Shopping for camping tents is arguably the most important step in preparing for a camping trip — even more so than buying hiking gear or picking up accessories from your camping checklist. A comfortable, safe and reliable tent is key for feeling confident before heading into the great outdoors.
Tents come in all shapes and sizes; some camping tents are great for multiday backcountry camping adventures, while others are perfect for a weekend trip with the family to a state park or private campground. “Every camper is going to have a different opinion about the features they want in a tent and the price they’re willing to pay,” says Ashleigh McClary, a gear expert and senior account manager at Backcountry.
“Carving out a price range you’re willing to spend will help you define what sorts of tents you’re willing to look at,” adds Bill Gamber, co-founder and president of Big Agnes. “From there you can move on to considering simplicity versus full-featured tents to weighing storage capability, weather resistance and camper capacity.”
We interviewed a number of outdoor experts for their advice on what to look out for when shopping for a tent. Their insights cover everything from tent material and size to seasonality and durability so you’ll be prepared for the best camping experience — no matter your adventure.
What to consider when buying a camping tent
Most tents come in two seasonalities: three-season and four-season. Spring, summer and fall camping is when most campers choose a three-season tent, and winter is when four-season tents come in handy for staying warm and protecting yourself from the elements.
“Three-season camping tents are meant to be used most of the year and in most conditions,” says McClary. “Four-season tents are usually a lot more wind-resistant and water-resistant. That way, they can handle the extreme temperatures and conditions of the winter. Most people will want to purchase a three-season tent unless they are going to be winter camping more often than not.”
McClary says one of the most important things to consider when buying a tent is the area or region you’re going to be using a tent in. “If you are in the southeast, for instance, you want a really waterproof tent that’s going to keep you dry in the rain,” she says. “If you are in the southwest, you’ll most likely want a tent that’s lighter and has a mesh door and walls for extra airflow.”
Selecting a tent with a rain fly that has been treated with a durable water repellent, or DWR, also helps to repel rain and water from the tent material. “You also always want to make sure your tent has proper ventilation,” she adds. “If it doesn’t, you’ll experience moisture issues on the inside of the tent due to condensation, and you can also get hot.”
You’re at the mercy of Mother Nature when you’re out in the wilderness. Gamber says it’s important to consider the durability and quality of tent material before making a purchase.
“Fabrics are measured by the denier of the fiber — the lower the denier, the lighter the fabric,” he says. “However, a higher denier doesn’t always mean you’ll have a stronger fabric. Thread count, which is how many threads you can pack into a square inch, also plays a big role in strength. So there are a lot of ways to measure [the durability of a tent].”
Gamber adds that most tents are made from either nylon or polyester. He says polyester tends to not be quite as strong but holds up better in UV rays, whereas nylons are stronger but aren’t as long-lasting in the sun. When it comes to the life span of a tent, Gamber argues that longevity really depends on the quality of materials and overall use.
“Think of it this way: If you put 50,000 miles on your car every year, the wear and tear are going to impact the car’s life span,” Gamber says. “In backpacking tents, thru-hikers will get a lifetime out of a tent in six months and campers who use their tent all summer long in the sun will find the UV rays will degrade the fabric. On the other hand, we have customers who have bought tents from us 20 years ago.”
Tent poles also play a big role in the durability and strength of a tent, especially in a storm. Standard tent pole materials include composite, fiberglass, aluminum and carbon fiber. “Most tents use aluminum poles, as they have a great weight-to-strength ratio and are more flexible, and not as expensive as composite or carbon fiber poles,” says McClary. “Carbon fiber poles are found in high-end backpacking tents because they are the lightest and as strong as any pole material other than steel.”
Selecting a tent size depends a lot on who will be camping with you and where you’re going. Will you be bringing a dog? If so, you’ll likely want some extra room in the tent. Are you hiking into the backcountry with nothing but a pack on your back? You’ll most likely want a tent that’ll fit just one or two hikers.
