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Looking for the perfect camping tent? We've got you. Since 2012, our team has reviewed close to 250 tents, including the top 17 car camping options in this review. See which ones stood up to our rigorous testing as we take you on a deep dive into the inner workings of the tent market. We put these tents to the test across some pretty rugged terrain and, most recently, the complicated environment of a family, teenagers, and two moderately trained dogs. With the help of our years of experience, we've gathered all the information you'll need to pick the perfect tent for your next outdoor adventure.
Our in-depth reviews also encompass all the camping gear you need to set up the ultimate base camp. Starting bright and early, we have you covered with a portable camp stove and a top-rated camping coffee maker to get breakfast cranking. While this review focuses on car camping, we have also tested some of the best backpacking gear for those interested in ditching the car and the crowds. To find more tents, see our review covering the best tents of all kinds.
Editor's Note: We updated this review on May 3, 2023, to add in new options from Nemo, REI, Marmot, and Snow Peak, as well as new information after retesting two updated favorites from Marmot and The North Face.
Are you a camper with a hobby? Then this is your camping tent. The North Face Wawona 6, a long-standing favorite in this review, is the perfect basecamp for mountain bikers, rock climbers, anglers, hunters, or anyone packing lots of gear that needs to be protected. Why? The vestibule is like a two-bike garage. The main tent packs an additional 85 square feet, creating a truly remarkable living space. The Wawona has you covered, and all for a very fair price.
All this space does make a few things less straightforward. Setting up the rain fly and garage in the moderate wind isn't as intuitive as it could be. The North Face went with a pin-and-circle locking mechanism that requires some effort to lock, and because of the height and length of this tent, the guylines are a requirement unless you enjoy watching your tent sail away into the sunset. That said, once this tent is set up, it is massive, comfortable, and withstood some howling winds and rainy nights in Joshua Tree with ease. With some of the best usable space and an excellent price point, the Wawona has been an award winner year after year with good reason.
The REI Co-op Skyward 4 is the perfect amount of features, space, and ease of use for the money. You get a lightweight setup that still has 6'6" ceilings, and you also get a built-in 19.5 square foot vestibule with optional awning capability. These two things alone provide great family-friendly options or spacious couples camping. Add in some good storage options and adequate ventilation, and you really can't go wrong with this tent made by a brand well-known for quality.
Now, this is still an entry-level tent that has its flaws. Most notably, the tiny hat of a rainfly is troublesome to attach, and the bag is too small to fit the tent back in without really working at it. If you can look past these issues and a few other minor ones, you will find a great value tent that will outlast many at this price point.
The REI Co-op Base Camp 6 is a great choice for those looking to dip their toes into colder, windier, and rainier adventures. With a sturdy 4-pole structure and thick, strong materials, this tent is ready to take on the harsh world of both teenagers and bad weather camping. And thanks to a 27-square-foot front vestibule, you'll have options to cook and store your gear safely out of the elements. You can always count on REI tents to have boatloads of pockets, great headroom, and a clean aesthetic style — the Base Camp boasts all of that and more.
Unlike most REI tents, though, the Base Camp 6 sides and doors are not open mesh. This means no nice views while lying down, and you can expect to be fairly toasty on warm days if you're hanging out inside. There are, however, some half-zip coverings on the doors to give you a little extra view. All in all, this is a great option for those needing a well-priced weather-ready shelter. Snag this tent for your next stay in the rainy Pacific Northwest or the thunderstorm-prone Rocky Mountains.
Looking for a spacious and high-quality camping tent but don't want a massive setup? The MSR Habitude 4 is a great choice. This stylish tent is not only light (12 pounds) and compact, it's also built with top-of-the-line materials and is both tall (6' 1" in the middle) and spacious (62.4 square feet). On top of that, it features unique touches like a porch light, a large vestibule, and great ventilation.
Although there are many positives to the Habitude 4, it isn't perfect. Some flaws include a single door that requires two zippers to open, a light that doesn't come with a battery, and an awkward bag. Those minor things aside, this tent outscored all other 4-person tents in our lineup.
The Nemo Aurora Highrise 6 is the complete package. It packs loads of space and features into a stylish and functional design. This tent fits a twin and two singles with room to spare, and with a max height of 6' 5", you can add jumping jacks to your morning indoor camp routine. But the list keeps going. From the dual vestibules to the super large front door to great privacy options and a fun floor design, you will be hard-pressed to find a tent that pairs form and function better.
