There’s not a whole lot better than spending time with your family in the great outdoors. If you’re not intent on glamping, however, you’re going to need to make sure that you have the right tent. Tents are your shelter and your home while you’re out in the backcountry and that means that it’s necessary for some more thought than “the cheapest one at Walmart” to be occuring.
We’re pretty sure most families will love the Wenzel 8 Person Klondike Tent. This polyester, eight person tent is lightweight and should last through multiple trips without coming in at a deluxe price.
On the other hand, depending on the kind of camping that you’re intent on it may not be the right fit for you and yours. Let’s take a look at five excellent, but very different, models of family tent and then we’ll help you figure out which is the best for your trip.
This was our favorite of the readily available family camping tents on the market. It’s well suited for the vast majority of car campers and is great for any season but winter.
Top 5 Family Camping Tents
|Wenzel 8 Person Klondike Tent||16’ x 11”||Polyester||Check Price|
|Coleman STEEL CREEK||10’ x 14’||Polyester||Check Price|
|Coleman Sundome 6-Person Dome Tent||10’ x 10’||Polyester||Check Price|
|Coleman Montana 8-Person Tent||16’ x 7’||Polyester||Check Price|
|AmazonBasics Tent||9’ x 7’||Polyester||Check Price|
1. Best Overall Family Camping Tent
Wenzel 8 Person Klondike Tent
Of all the options we looked at this was undoubtedly our favorite. It’s suitable for three season camping and has a screened in porch area to allow you to handle things outside. It’s not an instant setup tent, but it’s not as hard as some of the other options that we look at.
The tent is made of polyester, with a water-resistant polyester cover. The secondary area is a great place to sleep on warm spring and summer nights and the double stitched seams help to keep the water out as well.
We don’t recommend it for eight people, however a family of four would likely find it to be quite cozy. You can leave your gear out front and use the inside as a sleeping area, if you approach the maximum amount of people for the tent then some people are going to be sleeping on the porch.
That said, it’s a high-quality tent and we found that after the first setup it went up pretty easy.
Pros and Cons
- Screened in porch area
- Strong, well-done seams
- Separation allows for equipment storage
- Comes with a great rainfly
- Not really suitable for eight people
- Not great for wind due to boxy shape
2. Best Family Camping Tent for Inclement Weather
Coleman STEEL CREEK FAST PITCH 6-PERSON DOME TENT
If the area you’re planning on camping in has a ton of wind and rain then you’ll be in good hands with this fastpitch tent from Coleman. It’s pretty well designed for making sure that you’re comfortable and the lower, dome style allows it to hold up fairly well in wind.
We found it was possible to put it up in less than ten minutes once you were familiar with how it works. Add in that it has a screened in “porch” section and it’s pretty awesome despite the fact that it’s probably not quite suited for six people in heavy weather.
The rainfly really does need to be on, the back window doesn’t have an actual seal and instead is a mesh. We found that with it on, however, even in heavy rain the sleeping area managed to stay remarkably dry.
If you’re planning on camping somewhere with unpredictable weather, you should give this tent a shot. It’s second to none when it comes to resisting rain and wind.
Pros and Cons
- Domed profile handles wind well
- Goes up quickly and easily
- Excellent rainfly included
- Divided into two sections
- Porch section isn’t waterproof
- Really needs the rain fly for privacy and warmth
3. Best Family Camping Tent for Calm Weather
Coleman Sundome 6-Person Dome Tent
Not everyone is planning on an extreme outdoor incursion, and if you’re only going to be dealing with mild weather and maybe a little bit of drizzle then this six person tent might be just right for your family. It’s priced pretty well for a durable tent and it has all the necessities.
The rainfly is waterproof, of course, and we found it held up to minor winds and a bit of sprinkling but we wouldn’t want to test it out in a gale. It’s nothing to write home about when it comes to setup but most people should be able to get it done in a relatively short amount of time.
For warm weather camping it’s hard to beat this one. It also comfortably holds six people since the interior is a hundred square feet, which is more than can be said for the estimations of many of the tents we looked at.
If you’re going camping in mild weather, then this is probably the right option for your family. Just keep in mind this one isn’t suited for winter or particularly rough weather and you’ll do just fine.
Pros and Cons
- Actually holds six people
- Relatively easy setup
- Comes with a rain fly
- Lightweight construction
- Not suited for rough weather
- Needs a ground cover underneath if it’s even mildly damp
4. Best Family Camping Test for Larger Families
Coleman Montana 8-Person Tent
Unlike most of the eight person tents we looked at we actually believe this one could hold that many people. On top of that it has a sturdy construction, holds up in moderate weather well, and is remarkably easy to set up for the size as long as you have one other person with you.
