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Best Camping Tent of 2020

The Wawona 6, in an older colorway, looking majestic.
Photo: Chris McNamara
By Rick Baraff ⋅ Review Editor
Monday December 7, 2020
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Over the past 9 years, we've tested over 30 different camping tents in pursuit of the best. In this 2020 review, we purchased 13 of the top products for rigorous, side-by-side comparison. Our team has subjected them to Pacific Northwest rainstorms, California coastlines, the desert of Joshua Tree National Park, cold high-altitude nights, and, most recently, the wilds of North Texas. During our in-field tests, we paid careful attention to the transport, construction, and handy features of each tent, among other key metrics. From budget-friendly to family size to fully waterproof (and sometimes all at once), we've gathered all the information you'll need to find your ultimate home in the woods.

Top 13 Product Ratings

Displaying 6 - 10 of 13
 
Awards Best Buy Award Best Buy Award    
Price $144.79 at Amazon$299.95 at REI$549.98 at Amazon$299.00 at REI$315.58 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
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Pros Dark room technology, easy to set up, good price pointSuper easy set up and take down, spacious, higher quality than its direct competitorsDurable, tall, bombproofTall and roomy, lightweightLarge vestibule, simple, classic design
Cons Not as bombproof as higher-end tents, no frillsStill mainly a fair weather tent, bulky to carry and transportHeavy, no separate rainfly, not free standingDifficult pole set up, flimsyLow ceiling height, could use more interior storage
Bottom Line Simple, basic tent, with one big, stand-out featureA quality tent that goes up in mere secondsOn the heavier and more expensive side to say the least, but absolutely built to lastThis is a grand value for all your sporting venturesFor a simple, high-quality tent, this classic criss-cross design is recognizably comfortable
Rating Categories Coleman Dark Room Sundome 6 Caddis Rapid 6 6-Person Flex-Bow REI Grand Hut 4 Marmot Limestone 4
Space And Comfort (35%)
7
7
8
7
6
Weather Resistance (25%)
7
5
8
6
7
Ease Of Set Up (20%)
8
10
4
7
7
Durability (15%)
7
7
9
6
6
Packed Size (5%)
7
6
1
8
9
Specs Coleman Dark Room... Caddis Rapid 6 6-Person Flex-Bow REI Grand Hut 4 Marmot Limestone 4
Weight 16.1 lbs 19.6 lbs 65 lbs 13.7 lbs 11.3 lbs
Max Inside Height 6' 6' 8" 6' 6" 6' 3" 5' 1"
Floor Dimension 10' x 10' 10' x 10' 10' x 10' 8'4" x 7'2" 5'3" x 7'
Floor Area 100 sq ft 100 sq ft 100 sq ft 59.7 sq ft 36.75 sq ft
Seasons 3-season 3-season All-season 3-season 3-season
Windows 4 4 4 3 1
Pockets 4 4 Many (with organizer) 8 8
Number of Doors 1 1 2 2 2
Room Divider No No No No No
Vestibules 0 0 0 2 2
Vestibule Area N/A N/A 6' x 6' 6" awning 35 sq ft 21 sq ft
Packed Size 26.75" x 17.25" x 4.62" 9" x 50" 30" x 13" 24" x 10" x 10" 27.5" x 10"
Floor Materials Polyethylene 210D Polyester Taffeta 16 oz vinyl. Polyester reinforced, seamless 150D coated polyester 150D Polyester
Main Tent Materials Polyester ripstop/mesh 190D Polyester Taffeta/Mesh 8.5 oz Hydra-ShieldTM canvas Mesh 40D Polyester/mesh
Rainfly Materials Polyester 190D Polyester taffeta 10 oz Hydra-shieldTM canvas (ceiling) 75D coated polyester 68D Polyester taffeta
Number of Poles 2 1 2 upright, 2 ridge, 4 rod 1 hubbed 4
Pole Material Fiberglass Aluminum Spring steel tubing Aluminum Aluminum
Pole Diameter N/A 12 mm 1 in, 3/8 in N/A 12 mm
Extras Dark Room Technology Power Port and large gear loft Comes with additional poles for propping up the large awning. ceiling zippers to reach top clips Hidden key/phone pouch on fly