On the flip side (because every coin has two sides), the Highrise is a bit complicated to set up the first time — though it does get easier as you learn. Still, you'll want two people for the job. We also wish there were more pockets and that the windows were better designed. Perhaps Nemo will address some of these things in a future update, but even if they don't, this is a great tent that we don't foresee you being disappointed with.
The Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 3 is the perfect choice if you are looking for a versatile tent that can be used at the campsite or lugged up a hill for a short backpacking trip. It's also great as a solid backup, sitting in the garage ready to toss into the car with a moment's notice. We pitched it in an impressive 4 min 30 seconds and have improved on that time as we've learned the design. This tent has an all-mesh build for fantastic views, and the fly can be configured in multiple ways allowing for both scenery and quick protection from the weather at any time.
The included footprint adds additional value to this well-constructed tent. The mesh is 40D polyester, the tub floor is 68D ripstop polyester, and the poles are DAC Pressfit aluminum. The interior square footage is small, but dual vestibules help to keep everything you don't need for sleeping in its own area. And while very lightweight, you'll sacrifice headroom in the tradeoff. Overall, this tent is small but mighty and a great addition to any campers toolbox, depending on your needs.
To get ready for this review, we scoured the internet, read personal accounts, and dug into bloggers' and YouTubers' thoughts on the best tents on the market. After selecting the most promising options, we purchased 16 of the best camping tents on the market and got to work. We measured, weighed, and inspected each before carting them out to the woods and desert for proper testing. We tested them side-by-side in various Lake Tahoe area locations, in the hot and harsh conditions of Joshua Tree National Park, and in the ripping wind of Reno, NV. Our team conducted more than 60 individual tests to help you find the perfect tent to match your needs and budget.
Our in-depth testing process of camping tents breaks down into five rating metrics:
Space and Comfort (35% of overall score weighting)
Weather Resistance (25% weighting)
Ease of Use (15% weighting)
Family Friendliness (15% weighting)
Quality (10% weighting)
The center of any great outdoor adventure is basecamp. And having the best camping tent is a crucial part of that (in addition to good food and good people.) Our head tester Rob Gaedtke put these tents to the test so that you can choose your next home-away-from-home with confidence. Rob is no stranger to the outdoors or adventure. He has raced across India, done an IronMan in Mexico, and Jeeped through the African safari. He is also a rock climber, backpacker, and avid camper. Over the past 20 years, Rob has set up hundreds of basecamps across various terrain. We took this experience, coupled with a rigorous and detailed testing plan, and got to work finding a diverse set of tents for consideration.
Analysis and Test Results
We put these camping tents up against the elements, battling kids, wind, dogs, dirt, heat, and a very opinionated husband and wife team. From setup and breakdown to weather resistance and durability to the quality of the space for both hanging out and sleeping, we put these products through a lot to help you find your best match.
Value here is all about getting the most tent for the least cash — or at least what feels like a fair amount of cash. We like to see a solid balance of performance and price. As a general rule, when the price goes up in the tent world, so does the performance, though there are some notable exceptions.
A notable contender for value in the 4-person tents goes to the Marmot Limestone 4, which performed well yet still falls a bit lower on the price spectrum. But hands down, the best bang for your buck is the REI Co-op Skyward 4. This tent is the perfect mix of space, height, quality, and ease of use. Another value-packed camping tent is the Kelty Wireless 6. We rarely find a quality 6-person tent at a price point this low.
On the flip side, if you are looking for a small but extremely versatile tent, the Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 3 packs tons of value into a little package. And when you consider that this one tent can be used for both short backpacking trips and car camping, the value just increases.
Once you step down into the lower price ranges, things start to get a little more complicated. We would be remiss if we didn't give a huge value nod to the Coleman 4-Person Cabin with Instant Setup. This little tent is cheap, sturdy, and a great option to put up with only a moment's notice.
Space and Comfort
This is arguably the most important category when it comes to car camping. When your campsite is only a few yards away from your trunk, a little extra weight in exchange for better comfort and space is an easy choice. For this metric, we looked at the overall footprint of each tent, including the vestibule space. We checked the height and headroom, doors and windows, and the general airflow with and without the rainfly. And finally, we looked at pockets, clips, and storage options.
