Spacious, user-friendly, and feature-rich, camping tents are made for a relatively luxurious experience in the outdoors. Many of these behemoths offer enough room to set up cots or even chairs and a table for card games on a rainy day. For car campers who take a couple trips each year during the summer months, even the cheapest tents on this list should perform fine. For tougher weather conditions or more frequent use, it's worth spending up for better materials and interior space. Below we break down the best camping tents of 2021. For more background information, see our comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
Floor area: 83.3 sq. ft.
Peak height: 75 in.
Capacities: 4P, 6P, 8P
Weight: 21 lbs. 6 oz.
What we like: Huge interior with lots of storage; high-quality fabrics and poles.
What we don’t: Large footprint and high price tag.
In the world of camping tents, REI gets it. Their designs are well-made, rich with features, and competitively priced, with the Kingdom leading the charge. This luxurious tent features near-vertical walls, lots of mesh for ventilation and stargazing, and a tunnel-like shape that delivers fantastic livability. For families and larger groups, the six-person variation is just about perfect: there’s plenty of room to spread out, the large vestibule and pockets lining the interior help keep everything in order, and a center divider allows you to separate sleeping from daytime areas. It’s true the Kingdom is expensive at $499, but it undercuts competitors like Marmot’s Limestone and MSR’s Habitude below without compromising on material quality or durability.
One thing to keep in mind with the Kingdom is that its rainfly doesn’t fully cover one of the doors. You can leave it as is—REI beefed up the protection on this side, so it’s still reasonably weather-resistant—or add on either the Kingdom Mud Room ($100) or Kingdom Porch ($199). The Mud Room is the more functional option and adds 50 square feet of storage space, but it tacks on another 103 inches to the tent’s already-substantial footprint (the 6P and 8P variations can be hard to fit on smaller tent pads). It’s also important to note that the Kingdom’s upright shape isn’t a standout in foul weather, and it’s a good idea to use all the guylines to increase protection in a storm. Those prioritizing a sturdy build should check out REI’s Base Camp or Cabela’s Alaskan Guide. And for a cheaper option from REI, see the Grand Hut below... Read in-depth review
See the REI Co-op Kingdom 6
Floor area: 59.7 sq. ft.
Peak height: 75 in.
Capacities: 4P, 6P
Weight: 14 lbs. 2 oz.
What we like: Very roomy interior and great price.
What we don’t: Cabin-like shape and pre-bent poles can’t withstand heavy winds.
A couple years ago, REI added the Grand Hut to their camping lineup, which hits a nice balance of price and roominess. The tent rivals the Kingdom above in outright livability thanks to its open, cabin-like shape and tall peak height of 75 inches, but easily undercuts it in price at $299 (or $349 for the 6P). Importantly, you still get quality materials that can hold up to rough use, including the burly 150-denier floor. Plus, its pre-bent poles and hubbed pole system make it quick and easy to set up and take down. For anything from car camping to beach trips and music festivals, the Grand Hut is a nice option from REI.
Given its price, the Grand Hut 4 does have a couple notable downsides. First, wind protection is pretty poor due to the upright walls and simple X-shaped pole design (it does better in rain with a full-coverage fly). If you’ll be out in even moderate wind, it’s probably worth upgrading to the Kingdom above or Base Camp below, which feature stronger, crisscrossing poles. Further, the tent isn’t compatible with the Kingdom’s optional vestibule add-ons, and it’s sparser inside with quite a bit less storage. Despite the complaints, the Grand Hut’s mesh-heavy build, expansive interior, and reasonable cost make it a fun summertime option.
See the REI Co-op Grand Hut 4
Floor area: 100 sq. ft.
Peak height: 72 in.
Capacities: 2P, 3P, 4P, 6P
Weight: 16 lbs. 10 oz.
What we like: Bargain-basement price.
What we don’t: Questionable build quality and limited rainfly coverage.
Realistically, a healthy number of people only go camping once or twice a summer in good conditions and don’t need all the bells and whistles of the tents above. If this sounds like you, give serious consideration to the Sundome 6 from Coleman, which isn’t made from the fanciest fabrics but likely will got the job done. Most importantly, the price that's often around $90-$100 is a steal compared to some of the fully featured tents on this list that are five times that much.
What do you sacrifice by going with such an inexpensive tent? We've found the materials feel pretty cheap, including everything from the clips and poles to the tent walls. Also, the rainfly covers the main portion of the tent body but leaves part of the sides exposed. This shouldn’t be an issue in mild conditions, but we do prefer full coverage for even moderate rain and blowing winds. However, the roominess, durability, and weather protection all exceed what we would expect at this price point, which is why we have the Sundome so high on this list. For a larger-capacity budget option, check out Coleman's Montana 8P below... Read in-depth review
See the Coleman Sundome 6
Floor area: 90 sq. ft.
Peak height: 75 in.
Capacities: 4P, 6P, 8P
Weight: 33 lbs.
What we like: A very strong, weather-worthy design.
What we don’t: Heavy and doesn’t have as much usable space as the REI Kingdom.
For camping in rough weather, Cabela’s Alaskan Guide Model is a proven winner. With a strong six-pole hexagonal design, full-coverage rainfly, thick polyurethane floor and fly coatings, and tough fabrics, the tent is capable of handling brutal wind (it’s rated for 50 mph gusts), rain, and even snow. Importantly, it’s also comfortable in mild temperatures and rich in features. Mesh vents and windows can be opened to encourage airflow, the front vestibule is generously sized, and you get enough pockets along the interior to keep gear organized. The REI Kingdom above has better organization and more mesh for warm weather, but the Alaskan Guide is the better option for hunkering down in a storm.