Best Overall Camping Tent


REI Kingdom 6


REI Kingdom 6
Editors' Choice Award

$499.00
at REI
See It

87
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Space and Comfort - 35% 10
  • Weather Resistance - 25% 8
  • Ease of Set-Up - 20% 8
  • Durability - 15% 8
  • Packed Size - 5% 7
Inside Height: 6' 3" | Floor Dimensions: 10' x 8' 4" (83.3 sq ft)
Fast and easy set-up
High ceiling and potential to divide into two rooms
Lots of pockets and burly stakes
Backpack-style carrying bag
Redesign takes away large garage vestibule
Vertical walls can be tricky in high direct wind

The REI Kingdom 6 remains atop the rankings for yet another year, and for a good reason. Not only has it been redesigned to make it even sturdier, but it retains its delightful interior height, burly stakes, pockets galore, tons of mesh for great views, and the option to divide the interior into two rooms. While the front end of the tent is primarily mesh, the walls gradually transform into an opaque fabric as you head towards the back, offering wrap-around views on one side and privacy on the other; this becomes even more pronounced when you attach the adjustable room divider. We also love its entirely mesh ceiling for 360-degree star-gazing.

Even with the unfortunate removal of the giant garage vestibule this tent used to come with (it's now a separate purchase), the Kingdom remains a well thought out design that can truly accommodate the six people it claims to hold. And, while a bit pricey, REI purchases are backed by a solid guarantee and a sweet dividend if you're a member. The bottom line is that the Kingdom has enough size, quality, and thoughtful touches to impress even the most expert campers — and it's also available in four- and eight-person models.

Read review: REI Kingdom 6

Best for Usable Space


The North Face Wawona 6


The North Face Wawona 6
Editors' Choice Award

$399 List
List Price
See It

83
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Space and Comfort - 35% 8
  • Weather Resistance - 25% 9
  • Ease of Set-Up - 20% 8
  • Durability - 15% 9
  • Packed Size - 5% 6
Inside Height: 6' 6" | Floor Dimensions: 10' x 8' 6" (85 sq ft)
Huge built-in vestibule
Integrated fly system
Excellent wind and rain protection
Fast setup time
Have to go outside to unzip side windows and air vents
Limited views on three sides

The North Face Wawona 6 impresses in nearly all of our testing metrics. It keeps what the Kingdom 6 got rid of: the huge garage-like vestibule that nearly doubles the overall tent size. The inside offers plenty of headroom and space to utilize a table and chairs for the gang to hang out in during inclement weather or for sun protection. This tent also offers top-notch weather protection and is relatively fast and easy to set up, even for just one person, because you don't have to wrangle with a separate fly (the tent and fly are integrated).

While the Wawona offers good ventilation with all the doors open, the single-wall design obstructs the views on three sides of the tent. If you want to have the fly off and fall asleep to the stars, you may want to look elsewhere. It's a fair tradeoff, though, because the weather protection is impressive and will set your mind at ease no matter what's happening outside. This is a beefy all-in-one basecamp that borrows its highly weather-resistant shape and design from TNF's more expedition-style tents. So while the Wawona lacks the openness and interior height found in the Kingdom 6, it will save you money while still providing an excellent vestibule for all your extended camp needs.

