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How to Buy the Right Tent for Your Next Adventure

You can sleep under the stars, slip into a bivvy sack or hang a tarp, but if you want a more substantial shelter, get a tent. What kind of tent should you get? Here are come variables and features to consider so you can choose the right tent for your trip.


CLIMATE. What kind of weather will you be camping in? Four-season tents are designed to withstand strong winds and loads of snow. If you’ll be in milder climates, a three-season tent will do the job.

SPACE. How many people will share the tent? How much personal space do you all want? Tents can accommodate one, two, three or four sleepers — keep in mind that this label doesn’t consider backpacks or extra gear. It’s helpful to check out the tent at the store before you buy. Ask a salesperson if you can set it up so you can crawl inside and see how much room you’ll have.

Want some headroom? A dome tent might be best because of its design. Think about the ease of moving around, entering and exiting, but also the need to balance a tent’s living space against the following factors.

WEIGHT. Look especially at a tent’s packed size, considering how much other gear you have to pack. Need something lightweight? Seek out tents specifically
designed for backpacking (see below).

EASE OF SETUP. Larger tents usually require more time and effort to pitch and take down, which can feel tedious in nice weather and miserable in rain. Think about your tolerance for that versus your desire for more space.

STABILITY. Tall tents with vertical walls are much more vulnerable to damage from strong winds. Those tents are best for calm weather and campgrounds protected from the wind. Low-profile models with angled walls and guylines are best for all weather. Want a tent that’s sturdy and simple to set up? Look at A-frames.

RAIN. Some car-camping tents have a rainfly that doesn’t extend to the ground, which is fine for fair-weather camping. Get a full-coverage rainfly for camping in mixed weather; those tents usually have better stability in wind.

Want one tent for car camping and the occasional backpacking trip? The BSA BASECAMP 3-PERSON TENT ($200, hits a nice balance for both purposes at a good price. Designed for backpackers, it sports a hub pole system made of sturdy aluminum that’s similar to many pricier tents, good living space for three people with nearly 40 square feet, and a 41-inch peak height and two doors. For car camping, it will handle windy campsites, pitch and come down easily, and provide livable space, especially for two people. The weight and bulk are reasonable for backpacking. 7 lbs.

For campers who prefer a home away from home, the BIG AGNES BIG HOUSE 4 ($380, provides space to stand up (70-inch height) and spread out (57 square feet). Large mesh windows on both doors ventilate the tent, while solid panels zip over them for privacy and warmth. It features smart details like pockets that can also stow the unzipped doors out of the way. The simple pole architecture makes this freestanding tent easy to pitch and allows setting up the partial rainfly as a sun shelter. 11 lbs. 2 oz.

The COLEMAN SUNDOME 6-PERSON DOME TENT ($140, is a good inexpensive choice for fair-weather campers. Measuring 10 by 10 feet with a peak height of 6 feet, this tent could sleep six but offers welcome extra space for fewer occupants — it fits a queen-sized inflatable mattress. It’s easy to set up and doesn’t require a lot of campsite space like some larger tents do. A rainfly that covers the upper half of the tent — along with solid wall fabric on the tent body’s lower half and a waterproof, bathtub-style floor — provides protection against a rain shower, just in case. 16 lbs. 4 oz.


WEIGHT. Pack weight matters and your tent is one of your heaviest pieces of gear, but it also has the most potential for reducing the total weight you have to carry. Many two-person tents weigh less than 4 pounds, and some are less than 2 pounds. Trade-offs for lower weight often include a higher price and less living space and durability.

SPACE. The interior and vestibule space, peak height, number of doors, and details like vents and pockets all affect your experience. For example, two doors offer more convenience and ventilation than one.

STABILITY. For backpacking (or car camping) in windy places, look for a more elaborate, sturdier pole architecture and a low-profile, aerodynamic shape.

SETUP. Freestanding tents are usually easier and faster to pitch and dismantle than non-freestanding. That’s convenient, especially when setting up in the rain. But non-freestanding tents are often lighter and just as sturdy when pitched and staked properly. Tip: The best way to slash tent weight is to get a tent that pitches using trekking poles.

For lightweight backpacking without a heavyweight budget, the SIX MOON DESIGNS SKYSCAPE SCOUT solo tent ($145, represents a super value. A hybrid single-wall design pitches using trekking poles (or two tent poles, sold separately) to create a sturdy A-frame. The mesh walls are covered by an integrated nylon rainfly that rolls up to create a bugproof shelter with an almost-unobstructed view of the stars. The 100-inch length, 23 square feet of floor space and 45-inch peak height make it very livable. Downside: It’s a bit bulky. 2 lbs. 8 oz.

If you place equal importance in a tent’s living space, weight and price, take a close look at the MARMOT TUNGSTEN ULTRALIGHT 2-PERSON TENT ($350, Although just ounces heavier than other models, it sports a spacious 31 square feet — more than virtually all competitors in its weight class. Tent poles bent at the corners and a short eyebrow pole over the top create vertical walls that expand your headroom for a 42-inch peak height. The sturdy pitch shrugs off strong wind, and the two doors and vestibules provide convenience while minimizing condensation. 3 lbs. 7 oz.

The REI QUARTER DOME SL 2 ($349, justifies its popularity by striking a keen balance between low weight and livability. While it’s snug, the trapezoidal floor shape makes it feel roomier than its nearly 29 square feet, and the steep walls similarly enhance the headroom for its 38-inch peak height. The hubbed aluminum poles offer good stability in a quick, semi-freestanding pitch facilitated by color-coded attachments. Two doors and large vestibules improve ventilation and livability. 2 lbs. 8 oz.