Let's dive into The North Face Wawona 6 first. When you combine the spacious and tall interior (6' 6" max height and 85 square feet of floor space) with the large double-doored vestibule (and additional 44.7 square feet), you have a comfortable masterpiece. The new design also allows the Wawona to be used without the vestibule, adding a great option for warm-weather camping. We also love the tall, full-sized door feature that allows you to enter without ducking.
The Nemo Aurora Highrise 6 also receives great marks here. With 83.3 square feet of floor and a super tall interior measuring 6' 5" plus two vestibules, this tent can provide both space and comfort for a family of four, all sleeping on air mattresses. The overall pocket count could be better, but it is adequate, and there are loads of hanging options.
There are a few other tents that scored respectability in this category. The Big Agnes Bunk House 6 has a max height of 6' 9" and offers a unique shelter option giving you more versatility. But the tallest tent in our lineup is the Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6 with a 7' tall clearance. And, thanks to the near-vertical sidewalls, that height isn't just in the center.
The REI Co-op Base Camp 6 is notable for its roomy vestibule and large, well-designed interior space. These tents make great use of space while providing outstanding comfort.
We don't often see a 4-person tent score so high in this category, let alone two. The MSR Habitude 4 and REI Co-op Skyward 4 both have just enough room, features, and comforts to rise to the top. The Habitude offers 62.4 square feet of floor space, a perfectly sized vestibule, and seven pockets, making this tent worth a look for those not interested in setups for 6+ people. The Skyward has a 6' 6" height profile and a larger-than-normal, built-in vestibule.
Be sure to review the floor plan images for a tent before committing. If you are like us, you have air mattresses and chairs that you would like to use inside, so the floor plan can help you map it out. And remember, most of these tents say they sleep a particular number, but that is usually elbow to elbow.
Both the Big Anges Bunk House 6 and The North Face Wawona 6 have massive outside storage areas. These tents offer great storage and covered cooking and cleaning stations, and they are plenty big enough to handle loads of gear.
Getting wet, poles breaking in the wind, and roasting in the hot sun. These are all deal-breakers when camping, especially if you have children. So for the weather resistance category, we considered all of the following: hot day options, cold day options, rainfly coverage, aerodynamic-ness, stakes, poles, and guylines. We tested these in a mix of real-world situations and fabricated ones, thanks to a sprinkler rig and backpack blower. We got these tents hot, cold, wet, and winded. Here is how they stood up.
We put the Marmot Limestone 4 up against the wicked hot days of the southern California desert and the windy nights of Reno, NV. Its shape held up perfectly to both, and the full-covered rainfly kept everything dry. Two extra poles on the tent's roof add just enough extra height to feel open without turning it into a flat-walled sail.
The REI Base Camp 6 is the only camping tent in our lineup rated for 4-seasons, so, as you might imagine, this tent packs that extra girth needed for winter camping. The classic dome shape, paired with two extra poles for strength, instills confidence that, should the worst come, you are in good hands. But this tent isn't just good in cold weather — ditching the rain fly exposes adequate star gazing, and the door covers can be zipped down halfway for more airflow. That said, we wouldn't plan on taking this tent anywhere too hot.
Breaking the dome shape mold but still scoring top points are the MSR Habitude 4 and Snow Peak Alpha Breeze. Thd Habitude is very capable in both hot and cold weather. And while a touch on the broadside, the included guylines and slanted vestibule face make this tent very wind worthy. The Alpha Breeze sports thick canvas and a robust A-frame-inspired design — features made to handle the elements with ease. It also has super thick poles, metal guylines, and a whopping 20 stakes. Bad weather, watch out.
Several other tents scored among the best in the weather resistance category. The Wawona 6 rainfly only covers the side mesh a little bit, allowing for moisture to sneak through in windy situations, but it remains a burly tent in every other way. One of the more surprising tents to score so well in this category is the very tall REI Co-op Wonderland 4. Thanks to a ridiculous amount of stakes and guylines, this tent holds strong in bad weather, and with the large mesh top and large side vents, the tent breaths quite well.
