Over the past 9 years, we've tested over 30 different camping tents in pursuit of the best. In this 2020 review, we purchased 14 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.
The Best Camping Tents of 2020
Best Overall Camping Tent
REI Kingdom 6
The REI Kingdom 6 remains atop the rankings for yet another year, and for 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 opaque fabric as you head towards the back, offering wrap-around views on one side and privacy on the other; something made more pronounced when you attach the adjustable room divider. With an entirely mesh ceiling for 360-degree star-gazing, it's no wonder this champ retains its Editors' Choice crown
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. 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 impresses in nearly all of our testing metrics and just barely missed being the Editors' Choice. As it stands, it's our Top Pick for Usable Space because it keeps what the Kingdom 6 got rid of: the huge garage-like vestibule that nearly doubles the overall tent size. With adequate head height, it's large enough to unfold a table and chairs and have the gang hang out in 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 limits views, especially skyward, if you're a stargazer. 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
The Coleman Dark Room Sundome 6 is a tent that lives up to its marketing claims. The Dark Room technology works exactly as it sounds, providing a dark, cave-like interior that combats heat build-up and the intrusion of sunlight. 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. With 100 sq ft of floor space, it's got room for plenty of late sleepers, though keep in mind that there isn't a vestibule to throw your extra gear into and the interior pockets are extremely limited.
Despite being easy on the bucks, Coleman makes a burly product that you don't have to go easy on outdoors. The super thick polyethylene bathtub floor can withstand tons of trampling and less-than-ideal terrain, saving you from the need for a footprint (though one is always recommended). Without the blackout fly, the Sundome has two large mesh panels that offer sky-gazing views for everyone inside. So 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
Best Value for Fast Set-Up
Caddis Rapid 6
The rapid in the Caddis Rapid 6 is not hyperbole. It's The Roadrunner and The Flash combined in tent form. Like a pop-up shelter you see at farmer's markets and festivals, this tent has pre-attached, extension poles (with joint-like corners) that simply telescope out to "pop up" the tent in under a minute. One person, while blindfolded and hopping on one leg, could do it — it's that easy. 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.
What's not to boast about with the Rapid 6 is that the fly leaves much to be desired. 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
Best Value for Tall Folks
Eureka Copper Canyon LX 4
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, no more, no less.
That said, the pole design — while sturdy — feels anachronistic, as does the flap-like window closures which don't zip — they button. 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
Why You Should Trust Us
Our expert tester Rick Baraff is a former trip-crafts (outdoor excursions) counselor at 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 your average mega-camping store, and he's biting at the bit to get his barely toddling young twins out on their first extended camping adventure.
Our testing process began with rigorous market research before anything else. Once we narrowed down the field, we bought (yes bought) all the tents for months of rigorous testing. We weighed, scrutinized, and measured each tent before assessing each for comfort, weather resistance, ease of set-up, durability, and packed size. Rick tested these tents side-by-side in a variety of 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
Analysis and Test Results
We assessed the performance of 14 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
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. 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.
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 set-up with the Caddis Rapid 6.
Space and Comfort
As comfort is one of the most important considerations when purchasing a camping tent, this counted for 35% of the overall score for each. 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. 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 Kingdom 6, is the most comfortable tent in this review because it's capable of covering a broad range of camping scenarios and offers more than ample headroom (6' 3" max height) from front to back as well as space, ventilation, and storage. A removable room-divider, tons of pockets along both sidewalls, and additional stability, thanks to a recent redesign of the pole structure, make this Kingdom rule above all. You can even add an extra mud-room vestibule, though it will cost you extra.
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 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!
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 tumbling into a hotel room in the woods.
Going almost totally invisible with mesh, the multi-door Marmot Guest House 4 is a breezy, two-room affair that will have you fully communing with nature. There are four doors for ease of access and the super bomber fly provides amazing weather resistance and several extra vestibule spaces.
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 wall 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.
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.
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. Thus, weather resistance was worth 25% of the overall score of each tent.
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.
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.
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.
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 guy'ed, you could ride out a cloudbuster.
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 Guest House 4 is another honorable mention here. Although the base tent is almost 100% mesh and can't protect you from much more than bugs, the rainfly is incredibly robust and full-coverage. Like going from naked to suited up for the slopes, it's an impressive transition.
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.
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 scores.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 at a hardware/home fix-it store for a fraction of the cost of an official manufacturer's footprint.
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. 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 windows and doors of the Wawona 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 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.
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.
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 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.
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. Sure, you can hit your local big-box retailer, and for under $100 you can get something that resembles and even performs like a tent. You'll also be back shopping for a new one a lot sooner than if you just spent a little more the first time around. While we're not advocating taking out a second mortgage on your home to buy a tent, we are fans of quality gear that performs well season after season.
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 that has a backpack case is the Kingdom 6 (yet another reason it's top of the heap).
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.
While it's packed size is undoubtedly not petite, the slightly larger storage bag on the Rapid 6 make 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.
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.
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 though (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.
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!
— Rick Baraff