One thing I know about tent camping is your tent choice matters and can “make or break” your trip.
Pick a high quality, well-designed camping tent, and you’ll sleep well and thoroughly enjoy your trip.
Choose a leaky, discount tent, and you’re asking for a nightmare camping experience.
Not only is quality essential but there are so many designs options to choose from.
So how can you find the right tent with so many camping tent options on the market today?
For example, earlier this summer I was able to get off work a little early for a last minute weekend camping getaway.
Luckily, our camping gear is well organized, so packing the car was fast – until I had to choose which camping tent to take along!
You can call me a camping enthusiast because I have way too many tents!
I’ve got an
- ultralight survival tent for minimalist camping/backpacking
- a sturdy, 4-season cold weather tent for mountaineering
- a canvas wall tent which could sleep, 6-8 people
- and a tarp tent that covers my hammock in lousy weather (also known as a hammock tent)
Name any activity where having a shelter is crucial, and I’ve got a tent for it!
But for this quick trip, we weren’t doing anything special.
We were just heading to a mountain campground for two nights, setting up the tent a few feet from our car.
All I needed was something dependable and comfortable.
A tent with enough space for two adults and the dog. A place to sleep soundly and headroom to make changes in and out clothes hassle free.
So which tent would work best this sort of relaxed camping?
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A CAMPING TENT
When it comes to camping in a typical campground; I like to think of the tent like a bedroom.
So look for a design and features that are like what you’d find at home.
Space for a comfortable bed. Enough room to change clothes. A bedside table and lamp. A spot for the dog to curl up at your feet.
If you think I’m kidding, let’s look at the key features common to all high-quality camping tents!
Most of them have a large floor plan. This leaves plenty of space for camping cots, luxury air mattresses, or even inflatable beds.
Since you’re not carrying weight very far, you can afford to have several rooms for more privacy.
This is an essential luxury if you have the whole family along.
Kids in one bedroom, parents in the other? Easy.
Put the baby down for a nap while you relax in a camping hammock. Sure thing.
While we’re on the topic of space, another great feature of camping tents is having a tall ceiling height.
Changing clothes is so much easier when you DON’T have to squirm into your pants while laying down on your back.
Lots of camping tents have a dome shape. This means the highest point is in the center.
Many camping tents have vertical walls providing extra headroom from edge to edge.
The vertical wall tents are the best bet if you want to be able to stand up in your tent with ease.
Sadly, we’re all familiar with the annoyance of losing something in the corner of the tent or under the sleeping bag.
The missing tactical watch, the lost cell phone, EDC knife, or worst yet – car keys.
All those everyday carry items that end up on a nightstand at home.
The best tent manufacturers know this, so they include a lot of pockets. The best ones have many along the walls of the tent-sized just right for these small items.
In the middle of the night, these pockets can save you from rummaging around in the dark.
This is important when searching for a small flashlight or headlamp to visit the bathroom in the dark.
I’ve seen a new trend in the tent market.
Some tents are including a tiny string of LED lights and a small battery sewn right into the seams of the tent.
When you turn them on, the whole tent interior is lit up with a nice even glowing light.
These started with a few backpacking models but is slowly expanding to more tent styles.
Now, this obviously is NOT a “make or break” feature.
But I’ve had the chance to check it out and was blown away. It was extremely convenient.
Making finding the door zipper, reading a book, or even cooking or playing cards a simple endeavor.
It adds a few extra ounces of weight, but for typical camping, you’re not carrying your tent too far from your car.
One example of this new technology on the market is The Big Agnes – Red Canyon mtnGLO 4 Person Tent.
It includes a simple push button controller with three settings – on, off and 50% brightness.
The LED light strand is integrated into tent seams and is durable and flexible enough to withstand repeated tent pitching and stuffing.
And the tent isn’t just a one trick pony, it’s a full-featured camping tent that’s ideal for up to 4 people.
Quality & Warranty
Of course, we’re talking about a tent here – a portable shelter to protect you from the elements.
Who cares if the tent has the latest fancy survival gadgets if it leaks or can’t stand up to windy storms.
So buy a tent built with clean stitches, durable zippers, and high-quality materials.
And it’s also smart if you can find one with a longterm warranty.
BEST CAMPING TENTS
Let’s just get this out of the way – there is no such thing as the “Best” camping tent.
Why? Because what’s best for me might not be best for you.
Also, there are great camping tents with vast differences in their design.
So let’s go over the main types of camping tents, and we’ll share a few of the best ones within each category.
Dome tents are the most traditional style of tent you’ll see across most campgrounds.
And most of us have spent at least a few nights in a dome tent.
They’re simple to set up, stable in winds, and provide a lot of floor space for a given weight.
The Coleman Steel Creek Fast Pitch Dome Tent has a 10ft by 9ft floorplan. It also has a screened front porch (10ft by 5ft) to keep the bugs away while you’re lounging in camp chairs.
If you grew up anywhere with black flies and mosquitos, you know how important that feature can be!
If it happens to rain, the Steel Creek Tent has awnings over the side windows for better ventilation.
