If it’s time to shop for your new humble abode to help you civilize the backcountry, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re going for a couple week backpacking trip in the Rockies or a weekend getaway to your favorite lake, check out our best tent reviews and find a suitable tent for your adventures this year.
While they are pretty straightforward, tents have become increasingly specialized. It can be a formidable task if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. And if you get it wrong, you may be in for a very long night up near the summit. Should you get a lightweight single wall tent or a traditional double wall tent? First we look at the main defining features you should look for in a tent. After that, we finish up with our selection of the best tents of 2016.
In this story, we’ve come up with three main categories: car camping tents, backpacking tents, and expedition tents made for harsh weather conditions. Car camping tents are generally classified as the family camping tents, but there are still plenty of individual tents in this category. This category has the largest selection of tents and the most luxurious models.
Top Tent Features to Consider
Here are the main defining features you should look at before making a final purchase decision.
Size & Weight. Typically, a bigger size equates to more comfort. Having extra elbow room and not feeling constricted will enable you to sleep well. Being able to stand and walk through the tent is a lot less awkward than crouch shuffling and bending through openings to access the tent. Of course, size and weight go hand-in-hand with each other. If you’re getting a larger tent for camping with the family, weight is not really an issue because your vehicle is doing most of the work. For backpackers and those going on an expedition, keep in mind that even though a two person tent may be the most versatile of choices, a four person tent is going to weigh less than two 2 person tents. Generally, for car camping double wall tents are the most common pick. For backpacking and camping, single wall tents are your best bet and lightest weight option. Sometimes backpackers will make the sacrifice of carrying an extra burden knowing they will have a good night’s rest at the end of the day because of the extra space afforded by a larger tent. Also, if you end up stormbound it’s nice not to feel claustrophobic the whole time and have a bit more wiggle room. Packed size is understandably something backpackers will want to keep their eye on.
Venting. Venting is included in most tents to help you stay cool in warmer and humid conditions. Family tents usually have tons of mesh panels and vents everywhere, while cold weather tents have just enough venting to reduce condensation. Depending on where most of your adventures are going to take you, it’s a good idea to find the right venting system for your needs.
Vestibule. What the heck is a vestibule? Think of it like a covered porch that functions as a place to stash muddy shoes before entering the main body of the tent. Instead of hopping around with one boot off and wrestling with the other it can be a lot easier to park your seat in the vestibule and take care of business there. It’s also a great place to stash gear and other essentials that you don’t want to get pounded by the elements. Single-wall tents typically do not have vestibules to help backpackers save on weight.
Number of Doors. The number of doors really comes down to the convenience factor. If you get a massive 6 person tent for camping and are using it to play cards in on an extra rainy day, there may be enough traffic to warrant getting something with more than one door. With all the people coming and going, you may want as many doors as possible. For tents that hold three or more people, it is a nice bonus though not really necessary.
Footprint. A tent’s footprint is a term for the pad that goes under the floor of the tent and double’s its thickness. The footprints purpose is two-fold: it makes the tent more water resistance and increases its durability. If you can afford the extra weight, it’s worth it. It will prevent the tent’s floor from wearing out fast especially when you are camping in a less than ideal spot with uneven ground.
Setup Time. Some tents are easier to set up than others. The general rule of thumb is that you want to buy according to your time restrictions. For example, expedition campers aren’t going to want to spend a great deal in the freezing cold hassling with setting up a tent, especially after a hard day of trekking. They want something efficient like the Coleman Instant Tent 6 which only takes about two minutes. On the other hand, car campers usually have a lot more time to work with, and maybe even enjoy a beer or two when pitching their tent. Bigger means a longer set up time, but for longer trips this can be well worth the extra space. After a few setups, you’ll master your tent and have it up in no time anyway. Most tents can be set up by one person, but some of the bigger models will need two people.
