The Best Camping Tent Review

Looking for the most comfortable camping tent? One that will keep your friends and family dry in a storm, and will give you the ventilation you need to stay cool on a hot summer day when the insects start to get hungry? We took eight of the top models on the market and put them head-to-head in a variety of tests in our lab and in campgrounds around the West. We tested their comfort, storm-proofness, ease of setup, packed size, and workmanship to determine the overall best, the best value, and strongest.

See also: Best Backpacking Tent Review and Dream Camping Gear List.

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Camping Tents Displaying 1 - 5 of 8 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
REI Kingdom 8
REI Kingdom 8
Read the Review
Video video review
Big Agnes Flying Diamond 8
Big Agnes Flying Diamond 8
Read the Review
Marmot Limestone 6
Marmot Limestone 6
Read the Review
Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow
Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow
Read the Review
Kelty Parthenon 8
Kelty Parthenon 8
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award    Top Pick Award   
Street Price $529
Compare at 1 sellers
$670
Compare at 4 sellers
$449
Compare at 5 sellers
$570
Compare at 1 sellers
Varies $450 - $630
Compare at 4 sellers
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100% recommend it (2/2)
Be the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate it
Pros Tall throughout tent, big doors on each side, rainfly versatility, huge vestibule, durable floor, lots of pockets, two rooms inside, backpack style carrying bag.Huge versatile vestibule, zippered internal door, easy to store in bag, great ventilation, good in wind, lightweight poles.Easy setup, removable doormat, vestibule, lots of attachment points, easy pole clips, reflective at night, good ventilation.Durable, good in wind, easy setup in all weather, easy to take down, easy to roll up, tall, big stakes, bombproof floor.Biggest tent, huge ceiling, cubic shape, vestibule, bright color, lots of attachment points.
Cons Only one vestibule, barnhouse style is bad in high winds.Small tent stakes bend easily, carrying bag material could be more reinforced where tent poles rub against it.Lightweight poles bend easily, not a lot of pockets, gear lofts sag with stuff in them.Heavy, no separate rainfly, heavier when wet, hard to get rid of plastic smell from the floor.Small stakes, bad in wind, only one side has doors, ventilation, condensation.
Best Uses Camping with big groups in spring, summer and fall.Camping with big groups in spring, summer and fall.Camping, car camping, family camping.Camping, car camping, family camping, base camp, hunting.Camping.
Date Reviewed Sep 21, 2012Sep 13, 2012Sep 15, 2012Sep 05, 2012Sep 11, 2012
Weighted Scores REI Kingdom 8 Big Agnes Flying Diamond 8 Marmot Limestone 6 Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow Kelty Parthenon 8
Comfort - 40%
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Weather Resistance - 30%
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Ease Of Set Up - 15%
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Workmanship - 10%
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Packed Size - 5%
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Product Specs REI Kingdom 8 Big Agnes Flying Diamond 8 Marmot Limestone 6 Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow Kelty Parthenon 8
floor materials Coated nylon oxford polyester with 1500mm waterproof polyurethane coating 150d 100% Nylon Oxford, 3000mm, W/R, F/R 16 oz vinyl. Polyester reinforced, seamless. 1800mm PU nylon taffeta
rainfly materials Coated polyester taffeta polyester rip-stop with 1500mm waterproof polyurethane coating 68d 100% Polyester Ripstop 1800mm, W/R, F/R none 75D 190T, 1800 mm PU polyester taffeta
main tent materials Nylon taffeta breathable polyester rip stop, with nylon mesh windows 8.5 oz Hydra-ShieldTM canvas on walls, 10 oz on ceiling 70D DyeFree polyester taffeta
Seasons 3 season 4 season 3 4 season 3
weight 22lbs 3oz 27lbs 12oz 17lbs 13 oz 68 lbs 26lbs 5 oz
design type Freestanding Freestanding freestanding stake down freestanding
number of doors 2 2 2 2 2
inside max Height 6ft 5in 6ft 6'2 6'6 6'3
floor dimensions 105 sq ft 112 sq ft 83 sq ft 100 sq ft 143 sq ft
packed size 25 x 17 x 9.5 In 8 x 16 x 27 9.75 x 28 in 30 in x 13 in, Poles 50 in x 5.5 in. 28 x 10
time to set-up with 2 people 15 min 13 min 10 min 8 min 10 min
take down time 13 min 12 min 10 min 5 min 10 min
Notes/awards

