Are you looking for the best camping tent you can buy in 2019? Want to stretch your camping dollar as far as you can without sacrificing quality? Look no further. We've researched over 30 camping tents and tested 15 top models - subjecting them to everything from Pacific Northwest rainstorms to Oregon's high desert, Joshua Tree National Park, and even a few cold fall Tahoe nights. All the while, we paid attention to critical features. Keep reading to see which are our favorites and specific recommendations for those on a budget or who need a seriously waterproof outdoor shelter. We've even added a selection of smaller family camping tents because we know that not everyone is looking for a palatial estate in the woods.
The Best Camping Tents of 2019
|Price||$320.99 at REI||$229.99 at REI||$499.95 at REI|
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|$399 List||$254.25 at Amazon|
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|Pros||Tall and long, barn-shaped, versatile front vestibule, adjustable room divider.||Roomy feel with vertical walls, tons of storage space, good fly and vestibule.||Easy, quick set-up, expansive vestibule, spectacular storage design||Fast set up, built-in large vestibule, lots of ventilation, tall ceiling height||Roomy, large vestibule, simple, classic design.|
|Cons||Only one vestibule, back door is more exposed to the elements, more poles than most.||Not the cheapest four-man tent out there, extremity poles are a little thin.||Odd placement of interior pockets, more expensive than many of its contemporaries||Can't stand in vestibule, limited views when laying or sitting, poor duffel/stuff sack||Not overly innovative, could use more storage.|
|Bottom Line||A top-notch tent with tons of room and tons of versatility.||REI has taken the dome tent to a new level.||One of the best tents on the market, the Tensleep has great features that are done well.||This one of the best family camping tents we have ever seen at a reasonable price.||The Marmot Limestone 4P is great at keeping it simple. A high-quality tent, with a design that will be familiar to experienced campers.|
|Rating Categories||REI Kingdom 6||Half Dome 4 Plus||Tensleep Station 6||Wawona 6||Marmot Limestone 4|
|Weather Resistance (25%)|
|Ease Of Set Up (15%)|
|Packed Size (5%)|
|Specs||REI Kingdom 6||Half Dome 4 Plus||Tensleep Station 6||Wawona 6||Marmot Limestone 4|
|Weight||19.6 lbs||7.8 lbs||17.8 lbs||20.9 lbs||10.6 lbs|
|Max Inside Height||6 ft 3 in||4 ft||75 in||6 ft 6 in||8 ft 4 in|
|Floor Dimension||10' x 8'4"||7' 8" x 7' 8"||10' x 9'5"||5' 3" x 7'|
REI Kingdom 6
The REI Kingdom 6 remains on top another year as our Editors' Choice award winner, but it certainly has some close competition (see the Tensleep and Wawona reviews below). The Kingdom stayed at the top of the podium due to its unique, spacious, and well thought out design. Hooped poles through the middle of the tent give it more of a barn shape and a lot more room than your typical dome tent, and greater head clearance throughout (6 ft 3 in!). It was surprisingly wind-resistant. Usually taller equals less stable in high winds, but the Kingdom stayed strong and also kept us dry in torrential rains. The adjustable (and zippable!) room divider is a great feature, as is the fact that one end of the tent is primarily mesh while the other is primarily solid fabric, giving you options for both privacy and ventilation.
There are two doors, but there isn't much of a vestibule at the back door. It's not a deal-breaker, given that there is so much more to love about the Kingdom, but anything you'd like out of the elements had better find its way inside the tent or under the expansive vestibule up front. You can purchase a couple of different variations on a vestibule for the back door, but they all come at an extra cost, adding to an already reasonably spendy tent.
These are, of course, small issues, the bottom line is that the Kingdom has enough size, quality, and thoughtful touches to impress even the most expert campers. REI also makes the Kingdom in four- and eight-person models.
