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Family Tents Buyer’s Guide

Family tents set up in a park.
Family tents provide a fun and inexpensive outing for the whole family.

Family tents are the most important piece of equipment to buy for a family camping trip.

Getting the right tent can be the difference between a cramped, uncomfortable, and sleepless camping trip and a comfortable and relaxing adventure.

Here are a few things you should be on the lookout for as you pick out a family tent.

Perfectly Sized Family Tents

Tent size is measured by the number of people who can lay down in it, so a tent that “sleeps five” should be big enough for five people. However, family camping trips include more than just sleeping. A family tent also needs to fit camping supplies, toys, clothing, food, and maybe even a dog. For family camping trips, we recommend getting a tent that sleeps a two or three more people than you will actually have on your trip. If you have a family of five, a 7- or 8-man tent will be a good fit. Don’t worry about the weight of the tent if you are camping near your car or truck. Only worry about tent weight if you will be carrying the tent as you hike to your campsite over a long distance.

Types of Family Tents

Cabin style tents have nearly vertical walls, so adults can stand up in them and have a lot of usable space. Cabin tents are built for comfort, and some provide features such as room dividers, vestibule doors and awnings.

Dome style tents are durable and easy to assemble. If there are strong winds and rain, a dome tent will hold up better than the more boxy cabin tents. Some dome tents are tall enough for adults to stand up in, but their slanted walls limit the amount of usable standing space.

Weather Resistance

A rainfly is like a rain coat for a tent. They are very important and are sold with most tents. Some rainflies go over just the top of the tent, providing extra ventilation. So, if the rain is blowing sideways, these won’t help you much. A full coverage rainfly is great for windy storms, but some ventilation will be sacrificed. If you usually pack up and go home if your camping trip gets rained on, an on-top rainfly is probably best for you. They provide better ventilation and give you enough rain protection to keep the tent dry long enough to pack up.

Tents come in 3, 3+ and 4 season models. 3 season camping tents are the most popular summer family tents, because they provide good ventilation. If you’re going to be camping in cooler weather, a 3+ season tent will provide more protection from storms and some warmth, but less ventilation. If you plan on camping in winter, you’ll need a 4 season tent. They don’t provide much ventilation because they are designed to keep warmth in when it’s cold outside. 4 season tents are a necessity for camping in cold weather, but may not be the best choice for summer camping unless you bring some tent fans to keep the air circulating.

Other Things To Look For

  • Footprint: Definitely make sure your camping tent has a footprint. These are big tarps that go under the tent and protect it from abrasive objects that could easily rip the tent floor.
  • Tent Fabric: The floor and rainfly of a tent should be durable coated high-denier nylon. The walls of family tents are typically breathable nylon.
  • Interior Pockets: These are great for stowing small items to keep them off the tent floor.
  • Tent Repair Kit: For the little snags and rips that shouldn’t get in the way of your camping trip.
  • Tent Fan: Sometimes ventilation windows just aren’t enough.
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