If you’re planning a camping holiday, then you’ll need a reliable tent. Check out our guide on how to choose the best tent, whether you’re going on a solo adventure, or camping with the family.

The idea of sleeping under the stars might fill many people with excitement. Being at one with nature, and spending quality time with your family is a great way to escape the chaos of everyday life. But if you’re a first-timer, the world of camping can seem like a minefield.

There are so many different tents on the market, from lightweight backpacking tents, to extra large family tents. And they come in a range of prices too. But choosing the best tent for you will come down to a few key factors, with the number of sleepers being the most important. We’ve put together the ultimate guide on how to choose a tent. We’ll look at the different types of tents available, and what features to look out for to help make your decision that little bit easier.

What are the different types of tent?

Tents come in all shapes and sizes, and deciding which one is right for you largely depends on the number of campers and where and how you’ll be using it. If you’re backpacking across the other side of the world, then you need something that’s lightweight and easy to carry. Or if you’re planning a family staycation with the kids in tow, then you’ll need a comfortable and spacious tent, with separate bedrooms and a living area for everyone to hang out. Here are just some of the different styles of tent available:

  • Ridge Tent: This classic shaped tent has a pole at each end and a cross pole (ridge) supporting the roof. These tents range from one-person versions, right up to huge marquees. They’re extremely stable and easy to pitch, but their main disadvantage is head height. This may not be an issue if you’re using the tent purely for sleeping, but it’s not ideal for a family holiday as you can’t walk around inside.
  • Geodesic Tent: The poles criss-cross over the surface, intersecting to form triangles. This distributes the stress across the whole tent, making it extremely rigid and stable, giving excellent protection against strong winds and rain. This makes them good for backpacking and mountaineering in unpredictable weather, and they usually come in small sizes, for one or two people. They are available in slightly larger sizes, but bear in mind this will add extra weight.
  • Dome Tent: This style of tent is very common on camp sites. Perfect for a weekend away, they’re simple to pitch and offer great internal space. The basic shape bends a flexible pole into a half circle, with both ends fixed to a strap running across the base of the tent (often as part of the groundsheet). Overall headroom is better than in a ridge tent, and they’re pretty surdy in the wind. But dome tents become less stable the bigger they are, so it’s better to stick to smaller models.
  • Tunnel Tent: They come in a variety of styles and sizes, making them great family tents. They’re sturdy and easy to pitch, and they have lots of internal space. The poles are arched to create a tunnel, but unlike a dome tent, tunnel tents are not free-standing so need to be pegged as you pitch. Once you’ve learnt how to pitch one tunnel tent, the same principles can usually be applied to most other tunnel tents.
  • Pop-up Tent: Also known as instant or quick-pitch tents, these tents are perfect for festivals, camping in the garden or as beach shelters. They have a long, coiled, sprung frame fitted into the fabric of the tent, so they just pop open, making them super easy to set up. They’re best for a night or two, but more expensive models are much more robust, and some can sleep up to five people. Although quick to pitch, it can take a little practice to fold the tent away again, but it’s easy once you know how.
  • Teepee Tent: Also known as the bell tent, they’re popular with glampers, and they're constructed using a single pole which creates a deceptively spacious tent. Their unique shape makes them stand out among other tent styles, and they’re compact, yet have large floor space. Sloping sides with a very high centre peak also makes it easy to stand up inside. Take care when choosing a teepee tent as some don’t have inner tents, which make them better suited to summer camping. Models with an inner tent are more expensive, but they can be used all year round.
  • Inflatable Tent: A great alternative to a traditional family tent, inflatable tents (or air tents) are super simple to pitch. They have inflatable beams as opposed to metal or fibreglass poles, and they often use better quality materials compared to poled tents. Though this does make them much heavier and more costly. They’re inflated using a pump, and they are becoming increasingly popular with families because they can be pitched so quickly, with large eight-berth tents being pitched in around 15 minutes.

What are the different parts of a tent called?

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Once you’ve got to grips with the different types of tent, it’s useful to know what the different parts of a tent are called. For those new to camping, all the technical jargon can be a little confusing, so we’ve put together a little list of all the different parts of a tent and what they’re for to help you out:

