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The first time I hauled a camping tent into the wilderness on my own, I remember being a little irritated. Compared to my trusty Marine Corps poncho, tents are bulky and heavy. It also seemed like a weak move to bring such a structure into the woods. 

I felt differently after the torrential rain hit. High in the Sierra Nevadas, the sky opened up with an onslaught of heavy rain that lasted most of the night. Even with running water flowing around and under my tent, the inside stayed nice and dry. That was a blessing because low temperatures would have spelled disaster for wet gear and forced me to make a forced hike more than 10 miles back to the trailhead.

I woke up the next morning not exactly rested, but with a newfound appreciation for a good tent. Maybe my poncho wasn’t the best option, after all. Take a lesson from my precautionary tale and set yourself up with the best camping tent you can get your hands on from the beginning.


Our team of writers has received all kinds of tents, backed by military experience in the field and civilian exploits all over the U.S. This time, I pulled some of the best camping tents from past gear roundups of backpacking tents, cabin tents, and occupancy-specific tents for solo campers, all the way up to whole families. We’re all about saving money, but sometimes spending less actually costs more in the long run. To avoid that pitfall, I limited this list to tents from the best manufacturers. In the case of tents I haven’t seen for myself, I consulted forums and industry professionals to get informed opinions of those who have.

REI is the first and last stop for many people, and the brand has earned a reputation for solid in-house gear, including some of the best tents for camping. I’ve used some Co-Op products — like the raincoat that kept me dry during a rainy, week-long motorcycle trip through the Rockies — and can vouch for their quality. REI goods tend to take lessons from high-end brands and offer premium features at a more accessible price.

The Half-Dome SL 2+ addresses one of the most common complaints in camping tent reviews: space. Once you get two people inside this tent, there’s actually room for your gear. What doesn’t fit can be tucked under the two small vestibules of the rainfly. The waterproof rainfly will be essential on rainy nights because the tent itself is made almost entirely of breathable mesh that lets you enjoy the view. If you’re unsure about the weather, you can install the fly and roll it up so it’s ready to go. A groundsheet is also included, which is a nice perk for campers who just want to buy once and get everything they need. Pre-curved poles and color-coded components make setting up and tearing down a snap from the first try.

Everyone from beginners to experienced backpackers will appreciate this high-quality tent, but it’s not invincible. According to owner reviews, high winds are particularly troublesome. The guylines, rainfly, and vents will eventually get overwhelmed. If you frequently experience harsh weather, the best camping tent for you will appear a little later on our list.

Product Specs
  • Occupancy: Two-person
  • Weight: 3.9 pounds
  • Best use: Backpacking, dispersed camping
  • Seasons: Three-season

REI Co-Op products always seem to punch above their weight

A few extra square feet compared to most two-person tents

Rainfly and groundsheet included


Great value, but still not cheap at more than $300

Can’t quite hang when the weather gets really bad

Pre-bent poles might be tricky to pack

Best Value

Value products can be tricky; sometimes saving money leaves you with a shoddy product that needs to be replaced prematurely. That’s not the case with the Kelty Grand Mesa, which has been one of the best budget tents for years.

This iteration of the Grand Mesa was redesigned in 2020. Like higher-priced tents, this two-person tent includes aluminum poles and a removable rainfly with taped seams for protection against the elements. Color-coding makes setup intuitive and easy. To keep costs down, Kelty gave the Grand Mesa one door instead of two, and fabric pole pockets instead of metal grommets. These cost-saving measures are noticeable but don’t diminish this tent’s ability to take care of you where it counts.

There are certainly more luxurious, lighter, and more durable options out there, but it’s nice to know that you can get a high-quality tent like the Grand Mesa for less than $150. If you’re just getting started, this tent can be a great way to save money for things like an inflatable sleeping pad and a more comfortable pack.

Product Specs
  • Occupancy: Two-person
  • Weight: 4.75 pounds
  • Best use: Backpacking, dispersed camping
  • Seasons: Three-season

All the essentials without the upcharge

Cuts costs, not quality

Perfect for new campers on a budget


Not on par with higher-end tents’ materials and features

Features are limited to the essentials

Waterproofing reviews are hit or miss

Editor’s Choice

Nature can be a fickle and merciless host. When the weather turns hostile, you need a tent that’s up to the challenge so you don’t end up chasing shredded pieces of fabric around in the dark. The Marmot Fortress was built just for such an occasion.

