A reliable tent is the centerpiece of every successful camping story. Whether you’re new to outdoor adventures or a seasoned camper, a tent is the first thing you put on your camping list. The best camping tent provides a safe place to sleep, shelters you from harsh weather, and even works as a place to rest during the day.
When choosing your new camping tent, the most important aspects to consider are its capacity, design, and ease of setup. On top of this, you should also think about the weight and packed size so you can carry it to the campsite.
In this article, we’ll break down everything there is to know about the tent selection process. Also, you’ll discover the best tents for camping that are guaranteed to make every trip an unforgettable experience.
How To Choose A Camping Tent – Buying Guide
Sleeping Capacity and Floor Space
The sleeping capacity is the first and most important consideration when choosing a tent. If you’re camping on your own, a 2-person backpacking tent will do the job just fine, however, if you’re going camping with friends and family, you’ll need something much larger.
Related Review: Backpacking Tent
When calculating the sleeping capacity, manufacturers use the available floor space as guidance. Keep in mind that the presented number is usually the number of average-sized adults that can sleep on the floor without any gear inside. If you’re looking for extra comfort or additional storage, we advise that you go with a larger model.
Size (Packed and Open)
Both packed and open size plays an important role when choosing a tent. When talking about the packed size, it impacts the portability of a tent. For example, if the tent is too large when folded down, you might have difficulties carrying it or it might not fit in the trunk of your car.
As for the open size, there are a couple of things to consider. While it’s perfectly logical that a higher-capacity tent will be larger, it can also be more difficult to assemble and require more space on the ground.
Tent Weight and Transportation
The weight of your tent can make a big difference when it comes to carrying it to the campsite. Even though a few ounces might seem insignificant, this easily adds up when you’re carrying a lot of camping gear over the distance.
If you’re going camping and can drive up to the campsite, the weight of the tent won’t make much difference. If you don’t have that luxury, we advise that people who are not camping from the car choose lighter models that are made of polyester and use fiberglass or aluminum poles.
The season rating for your tent indicates the time of year when the tent will perform optimally. With this in mind, there are 2, 3, and 4-season tents. Each type has its upsides and downsides, and you could argue that a 3-season tent is the most versatile.
2-Season Tent: Lightweight and breathable, this type is designed to keep you cool on hot summer days. It’s usually made of mesh and lightweight fabric so it’s extra-breathable but doesn’t offer much in terms of water protection.
3-Season Tent: These are ideal for camping in the late spring, summer, and early fall. They are still breathable and comfy but come with rain flies that will give you rain-protection when you need it.
4-Season Tent: Ideal for winter campers, these will protect you from heavy rain and snow (inclement weather). They usually come with reinforced frames and full-length rainflies. They may be too hot in summer weather though.
The main reason for using a tent in the first place is having shelter. In light of this, a good tent needs to protect you from weather conditions, be it strong sun, heavy rain, or howling wind. The weather protection you’ll get directly depends on the rainfly and frame quality.
Water Resistance: If you’re camping in rainy conditions, the rainfly fabric and seams should keep the water from getting in. Strictly from this point of view, it’s best to get a tent with a full-length high-denier nylon/ polyester rainfly with an additional PU-coating. This will significantly reduce breathability if there is inadequate ventilation.
Wind Resistance: Besides rain, the tent should also resist light to moderate winds. This is especially important if you set up camp in a clear area with few trees around. A-frame that is made of fiberglass is perhaps best for these conditions as it can give-in a bit without snapping.
Sun Protection: Just like rain and wind, strong sun presents a problem when staying in a tent. If you can’t find natural shade, it’s certainly a plus if the fabric comes with some sort of UV protection. Higher-quality materials come with UPF 50+ ratings so they will block out harmful UVA and UVB rays.
Related Review: Waterproof Tent
Ease of Setup
Setting up the tent is every camper’s nightmare. Luckily, traditional pitched non-freestanding tents have been replaced with much more convenient freestanding models. The best tent for camping should come partially pre-assembled, so all you have to do is feed the poles through the loops and secure them.
If you want the fastest assembly possible, we advise that you go with the Coleman Instant Cabin. This tent uses an umbrella-like pre-assembled frame so the entire setup will be finished in less than a minute. It’s also a plus if the elements are color-coded so you can easily figure out which piece goes where and save time.