Read review: The North Face Wawona 6

Best Bang for the Buck


Coleman Dark Room Sundome 6


Coleman Dark Room Sundome 6
Best Buy Award

$144.79
(20% off)
at Amazon
See It

72
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Space and Comfort - 35% 7
  • Weather Resistance - 25% 7
  • Ease of Set-Up - 20% 8
  • Durability - 15% 7
  • Packed Size - 5% 7
Inside Height: 6' 0" | Floor Dimensions: 10' x 10' (100 sq ft)
Excellent UV blocking - stays cool and dark
Fast and easy setup
Inexpensive
Fiberglass poles feel creaky and like they might break
No frills interior with only two tiny pockets

The Coleman Dark Room Sundome 6 is a tent that lives up to its marketing claims. The Dark Room technology limits the greenhouse-style warming and light that often occurs during the day by creating a dark cave-like interior. Without the blackout fly, the Sundome has two large mesh panels that offer sky-gazing views for everyone inside. If you're not an early bird or you're living the festival life, this incredibly priced tent will be a welcome addition to your camping arsenal. It has a thick polyethylene bathtub styled floor, which provides increased durability from the terrain beneath. With 100 sq ft of floor space, it's got room for plenty of late sleepers.

The Sundome 6 is a well-made product at a reasonable price. Naturally, it does have some limitations. It does not have a vestibule to store extra gear, and it lacks organization amenities that become increasingly important as the number of people increase. This tent provides an amazing value and worth considering as your next 6-person camping tent. Grab this tent if you like to sleep in late or get out of the hot midday sun for an afternoon nap, and know that you'll have plenty of bucks left over for beer and snacks.

Read review: Coleman Dark Room Sundome 6

Great Value for Fast Set-Up


Caddis Rapid 6


Caddis Rapid 6
Best Buy Award

$299.95
at REI
See It

71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Space and Comfort - 35% 7
  • Weather Resistance - 25% 5
  • Ease of Set-Up - 20% 10
  • Durability - 15% 7
  • Packed Size - 5% 6
Inside Height: 6' 8" | Floor Dimensions: 10' x 10' (100 sq ft)
Super quick set up
Roomy
Plenty of pockets and storage space
Nearly full fly is better than close competitor's
Packed size is bulky
Susceptible to heavy wind if not staked
Door is exposed in rain

The rapid in the Caddis Rapid 6 is not hyperbole. It is one of the quickest tents to set up. It is designed like a pop-up tent you may see at a farmers market or at other outside events. This tent has pre-attached extension poles (with joint-like corners) that telescope out to "pop up" the tent in under a minute. It also boasts a roomy interior with a tall sky-view ceiling, handy storage pockets, a clip-on gear loft, and an electric cord access port built into the wall.

One area for improvement with the Rapid 6 is the fly. The fly's general design left are testers looking for more. It not only fails to reach the ground on the sides it tries to cover, but it leaves the front door vulnerable to rain — there's only a very small overhang to keep the elements at bay. That said, if you don't camp in a super drippy locale, we think you'll be fine. What sets the Rapid 6 apart and justifies the slightly higher price tag (though not by much) is, of course, the crazy fast setup. If the idea of taking 10 or 20 minutes to set up your tent makes you not want to camp in the first place, this fairly priced option might be right up your alley.

Read review: Caddis Rapid 6

Great Value for Tall Folks


Eureka Copper Canyon LX 4


Eureka Copper Canyon LX 4
Best Buy Award

$260 List
List Price
See It

64
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Space and Comfort - 35% 8
  • Weather Resistance - 25% 4
  • Ease of Set-Up - 20% 7
  • Durability - 15% 6
  • Packed Size - 5% 6
Inside Height: 7' 0" | Floor Dimensions: 8' x 8' (64 sq ft)
Spacious with super tall headroom
Small packed size
Good ventilation plus sky view top mesh
Simple entry-level tent
Heavy poles and odd structure system
Wonky window covers

The Eureka Copper Canyon LX 4 is an affordable godsend for taller folks that are tired of constantly having to crouch inside a tent. It doesn't offer a lot in the way of innovation but makes up for this with its airy interior height of 7', more than adequate floor space, and a few handy features like a power cord port. Words that kept coming up in our tests were things like "old school," and "classic," and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Eureka doesn't get carried away with overthinking the camping experience here; it's simple and effective.

