeping up. The rain fly is also treated with polyurethane, so it will withstand 3,000 mm of water. This is considered a four-season tent, so it is slightly heavier than other models because it is designed to withstand the wind and weather of the snowy, cold winter as well as the warmer temperatures of the other three season.
4. Coleman Sundome 4 Person Tent – Best Tent for 4 Person
Coleman is one of the most recognizable names in camping gear, especially tents. They are known for quality products and this four-person tent is made to the company’s high standards. It is one of the most water-resistant tents on the market – with up to 33 percent more protection from the elements than other Coleman products. The tent has two windows and a rain fly for protection. The footprint measures 9’ x 7’ and the interior is almost 5’ tall at the center. It is a dome tent with one large door. The other mesh opening is a window on the opposite side of the door. The roof also has mesh vents. The floor is bathtub style and the welded seams all over protect from leaks, especially on the floor. Coleman also added a port for electric access so personal devices can be easily charged. The poles are connected by pins, rings, and clips, and the tent has guy points to help with stability. It has one interior pocket. The tent and rain fly has been used during hurricanes and has managed to keep the people inside completely dry!
5. CORE 6 Person Instant Cabin Tent – Best Tent for 6 Person
When you can set up your six-person tent in 60 seconds, you know you have a winner. The CORE tent does just that. This tent is big enough to comfortably fit two queen-size air mattresses and it has a center height of 72 inches. It also includes a lantern hook and a gear loft along with a wall organizer to keep your gear off of the floor. Speaking of the floor, it has an adjustable ground vent and the CORE H2O Block Technology to keep water outside, where it belongs. The tent also includes a port for an electric cord. The tent comes with a rain fly, stakes, and carrying bag. This big tent measures 11’ x 9’, with plenty of room for sleeping and hanging out. A big benefit of this tent is that the windows go high up, so you actually have them open without getting wet inside. As long as it isn’t too windy or rainy, the rain fly will keep the water from entering the tent even with the windows open.
6. Kodiak Canvas Flex-Bow Deluxe 8-Person Tent – Best Tent for 8 Person
When you need to fit eight people into a tent, you need a tent that acts like a second home. The Kodiak Canvas tent does just that. It is a heavy-duty tent that measures 10’ x 14’ with a height of 6’6” at the centerpoint. This tent is heavy, weighing 79 pounds; it is definitely not a tent for a group of backpackers. The ceiling is made of duck marine-grade 10-ounce Hydra-Shield canvas. The wall is made of the 8.5-ounce version and the floor has the 16-ounce version of the canvas. This tent fabric is finished with silicone so the fabric is not only breathable, but watertight, too. No matter the weather, the tent remains comfortable on the inside, because the fabric minimizes mugginess and does not wick water. Despite the size, the tent is easy to set up and can be done by one person. The tent does need to be staked out and comes with 12” stakes. It has one-inch steel tube poles as well as spring steel rods to keep this tent standing in all weather conditions. The windows and vents let the air flow freely. The tent also comes with a gear loft.
7. Ozark Trail 10-Person 3-Room XL Family Cabin Tent – Best Tent for 10 Person
When you are used to living a big house, the Ozark 10-Person tent will make you feel at home. This tent is absolutely huge. It is affordable and is large enough for three queen-size air mattresses. The tent includes six windows as well as three doors. The center room is a square and the two side rooms are trapezoids. The doors provide privacy and ventilation. The rain fly has taped seams to protect the tent from rain. The roof is mesh, so there is no problem with ventilation; but, it is important to put a rain fly on top. The tent measures approximately 20” x 10”, even though it is not technically a full rectangle. There are dividers that can be added on the inside to create truly private rooms. It can be set up in under 15 minutes, but does require two people to get the job done well.
8. CORE 12 Person Instant Cabin Tent – Best Tent for 12 Person
This huge tent sets up in less than two minutes. This is practically unheard of in the world of big tents. The tent sets up so quickly because the poles are all attached, so the tent simply needs to be unpacked and unfolded before it is extended into place. CORE uses their H2O Block Technology to keep water on the outside. The seams are sealed and the windows are rain-resistant, too. The top of the tent is made fully of mesh for full ventilation, but the rain fly is taped and sealed. This big tent measures 18’ x 10’ with three rooms. There are four hanging storage pockets as well as a lantern hook and gear loft. It has privacy panels for the three rooms and each room has windows. The tent also has a port for an electric cord. The center point of the tent measures 80” tall. The tent easily fits three queen-size mattresses for comfortable sleeping arrangements.
9. Ozark Trail Base Camp 14-Person Cabin Tent – Best Tent for 14 Person
You might not have 14 people that you need to fit in a tent, but if you did, this tent would hold them all. This massive tent can hold up to five queen-size air mattresses. It can be divided into four rooms or fewer depending on how many room dividers you want to use. There are four doors in and out of each room as well as 12 windows for plenty of ventilation. Even though the tent is not a square, it does measure 20’ x 20’ and has a center height of 78”. It’s a cabin tent, so the entire tent has tall ceilings. The tent does include an E-port for an extension cord. It has a mesh roof and a fly that has taped seams to prevent any rain leakage. Even though the tent is huge, it only takes two people to set it up. Since this tent holds so many people, it also has a few added features that families appreciate. The mud mat and shoe storage spots keep the dirt out.
Frequently Asked Questions about Camping Tents
1. How much tent do I really need?
There is no one-size-fits-all tent recommendation. If you are used to having plenty of room in your home, you should buy a tent that also gives you plenty of room. When tent sizes are determined, this is with people laying next to each other in their sleeping bags. So, a 14-person tent will hold 14 people in their sleeping bags without much room in between them. Keep this in mind when you are trying to find a tent.
2. Do I need a footprint for my tent?
Footprints are one of the most useful pieces of camping equipment, but they rarely come with tents. A good tarp or a footprint will help prevent any moisture from getting into your tent. Even though new tents have reinforced floors, a footprint will add an extra layer of protection. There is nothing worse that getting wet in a tent and the moisture can come in from all sides of the tent – even the bottom side.
3. Should I use a seam sealer?
Yes. If you want to ensure that you will not get wet, then you should seal the seams. Set up your tent in your garage, seal the seams, and let the seam sealer dry. If it rains when you are camping, you will appreciate the extra protection.
Camping is one of the most enjoyable family experiences. When you have a good quality tent that provides plenty of space, your family will enjoy being together even more. Tents have come a long way in being durable and weatherproof. With quick set ups, big rain flies, and durable fabrics, these are the best tents on the market today.