  • Flysheet/outer tent: This is the tough waterproof outer layer of the tent, and it gives extra protection against bad weather. It’s main job is to keep the rain out, but it will be windproof too.
  • Porch: Good family tents will have a large porch area for storing your equipment, freeing up space in the sleeping area. It’s also a good area to cook and eat meals in. And even backpacking tents can have a small porch area.
  • Guy lines: These cord or string lines are used to secure your tent to the ground. They provide structure to parts of the tent where the poles can’t. They also create tension across the outer fabric of the tent to prevent rainwater pooling in saggy areas. Guy lines are usually secured to the ground with pegs or stakes.
  • Storm flaps: Outer tent doors with zips usually have a strip of fabric that folds over the zip to prevent rain and wind from coming in. They’re usually secured at their base with a Velcro tab to keep them in place.
  • Inner tent: This sits underneath the flysheet, either clipped to the outer material or to the poles. The inner tent isn’t waterproof, but it does divide the tent into living and sleeping areas, providing a welcome layer or warmth and privacy.
  • Mesh door: This is essential when camping in areas where bugs and insects are a problem. They are also very lightweight, so often feature in backpacking tents where weight is important.
  • Groundsheet: Usually made of a durable waterproof fabric, this is the part you sit or lie on. Some tents have an integrated groundsheet, which is attached to the inner tent to provide extra warmth and to keep you and your belongings dry.

What do I need to consider when choosing a tent?

Before choosing your tent, you need to think about what you want from it. Size, weight and capacity are all important factors. As is your budget. Cheaper tents will often have a single skin, which means less protection from the elements. But they are usually simple to set up, lightweight and easy to carry, making them the perfect choice for festivals and overnight stays. If you want something a little more robust, it’s worth investing in a tent with a double skin. They’re usually more expensive compared to single skin tents, but they are more waterproof, with a sturdier frame. Let’s take a look at some of the other things to consider when buying a tent.

  • Size: All tents will specify the number of people it can sleep. This is often referred to as ‘berths’. But just remember to take into account any living space, and equipment. So for a more comfortable trip, consider buying a three or four-berth tent for two people. Some tents may also have a porch to store muddy boots, and larger tents will sometimes offer separate living areas and bedrooms, too. Just remember, the larger the tent, the heavier it’s likely to be. It’ll also generally be harder to put up, and you may have to pay extra in pitch fees.
  • Weight: It’s important to consider the weight of a tent as this will determine the type of camping trip you can do. Large tents of up to 20kg are fine if you’re driving to your campsite, and you have several people helping to pitch. But if you’re looking for a tent for a festival or short camping trip where you might have to carry your tent a little further, go for a tent weighing around 5kg or less. And backpacking tents can weigh as little as 1kg. The biggest trade offs to keep weight low are having less space, fewer features and less durability, but you can find super lightweight tents that offer the best combination of weight, comfort and durability. And if you want a premium ultralight tent, you’ll pay more for ultralight-yet-strong materials.
  • Season rating: This doesn’t mean how many seasons it can be used in. Instead, it’s a rating of its ability to deal with different weather conditions. Each brand of tent and each retailer follows their own rules on the season rating, but generally, a one season tent is fine for warm conditions (possibly a light shower), whereas a four or five season tent will keep you dry and comfortable in more extreme weather conditions. Three season tents are the most versatile, and the most commonly bought and sold tents in the UK.
  • HH rating: The ‘hydrostatic head’ (HH) rating is an indication of how waterproof a tent’s fabric is. It measures how much water the fabric can hold before it starts to seep through, as well as the water pressure it can withstand before it starts to leak. The waterproof ratings are measured in millimetres, and usually fall anywhere between 800mm to 10,000mm. A tent with a 2,000mm rating will endure a 2,000mm (or two metre) column of water bearing down on it before it starts to leak. A tent with a 5,000mm rating will protect you against a constant downpour.

Once you’ve bought your tent , you’ll also need to make sure you look after it. With a little TLC, your tent will serve you well for years to come. Take a look at our guide on ‘How to Care for Your Tent’.

Our pick of the best camping tents for all budgets

The right tent for you will depend on the type of camping you’re doing. At Decathlon, we have a huge range of tents to suit all budgets, from lightweight backpacking tents to spacious family tents. Take a look at our pick of the 10 best tents for all your camping needs.

1. Best trekking/backpacking tent

Trek 900 Ultralight Trekking Tunnel Tent - 2 Person

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Designed and developed in the French Alps, this three season trekking tent is ideal for one or two people, and it’s ultra lightweight at only 1.75kg. With its extremely compact tunnel structure, it offers a small, essential living space with two doors, a porch and two storage pockets. It has a pre-assembled bedroom and flysheet, and sleeves for the tent poles for quick pitching and dismantling.

We love it because:

✓ Ultra lightweight

✓ Quick to pitch

✓ Strong tunnel structure

2. Best family tent

Air Seconds 4.2 XL Fresh & Black Inflatable Family Camping Tent - 4 Person


This award winning inflatable tent is designed for four people who want plenty of space and something that's easy to assemble/disassemble. It has two bedrooms, a large living room you can stand up in, a detachable zip-in ground sheet and it’s equipped with blackout technology boasting up to 99% darkness. The ‘Fresh’ fabric also reduces the heat inside your tent in the sun.