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners
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REI Kingdom 8
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Big Agnes Flying Diamond 8
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Marmot Limestone 6
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Kelty Parthenon 8
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Coleman Instant Tent 8
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Eureka Copper Canyon 8
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Eureka Tetragon 8
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Choosing a camping model is completely different than trying to find the best backpacking tent. While weight dominates backpacking tent decision making, comfort is the number one criteria for camping. Below you'll see a summary of the tents we felt were the very best choices, and why. Take a look at our Camping Tent Buying Advice article for tips on how to narrow down the choices, and key buying considerations.

History of the Camping Tent
Modern camping tents derive their inspiration from the portable shelters and homes that humans have been using since time immemorial. The earliest known remains of a tent were discovered in Russia that were carbon dated to 40,000 B.C. Traditionally, tents have been used by nomadic people around the world, a practice that persists to this day. Bedouins in the Middle East lived in tents while they lived a nomadic lifestyle of trading. Mongolian and Kazak shepherds live in yurts or gers, while Native Americans used to live in portable teepees and wigwams.

The use of tents for camping in western cultures began with the Greek and Roman armies. The Romans in particular mastered the art of living in tents, creating whole cities of them wherever they moved. Modern day cities like Torino and Verona are laid out upon the military camp footprint from which they originated. Like the native cultures before them, the Romans used the hides of animals, in this case cows, as the fabric hanging over wooden pole frames. They used many different designs and sizes of tents, depending on the function and rank of the person using it.

During the American Civil War Henry Hopkins Sibley invented the "bell tent," fabric supported by a pole in the center. Its design mimicked the teepees used by the Native Americans and over 44,000 of them were used by troops in the war. However, the predominant tent used by soldiers at this time was a small portable canvas ridge tent that the soldiers derisively referred to as a "pup tent," because they considered it suitable only for small dogs.

It wasn't until the turn of the 20th century that the idea of recreational camping as a pastime took hold. The Camper's Handbook, published by Thomas Hiram Holding in 1908 and based on his adventures traveling across the United States in a covered wagon with his parents, inspired the masses with ideas like, "[camping] revives [man's] taste and love of the country." At this time a typical tent was still a wood pole-framed canvas ridge tent.

The economic boom that followed World War II led millions of Americans to buy trailers and tents and head out into the great outdoors to go camping. The advent of new materials as well as high demand led to the innovation of the Draw-Tite tent by Eureka in 1959, the first free standing external frame tent. It quickly gained in popularity. The Draw-Tite was used on an expedition to the Himalayas by Sir Edmund Hillary and on the first successful American expedition to Mount Everest.

In the 1970's Eureka again produced an innovative camping tent known as the Timberline. Touted as the first free standing and backpack portable tent, the Timberline also began the use of brass hooks, a predecessor to modern plastic clips, to ease in setup. Within 10 years annual sales of the Timberline topped one million units. A proliferation in designs and materials, from single walls and geodesic domes to tunnel tents, constructed with nylon or waterproof and breathable membranes, has led to the expansive market selection of camping tents we have today.

Comfort
We valued comfort as the most important rating category in our tests. The best tents had enough standing room for a dance party, while the smaller tents only had room for one person to stand up in the middle of the tent and crouch or bend everywhere else. We crowned the REI Kingdom 8 the comfort winner. It has enough screen windows and shading for your whole family to hang out in on a hot summer day and still be comfy. It also has a huge vestibule that allows you to keep a cluster-free environment in your tent by giving you more storage space for you gear. On top of that its barn house shape allows you to stand up throughout the tent and lets people circulate throughout it.