A few design characteristics feel outdated, like the poles and button window closures. The poles themselves are quite sturdy but lack the modernization found in other tent poles. This isn't the tent to choose if you live and camp in an area with a lot of variable weather — it's just not meant for downpours and windstorms. But, once you master the setup, you'll be able to literally jump for joy inside this easy, breezy, mild-mannered (and mild-weather-friendly) tent, and you won't have maxed out your credit card in the process.

Read review: Eureka Copper Canyon LX 4


The diverse range of car/family camping tents we tested.
The diverse range of car/family camping tents we tested.
Photo: Rick Baraff

Why You Should Trust Us


Our expert tester Rick Baraff is a former trip-crafts (outdoor excursions) counselor at an overnight camp, a globetrotting adventure sports cinematographer, and a longtime multi-sport athlete who's raced in many of the world's most grueling adventure races and ultra-marathons where half the fun is getting to find, scrutinize, test, and put through the wringer just about every type of outdoor gear available. His garage is full of more stuff than you can imagine, and he's biting at the bit to get his barely toddling young twins out on their first extended camping adventure.

Before we could begin testing, we put hours into extensive market research to ensure we included the best products available today. After selecting the most promising candidates, we purchased all the tents for our rigorous side-by-side testing. We measured, weighed, and inspected each tent before we assessed each across a strategic set of metrics. These metrics include comfort, weather resistance, ease of set up, durability, and packed size. Rick tested these tents side-by-side in various Texas-sized conditions and locations where they were up against plenty of heat, wind, sun, and rain. The findings of this process are discussed in detail below, so read on!

Related: How We Tested Camping Tents

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Analysis and Test Results


We assessed the performance of 13 popular camping tents by subjecting them to wind, rain, sun, heat, cold, late nights, early mornings, and backyard adventures. 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

Value


This is where high-quality meets the impact on your bank account. We tested a wide range of camping tents across the quality versus price spectrum. 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.


Our top two 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 some unique features for one of the lowest costs with the Coleman Sundome 6, an amazing space for tall folks with the Copper Canyon LX 4, and lightning-fast setup with the Caddis Rapid 6.

Roomy 10' x 10' floor of the Coleman Sundome 6.
Roomy 10' x 10' floor of the Coleman Sundome 6.
Photo: Rick Baraff

Space and Comfort


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 and s'mores. Either way, space is one of the most important aspects to consider when purchasing a new tent. 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.


The Kingdom 6 is the most comfortable tent in this review. It's versatile toward a variety of camping situations and has ample headroom, with a height of 6'3". It offers adequate ventilation, storage, and overall space. The Kingdom has some awesome organizational features like a removable room-divider and tons of pockets along both sidewalls. Lastly, the new pole structure provides enhanced stability. Each one of the above components makes this Kingdom rule above all. You can even add on a mud-room vestibule, though it will cost you extra.

Dawn at the Kingdom. Front door and fly on the Kingdom 6.
Dawn at the Kingdom. Front door and fly on the Kingdom 6.
Photo: Rick Baraff

The Wawona 6 came in just behind the Kingdom for comfort. A completely different single-wall, all-in-one base camp featuring an oversized, built-in vestibule, what it lacks in views it makes up for with excellent weather resistance and total covered space. The three large doors and four windows/vents help with air circulation and will keep you comfortable on warm days — just don't expect to lie back and gaze at the stars from inside; you can't. Regardless, the usable space inside this beaute makes up for fewer sky views, especially if you end up having to wait out a storm or two.

The backside of the well-crafted, fairly roomy, very weather-proof...
The backside of the well-crafted, fairly roomy, very weather-proof Wawona 6.
Photo: Rick Baraff

The Sundome 6 offers darkroom technology designed to keep the interior of the tent much darker and cooler than most other tents in direct sunlight; a noteworthy feature for those who appreciate sleeping in or just not getting pounded with early morning or afternoon sun rays. The Rapid 6 is also comfortable in warmer weather due to its high ceiling and literally sets up in under a minute, adding to a comfortable experience!

