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One of the most important pieces of camping gear is shelter. Yes, your sleeping bag is also vital, but having the best camping tent for the conditions of your surroundings can mean the difference between a nightmarish camping experience in the cold and a relaxing time spent enjoying nature.
- Best Camping Tent
- Best Family Camping Tent
- Best Backpacking Tent
- Best Winter Camping Tent
- Best Car Camping Tent
How to Shop for a Camping Tent
With this in mind, we put some serious thought into our tent buying guide so you know exactly what tent you should invest in. “You don’t want to have to buy a new one every few years because you skimped the first time around,” says outdoors freelance writer and photographer Emily Reed. However, Reed also notes the best tents can get expensive fast—think anywhere from $100 to upwards of $1,500. And if you’re a beginner looking for camping gear, it can be heavy on the wallet. Sometimes that hefty price point can be worth it, but in most cases, you can get everything you need within the $150 to $400 range.
Think about how you plan to use your tent so you’re not spending extra on unnecessary upgrades. The four main categories of camping styles to consider are car camping, backpacking, family or large group camping, and season-specific camping (we’ll get into winter camping here). While there is a lot of overlap, each of these activities has specific needs that require special tent features.
Regardless of camping style, durability and weather resistance are the two golden rules that can make or break a tent. Next, you’ll want to ask how many people you plan to camp with exactly. Larger tents will generally be heavier and more expensive than similar smaller tents, but the extra room for bags or more people can be worth it. Most of the time, a two-person tent really means just two people. Sometimes there’s space for a change of clothes and a vestibule area (the outside space your rain fly covers) for a bag, but if you want some extra breathing room, you may want to size up.
Best Camping Tents
To find out the best camping tents for every type of activity, we talked to more than a dozen camping and outdoor experts about their favorite tents, and these were the ones they loved. Below we broke it down by types of camping tents for one, two, and three persons, and options for family tents, backpacking tents, winter camping tents, and car camping tents.
One-Person Camping Tents
The Nemo Hornet tent is Michelle Markel, a long-distance hiker and founder of supportpubliclands.com top choice for her solo trekking adventures. “It hits virtually all of the important features,” she says. For Markel, this means it’s ultralight, (just one pound), durable, freestanding, double-walled, and easy to set up, plus it has a side door.
With a fully connected foldable-poll system, the Hornet has immense ease of setup, and since it’s freestanding, you can pitch it on virtually any flat area. Once up, the tent provides enough space for one person to snuggle up on their own, and the side door makes it easy to get in and out. Markel says the side door “makes the tent feel larger when I have the fly open to the side as opposed to one end.”
Experts enjoy REI Co-Op’s Passage line of tents for beginners, and the one-person model has a pleasantly straightforward (yet high-quality) design that’ll appeal to newcomers and experienced campers alike. Setup and breakdown are easy thanks to its X-pole configuration, and its rectangular floor space comfortably accommodates a sleeping pad.
REI Co-op Passage 1 Tent with Footprint
Two-Person Camping Tents
For people camping in pairs, Reed highly recommends REI Co-op’s Half Dome tent line because it has extra wiggle room. While this tent is also light enough for backpacking, Reed has found it really shines in “scenarios where weight isn’t a priority.”
“It’s larger than traditional two-person tents to allow space for your pup or additional gear,” she says. The tent also features two doors so you don’t have to climb over your partner to get out, mesh side pockets for storage, and ripstop nylon fabric for durability, which Reed notes is a must for any tent. “I’ve had this tent for almost five years, and it’s my go-to for car camping.”
Meanwhile, REI’s Passage 2 tent is only slightly heavier than the Half Dome and comes highly recommended by Andrea Dumais, a park ranger at Staunton State Park in Pine, Colorado (this model has been discontinued but is still available to order, so act fast if it piques your interest). And, for those camping with three people, REI also makes a three-person version of the Half Dome.
REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+ Tent with Footprint
REI Co-op Passage 2 Tent with Footprint
Three-Person Camping Tents
When the owner of Adios Adventure Travel, Jacquie Whitt, buys tents for her adventure travel company, she loves Marmot three-person tents, like the Tungsten 3-Season tent. Whitt recommends the tent for two people so they have extra room for gear and packs. “Marmots have been one of the best investments we’ve made in tents,” says Whitt. “We have several matching tents that we have been using at least 25 times per year, for more than five years.”
The tent has two doors and two vestibules to keep shoes and wet gear out of the tent and make it easy to get in and out. It isn’t ridiculously light, at just over four pounds, but for the extra room of a three-person tent, it’s not a bad weight-to-space ratio.
Another excellent three-person tent pick is the Big Agnes Copper Spur tent, a lightweight, breathable model that comes with generous vestibule awnings and color-coded poles for easy assembly. Reviewers were particularly pleased with its waterproof fly and interior storage pockets.