Related Review: Coleman Tent
Materials and Durability
Material quality directly determines the performance and durability of your tent, so we advise that you pay close attention when choosing. The most common option for modern-day tents is synthetic fabrics — nylon and polyester. Additionally, you should also pay attention to the denier rating (higher is better) and whether the fabric has some type of water-repellent coating.
Nylon is a bit stronger and offers better water-resistance but can be somewhat heavier and less breathable. On the other hand, polyester is lightweight and breathable, which makes it a great choice for a summer tent.
Ventilation and Breathability
Without fresh air inside, staying in a tent can be very uncomfortable. For ensuring adequate airflow, the camping tent should come with mesh screens on all doors and windows. This way, the air can circulate without problems while you still get good insect protection.
Keeping them open isn’t possible in rainy conditions, because of this, we suggest that you get a model that comes with built-in vents in the rain fly. It’s ideal if there are vents on both the floor and the ceiling. On top of this, vents are also useful for allowing moisture to escape so you don’t have condensation during the colder months.
After deciding on the size and materials, it’s time to take a look at the design. These features are very important when it comes to tent functionality and will greatly influence whether you like the tent or not. Let’s take a quick look at them so you can find the most efficient camping tents quicker.
Wall Construction: Nearly all tents nowadays have a double-wall construction — a mesh tent body and a rainfly over it. A tent-like this is an excellent solution, as it provides both necessary breathability and water protection. It’s also a big plus if the rainfly can be completely removed to make sleeping more pleasant when the weather is nice.
Doors and Vestibules: Depending on the model you choose, camping tents will come with either one or two doors. We like the 2-door option better than larger capacities, as it makes it much easier to get in and out without stepping over other people. For additional storage and protection, it’s ideal if the doors come with vestibules in front of them.
Footprint: Even though tent floors are made of tough materials, it’s still smart to use a footprint under the tent. Not only does it prevent tears, but it also keeps the tent bottom clean, so you’ll have less work to do when packing. Some of the best camp tents come with a footprint in the package, which is a big upside.
Workmanship and Value
When talking about outdoor gear, we will always advocate for quality over anything else. If you’re new to camping and have no experience, we suggest you pick an REI or Coleman tent from our list as these are highly trustworthy manufacturers.
While you might be tempted to go for a model with the lowest price tag, we advise that you don’t compromise on quality. The most efficient camping tent is the one that balances between quality and price well so you can get the best value for money.
Q: What is a Four-Season Camping Tent?
A four-season camping tent is a model designed for harsher and colder weather. These tents are usually made of higher-denier fabrics that can withstand heavy rain and snow. Besides, they are also better at retaining temperature.
Even though their name suggests they can be used in all seasons, they aren’t the best camping tents for hot weather due to the significantly reduced breathability.
Q: Are All Camping Tents Water-Resistant?
No, not all camping tents are water-resistant. Some 2-season models come without a rainfly but instead only have a mesh ceiling that won’t protect you from rain. Luckily, most tents for campers come with a rainfly that can protect you in light to moderate rain.
Q: Should I Clean My Tent While it is Set Up or When I Take it Down?
It’s much easier to clean the tent while it is set up. This way, you can spot the stains right away and reach them without trouble. The optimal time for cleaning your tent is after every camping trip.
Usually just rinsing it with water will do the trick, while you can remove stains with a soft brush and mild detergent. Be sure to always leave the tent to dry before storing it so it doesn’t get moldy.
Globo Surf Overview
With the right equipment, every camping trip can be a success. From cold rainy weather to hot summer days, a tent gives you much-needed shelter while outdoors. As you’ve had the chance to see, there is a large number of different models that can cater to every camper’s desire. We hope that our list and guide helped you find the most efficient camping tent, so you can start enjoying camping adventures even more.
More Camping Reviews:
- Pocket Knife
- Camping Chair
- Camping Grill
- Portable Grill
- Portable Generator
- Night Vision Binoculars
- Emergency Radio
- Camping Mattress
- Pop Up Canopy
More Tent Reviews:
- 6 Person Tent
- Cabin Tents
- Inflatable Tent
- Bikepacking Tent
- Canvas Tent
- Cheap Tent
- Glamping Tents
- Teepee Tent
- Motorcycle Tent
- Tree Tent
- Freestanding Tent
- Eureka Tents
Have you ever tried one of the camping tents that made it on our list? Let us know how you liked it in the comment section below.