Over the past 8 years, we've tested 24 different camping tents in pursuit of the best. In this review, we purchased 14 of the top products for rigorous, side-by-side comparison. Our team subjected them to Pacific Northwest rainstorms, California coastlines, the desert of Joshua Tree National Park, and even a few cold higher-altitude nights. During both our in-field and lab-like tests, we paid careful attention to the transport, construction, and features of each tent, among other key metrics. From budget-friendly to family size to fully waterproof, we've gathered all the information you'd need to find the ultimate home in the woods.
The Best Camping Tents
REI Kingdom 6
The REI Kingdom 6 remains on top another year, but it certainly has some close competition. The Kingdom stayed at the top of the podium due to its unique, spacious, and well thought out design. Hooped poles through the middle of the tent give it more of a barn shape and a lot more room than your typical dome tent, and greater head clearance throughout. It was also surprisingly wind-resistant. Usually taller equals less stable in high winds, but the Kingdom stayed strong and also kept us dry in torrential rains. The adjustable (and zippable!) room divider is a great feature, as is the fact that one end of the tent is primarily mesh while the other is primarily solid fabric, giving you options for both privacy and ventilation.
There are two doors, but there isn't much of a vestibule at the back door. It's not a deal-breaker, given that there is so much more to love about the Kingdom, but anything you'd like out of the elements had better find its way inside the tent or under the expansive vestibule up front. You can purchase a couple of different variations on a vestibule for the back door, but they all come at an extra cost, adding to an already reasonably spendy tent.
These are, of course, small issues, the bottom line is that the Kingdom has enough size, quality, and thoughtful touches to impress even the most expert campers. REI also makes the Kingdom in four- and eight-person models.
Read review: REI Kingdom 6
Most Spacious Vestibule
The North Face Wawona 6
The North Face Wawona was the first tent to challenge the Kingdom 6's dominance in a long time. While The Kingdom edged ahead in our overall scoring, the Wawona impressed us in all of our testing metrics. It has great ventilation, with two large picture windows and vents at the top, and its weather resistance was also solid. Setup was fast and easy, and we were even able to do it with only one person, which is impressive for a larger tent, and key if one parent needs to be wrangling kids while the other is setting it up. Best of all is its vestibule, which is almost as tall as the tent, very spacious, and has a huge door.
We did have issues venting the vestibule when we tried to cook in there in bad weather. The only option is to open the door, but you don't want to do that when it's raining hard. The Wawona also lacks a few of the creature comforts found in the Kingdom, like a room divider. However, the TNF Wawona saves you a little over the Kingdom 6 and includes the excellent vestibule.
Read review: The North Face Wawona
Best Buy in Smaller Family Tents
REI Co-op Camp Dome 4
The REI Camp Dome 4 isn't going to impress you with its innovation. Words that kept coming up in our tests were things like, "Old School," and "Classic," and that's not a bad thing. The Camp Dome isn't trying to be the latest fad. It's sticking with a successful and time-tested design and producing it at a high level. The classic dome shape with two crisscrossing poles means the Camp Dome 4 goes up so easy. Many will swear they can do it blindfolded and/or in their sleep. Two large doors should make getting everything in and out of the tent a breeze. This tent has 60 square feet of floor space, though the walls on the Camp Dome do slant in more than the Half Dome 4 plus (as standard dome tents are wont to do), meaning you lose a little bit of that interior volume. The material quality of the Camp Dome stood out to us. Thick floor and fly fabric that will resist rips and tears, seam taping to keep the wet out, and sturdy poles that should stay straight and true for many a season make this a highly functional tent.
We did find that, while the fly does a fine job on the sides of the tent, on the front and back, there's just an extended overhang. No vestibule or actual fabric coverage down the length of the doors. The overhang is enough to keep dripping rain off the front and rear of the tent. So long as you don't experience sideways rain often, this shouldn't be an issue. In the end, it's the price tag and quality build of the Camp Dome 4 that make it a great value.
Read review: REI Camp Dome 4
Best Bang for the Buck
Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6
The Carlsbad Fast Pitch is a tent that lives up to its marketing claims. It took us only 12 minutes to set it up for the first time, solo and in the dark. Wow! It is also noticeably cooler and darker in the sun, allowing us to sleep in late, or get out of the hot midday sun. The front mesh "porch" increases the sleeping area on dry evenings, providing bug protection but still giving you that sleeping-under-the-stars feeling.
