When human beings venture out into the unpredictable natural world, they need one essential provision, arguably above all else: a shelter for weather protection.
Campers must always bring with them a reliable, good quality tent that is specifically designed to fit their needs.
Because there is an assortment of different tent styles with differing functionalities, it is always best to first consider what kind of job you need this shelter to do before buying.
When bush-whacking, mountaineering or simply having a nice weekend away with the family, a couple of things are non-negotiable.
Tents need to provide an adequate refuge from bugs, spiders, and scorpions, so all of the best tents are fully equipped with mesh and/or mosquito nets covering any exposed areas.
They also need to keep occupants dry and warm, so picking a tent with a rainfly is a good move. Not only does the rainfly act as a barrier between the roof or the tent and the elements, but it also keeps those within it warmer.
We’ve taken a thorough look at some of the best tents on the market, and have come up with a time-saving list of reliable products, and put them to the test in a number of possible camping scenarios.
Does every camper have to choose a tent that caters to their needs, or is there one multi-purpose tent that has it all?
1. Camping Tent Review: Coleman SunDome 4 Person Tent
- Dome shape protects the roof from rain and snow build-up
- Includes a lightweight rainfly for added weather protection
- Fits up to 4 people comfortably
- Very reasonably priced for quality and features
- Variflo ventilation regulates temperature and prevents condensation
- Easy to assemble and dismantle
This is the model that all the backpacking tents want to be when they have grown up. The Coleman SunDome is surprisingly roomy, given that it is a dome tent with sloped edges.
Its 4ft 11-inch center height gives occupants enough space to move around despite the tent’s compact design. As always with dome tents, standing up and walking around is not possible because the sloped edges restrict headspace.
For such a reasonably priced tent, the SunDome has an impressive resume, coming equipped with many handy features, storage areas, and waterproof solutions.
The zippers on this model are fitted with a water-resistant cuff, protecting the doorway’s most vulnerable component from the elements. They have also used inverted seems on all stitching, leaving needle holes protected from moisture and helping waterproof the living space.
The number of mesh storage pockets is generous and convenient. They are very handy for smaller gear storage, and to keep the inside of the tent neat and organized. The SunDome has a really nifty addition that shows real attention to detail in the design: the built-in E-port.
An electrical extension chord can seamlessly fit through a little pocket in the corner of the tent, and you can enjoy electricity easily without leaving the safety of the tent.
Coleman designed this particular tent to be three things: user-friendly, weather resistant and strong.
They have incorporated WeatherTec technology into their process, and use techniques such as welding-inspired edge reinforcement to prevent leakage, and Variflo ventilation solutions to lower condensation and help temperature regulation.
One of its most charming features, however, has to be how adorably green it is. Its limey hue blends beautifully in with your natural surroundings, but stands out as brighter and bolder, making it easy to locate in dubious lighting and from far away.
Want to Pick The Best Tents For Your Camping Trip?
We’ve put together a short but comprehensive guide to what campers should look for when choosing a tent that’s perfectly suited to your needs.
Read on to find out more about outdoor shelter, and how to make a smart, informed decision for you, your friends and family.
How Do I Choose A Camping Tent?
Camping tents come in all shapes, sizes, and weights, and are different from backpacking tents in that they are generally heavier, roomier and sturdier.
Backpackers need lightweight tents that can fit in a hiker’s backpack, but the lighter the polyester materials used to drape the tent, the less abuse the body of the structure can take from wear and tear.
Luckily for backpackers, most tents these days use aluminum poles that are very light, thin and easy to store.
Camping, however, is very different from backpacking, particularly if you are doing so as a group. The best car camping tent may not necessarily be the best tent for camping in general, so think carefully about what your camping trip has in store for you.
There are three key factors to keep in mind when choosing a tent:
How many people are going to be sleeping in your shelter? People need enough elbow and legroom to feel comfortable and be able to have a good night’s sleep. Some tents will advertise a 2 – 4-person occupancy, but do not take into account the varying heights and body sizes of buyers.
You absolutely have to take into account the floor space available and plan to rather overshoot than underestimate the space that you will need.
