Snore like a buzzsaw in your home away from home.
Warmer days are here, so campfires and s'mores are calling your name! And nothing says summer like a camping trip with your friends, family, or even just yourself. To maximize comfort, safety, and fun, you'll need to start with the right equipment, and a solid tent is the foundation of your gear.
Today's market is jam-packed with affordable and premium options, all of them emphasizing different traits, features, and materials, and each with their own benefits. A mansion-sized car camping tent is great for trips with large groups, as they offer tons of space and comfort, but with a tradeoff - they take up lots of room in your trunk and are typically more affected by wind and rain. Smaller tents with a dome shape don't provide the same amount of floorspace and headroom, but they are easier to set up, pack easily in your car, and stand up better in storms. Whatever your preference, knowing the basics of tent construction will help you make an educated decision.
Important considerations when purchasing a tent for traditional car-camping (not backpacking):
Size: Floor area is an important consideration for everyone. A two-person tent is great for a couple who packs lightly. But for two friends who overpack, or if you bring a furry friend along, having extra floor space can make all the difference. If you have the cargo space, it's smart to buy one size bigger than what you need (a couple might choose a three-person tent to have space for gear inside). And don’t forget about the ceiling height. Some tents have a lower profile, where you can sit upright and possibly kneel inside. Others are tall enough for a 6-foot human to stand.
Capacity: Tent capacities range from one-person to 14-person and beyond, and it’s all about personal preference. For this review, we included mostly two- and four-person tents, with a few larger options for families. Most tent models are offered in multiple sizes - in which case we will discuss one specific size, and include links for the additional options.
Doors: One door is suitable for a single or couple. But if you plan on sharing the tent with a friend or a few children, it’s wise to have a few doors so you don’t wake up to someone stumbling over you in the middle of the night.
Weight: When you can unload your trunk and setup camp right by the car, weight isn’t a huge deal (like it is with backpacking). Beware, though, that heavier tents typically don’t pack down very small, which means it will take up quite a bit of trunk space - this can be important when you're stuffing four people into a car for a weekend getaway.
Weather/Style: If you only camp a few times a year in warm, dry climates, an affordable tent with good ventilation and water resistance can be enough. But if you’re a weekly camper, or you frequent areas with high winds or frequent thunderstorms, it’s worth it to spend the extra coin on a tent that is built to handle some nasty nights.
Note: The number in each product title refers to the number of people each tent will comfortably sleep.