This tent is not the best for cold or inclement weather. The fly doesn't cover the entire body or the mesh porch, and it's also permeable to sand and dust. It's a perfect beach-camping tent, but not for windy locales. We were less than impressed with the carrying bag, which, while compact, is virtually impossible to get the tent back into once everything has expanded. However, since you're spending so little on the Carlsbad, you could also buy a small duffel bag to go along with it. Our Best Buy winner is half the price of some other models!
Read review: Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch
Best Buy for Easy Setup
Caddis Rapid 6
The rapid in Caddis Rapid 6 Tent is not hyperbole. It is the Usain Bolt of family camping tents. It's The Roadrunner and The Flash combined in tent form. The Caddis has pre-attached, extension poles, utilizes joint-like corners to create its shape, and can be set up in under a minute, by one person, probably even while blindfolded and hopping on one leg. What sets the Caddis apart and justifies the slightly higher price tag, sufficiently protective rainfly, roomy interior, high ceiling, well-spaced storage pockets, gear loft, and Velcro electric cord access point. The Caddis comes with a fly that goes nearly to the ground on three sides, making it very weather-ready.
The only small issue we found is that, despite its small vestibule, the Rapid 6's front door is vulnerable to rain. While the Caddis storage bag is slightly large, we found this to be positive. It eliminates the need to either pack with OCD-like precision or stuff and zip with Hulk-like strength.
Read review: Caddis Rapid 6 Tent
Why You Should Trust Us
Our expert panel of testers consists of Rock Guide and Mountaineer Lyra Pierotti and multi-sport outdoorsman Wes Berkshire. In addition to being an AIARE Avalanche Instructor, Lyra is undergoing further training with the American Mountain Guides Association. About six months each year, Lyra is pursuing objectives in mountain ranges all over the world. Wes has hiked both the John Muir Trail and the Alta Via 2 in the Italian Dolomites. He holds a degree in journalism from CU Boulder, lives in the mountains of Lake Tahoe and spends every moment he can outside, whether that be backpacking, skiing, biking or running. A solid camping tent is something that these two have the know-how to identify and appreciate.
Lyra and Wes spent several months testing these tents side-by-side at four primary locations, each chosen for its unique and consistent conditions. Rain and humidity were in ample supply for the Pacific Northwest portion, while the tents were up against plenty of heat, wind, sun, and sand in places like Joshua Tree National Park and the high desert of Oregon. Rounding it out were some cooler conditions at the higher elevations around Lake Tahoe.
Related: How We Tested Camping Tents
Analysis and Test Results
We assessed the performance of 14 popular camping tents by subjecting them to wind, rain, sun, heat, cold, late nights, late mornings, and energetic young campers. Below, we'll delve into the criteria that we rated them on and explain how all of the different models compared to each other.
Related: Buying Advice for Camping Tents
This is where high-quality meets the impact to your bank account. We tested a wide range of tents, both in quality and price. The models that we tested ranged from less than two hundred dollars to nearly one thousand, a pretty staggering difference. And while a higher price tag usually correlates to higher-quality materials or bomb-proof construction, that isn't always true. Sometimes there is a sweet spot where high quality meets exceptional value. In short, a lower price doesn't always equate to a better value, nor does a higher price necessarily mean a worse value.
Of our favorite camping tents, The North Face Wawona 6 and REI Kingdom 6 both offer the highest levels of performance for reasonable prices.
On the budget end of the spectrum, you get a surprising number of amenities for one of the lowest costs with the Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6, and the Caddis Rapid 6 is a simple, high-quality tent that goes up in seconds.
Comfort is one of the most important considerations when purchasing a camping tent, and counted for 40% of the overall score. Camping trips are supposed to be fun, relaxing, stress-free, family-bonding experiences, or a chance to catch up with friends around a campfire with a beer or smores. Different campers will have different ideas of comfort and will define livability according to different standards. Larger families might want separate rooms. Mountain lovers will want a sturdier and more reliable tent with a spacious vestibule. Beachgoers need windows, air circulation, and shelter from the sun. However, some comfort features, like lots of space, organizational pockets, airflow, and sun protection are universal. Those are the factors we consider here.
Our overall winner, the REI Kingdom 6, is the most comfortable tent in this review. It is a top performer for a broad range of camping scenarios. There is ample headroom (6'3"), a room-divider, a large vestibule for your gear, and lots of pockets inside.
The North Face Wawona 6 came in just behind the Kingdom for comfort. It has tall ceilings and a substantial built-in vestibule. The three large doors and four windows/vents helped with air circulation and kept us comfortable on hot days. You can add a vestibule to the Kingdom but it will cost you extra (even more with awning poles) and adds one more step to the setup process.