Read review: REI Kingdom 6
Simple with a Versatile Vestibule
Big Agnes Tensleep Station 6
The Big Agnes Tensleep Station 6 comes with a large vestibule included. (You have to purchase the REI Kingdom 6 vestibule separately). It's also made with quality materials by a company that has a long history of outstanding tents. In both of these ways, it's very similar to the Wawona. It sets itself apart with the versatility of its vestibule. The Tensleep offers double vertical zippers on the vestibule, meaning you can zip the vestibule apart into three separate pieces and then configure them to suit your needs. It can be directional, with one side open and the other side closed (think side wind and afternoon sun). It can be open in the middle and still up on the sides, giving you a little privacy while still maintaining your view. While it takes a little practice (and your hiking poles), you can even pull the front flap up veranda-style and enjoy an afternoon cocktail in the shade of your vestibule. The Tensleep also has large mesh ceiling, offering a brilliant view of the night sky on warm, clear nights.
The only complaints we can conjure up are that the interior pockets orient to one tent door only and that the vestibule's veranda configuration can be troublesome to set up. Again, the Tensleep and the Wawona are very similar, and if you're intrigued by one, we'd recommend reading through both reviews. They're both great tents, and what sets one apart from the other will likely come down to your personal preference.
Read review: Big Agnes Tensleep Station 6
Most Spacious Vestibule
The North Face Wawona 6
The North Face Wawona was the first tent to challenge the Kingdom 6's dominance in a long time. Now the new Tensleep is also creeping up in the ranks. While The Kingdom and Tensleep edged ahead in our overall scoring, the Wawona impressed us in all of our testing metrics. It has great ventilation, with two large picture windows and vents at the top, and its weather resistance was also solid. Setup was fast and easy, and we were even able to do it with only one person, which is impressive for a larger tent, and key if one parent needs to be wrangling kids while the other is setting it up. Best of all is its vestibule, which is almost as tall as the tent, very spacious, and has a huge door.
We did have issues venting the vestibule when we tried to cook in there in bad weather. The only option is to open the door, but you don't want to do that when it's raining hard. The Wawona also lacks a few of the creature comforts found in the Kingdom, like a room divider. However, the TNF Wawona saves you a little over the Kingdom 6 and Tensleep and includes the excellent vestibule.
Read review: The North Face Wawona
Best Smaller Family Tent
REI Co-op Half Dome 4 Plus
As we added more four-person options, for smaller groups and families, this year it became quickly apparent that the REI Half Dome 4 Plus was going to be a powerhouse. The Half Dome has been a flagship tent at REI for years. This latest version takes a formerly simple design and maximizes a great many aspects. The dual-hub central pole stretches the Half Dome beyond a standard dome shape, and accessory poles along the sides pull the side walls nearly vertical, making the inside more roomy than the 59-square-foot floor space.
Storage abounds in the Half Dome 4 Plus. We were blown away to find 18 individual pockets in the corners and along the ceiling. Staying organized and having a place for everything (and everything in its place) will never be a problem. At 7 lbs., 13 oz., the Half Dome 4 Plus is the lightest tent we tested. While we mostly consider these tents for more car-camping situations, you could take the Half Dome backpacking. It's certainly not lightweight by backpacking standards, but it's versatile enough to pull it off.
Read review: REI Half Dome 4 Plus
Best Buy in Smaller Family Tents
REI Co-op Camp Dome 4
The REI Camp Dome 4 isn't going to impress you with its innovation. Words that kept coming up in our tests were things like, "Old School," and "Classic," and that's not a bad thing. The Camp Dome isn't trying to be the latest fad. It's sticking with a successful and time-tested design and producing it at a high level. The classic dome shape with two crisscrossing poles means the Camp Dome 4 goes up so easy. Many will swear they can do it blindfolded and/or in their sleep. Two large doors should make getting everything in and out of the tent a breeze. With 60 square feet of floor space, the Camp Dome is larger than our favorite overall four-person tent, the REI Half Dome4 Plus. Although to be fair, the walls on the Camp Dome do slant in more than the Half Dome (as standard dome tents are wont to do), meaning you lose a little bit of that interior volume. The material quality of the Camp Dome stood out to us. Thick floor and fly fabric that will resist rips and tears, seam taping to keep the wet out, and sturdy poles that should stay straight and true for many a season make this a highly functional tent.