What are the downsides of Cabela’s Alaskan Guide tent? First, its hexagonal floor design doesn’t use space as efficiently as the tunnel-shaped Kingdom. Further, at this $450 price point, we’d prefer to see it offered with aluminum poles rather than fiberglass. The tent’s burly construction should limit durability issues, but fiberglass is more prone to breaking under stress than aluminum (it’s worth noting that Cabela’s does sell replacement poles if you need them). The Alaskan Guide also is very heavy at 33 pounds, but it’s a reasonable tradeoff if you need a weather-worthy build for 4-season camping adventures.
See the Cabela's Alaskan Guide Model 6-Person
Floor area: 57 sq. ft.
Peak height: 50 in.
Capacities: 1P, 2P, 3P, 4P
Weight: 5 lbs. 11 oz.
What we like: Very light and great for family backpacking.
What we don’t: Expensive, less spacious, and less durable than a camping tent.
Most of the tents on this list are strictly of the car-camping variety, meaning they’re heavy enough that you won’t be carrying them more than a few steps from your vehicle. However, there is a whole different world of lightweight family tents that also can be taken into the backcountry. If you don’t mind compromising on things like interior space and durability, a backpacking tent is a viable option for camping that could save you in the long run—no need to buy a separate backpacking model when the time comes.
To provide some context, the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL included here weighs just 5 pounds 11 ounces for the four-person model, which is a fraction of many other tents on the list. Marmot's Limelight 4P below has similar crossover appeal and costs around $240 less, but it’s around 3 pounds heavier and much bulkier when packed down. In terms of sacrifices, interior space is most notable: the Copper Spur’s peak height of 50 inches will require hunching down to move around, although the 57 square feet of floor area actually is pretty generous in this category. Finally, it’s worth noting that the fabrics on backpacking tents are much thinner to cut weight (and this tent is especially vulnerable with a 15 x 20D floor), which means you have to take care to avoid snags and tears. But for those looking for multiple uses out of their tent, the Copper Spur is our favorite crossover option for 2021.
See the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL4
Floor area: 37.3 sq. ft.
Peak height: 52 in.
Capacities: 2P, 3P
Weight: 131 lbs.
What we like: A functional and easy-to-use rooftop tent system.
What we don’t: Expensive, heavy, and bulky.
Rooftop tents have gone from niche to mainstream in only a few short years. The appeal is obvious: a tent attached to the roof of your car expands camping and road tripping opportunities exponentially, not to mention you’re sleeping elevated off the ground. iKamper makes a number of quality options—the hardshell Skycamp 2.0 below is particularly impressive—but we think Thule's Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3 offers the right combination of price, usability, and weather protection (it's also our top pick in our article on the best rooftop tents). The three-person model is comfortable inside with an integrated 2.5-inch foam mattress, set up is relatively simple (watching Thule's online videos will help), and the strong aluminum poles and rainfly perform admirably in moderate rain and wind.
The biggest impediments with a rooftop tent of any type are the associated cost and bulk. At $1,750, the Thule Kukenam 3 is one of the more affordable waterproof models, but the price doesn’t include a roof rack system (you may need to upgrade from the standard rack included with your vehicle). In addition, the tent sits on top of your car (or pickup bed) and takes up most of that space, so there’s no room for attaching skis, bikes, or a roof box. But with the ability to set up camp just about anywhere, the unique Kukenam 3 gets a spot on our list for 2021. And for a beefed-up alternative designed for overlanding adventures and rough weather, see the iKamper below.
See the Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3
Floor area: 83 sq. ft.
Peak height: 76 in.
Capacities: 4P, 6P, 8P
Weight: 17 lbs. 9 oz.
What we like: High-quality construction and enough tent for most campers.
What we don’t: Not as storm-ready as the Marmot Halo.
The livability of the REI Kingdom above is tough to beat, but Marmot offers another quality set-up in the Limestone. This camping tent includes ample space for six, is easy to pitch, and is reasonably weather-resistant thanks to a full-coverage rainfly and taut DAC pole design that stands up well to moderate wind. And in addition to a generous 76-inch peak height (the REI above is 75 in. at its tallest), the Marmot's poles also effectively stretch the walls outwards to create an even roomier-feeling interior. It's true that the Kingdom 6 comes in slightly cheaper at $499, but the Limestone is a better performer when the wind picks up.
For those who camp only on warm summer days, which is a high percentage of folks, the Limestone is ideal: its mesh-heavy design, vents, and near-vertical walls make it comfortable even with the fly on. That said, those looking for an even more storm-ready design should check out Marmot’s Halo. This tent has a beefed-up pole structure, features less mesh in the tent body, and is only available in a four-person model, but it will stand up to the elements much better. In the end, both are solid options from one of our favorite camping brands, but the Limestone gets the edge as a superior value and better match for larger families.
See the Marmot Limestone 6P
Floor area: 54.5 sq. ft.
Peak height: 56 in.
Capacities: 2P, 4P
Weight: 7 lbs. 7 oz.
What we like: Great price for a nice overall design.
What we don’t: Only one door and materials are a step down from the pricier tents on this list.
Many of the tents on this list are $300 and up, but budget-oriented outdoor brand Kelty always seems to do a nice job at mixing quality and value. The Grand Mesa is case in point: this tent is affordable at $190 for the four-person version but includes a number of upgrades compared to cheaper tents like the Coleman Sundome above. Most notably, you get a full-coverage rainfly for better protection in rainy and windy conditions, and Kelty also uses more mesh in the construction, making it easier to keep cool in the summer heat. Throw in a decently roomy interior and easy-to-pitch design, and you have one heckuva value.