“You’ll want to make sure the floor space of the tent you’re purchasing is enough for you, your gear and whoever is going to be with you,” says McClary. “Determine if you will be camping with kids, if it’s just one or two people or if you want some extra room.”
“You get what you pay for” is a common phrase you’ll hear when it comes to outdoor gear. For some campers, the price point might be a make-or-break factor when selecting a tent. For others, buying a product they know will last is of utmost importance.
“I always make sure to find the right balance between price and the features that are going to be best for the customer,” says McClary. “Sometimes the customer might want the least expensive product no matter what. But other times, they really just want something that’s going to last them for a long time and that’s worth their money.”
Factors impacting the price of camping tents are typically tent material, pole material, tent size, weight and how weatherproof they are (i.e., four-season tents). For example, ultralight tents run higher in price because they’re made of lower denier fabrics, which are more expensive but super lightweight. Large tents like luxury camping tents and eight-person family camping tents are more expensive because they require more materials to make the tent.
The best camping tents for all types of campers
We talked to tent experts for their advice on the 24 best camping tents for any kind of camper. Whether you’re looking for a tent that will keep you dry or has plenty of room for the whole family, here are our picks.
Car camping tents
$450 at The Get Out
This classic A-frame look will set off some tent envy at the campground. Two full side walls of mesh provide ample ventilation, and the rain fly walls can roll up for added airflow at night or be easily rolled down if it starts to rain.
$499 at REI
If you’re looking for lots of ventilation without sacrificing protection from the rain, this tent is a great option. Even with the rain fly on, you’ll feel airflow, thanks to triangle windows on the side walls and two huge mesh doors with weather-protective awnings.
$449.95 $337.46 at Backcountry or $449.95 at Big Agnes and REI
“If you’re searching for a three-season to four-season tent that will hold up in the rain, the Spicer Peak 4 is a really great option,” says Gamber. All seams on the Spicer are sealed with waterproof polyurethane tape, and the rain fly and floor are constructed with polyester taffeta with a 1,500mm waterproof polyurethane coating.
$449 at REI
The cabin-shaped Skyward 6 lets campers up to 6 feet, 3 inches tall stand up straight in the main room of the tent. REI also touts its bugproof mesh ceiling panels that enhance ventilation and provide a view of the stars on a clear night.
A no-frills car camping tent that takes five minutes to set up, the Skydome’s extra-wide design makes it easy to move an air mattress and other gear around without a fuss. Its built-in tarp floor also adds extra protection from rocky or root-filled ground.
Whether you’re car camping with the family or a few friends, this tent has plenty of room for a six-person crew or extra amenities like airbeds, cots and side tables. Double doors also help with ease of entering and exiting for larger groups.
Family camping tents
$135.96 $127.46 at Amazon or $169.95 at Sierra Designs
Perfect for kids who need to nap during the daytime — or anyone who wants to sleep in past sunrise — the Alpenglow tent’s Twilight Tech technology blocks 98% of the sun’s rays. The thick and tinted tent walls keep the tent dark, cool and comfortable all day.
$249 $149 at Eddie Bauer
Loved for its super-dry rain fly, the Carbon River 6 features Eddie Bauer's WeatherEdge waterproof technology that stands up to any storm, thanks to its polyurethane coating. The water-armor tub floor also makes sure you and your gear stay dry from the floor up.
The Kelty Discovery Element 6 is a super-airy and quick-setup option for family camping. With a mostly mesh design, this tent breathes well in the summer and comes with a waterproof rain fly and double stake-point vestibule for added exterior storage and coverage.
Big family? No problem. The Bunk House 8 comes recommended if you’re looking for all the accessories you could ask for — it features pockets, room dividers and even an option to turn it into an open shelter.
“The Bunk House 8 is a very roomy tent with a full vestibule, really nice storage and extra living space,” says Gamber. “It’s a great tent to drive into the campground with your truck or car — perfect for family car camping.”