We did find that, while the fly does a fine job on the sides of the tent, on the front and back, there's just an extended overhang. No vestibule or actual fabric coverage down the length of the doors. The overhang is enough to keep dripping rain off the front and rear of the tent. So long as you don't experience sideways rain often, this shouldn't be an issue. In the end, it's the price tag and quality build of the Camp Dome 4 that make it a great value.
Read review: REI Camp Dome 4
Best Bang for the Buck
Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6
The Carlsbad Fast Pitch is a tent that lives up to its marketing claims. It took us only 12 minutes to set it up for the first time, solo and in the dark. Wow! It is also noticeably cooler and darker in the sun, allowing us to sleep in late, or get out of the hot midday sun. The front mesh "porch" increases the sleeping area on dry evenings, providing bug protection but still giving you that sleeping-under-the-stars feeling.
This tent is not the best for cold or inclement weather. The fly doesn't cover the entire body or the mesh porch, and it's also permeable to sand and dust. It's a perfect beach-camping tent, but not for windy locales. We were less than impressed with the carrying bag, which, while compact, is virtually impossible to get the tent back into once everything has expanded. However, since you're spending so little on the Carlsbad, you could also buy a small duffel bag to go along with it. Our Best Buy winner is half the price of some other models! Check out the Coleman Instant 6 below for even more savings.
Read review: Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch
Best Buy for Easy Setup
Caddis Rapid 6
The rapid in Caddis Rapid 6 Tent is not hyperbole. It is the Usain Bolt of family camping tents. It's The Roadrunner and The Flash combined in tent form. The design of the Caddis is very similar to the Coleman Instant Tent 6. Both have pre-attached, extension poles. Both utilize joint-like corners to create their shape. And both can be set up in under a minute, by one person, probably even while blindfolded and hopping on one leg. What sets the Caddis apart from the Coleman, and justifies the slightly higher price tag, is its more protective rain fly, roomy interior, high ceiling, well-spaced storage pockets, gear loft, and Velcro electric cord access point. While the Coleman will get the job done admirably on calm, warm days, its fly is little more than a top hat. The Caddis, on the other hand, comes with a fly that goes nearly to the ground on three sides, making it much more weather-ready.
The only small issue we found is that, despite its small vestibule, the Rapid 6's front door is vulnerable to rain. It's certainly not perfect, but it's leaps and bounds better than the Coleman when the weather goes south. While the Caddis storage bag is slightly larger, we found this to be positive. It eliminates the need to either pack with OCD-like precision or stuff and zip with Hulk-like strength. Put — the Caddis is an elevated, even luxurious, version of the Coleman.
Read review: Caddis Rapid 6 Tent
Top Pick for Weather Resistance
Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6
The Flying Diamond 6 is the only model in this roundup that is a genuine four-season tent. It would not be our first pick for polar expeditions, but it's a great choice for a family snow camping trip. There's a "kids-room" or storage compartment at the back, and the whole thing folds into a handy carrying case.
The main downside to this tent is its internal height. At only 5'6" in the main room and 4'1" in the cubby, it's not the best for tall people. The setup is a bit involved as well. Big Agnes color-coded the poles and corners to help make it go faster, but it takes significantly longer to get it set up than tents like the Coleman Instant 6. However, once it is set up and guyed out, this tent can withstand a lot, so if you love year-round camping even in miserable conditions, the Flying Diamond is our top choice. If you need even more space, check out the larger Big Agnes Flying Diamond 8.