What do you sacrifice with the Kelty Grand Mesa? As with the crossover Copper Spur above, the Grand Mesa’s floor material and mesh are thinner than the heavier and pricier options on this list. This does help keep weight down but means that the tent will be less durable over time. And it’s worth noting that we previously had Kelty’s roomier Wireless 4 listed here, which boasts two doors and two vestibules (the Grand Mesa only has one of each) and costs $10 less, but that model is sold out at the time of publishing. We consider the Wireless to be the more livable and well-rounded design (and we hope it returns), but the Grand Mesa still is a quality option for those looking to stay under $200.
See the Kelty Grand Mesa 4
Floor area: 83 sq. ft.
Peak height: 77 in.
Capacities: 4P, 6P
Weight: 14 lbs.
What we like: Standing-height interior and vertical sidewalls make this a great option for families.
What we don’t: Pricier and less durable than the Kingdom 6; only one door.
Released last year, MSR’s Habitude series takes direct aim at luxury options like the REI Kingdom and Marmot Limestone above. Similar to both of those tents, the MSR is an excellent pick for families with a standing-height interior, generous floor space, and full feature set including ample interior storage. MSR is known for their tough builds, and the Habitude follows suit with a noticeably sturdy pole structure and polyurethane coating for added protection against moisture. The walls aren’t as vertical as the Kingdom or Limestone, which translates to a little less roominess inside, but the tradeoff is increased stability in strong gusts.
Stacked up against our top-rated Kingdom 6, the Habitude boasts a similar floor area and peak height but is lighter by more than 7 pounds, is slightly more weather-worthy with a full-coverage rainfly, and includes an integrated porch light to make entry and exit in the dark easier (a small but thoughtful touch). That said, we rank the Kingdom higher because it’s more durable, boasts two doors and vestibules (the Habitude only has one of each), and costs a considerable $100 less. All in all, both are excellent options for families, and a final decision will come down to how you prioritize price, weight, and livability.
See the MSR Habitude 6
Floor area: 69.4 sq. ft.
Peak height: 80 in.
Capacities: 4P, 6P, 8P
Weight: 20 lbs. 1 oz.
What we like: A well-thought-out and fun design with lots of room.
What we don’t: Pricey and not a standout in high winds.
New Hampshire-based Nemo Equipment always seems to come out with thoughtful and creative tent designs, and for camping, we like their Wagontop. Updated last year, this tent has excellent interior space with a standing-height ceiling at the entrance (this unique design beats out dome-shaped tents in terms of headroom), a hubbed pole structure with near-vertical walls, and an optional garage accessory for even more storage. Throw in fun panoramic windows and add-ons like a Victory Blanket that matches the tent floor dimensions, and you have a fun and fully featured camping tent.
What are the downsides of the Nemo Wagontop? To start, the four-person version is rather expensive at $500 ($70 more than our top pick, the REI Kingdom above), and the price jumps up to a whopping $650 for the six-person version. Second, the vertical design means that the Wagontop is not an ideal tent for nights with high winds (a tent like the REI Basecamp would be a better bet for that). Last but not least, the Wagontop has a single-wall build that is easy to set up but won’t ventilate quite as well as its double-wall counterparts (the large windows do help in this regard). But for those who camp mostly in good summer conditions without heavy winds, the Nemo is a great option.
See the Nemo Wagontop 4P
Floor area: 84 sq. ft.
Peak height: 74 in.
Capacities: 4P, 6P
Weight: 20 lbs. 10 oz.
What we like: Sturdy structure, ease of use, and full-coverage rainfly.
What we don’t: Not as roomy as the Kingdom 6.
The Base Camp from REI is the sturdier cousin to our top-rated Kingdom above and also offers an excellent mix of quality materials, organization, and design features. The dome shape means the walls aren’t as vertical as the Kingdom, but with an updated pole structure a couple seasons ago, it’s still very easy to move around inside. Other notable changes include more mesh along the tent body and additional rainfly vents, which address some of the airflow issues of the prior model. Importantly, the Base Camp remains a strong performer in the wind with its overlapping five-pole system (it’s rated for 3+ season use, meaning the tent can hold its own).
We’re not convinced that all of the Base Camp’s updates are for the better, however. The interior floor space was reduced by nearly 3 square feet, although this is partially offset by the more open pole structure. Further, the vestibules are smaller than before, which limits outside storage. But these are relatively small nitpicks, and the Base Camp remains a well-thought-out and versatile camping tent... Read in-depth review
See the REI Co-op Base Camp 6
Floor area: 43.2 sq. ft.
Peak height: 45 in.
Weight: 160 lbs.
What we like: Premium rooftop design for overlanding and extended trips.
What we don’t: Very pricey.
A newcomer to the U.S. market, iKamper quickly has developed a reputation for its high-end and user-friendly rooftop tents. We’ve included their Skycamp 2.0 here, which costs more than double the Thule above but is about as good as it gets for overlanding and serious backcountry travel. iKamper has incorporated premium materials throughout, including a tough yet aerodynamic hardshell cover, thick memory foam mattress, full-coverage rainfly, seam sealing, and waterproof zippers for foul-weather protection. And perhaps most impressively, this four-person tent is a cinch to set up and take down (iKamper claims—and shows in a series of videos—that both can be done in about one minute).
If the $1,750 and 131-pound Kukenam 3 above is pushing the price and weight envelopes, the Skycamp blows them out of the water at $3,899 and 160 pounds (opting for the more scratch-resistant “Rocky Black” coating tacks on another $300). You’re clearly getting a quality product, but the cost is prohibitive for most weekend warriors. We think the Skycamp is the most well-rounded build in iKamper’s lineup, but others to consider are the Skycamp Mini (designed to fit on smaller cars) and X-Cover (a lighter option with a softshell cover).
See the iKamper Skycamp 2.0
Floor area: 83 sq. ft.
Peak height: 80 in.
