Camping with friends and family is really fun. And whether you’re enjoying the campsite itself or just using it as a jumping-off place for nearby activities, we’ll help you find the right camping tent or backpacking tent for you.

Before You Begin

You’ve probably noticed that there’s a huge range of sizes and styles of tents available today so finding the correct one can be a bit tricky. The first thing you should do is narrow down the size and berth.

Small weekender tents are great for throwing in the boot of a car or strapping to your festival trolley. Their capacity range is from one to four people with a small porch area to stash your gear. If you’re travelling light, heading away for the weekend or venturing to a festival, these are an ideal. Just consider your transportation–using a car? Pop-ups are an idea. Taking it on a plane? Maybe skip the pop-up and take a poled tent.

Backpacking and trekking tents are similar to weekender tents, however they are much more durable as they are designed for prolonged use in bad weather. They are also smaller with limited space for gear as they’re designed to be as lightweight as possible. Think scouts, multi-day treks or backpacking and you’re on the right track.

Lastly you have the classic family tents which usually hold four to ten people and are available in two distinct styles: dome and tunnel. Tunnel tents offer larger living spaces with large front opening doors allowing for lots of light to enter. Dome tents, on the other hand, offer a larger standing height due to the straighter walls and sleeping pods on either side with a more limited living space in the centre.

If you’re looking for a family tent think about how much gear you bring with you; you may find sizing up to be a more comfortable option if you have a couple of kids and a dog. When planning to buy, also think of how your living area will be laid out. Is there enough room for your table and storage unit?

Berth Sleeping Capacity

The first thing to think about when you’re choosing a tent is how many people will want to sleep in the tent-plus gear and pets. You’ll want to know that there is no industry standard for per-person tent dimensions, so they can vary a lot. However, you can assume a tight fit. If you’re claustrophobic, toss and turn at night or are bringing a small child or pet, you should consider upping your tent capacity by one person.

Tent Seasonality

You want to pick the tent that is right for the conditions you’ll be encountering. There are three types: 3-season, 3-4 season and 4 season tents.

  • 3 Season: These lightweight shelters designed to be comfortable in temperate conditions. They usually have a lot of mesh to help with airflow. They’re good at withstanding downpours, but aren’t for violent winds or heavy snow.
  • 3-4 Season: These tents offer a great combination of ventilation, strength and warmth-retention. They usually have a few more poles and less mesh than 3-season tents. They are good for those who head to high-elevation destinations.
  • 4 Season: These tents are designed for mountaineering. They use more poles and heavier fabric than other tents, and have few mesh panels and rain flies that are very close to the ground. This would make them uncomfortable in mild weather, but good in foul weather.

Tents offer a variety of features that you should consider before purchasing. Here are a few of the most common.

  • Peak Height: Tent manufacturers offer the dimensions of the tent. If you like standing up when changing, you’ll want to make sure your tent is tall enough!
  • Floor Length: If you’re tall or need additional space for gear, get a tent with a length of 230 centimeters (most are around 215 centimeters). 
  • Doors: The number of doors and their orientation is really important. If you’re camping with friends of family members, multiple doors can avoid climbing over one another in cramped quarters.
  • Poles: Almost all tents are free standing and don’t require stakes. You’ll want to note that fewer poles mean a faster setup, and poles that use clips are easier than poles that thread through pole sleeves.
  • Rainfly: You need a rainfly for wind, rain and warmth. Roof-only rain flies are good for light and views but full-coverage rain flies offer the most protection from wind and rain.
  • Materials: Higher-denier fabric canopies and rain flies are tougher than lower-denier ones. Also note that seam tape and higher-denier floors make the odds of leakage less.
  • Vestibules/Garage: Shelters that attach to your tent for storage can be great to have in many situations, but they do add weight.
  • Interior Loops and Pockets: Keep organized with interior pockets and loops to hang lanterns. They’re super handy.
  • Footprint: This ground cloth (usually sold separately) goes under your tent floor to protect your tent from rocks, twigs and dirt. They can be a good investment.