Tent Reviews 2015: Best Tents for Camping, Backpacking, or a Family

When choosing a tent, there are a number of factors to keep in mind. Not all tents are created equal, and some are much better suited for the certain types of camping than others. There are family tents, backpacking tents, minimalist tents, 3-season, extended-season, and 4-season tents.

When you are car camping, where you won’t take your tent farther than out of the car at the campsite where you’ve parked, your tent needs are probably very different than if you are taking an alpine hike.

You’ll want to think about the balance between weight, size, and price that you want to achieve for your camping needs. With the abundance of high-quality tent choices on the market today, you are sure to find the perfect tent for your type of camping.

Tents for Family Camping

Family camping is also known as car camping. This is the type of camping experience that can be found across the country in state park campgrounds. A family can reserve a camping site in the campground and drive their vehicle right to the camp site.

You unload your car, and you are immediately at your “home away from home” for the duration of your stay. Tents made for car camping are usually bigger, as weight is not too much of a concern. Because you won’t be hauling the tent on your back into the woods or mountains somewhere, tents made for car camping are not made with weight in mind.

Tents for families are usually less expensive and not made out of the same quality of material as tents made for extreme weather adventurers and backpackers. However, they can still perform very well for families for years. There are dome-style tents and cabin-style tents, and they can be bought in sizes from 2 people to 10.

Style of Tent

Cabin-style tent for families usually offer more overall room for the same number of people because the sides of the tent are more vertical. A dome tent that has the same square footage as a cabin tent, with the sides sloping up into the dome shape, will not give the feel of having the same amount of space, as the edges will not offer much in the way of height.

Number of Rooms and Doors

Bigger family camping tents, such as the Coleman 8 Person Red Canyon Tent and the Browning Big Horn Family Tent even have separate rooms in them. Mom and Dad can be in one room while the kids sleep in another, or another room can be used for playing games or eating lunch without mosquitoes and other bugs getting in the way.

Some of these tents also have more than one door, which is great for those late night calls of nature when you don’t want to crawl over everyone else or wake them up.

Some family tents, such as the Wenzel Klondike 8-person Family Tent, even have an attached screened-in room. This room can be used as a sleeping room, or as a gathering place for the family to sit and relax or come in out of a passing rain shower.

Family tents are double-walled and have a good deal of venting to reduce condensation. Most also have large mesh windows and doors to allow for a good deal of air flow. When choosing a family or car camping tent, there are some other things to consider as well besides the brand you buy.

Number of People

Think about how many people are going to be using the tent now, and in the future. Depending on the tent, and your family, you may want to purchase a bigger tent. For instance, if you have a family of 4, you may be more comfortable in a 6-person tent than a 4-person, depending on what you’d like to put in the tent, and also the height of the people who will be sleeping in the tent.

Size and Set Up

Look at different tents and decide what floor length you would like, how many doors, and if you would like a vestibule or awning. Also, don’t forget ease of set up. In general, tents with less poles will be easier to set up, and poles with clips rather than pole sleeves also aid in set up duties. Keeping in mind a few of these simple things will help you pick the best tent for your family and car camping adventures.

Tents for Backpacking

Tents made for backpacking also come in a wide variety of styles and designs. When backpacking, weight and size can be a big concern, especially on longer trips or trips where you’ll be picking up camp and staying in a different place every night. You will still want to look for the right balance of space, weight, and price, but you’ll notice some differences in these tents.

For instance, many tents for backpacking weigh in at only 3 – 4 pounds, where family camping tents can weigh up to 30 pounds or more. You will also find single-walled and double-walled tents. The single-walled variety is designed for people who are very concerned with the weight and size of the tent they will be carrying.

Double-walled tents will provide more protection from rain as well as help with air flow. Double-walled tents are heavier, but are a better choice when you will be staying in one camp for multiple nights because they offer more comfort.

Number of people

Think about the number of people who will be joining in on the adventure, too. A 3-person tent will definitely offer more room to spread out for 2 people, but it will be heavier. So, if you will be hiking long distances, or through difficult terrain, you may be better off with a 2-person tent such as a Kelty Salida 2, weighing in at under 4 pounds.

Conversely, if you have 4 people hiking together, it may be more feasible to carry one 4-person tent than two 2-person tents due to the overall weight. This is something you need to decide based on what type of backpacking you will be doing.

Number of Doors

The number of doors you would like should also be a consideration. Additional doors will add additional weight. If that is a concern, a 1-door model such as the Wenzel Alpine 2, a 3-person tent weighing in at 8 pounds, may be a great choice. However, some backpackers would rather have more than one door for the sake of convenience.

Vestibules and Awnings

Most double-walled tents will also come with a vestibule. This is a great place to put hiking boots and other gear you want to keep out of the rain and other elements. Single-walled varieties will not come with a vestibule or awning because that will increase the overall weight of the tent. A vestibule has its advantages, but you should be aware that it will add weight to your pack.


You also want to keep in mind the seasons in which you will be backpacking. A typical 3-season tent is great for spring, summer and fall. If you like to backpack early in the year or to enjoy the late fall colors, an extended 3-season tent may be more suitable. These tents hold heat a bit better and are more resistant to the elements than a typical 3-season tent.

The other option is a 4-season tent. These tents are great for the “4th season”, winter. They will provide ultimate protection from the elements and will also be designed in such a way as to prevent snow from accumulating on the tent. They will be too warm, however, for milder weather.

Final Thoughts

Whether you are look for a tent for camping in a campsite with the family, or doing some alpine hiking, you will find a great deal of high-quality options on the market today.

Simply keep in mind the above items such as the number of people, the design of the tent, if weight is a concern, and the seasons in which you will be using the tent, and this will help you choose the perfect tent for your camping and backpacking adventures.