Hey, it's dark in here! The cool interior of the Sundome 6.
Hey, it's dark in here! The cool interior of the Sundome 6.
Photo: Rick Baraff

It's worth pointing out that some of the more unique tents we tested offer specific features that have tons of merit in terms of versatility. For example, the Big Agnes Big House 6 can double as a sun/rain shade by merely removing the tent and leaving the exoskeleton and rainfly. We can see people at music festivals or larger get-togethers enjoying this feature. The hitch, however, is that you can't set up the tent if you have the rainfly in sunshade mode because it uses the same poles.

Similarly, for sheer size alone, the Kodiak Canvas scored very well for comfort and space. With 100 square feet inside the unique, soft (but super-tough) canvas, a front awning that provides a huge amount of shade, and some cool pocket/gear loft options, it's like stumbling into a hotel room in the woods.

Welcome home. The massive front awning on the Kodiak Canvas tent.
Welcome home. The massive front awning on the Kodiak Canvas tent.
Photo: Rick Baraff

It's definitely worth noting tents for the taller crowd because people over six feet like to be happy campers, too, right? Tall interiors or more vertical walls contribute to making a tent feel roomy and comfy. With peak heights at seven feet (!) in the Copper Canyon LX and well beyond six feet in the REI Grand Hut 4 and Kodiak Canvas, we found some superb options for the taller set who like to be able to stand up straight without a kink in their neck. These tents all have vertical (or near-vertical) walls meaning that peak height will extend out beyond the absolute center of the tent.

The tall profile of the Grand Hut 4 where the top half is all mesh...
The tall profile of the Grand Hut 4 where the top half is all mesh for views and the bottom half is opaque for privacy.
Photo: Rick Baraff

Floor Plans
Be sure to check out the floor plan images with each tent, in case you need specific sleeping arrangements or patterns. Most of these tents say they sleep six, but that is six packed in like sardines. If you use a roomy sleeping bag or a good-sized air mattress, you can usually only sleep four adults comfortably in a "six-person" tent.

Behold the sky! Looking up inside the Kingdom 6. There are opaque...
Behold the sky! Looking up inside the Kingdom 6. There are opaque white sidewalls towards the back and full mesh sidewalls towards the front.
Photo: Rick Baraff

Weather Resistance


When we consider the weather resistance of each model, we look at more than if these tents will keep us dry in the rain. Cold, wind, and even snow happen too. We know that not every weekend turns out bluebird and balmy, and you'd rather be cozy and protected than shivering and miserable. People go outside in all types of weather, and you often need a tent that can keep up the "Happy Camper" experience, no matter what.


The Wawona scored the highest here due to its aerodynamic design, solid guy lines, and burly poles. It also has the best and biggest vestibule for hanging out and cooking during storms. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Coleman Sundome crushed the competition when it came to keeping cool in the hot summer sun.

Ground to ceiling view inside the Wawona.  Because of the single...
Ground to ceiling view inside the Wawona. Because of the single wall design in which the fly is integrated with the tent, there is practically zero star/sky gazing in here, though you will be very protected from the elements should things get nasty.
Photo: Rick Baraff

The Kodiak Canvas Flex-Bow is the Cadillac of weather resisters. The soft yet super tough "custom woven marine-grade canvas" has a "silicone, dry-finish treatment that is watertight, breathable, and durable" (quotes directly from Kodiak and confirmed by us). Not only does this tent have the thickest walls of the group by far, which keeps the elements truly at a distance, but this helps keep the interior temps regulated by blocking both wind and hot sun rays too.

The back door/window combo on the Flex-Bow. The right side unzips...
The back door/window combo on the Flex-Bow. The right side unzips completely so you can get in/out while the left panel is a tall mesh window with a zip covering for when the weather turns south.
Photo: Rick Baraff

As for our top-scorer, the REI Kingdom 6 is a big part of the resistance in our group. With a redesigned structure that adds a factor of stability (now five full, beefy poles reach to lock this to the ground and provide support) and a rainfly that will hold off anything less than a full tropical storm, we felt safe and sound versus the precipitation. The slight knocks are that this is a tall and wide-sided tent which can catch some wind if not staked taught and that the fly doesn't cover the window at the back door or provide any overhang so that you can get in/out without getting too much water inside.

