The vast proliferation of quality camping gear is a double-edged sword. There are loads of great designs out there, but it can be confusing and difficult to decide just which piece of gear is right for you. And if you’re going to spend a couple hundred bucks on a piece of gear, you’ll want it to work well for your specific needs.
Take tents for example. There are a lot of factors that go into choosing the right tent–different designs, price points, fabrics–all of which offer different benefits and compromises. After you’ve asked yourself all the right questions, you still have to wade through hundreds of options on the market. So whether you’re a couple or family looking to get into car camping, or you’re a solo fast-and-light backcountry aficionado, or somewhere in between, we’ve put together a few solid, go-to tent recommendations. This list features mostly mid-priced, three-season, freestanding options, which should meet the basic needs of most kinds of campers.
Best Tents for Families and Ultimate Car Camping Comfort
Big Agnes is best known for their ultra-light backpacking tents, but they also offer high-quality tents for larger groups. The Big House 6 is a good option for families who camp regularly and want solid weather protection and smart features. An optional, but recommended, vestibule ($140) offers an additional 50 square feet of weather-protected storage (for the dogs, wet gear, or that friend your kid likes but you don’t) and lots of interior pockets provide gear stowage. There’s even a cute little welcome mat. Boasting 78 inches of head space, the Big House 6 is also tall enough for most folks to stand in. There is a four-person version, as well. Plan to pay $400 ($540 with vestibule) for the base six-person version and $300 ($430 with vestibule) for the base four-person.
The REI Kingdom 6 also offers plenty of head room at 75 inches, but what sets it apart from the Big House 6 is its center divider wall that creates two separate living spaces within its roomy interior. For parents with kids, friends sharing a tent, or even a couple with a dog, it can be a game changer. Both rooms fit a queen-sized inflatable mattress with space for gear storage, and the double-doors mean that campers can come and go from their private “rooms” without disturbing other tentmates. One door has a weather-proof awning, while the other door has a vestibule that can be turned into an awning. There’s also an optional mud room that adds an extra 50-square-feet for even more gear storage or protected living space for inclement or hot days. It’s slightly more expensive than the Big House 6, coming in at $500 ($600 with the optional mud room add-on), or $429 ($529 with mud room) for the four-person version, but the added comfort it can provide may be worth it. However, the four-person model does not feature the center wall divider.
Best Starter and Budget Car Camping Tents
If you’re a casual camper or looking for a family-friendly beginner tent, the Coleman Sundome 4-Person Tent is a great option. At just $100, it’s one of the most budget-friendly tents on the market, and though it’s on the heavier side, it’s easy to set-up and very compact for packing and storing. While it’s not as tall as some options on the market (60 inches in the center), the tent offers plenty of space for a family with small children or 2 adults who want to throw in a queen-sized Coleman air mattress for added comfort. The large windows are great for ventilation, but the rain fly only partially covers the tent. Welded corners and covered seams will help keep things dry if it rains, but it’s probably best for fair-weather campers who don’t plan to be out in the elements too often.
For a slightly more durable and waterproof budget tent, the ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 4-Person Tent is a solid option. Priced at $150, it’s more expensive than the Coleman, but in addition to a heftier rainfly and a good waterproof rating, it also offers a convenient double door design with roomy vestibules over each door when the rainfly is on. Its footprint is similar to other 4-person tents, but the tent’s center height is only 52 inches, which means you likely won’t be comfortable standing in this tent. However, at 8 lbs., 10 ounces it’s on the lighter side for car camping tents and could be used as a great starter backpacking tent for when you need to fit more than 2 people (plus, you could share the load).
Best Tents for Couples Who Backpack (Or Might Want To)
Many campers spend 80% of their outdoor nights car camping but want something that won’t weigh them down too much if they decide to ditch the campground for a backcountry campsite.
REI Co-op’s Quarter Dome 2 Tent has been around forever and is a good lighter-weight option that will stand up to years of use. It weighs 2 lbs., 8 ounces all-in, which is definitely light enough for backpacking, but it still has two doors for easy in and out and a rain fly that comes all the way to the ground for when the weather kicks up. At $350, it’s a bit pricey, but the company’s venerable Half Dome 2 Plus Tent offers quality construction for $230, making it great for those campers who want a simple tent for campgrounds and music festivals.
The North Face Stormbreak 2 is a budget-friendly option that will only set you back $160. It weighs 5 lbs., 5 ounces but claims a “fast-pack” weight of 3 lbs., 14 ounces, making it a solid option for multi-day trips when bugs and other creepy crawlies aren’t an issue (fast-pitching utilizes a ground cloth, tent poles, and the rain fly to provide cover from weather and save weight; you do not use the tent itself). Two doors and simple set up make it a great car camping option, as well.
The Marmot Tungsten 2-Person Tent at $200 and the Marmot Catalyst 2-Person at $160 are also good options with more than 32 square feet of floor space and a vertical wall design that creates more livable space. Both have two doors, are easy to set up, and the full-coverage rainfly includes vestibules for each door, providing even more room for gear. They each weigh about 5 lbs. Some users reported condensation issues stemming from poor venting, but that issue plagues a lot of tents with full rain flies.
Best Tent for Solo Campers Who Care About Tech Specs
Maybe you’re heading off on a multi-day SUP adventure or bike-packing for a few days. You want something lightweight and packable. Non-freestanding tents, tarp tents, or teepees would work well, but most people are more comfortable with freestanding options.
Big Agnes’ Copper Spur and Fly Creek lines combine lightweight fabrics with smart designs. They’re consistently rated as some of the best lightweight tents out there. I have a single person Copper Spur that I love. It’s not spacious, but at 2 lbs., 2 ounces, it’s light and it packs down pretty darn small. All that tech comes at a cost, about $380 for the single-person Copper Spur model. The Fly Creek is even lighter (its vestibule is smaller) and slightly cheaper at $320.
For a truly budget-conscious option, consider the Eureka Midori Solo, which has good reviews on Backcountry.com and Amazon.com. It’s heavy for a solo tent at 3 lbs., 10 ounces, but it costs less than half of the Big Agnes models – only $140. With ample room for one person and room for gear under the two vestibules (total of 14.5 square feet of vestibule space), it’s a durable, inexpensive one-person tent that doesn’t require an engineering degree to set up.
Also note that many of the tents listed above (Quarter Dome, Stormbreak, Tungsten) come in single-person configurations, making them solid options, as well.
Of course this list doesn’t begin to touch on all the options out there. But it provides some solid recommendations for buyers looking to upgrade, expand, or start their tent collection. If none of these work for you, consider them good examples of what to look for when you start your own search.
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Top photo: REI Kingdom 6 – Cari Morgan