Read review: Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6
Why You Should Trust Us
Our expert panel of testers consists of Rock Guide and Mountaineer Lyra Pierotti and multi-sport outdoorsman Wes Berkshire. In addition to being an AIARE Avalanche Instructor, Lyra is undergoing further training with the American Mountain Guides Association. About six months each year, Lyra is pursuing objectives in mountain ranges all over the world. Wes holds a degree in journalism from CU Boulder and spends roughly 150 days each year outside, whether that be backpacking, skiing, biking or running. A solid camping tent is something that these two have the know-how to identify and appreciate.
Lyra and Wes spent several months testing these tents side-by-side at four primary locations, each chosen for its unique and consistent conditions. Rain and humidity were in ample supply for the Pacific Northwest portion, while the tents were up against plenty of heat, wind, sun, and sand in places like Joshua Tree National Park and the high desert of Oregon. Rounding it out were some cooler conditions at the higher elevations around Lake Tahoe.
Related: How We Tested Camping Tents
Analysis and Test Results
We assessed the performance of 12 popular camping tents by subjecting them to wind, rain, sun, heat, cold, late nights, late mornings, and energetic young campers. Below, we'll delve into the criteria that we rated them on and explain how all of the different models compared to each other.
Related: Buying Advice for Camping Tents
There are many important things to consider when purchasing a camping tent, and the price is certainly one of them. The models that we tested ranged from a few hundred dollars to nearly one thousand, a pretty staggering difference. And while a higher price tag usually correlates to higher-quality materials or bomb-proof construction, sometimes there is a sweet spot where you can find exceptional value. In short, a lower price doesn't always equate to a better value, nor does a higher price necessarily mean a worse value.
Of our favorite camping tents, The North Face Wawona 6 and REI Kingdom 6 both offer the highest levels of performance for less than the Big Agnes Tensleep. On the budget end of the spectrum, you get a surprising number of amenities for one of the lowest costs with the Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6 and the Caddis Rapid 6 is a simple, high-quality tent that goes up in seconds.
Comfort is one of the most important considerations when purchasing a camping tent, and counted for 40% of the overall score. Most camping trips are meant to be fun, stress-free, family bonding experiences, or a chance to catch up with friends over a beer or smores. Different campers will have different ideas of comfort and will define livability according to different standards. Larger families might want separate rooms. Mountain lovers will want a sturdier and more reliable tent with a spacious vestibule. Beachgoers need windows, air circulation, and shelter from the sun. But some comfort features, like lots of space, organizational pockets, airflow, and sun protection are universal. Those are the factors we consider here.
Our overall winner, the REI Kingdom 6, is the most comfortable tent in this review. It is a top performer for a broad range of camping scenarios. There is ample headroom (6'3"), a room-divider, a large vestibule for your gear, and lots of pockets inside.
The North Face Wawona 6 came in just behind the Kingdom for comfort. It has tall ceilings and a substantial built-in vestibule. The three large doors and four windows/vents helped with air circulation and kept us comfortable on hot days. You can add a vestibule to the Kingdom but it will cost you extra (even more with awning poles) and adds one more step to the setup process.
The Big Agnes Tensleep Station 6 also scored high in comfort, due in large part to the versatility of its vestibule. Dual front zippers that split the vestibule into three parts give you a ton of different configurations. Storage? Done. Privacy? Got it. Sun-shaded veranda? Oh yeah.
The Wagontop 6 has a high ceiling and great ventilation, but it's not very stable in high winds. We loved the "dark-room" in the Coleman Carlsbad, which let us sleep in on sunny mornings without overheating. So if you need shelter from the scorching hot sun in the desert, you might prefer the Carlsbad. The Coleman Instant Tent 6 and Caddis Rapid 6 are also comfortable in warmer weather due to its high ceiling. However, while they scored well, their dark materials soak up the heat, making it uncomfortable in scorching weather.