The fly stops here. The uncovered back door of the Kingdom 6...
The fly stops here. The uncovered back door of the Kingdom 6. Weather-resistance relies on the door and window cover.
Photo: Rick Baraff

Another mentionable resister is the Big Agnes Bunk House 4. While the underlying tent is just a smaller version of the Big House 6, the smaller volume makes this tougher to knock over, and the amazingly versatile and burly rainfly goes well beyond what's on the Big House. You get another strong, high-grade aluminum pole for added structure and safety (and space) when you put the fly on. When everything is properly staked and guyed, you could ride out a cloudbuster.

All hatches battened on the super fly of the Bunk House 4.
All hatches battened on the super fly of the Bunk House 4.
Photo: Rick Baraff

Marmot's Halo 6 also brings considerable flight to the resistance movement. Not only does the dome shape help keep the wind from hitting anything broadside, but, like the Bunk House, you get an extra pole that goes through the front vestibule for extra stability and the protection of a full-coverage, almost four-season fly to cover what is generally considered a (mild) three-season tent.

The full-coverage rain fly on the Halo 6 with its roomy rear...
The full-coverage rain fly on the Halo 6 with its roomy rear vestibule.
Photo: Rick Baraff

Stake It Out
Wind resistance often comes down to how well you stake down a tent and use guy lines to keep it taught. Unless you're assured of a balmy, windless night, staking out the guy lines as you set up your tent is a good habit to get into as it will keep you from scrambling around (and likely getting soaked) when bad weather hits. For most tents, we highly recommend buying extra cord, burlier stakes, and a mallet.

Rain on the Marmot Halo 6.
Rain on the Marmot Halo 6.
Photo: Rick Baraff

Ease of Set-Up


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 set up to be as pleasant as possible. Some tents are extraordinarily intuitive to pitch, while others remind us of something Rube Goldberg or MC Escher would design. We weighted ease of set-up (which looks at both setting up and getting everything back into the carry case) at 20% of the overall evaluation.


At the giddy-with-glee end of the spectrum is the Caddis Rapid, which is designed to go up in under a minute and can easily be done by one person. With pre-attached, telescoping poles, all you have to do is remove the tent from its carry case, flip out the pole joints (they invert to get into the case), and telescope the four legs out until they click into place. Voila! Seriously. From there, simply proceed to enjoy your camping trip. It doesn't get much easier than this.

Intermediary stage of setting up the Rapid 6, just after you've...
Intermediary stage of setting up the Rapid 6, just after you've flipped out the poles and propped them so you can start to slide them to full extension.
Photo: Rick Baraff

In a complete reversal of camping fortune, you might actually have your kids fighting over who gets to put up the Coleman Instant Cabin! Not only is it kid-friendly in size (less than 5' of headspace inside, and not much taller overall), but it shares almost identical instant set up structure to the Caddis. Meaning, this thing is up and ready in about the same time it takes to sit down and crack that beer to watch them.

The Instant Cabin in all it's 4' 11" tall glory.
The Instant Cabin in all it's 4' 11" tall glory.
Photo: Rick Baraff

Of the other top-scoring models, the Wawona 6 is among the easiest to set up. There is no extra fly to hot potato-toss up and over the top (it's integrated already!), and the pole design is relatively easy for one person to raise. The design is simple, straightforward, and mostly intuitive once you get it laid out properly.

Locked and loaded. The Wawona 6 in full set up mode. A single wall...
Locked and loaded. The Wawona 6 in full set up mode. A single wall design in which the fly is integrated with the tent meaning no extra tussling with a separate fly.
Photo: Rick Baraff

Because the Kingdom 6 is especially tall from the outside, attaching the clips to the poles at the highest points would be impossible without a step-ladder or a basketball player in your group. But REI thought of this, and thus, the Kingdom has a couple of small zippers in the ceiling of the tent to allow you to reach up and through from inside the tent to attach these hooks. It's a small touch, but one that makes a world of difference.