Both the Coleman Carlsbad and the Coleman Dark Room Sundome 6 offer dark room technology, designed to keep the interior of the tent much darker and cooler in direct sunlight; a noteworthy feature for those who appreciate sleeping in. It doesn't achieve complete, pitch-black darkness, but it's enough to let you sleep off a late evening or give you some respite from direct desert sun. The Caddis Rapid 6 is also comfortable in warmer weather due to its high ceiling. However, while it scored well, its dark materials soak up the heat, making it uncomfortable in scorching weather.
It's worth pointing out that some of the more unique tents we tested offer specific features that might appeal to one crowd, and genuinely annoy others. The Big Agnes Titan 6 mtnGLO, for example, can double as a sun/rain shade by merely removing the tent, leaving the exoskeleton and rainfly. We can see people at music festivals or larger get-togethers enjoying this feature as it allows more people to gather under the shade. The hitch, however, is that you can't set up the tent without the rainfly, something that will be a real drawback for some.
Similarly, for sheer size alone, the Eureka Boondocker Hotel 6 scored well for comfort. With 82 square feet inside, a front vestibule that adds another 22 square feet, and the very nifty Gear Garage at 36 square feet, you will have no shortage of space to pitch gear or bodies. I mean, it's got the word Hotel in the name so it has to be huge, right?
With a more pure, six-sided dome shape The North Face Homestead Super Dome 4 has three doors. That's one more than just about every tent we tested. What we love about this is that it provides more entrances and exits, helping to keep you from stepping on, over, or around your tentmates every time you come in from the cold or head out for a late-night bathroom stop.
It's also worth paying attention to the overall height of a tent as well as the wall angles as these are what really make a tent feel roomy (or cramped). With peak heights beyond six feet, The North Face Homestead Super Dome 4, Caddis Rapid 6 and Marmot Limestone 6 are superb for taller campers or just those who like to be able to stand up straight in their tents. They also all have vertical (or near-vertical) walls meaning that peak height will extend out beyond just the absolute center of the tent.
When we considered the weather resistance of each model, we look at more than if these tents will keeping us dry in the rain. Campers are outside in all types of weather, from scorching heat to blowing sand and dust, wind, and even hail storms.
The North Face Wawona scored highly here with its aerodynamic design, solid guylines, and burly poles. The Wawona also had the best built-in vestibule for hanging out and cooking in during storms. The Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6 crushed the competition when it came to keeping cool in the hot summer sun.
The Eureka Boondocker Hotel 6 offers an innovative way to deal with adverse weather. The attached gear garage also doubles as an enclosed patio with enough room for a couple of chairs, a small table, and a cooler full of your favorite beverages. It gives you more room, and more options when the rain rolls in.
The North Face Homestead Super Dome 4 had a great front vestibule on its rainfly, but got a little skimpy around the back. In researching and doing our due diligence however, we found that this was by design as the back sides of the tent are made with the same material as the rainfly, essentially offering you the same weather protection. It makes sense, and we never had a problem with it, but somehow we still like the idea of having that extra layer of rainfly on the other side of our tent walls.
Similar to the Homestead a number of the other tents we tested including the REI Kingdom 6, and the REI Camp Dome 4 offered great rainfly coverage on the sides of the tent, but neglected either one or both of the ends. In all cases the exposed doors (front and/or back) were reinforced, seam taped, or weather-resistant in some fashion, but it still hurt their rating here.
Ease of Setup
When you arrive at the campground late at night after a long and stressful week followed by a long and stressful drive, you want your tent ready to go. Some are extraordinarily intuitive to set up, while others reminded us of an adult-sized erector set. We weighed ease of setup at 15% of the overall scores.
The Caddis Rapid is designed to go up in under a minute and can easily be done by one person. With pre-attached poles, all you have to do is remove the tent from its bag, pull the poles out to their full length (at which point they'll snap to a firm hold), and proceed to enjoy your camping trip. It doesn't get much easier than this.
Of the top-scoring models, The North Face Wawona 6 is the easiest to set up. There is no extra fly to install, and the pole design is relatively easy for one person to raise. The design is simple, straightforward, and intuitive.
The REI Kingdom 6 gave us issues with the peak height of the tent, specifically attaching the clips on the tent to the highest points of the poles, but one had a solution.
The Kingdom 6 has a couple of small zippers in the ceiling of the tent that allows you to reach up and through from inside the tent to hook those otherwise hard to reach spots. It's a small touch, but one that makes a world of difference.
In general, the four-person tents we tested were easier to set up for what should be obvious reasons. You don't have to stretch to get to the apex of the tent or do your best parachute toss to get the fly over the top.