Capacities: 4P, 6P
Weight: 13 lbs. 7 oz.
What we like: Tall walls and airy feeling inside.
What we don’t: Less weather-worthy than the competition.
Many of the six-person tents on this list cost around $400 or more, but the Big Agnes Dog House offers excellent interior space at a very competitive $350 price point. First and foremost, you get a generous 83-square-foot floor area and 80-inch peak height, which rival our top-rated REI Kingdom 6 above (83.3 sq. ft and a 75-in. peak height). The net result is a design that is impressively tall and livable, with the sidewalls sloping upward aggressively to maximize the interior. Keep in mind that this extra real estate can create a sail-like effect in the wind, so make sure to stake the tent out completely and use the included guylines.
Like the Nemo Wagontop above, the Big Agnes Dog House has s single-wall build that won’t breathe quite as well as double-wall options like the Kingdom or Marmot Limestone (although the offsetting mesh and polyester ripstop panels on the body help). Further, the tent only has one door, which detracts from overall convenience and will require some gymnastics when camping with a group (stepping over your campmates in the middle of the night is never fun). Finally, the integrated rainfly only covers the top section of the tent, leaving much of the body and door exposed to the elements. Overall, we prefer the more weather-worthy designs from REI Co-op and other brands above, but the Dog House is a compelling tent for those who camp in mild conditions, prioritize interior space, and want to save a little cash.
See the Big Agnes Dog House 6
Floor area: 100 sq. ft.
Peak height: 80 in.
Weight: 25 lbs. 8 oz.
What we like: Fast set-up and quality materials.
What we don’t: Only partial-coverage rainfly and very large packed size.
For those that want a fast set-up, tents that have the poles permanently attached can cut down on the total time substantially. Caddis isn’t the only company to use this quick-pitch design, but we think it’s the best on the market. Unlike the popular Instant Tent from Coleman below, the hallmark feature of the Rapid 6 is the quality of materials. True, the poles are heavy steel, but everything else stacks up very well at this price point. It’s also massive inside, with 100 very usable square feet thanks to near-vertical walls.
What's not to like with the Rapid 6? The most significant is the rainfly, which only provides full coverage on two sides and doesn’t have any vestibule space. For fair-weather camping, however, this shouldn’t be an issue for most people. Another downside is the very large packed size, and at 50 inches in length, it can be a challenge fitting into a full trunk. But if you want a tent with a fast set-up and few compromises, the Rapid 6 is a great choice.
See the Caddis Rapid 6
Floor area: 51.7 sq. ft.
Peak height: 54 in.
Capacities: 2P, 3P, 4P
Weight: 8 lbs. 8 oz.
What we like: A solid crossover tent for less than the Big Agnes Copper Spur above.
What we don’t: Not nearly as roomy as a camping tent and heavier than the Big Agnes.
Most tents are purpose-built for either camping or backpacking, but as shown with the Big Agnes Copper Spur above, there are interesting crossover options. For car camping, the Marmot Limelight can accommodate multiple sleeping pads side-by-side and has a peak height of 54 inches (4 in. taller than the Copper Spur), which is enough for sitting up, changing, or playing a game of cards. Moreover, the pole design does a nice job stretching the walls to be nearly vertical at the bottom, giving the interior an open feel. At 8.5 pounds, the Limelight isn’t a featherweight by any means, but you can potentially bring it on short backcountry trips (especially if you can divvy up the carrying responsibilities).
As with nearly all crossover tents, the Marmot Limelight has its fair share of compromises. For those who strictly car camp, a dedicated camping tent is far superior in terms of livable space and durability (the Marmot uses thinner materials to cut weight). On the other end of the spectrum, those who are more serious about backpacking may want a lighter and more compressible design like the Copper Spur, which shaves off around 3 pounds and packs down much better. For smaller versions of the Limelight, Marmot also makes this tent in two- and three-person versions, which bring the weight down considerably.
See the Marmot Limelight 4P
Floor area: 112 sq. ft.
Peak height: 74 in.
Capacities: 6P, 8P
Weight: 25 lbs.
What we like: Spacious interior at a great price.
What we don’t: Weather protection and build quality come up short.
Many budget-oriented tents compromise in interior livability, but that’s certainly not the case with Coleman’s Montana 8P. This model stretches a substantial 16 feet in length, has a tall 74-inch peak height (the side rooms are shorter), and includes near-vertical walls that maximize the usable space. A single side door is placed right in the center, which does limit ease of entry/exit, but the sheer size of the thing makes it a nice match for groups of four to six people.
Who should buy the Montana 8P? Families that get out a couple times a year in fair weather are the best candidates. The tent is surprisingly sturdy in the wind thanks to a number of included guylines for anchoring it down, but its minimalist rainfly and cheaper build is vulnerable to letting in rain (particularly when it’s coming at the tent sideways). In addition, you miss out on a vestibule—the front “porch” provides some coverage but doesn’t hide your gear and isn’t expansive enough to rely on in a storm. In the end, as long as you set reasonable expectations—you can often pick one up for less than $200—the Montana 8P provides a very enticing mix of roominess and price.
See the Coleman Montana 8P
Floor area: 140 sq. ft.
Peak height: 78 in.
Capacities: 4P, 6P, 8P
Weight: 82 lbs.
What we like: The canvas build is ultra-tough and weather-resistant.
What we don’t: Expensive, extremely heavy, and overkill for most casual campers.
All of the other tents on this list are made with varying thicknesses of nylon and mesh, but the Kodiak Flex-Bow takes it to the next level with a unique canvas build. What does this mean for you? Canvas is known for being super tough: it can withstand heavy winds (the steel frame on this tent helps too), serious precipitation, and rough handling. Further, it does a good job of both trapping warmth when it’s cold and breathing when it’s warm. The Kodiak is also nicely appointed with large doors on each side, a relatively high 78-inch peak height, and decent ventilation. Simply put, the Kodiak Canvas Flex-Bow is a very solid all-season camping tent that can hold its own in most conditions.