It's worth pointing out that some of the more unique tents we tested offer specific features that might appeal to one crowd, and genuinely annoy others. The Big Agnes Titan 6 mtnGLO, for example, can double as a sun/rain shade by merely removing the tent, leaving the exoskeleton and rainfly. We can see people at music festivals or larger get-togethers enjoying this feature as it allows more people to gather under the shade. The hitch, however, is that you can't set up the tent without the rainfly, something that will be a real drawback for some.
Similarly, for sheer size alone, the Eureka Boondocker Hotel 6 scored well for comfort. With 82 square feet inside, a front vestibule that adds another 22 square feet, and the very nifty Gear Garage at 36 square feet, you will have no shortage of space to pitch gear or bodies. I mean, it's got the word Hotel in the name so it has to be huge, right?
When we considered the weather resistance of each model, we look at more than if these tents will keeping us dry in the rain. Campers are outside in all types of weather, from scorching heat to blowing sand and dust, wind, and even hail storms.
The Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6 is the burliest tent in this review. It's the only tent we reviewed here that we'd consider taking on a winter camping adventure in a pinch. It has a low profile and reliable guylines to keep it stable in high winds. The North Face Wawona scored highly as well with its aerodynamic design, solid guylines, and burly poles. The Wawona also had the best built-in vestibule for hanging out and cooking in during storms. The Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6 crushed the competition when it came to keeping cool in the hot summer sun.
The Eureka Boondocker Hotel 6 offers an innovative way to deal with adverse weather. The attached gear garage also doubles as an enclosed patio with enough room for a couple of chairs, a small table, and a cooler full of your favorite beverages. It gives you more room, and more options when the rain rolls in.
A number of the tents we tested including the REI Kingdom 6, the Big Agnes Titan 6 mtnGLO, and REI Camp Dome 4 offered great rainfly coverage on the sides of the tent, but neglected either one or both of the ends. In all cases the exposed doors (front and/or back) were reinforced, seam taped, or weather resistant in some fashion, but it still hurt their rating here.
The Coleman Instant Tent 6 was our lowest rated tent for weather resistance. This is mainly due to its rain fly, which acts more like a cap than a full rain fly, covering only the top of the tent. While Coleman's WeatherTec technology makes the walls weather-resistant, that's not the same as water-proof. So you're going to get wet in much more than a brief sprinkle. On the plus side, the Instant Tent has one of the more durable floors tested, basically a sewn-in tarp, which will help if the ground is wet.
Ease of Setup
When you arrive at the campground late at night after a long and stressful week followed by a long and stressful drive, you want your tent ready to go. Some are extraordinarily intuitive to set up, while others reminded us of an adult-sized erector set. We weighed ease of setup at 15% of the overall scores.
The Caddis Rapid and Coleman Instant are both extremely easy and fast to set up. Both tents can be erected by one person in under a minute with ease. They share a design that includes fully-integrated poles. All you have to do is take the tent out of the bag and pull the poles to length. It doesn't get much easier than this.
Of the top-scoring models, The North Face Wawona 6 is the easiest to set up. There is no extra fly to install, and the pole design is relatively easy for one person to raise. The Big Agnes Tensleep Station 6 is close on the Wawona's heels. The only issue is that the Tensleep has a separate fly. It's not difficult, the webbing and clips are color coded, it just adds one more step to the process. Both the Wawona and the Tensleep feature a similarly simple design, making them straightforward and intuitive.
Both the REI Kingdom 6 and Big Agnes Titan 6 mtnGLO gave us issues with the peak height of the tent, specifically attaching the clips on the tent to the highest points of the poles, but one had a solution.
The Kingdom 6 has a couple of small zippers in the ceiling of the tent that allows you to reach up and through from inside the tent to hook those otherwise hard to reach spots. It's a small touch, but one that makes a world of difference.
The Titan 6 mtnGLO on the other hand, offered no solution to this issue, leaving us stretched out on tippy toes, leaning precariously into and over the rest of the tent, or looking for alternative ways to set it up.