It’s remarkably waterproof, but some reviewers noted issues with humidity during the rain with too many people inside. This will leave things a bit damp, but it’s definitely a lot better than it leaking. It seems to be primarily due to a lack of ventilation, which actually makes it a decently warm tent at night.
It also has an overhang in front of the door so you can place your packs and boots and keep them out of the way while you’re inside. Add in the generous footprint and this is an excellent option for family camping trips.
If you’ve got a large family and you’re not planning on facing off with extreme weather then the Coleman Montana might be just the thing you’ve been looking for.
Pros and Cons
- Enormous footprint of 16’ x 7’
- Overhang to cover boots and packs
- Quite warm and snug overall
- Actually holds eight people
- Not much ventilation inside
- Can be hard to put up with one person
5. Best Budget Family Camping Tent
AmazonBasics does a lot of things well, they’re just not generally superb. Their four person tent is no exception, coming with everything you need and a low price tag but not being particularly exceptional in any way.
We recommend this one mostly for those who aren’t planning on doing anything extreme or going camping too often. It’s cheap enough that even if you’re only out once or twice a year it’ll still be a good option however.
It’s remarkably easy to set up, has a rain fly, and holds four people. There’s not a lot more you can ask for when it comes down to it, at least at this price.
If you’re looking for a budget tent for the occasional temperate camping then you’ll be well-served with this one. Those with a more serious passion for the outdoors should go with something a bit pricer however.
Pros and Cons
- Cheap price
- Good footprint
- Has all the basics in order
- Good waterproofing
- Not super durable
- Can’t compete with name brand tents
First Things First: Where Are You Going?
Figuring out where you’re likely to be camping is going to be the first thing that you need to do when you’re looking to pick up a tent. If you’re not an avid fan of camping then chances are you’re going to be looking at the footprint and… while that’s not a bad idea you need to take into account terrain and weather when you head out.
If you’re planning, for instance, on mostly camping in California coastal forests during the spring and summer you’ll be able to make-do with a fairly lightweight tent but a couple of hundred miles away in the Sierra Nevadas you’re going to want something much heavier and more durable to withstand the cold and winds.
For the most part, you need to think about the following:
- What will the weather be like on average?
- Is there going to be a lot of wind?
- Are you hiking far from the car or staying nearby?
- What is the ground going to be like?
- How often do you plan on going camping?
Once you’ve figured those out you’ll be in a much better position to make the right decision on a tent for you and your family.
Tent Material Matters
Tents are made in a wide variety of different materials, some of them better suited for certain tasks than others. Most people are familiar with nylon and polyester tents.
These synthetic materials have a surprising amount of durability and most consumer tents are made of them for good reason. Of the two nylon is a tougher material for the most part but also heavier and more prone to UV damage while polyester is cheaper, less durable, but withstands sun better.
Natural materials, such as cotton and canvas, are almost impervious to sun over time and tend to hold together for much longer than synthetic materials. There’s a reason that cotton canvas is still the material of choice for military tents after all.
They also cost a lot more.
If you have the money and you’re likely to be near the car you’ll find that canvas is the way to go, but most of us aren’t going to want to spring for a cotton tent and that leaves the choice between nylon and polyester.
For most purposes, nylon is the superior material. The exception to this is desert camping, where the sun is likely to be exposed to tons of UV and a polyester construction will last for more trips.
You should, in any case, make sure that the poles are of good quality. A broken pole makes for a useless tent. Aluminum is better than fiberglass, but both are serviceable as long as you’re working with a reputed brand of tent.
How easy a tent is to set up is going to make a huge difference in whether you end up bringing it out again.
We found that some family tents went up in minutes, with only a couple more minutes required to ensure that the guy lines were set properly while others had even the outdoors inclined mystified for ten or fifteen minutes before they could be popped up.
Ease of use was one of our primary requirements. It’s especially important if you’re camping in an area where inclement weather is a possibility since you may need to get things up in a hurry in less than glamorous conditions.
Remember to set guy lines when you’re done setting up the primary structure as well. The stakes should be placed into the ground at a right angle with the line itself instead of driven straight into the ground for the best results.
After all, there’s nothing worse than watching your tent float off into the woods if heavy wind hits.
Tents are pretty much always rated for how many people they can fit.
