Buying a tent is like buying a home in miniature. A great one will have amenities that complement your outdoor ambitions, plus enough real estate to be comfortable. The best tent for you will balance weight, space and features appropriate for the adventures ahead. Depending on where and when you venture out, you'll need to consider multiple factors to find the tent that's right for you.
Quickest PitchQuechua 2 Second Easy Tent Read More
Best Overall TentBig Agnes Tigerwall UL 3 Solution Dyed Tent rei.com Read More
Best for Group HangsKelty Rumpus 4 Person Tent Read More
Best Dome TentGazelle T4 Hub Tent Overland Edition Read More
Best Beach TentPacific Breeze Easy Setup Beach Tent Read More
What Should You Look for When Choosing a Tent?
If you're going to choose a tent based on how many people you can fit inside (1-person, 2-person, etc.,) a good rule of thumb is to size one "person" up for comfort. Tent manufacturers measure how many campers you can fit in a tent by the size of the surface of the floor of the tent, with 25 inches allotted to each person (this includes you and your sleeping bag). If you're car camping, size up one person for a little extra wiggle room: if it's a pair of you, go for a 3-person tent. That way, you'll be able to fit your gear, and even a camping air mattress.
However, keep in mind that if you're bikepacking or backpacking, you'll want to choose the size that correlates with the number of campers. If there are two of you, go with a 2-person; it may be a tighter fit, but it's less weight to lug around.
Speaking of weight, when shopping for your outdoor home away from home, think about what kind of camping you'll be doing before you whip out that credit card. If you're going to be backpacking through Europe or thru-hiking the PCT, a general rule for picking an appropriately-sized tent is 2.5 pounds per person; most backpacking-oriented styles will fit the bill, so keep an eye out for those. If you're car camping or have a large tent, anywhere from 3 pounds to twenty is fair game. The average weight of the car-camping tents on this list is around 15 pounds.
3-season vs. 4-season: What's the difference?
The names are pretty indicative here: 3-season tents are built to withstand typical camping weather conditions: rain, wind, sun and variable weather associated with spring, summer and fall. 4-season tents are built with more intense weather in mind: snow, high winds, extreme cold and harsh conditions.
Ventilation and Weather Conditions
Good ventilation is key to sound sleep for most people. Your tent should be able to withstand the weather where you’re using it. That’s not just rain and wind, but also heat. With this in mind, if you're going to be camping in hot climates, choose a tent with multiple mesh panel walls, which will increase airflow without letting any critters or creatures in. Heading for the rain? Always pick a tent with a rain fly, and consider also a reinforced floor that will protect against moisture and mud. If you venture out in rainy climes, a gear vestibule or two can mean the difference between a soggy pack and a dry one. If you're going to be visiting a variety of locations, a capable three-season, jack-of-all-trades is going to be your best bet.
There are a few standard materials you'll see used on most modern tents: mesh, polyester, nylon and Dyneema, and also a few that are less popular but still common — cotton canvas, oxford cloth and polycotton. Typically, synthetic composite materials like polyester and nylon are more durable, lighter weight and are imbued with UV protection and waterproofing. Tent poles follow a similar path: there are five main types, which include commonly used aluminum alloy and carbon fiber, and less-commonly used glass fiber, steel and air beams.
One key component that often gets overlooked is the zippers on your tent — there are two main types to look for: the coil zip and the tooth zip. The coil zip has continuous spirals of material (typically nylon or polyester) that run along both sides of the zipper, making it easy to apply to curved openings. However, it can easily bunch up or kink, which is the last thing you want on a windy night. The tooth zip earns its name from its construction: the teeth of the zipper are molded directly to the tape, which can increase waterproofing and and durability. If one of those teeth break off, though, the whole zipper is useless.
How We Tested
We tested these tents in a variety of conditions over the course of the year, from peaks in Colorado to the deserts of Southern California and everywhere in-between. When testing, we considered material durability, fabrication, footprint, ease of setup and more.
With those simple guidelines in mind, here are some of our favorites.