The “Fast Pitch” system features pre-attached poles. That way there’s no confusion over which pole goes where during set up.
As with all dome tents, the listed height of 70” is only at the very center and slopes down quickly at the sides.
These days, the cabin tent is the king of the campground. And for a good reason, they feature nearly vertical walls.
This means having high ceilings across the entire footprint. A feeling of extra space no dome tent can rival.
The Eureka Copper Canyon Cabin Tent uses a 6-pole design to provide an 8ft by 8ft floor and almost 7ft of headroom.
The full mesh roof, protected by a rainfly, allows great air circulation. Plus it also reduces the clammy feeling that many tents get overnight.
It also features a large door and windows all around to let the breeze through.
The Coleman Tenaya Lake Cabin Tent comes with even more family-friendly features.
This huge tent measures 13ft by 9ft. It has almost 7ft of headroom. And includes a built-in closet with shelves and a hanger bar to help keep your clothes and camping gear organized.
I know how my duffle bag looks after a couple days in camp and this would be a welcome addition!
If you’re camping where there’s electricity the Tenaya Lake has a special electrical port. This allows you to route a cord inside without allowing bugs or leaving a door partly open.
When it’s time for bed, the 8-person layout has an interior divider which splits the tent into two rooms for privacy.
Similarly, The Big Agnes Big House Deluxe is a sturdy cabin tent with great modern features.
With an 8ft by 9.5ft footprint and 6.5ft of headroom, it’s not the largest cabin tent on the market, but it’s well laid out for up to 6 people.
There are a dozen side pockets, including some large enough for electronics like a solar phone charger or small tablet.
The other pockets include a pair of “bedside tables.” These stash pockets keep the unzipped door from flapping in the breeze.
The front door also features a welcome mat. This is a perfect landing zone for all those muddy or sandy shoes before coming inside.
Finally, if you want the longevity and benefits of investing in a canvas tent, then look no further than Kodiak’s FlexBow Tents.
Their cabin style canvas tents are one of the best on the market. Sure, they cost a bit more than nylon tents and they also weigh more as well.
However, they are a tent that will last you a lifetime.
They also help dampen campground noise, and stay cooler in the sun and warmer in the cold due to the insulating nature of canvas.
The Kodiak “flex bow” design comes in 4 person, 6 person, or 8 person size options.
Sometimes it’s easier to turn your vehicle into your tent.
It’s nice to access the items in your vehicle without having to get up, get dressed, and walk across your campsite.
The Napier Outdoor Sportz SUV is a roomy vehicle tent. It adds a massive 10ft by 10ft cabin tent and 7ft by 6ft screen porch to the tailgate of your vehicle.
The universal sleeve wraps around the back of most small SUVs. And makes reaching the cooler for a midnight snack or packing up during a storm that much easier.
Also, it allows you to use the cargo area of your SUV as a sleeping space.
If you decide to camp without the vehicle or plan to drive during the day, you can quickly detach the tent.
Just remove it from the back and close the opening. This leaves the shelter protected from the weather.
It’s a vehicle camping tent solution adds a lot of flexibility. These setups are an ideal solution for music festivals or remote camping areas.
Of course, we can’t talk about vehicle tents without touching on the newest gear craze I see in the Pacific Northwest – car-top tents like The Tepui Kukenam Sky Tent.
Now, it doesn’t boast the same size or sleep as many people as a cabin tent.
Instead, this is a 3-person, 4-season tent designed to unfold from the roof rack of your car.
I wouldn’t call this type of tent a camping essential but it’s a new style tent that might be a good solution for some.
But if you’re in an area where sleeping on the ground isn’t a good option, this allows you to sleep on a stable, flat surface.
Lastly, Kodiak Tents makes a truck bed version of its popular canvas tent.
This allows you to use the bed of a pickup truck to sleep comfortably off the ground ANYWHERE.
This is an excellent option for those who not only enjoy camping in a traditional campground but also in remote terrain.
So if you go on hunting or fishing trips, this is the solution you’ve always wished for.
HOW TO FIND THE PERFECT CAMPING TENT FOR YOU
When it comes down to it, the right tent for you depends on how you use it, where you’ll camp, and who’s coming along.
Searching for “family camping tents” online will provide hundreds of results.
So to help narrow down the results, you need a way to filter down the results and narrow your search.
First, start with a head count of everyone who will be sleeping in the tent. Don’t forget to add the family dog to the tally if you take yours camping – as I do.
Once you have your headcount, you must decide on the type of tent that makes the most sense for you – dome/cabin/vehicle.
Finally, move on to narrowing down to just a few reputable brands and a price range you can afford.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll be down to a few camping tents to choose from, and then you can focus in on the unique features.
The key features that help set one tent apart from another.
Note: If you’ve got a large family camping with you, it might make sense to invest in more than one tent. Or a tent with more than one room.
We’ve given a few examples of good tents for each category, but we’d love to hear your favorites.
I like each style of tent, and that’s why I own several.
Oh, and by the way, in case you’re wondering, I went with a dome tent for my trip.
But I’m looking to add a vehicle tent to my future tent options – I guess you can never have too many choices…