What kind of weather are you expecting at your campsite? If you’re planning on marauding through an Alaskan national park, protection against the cold is priority number one.
You should always select a tent with a dome shape, so that snow does not collect on the roof. Definitely choose a waterproof tent that is sturdy enough to withstand high winds.
If you are camping somewhere warm and dry, keeping good ventilation is paramount. Always opt for a tent with large mesh panels to let air flow adequately and cool down the space.
This mesh acts as a bug-proof layer too, so those balmy summer evenings don’t bring with them hordes of mosquitos. You also don’t want to pick a tent that is too cramped, as the more body heat emitted, the hotter the small space gets.
Are you going to be bringing your 4×4 along for the ride? The best car camping tent is one that is made of a high denier material (thick fibers), like the KingCamp Melfi Plus SUV Car Tent, specifically designed to attach to an SUV.
Having a car in which to store a heavy tent allows you to enjoy the security that the heavier tents provide, without suffering the downside of it being difficult to carry on foot.
Hikers should opt for lightweight tents made of thinner materials to avoid fatigue and injury on the trail.
How Easy Is It To Put Up Your Family Camping Tent?
Setting up a camping tent can be a breeze, most of the time. We have done away with the archaic methods of hammering thick iron rods into the earth, and are now offered products that are increasingly more user-friendly.
Tent poles are made of aluminum and elastic tethers and are either slipped through a cylindrical nylon sleeve or clipped in place to give the tent’s skeleton its structure.
These aluminum poles are fixed in place by slotting them into small grommets on each corner of the tent, keeping them taught and holding the tent up.
Once you have secured your tent poles, you can place your tent on its footprint and use the stakes included in your tent pack (or separately bought ones should you want to lighten your load) to stabilize the floor of your tent and fix it to the ground.
Open up window covers to expose the mesh, and let the tent stand and ventilate. You can choose to add a rainfly for extra weather protection, or guy chords to anchor your tent during high winds.
Some tents even come with color-coded grommets and tent poles, a feature that makes it much easier and quicker to set up. Always fully erect your tent before embarking on your journey to avoid any unexpected snags, manufacturing errors or complicated aspects of setup that require time to complete.
Just remember to pack all the parts carefully back into their bag – you don’t want to find yourself deep in the Yosemite Mountains without any tent poles.
What Is A Tent Footprint, And How Large Should It Be?
A tent footprint is the smarter version of putting a heavy-duty tarp under your tent to protect it from rocks, sticks, stones, and water. If you do use a tarp, it would most likely be larger than the square feet of the floor space, and this leaves space for water to collect and pool around the side of the tent.
Buy a footprint for your tent that is specially made to fit your specific model, and doesn’t overreach the edges of your tent.
Do You Need A Tarp Under Your Tent?
If you do decide to use a tarp under your tent, it can still benefit your tent’s integrity over time. A blend of thick materials laid out below the base of the tent will very effectively guard it against being punctured, torn or scraped.
However, as discussed above, wrongly-fitted tarps can gather water from the rain and may dampen poor campers just trying to get a good night’s sleep.
Although we highly recommend investing in a good quality tent footprint to best prevent damage, a tarp sized correctly for the tent’s base will do fine.
2. Camping Tent Review: Toogh 3 – 4 Person Automatic Camping Tent
- Sets itself up in seconds using hydraulics
- Not recommended for more than two people
- Has two doors with mesh inners
- Can prove confusing to use at first
- Hexagonal shape
- Includes a rainfly, but is not 100% waterproof
- Pricier because of hydraulic features
The Toogh Automatic tent range is perplexingly brilliant, if we must admit. The thing is half shelter dome, half transformer from another planet. Well, not exactly. You see, the Toogh does not require a methodical setup like most conventional dome tents.
Instead, the tent is actually hydraulically powered to erect itself, needing only to be unfolded and extended. The Toogh literally goes from packed away to on display in a matter of 5 seconds or less. All you need to do thereafter is secure the basics.
It stands a smidgeon taller than Coleman’s SunDome, measuring 5ft in center weight, but has a slightly awkward, hexagonal shape to it that makes moving around inside of it a tad cumbersome.
