To ensure that everyone has an enjoyable camping experience, choosing the right family tent is key. It's your home away from home, and the place where you'll sleep, relax and store much of your gear. Here's how to choose the perfect tent for your family.
Select a Style1 of 7
There are two main styles of family camping tents. Cabin-style tents have vertical walls, which provide an open feel inside. If maximizing headroom is important, or if you plan to spend a lot of time in the tent, this is the style for you. However, keep in mind that cabin-style tents are vulnerable to potential damage from storms and high winds, thanks to their boxy shape.
The second type, dome-style tents, feature sloped walls that converge at an apex. For some, they may feel claustrophobic, but they're generally stronger in inclement weather due to their shape. If it will primarily be utilized as a place to sleep, a dome-style tent is ideal.
Determine the Right Size2 of 7
Four- and six-person tents are popular with families. The footprint of a four-person tent is generally between 60 and 70 square feet, while a six-person tent size ranges from 80 to 100 square feet.
Don't forget that you'll also need room to store your backpacks, gear and other miscellaneous items, so choose a tent with a little extra room.
Count Your Doors and Vestibules3 of 7
Getting in and out of the tent sounds elementary, but a couple of critical features can make all the difference. Families with small children may prefer a single entrance, making it easier to keep track of who's coming and going. However, two doors can be offer added convenience, such as allowing someone to easily slip out to the bathroom at night.
Many tents also offer vestibules over each entrance, which come in handy in many ways. These semi-enclosures provide shade in the heat of summer and protection in inclement weather. They also create a place to shed wet gear and shoes without tracking water and mud inside the tent.
Consider Ease of Setup4 of 7
Some tents require two full-grown adults to set them up, which could be a problem if you're the lone adult on a family camping excursion. Be sure to take into account the setup and breakdown needs of any model you're considering. It may be necessary to go with a smaller model, or even two smaller tents, rather than one large tent for your family.
Additional Features & Considerations5 of 7
• Mesh Windows and Roof: Tents can capture heat if they're sitting in the sun all day, and mesh windows provide much-needed cross-ventilation. Some tents also feature roofs made of mesh, which can greatly reduce the condensation that accumulates on cool nights.
• Pockets: Everyone can use a little help to stay organized. Pockets come in handy for important items such as flashlights, car keys and headlamps.
• Power Port: Some tents feature a zippered port to for power cords.
• Weight: Your tent's weight isn't critical for car camping, but backpacking or hike-in camping requires significantly lighter gear.
• Durable Construction: Always check seams and zippers, which tend to be the first features to fail.
Rent or Borrow First6 of 7
Take the tent you're considering out for a "test drive" before you buy. Or, if friends have a tent they would recommend, see if you can borrow it for an overnight in your backyard. You'll quickly discover what you like and don't like.
As an alternative, many outdoor retailers have rental departments. Do your research to determine what style and size you think would work best, and find out if you can rent that model or one that's similar. Finally, if you're in a rush, ask if you can climb inside the tent at the store. This will at least give you a chance to assess all the features up close and in person.