This tent exemplifies the qualities of a comfortable design. Other tents we tested that are similar in comfort were the Eureka Copper Canyon 8 and the Kelty Parthenon 8. Both allowed adults to easily walk around in the tent without crouching and also offered good ventilation.

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The REI Kingdom 8 (left) lets even tall people walk throughout the entire tent and is very well-ventilated. The Big Agnes Flying Diamond 8 (right) is the most storm resistant tent in our general camping tent tests.
Credit: Devin Chance

Storm Resistance
When there is a surprise storm, you want to be ready for it and have a tent that can handle it. The most storm resistant tent we tested was the Marmot Limestone 6. It is the only tent we tested we would trust in a snowstorm. The design is very strong and the roof pitch sheds snow better than the competition. It is also a stable tent in high winds, something that few other tents of this comfort level can claim. The other top scoring tents for storm resistance was the Kodiak Flex-Bow.
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The Kodiak Flex-Bow uses burly canvas with a durable pole design. This is the vent on the right side of the tent as well
Credit: Devin Chance
Workmanship
If you plan on using a tent for more than just one season you should really think about how well made and durable it's going to be. Our top scoring workmanship tent is the Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow Canvas Tent that won a Top pick award for this category. This tent will last you a lifetime of camping joy, and we used its high quality as a standard for the other tents we tested.

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From left to right: Big Agnes Flying Diamond 8, REI Kingdom 8, Eureka Tetragon 8, Eureka Copper Canyon 8, Kelty Parthenon 8, Kodiak Canvas Flex-bow 6 person
Credit: Devin Chance
Packed Size
The Eureka Tetragon 8 and the Marmot Limestone 6 packed down the smallest and lightest. The two tents with the best carrying and organizing sacks were the REI Kingdom and the Big Agnes. Both use well-thought-out bags that allow you to organize the different tent components and pack up quickly.

Ease of Setup
The best tents we tested can be set up by one person without hassle, while the hardest tents take at least two people and a lot of time, especially at night by headlamp. The easiest tent to set up was the Coleman Instant Tent 6; with one person it only takes about two minutes.

The easiest tent to set up in windy conditions was the Kodiak Flex-Bow. It is heavy and less likely to fly away. You also don't have to wrestle on a rain fly as you do with many other tents.

Key Tent Accessories
  • Stakes - While most of the tents in this review come with stakes, they are often very flimsy and will bend. If your tent comes with flimsy stakes, we recommend upgrading to Coleman 10-Inch Steel Tent Stakes
  • Reflective Guylines - There is nothing as awkward as falling on your face will trying to find the bathroom in the middle of the night. While most of the tents in this review come with guy lines for securing your tent in the wind, few of them are reflective or all that strong and light. The Kelty TripTease LightLine is a little more expensive than cheap nylon cord, but it is also reflective and quite strong and light.
  • Ground Cloths - Our favorite ground cloth is light, durable, and probably found on the side of your house. Yep, good ol' Tyvek will get the job done, is light and relatively inexpensive.

The Winners
Editors' Choice: Rei Kingdom 8
The REI Kingdom 8 is our top rated tent. It scored the highest for comfort due to its high ceiling height, convenient divider. and great rain fly. It also scored very high in Ease of Setup and Workmanship. This tent gets all the details right: the vestibule is spacious and versatile and the carrying case is the best we tested.

Best Buy: Coleman Instant Tent
The Coleman Instant Tent 6 was the least expensive tent we tested and the easiest to set up. For occasional camping trips it is an excellent value and is less than half the cost of many other tents tested.

Top Pick: Big Agnes Flying Diamond 8
The Big Agnes Flying Diamond 8 gets a Top Pick award because it is the second highest rated tent and the most storm resistant. It is the only contender we tested that we would really want to be in during a massive rain or snow storm. Most tents are okay in the rain, but the Flying Diamond is fit for serious wind, sleet, and snow.

Top Pick: Kodiak Flex-Bow
The Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow was the most durable tent we tested. It stood up to serious winds and all-around punishment. We expect this tent to have very good long-term value. When other tents begin to rip or bend poles after years of use, we expect the Flex-Bow to still be going strong. We also just like its nostalgic design it evokes that timeless camping feel when hanging out next to it and inside.