Stake It Out
Wind resistance often comes down to how well you stake down a tent and use the guylines to keep it taught. Unless you're assured of a balmy, windless night, staking out the guylines as you set up is a good habit to get into as it will keep you from scrambling around (and likely getting soaked) if bad weather hits. We highly recommend buying an extra cord, burlier stakes, and a mallet for most tents.
Ease of Use
Setting up and tearing down camp can make or break your trip. We have all been there, rolling into camp at 11 pm, tired and ready to relax — the last thing you want is a fight with your tent or your partner about the tent. We took one for the team here and got the frustration out so you can be prepared. We also noted whether each tent easily fit back into its bag, the total packed size, and the packed weight.
Before digging in further, we should point out that any tent you pitch enough times will get easier. However, we made it a point to judge the first pitch, as many folks only use their tent once or twice a year, and who knows what you will and won't remember after most of a year has passed. Especially if you happened to throw out the directions.
The Coleman 4-Person Cabin with Instant Setup scored the highest here. This thing went up in under 60-seconds and came down nearly as fast. But ease of use isn't just about setup and tear down — we took one point away here due to its weight being on the heavy side for a small 4-person tent and the struggle required to fit the tent back in the bag. We also hope the mechanisms that make this tent so quick to set up stay smooth and easy to use over time. But if you're looking for a camping tent you can toss up after a few beers or in the dark, check this one out.
The Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 3 not only went up fast but also was a snap to tear down and get back into the bag. Add to that the simple fly deploy, perfectly sized bag, and intuitive center clip, and you have a hassle-free tent. While not our favorite, the hub also allows for easy solo pitching.
Another notable tent here is the Marmot Tungsten 4. Pitching this tent garnered one of our fastest times, and at just 7.9 pounds, this is the second lightest tent in our review. A large carry bag allows your fold and roll to be less than perfect when you just want to get on the road, and excellent design elements such as color-coded poles and clips are the icing on the cake.
Though nothing will compare to the setup time of an instant or a small 3-person tent, the REI Co-op Base Camp 6 had an impressive setup and teardown speed for a 6-person tent, and the Marmot Limestone 4 was simple and relatively light at only 11.85 pounds. Additionally, the Base Camp is one of the most intuitive tents we have ever put up. It has poles that snap together almost independently and glide through the fabric supports easily. We pitched the Base Camp in just over 7 minutes. A great time for a 6-person tent with a vestibule you can sit in.
We would be remiss if we didn't share two features of the Kelty Wireless 6 that speak directly to ease of use. Kelty added what they call Quick Corners to aid in solo setup. These are essentially pockets on all four corners that make the poles stand erect without needing to hold them. They also have just a single side color-coded. While this seems strange, having only one color to look for versus two is a great simplification that we hope other brands copy.
While this category of tents is focused mainly on car camping, weight still factors into the equation. Lugging a heavy tent across a field or a few campsites away can add up when you are hauling over 20 pounds.
Hands down, the Mineral King 3 takes the cake here. And it better, seeing as it's the only 3-person tent in the lineup. Coming in at only 7.1 pounds for the full package and a trail weight of 6.2 pounds, this tent is light enough to trek a few miles into the wild.
Don't Forget the Footprint
Consider buying a ground cover — a.k.a. "footprint" — for your camping tent and laying this out first. It helps keep moisture and mud off the underside of your tent (thus making re-packing a much more pleasant task). It also helps your tent last longer because it protects it from abrasion. Most manufacturers sell a footprint separately (usually made of the same material as the tent) designed to fit your model tent's exact floor size. Despite the extra cost, it's a great thing to take along. The savvy camper's alternative is a cheap plastic tarp, like something you'd throw down to paint your living room. You can often pick one of these up for a fraction of the cost of an official manufacturer's footprint, though it won't have features like rivets to accommodate your stakes.
Family Friendliness doesn't just mean actual family — it means how useful is the tent if you want to camp with more than just yourself? Can you bring two dogs and a friend or three and still be comfortable? We looked at how comfortably each tent could fit at least four people, whether it had phone/jewelry storage options, if it provides a space to clean your feet before entering, if it has multiple room options for privacy, and if it is dog/animal friendly — among other things. Though some of these aspects do fall under other categories, we felt it was important to our readers to look at them again but with this viewpoint in mind.