We love it because:

✓ Quick pitching inflatable tent

✓ Spacious bedrooms & living room

✓ Fresh & Black technology

3 - Best festival tent

2 Seconds XL Fresh & Black Pop-up Tent - 2 Person


This super convenient tent takes just a few seconds to pitch, making it perfect for festivals and last minute weekend trips. It’s spacious enough for two people and has good height. It also has a front porch for storing your bags, and it’s quick to fold away again using the guided folding system. Plus, it features our exclusive ‘Fresh & Black’ technology, which keeps your tent cool and dark, even in broad daylight.

We love it because:

✓ Pitches in just a few seconds

✓ Compact for easy storage

✓ Separate porch area

4. Best weekend tent

2 Seconds Easy Fresh & Black Pop-up Tent - 2 Person


Enjoy time-saving at its best with the new 2 Second system, which is as quick to put up as it is to fold away. It has a large bedroom for up to two people with good height, and two practical shoe storage areas. It features ‘Fresh & Black’ technology for a comfortable night’s sleep, and it weights just 4.7kg, making it easy to transport.

We love it because:

✓ Robust & waterproof

✓ Comfortable height

✓ Large bedroom

5. Best inflatable tent

Inflatable Air Seconds 4.1 F&B Camping Tent - 4 Person


This inflatable Air Seconds 4.1 Fresh & Black tent is ideal for four campers wanting one bedroom and a spacious living room. It’s super quick and easy to pitch and features ‘Fresh & Black’ technology, letting less heat and light in your tent. This tent is comfortable to stand up in, and it can withstand rain and winds of around 60 km/h.

We love it because:

✓ Inflatable for quick pitching

✓ Good standing height

✓ Pre-assembled bedroom

6. Best party tent

Arpenaz 10 Base Fresh Camping Living Room - 10 Person


The Arpenaz Base Fresh spacious living room has enough sitting space for 10 people around a table with good 2.25m standing height, making it the perfect party tent. This self-supporting structure has three doors and a large mosquito screen for protection. It’s simple to set up, and it’s waterproof and windproof.

We love it because:

✓ Big enough for 10 people

✓ Large mosquito screen

✓ Good standing height

7. Best beach tent

2 Seconds XL Fresh Camping Shelter - 2 Person


This is the perfect beach shelter! It’s big enough for two adults (or several children), offering shelter from the sun’s rays, light wind and insulation from the ground. It pops up and pitches in seconds, and it’s compact and easy to carry. It weighs just 1.5kg, and is just 56cm when folded, making it the ideal beach accessory.

We love it because:

✓ Compact & lightweight

✓ Pop up in seconds

✓ UPF 50+

8. Best small, budget tent

MH100 Camping Tent - 2 Person


If you’re new to camping, a simple, budget tent could be just what you need. It sleeps two people, and it’s simple and easy to pitch. Just fit the poles on the inner tent, then attach the flysheet over it. It’s durable and waterproof, and the free-standing dome structure enables you to move it once it has been assembled so you can find the best location.

We love it because:

✓ Simple to pitch

✓ Free-standing & moveable

✓ The price!

9. Best large, budget tent

Arpenaz 4.1 Family Camping Tent - 4 Person


This four person tent has a spacious living room and separate bedroom. It’s easy to pitch with a stand-up living area, making it a really good choice for camping trips as a couple, with family or friends. The tent is fitted with a basin groundsheet at the entrance which can be folded away when it’s raining, and it has a transparent shuttered window. The ventilated flysheet on the living area also airs the room and reduces condensation inside your tent.

We love it because:

✓ Separate living room & bedroom

✓ Ventilated flysheet

✓ The price!

10. Best rooftop tent

Van 500 Fresh & Black Inflatable Rooftop Tent - 2 Person


This practical inflatable rooftop tent for vans is simple and fast to set up so you can move around as you wish. It contains a real bed base and inflatable mattress for your comfort, and it’s equipped with the award winning Fresh & Black fabric to keep the tent dark and cool for a more comfortable night’s sleep. It even contains a side tarp and set of ladders to make it easy to climb in and out of your tent. It also takes less than 10 minutes to dismantle, making it as easy to pack away as it is to pitch.

We love it because:

✓ Attaches to your van to create extra space

✓ Inflatable for quick pitching

✓ Real bed base & mattress

It’s always best to see the tent you’re buying actually pitched in store if you can. Climb inside and walk around to make sure you have enough head height. Lie down to check you have plenty of space for a comfortable night’s sleep. And if you’re looking for a family tent, take the whole family with you to ensure everyone can fit in comfortably, with space for equipment too.