- The best camping tent should have these features in common: They're easy to pitch and pack up, made of durable materials that won't tear or rip easily, and provide reliable shelter in a variety of conditions.
- Though a tent's size is also a concern, they're not all designed to be roomy, so it's important to consider your desired use case while shopping; backpackers should look for a lightweight option while families could opt for a larger tent that sleeps more people.
- We spent several months testing a variety of tents from brands like Mountainsmith, Coleman, and Big Agnes to find the best for three-season outings, family car camping trips, and mountaineering — there's even a budget option that's less than $100.
- Our top pick, the Mountainsmith Morrison EVO 2 Person tent, is easy to set up and break down, costs less than $200, and keeps you warm and dry even in the event of bad weather.
Packing along the right tent makes anyone's camping experience that much better. Though many tents on the market carry with them a premium price tag, what you get for that investment is something that's built to last and intended to be a central part of your kit for years.
But not all tents are suitable for all conditions, nor is one person's ideal tent the right choice for another camper, climber, or hiker. Choosing the best tent for your needs means considering basic factors like climate and season as well as your activities and how the tent's weight, size, and layout might accommodate or hinder them. It's also smart to factor in the size and number of people who plan to share the tent and what your gear budget is.
To help narrow down your potential choices, we field-tested several of the industry's top tents from brands like Mountainsmith, Coleman, and Big Agnes to find the best suited to a variety of use cases. After several nights in the backcountry and various area campgrounds, we settled on five of our favorites.
At the bottom of this guide, we've included some helpful tips on how to shop for a camping tent, as well as the testing methodology we used to pick our favorites.
Here are the best tents for camping:
- Best tent overall: Mountainsmith Morrison EVO 2 Person Tent
- Best tent for mountaineering: ALPS Mountaineering Tasmanian 3 Person Tent
- Best backpacking tent: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
- Best tent for families: Coleman Evanston Screened 6 Person Tent
- Best budget tent: Flytop Outdoor Backpacking 2 Person Tent
Updated on 10/26/2020 by Rick Stella: Updated the sections on how to shop for a camping tent and what we're currently testing, included a rundown of our testing methodology, added the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 as our pick for best backpacking tent, checked the availability of all recommended tents, and updated the prices and links where necesesary.
The best tent overall
The Mountainsmith Morrison EVO 2 Person Tent offers plenty of room for two people and their gear, and it's a reliable three-season tent that will keep you warm and dry even in poor weather.
Mountainsmith is one of the most trusted names in outdoor gear, and for good reason: They make good stuff, and it just happens to be pretty affordable, too. That's certainly the case with the Morrison EVO tent, which is almost a steal at a hundred and sixty bucks. But this is not an entry-level tent — It's a bona fide shelter suitable for three-season use with impressive rain and weather resistance.
I like the Mountainsmith Morrison EVO thanks to the many variations in which you can erect it. The tent can be pitched without the rainfly, leaving the mesh roof exposed, which is ideal for ventilation and cooling in warm conditions. It can also be set up with the rainfly in place but with the windows unzipped and the vestibules open for protection from rain but with airflow maintained. Finally, when the cold sets in or the wind starts driving the rain sideways, you can zip everything shut and seal yourself and your camping buddy in all snug and sound.
You'll only need to practice setting this tent up once or twice before you master it, even with laying out the included footprint and attaching the rain cover. And as long as you don't expect the tent to stand up to a mid-winter blizzard, you should be able to enjoy it in almost any conditions during most months of the year.
Pros: Spacious interior, great price point, suitable for three-season use, easy to set up
Cons: Too heavy for some uses/users, rainfly limits window ventilation
The best tent for mountaineering
Even when gale-force winds and heavy snows are raging outside, within the ALPS Mountaineering Tasmanian 3 Person tent, you will be warm and dry.
Let's get the negatives out of the way from the get-go on this one: The ALPS Mountaineering Tasmanian 3 Person tent is pretty heavy, and it's pretty snug in there with three adults and the type of gear you need for a genuine mountaineering expedition. But as you probably know, a tent that's designed for three people is actually ideal for two users. Also, if you divide up the poles, the fly, and the tent itself between two people (or three — a trio of sleepers can indeed fit, it just gets … familiar), the issue of its nine-pound weight is mitigated.
And when the Tasmanian is keeping you safe and even comfortable in the middle of a howling blizzard at 12,000 feet of elevation, you'll be glad you decided to deal with those extra few pounds. The tent uses a freestanding frame system comprised of 7000 Series aluminum poles, complete with a cross pole and weatherproof shock cords, all of which help the Tasmanian keep its shape and remain standing even in powerful winds.
The tent comes with a waterproof polyester fly cover that will keep you dry and that adds excellent insulation, while factory sealed floor and fly seams enhance the water-resistance and block out any chilly breezes that might otherwise creep in.
With two people sharing this tent, it's roomy and comfortable even if you have to keep all your gear inside due to inclement weather. The spacious vestibules help with gear storage and offer some space for food prep, repairs, or for slipping on or off those muddy boots. Just don't plan to use this tent for hot weather camping unless you really like saunas.