This is where the Nemo Wagontop 6 shines. This is the largest 6-person tent we reviewed and boasts a mudroom, a small room, and a living room. Oh yeah, and it has a good-sized vestibule too! The Wagontop is also the tallest tent, at a whopping 6' 8" of headroom. This tent fits two full mattresses with some room to spare and plenty of dog bed space. The only thing not ideal about the Wagontop in the family-friendly category is the storm factor. This is a fair-weather tent and didn't hold up well in our wind and rain tests, thanks to windows that don't zip and a 7-foot vertical wall (a.k.a. sail). That aside, if you are a beach camper looking for some room to sprawl out, you found your soulmate here.
The North Face Wawona 6 checks most of the family-friendly boxes, easily sleeping a family of four with great height, storage, and covered outside space. Because of the large, tall vestibule, we were able to set up a camp shower for a quick rinse after a sweaty day of climbing. Just remember not to ask your kids to take the fly off, as the locking mechanism requires some serious force to get out.
The Nemo Aurora Highrise 6 is another fantastic family-friendly camping tent with a little funky style. The super high ceiling, large footprint, and dual vestibules give this tent plenty of room and options for everyone.
The Kelty Wireless 6 fits two adults, two kids, and two dogs comfortably inside, and the dual vestibules allow for even more storage and organization. Add in the ease of setup, a nice carry bag, and wonderful star-gazing capabilities, and you have a solid tent. And given the bargain price of the Wireless 6, it's hard to pass it up.
Typically this section is reserved for larger 6-person tents; however, the REI Skyward 4 and Marmot Tungsten 4 both packed enough family-friendly features to make the cut. If you are looking for a smaller, lighter alternative to a 6-person tent that can still handle a family, these are two great tents to explore.
Every Family is Different
Sometimes the most family-friendly tent isn't the biggest or the most feature-rich. Instead, it is a wonderful mix of ease of use, features that speak to your family and pet situation, and an ideal build for your typical camping environment.
For this metric, we looked at the materials used, the general feel of the poles and stakes, and details like how the stitching and seams are constructed. We also tap into our experience and knowledge to judge overall quality and potential long-term durability. But let's face it, when it comes to buying long-lasting gear these days, the age-old saying does hold: you get what you pay for.
The MSR Habitude 4 checks every box for quality materials. From the 7000-series aluminum poles to the DWR 68D polyester taffeta on the floor — everything down to the guyline tighteners is top-notch. The only complaint you will have in the quality department is the included porch light and bag, but these are minor issues.
The REI Base Camp 6 is a step above in quality over your typical REI tent. It has a 150-denier polyester floor that is both abrasion and puncture-resistant. Thick aluminum poles, fabric, seams, and zippers all look and feel top-notch. The Wawona 6 is a long-standing champ in our review for many reasons, not least of which is how well it's withstood the test of time. The main tent is made out of 150D polyester taffeta, the floor out of 68D polyester, and the poles are DAC MX — strong and light. And, of course, all seams are seam-sealed with a tub-style floor.
Several of our tents scored high in this category, but one worth calling out is the Snow Peak Alpha Breeze. This tent has a 300D fire-resistant PU-coated Oxford polyester floor, crazy thick poles, metal guylines, smooth zippers, soft pole sleeves… the list just keeps going.
Of note: if you are looking to set up anything with feet in your tent and don't want to puncture the base, the NEMO Wagontop 6 has a 300D polyester floor, and the Marmot Limestone 4 and Coleman Instant Setup sport 150D polyester material floors.
If you are looking for a budget camping tent, the single best upgrade to your durability is swapping out the fiberglass poles and getting a set of aluminum ones. Poles and mesh are where the budget tents fail. Except for the impressive Kelty Wireless 6, the mesh areas on the budget tents we reviewed are at least twice as large as the other tents and feel significantly cheaper in quality. Get better poles and be cautious around your mesh, and a budget tent can last you for years.
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 of your tent. We are fans of quality gear that performs well season after season, which often means investing more upfront.
A camping tent is the most important item you will buy when it comes to camping, so picking the right one is key to a successful adventure. Think about the type of camping you intend to do and what you find most important in a shelter. Innovations are happening all the time, so if there's a feature you want, you'll likely be able to find it. Now, go get yourself a tent and get outside!
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.