An avid hiker, camper, and long-haul road-tripper, Claire Wilcox has slept in (and occasionally improvised) tents in 11 states. She covers outdoor gear for Wirecutter and worked on the most recent update of this guide. She currently lives on Oahu, Hawaii.
The first step in finding the best car-camping tents was for us to narrow down the field. After putting in about 20 hours studying online reviews and company websites, as well as spending time consulting with frequent campers (both with and without kids) and considering our own diverse car-camping experiences, we found that the best car-camping tents garnered high marks on the following criteria:
We also tested at the Mountain Oak Campground, located an hour or so east of Los Angeles, where at night the temperatures stay much cooler than in the surrounding valleys. Here, we also faced an onslaught of no-see-ums (biting gnats). Our testing also included sitting through thunderstorms on the public land just south of the Hualapai reservation, near the Grand Canyon. Finally, Kit somewhat cheekily borrowed many of these tents and thrust them into the hands of guests at his own wedding. Several couples with various levels of camping experience slept in these tents at the wedding, giving us their impressions and helping us whittle the group down to the finalists.
To test the smaller tents, we first opened them, splayed out their parts, and tried to put them together without consulting the instructions. We assembled and disassembled the tents on all of our testing sites multiple times. Basic dome tent structures remain largely the same, so setting up all of our picks was relatively straightforward. We tried the rain fly for each tent as well, one time rushing to get several of them up during an unexpected rainstorm at night. When heavy trade winds buffeted our Oahu-coast testing site, we pitched each tent in full face of the blast. We then rotated the tents looking for structural weaknesses, and we tested their guy lines and tabs to see which tents had the best and most intuitive design for withstanding wind. Again, our top picks stood out for their simplicity in a tense situation. (We did need to refer once to the REI Base Camp instructions, conveniently sewn into the carrying case, to confirm our pole arrangements.)
Throughout all our testing, we wanted to know how it felt to be inside the tents for long periods of time. Did we feel claustrophobic or rejuvenated If we had to spend a day in the tent during a storm, would it be comfortable After first removing the models that failed the structural tests, we slept, watched the stars, and ate our meals in all of the tents, as well as planned hikes from them.
For the family tents, we observed the difficulty and duration of the setup process for each one, and we asked each family, during and after each trip, for feedback on the experience of sleeping in their tent and on specific tent qualities they liked and disliked. We found some common themes: Just about every family appreciated a tent that was quick and intuitive to set up. And the families universally praised tents that had mesh roofs with little obstruction, and that had built-in pockets within easy reach of a sleeping position.
The boxlike Copper Canyon is easy to set up, and one person can erect it in 15 minutes or less. Working together, two people familiar with the tent can set it up in about five minutes. Our testers found this tent to be one of the most intuitive to set up and take down of all the tents we slept in. The 7-foot center height, near-vertical walls, and 10-by-10-foot footprint put the Copper Canyon among the roomiest of the tents we tested. The all-mesh roof provides ample ventilation and is ideal for stargazing: One dad accustomed to solid tent roofs said the view from his bag during the first night in Joshua Tree brought tears to his eyes.
You know who else slept in a Eureka Sir Edmund Hillary. He used the innovative (at the time) Eureka Draw-Tite in a return Everest expedition in 1960. Eureka went on to make the shelters for the first entirely American expedition to Everest, sponsored by National Geographic in 1963. The company still makes tents for use in the harshest places on earth, but it also understands that a tent for your summer road trip looks not at all the same.
The Mineral King 3 and the Tungsten 4 have similar tent-body profiles and are nearly identical in setup, except that the Tungsten 4 uses two brow poles instead of one to support its fly. Like the Mineral King 3, the Tungsten is a largely mesh dome tent with a tape-seamed polyester bathtub floor, which is highly water resistant. Neither tent experienced any ground leaks during testing, either under rainy conditions or when we soaked the tents and the ground underneath them with a garden hose.
Like the REI Base Camp tents, the Sundome combines high polyester walls with mesh higher up to facilitate stargazing when you use the tent without the fly on warm nights, without sacrificing privacy (two of the four walls have mesh from about thigh height up to the roof). That mesh also keeps the tent feeling more airy and cool in hot climates.