In general, we found the four-person tents we tested to be easier to set up for what should be obvious reasons. You don't have to stretch to get to the apex of the tent or do your best parachute toss to get the fly over the top of the tent.
Among those four-person tents, the REI Camp Dome 4 was the easiest to set up. As a classic dome tent, anyone who has so much as seen a tent should be able to get their head around two poles going into opposite corners and meeting in the middle.
Having multiples poles in different configurations slowed down the setup on the Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6. Main tent poles that protrude and catch on the rain fly made the Marmot Limestone 6 setup more complicated. And a vast rain fly demands multiple people to get it over the Eureka Boondocker Hotel 6.
Things that made some tents more arduous to set up were multiples poles in different configurations and massive rain flies. The Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6 has main tent poles that protrude and catch on the rain fly as does the Marmot Limestone 6. The Eureka Boondocker Hotel 6 has a vast rain fly that demands multiple people, or a lot of patience, to get over the tent.
The overall quality of materials, design, and manufacturing give us a good idea of the long-term durability and shorter-term reliability of these tents. The workmanship is an important category to consider if you want your tent to last for more than one trip.
We are very impressed with the rugged Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6. It has clean and durable stitching, tensions nicely, and the fly fits snugly around the tent body. The same can be said for the other Big Agnes tent, the Tensleep Station 6. The REI Kingdom 6 is close behind, with big, sturdy poles, a straightforward and sturdy design, and secure guyline attachments.
In general, you get what you pay for when it comes to outdoor gear. The Coleman tents are the cheapest and scored the lowest in this category. That's fine if you only camp a few times a year. However, if you plan to use a tent with a poor workmanship score regularly, expect things to start unraveling and breaking after a dozen uses. An exception seems to be the Caddis Rapid 6. For nearly the same price as a Coleman options, it seems better made, and we think it will last longer.
We accept that camping tents are big and heavy, but only to a point. You still have to fit it in your trunk, and you might have to carry it a few hundred feet to a walk-in campsite. As such, we took each model's packed size into consideration, but not too heavily at only 5% of the overall weighting.
Despite not being the smallest, nor lightest tent we reviewed, the REI Kingdom 6 still managed a high score because the backpack design makes transporting it to and from the car very easy.
The Big Agnes Tensleep Station 6 scored well for its innovative storage bag. It has two open pockets, one for the tent and one for the fly, that then fold over a sewn-in pole bag and an attached, zippered stake and guy line sack. Gone are the days of looking all over camp for those tiny bags.
Similarly, for an otherwise massive tent, the Eureka Boondocker Hotel 6 packs down into a duffel bag size, with two pouches and Velcroed pockets for the poles and stakes. They're not all attached like the Tensleep, but still pretty handy.
The Marmot Limestone 6, and all of the four-person tents we tested have a more traditional, long, cylindrical storage bag with a closure that cinches at the end. You have to roll everything back up efficiently to get it back in the bag, but in all cases we found the bags to be somewhat oversized, so it's doable with a minimum of frustration.
The North Face Wawona uses an open-topped, oval-shaped bag that cinches. It works, but some precise folding or rolling is required to get it all back in the bag.
While it's packed size is undoubtedly not petite, the slightly larger storage bag on the Caddis Rapid 6 Tent made the act of packing easier. There is no need for precise and exacting folding and rolling, and we don't have to wrestle, shove, push, pull, or otherwise fight tent, bag, and zipper to get it back in its home.
Finding the right tent can be a completely overwhelming task. There are seemingly endless features, designs, and options. We aim to narrow the myriad of choices down to the best tents currently on the market, test them thoroughly in all relevant areas, and provide you with a complete rundown so that you can make an informed purchase, hopefully ending up with the best tent for you, your family, and friends. Happy trails!
— Lyra Pierotti and Wes Berkshire