There are, however, a few notable downsides to canvas. First and foremost, this eight-person tent weighs a hefty 82 pounds and will take up a ton of space in your trunk or truck bed. It’s also one of the more expensive tents on this list at $650. Given these drawbacks, the Kodiak Flex-Bow certainly isn’t for everyone. That said, the tent is a favorite among the hunting crowd in particular, which makes sense given its build and feature set. But considering its roomy interior and weatherproof design, it’s an intriguing option for families and base campers too.
See the Kodiak Canvas Flex-Bow Deluxe 8
Floor area: 100 sq. ft.
Peak height: 84 in.
Capacities: 4P, 6P, 8P, 12P
Weight: 21 lbs. 15 oz.
What we like: Almost like a second home.
What we don’t: Not ready for bad weather.
The Copper Canyon LX excels in one key area: size. Updated last year, Eureka made the walls more vertical and boosted interior storage. The result is a very roomy 3-season shelter that’s big enough for a group of six-foot adults to walk around in comfortably. All this space makes it a prime choice for cot sleepers, festival-goers, and families with kids. And with a full mesh roof, air circulation is excellent in the Copper Canyon even with the rainfly on.
The Eureka Copper Canyon LX is water-resistant and the windows and doors zip up, but the rainfly only covers the mesh roof and doesn’t extend much farther (Eureka did increase coverage over the door with the recent update, but it's not much of an improvement). Accordingly, those that might see sustained rainstorms like in the Pacific Northwest will want to opt for more protection (it's not that good in light rain either). The tent walls also are essentially vertical, so it looks like a house—but one that’s been made of polyester fabric and fiberglass and steel poles. Use the guylines if the wind picks up to keep everything in one piece. Note: the 6P version listed here is currently sold out at major online retailers, but the 4P, 8P, and 12P models are available at the time of publishing.
See the Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6
Floor area: 44 sq. ft.
Peak height: 44 in.
Capacities: 2P, 3P
Weight: 6 lbs. 8 oz.
What we like: Impressively open interior for a backpacking design.
What we don’t: A four-person model would be even better for camping.
Last year, Nemo introduced the Aurora, which aims to balance the needs of campers and backpackers alike. What immediately stands out is its upright design that truly enhances interior space. Dual hubs, pre-bent poles at all four corners, and a long center ridge pole do an excellent job of stretching the side and end walls into a nearly rectangular shape. This livability is all the more impressive when you consider the tent’s 6.5-pound weight (for the three-person capacity) that makes it perfectly viable for short backpacking adventures. All told, the Aurora is an intriguing option for small families looking for a one-tent solution.
Unlike the discontinued Losi, Nemo has opted not to offer the Aurora in a four-person version. This is a letdown for those seeking a true hybrid that excels while car camping. As such, we rank the Aurora below Marmot's Limelight 4P, which has nearly 8 more square feet of floor area and is 10 inches taller inside. For a more traditional camping model from Nemo that’s made in larger capacities, check out their Wagontop tents (including the 4P listed above), which feature a single-wall build for easier set-up and an expansive interior.
See the Nemo Aurora 3P
Floor area: 90 sq. ft.
Peak height: 72 in.
Capacities: 4P, 6P, 8P
Weight: 25 lbs. 8 oz.
What we like: Cheap and easy to set up.
What we don’t: The Coleman Sundome above is a better all-around performer for around $40 less.
At the budget end of the spectrum, the Coleman Instant Tent offers ease of use and ample space for a family. The Instant Tent name comes from its pre-attached poles and incredibly basic set-up—simply take the tent out the bag, make a few adjustments, and stake it in. For summer camping where wind and rain aren’t factors, this tent performs reasonably well and is a good value.
The Instant Tent’s welded floors and inverted seams help keep water out, and the tent now comes with a rainfly (the previous version did not), which is a welcome addition. That said, the fly barely covers the top of the tent, functioning more like a hat than a comprehensive weather barrier. Among our budget options, we prefer Coleman’s Sundome, which is lighter and less bulky to pack, includes a more useful feature set, and costs about $40 less at the time of publishing. But if convenient set-up and take-down is a determining factor—and the Caddis’ $300 price tag is too steep—the Instant Tent is worth a look.