Pros: Four-season weather protection, stands up to strong winds, roomy vestibules
Cons: On the heavier side, too hot for summer use
The best backpacking tent
The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 is extremely lightweight at just 3 pounds, features a hub design that lets it remain stable in inclement weather, and has an incredibly roomy interior for a backpacking tent.
When a backpacker shops for a tent, there's mostly just one question on their mind: What's the lightest tent I can possibly buy? When you're packing days worth of belongings into a single backpack and hitting the trail, every ounce counts, which makes the Big Agnes Copper Spur tent a no-brainer for any and all backpackers. Weighing just shy of 3 pounds, it's incredibly lightweight and takes up minimal space in a pack — yet still offers a surprisingly roomy interior of 29 square feet.
Setting up and tearing down the Copper Spur HV UL2 is one of the easiest we've seen throughout all our tests, as the poles snap together in seconds and the tent itself uses clips that quickly affix to the poles. Even when we first set this up, it took maybe five minutes to fully erect — and by the time we had the hang of it, it only took around two or three minutes.
Big Agnes used ripstop nylon and a polyester mesh for the tent's fabric, which make it both durable and breathable. And though it comes with a rainfly (that's also made of ripstop nylon), I wouldn't recommend using this for anything other than summer or shoulder season camping. Because it's so breathable (which is a welcome feature in the summer), it wouldn't be able to provide near enough warmth for camping in the winter.
Everything about the Copper Spur HV UL2 is a backpacker's dream. I've even used this during normal car camping trips because of how much interior space it offers — even if I was sleeping two people to the tent, it still provided more than enough room for both people and a pair of backpacks. It is expensive at $450 but this is a tent that will last you for several years and can be used in so many different ways — it's well worth the investment. – Rick Stella
Pros: Large interior space, easy to set up and tear down, weighs just shy of 3 pounds, perfect for backpacking
The best tent for families
The Coleman Evanston Screened 6 Person Tent is large enough for six people to share, and it's a great choice for car campers or for use on shorter overland treks.
The Coleman Evanston tent has a footprint measuring ten by fourteen feet. That includes a generously covered vestibule area, but the interior of the tent itself is still about ten by ten, or 100 square feet, in other words. This tent is a perfect choice for family camp-outs, provided you are making camp in an area with mild temperatures.
The Evanston features huge screen panels and a mesh roof that allow for ventilation and that will keep you and the gang cool when it's warm out, but the tent offers minimal insulation for use in colder climates or seasons.
That said, rain is really no problem with the Coleman Evanston tent. With its rainfly in place and properly lashed down, the tent should stay dry inside even in a downpour. The vestibule is ideal for storing wet or muddy gear and is large enough to serve as a camp kitchen or a spot to hang out and play cards or read.
For the glamping set, the Evanston can accommodate two queen-sized air mattresses, but this tent is ideal when shared by a big family of outdoorsmen, outdoorswomen, and outdoorskids who are content to climb into a sleeping bag after a long day spent enjoying the outdoors.
Pros: Spacious tent with high ceiling, very affordable for large tent, decent rain protection
Cons: Very heavy tent, not suitable for cold weather, limited privacy
The best tent for a camper on a budget
The Flytop Outdoor Backpacking 2 Person Tent costs less than $100, but it's warm, waterproof, wind-resistant, and adequate for adventures in almost all conditions.
The Flytop Outdoor Backpacking tent bills itself as a three- or four-season tent, and in my experience that means this: It's a three-season tent. While I wouldn't want to ride out a rough winter storm in this one, it is a great choice for use in the spring, summer, or fall or even in the wintertime if you are camping at lower altitudes (and lower latitudes, for good measure).
The main reason I would not recommend this tent for use during the winter is its middling durability. Some owners have reported bent poles and tears in the seams; these issues are frustrating when it's cool and wet, but can become serious safety concerns when you're facing freezing temperatures and wintry precipitation.
Though the tent does have a snow skirt that keeps the floor protected and dry, I'd be worried about heavy snow loads and about a potential tear to let in cold air, snow, or freezing rain.
For most people and in most climates, this Flytop Outdoor tent is a great choice, though. Its rainfly is reliably waterproof, it offers excellent ventilation when zipped open, and setup and takedown are both easy. The tent can surely fit two people, but it will get tight if the ground is too wet or dirty to store gear in the vestibules, though.
Pros: Great low price point, reliable waterproofing, easy to set up
Cons: Poles bend under heavy pressure, occasional fabric tears, slightly too heavy for trekking
What else we considered
The number of tents on the market is many, as just about every major outdoor brand offers some version of a portable shelter. They're not all created equal, however. During our test to find those worthy of a spot in your outdoor kit, we came across a few that just barely missed the cut.