It all starts with heavy-duty components. Aluminum poles, a raised floor tray, taped seams, and several guy-outs help insulate you from the wind and rain. There’s more to it than that, though — even the shape of the Fortress is designed to let high winds roll over the top rather than bashing into the sides. Inside, you’ll get to enjoy plenty of headroom under the 42-inch peak. Convenience features like a roof-mounted pocket for your headlamp and “Easy Pitch” pole clips make life a little easier when the elements test your patience.

While this three-season tent is an easy choice for bad weather, it can be overkill for casual camping. Even though the price is compelling at less than $300, the solid tent fabric doesn’t allow the same kind of ventilation and views as more mainstream alternatives. If you want some privacy and the ability to ride a storm out in comfort, though, the Fortress is one of the best camping tents you can get.

Product Specs
  • Occupancy: Two-person
  • Weight: 6 pounds
  • Best use: Backpacking, dispersed camping
  • Seasons: Three-season

Aluminum tent poles are light and very strong

Enjoy extra privacy from the non-mesh walls

Ready for a storm even without a groundsheet


Privacy comes at the cost of your mountain view

Efficient setup takes a little more practice than usual

Requires frequent camping trips to pay itself off

Call it luxury, call it glamping, or call it not making life harder than it has to be to prove how tough you are. For those of you who are open to some non-essential features, the Big Agnes Spur HV UL3 gets even better with the mtnGLO treatment.

This tent’s secret sauce is interior lighting in the form of flexible LED strips powered by three AAA batteries (you’ll have to supply your own). A plug-in controller lets you turn the lights on and off, or activate half-brightness to create some mood lighting for those fireside dinners. The rest of the tent is just as high-tech, with lightweight fabric, two dual-zipper doors, and reflective material on guylines and attachment points. The rainfly features two open vestibules and roll-away awnings that can be raised with trekking poles, sticks, or paracord. The Copper Spur is also compatible with other Big Agnes accessories like a different rainfly, gear loft, and groundsheet that can be purchased separately.

If you want an entry-level tent for weekend camping, this might be a bit expensive for your taste. If you have a hardcore expedition on your calendar, buying something more rugged would be wise. If you just want to kick back and have an awesome time in the great outdoors, this is the tent for you.

Product Specs
  • Occupancy: Three-person
  • Weight: 3.9 pounds
  • Best use: Backpacking, dispersed camping
  • Seasons: Three-season

Built-in lighting and pockets for electronics

Vestibules and awnings to keep your gear dry

Designed to be set up by one person


Several times more expensive than comparable tents

Strength may be sacrificed in the name of shedding weight

Asymmetric roofline is a matter of preference

Best for Solo Campers

If high speed and low drag are your style, you probably aren’t interested in snuggling into a roomy tent full of inflatable pillows and good books. No, you probably hike until the sun falls behind the horizon, slam a quick meal replacement bar, and get back on the trail before the morning dew burns off. That doesn’t mean you have to settle for a tarp — you can fit the one-person ALPS Mountaineering Lynx into the smallest mountain crags and minimalist packs.

Unlike an old-fashioned tarp, you’ll get the same freestanding design and aluminum poles as you’d find in larger tents. The mesh tent is light and airy, but with an extremely durable and waterproof floor tub with welded seams to keep you dry. The rainfly can be added to get you out of the rain and provide one vestibule for your gear. What we like most about this tent is the fact that it caters to solo campers without cutting corners. It’s a solid piece of gear that just happens to come in fun-size.

Obviously, the limiting factor here will be space. There’s just enough room for a sleeping bag and a few personal items in the Lynx. It’s also not much lighter than many backpacking two-person tents, thanks to all those reinforced components intended to survive life above the treeline. If you’re ok with that because you need something small and tough, don’t let me slow you down.

Product Specs
  • Occupancy: One-person
  • Weight: 4 pounds
  • Best use: Mountaineering, solo dispersed camping
  • Seasons: Three-season

Light and compact enough for one person, but very well-built

Super easy to set up by yourself

Built to withstand the elements


Almost no room for gear

Not that much lighter than a two-person tent

No windows and only one doorway

Think of the Stormbreak series from The North Face as a bridge between everyday camping tents like the Half Dome and bunkers like the Fortress. It’s more robust than most of the alternatives, but it’s still light and airy when the weather cooperates.

