The Best Tents for Every Type of Camper

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. 

The Best Tents for Every Kind of Camper

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.

Good Go-to Tents for Families and Car Camping

The Best Tents for Every Kind of Camper

If you want space, headroom, gear organization, and ease of use, these designs have that.

The REI Co-op Camp Dome 4 is a simple, traditional option if you only camp a few times per year. It offers two doors and 56 inches of head room (not enough to fully stand in, but enough to pull on some pants). At $200, it’s a pretty good buy, and at just under 9  lbs., it’s easy to schlep from the car to the tent site. While it can sleep four people, the basic design and short ceiling don’t offer much room for sprawling out or suffering through a tent-bound rainy day. In fact, the minimalist rain fly pretty much limits its use to reliably good weather. It’s probably best for families with small children who are happy playing outside all day and into the night, or for car-camping couples who want lots of space in a simple package.

Also from REI, the REI Co-op Grand Hut 4 is a bigger, taller, heavier option that offers a solid 75 inches of head room thanks to its near-vertical walls. It weighs nearly 13 lbs., so it’s not going backpacking anytime soon. For backyard or car camping, it’s a great option. The rain fly goes all the way to the ground and offers some vestibule space, making it a solid all-weather performer. It’s more expensive than the Camp Dome 4, coming in at $300, but the extra space and weather protection may be worth it if you’re camping regularly. A six-person version is also available for $350.

Best Tent for Big Families Who Camp Frequently

The Best Tents for Every Kind of Camper

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.

Best Tents for Couples Who Backpack (Or Might Want To)

The Best Tents for Every Kind of Camper

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 3 lbs., 12 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

The Best Tents for Every Kind of Camper

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., 11 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.

Ready to get out under the stars? Check out these car camping essentials.

 


Top photo: Alí Díaz on Unsplash


*PLEASE NOTE THAT SOME OF THE LINKS ABOVE ARE AFFILIATE LINKS, AND OARS WILL EARN A SMALL COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE AFTER CLICKING THROUGH THE LINK.

 

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