The geodesic structure of the Base Camp tents is built to withstand wind and rain. It has two main cross supports that thread through sleeves, stretching between the four corners of the tent. Generally, we like clip-on designs better, since those are easier to put together, but in the case of the Base Camp models, the sleeves add extra tension and stability throughout the tent fabric. There are also two poles that cross over each doorway and down the sides of the tent to add extra shape and support. The rain fly has an additional tent pole, too, to support the vestibule. Overall, these poles contribute to a particularly sturdy structure, with or without the rain fly. During our testing, our Base Camp shrugged off both a rainstorm and a desert windstorm as if they were nothing. Despite losing some headroom in comparison with the cabin-style Copper Canyon LX 6, which measures 7 feet tall, the Base Camp 6 offers a substantial 6 feet 2 inches of interior height.
The easy-to-set-up REI Co-op Screen House Shelter is our canopy tent pick, with good sun and insect protection and a bright, roomy feel. We researched 14 canopy tents and tested eight top contenders before deciding.
Looking for the perfect camping tent We've got you. Since 2012, our team has reviewed close to 250 tents, including the top 16 in this review. See which ones stood up to our rigorous testing as we take you on a deep dive into the inner workings of the tent market. We put these tents to the test across some pretty rugged terrain and, most recently, the complicated environment of a family, teenagers, and two moderately trained dogs. With the help of our years of experience, we've gathered all the information you'll need to pick the perfect tent for your next outdoor adventure.
Our in-depth reviews also encompass all the camping gear you need to set up the ultimate base camp. Starting bright and early, we have you covered with a portable camp stove and a top-rated coffee maker to get breakfast cranking. While this review focuses on car camping, we have also tested some of the best backpacking gear for those interested in ditching the car and the crowds. To find more tents, see our review covering the best tents.
Are you a camper with a hobby Then this is your camping tent. The North Face Wawona 6, a long-standing favorite in this review, is the perfect basecamp for mountain bikers, rock climbers, anglers, hunters, or anyone packing lots of gear that needs to be protected. Why The vestibule is like a two-bike garage. The main tent packs an additional 85 square feet, creating a truly remarkable living space. The Wawona has you covered, and all for a very fair price.
The Kelty Wireless 6 takes your budget further than any other camping tent in our lineup. With a large sleeping area, dual vestibules, and 6' 4\" of headroom, your family will have plenty of space to sprawl out. Setup is easy with well-designed pole pockets and quick twist connectors. Dark fabric covers just over half of the tent, with tight, easy-to-see-through mesh covering the rest. This provides both privacy and amazing star gazing capabilities.
Get ready for the best of the best camping tent. The Marmot Torreya 6 is the highest-scoring tent in our lineup and is a sound choice if you are looking for a premier camping tent. With nearly every feature found in our lineup, this tent continues to impress. Some of the highlights include T-handle zipper pulls, 32 gear loops over the front door, exterior pockets, a floor mat, and included awning poles. And that's just the beginning.
Unlike most REI tents, though, the Base Camp 6 sides and doors are not open mesh. This means no nice views while lying down, and you can expect to be fairly toasty on warm days if you're hanging out inside. There are, however, some half-zip coverings on the doors to give you a little extra view. All in all, this is a great option for those needing a well-priced weather-ready shelter. Snag this tent for your next stay in the rainy Pacific Northwest or the thunderstorm-prone Rocky Mountains.
Looking for a spacious and high-quality camping tent but don't want a massive setup The MSR Habitude 4 is a great choice. This stylish tent is not only light (12 pounds) and compact, it's also built with top-of-the-line materials and is both tall (6' 1\" in the middle) and spacious (62.4 square feet). On top of that, it features unique touches like a porch light, a large vestibule, and great ventilation.
Although there are many positives to the Habitude 4, it isn't perfect. Some flaws include a single door that requires two zippers to open, a light that doesn't come with a battery, and an awkward bag. Those minor things aside, this tent outscored all other 4-person tents in our lineup.
To get ready for this review, we scoured the internet, read personal accounts, and dug into bloggers' and YouTubers' thoughts on the best tents on the market. After selecting the most promising options, we purchased 16 of the best camping tents on the market and got to work. We measured, weighed, and inspected each before carting them out to the woods and desert for proper testing. We tested them side-by-side in various Lake Tahoe area locations, in the hot and harsh conditions of Joshua Tree National Park, and in the ripping wind of Reno, NV. Our team conducted more than 60 individual tests to help you find the perfect tent to match your needs and budget. 59ce067264