That doesn’t always account for gear, or room to change, or anything else at all. This means the footprint of the tent is much more vital than the “can sleep six” metric which most people go with.
If you’re particularly tall you may also want to look up how high the tent is. While people over 6’ often won’t be able to stand tall in the majority of a tent it’s a lot more comfortable to be able to slightly slouch down than to have to crouch the entire time you’re inside.
Just ensure that the footprint is big enough for your needs, rather than blindly trusting the manufacturer’s recommendations.
If you’re expecting even the slightest chance of rain, then a rainfly is something you’re going to want to look into. Most tents come with them but, especially for family-sized models, sometimes you’ll have to purchase them separately.
Really, we recommend picking one up no matter where you’re planning on camping. They can also help to beat the sun, which is a big bonus in hotter climes and being able to take your tent a wider variety of places is always a good thing.
Other Considerations for Your Family’s Tent
Once you have all of the above settled, everything else is more about convenience than it is about suitability for the camping trip at hand. The following are all things to keep an eye out for, however, and many of them can make a pretty big difference.
Tent doors in synthetic fabrics are usually zippered up, with many of them having a primary over-layer and an interior mesh layer to allow for the material to breathe.
The zippers should be solid, nothing is more irritating on a trip than having a stuck zipper on a tent door. Being able to easily zip up the full door for privacy’s sake is also a good thing to keep an eye out for.
You’ll also want to see if there is more than one entrance into the tent. While this is a useful feature, it often necessitates extra setup time.
The shape of a tent may seem to be an afterthought… until you try using a tent with a boxy frame in high winds.
Wind is the biggest concern when it comes to shape, and sometimes you’ll need to compromise between a big, spacious tent and something which is low to the ground in order to keep things solid in the wind.
Since most tents are flex-pole models, you should look into lower and more rounded shapes if you’re expecting winds in excess of fifteen miles per hour on a regular basis.
Try to find something which is double layered on the bottom. Ideally, the external layer will be waterproof and keep your sleeping bag from getting soaked if it rains during the night. You also want a tough material, especially if you’re taking animals and children with you on your camping trips.
In any case, it’s always good to get a groundsheet which is suitable for the footprint of your tent as well, even if you have one built into the bottom layer. They’re easier to replace than an entire tent after all.
Caring for Your Family’s Tent
Once you have your tent, you might be tempted to just take it out. They’re built for the great outdoors after all, how hard can it be to take care of one?
Not hard at all, actually, but you’ll still need to observe some basic functions in order to ensure that everything is operating properly for as long as possible.
The following should be done while the tent is erected:
- Try not to wear your boots inside the tent, it can tear up the bottom and it’ll also track mud and moisture all over everything inside.
- UV exposure is a synthetic material killer. Try to set up your tent where the exposure is limited, and use your rain fly to block a bit more of the sun since they’re cheaper to replace than an entire tent.
- Bringing a small mat to place outside the door of the tent is a great idea to help keep the floor from getting scratched.
- Always clear the area under the tent of anything which might be damaging beforehand. This includes stickers, rocks, sticks, and even leaf litter if you want to be particularly careful.
- Don’t leave food in the tent, instead use a bear bag. Even small animals can make a big mess if they decide they want in.
As long as you do all of the above, you’ll be able to avoid the vast majority of damage to your tent.
Putting it Away
How you store your tent has a big effect on it’s longevity as well. Make sure to do all of the following before putting your tent away:
- Always dry your tent before putting it in storage. While you can hike it out while wet, spread it out to dry as soon as possible. Mildew is the biggest enemy of a tent in storage, and even if it doesn’t destroy the tent the smell can make it pretty much uninhabitable for the next trip.
- Sweep the tent out before putting it back in the bag. The less dirt, dust, and other things inside the less damage your tent will take in storage. Even a small stick can eventually wear through things in the interior of a tent bag.
- Always double check the tent when you get home from your trip. It can be a pain getting them in and out of the bag, we know, but it’s the best way to make sure your temporary shelter is one hundred percent ready to go for the next trip.
Camping with the family is a ton of fun, but a subpar tent can lead to a trip which you’ll be less than enthusiastic about. Make sure you have the best family camping tent for your trip before you head out and you’re likely to enjoy the great outdoors quite a bit more.
If you’re still undecided, take a look at the Wenzel 8 Person Klondike Tent, it’s still one of the best we’ve found and it’s suitable for a pretty wide range of different climates.
So, the next time you’re ready to hit the great outdoors… don’t you think you should have a great family tent ready? Pick one up today, and let the road be your guide in the future.