The floor and canopy use beefed-up polyester with taped seams to keep water at bay, while the mesh walls offer a clear view to all sides (but not the sky). Sturdy clamps pull the tent tight inside the aluminum frame because less slack means less movement when the wind starts howling. Beyond that, there are little details that make a difference. The doors have been enlarged to make it easier to get in and out of, or hang your feet outside to get your muddy boots on or off. When you want to leave the doors open, they fold into pouches so they aren’t flapping around in the breeze. It’s also just a touch higher than some of our other picks at 43 inches under the beak.

You’ve probably heard that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. That’s true in this case, because with all that storm-breaking strength comes a few extra pounds. The Stormbreak 2 is a two-person tent that tips the scales at almost six pounds — that’s about 50 percent more than some of its competition. If you believe that the best camping tent is the lightest camping tent, the Stormbreak isn’t for you. If you want to push deeper into the wilderness regardless of what the weather throws at you, give it a serious look.

Product Specs
  • Occupancy: Two-person
  • Weight: 5.9 pounds
  • Best use: Backpacking, dispersed camping
  • Seasons: Four-season

Get a rugged tent that doesn’t blow the budget

Larger doors than the previous iteration for easier access

Taped seams on the rainfly and floor keep water out


Sells out fast, so act now

Almost six pounds for a two-person tent

We have to assume there’s a logo tax priced in

Want to bring the whole family on your next outdoor adventure? One of the best family tents is a cabin tent with lots of room and easy access. Our pick is this Coleman six-person Instant Cabin.

This cabin tent uses the same external frame that makes backpacking tents so easy to set up in a minute or less. With the frame out of the way, you’ll have more room inside. The 90-square-foot floor is large enough for two queen size air mattresses, and the six-foot peak is tall enough for most people to stand up in. This tent doesn’t come with a rainfly or groundsheet; instead, the exterior is built from double-thick fabric treated to repel water. If you have doubts, the video on this tent’s Amazon product page is pretty encouraging.

Naturally, the best car camping tents are significantly heavier and harder to carry than a more traditional camping tent. It does come in a carrying case, but not one you’d want to lug around for very long. Save the Instant cabin for car camping trips at established campsites, and you’ll be golden. Just remember to pack enough power banks for everyone.

Product Specs
  • Occupancy: Six-person
  • Weight: 24.9 pounds
  • Best use: Established camping
  • Seasons: Three-season

Steep walls result in lots of usable space

Tall enough for most people to stand up in

Large mesh windows and privacy covers


Fairly heavy at nearly 25 pounds

No removable rainfly or groundsheet

Restricted airflow when sealed up in bad weather

OneTigris Backwoods Bungalow

Sometimes, the old ways are best. As much as we love a modern camping tent with an aluminum frame, removable rainfly, and maybe even indoor lighting, there’s something to be said for making it on your own with the bare essentials. The OneTigris Backwoods Bungalow is proof that a good, old A-frame can still be the best ground tent for certain situations.

There really isn’t much to the Backwoods Bungalow. It’s a simple A-frame design but built as one piece so you don’t have to deal with stringing a tarp between trees and sleeping directly on the ground. Guylines from the corners are all the structure you’ll get, so stretch them nice and tight to create the most stable tent possible. The lack of tent poles will take some getting used to, but that’s less weight for you to carry in your pack. You’ll still get water- and rip-resistant nylon, ventilation flaps, and a place to hang a small light.

With its simplicity and choice of coyote brown and olive drab, this camping tent would be perfect for an emergency kit or go-bag. It’s light, compactable, and keeps a low profile. Consider it prepper-approved.

Product Specs
  • Occupancy: Two-person
  • Weight: 3.2 pounds
  • Best use: Dispersed camping
  • Seasons: Three-season

Light, compact, and simple

Lack of poles makes it easy to pack

Low profile and subtle color are great for a go-bag


Reliant on trees, trekking poles, or sticks for structure

Amenities are very primitive

Less sturdy in bad weather than our other picks

Best for Cars

Let’s say that you want to explore the furthest edges of the map — further than you can walk. If cross-country adventures and off-road glory await the Wrangler or 4Runner in your driveway, overlanding is for you. Take your car camping to the next level with the Smittybilt Overlander rooftop tent.