Ceiling zippers in the top of the tent make attaching those high...
Ceiling zippers in the top of the tent make attaching those high, hard-to-reach clips super easy.
Photo: Berkshire

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. Both the Sundome 6 and the Marmot Halo 6 are straightforward and easy to pitch, even if you're setting up when the light is waning.

A lot off the top. The mesh ceiling panels on the Coleman Sundome...
A lot off the top. The mesh ceiling panels on the Coleman Sundome run to the apex and offer very good views along with the breeze.
Photo: Rick Baraff

Footprints Are Your Friend
Make sure to seriously consider buying a ground cover — a.k.a. "footprint" — for your tent and laying this out first. It not only helps keep moisture and mud off the underside of your tent (thus making re-packing a much more pleasant task while helping it remain dryer while you're snuggled inside), it helps your tent last longer from abrasion. Most manufacturers sell separate footprints (usually made of the same material as the tent) designed to fit the exact floor size of each of their tents. Besides the extra cost, it's a great thing to take along. The savvy camper's "best friend" is a cheap plastic tarp-like something you'd throw down to paint your living room and which you can pick up for a fraction of the cost of an official manufacturer's footprint.

Durability


The overall quality of materials, design, and manufacturing gives us a good idea of the long-term durability and shorter-term reliability of these tents. Quality is an important element to consider if you want your tent to last for more than one trip. For the most part, you get what you pay for when it comes to outdoor gear.


As the Wawona 6 is a single-wall design, the material is a good degree thicker than all the double-wall tents in our review and thus inherently a few degrees higher in durability. Though it might seem two walls are better than one, and they are for versatility, they're often thinner. Additionally, the Wawona's windows and doors are a thicker mesh weave and have limited exposure to the outside (as opposed, say, to the Grand Hut, which is all exposed mesh on the top half). And the poles! If only the detached garage behind your house were built with these instead of those rotting boards…

The burly structure of the single-walled Wawona 6.
The burly structure of the single-walled Wawona 6.
Photo: Rick Baraff

The Kodiak Canvas almost needs its own category of durability. As it's a super thick (a few millimeters), weather-treated canvas, it's a completely different beast than anything else in our review. Branches, rocks, paddles, frisbees — even your children — are going to bounce off these walls. This is the type of tent you actually gift to your next generation in a formal ceremony.

Back door and window on the Kodiak Flex-Bow, a marvel of old...
Back door and window on the Kodiak Flex-Bow, a marvel of old school-feeling design.
Photo: Rick Baraff

The Kingdom 6 features a recently redesigned set of sturdy poles and a thick, durable fly that will keep you warm and dry. This redesign was a nice improvement on the craft and durability, renewing our faith that this is a tent that can last the long haul.

Some of the reinforced crisscross pole structure atop the Kingdom 6.
Some of the reinforced crisscross pole structure atop the Kingdom 6.
Photo: Rick Baraff

On the whole, we found the Big Agnes tents we tested to be the highest quality even if sometimes over-designed with regards to cosmetics. The tent fabric and solid seams gave us confidence that small rocks and other woodland detritus wouldn't rip holes in the tent. The pre-bent poles (they're shaped to help maximize interior space at the corners) are thick and sturdy and easily stood up to wrangling them around the campsite. The tradeoff is that these tents also are at the top of the price range among tents we tested.

The Bunk House 4 is a well-constructed tent with a fun welcome mat...
The Bunk House 4 is a well-constructed tent with a fun welcome mat and lots of pockets.
Photo: Rick Baraff

The cheaper tents in our review did indeed tend to score lower in this category. That's fine if you only camp a few times a year. However, if you plan to use your camping tent regularly, expect things to start unraveling and breaking a lot sooner. An exception seems to be the Rapid 6. For a very fair price, it is decently well-made, and we think it will last through quite a few seasons, at least. The Sundome 6 is also quite burly, considering its amazingly low price point.