Marmot Tungsten 3P Tent with Footprint
Best Family Camping Tents
When camping with your whole family, Reed says “space and durability are going to be priorities.” If you’re backpacking with kids, you’ll want to think about the weight as well, but for this situation, we’ll assume the car is close by and you can focus on comfort and durability. Gabi Rosenbrien, the product development manager for NEMO, also recommends using a standing-height shelter for extra comfort. The standing height makes it easier to hang out in if it’s rainy or buggy outside and means you have the height to use a cot, air mattress, or even hammock if you want. Bradford also recommends tents with room dividers to give families and large groups more privacy if needed.
Four-Person Camping Tents
The Eureka Copper Canyon LX 4-Person Tent is a three-season option and another excellent tent for larger groups, especially from a price perspective. Jenny Martindale, experienced canoe-tripping guide and partnerships manager at Wild Women Expeditions, recommends seeking out a three-season tent for the sake of cutting down on costs—and a more versatile tent means using it for a wider variety of camping trips.
Speaking of versatility, the North Face’s Wawona tents feature a double-walled construction for additional weather protection, so you can camp out in the rain and stand a much better chance of keeping your equipment dry. However, the Wawona also allows ample airflow thanks to its mesh front door.
Eureka Copper Canyon LX 4-Person Tent
The North Face Wawona 4 Four-Person Camping Tent
Six-Person Camping Tents
As your camping party grows in size, comfort (if not some semblance of privacy) becomes an even more important factor. That’s why we love REI Co-Op’s six-person Wonderland tent—it has vertical walls to maximize headroom and living space, and it has an internal divider to create two private areas within the same tent.
If you’re looking to save a little money while outfitting your camping trip, the Camp Creek tent from Alps Mountaineering is one of the best budget-friendlier models on our list, especially given its impressive floor area and peak height.
REI Co-op Wonderland 6 Tent
Alps Mountaineering Camp Creek 6-Person Tent
Eight-Person Camping Tents
For everything from large groups to solo car campers, Coleman’s eight-person Instant Family Tent is one of Bradford’s top picks. She uses it for comfort camping on her own and on group trips with Black Girls Camp, an Ohio state-registered nonprofit aimed at bringing more black women into camping and providing a safe space to learn and enjoy the outdoors.
The tent sets up in under a minute with snap-in poles that are durable and easy to use. “It sets up in about 50 seconds, and I’ve used it in the wind and the rain and have not had any issues with them,” says Bradford. The only drawback, she says, is that while the instant-pitch tent is great for convenience, especially after a long drive, it doesn’t pack down as small and isn’t quite as winter-friendly as some of her favorite traditional-pitch tents like the Field and Stream Cross Vent 8-Person Tent.
Coleman Instant Family Tent
Ten-Person Camping Tents
Bradford likes Coleman’s 10-person WeatherMaster for family camping because it separates into two rooms and provides plenty of interior space for kids and parents. “You can tell by its name, WeatherMaster, that it works really well in inclement weather,” Bradford says. The tent has fully taped seams and can withstand 35-mph-plus winds thanks to strong fiberglass poles and guylines.
The tent has enough room to fit three queen-size airbeds, or two with extra room for bags or hanging out. It also has plenty of ventilation with the mesh ceiling and angled mesh windows at both ends. This tent has two doors, with one hinged door making getting in and out super easy.
You can also try the NTK Arizona GT tent if you’re looking for weather protection. A fully waterproof tent with a lifetime warranty, gear loft, and durable construction, it’s one of our favorite tents for larger families and groups.
Coleman WeatherMaster 10-Person Outdoor Tent
NTK Arizona GT Camping Tent
Best Backpacking Tents
When you’re backpacking, you carry all your gear with you on the trail, meaning every little bit of weight counts. The best backpacking gear should be light, multifunctional, and durable. When it comes to backpacking tents, Markel says, “Tent weight is one of the most important considerations, because on a long-distance hike, every ounce counts.”
At the same time, you also have to balance weight with durability because you don’t want your shelter to break or tear during a storm or midway through a weeklong trek. “It doesn’t matter if your tent weighs less than a pound if it leaks water on the trail,” says Reed. For durability, look for tents with ripstop nylon material and aluminum poles.
Tarps for Backpacking
When traveling light means really, really light (or if you’re headed somewhere with mild weather), don’t count out the versatility and reliability of a tarp, Phyllis Weeks, a field staff member for Outward Bound based in Texas, says. “For many environments that are a bit warmer and drier, a tarp is a great lightweight, price-conscious option for many outdoor adventurers,” she explains. They also allow for greater airflow, for summer camping, and they’re relatively easy to find wherever you shop. “A tarp can be as simple as getting one from the hardware store and pairing it with some P-cord and a bug net, or there are some very lightweight options on the market that set up with an included pole or a trekking pole,” Weeks says. Knowing where you plan to camp ahead of time will also make a tarp a more viable option—somewhere with space to set up your tent poles that isn’t too windy will be ideal.
These two tarps are highly rated by Backcountry customers for their durability and lightweight. Keep in mind, however, that trekking poles are not included in either of them.