Luckily, the tent has two built-in-doors, so both can be opened to maximize spaciousness inside. If you are looking to fit four large people inside a tent like this, consider bumping up your choice to a 6-person tent, just to make sure it isn’t cramped.
Some bugs in the system will always come to light, of course, and unfortunately, although the tent is quick and easy to set up, it can challenge even the soberest of minds to tame the beast back into its folded state.
Read the instructions and practice at home a few times before you leave on your trip, and you should be good. Too science fiction for you? Rather opt for a tent like the Coleman SunDome. It does the same job, only better, for an extra ten minutes of setup time.
3. Camping Tent Review: ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 4-Person Tent
- Very good weather protection
- Easy 2-pole setup
- Lots or gear storage space
- 2 mesh-covered doors with polyester cover
- Not as large as one would expect
- Higher price range
The ALPS Mountaineering tent is not built for your average garden party. In fact, it may even be over-qualified for a weekend by the lake.
The Lynx is different breed; it only requires 2 poles to be set up and is well-endowed with storage pockets, a gear loft, two vestibules for extra gear storage, and its floor space has a 2000mm thick Durable poly taffeta coating for optimal weather protection.
People shorter than 5ft 2inches will be able to stand up in the center of this tent, but not walk around, because of its weather resistant, easy-to-assemble dome shape.
Although it markets itself as a 4 – person shelter, its roominess leaves a bit to be desired, so consider buying a larger model should you be needing space for 3 or more occupant.
It has two doors and comes with a large, strong, waterproof polyester rainfly for maximum protection from wet conditions.
Because it has been designed with mountaineering in mind, the Lynx does brilliantly in harsh weather above the tree level, withstanding high winds, storms and protecting occupants from extreme temperatures.
It also comes with a pack of highly visible guy ropes which can be used to further secure your tent to the ground.
4. Camping Tent Review: KingCamp Melfi Plus SUV Car Tent
- The dome itself is tall and you can stand in it with ease
- 2 large awnings and a separate screen room
- Connects to most SUVs seamlessly
- Will take longer to set up, especially by novices
- Made from weather resistant polyester
- Price tag is steep
If you are looking to kit out your SUV camping experience with one of the best car camping tents on the market, you are bound to run into the KingCamp MELFI Plus at some point.
The thing is vivacious, sporting two large extendable awnings that provide undercover storage space, weather protection, shade and a place to hang laundry or suspend lights.
This tent is spacious and built to encourage optimal ventilation and temperature regulation, but my oh my, is it heavy.
All in all, the tent’s carrying weight is 37.3lbs, a simply inconsiderable burden to carry whilst backpacking, but when used in conjunction with SUV camping, it can turn a parked vehicle into a home-base, party-station or even office space if you have a really cool job!
Although the KingCamp Melfi Plus has received a lot of praise for its multifunctionality and versatility, it must be said that it is not as easy to assemble as intimated. Campers should feel very proud of themselves if they manage to erect this cathedral of a tent within 30 minutes.
However, if you are going for space and SUV compatibility, it’s only sensible to choose a more complex design which requires more effort to piece together.
On a similar note, you may want to keep in mind that, as functionality increases, so does the price, and this tent is very functional indeed.
The Verdict: Which Is The Best Tent For Camping?
After everything said and done, the last zipper has been audited and the last center height measured, its time to gain some clarity. With all this new information at hand, what really is the best option for my needs?
To put it simply, the last three tents we reviewed all had one distinct feature that made them interesting and useful.
KingCamp Melfi was designed for fun-loving, free-wheeling family campers who pursue experience at any cost, while the ALFA Mountaineer Lynx tent was made to hold up top extreme weather conditions in a variety of climates.
The Toogh automatic pop-up tent has its hydraulic self-erecting mechanism, and it is a revolution or a gimmick, it’s a pretty cool thing to watch.
However, the Belle of the Ball here is undoubtedly the Coleman SunDome. It covers all bases, ticks all boxes, reinforces everything twice and does it all simply and cost-effectively.
For the campers who think realistically, who like to be prepared, and who like to avoid wasting unnecessary money on smarty-pants features that serve no immediate purpose, the Coleman SunDome is where you should place your bet.