Weather Resistance. Depending on the environment, this can be a huge factor. Staying warm or cool and keeping out precipitation is critical to getting a good night’s rest. Certain tents will use specialized materials that cost extra than your traditional polyester or nylon, but do a much better job of keeping out the wet. Also, you don’t want something that is going to succumb to a storm and blow away. With the right roof pitch and weight, you ensure your tent will be able to stand up to the elements.
Tent Reviews: The 13 Best Tents of 2016
Best Multi-Purpose Tent: This tent can do it all. Backpacking, expeditions, car camping, this tent’s architecture is nearly perfect. It’s packed weight is about 5 pounds, which doesn’t make it a featherweight, but it’s manageable for long hikes. It is also very versatile, you can set up the fly and footprint alone on those clear t-shirt weather nights. Nemo also has a washable snap-on top for the floor called Pawprint. This is a nice supplement to an already first-class tent that will protect the floor from muddy boots.
Best Two-Person Tent: The Kelty TN 2 is one of the most versatile, high-quality tents on the market. It has a 10 by 10 square foot vestibule, and a floor area of about 28 square feet. It has one of the easiest set ups with helpful snap-clip technology, 14inch poles, and a smart design. On clear nights, you can view the stars through what they have dubbed the stargazer fly, and if it starts raining it’s easy to unroll the rain protection. This is also a wonderful tent for an individual that goes camping with a group.
- Up to two people
- Snap-clip technology
- Lifetime warranty
- Double wall construction
Best Tent for Camping Gear Enthusiasts: This is a massive tent and has 74 inch walls (6.2 feet) means you won’t have to stoop over to walk around. The floor is detachable, so it can function as a table shelter for card games, a gear storehouse, or an aid station for expeditions. The square footage totals up to nearly 350 square foot interior space enough room for about 3 to sleep very comfortably, but it can fit up to four (five is getting really tight). The only thing this tent doesn’t have is a vestibule, but it does have an overhead cover to shelter you when preparing to enter.
- Up to five people
- Easy pitching with hooped design
- Lifetime warranty
- Single wall construction
Best Spacious Backpacking Tent: This model from Mountain Hardwear is the best tent for backpackers who enjoy a little luxury. It has two doors, a removable top for stargazing, and various vestibule customizations. It comfortably fits two people and has enough room for gear and other odds and ends. The tent also features internal pockets and larger oversized doors. If you want to take in the scenery while snuggling with that significant other of yours, this is the best view a tent can offer.
Best Tent for Harsh Weather: This tent will provide you a bastion from serious storms and unfavorable weather conditions. This can handle expeditions into the coldest of climates down to -60 degrees Fahrenheit. The thick poles and set up process is glove friendly, so you don’t need to worry about losing any fingers during the set up process. This tent is overkill for your average weekend camper, but one of the best for Everest like conditions.
Best Lightweight Tent: The Solitaire weighs in at 2 pounds, 9 ounces. It has a square footage of 21.33, and is designed to sleep just one. This is great tent for backpackers, walkabouts, and trekking. It is the most compact model from Eureka, designed to be a three-season solo tent. Setup and take down is efficient as expected. This tent is also fitted with two storage pockets and one flashlight loop. You’re not going to do anything outside of sleeping in this tent and though it’s constricting, you’re going to be hard pressed to find a tent this high quality that weighs less.
Best Ultralight Multi-Person Tent: The Kinetic Carbon 3 is another three season tent for backpackers but sleeps up to three people. This tent features the best-in-class space to weight ratio of any three season three person tent. Its packed weight comes in at an efficient 3lbs 11oz. The tent’s frame is made up of carbon ion poles, which are about 50% lighter than your traditional aluminum poles. It has a full mesh body that keeps hungry bugs out and supplies the square footage with enough ventilation to stay comfortable in humid conditions. Also included in this tent package are a waterproof floor and rain fly that easily attaches to the tent body. The aluminum stakes and five guy lines secure this tent against the worst Mother Nature can throw at it.