See the Coleman Instant Tent 6
|REI Co-op Kingdom 6||$499||83.3 sq. ft.||75 in.||4P, 6P, 8P||21 lb. 6 oz.||25 x 16 x 9 in.||2|
|REI Co-op Grand Hut 4||$299||59.7 sq. ft.||75 in.||4P, 6P||14 lb. 2 oz.||24 x 10 x 10 in.||2|
|Coleman Sundome 6||$108||100 sq. ft.||72 in.||2P, 3P, 4P, 6P||16 lb. 10 oz.||28 x 9 x 9 in.||1|
|Cabela's Alaskan Guide||$450||90 sq. ft.||75 in.||4P, 6P, 8P||33 lb.||31 x 11 x 9 in.||1|
|Big Agnes Copper Spur||$650||57 sq. ft.||50 in.||1P, 2P, 3P, 4P||5 lb. 11 oz.||22 x 7 in.||2|
|Thule Tepui Kukenam 3||$1,750||37.3 sq. ft.||52 in.||2P, 3P||131 lb.||56 x 48 x 12 in.||1|
|Marmot Limestone 6P||$545||83 sq. ft.||76 in.||4P, 6P, 8P||17 lb. 9 oz.||28 x 10 in.||2|
|Kelty Grand Mesa 4||$190||54.5 sq. ft.||56 in.||2P, 4P||7 lb. 7 oz.||13 x 15 x 4 in.||1|
|MSR Habitude 6||$600||83 sq. ft.||77 in.||4P, 6P||14 lbs.||23 x 10 in.||1|
|Nemo Wagontop 4P||$500||69.4 sq. ft.||80 in.||4P, 6P, 8P||20 lbs. 1 oz.||27 x 10 x 10 in.||1|
|REI Co-op Base Camp 6||$469||84 sq. ft.||74 in.||4P, 6P||20 lb. 10 oz.||24 x 11 in.||2|
|iKamper Skycamp 2.0||$3,899||43.2 sq. ft.||45 in.||4P||160 lb.||86 x 54 x 13 in.||1|
|Big Agnes Dog House 6||$350||83 sq. ft.||80 in.||4P, 6P||13 lb. 7 oz.||25.5 x 9 in.||1|
|Caddis Rapid 6||$300||100 sq. ft.||80 in.||6P||25 lb. 8 oz.||50 x 9 in.||1|
|Marmot Limelight 4P||$408||51.7 sq. ft.||54 in.||2P, 3P, 4P||8 lb. 8 oz.||27 x 9 in.||2|
|Coleman Montana 8P||$135||112 sq. ft.||74 in.||6P, 8P||25 lb.||28 x 9 x 9 in.||1|
|Kodiak Canvas Flex-Bow||$650||140 sq. ft.||78 in.||4P, 6P, 8P||82 lb.||48 x 21.5 in.||2|
|Eureka Copper Canyon 6||$320||100 sq. ft.||84 in.||4P, 6P, 8P, 12P||21. lb. 15 oz.||29 x 9 in.||1|
|Nemo Aurora 3P||$300||44 sq. ft.||44 in.||2P, 3P||6 lb. 8 oz.||23 x 7.5 in.||2|
|Coleman Instant Tent 6||$147||90 sq. ft.||72 in.||4P, 6P, 8P||25 lb. 8 oz.||48 x 9 x 9 in.||1|
- Camping Tent Types
- Floor Area
- Peak Height and Pole Structure
- Capacity: How Many People Actually Fit in These Tents?
- Number of Doors
- Storage Space: Pockets, Vestibules, and Garages
- Weather Resistance
- Build Quality and Durability
- Set up and Take Down
- Ground Dimensions
- Weight and Packed Size
- The Rest of Your Camping Kit
The camping tent market falls largely into two categories: luxury-oriented designs that utilize high-end materials and put a premium on livability and comfort, and more affordable models that stick to the basics and typically cost less than $200. Below we detail the pros and cons of each type, as well as breaking down additional options like crossover camping/backpacking models, the growing rooftop tent category, and canvas tents.
Luxury Camping Tents
"Luxury" may seem like a generous term for a tent, but considering the price and feature set, they’ve earned the billing. Tents at this price point have the benefit of more extensive R&D and access to advanced materials, which leads to a more thoughtful design. To start, tents in the mid- and high-end category make the most of their livable space: near-vertical walls, dividers, and spacious vestibules are a few examples. Liberal use of mesh in the tent body ventilates well in warm or muggy weather, and built-in vents in the rainfly help keep moisture from collecting inside. In addition, most of these tents can withstand the elements far better than budget options. Nearly all luxury models have a full-coverage rainfly (or at least the option) and strong pole designs. It’s true that a tent like our top-rated REI Co-op Kingdom can become prohibitively expensive (the eight-person model is $579), but for the family or group that heads out a number of times a year, even in bad weather, the long-term investment may be worth it.
Budget Camping Tents
In theory, camping is a way to simplify life and just disconnect for a while. In that spirit, budget camping tents are basic but fully functional options for fair-weather campers. There isn’t a clear line where a tent goes from mid-range to budget, but we’ve found for six-person options, it happens around $200. Typical budget tents use heavier fabrics, which make them bulky and adds weight to the bottom line, but they’re also durable and resist moisture. Weather protection is their downfall. When a storm blows through the campsite, more often than not, the budget tents are the ones with soaked interiors or are in a heap of broken poles. If camping is a new thing or you keep it casual in the summer, a budget tent will serve your needs just fine. Just don’t expect anything heroic if the weather turns sour.
Crossover Camping and Backpacking Tents
Even tents in the budget category can be a significant investment, so for those who plan on both camping and backpacking with the family, it may be worth considering a crossover model. Although much less spacious than a dedicated camping tent, designs like the Big Agnes Copper Spur or Marmot Limelight 4P can fit four pads side-by-side. Both tents are small and light enough to manage on an overnight backpacking trip but still have enough space to make most campers happy. That said, keep in mind that the Copper Spur has a fairly low 50-inch peak height (for reference, REI's Kingdom 4 is 75 in.) and is built with lightweight and less durable fabrics to make it easier to pack down. But if you need something to pull double duty, a crossover option can be a good compromise.
An up-and-coming category in the car camping world is rooftop tents. The concept is fairly simple: a folded tent attaches directly to the roof rack system on top of your vehicle or pickup bed, and when you arrive at your destination, you simply unfold it, climb the ladder, and go to sleep. Compared with standard camping tents, the rooftop design gets you off uneven ground and makes it easier to set up camp just about anywhere. Moreover, most rooftop tents include a cushy built-in mattress, which is a notable upgrade from a standard sleeping pad. That said, these models are very expensive—often $1,000 or more—and this price doesn’t include a roof rack system. Storing the tent at home also can be an issue. The Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3 above, for example, weighs 131 pounds and is wider than a full-size mattress. But for those who prioritize convenience and don’t mind the added cost, rooftop tents have a lot of appeal (for a full list of our favorite options, see our round-up of the best rooftop tents).