Quechua 2 Second Easy Tent
- Trail weight: 10.4 pounds
- Pack size: 23.2" x 7.9" x 7.9"
- Area: 32 square feet
- Sleeps: 2
Pull this tent out of its storage sack, tug pull-cords on each end, and in seconds, it's all set up. With an integrated rainfly, this tent is heavy enough that you wouldn't take it backpacking, but it's a fast and fun car camping option, even if it takes another two minutes to pound in the stakes. The durable, waterproof base doesn’t need an additional footprint.
Big Agnes Tigerwall UL 3 Solution Dyed Tent
- Trail weight: 2.75 pounds
- Pack size: 6" x 19"
- Floor area: 38 square feet
- Sleeps: 3
This super-light three-season backpacking tent sets up with a single pole, but it still has room to sleep three. Dual doors each have gear-storing vestibules, and internal space is enhanced with structured foot-end corners for more usable space between your feet and the tent wall. Media pockets hold phones and other devices, while oversized additional ones hold everything else. The planet-friendly, solution-dyed fabric is UV fade-resistant, and all seam taping is waterproof and solvent-free.
Kelty Rumpus 4 Person Tent
- Trail weight: 12 pounds
- Pack size: N/A
- Floor area: 60.25 square inches
- Sleeps: 4
Kelty redefines the tent vestibule with the massive porch offered by the Rumpus. It’s big, tall, and ready for happy hour or to store mountain bikes, a cooler and other gear. This tent is not exactly loaded with features, but the porch complements spacious sleeping quarters, and a color-coded fly matches the tent body so you don’t try to set it up sideways.
Gazelle T4 Hub Tent Overland Edition
- Trail Weight: 34 pounds
- Pack Size:
- Floor area: 61 square feet
- Sleeps: 4-6
At 8 feet long packed, you won't be bringing this luxury tent on any backpacking trips, but car campers will be able to enjoy the easy setup and take down of this domed wonder from Gazelle. With the ability to fit four people (with additional room for gear) and take down within 90 seconds, the overland version of this popular dome tent is ready to be basecamp on your next adventure. The All-Terrain stakes and durable material, as well as reinforced floor, make this an ideal option for more rugged trips — we tested ours in the windy desert of Anza Borrego State Park and were sheltered and snug the entire trip.
Pro Tip: Stake the tent to your vehicle or trailer for extra wind resistance and stability.
Pacific Breeze Easy Setup Beach Tent
- Materials: Polyester, fiberglass
- Weight: 4.45 pounds
Dimensions: 87" x 47" x 49"
Sturdy construction? Check. Approachable price point? Check. UPF protection, a roomy interior and fast set-up? Check, check, check. The Pacific Breeze is everything you need in a beach tent and nothing you don't: It's less than five pounds, fits 3-4 people and offers UPF 50+ protection. There are internal pockets built to organize small gear like water bottles and hats, and the water-resistant PE floor makes post-beach clean-up a breeze.
Overland Vehicle Systems Nomadic 3 Extended Roof Top Tent
- Trail weight: 108 pounds
- Pack size: 63" x 47” x 14”
- Floor area: 45 square feet
- Sleeps: 3
The Nomadic 3 is advertised as a three-person tent, but it's certainly super-comfortable for two. We bought a queen-size fitted sheet to go over the mattress to negate the sticky nylon feeling; the sheet ended up being too small, which speaks to how much space you have. (Buying an annex can add more space for storage or even another sleeper.)
The accessories that come with the tent definitely had some thought put into them. There are boot bags, pillows and too many gear pockets and nets to count. Like wearing a good pair of cargo pants, the storage pockets make it easy to stay organized. A 40" velcro light strip is included and can easily be hooked up to whatever power station you have handy. We didn't need auxiliary lighting as the strip had no issue illuminating the whole tent.
