Luxury Meets Landscape: Choosing the Best Camping Table

little girl poring hot drink from thermos for family

Key Points

  • How you camp will help you determine whether portability or durability is most important in a camping table.

  • Camping tables with built-in seats are great for group camping, but you'll need to pay attention to their weight and size when choosing the best one for your preferences.

  • Special features save you from unfavorable conditions.

One of the most unexpectedly difficult parts of creating an outdoor living space — even for the most experienced nature-goer — is setting up a camping table. It sounds easier than it is since nearly every table is made to stand on perfectly flat ground. What about when on rugged terrain or in slick conditions? Not to worry! There's a camping table out there for you and it can adapt to any situation.

The importance of camping tables is typically overlooked in favor of other needs like food, water, and shelter. But like a campfire, the table is the heart of the campsite. It's where you gather to eat, drink, laugh, and play games. If you're planning a camping trip with friends and family, a good quality table with an easy setup is a necessity.

Whether you’re looking for an outdoor nightstand or a picnic bench, this guide will help you find the perfect table for your camping needs.  

Basic Qualities of a Quality Camping Table

With so many camping products on the market, it may be difficult to choose the right table. The two most important features to look for in a good camping table are portability and durability.

Beyond this, consider why you'll use the table. Do you need it low to the ground or a little taller? Does a larger surface size suit your needs, or something a little more compact? If you're planning a multi-family get-together in the woods, you might want a foldable picnic bench. Do you need somewhere to put your beer as you rock in your hammock? Perhaps just a small, personal stand will do you just fine.  

Your table should match your chair height, particularly if they are purchased separately. If you use a low-riding beach chair, you’ll want a short table. A good rule of thumb is to have the table height about 4” to 10” higher than the seat of the chair.  

You'll end up leaving the table at home unless it’s easy to transport and set up, so finding one that suits your exact camping needs is a must. Read on to find out how to determine what kind of camping table is right for you.

Camping table and chair set with accessories near campsite


Depending on what type of outdoor adventure you prefer, portability may be the most important feature. If you’re a car camper or an overlander, a portable camping table might not be paramount, but if you’re a mountain trekker or a cross-country backpacker, then it's the bee's knees.

Lindsay McIntosh-Tolle, an Outdoor School Instructor for REI who writes for their Expert Advice blog, explains:

"Because you have to carry and fit it all into your pack, backpacking gear has to be lightweight and compact."

When aiming for portability, look at carrying size, weight, and "breakdown-ability." These three qualities go hand-in-hand. Smaller sizes offer lighter weights; less weight typically means easier breakdowns; and compact breakdowns mean smaller carrying sizes.  

Size the table based on your needs and the number of people it will serve. Do you plan to play games on it? Is it only there to hold your drink? If it’s just you and your favorite person, you probably don’t need an outdoor buffet table (but hey, nobody’s stopping you).  

Staying compact will save on vehicle space as well, which is a huge plus. 

Most tables fold down into the surface area of the top portion, the legs going underneath. Better tables will fold even more times into even smaller shapes. Just make sure it does so smoothly; you shouldn’t have to force anything.  

Manufacturers sacrifice ease of breakdown for greater condensability. This is a trade-off — not a direct benefit. It may be what you want if portability is the end-all-be-all, but if you already have trouble putting the card table away after poker, this probably isn’t a feature for you. Don’t be fooled by the advertising.  

Weight is of utmost importance for you long-distance-nature nomads. Five pounds can feel like 500 once you’ve hiked a mountain or two, so staying lightweight is key. Remember: You should be willing and able to carry it. If you can’t haul it, it doesn’t help you.

A useful tip concerning weight, portability, and durability: Check out tables in the hunting section. Hunters need their gear to be very lightweight since they carry everything with them. Typically, these tables are well-made, as they are meant to be used outdoors at length.

Breakdown-ability should ideally be quick and simple, though often only one of these comes to the party.  

Breakdown speed is vital, but simplicity outranks it. Does it matter how fast the table breaks down if you can’t figure out how to do it? If it has a simple enough deconstruction, it should also be quick. Win-win. 

Carrying bags are great for portability but may pose a tricky nuisance if your table doesn’t break down perfectly.  

Family eats dinner on a camping table near lake


Durability is likely the most sought-after quality when it comes to outdoor furniture. Truly durable equipment means less repurchasing. You don’t need to be as delicate with the product and you can make long-lasting memories with it. A table that lasts generations can become something of a family heirloom for its rich history, providing a deep nostalgia more valuable than money.  

You could get a cheap table that breaks every year or two, buying half a dozen over a decade. Or you could invest in a table that stands the test of time.

When most think of durability, they think "weatherproof." That is a major part of it, but it's not all.  