The Overlander is considered one of the coolest tents in, well, the overlanding community because it’s affordable, relatively light, and relentlessly sturdy. Don’t let the soft case fool you; the Overlander’s polyester shell has gotten campers through all kinds of rain, snow, and burning sun. Many of the tents on this list use 75-denier nylon for the floor tub (which takes the most abuse); compare that to the Overlander’s 600-denier shell and we think you’ll be more than satisfied. Structure comes from a fold-out aluminum frame, and an aluminum ladder flips out to reach the ground and offer structural support (extended ladders are available for lifted vehicles).

Naturally, you’ll need a vehicle to take advantage of this 45-pound tent. A few extra bucks to pay for the decreased fuel economy might be a good idea, too. One of the biggest general complaints about roof tents in camping tent reviews is the need to climb a ladder every time you want to get in or out. That’s par for the course, though. It’s also worth pointing out that, even though Instagram would have you believe that rooftop tents can only be mounted on hardcore off-roaders, you can use the Overlander with all kinds of everyday drivers. Go ahead and feed your wild side.

Product Specs
  • Occupancy: Two-person
  • Weight: 48 pounds
  • Best use: Overlanding
  • Seasons: Four-season

Go further, faster in the comfort of your vehicle

Be ready for any weather, and any season

Sleep off the ground and away from critters


Requires a roof rack (and a vehicle)

Negatively impacts fuel economy

More difficult to get in and out of than a normal tent

Our verdict on camping tents

There are more great camping tents than we can count, but we stand by these top-rated tents as some of the best camping tents on the market. The REI Co-Op Half Dome SL 2+ is such a versatile crowd-pleaser that it’s bound to satisfy just about anyone. The Kelty Grand Mesa proves that you can get outside without breaking the bank. We’re sure there are others out there, so let us know what your favorite camping tent is in the comments section.

What to consider when buying camping tents

It’s important to do your homework when trying to find the best camping tent for you. Here are some of the factors you need to consider to make an educated decision and get the most bang for your buck.

Types of camping tents

A-frame tents

Back in the old days, A-frame tents were the way to go. They’re easy to make, do a decent job of protecting you from the elements, and don’t cost a lot. This style is still available in tents like the OneTigris Backwoods Bungalow, although it’s evolved to use lighter materials and offer more weather protection. Compared to more modern pop-up tents, A-frames are heavy and bulky. While they might offer more room, they also take up more space in your pack and add weight.

More often than not, you’ll see the principles of A-frame tents applied in the field with a tarp and some 550 cord. I’ve only gotten to use a tent during one field exercise, but I’ve spent more nights than I remember under a tarp stretched between trees. It isn’t luxurious, but it works and you should know how to make this kind of shelter with and without trees. If you want to go full survivor mode, practice fashioning an A-frame shelter from sticks and vegetation. 

Backpacking tents

Backpacking tents are probably the most popular style of tent available today. The realities of traveling across rugged terrain by foot require them to be light and compact; but, at the same time, they need to be durable and offer protection against the weather and unwanted pests. Backpacking tents and camping tents like The North Face Stormbreak series are built to withstand mother nature without weighing you down.

To keep weight to a minimum, backpacking tents use advanced, rip-resistant fabrics that wick away moisture to prevent condensation inside. Tent poles are usually made from aluminum with internal bungee cords to simplify set-up and tear-down. Removable rain flies add shelter when you need it, and leave a clear view of the night sky when you don’t. All of that requires high-end materials and design, so backpacking tents and camping tents aren’t inexpensive. After a night on the trail, though, you’ll appreciate why that’s the case. 

Cabin tents

If space is a priority, cabin tents are the way to go. Not only do they typically offer more floor space than a camping or backpacking tent, but they offer much more headroom as well. You might even be able to stand comfortably inside your cabin tent. Extra space and sturdy construction make cabin tents great for families who want to keep parents and kids under one roof.

The downside of all this real estate is extra weight. Cabin tents are heavier and much bulkier than other kinds of camping tents. We definitely wouldn’t want to hike with one, so your best bet is to save the cabin tent for weekend stays at a more established campsite that’s accessible by car or UTV.

Key features of camping tents


If your tent can’t keep the rain out, it isn’t doing much good. Most modern tents are made from breathable, lightweight mesh that works like a screened porch. They keep bugs away while you sleep, facilitate airflow, and offer a great view of the wilderness you came to see in the first place. In the event of bad weather (or just to get more privacy), you’ll want to use a rainfly. These waterproof covers are provided with backpacking and camping tents, and they include zippered doors and windows to match the ones on your tent.