Ask an Expert: Catherine Coe
All-around expert mountain woman, Cat has guided groups backpacking and horse-packing deep into the mountains and wilderness areas around the world for many companies. She also works as a guide for National Outdoor Leadership School running backpacking and climbing trips in the Western US. In the summer, she works as a climbing guide for Jackson Hole Mountain Guides in the Tetons of Wyoming.

What are the most important things that you consider when looking to buy a tent?
When I'm looking at buying a tent, I'm concerned with different specs depending on what I plan to use it for. If it's going to be a backpacking/mountaineering expedition tent that I'll be sharing with one or two other people and carrying on my back for days on end, I want the most space possible for the lightest weight, but also something durable that will provide comfortable shelter during a storm. If it's a tent that will be used in a car camping situation, then I don't worry as much about packability and even less about weight, and durability becomes the most important. I look at reviews for how a tent typically holds up in strong winds, rain, and snow. Above all, I'm not interested in waking up to rain dripping on my face or buckling under the weight of a tent filled with unnecessary zippers, plastic windows, or ceiling "shelves." The nitty gritty of durability combined with packability, low weight, and enough space are what matter most to me.

What kinds of things do you look for or tricks do you have to make sure the tent has good ventilation in hot or steamy/wet conditions?
Steamy/wet? GROSS! To avoid such nastiness, I like to make sure a tent body makes as little contact as possible with its fly. A little "space between" can go a long way for ventilation in places like the Pacific Northwest or even the Rockies in a marathon rainstorm. Unless it's blowing rain or snow, I keep all the vents open; the ventilation can actually preserve warmth by moving moisture out.
What tricks do you have to make sure all the bugs don't follow you inside your tent?

If you've ever been banished to the Wind River Range for the month of July, you come up with all sorts of shenanigans to outsmart the relentless mosquitoes. Sometimes I would zip myself between the fly and the tent body, then unzip the tent body and dive in while a tent mate zipped it behind me. Other times I would wait for a gust of wind before entering or exiting the tent. Apparently a breeze as light as 1.5 mph can cause mosquitoes to land, so if bugs are your biggest nuisance I try to choose a tent site that gets a breeze.

What kinds of things do you look for or do to a tent to make sure it will keep everyone dry in heavy rains?
GUY IT OUT. TIGHT. Having a tent with specific spots to attach guy wires/strings is really important in bad weather. The trick is to guy it in such a way that the fly has a little contact with the body as possible. Watch the next time you're caught in a storm: where the fly is touching, the drip begins. I've seen many people stake down corners and skip the sides, or stake the corners of the fly on the same stakes as the corners of the tent body, or simply skip staking or guying out the fly altogether. This is not the way to stay dry. I guy out every side and corner of the fly, keeping as much breathing room between the two as possible. When heavy rains start, I look for any places on the top of the tent or on the bottoms by the guy line connections where puddles might be forming. If there are puddles, I re-guy that side or the entire tent fly altogether. The puddles are a result of lopsidedness, slack fabric, or guying too high and can often be fixed easily.

The tent site/placement also makes a huge difference: if rains are coming, I avoid camping in any sort of depression or runoff zone to avoid water pooling under the tent. I try to find a small rise in the ground where rainwater cannot accumulate.

What kinds of things do you look for or do to a tent to make sure it will stay upright and in the ground in a big storm/windy weather?
Two things: BIG rocks and trucker's hitches with backup knots. Unless a stake is deadmanned in snow (a very secure way to anchor things in the snow), I don't often trust them in strong winds. Guying out the tent to really big rocks or even logs or small tree trunks seems to work best. Some tents have loops midway up the sides where you can double-back pea cord or tie on more strands; guying out the tent fly both at its base and higher up helps. Trucker's hitches are easy to undo, tighten, and retie quickly during a storm.

