The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Perfect Tent for Your Camping Adventures

Key Points

  • Get a tent that's durable, waterproof, easy to set up, portable, ventilated, and versatile.

  • Many brands like REI and Big Agnes sell tents.

  • No tent is without flaws, so it's important to know what you're looking for in a tent.

  • The first thing to figure out when buying a tent is your budget.

Tents are a glorious invention. There are camping tents made for every scenario: backpacking tents, car camping tents, mountaineering tents, family camping tents, and four-season camping tents. If a specific type of camping suits your fancy, a quality tent surely exists to satisfy your outdoor desires. Camping in beautiful mother nature is for everyone, even The Terminator, who voiced his passion for a healthy Earth in May 2023.

Camping tent brands must deliver certain standards in their products. Tents must be durable, waterproof, easy to set up, portable, ventilated, versatile, and easy to clean. These camping tent features have real-world consequences. Ultralight camping tents keep you unburdened and mobile. Waterproofness keeps you protected during an onslaught of unexpected rain.

When preparing for your next camping adventure, priority number one must be choosing the perfect tent. Here's an assortment of the wheat and the chaff to get you started. As of this article's publication in May 2023, all prices are up to date, though just like a toddler's mood, they tend to fluctuate rather quickly.

MSR Hubba Hubba NX


Photo source: Amazon

MSR Hubba Hubba NX is a backpacking tent with many things going for it. However, a hefty $581 price tag drowns these positives out.

First, the good. It's got a solid amount of headroom, so tall people don't have to lurch around like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Its waterproofing qualities in the rainfly are superb as well, making it a splendid choice amongst four-season camping tents. Whether in rain, snow, hail, or hurricanes, this tent will keep you dry — okay, maybe not in a hurricane.

The tent is an easy setup, only complicated by the irksome rainfly, which provokes headaches with its unnecessary complexity. Plus, the rainfly doors are small. Taller people can stretch out in the tent, but getting in requires them to arch their back, which is not a great combination.

Another issue is the tent poles. The material isn't of the highest quality, causing frequent splinters in the poles, eventually leading to you buying new ones.

It's a nice two-person tent with superb waterproofness, and it's light — two camping tent features you definitely want. It also boasts shoddy tent poles, small rainfly doors, and a cost that, if decreased, might make it a tent worth buying. Unfortunately, the price is what it is, making the tent's not-too-serious problems seem like major red flags.

Coleman Sundome 4-Person Tent

Coleman SunDome 9- by 7- Foot Four- Person Dome Tent

Photo source: Amazon

The good things about the Coleman Sundome 4-Person Tent that make it a perfect camping shelter also make it a bad choice for certain camping scenarios. It's a casual choice, an ideal car camping tent. If you want a mountaineering tent to get you through the frosted peaks of the world's summits, then steer clear.

It's cheap at $90, compact (thus a perfect backpacking tent), and fits four people (which means it's also a family camping tent for penny pinchers). The family looking for an easy camping weekend 30 yards from their car go bonkers for this tent. It has good ventilation, is light, and has an adequate rainfly.

More serious campers, like folks hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, best look elsewhere. Its low price equates to cheap material, as seen in the plastic rainfly hooks and overall not-very-durable material.

It's the perfect camping shelter for entry-level nature goers. Conversely, for more experienced campers, it's the equivalent of playing in major league baseball with a wiffleball bat.

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL - UltralightBackpacking Tent

Photo source: Amazon

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 doesn't break records in terms of ultralight camping tents. It's on the heavier side, though that balances out with its spaciousness.

It caters to all types of camping, from a night away in the woods to a longer trek through the wild. Set up is easy with the TipLok Tent Buckle system, making it a breeze to get the tent and rainfly up in minutes.

A neat feature is a vestibule that expands into an awning, so you can catch the dying rays of the day during a light drizzle and not get wet.

It's a high-quality tent which, given its $539 cost, might not be worth it for casual campers. Folks who live and breathe in the woods will find this a top choice.

NEMO Dagger 3P

Nemo Dagger Ultralight Backpacking Tents

Photo source: Amazon

NEMO Dagger 3P combines comfort and lightweight material into one mobile shelter — a tough line to walk in the tent ecosphere. The fabric is durable yet still feels light enough to carry in your pack for several miles.

The inside is spacious, and when it says it fits three people, it means it. A solo camper will have ample room to sprawl out.

The vestibules on this tent are large, essentially serving as both a front porch and windbreak. It's always nice to know there's extra space to store things and serve as a barrier between you and a barrage of wind.

The cons are small. The zippers are finicky, sometimes failing in their duty of seamlessly zipping. Too much force might even rip the zippers clean off. The doors are also fairly small, meaning anyone bigger than a well-fed hobbit will have to do some version of the limbo to get in — or just crouch.

Again, these are minor issues. It's a reliable shelter, offering supreme weather protection, spacious sleeping space, and many areas to store your gear. All this costs $600.

Kodiak Canvas Flex-Bow Deluxe

Kodiak Canvas Flex-Bow Canvas Tent Deluxe

Photo source: Amazon

Kodiak Canvas Flex-Bow Deluxe is more like a mobile cabin than a camping tent. If there was an ultralight camping tent beauty pageant, this behemoth would come in dead last. If there was a family-camping-tents-that-feel-like-a-house category, the Flex-Bow Deluxe would take home the cake.

It's almost 60 pounds and takes a while to set up, given that it's not freestanding. You need to stake it into the ground, which is a pain in any environment except a flat area on a sunny day. Two bits of advice: Bend at the knees when lifting this monster, and do some practice setups in your backyard before taking it to the woods for the real deal.

These annoyances aside, it's a tent made from extremely durable material and thus able to stand almost any weather. It's 72 inches tall, so the under-six-footers will have no problem standing upright, and four large, mesh-protected windows keep the bugs out and let the fresh air in.

It's a tent for people who don't travel far off the beaten path, want supreme comfort and space, and are willing to shell out between $600 and $850.

REI's Half Dome SL 2+

REI's Half Dome SL 2+ struggles with bulkiness and weight, so don't buy it if you want a light tent with thinner, easy-to-manage poles. If you're a camper looking for a car camping and backpacking tent combo, then this is the tent for you. It offers lots of storage space, is reasonably priced, and comes with a footprint.

Black Diamond Eldorado

The Black Diamond Eldorado is a solid four-season camping tent, excelling in durable and lightweight construction. It can tackle the most remote locations in the frostiest of weather. The setup requires a few practice rounds to master, and ventilation is far from ideal. It's still a phenomenal tent and thus worthy of its over $600 price tag.

The Only Questions Worth Asking

View from inside a camping tent early morning.

As the photography critic Nancy Wynne Newhall says, "The wilderness holds answers to questions we have not yet learned to ask."

Some of those questions are philosophical: What is the purpose of life? What lies in the universe beyond? Others are more practical: What kind of tent is worthy of purchase? What camping tent features are non-negotiable?

To answer the former questions, you must first answer the latter. Choosing the perfect tent from the best camping tent brands is the first step to solving nature's mysteries, wonders, and challenges.

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