Some tents don’t come with a rainfly, and that’s particularly common among cabin tents that aren’t as likely to be used during bad weather. In this case, manufacturers often apply a water-resistant coating that slows the ingress of water but doesn’t always work as well as a rainfly. If that’s what you buy, you might want to have additional rain repellent on standby.


You may not need a groundsheet for your tent, but it’s a good piece of gear to have if you spend time in the backcountry. Ground that’s covered in rocks and roots can take a toll on even the best tent, and a groundsheet adds a layer of protection. They’re made from thicker material than the rest of the tent and, if they do tear, can be replaced individually for a lot less than it would cost to get a new tent. Even if you don’t need your groundsheet between your tent and the ground, it can be used to cover your gear during a storm or create a backup shelter during an emergency.


Freestanding tents provide their own structure, but you’ll still want a way to secure the tent and rainfly to the ground — especially if you encounter wind stronger than a breeze. Guylines typically attach to metal grommets on the rainfly — usually at each corner and on the vestibules. It’s important to install and anchor your guylines properly.

Collapsible poles

Every tent needs a rigid structure to hold its shape. Unless you anchor the corners to trees with taught guy lines, you’ll need tent poles. Backpacking tents use collapsible tent poles that break into segments (usually 12 to 18 inches long) that are held together with an internal bungee cord. That makes for a quick and easy assembly and disassembly. They’re usually made from aluminum and sometimes use color-coding to denote where each pole belongs.

Minimalist tents like the ALPS Mountaineering Lynx save weight and space by relying on trekking poles for support. That’s a great way to get the most out of your gear — as long as you use trekking poles. If all you have is a tarp, you’ll be stuck with cutting tent poles from sticks the old-fashioned way.


The best camping tents usually range from about $100 to $300, with more extreme-weather variants and rooftop tents climbing from there. You can also spend closer to $100 if all you need is a basic one-person tent like the ALPS Mountaineering Lynx. Most of the tents you’ll see on the trail or around an established campground cost roughly $200. The North Face Stormbreak 2 is a good basis for comparison.

Tips and tricks

We’ve spent enough nights under the stars (and snow, and rain) to learn a thing or two about getting the most out of your tent. In addition to using it more effectively, there are also important steps you can take to protect your investment. To help you climb that learning curve a little more easily, here are a few pro moves we’ve learned along the way.

  • If a tent is rated for two people, it might feel cramped. I sometimes recommend sizing up when possible. Larger tents of the same product line don’t weigh that much more than their smaller siblings (especially split between two people) and the extra room is nice.
  • Don’t wait until you’re at your campsite — tired and hungry — to set up your tent for the first time. Practice at home to get the hang of it and learn a few tricks specific to your tent and gear.
  • Spread-load your tent when you can. Everyone who uses the tent should carry part of it. The tent itself, poles, stakes, groundsheet, and rainfly may even have their own stuff sacks to make this easier. Just remember to take a good inventory before you leave in the morning.
  • Pay attention to the weather when you set up your campsite. Be mindful of things like wind direction, signs of water drainage, and dead branches that might fall.
  • Like any piece of gear, keep your tent clean. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and make sure it’s bone-dry before packing it away until your next trip.

FAQs on camping tents

You’ve got questions. Task & Purpose has answers.

Q: What size tent do I need?

A: Tents are rated for a certain number of occupants. Those ratings often indicate how many can fit inside rather than how many would want to fit inside. We sometimes recommend sizing up if you have more than one person.

Q: Are tents good for all seasons?

A: Any tent is better than no tent, but they aren’t designed for every climate. The best three-season tents work in most temperature ranges, but hardcore winter camping will require something specifically designed for extreme cold. An insulated tent liner like the Crua Outdoors Culla Maxx is another option. 

Q: What is the best camping tent style?

A: It’s hard to say that any given tent style is the best, but we’re pretty partial to a good backpacking tent. They’re versatile, light, and strong. That being said, they may not be the best for you. That’s why we included other options like A-frames, cabin tents, and rooftop tents.

Q: How much space does a tent need in my pack?

A: Tents pack down to a pretty compact size, but that will vary from tent to tent. If you’re sharing your tent, it’s a good idea to share the job of carrying all its pieces.