Nearly every tent on the market will provide information about floor dimensions (or floor area), which is a key indicator of overall livability. In general, tents with similar sleeping capacities will have similar total floor areas (80 to 90 square feet for a six-person model). For example, the REI Kingdom 6 boasts 83.3 square feet of floor area, the Marmot Limestone 6P has 83 square feet, and REI’s Base Camp 6 has 84 square feet. There are a few roomier six-person models on our list, including the Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6, Coleman Sundome 6, and Caddis Rapid 6 (all 100 sq. ft.), but all three are more budget-oriented builds with only partial-coverage rainflies, and the Sundome in particular has a dome-style shape that makes it harder to move around inside. In other words, floor area is an important spec to consider, but it doesn’t tell the whole story and should be looked at in conjunction with peak height and pole structure (outlined below) to determine overall spaciousness.
In addition to floor area, peak height and pole structure make a big impact on overall livability. Peak height in particular is an indication of whether or not you’ll be able to stand upright, and most car camping-style tents have a peak height of around 72 inches. However, this number is just part of the equation, and it’s important to also look at the slope of the walls and pole design. Dome tents with simple X-shaped pole structures only allow you to enjoy that peak height at the middle of the tent. On the other hand, a tent with a more advanced pole system can create nearly vertical walls for walking around. This is one of the main reasons we love the REI Kingdom and Marmot Limestone: both ends of the tents have vertical walls, and the pole designs truly opens up the interior. The cabin-style Eureka Copper Canyon LX, REI Grand Hut, and Big Agnes Dog House are other standouts in maximizing interior space.
The tents above are given a “_ person” capacity, which typically ranges from four to eight people. This listing is based on the number of standard adult sleeping pads that can be laid (usually side-by-side) inside the tent. For example, the six-person REI Co-op Kingdom is 120 inches long, so six standard pads (20-inches wide) technically will fit. But this doesn’t mean you necessarily want to max out your tent.
If you use wide, 25-inch+ sleeping pads or air mattresses, or just want a little space to move around, we highly recommend sizing up. From our experiences, nobody wants to sleep in a tent that is jammed to capacity, so it’s best to order a slightly larger size than the actual number of people you have in your party. For example, a group of four should sleep comfortably in a six-person tent, leaving enough living space for playing cards, waiting out a storm, and spreading out while sleeping. And many couples and those with pets prefer a four-person model, which gives you plenty of room to stretch out.
For a large-capacity camping tent, we unabashedly prefer two doors. The additional access is convenient if you have a full house, and zipping it open is another way to encourage airflow in summer heat. A single-door build is one of the notable downsides of budget models like the Coleman Instant Tent and Coleman Sundome, and even some higher-end options like the Big Agnes Dog House have only a single entryway. Put simply, stumbling and crawling over your tent mates in the middle of the night isn’t the best way to keep everyone happy. The very large openings on these tents do alleviate a little of the annoyance, but it’s still a compromise that’s worth considering when looking at an inexpensive tent.
Storage is a crucial consideration for many campers, starting with interior pockets. As expected, luxury options like the REI Kingdom and MSR Habitude include ample space for stowing items like headlamps, maps, books, and other items inside your tent, while budget offerings generally are more barebones. As far as exterior storage goes, a full-coverage rainfly that protects the door(s) of a tent creates a space in front of those doors, referred to as a vestibule. We’ve found a wide range of uses for a vestibule, but a few highlights include a spot to store gear away from rain and putting on/taking off shoes. If you don’t have a car close by to store your stuff, a vestibule should be on your must-have list. And note that vestibules most often come with mid-range and luxury camping tents (budget tents with partial rainflies go without).
Taking the concept of a vestibule to the extreme is REI’s Kingdom Mud Room. The palatial pole-supported structure extends out for an additional 61 square feet of space, enough for a card table or area to store bikes. Also, you can zip up the entry door and roll up the sides to create an open and airy shelter from the sun or light rain. On extended camping trips or in large groups, this is a valuable add-on.
As we touched on in the section above, a weather-worthy tent is one of the main reasons to upgrade to a luxury camping model. In most cases, the pole materials (aluminum is better than fiberglass) and designs are more robust, seam sealing and waterproof fabrics improve in quality, and the inclusion of full-coverage rainflies help keep out blowing rain. It's good to keep in mind that the weather can still get plenty rowdy in the summer, particularly in the mountains (and some national parks).
Two of the strongest tents on the list are the REI Co-op Base Camp and Cabela's Alaskan Guide Model, which utilize advanced pole designs that are inspired from mountaineering tents. The Cabela's can even be used for snow camping in less extreme conditions (for designs meant to withstand serious winter weather, check out our article on the best 4-season tents). For most 3-season trips, any luxury tent should do the trick, as long as it’s been properly staked out (and if the wind picks up, take the time to align the tent and guylines to brace against the wind).
Many campers head out in the warm summer months, which means a tent’s ventilation design is a key consideration. And in general, performance is closely tied to price tag. Many luxury models utilize a double-wall construction (the outer rainfly is separate from the inner tent body) and lots of mesh, which help keep things reasonably cool and limits moisture build-up. In addition, deployable vents are often incorporated into the rainfly as a way to encourage more airflow, and some tents like REI’s Kingdom have adaptable rainflies that can be rolled up partway in mild conditions.
On the cheap end of the spectrum, you get less mesh and fewer options to get air flowing without opening up doors or windows (thereby compromising weather protection). In addition, some entry-level designs like Coleman’s Sundome include single-wall panels (this means there’s just one layer of fabric to protect you from the elements), which can lead to a muggy interior on warm days and more condensation in the night. In the end, many campers are willing to compromise in ventilation given the large price gap between designs, but it’s undoubtedly another feather in the luxury tent market’s cap.