Backpacking camping tents
$159 $110.93 at REI
An affordable backpacking tent with plenty of room for two. Double stake-out vestibules give backcountry campers plenty of room to store their gear outside of this tent — and provide extra protection from the elements. The tent also has two adjustable ceiling vents for condensation control and comes with a fitted footprint.
$479.95 $359.89 at REI, $479.95 $359.96 at Backcountry or $479.95 at Nemo Equipment
Nemo says the Dagger Osmo is the brand’s bestselling and most livable backpacking tent. The tent is constructed with 100% recycled PFC/PFAS-free fabric that provides exceptional strength and is resistant to stretching when wet. Our editors have used this tent before and absolutely love it. The two-person has plenty of room to sleep two adults and a 40-pound dog.
$449.95 $337.39 at REI, $449.95 $337.46 at Backcountry or $449.95 at Big Agnes
This two-person ultralight tent (just over 2 pounds) is super durable. Its solution-dyed fabric is highly resistant to UV fade, and Big Agnes’ manufacturing process for the Tiger Wall UL2 Solution Dye tents drastically reduces energy and water consumption.
$274.95 $137.48 at Backcountry
“I recommend the Driftwood 3 tent because it has a very durable 75D fly, tent body and floor, plus huge vestibules to keep your gear dry,” says McClary. “It has plenty of floor space and interior height to be able to use for car camping, but since it weighs less than 6 pounds, it’s also perfect for backpacking. Bonus: The generously sized storage sack makes packing up a breeze.”
Winter camping tents
$949 at The North Face
This is a highly ventilated tent that can take the brunt of harsh winds and snow loading. Its high-low venting system pulls in air from the bottom and escapes from the top to prevent condensation — a necessary feature in winter conditions.
$950 at Mountain Hardwear and REI
Often put to the test by mountaineers on year-round expeditions, this tent can withstand high winds, cold temperatures and the extra weight of snow. It’s also relatively lightweight at 10 pounds, considering how strong it is.
$849 $674 at Luxe Outdoor
Best for cold weather backcountry camping, this teepee-shaped tent is a reasonably lightweight hot tent. Campers can install an optional portable tent wood stove using the stove jack port on the side wall or run a chimney through the center using a tent protector sleeve.
Luxury camping tents
$1,249 at REI
This is a fully customizable tent with optional configurations and ample capacity, and REI designed it so that it can be removed entirely to create a large community shelter for socializing, cooking and eating.
$599.95 at Backcountry
The cabin-sized Bell Tent makes for great spacious and cozy camping. At 182 square feet and six-person capacity, there’s plenty of room to set up creature comforts for car camping like cots, air mattresses, side tables or hanging lanterns.
Separate sleeping quarters connected by an oversized center vestibule make this tent an awesome option for privacy if you’re camping with another couple, kids or a friend. Two awning doors can also be propped open with a pair of hiking poles to expand usable hangout space and coverage.
This massive tent provides copious amounts of vestibule space for protecting gear, hanging out and staying dry from the elements. You can also roll back the rain fly to turn the front half of the tent into a screened-in porch. The tent’s near-vertical walls and overhangs provide plenty of room to stand up and pack in all the amenities.
$349 at Decathlon
A budget-friendly, family car camping tent that takes (literally) seconds to set up and break down, this tent features an umbrella-inspired design, so to set it up you just need to pull on a couple drawstrings placed on opposite sides of the tent, which expands the walls into their fully constructed shape. To break it down, just push two buttons and the tent will collapse into itself in seconds.
This tent’s super-fast setup, which takes only 10 seconds and pops open on its own, makes it arguably the lowest-maintenance tent you can find. The tent also folds completely flat, making it easy to transport and carry. You’ll want to camp in sound weather conditions with this tent, as it comes with a very simple rain fly and no stakes.
$229.99 $160.99 at Coleman
Preattached poles make this tent super easy to set up in just three steps: Unfold the tent, extend the legs and stake it down. This tent fits two queen-size airbeds and has double-thick polyurethane-treated walls for water resistance. You can also opt for the 8-Person Instant Cabin.