There are two areas to consider: human durability and weather durability. Both pose risks and headaches, but "user error" seems to be the downfall of more tables, chairs, and tents than a bit of rain. Most tables come at least marginally weatherproof with built-in epoxy coatings.

When tables break, it usually happens when you put them up and take them down. Tables that are easily set up and broken down aid in longevity.

What about the quality of the product itself? You might have an item you love but when something like a zipper breaks, you end up junking a near-perfectly good product because of a small but crucial defect.

When purchasing a camping table, common quality control questions to ask include:

  • How well are the seams made? 

  • Will it warp in extreme temperatures or humidity?

  • If part of it breaks, does the whole thing stop working? For example, even the best tables can be devoid of usability once their carrying strap goes bye-bye.

Large breaks are even worse than small defects. If you plan on using the table for any type of camping game, this is something to watch out for.

A good table can be knocked over and not take any serious damage. A very good table can take someone falling onto it like an NFL lineman.  

Another important question about durability: Do you plan to cook on the table? If the answer is yes, then a heat-resistant surface is a must. You can’t go wrong with high-grade aluminum or another type of lightweight metal. Thick plastics can be rated for high heat, but double-check before you start grilling those dogs and veggie burgers! 

Camping table in front of car

Unique Features

Much like height, portability, and size, any special features on your camping table should be specific to your needs. Unused features will add unnecessary space and weight while decreasing portability and durability.  

Common and generally appreciated features include cupholders, shelving, and balancing legs.  


Cupholders are a must for most people, but make sure they fit your cup (seems obvious, but you'd be surprised how often people forget). Often the advertised “cupholders” are either too shallow to effectively hold anything or too small in diameter to fit even a cell phone. Be sure to read the reviews!


Extra shelving may be just what you need if you have a lot of things to store but don’t want a larger table. Shelves are a great way to more effectively utilize the space you have at a relatively low cost to weight and size.


The most important bonus feature you can have is balancing legs. They typically work like those of your average canopy. The lower end slides into the upper end but with more locking points so the length can vary from leg to leg.  This allows you to use it on uneven ground.

Alternatively, tripod tables are a great way to solve this common dilemma. They work by reducing the contact points between the table and the ground. Though not as functional in very unruly conditions, they’re generally much quicker, easier, and more lightweight than four-legged options.

Camp site complete with chairs and table


Comfort matters most with larger, family-sized tables that have seats built in. Many believe this is the only trait that matters.

It can be hard to tell in a store, and almost impossible if buying online, but ask yourself: Can you sit comfortably in the seat for an extended amount of time?  

The vast majority of camping seats, particularly ones included with tables, are not much more than hard plastic with some curvature at best. If you want your family and friends to sit and be merry, make sure the seats are at least moderately comfortable, or else you may be standing in a return line at the store.  

Slip Resistance

Slip resistance is a popular benefit with camping tables, though all outdoor tables should already have slip-resistant material. Many consider this a nonsense selling point as camping tables don't walk or run, so don't spend any extra money for more slip resistance than is already included.

On the other hand, a table with a “staking” function — in which you can spear an extra leg or pole into the ground from the central underside of the table to keep it in place — is a smart investment.

Family gathers around camping table near RV


For most people, the biggest determining factor when purchasing a camping table is the price point.

Ask yourself:

  • Is this table affordable?

  • Are you going to get enough use out of it?

  • Are you paying for features you don’t want or need?

How often you go outdoors in a year might be the most important consideration. If you go frequently, say more than three to four times a year, you'll want something highly durable which will therefore be more costly. If you purchase a product that lasts as long as it claims, you will get your money’s worth 10 times over.

It doesn’t hurt to edge on the more durable side. Camping tables do not go bad, after all. But you may be paying more than you need.

The price will change depending on how large a table you need. If it’s just for you or you and your favorite person, then you can likely get by with a functional table that fits all your needs for under $100.  

If you want the whole family to sit around it, you could spend over $100 for anything that will last. Comfortability and heat resistance may be major buying points, especially if you cook for the whole family and eat at the table.

Consider spending a little extra to purchase a table you will enjoy using. That way, you look forward to using it rather than seeing it as a burden. If your table is great in some ways but problematic in others, you will be less inclined to use it and it will end up as a dust collector in your garage or basement.  

People enjoy RV camping site

Ready To Buy

It's worth repeating once more: The three main things to keep in mind when shopping for a quality camping table are portability, durability, and special features. 

Determine your needs based on how you camp and work from there. Consider what you'll use the table for and how many people it will serve. This will help you figure out how portable you want it to be and how durable it needs to be. If you want somewhere to rest your drink where it won't spill or somewhere to store your gear, spending a little extra for cupholders and shelves might be worth it.

Most important of all, find a table that makes you want to go camping. There is nothing better than enjoying the great outdoors with family and friends, and a good quality table at the heart of your campsite will ensure your camping experience is one to remember.

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