The best camping tent for you depends on how much room you need, what time of year you go camping, and personal preferences. We are about to break down the different types, sizes, styles and features you can pick from to find the best camping tent for your epic adventures.
#1. Types of Camping Tents: What Kind of Camper Are You?
Do you like to camp in the summer, fall, spring, winter, or all 4 seasons? Is your car equipped with a Cargo Hitch Carrier that’ll transport even the heaviest all-purpose tent? Or do you plan to hike long distances with your tent on your back? Here are five basic categories of tents to help you decide which is best for your camping style.
Summer/Screen Tents for the Summer Time Camper
Summer tents are fully equipped with bug protection and ventilation to help you get through the hottest hot summer days and nights. High quality summer tents can weather summer thunderstorms and moderate winds, but you don’t want to get caught in a serious storm.
Three-Season Tents for the (Almost) All Year Camper
Three-season tents are engineered to keep you dry and cool in spring, summer and fall. This type of tent can weather fierce winds, but it cannot withstand winter storms or snow.
Mountaineering/Winter Tents for the Extreme Winter Camper
Mountaineering tents are made from strong materials, include strong pole structures and lots of guy-out points. As a result, these tents are made to handle extreme weather and winter storms.
Convertible Tents for the All-Weather Camper
Convertible tents are for multi-purpose campers, someone that likes to camp in a wide variety of conditions and seasons. These tents include a variety of options and accessories for different conditions. The walls are typically made of mesh to let in summer breezes, but include zip-up nylon panels for added protection in winds or severe weather. These tents are highly versatile but tend to weigh more.
Tarp Tents for the Camper Who Wants to Pack Light
Tarp tents are the lightest option out there. They are made of polyester or nylon and can be attached to roots, trees, trekking poles, or boulders. There are no walls, floors, or protection from bugs, but if you know how to rig this type of tent up it can provide a surprising deal of protection against the weather.
#2. What Size Camping Tent Do You Need?
Once you peg the appropriate type of tent, it’s time to decide on tent size. Tents come in a wide variety of sizes, some are made to accommodate 1-2 people, while others can fit your group of 8 friends. Tent sizes are advertised by how many people they fit, but that doesn’t mean a 6-person tent always accommodates 6 people comfortably.
How many people do you plan to pack in your tent on a regular basis? The answer to this question is your starting point. Let’s say you plan to fit 4-people in the tent, a 4-person tent is going to fit 4-people maximum and it’s going to be a pretty tight fit. You might want to consider investing in a 5 or 6-person tent if:
- Anyone in your group is larger
- Tosses and turns a lot at night
- You are bringing a pet or small child
Tent Floor Length
If you are 6 feet or taller, you’ll benefit from a tent floor length of 90-inches, as opposed to standard 84 to 88-inch tent floors.
The amount of headroom in a tent is determined by the wall slope. Short “eyebrow” poles or “hubbed” poles tend to offer more vertical sidewalls, which translates to greater living space.
#3. Camping Tent Design Options
Now that you know what type and size tent you require, it’s time to decide on design features.
One or Two Tent Doors?
Two doors make it easier for people to go in and out without stepping over sleeping bodies. Tents with 2 doors tend to weigh a little more, but they add a lot of comfort and livability, especially if you are sharing a tent with more than 2 people.
When you go shopping for tents, physically test out the zippers to ensure they are easy to use, don’t get stuck, and are relatively quiet. YKZ zippers tend to last longer and do not snag or break as easily as others.
Peak Height Camping Tents
If you hate bending over to change your clothes, a peak height tent allows you to fully stand up inside of your tent.
The shape of your tent determines overall comfort and space just as much as square footage. Basic tent shapes include A-frame, modified A-frame, dome, hoop/tunnel, pyramid/teepee, and wedge.
A-frame tents are affordable, lightweight and best for light to moderate weather conditions. The sloped walls can reduce head and elbow room.
Modified A-frame tents are similar but include a center hoop pole, curved sidewalls, and a ridgeline pole for greater stability and additional interior space.
Dome tents are shaped like a dome and provide ideal shelter against winds and storms.
Hoop/tunnel tents are lightweight and weather resistant, but they are not freestanding so they are not as easy to set up.
Pyramid/teepee tents are shaped like a teepee with a supportive vertical center pole. This type of tent is spacious, but there is no floor, so good luck in wet weather.
Wedge tents are higher at one end and lower at the other. Their aerodynamic design makes them more resistant to wind, plus they are lightweight. Wedge tents tend to have reduced interior space and headroom.
Cabin-style tents offer the most comfort and luxury. Peak height and living space are maximized thanks to near-vertical walls. Some even include interior dividers for added privacy.
Your options are fiberglass, aluminum and carbon fiber tent poles.
Fiberglass poles are the cheapest option, but they tend to be heavier and less durable.
Aluminum poles are very common, especially for backpacking tents. They are light, strong, and easy to replace.
Carbon Fiber poles are the priciest option, they are super lightweight and strong, but not as strong as aluminum.
#4. Do You Need Camping Tent Accessories?
Some tents come with the option to add pull out awnings. This gives you extra space to hang out, and it also provides shelter for your boots and other gear.
A waterproof rainfly cover fits over your tent roof to provide additional protection from rain and moisture. Roof-only rainflies offer moderate protection from the rain, while letting in more light and views from the sky above. Full-coverage rainflies block out some of your view in exchange for the highest level of protection against wind and rain.
#5. Freestanding Camping Tents Vs. Tent Poles
Freestanding (fs) tents are popular because they are easier to set up and relocate as needed. They can be set up without any stakes, albeit even fs tents need to be tied down with stakes or poles after they are put together.
Non-freestanding tents require stakes during the set-up process because the stakes are what give the tent its shape. This style is easier to fit into small spaces and tends to be lighter.
Novice campers or those that consider themselves “pole challenged” may benefit from a freestanding tent.
The biggest benefits to freestanding tents:
- You can pitch the tent and fine-tune it as needed before staking it into position.
- You can shake it out to remove bugs, sand, etc. without taking the entire tent down first.
Drawbacks to freestanding tents:
- They are heavier because of the pole system they come with.
- If you break a tent pole, forget improvising with a trekking pole.
Camp Better with the Cargo Hitch Carrier
We specially engineered our Cargo Hitch Carrier with outdoor adventures in mind. You can fit everything from your camping tent to your fishing gear in the compact carrier, which provides up to 500 pounds of extra hauling capacity. It safely attaches to any vehicle and includes a 2” rise to keep your gear off the ground and out of exhaust.