Tents that are taller seem to be more difficult to tame in the wind, and in my experience they are more prone to ripping at the seams in a huge gust. Staking and guying a tent out perfectly in a mega-windstorm only helps so much; if the wind is strong enough, poles are inevitably going to bend and/or seams are going to rip. SO, choosing an advantageous tent site is really the best protection: a place with shelter via rock walls, tall shrubs, trees, or the rise of a hillside. Also, I try to face the shorter side of the tent (often the door) into the wind so the wind hits less surface area of fabric.

What are the most important things to consider when you are setting up or taking down a tent?
I try never to step on the tent body or fly; while I'm setting up the body, I keep the fly in a safe place where it's not going to blow around on sharp rocks or sticks; I stake the tent down and/or guy it out right away to avoid a runaway tent getting thrashed.

I always zip the zippers before taking my tent down. Why? Maybe it's a silly compulsion, but I think it really does help preserve the zippers and minimize the dirt and sand that gets stored in them.
Do you have any tricks for setting up complicated or big tents?

Nothing rocket-science-esque… but with any tent, regardless of size, I start by spreading it out evenly on the ground, with the sides pulled straight and the floor flush with the ground. Depending on the design, I'll then either stake down the corners or put the pole(s) in place.

For bigger tents, like the Hilleberg Keron 4 where you really want the tent to go up symmetrically, you really need another person to stake down one end of the tent while I simultaneously stake down the other end. I then have the person move with me to each guy line opposite from the one I'm pulling out so all the opposing guy lines are pulling equal tension on the tent.
When considering space vs weight vs. price - which things are ok to skimp on and which are non-negotiables for you?

A durable fly (or waterproof single wall) is a non-negotiable for me. In places full of mosquitoes, spiders, and small critters, I'd rather carry a tent body with a floor than go floorless to save weight.

Otherwise, I'm all about shedding weight via accessories or unnecessary zippers/windows/hanging shelves/other ridiculous tent furniture inventions. I'm not willing to throw down for the top-of-the-line, lightweight option unless the weight savings is significant and durability hasn't been sacrificed.

What parts of the tent do you think are most important to be durable? What do you look for in general to make sure a tent is durable?
Zippers, seams, fly and poles. I read reviews about how they've performed in wind, rain, and snow. I look at the quality of the seams, poles, and zippers and think about how repairable they'd be in the field. And I look at the quality and thickness of the tent fly fabric. The super duper lightweight tent flies or single-walled tents that feel like tissue paper just don't feel durable enough to me for the amount of use and weather I expect.

Are there any accessories that you find really helpful or essential to use with tents (extra tarps, waterproofing, lights)?
If I'm backpacking, no - saving weight is way more important to me than accessorizing!

If I'm car camping, heck yeah! Black Diamond makes some sweet little battery-powered lanterns that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside when you're bundled up with a book on a cold night in the desert; a Mexican blanket on the ground in the vestibule for a fancy entryway; and of course, mini, battery-powered speakers for tunes. I also use bungie cords or reinstall the tent ceiling shelves to hang damp socks, sunglasses, or headlamps.
How do clean your tent if/when it gets dirty?

If I'm in the field and I'm feeling very motivated, I take it down, turn the body inside-out, and shake-shake-shake. Post-trip, I sometimes rinse it inside and out with cold water and let it air dry; often times I simply spread it out on a clothesline in the sun for a few hours.

If for some reason it were especially gross, I'd wash it with a gentle detergent like Nikwax and air-dry; similar to how I'd wash a raincoat.

How do you store your tent? For short and/or long periods of time?
I treat my tent as I do most anything amongst my small collection of expensive, outdoor-related possessions: as though it were a perishable item that I must preserve as long as possible. I always make sure it is dry before I store it (but I only air-dry it). I store it in a dry place, away from direct sunlight, with the zippers zipped (maybe this is a little obsessive, but I have a theory that if you keep the zippers zipped while packing and unpacking it, the zippers are less likely to get sand or dirt stuck in them).

Any other questions or important things that we missed?
I learned the hard way never to brush snow off a tent with a shovel. No matter how smooth the edge of the shovel looks, there's bound to be little spurs in the metal that are like razor blades against a tent fly.

Devin Chance
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