One of the simple pockets inside the Coleman Sundome.
One of the simple pockets inside the Coleman Sundome.
Photo: Rick Baraff

Consider The Long-Term Investment
Unless you're only planning on going camping once or twice a year on an idyllic beach, it's worth taking the long view when it comes to the quality — and often thus the price — of your tent. We are fans of quality gear that performs well season after season.

Packed Size


Remember that these are family-sized 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 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 figure you'll need 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 as it certainly contributes to your Happy Camper Experience — especially when packing the car/camper/truck — but not too heavily: we only gave 5% of the overall score to this metric because in this category you're not thinking about how many packs of ramen noodles you have to sacrifice in your backpack to haul the tent along.


Despite not being the smallest nor lightest tents we reviewed, the Big Agnes offerings (Bunk House 4 and Big House 6), earn top scores here because of their great backpack carry cases. These packs feature a zip-open clamshell design that has a number of large, easy-to-use pockets for each component of the tent (fly, poles, stakes, etc.). They totally reminded us of those handy school backpacks with all the organizer compartments! And because the pockets are a bit oversized, you don't need to be an expert in origami to get everything back inside for the hike out. Slinging them on like a backpack makes transporting them to and from the car — even long distances — very easy. It seems like such an obvious idea, and we're a little surprised more companies haven't copied it. The only other tent in this review with a backpack case is the Kingdom 6 (yet another reason it's at the top of the heap).

We love the plush and roomy backpack-style carrying case of this Big...
We love the plush and roomy backpack-style carrying case of this Big Agnes tent.
Photo: Rick Baraff

Other options we appreciate are the Copper Canyon with its dual-zip shoulder-strap laden travel bag and the Marmot Limestone 4 with its tried-and-true stuff sack. Both of these are four-person tents, so it's no surprise that they score a bit better here as there's physically less tent to hoist around and into a bag.

The classic-style stuff sack carry case of the Limestone 4. Jam on.
The classic-style stuff sack carry case of the Limestone 4. Jam on.
Photo: Rick Baraff

While its packed size is undoubtedly not petite, the slightly larger storage bag on the Rapid 6 makes the act of packing easier. There is no need for precise and exacting folding and rolling, and you don't have to wrestle, shove, push, pull, or otherwise fight tent, bag, and zipper to get it back in its home.

The very long case of the Rapid 6 tent.
The very long case of the Rapid 6 tent.
Photo: Rick Baraff

Similarly, the 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 inside. Sometimes the little things can make all the difference.

The expandable carry case for the Coleman Sundome.
The expandable carry case for the Coleman Sundome.
Photo: Rick Baraff

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the minivan-sized Kodiak Canvas Flex-Bow, which at a whopping 68 lbs is like bringing a whole other family member along. The weight absolutely plays into how well-built and tough the tent is once you wrestle it to the right spot (please park as close as possible!), but if you get one, make sure it's the first item on your list of things to pack in your vehicle because it's not the thing you're just gonna toss on top at the end.

The boulder-like Flex-Bow 6P comes in two cases because it's so...
The boulder-like Flex-Bow 6P comes in two cases because it's so heavy: poles in one, tent in the other. Leaning against the tree at back left is the Big Agnes Big House for size comparison.
Photo: Rick Baraff

Conclusion


With so many players, so many designs, and so many sizes on the market, finding the right tent can be a completely overwhelming task. There are seemingly endless features and options that can enhance (or potentially ruin) your Happy Camper Experience. We aim to help narrow the myriad choices down to the best camping tents currently on the market. We tested them thoroughly in all relevant areas and then provide you with a complete rundown so that you can make an informed purchase — one that will hopefully end with the best home-away-from-home for you, your family, and your best friends. Happy trails!

Happy Camping!
Happy Camping!
Photo: Rick Baraff

Rick Baraff