Two-Person Backpacking Tents
The Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 tent got multiple recommendations for backpacking too. Reed loves the Tiger Wall tent for its weight (2 lb. 8 oz.), two doors and vestibules, and durability. “It also features ripstop nylon in the body that helps resist wear and tear,” says Reed.
Rosenberg also recommends the Tiger Wall for folks who are new to backpacking and don’t plan to winter camp. “It’s a great little lightweight tent that’ll do the job,” she says. “It’s also got some nice pockets and is spacious.” Plus, the aluminum poles are all connected, making setup and takedown quick and easy.
The MSR Hubba Hubba tent has stolen the hearts of numerous backpackers, including two of our experts. It’s not exactly a budget tent, but it makes up for it with exceptional performance in all conditions. The tent is lightweight (3 lbs. 4 oz.) but still roomy enough to be comfortable sharing with a buddy. Emily Pulido, a former Rare Earth Adventure guide, finally landed on the MSR Hubba Hubba after trying many different tents. “The poles are all in one so it is an extremely easy setup and you don’t have to worry about leaving behind a pole,” she says.
Backpacker, fly-fisher, and mountain biker Shelby Sawyer also loves her MSR Hubba Hubba. “I like the ample headspace and generous vestibules,” she says. The symmetrical design of the tent also means you can comfortably sleep at either end without losing headroom. The tent is also super sturdy, with ripstop nylon.
Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL 2 Solution-Dyed Tent
Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Hyperlite’s Ultamid 2 is pricey, but it’s Stroeer’s top choice for any outdoor adventure where she has to think about weight, like her 32-day thru-hike of Utah’s Hayduke Trail. “It barely weighs anything [1 lb. 2.85 oz.], yet is super durable thanks to the Dyneema Fabric that it is made out of,” she says.
With a pyramid structure and trekking-pole setup, this tent takes on a different shape and structure from the others on this list. The tent is floorless to cut down on weight, but if you need the extra protection of an enclosed area, Hyperlite sells floor and mesh-netting inserts as well. Stroeer admits the trekking-pole setup can be a bit of a finicky process, but says “the setup and strength of the Ultamid is far superior to any other pyramid tent I have ever tried.”
Hyperlite Ultamid 2 Ultralight Pyramid Tent
Best Winter Camping Tents
Winter camping brings on a slew of extra challenges with colder temperatures, snow, and high winds. These tents are going to need to hold up to potential heavy snow build-up and provide extreme weather protection. In these conditions, it’s even more essential to be able to trust that your tent can handle anything because you don’t want to be stuck in the snow with a leaking or broken tent. If you’re in the market for a winterized tent, look for tents that say four-season or all-season.
Rosenberg swears by her Hilleberg tents for extreme weather worthiness. “After decades in the industry, I can say there really isn’t a better company making tents. Especially for extreme weather conditions,” she says.
“I’ve used these tents in winds over 70 mph. I’ve used them in complete whiteout conditions, with snow dumping a foot per hour,” says Rosenberg. Both the Nammatj and the Nallo are excellent choices if you’re shopping this brand, but the Nammatj has the edge if you’re planning to spend time out in truly extreme conditions.
Hilleberg Nallo GT 2 Person Tent
Best Car Camping Tents
With car camping, you’re driving up to a campsite and setting up right there, meaning you don’t have to worry as much about the bulk or weight of your tent. Asia Bradford, the founder of Black Girls Camp, recommends getting a tent that’s designed to fit more people than you need. “What I really tell people is that if they’re new to camping and they know that they want to have an air mattress or what have you, they’re going to need to at least cut that number in half.”
Technically, all the tents in any of these categories would work fine for car camping, but the models featured below specifically maximize comfort and living space for couples or small groups. In this category, you’ll also tend to find a lot of extra features that you may or may not need or want. Wildlife photographer and Backpackers gear reviewer Deirdre Denali Rosenberg suggests avoiding “gimmicky things like built-in lights,” because they drive up the price tag and often aren’t worth the extra money.
Outdoor adventurer, expedition guide, and co-owner of Dreamland Safari Tours Sunny Stroeer recommends Kelty’s Dirt Motel, a tent that provides a luxury outdoor experience with super-easy assembly and a cool stargazing rain-fly design. She uses this tent for car camping or when guiding on truck-based overnight trips.
“I have found that the Kelty Dirt Motel performs better in wind and is faster to set up than most other brands and models I have used in the past,” Stroeer tells SELF. Along with standing up to 30-mph-plus winds and solid waterproofing, the Dirt Motel has two doors and vestibules and plenty of room inside to move around.
One of our writers was happy with how the Decathlon Quechua 2-Second Easy tent performed in her trail test. She noted how easy it was to set up, its interior pockets and hooks, and its variety of protective features (waterproofing and heat reflection) that kept her comfortable despite the weather outside. However, its weight makes it a better option for car camping rather than, say, backpacking.
See more of SELF’s Guide to Getting Outside package here.