69 Comments on How to Buy the Right Tent for Your Next Adventure

  1. I wish I could win this tent.

  2. canadaclassic01_1 // April 28, 2015 at 8:11 pm // Reply

    your ten room tents would be great for family get to get to geathers or retreats going to get one soon as i can

  3. HAUNTED1A326 // April 28, 2015 at 8:09 pm // Reply


  4. canadaclassic01_1 // April 28, 2015 at 8:04 pm // Reply

    like the ten room tent going to wallmart and look at them hope the have them in canada

  5. How big are the individual spaces and are the windows see-through?

  6. I looked at walmart did not find this tent any other places to look???

  7. Yes I would love to have this 20 person tent

  8. I need this tent I love it where else could u get one

  9. I can’t find this at Walmart

  10. How can i purchase the 20 person tent?

  11. Good luck putting it up and back in the bag

  12. Wow…so Cool!

  13. camping master // April 28, 2015 at 2:17 pm // Reply

    20 person tent is at wal mart

  14. I am sure Nepal could use some of these!

  15. Where can we buy this tent ?

  16. That is so cool

  17. How cani order this tent? Great for camping with family and nephew nieces or team retreat

  18. Walmart has them for $299.01

  19. Love this tent! It’s perfect for my big family!

  20. I love this tent! It’s perfect for that great Summer Vacation for the whole family. Everyone wants to keep their tent clean & others, oh well but now they can still have their own space but sleeping with others too. How can I get my hands on this tent? And how much does it cost?

  21. HappyCamper // April 28, 2015 at 1:02 pm // Reply

    I love the idea, but wish the review for “quality” was better… maybe just a tad smaller/less rooms but better material? and I would buy two to make up the difference… great for educational trips to young newbie campers

  22. Tarpaulin Footprinter // April 28, 2015 at 12:54 pm // Reply

    I’d buy one of these for prepping!

  23. I want a middle room.

  24. Awesome bro // April 28, 2015 at 11:53 am // Reply

    that’s cool

  25. i would love one of these

  26. we have large dive groups and this would be awesome
    How can a person beta test this tent

  27. under pressure // April 28, 2015 at 11:39 am // Reply

    I like this tent I think having individual sleeeping areas is grt I dont like rhe fact that all the middle is just open ground it would be better to have floor through out where they can all gather .

  28. The info I found on the Agadez indicates it is not a quality tent. Even if it was, the footprint is 34′ X 17′. That much clear, flat surface just doesn’t exist at a lot of Scout camps or even state and national parks. In the military we often had to use machinery to clear a space large enough for a GP Medium, which is about the same size.

  29. This would be perfect for me and what I do.

  30. Very nice how about one full size six twin and one king screen to put a table for food so no flays or ants come in. That would be great.

  31. Nice size for a group camping. It would save on money & space. Love the size & design.

  32. This would be awesome for hunting, family camping, and occasional gatherings for fun…it’s awesome!

  33. We have the giant 20 person tent. Love it! Fairly easy to set up. And you do not need to put up all the rooms, which allows you room for a kitchen on one end sitting space on the other.

  34. That 20 person tent is awesoem and would totally rock one with my whole crew at a festy.

  35. This is something me my family can use I have a family of 9 love it

  36. I am not a corporate shill for any one brand. I am new to scouting and like most new parents went to Walmart and bought a Coleman 4 person tent. On it’s first use I broke a zipper with light use, and zipped up the rain fly on the zipper seam and had to cut it to get it out. Not good.

    I started talking to the more experienced members of the Troop, and they convinced me that Alps Mountaineering makes quality affordable tents. I bought a 4 person model with two large vestibules and aluminum poles. I love it and highly recommend it.

  37. I enjoy campaign and I am looking for a tent that fits 20 people.

  38. i am looking for a cot tent for my husband to take to alaska 4 wheeling.. there is always 2 inches of water on the ground.. and it is rather cold still at night.. what would you suggest…

  39. I wanna to ask about the tent 20 person for 10 room about the price . because some of my facebook friends wanna buy the tent . can u get back to me about it . thanks

  40. I love camping and as our out children have married this idea is beyond perfect for us. Privacy yet togetherness. GREAT ideas. Thank you for posting.

  41. Interested in 20man orzak tent… Rugby team weekend away on 22may…what can you do to help a Scottish rugby team out..?

  42. I think this tent is amazing I can wait to order it and take it camping. No more reunions with a row of 10 tents now it will be bring your air matress and your blankets. It’s a pop up hotel for those unexpected moments.

  43. i love the huge tunnel tent would be amazing

  44. iceicemaybe // April 28, 2015 at 9:06 am // Reply

    omg that is awsome tent

  45. I like a bigger tent I have little grand sons and they need room to play and with a bigger tent your not walking all over each other !

  46. Whare can i get the 10 room tent

  47. Future Eagle // March 8, 2015 at 7:49 pm // Reply

    My dad and I have a tradition of sleeping outdoors on the coldest night of the year. Our record was set in 2014 at -13 degrees. I can agree with the notion that ease of setup is a very important criteria. The tent we use can be set up with gloves on. We also use a 3 season tent in winter and it works just fine. We use the Eureka Apex 2XT and we paid less than $100 for it.

  48. I think that the tents recommended are a bit pricy. I got a tent that is less than 100 and does what it needs to do

  49. Neondelorean // February 25, 2015 at 9:45 pm // Reply

    Sad when you read a new magazine about the REI Half Dome 2 ($189). Go to the web site and states that it is no longer available. So much for REI.

    • You must have caught them in transition from 2014 model. The new model is out now and a little lighter. I have this tent and love it!

  50. great information on what to look for when buying a new tent!

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