Tentsile Connect 2-Person Tree Tent (3.0)
- Trail weight: 20.8 pounds
- Pack size: 22" x 13" x 9.85"
- Floor area: 52 square feet
- Sleeps: 2
A double-bay platform sleeping area that hangs from the trees, Tensile’s Connect is a tent, a hammock and a tarp in one. Its bug mesh dome can be fully unzipped, though it also comes with a rainfly to keep out the weather. Numerous internal and under-tent pockets organize gear, while three attachment points ensure it doesn’t sag. The full mesh is cool, while the full tarp is protective, and the hanging nature makes for great views. Caveat emptor: appropriately spaced trees not included.
Coleman 2-Person Sundome Tent
- Trail weight: 6.38 pounds
- Pack size: N/A
- Floor area: 35 square feet
- Sleeps: 2
You can’t beat the price of the made-for-summer Sundome. Oversized windows and a ground vent keep fresh air circulating. When you’re hiding from a squall, the rainfly, welded corners and inverted seams will keep the water out. The two-person version shown here fits a queen-sized air bed. There's no vestibule, but there are also 3-, 4- and 6-person options for stashing extra gear or accommodating larger groups, with the biggest one as cheap as $99 if you aren't picky about color.
MSR Carbon Reflex 1 Featherweight Tent
- Trail weight: 1 pound, 13 ounces
- Pack size: 17" x 5"
- Floor area: 17 square feet
- Sleeps: 1
At 1 pound, 13 ounces packed, this ultralight tent weighs less than a tarp and packs down to the size of a water bottle — you'll hardly notice it in your pack. Carbon fiber poles and a breezy micromesh canopy offer frame support and superb ventilation, while the zipper-free vestibule cuts extra weight. The unique pole geometry maximizes headspace in the little tent that could, and both the rainfly and floor are waterproof: the rainfly features DuraShield, while the waterproof floor is coated in Xtreme Shield.
Nemo Dragonfly Bikepack Tent
- Trail weight: 2.25 pounds
- Pack size: 14.5" x 6"
- Floor area: 20.3 square feet
- Sleeps: 1
Made from light, tough materials with a weight-saving tapered floor and a tub-style vestibule that keeps gear out of the mud, the DragonFly packs into a rolltop stuff sack you can attach to handlebars, under the seat, on the top tube or any rack. Poles are cut short to fit between brake hoods, while the webbing daisy chain makes a nice clothesline.
Eureka! Kohana 6-Person Tent
- Trail weight: 13 pounds
- Pack size: 9" x 27"
- Floor area: 83.3 square feet
- Sleeps: 6
With enough space to pack in a pile of friends or an extended family, the six-person Kohana keeps you shielded from the weather (thanks to an included full rainfly) and from bugs, and it keeps you organized. Two oversized vestibules and six internal pockets store gear. The tent’s easy-to-assemble aluminum-pole dome frame is durable though heavy, so this tent is best for car camping and base camping.
Thule Tepui Foothill Tent
- Trail weight: 108 pounds
- Pack size: 83" x 24" x 9.5"
- Floor area: 27.4 square feet
- Sleeps: 2
The two-person Foothill is easy to set up, with telescoping internal poles, and it deploys compactly, so there’s space on your roof rack for bikes, kayaks and cargo. At half the width of other rooftop tents, this streamlined approach has a soft cover and a weight-saving base that is strong and stable. A wide door paired with a broad rear window and dual skylights enhance airflow and stargazing.
Hyperlite UltaMid 2 – Ultralight Pyramid Tent
- Trail weight: 1.17 pounds
- Pack size: 8.5" x 6" x 5.5"
- Floor area: 63 square feet
- Sleeps: 2
For the ounce counters and backpacking minimalists out there who want quality in a feather-light package, Hyperlite is your best bet. The two-person pyramid tent is easy to set up and uses your trekking poles as the middle support for the tent, cutting down on unnecessary items to carry. Incredibly durable, 100-percent waterproof Dyneema Composite Fabrics resist rips and tears, and the white color keeps things streamlined (and easy to return from nighttime wanderings). If you've got gear (or in our tester's case, bikes) size up to the four-person option — you'll be able to fit two campers and your equipment with a little room to spare.