We update this section often as we're testing tents year-round, but here's a quick rundown of what we've tested recently and why it still deserves some consideration:
Luxe Tempo Breeze 1 Tent
The Luxe Tempo Breeze 1 has room for a single sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and a bit of gear tucked down by your feet or in a side vestibule, but that's all the serious solo trekker or climber needs. By keeping this tent compact, Luxe Tempo also kept it lightweight. The Breeze 1 is suitable for use during multi-day hikes or when you're hauling your gear up a mountainside hand over hand.
The twin later tent is reliably waterproof and wind-resistant, and it's stable enough to handle some snow load, though most of the snow will slide down its angular sides. With the windows, doors, and rainfly zipped up tight, the Breeze 1 will help keep you warm even when it's below freezing outside. In warm weather, it offers ample ventilation when opened wide.
Setting up the Luxe Tempo Breeze 1 might take a little while the first few times, what with the extended guy lines and included footprint, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be able to pitch them tent fast enough to form a bivouac in the face of a sudden storm.
What we're testing
Decathlon Quechua 2-Second Tent
The Quechua 2-Second from Decathlon attempts to live up to its name by featuring an easy-to-use design that allows it to pitch in no more than two seconds. At just $99, it also sports an attractive price tag.
How to shop for a camping tent
When shopping, take the time to consider important attributes before even beginning to look at actual tents. For example, if you've already decided that a spacious tent is worth a few extra pounds of gear weight, then there's no need to look at ultra-light tents (which tend to be quite expensive). If you know you'll have a heavy pack laden with gear and rations, then every ounce counts and a small, light tent is crucial.
Perhaps you and the family are summertime car campers and prefer sleeping in a big, breezy tent. Even those who head out onto glaciers or set up camp above the timberline require their own specific set up, which is usually a squat, sturdy tent ready for wind and snow.
Shopping for a tent also means combing through a list of industry-specific descriptors and features that might not all be entirely clear. Here are the most common (and important) terms you'll come across during your search:
Vestibule: A tent's vestibule (sometimes referred to as its porch) is a mostly covered exterior portion of the tent where the rainfly or roof of the tent extends beyond the actual shelter. The vestibule is a great place to store gear, cook meals, take off or put on hiking boots, etc.
Guy lines: Guy lines are what is staked into the ground to stabilize the tent. In windy conditions, these are vital to assure the tent doesn't blow away and when it's raining, the tension of the guy lines, and the fly they're attached to, direct water away from the tent.
Rainfly: A rainfly is often a separate part of the tent altogether and clips onto a specific section of the tent poles to create a roof capable of protecting the interior from the elements like rain, wind, snow, excess sun, etc.. This also provides privacy.
Footprint: A tent's footprint is the groundsheet that's used between the tent and the ground where it's pitched. These are especially important for any tent that doesn't already have a waterproof base. A footprint adds durability to the bottom of a tent, as well.
Tent poles: Poles help erect a tent by either sliding into specific pole sleeves built onto the tent or by having the tent clip onto the poles themselves.
Stakes: Stakes are used to secure a tent, its poles, and the rainfly. These are often metal and, depending on the ground they're being put into, can be hammered using a rubber mallet.
Door tiebacks: Door tiebacks allow you to roll up and secure the tent's door for easy access either in or out of the tent.
Gear loft: A tent's gear loft is often a small mesh pocket (or group of mesh pockets) that are able to hold everything from smartphones and headlamps to clothing, food, or anything else you want quick access to inside your tent.
How we test camping tents
Each tent in this guide went through a series of multi-night field tests to see how well they stacked up across these four categories: Ease of setup, versatility, durability, and value. Since the tents featured in this guide are best-suited for car camping trips, we focused on categories relevant to that style of camping. The backpacking tent chosen for that category was tested during the review process for our best backpacking tents guide.
Here's how each category factored into which tents ultimately made this guide:
Ease of setup: Few things are as frustrating as fumbling with a tent the day you get to your campsite (and many a family fight has been started over how to piece together tent poles or the right way to secure a rainfly). Thankfully, many of today's tents feature incredibly easy setup processes that allow them to set up in under 10 minutes, if not shorter. When testing, we looked at how intuitive it was to align the right poles with the correct side of the tent, whether the tent easily snapped onto the poles or had pole sleeves built-in, and whether the tent needed much adjustment after being erected.
Versatility: Though we mentioned above that each tent here is mostly designed for car camping trips, there are a few exceptions, most notably the mountaineering tent and the backpacking tent. But even the standard campsite tents should have some amount of versatility to them. This means coming with an included rainfly or door tie backs, or perhaps even a footprint for added durability.
Durability: You'll notice that many of the top tents feature materials such as nylon or polyester, both of which are not only popularly used by manufacturers but afford some level of durability. For instance, tents that use ripstop nylon are highly durable and incredibly lightweight while still offering a good level of waterproofing. A brand like Coleman uses weather-treated polyester to get a very similar level of durability and waterproofing.
Value: A tent's value comes down to more than just its sticker price and is often a combination of the three categories above, as well as how much it ultimately costs. If you're able to get out of a tent exactly what you need it to do and can rely on it for several years, then spending more for that kind of premium product is far better than spending less more often.
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