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
Varies $540 - $670
Compare at 2 sellers
Varies $449 - $468
Compare at 5 sellers
$515
Compare at 1 sellers
Varies $441 - $630
Compare at 5 sellers
Overall Score 
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Editors' Rating
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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 24, 2012Sep 16, 2012Sep 18, 2012Sep 09, 2012Sep 12, 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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6
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8
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5
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
  • All Reviewed Products
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REI Kingdom 8
$530
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Big Agnes Flying Diamond 8
$640
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Marmot Limestone 6
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Kelty Parthenon 8
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Coleman Instant Tent 8
$240
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Eureka Copper Canyon 8
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Eureka Tetragon 8
$290
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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 huge 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.

Devin Chance
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