Simply put, the differences in build quality are noticeable between budget and luxury camping tents. Spending more gets you higher-quality materials that are stronger relative to their weight, and in theory, should have a longer lifespan. If you only make it out once or twice a year (and mostly in good weather), you absolutely can get away with a budget model like the Coleman Sundome. That said, if you camp a lot, are looking for a long-term investment for multiple seasons, or simply prefer quality gear, we recommend splurging for a higher-end camping tent. Upgraded features like a full-coverage rainfly, large vestibules and lots of interior pockets for gear storage, and strong aluminum poles increase a tent’s functionality and weather resistance. A tent like our top-ranked REI Co-op Kingdom is the whole package—we have a first-generation Kingdom that has been through the wringer and still is going strong.
Another factor to consider in gauging a tent’s lifespan is durability, or the thickness of the canopy, floor, and rainfly fabrics. The floor thickness is particularly important, as it will have direct contact with rocks, roots, and other potentially sharp objects at camp. In comparing the models above, the difference can be significant: the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL4 (an ultralight backpacking tent), for instance, shaves significant weight by using lighter materials throughout, including a thin 15 x 20-denier floor that will require care to avoid snags and tears. By comparison, the REI Kingdom uses a robust 150-denier floor, which boosts weight considerably but will stand up much better to long-term use. Many camping tents fall somewhere in the middle and are decently hardwearing, but if you’re typically hard on your gear, make sure to factor this into your buying decision.
Given their large dimensions and multiple parts (tent body, rainfly, poles, and stakes), it shouldn’t come as a surprise that camping tents can be a bear to set up. It’s always best to do a test run at home to figure out the process, plus this gives you a chance to verify you have all the necessary pieces. In general, we recommend setting up a car camping tent with a partner (some smaller four-person models can be done fairly easily by a single person) and you can expect it to take 10 minutes or more to fully deploy (tear down often is a bit faster). One exception to this rule is “instant” tents like the Caddis Rapid and Coleman Instant, which streamline the process by having the poles permanently connected to the tent body. This design does add some weight and bulk, but some campers will find the tradeoff in convenience worth it.
When choosing between tent models, it’s a good idea to take the total footprint or ground size of the tent into account—some of the six and eight-person models are absolutely massive. Factoring in some of the large vestibules or “garages” that can be tacked on to the end of a tent, there’s a strong likelihood that it will extend beyond the size of the raised pads at some national parks or campgrounds. If you come from a backpacking background, many car camping tents require a much larger swath of space.
It’s not uncommon for a raised camping pad to be 10 or 11 feet long, which is a tight squeeze for a tent like the REI Kingdom 6 (10 feet not including the vestibule). Typically, however, most locations have large pads available, so we wouldn’t recommend downsizing your tent out of fear of not finding a suitable space. But it’s not a bad idea to check out the dimensions of the campsites you plan on visiting and upgrade to a bigger space if possible. And if you have any doubts or want to use your tent in smaller spots, we recommend going with a crossover or backpacking model that has a smaller footprint.
A quick look at the table above shows a wide range in the total weight of our recommended camping tents. On the lightweight end is a targeted backpacking design like the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL4 at 5 pounds 11 ounces, while a large six- or eight-person camping model will easily break 20 pounds. For car camping, the extra weight doesn’t mean a whole lot (exceptions include the 82-lb. Kodiak Flex-Bow), but if you’re unable to drive up to your campsite, it’s worth considering total weight. And if you’re looking for an all-in-one crossover camping and backpacking model, we recommend choosing a tent that weighs less than 10 pounds. Divided between a few people, that’s an acceptable amount of weight for casual weekend or overnight backpacking trips.
The packed size of the tent will typically align with its weight. Crossover backpacking and camping tents pack down the smallest (the Copper Spur measures 7 x 22 in.), while a tent like the Coleman Instant Tent will fill up an extra-large duffel bag and take up a good portion of a car trunk. Again, if you have the space to store it and haul it around, this isn’t a big downside. But if either are at a premium, we recommend a more compact crossover design.
While not a requirement, it's often a good idea to use some type of footprint or ground cloth when camping. The extra layer makes it easier to clean up if you're camping on dirt or mud and protects the tent’s floor from damage (thus extending the tent’s overall lifespan). But do you need to spend the big bucks and get the one specifically made for the tent? Oftentimes those are upwards of $50, which feels like a lot for a single sheet of fabric and some webbing. The advantage of using the footprint specifically designed for the tent is that it’s precut to the proper dimensions and the grommets will attach to the tent poles directly. It’s an integrated system that you don’t need to worry about.
Alternatively, a decent tarp can suffice for ground protection as long as there’s still space to store it in your vehicle. They are typically quite large, and if you don’t want to cut them up, you’ll need to layer or stuff the excess material under the tent floor, creating some uncomfortable lumps. Another popular choice for making a generic ground cloth is picking up bulk Tyvek. This relatively thin and packable material is cheap and offers sufficient protection. No matter your choice, if you decide to trim the ground cloth, make sure to measure in a few inches in all dimensions to guarantee you don’t have fabric hanging out the sides of the tent floor. This extra material sticking out can collect and pool rain water and compromise your waterproof shelter.
Since you’re essentially setting up a home away from home, camping can be heavy on gear. Tents are typically your biggest purchase—both in price and size—followed by items like camping pads or mattresses and sleeping bags. Depending on where you’ll be camping and for how long, other essentials include a gas-burning stove, cooler, and camping chairs. The beauty in all of this is that the same principles that apply to camping tents transfer to the rest of your gear. You can go cheap and still have a great time, but you’ll rarely regret spending extra for added comfort, performance, and longevity.
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