Among those four-person tents, the REI Camp Dome 4 was the easiest to set up. As a classic dome tent, anyone who has so much as seen a tent should be able to get their head around two poles going into opposite corners and meeting in the middle.
The North Face Homestead Super Dome 4 was a bit counterintuitive in its set up. It's a unique tent in a number of ways, most of them positive, but the way it carried over into the set up left us a little exasperated the first time we put it up. Simply put, it just doesn't follow the typical lines and designs that the majority of camping tents do, making it a bit of a puzzle at first. In fairness, we gave it a few more shots going up and down and found that the process definitely got easier as you became more familiar with it.
Things that made some tents more arduous to set up were multiples poles in different configurations and massive rain flies. The Marmot Limestone 6 has main tent poles that protrude and catch on the rain fly. The Eureka Boondocker Hotel 6 has a vast rain fly that demands multiple people, or a lot of patience, to get over the tent.
The overall quality of materials, design, and manufacturing give us a good idea of the long-term durability and shorter-term reliability of these tents. The workmanship is an important category to consider if you want your tent to last for more than one trip.
The REI Kingdom 6 features big, sturdy poles, a straightforward and sturdy design, and secure guyline attachments.
On the whole, we found the Big Agnes tents we tested to be the highest quality. The tent fabric was thick and burly, giving us confidence that small rocks and other woodland detritus wouldn't rip or put holes in the tent. The poles were thick and sturdy, meaning at the end of a trip we were still packing straight poles back into the storage bag and not sadly bowed ones. The tradeoff, of course, is that the Big Agnes tents also were at the top of the price range among tents we tested.
For the most part, you get what you pay for when it comes to outdoor gear. The Coleman tents are the cheapest and scored the lowest in this category. That's fine if you only camp a few times a year. However, if you plan to use a tent with a poor workmanship score regularly, expect things to start unraveling and breaking a lot sooner. An exception seems to be the Caddis Rapid 6. For nearly the same price as the Coleman options, it seems better made, and we think it will last longer.
You have to remember that these are family tents we're talking about here. They're not designed to be carried over hill and dale to a backcountry campsite many miles from your car. That being said, they also don't have to be bulky, unwieldy, or require your entire family and a team of Clydesdales to transport them from your car to your campsite. In general, we expect to have to carry these tents anywhere from just a few feet, to a few hundred feet. As such, we took each model's packed size into consideration, but not too heavily at only 5% of the overall weighting.
Despite not being the smallest, nor lightest tent we reviewed, the REI Kingdom 6 still managed a high score because its simple backpack design makes transporting it to and from the car very easy. It seems like such an obvious idea, and we're a little surprised more companies haven't copied it.
Big Agnes also scored well in packed size with the Titan 6 mtnGLO due to an innovative storage bag. It has two open pockets, one for the tent and one for the fly, that then fold over a sewn-in pole bag and an attached, zippered stake and guy line sack. Gone are the days of looking all over camp for those tiny bags.
Similarly, for an otherwise massive tent, the Eureka Boondocker Hotel 6 packs down into a duffel bag size, with two pouches and Velcroed pockets for the poles and stakes. They're not all attached, but still pretty handy.
The Marmot Limestone 6, and almost all of the four-person tents we tested have a more traditional, long, cylindrical storage bag with a closure that cinches at the end. You have to roll everything back up efficiently to get it back in the bag, but in all cases we found the bags to be somewhat oversized, so it's doable with a minimum of frustration.
The one exception to the standard, cylindrical bag design of our four-person tents, is The North Face Homestead Super Dome 4. In the end it's roughly the same size, but by having a cinched opening around the outer/upper edge of the bag there was no need to roll everything up while praying to whatever God you believe in that it would fit in the bag. More like a sleeping bag stuff sack, you could just push everything in, cinch the top tight, and be ready to head home.
While it's packed size is undoubtedly not petite, the slightly larger storage bag on the Caddis Rapid 6 Tent made the act of packing easier. There is no need for precise and exacting folding and rolling, and we don't have to wrestle, shove, push, pull, or otherwise fight tent, bag, and zipper to get it back in its home.
Similarly, the Coleman Dark Room Sundome 6 actually has a pull-tab across the bottom of the storage bag that expands the bag, immediately relieving any potential frustration of the tent not fitting easily back into the bag.
Finding the right tent can be a completely overwhelming task. There are seemingly endless features, designs, and options. We aim to narrow the myriad of choices down to the best tents currently on the market, test them thoroughly in all relevant areas, and provide you with a complete rundown so that you can make an informed purchase, hopefully ending up with the best tent for you, your family, and friends. Happy trails!
— Lyra Pierotti and Wes Berkshire