Camping Tents: A Buying Guide


Camping Tent Selection

When looking at all of the camping tents out there, think about how you plan to use it before you rush into a quick purchase. If you plan to go on a few family campouts a year you might opt for a larger, heavier tent than if you plan to hike the Appalachian trail.

You’ll want to look at things like the material, weight, and dimensions to see if the tent will accommodate your whole group. Do you like your space? If so, than you may want to get a tent with some room to grow! Keep in mind that a “3-person” tent, for example, can fit 3 sleeping adults and little else.

While there are many options, features, bell and whistles, there are some main qualities of tents that you’ll want to know before buying your home in the woods. Ask yourself the following questions below:

How big of a tent do you need?

The dimensions can be critical when picking a tent. Have a little one? That pack-n-play and maneuvering space around it takes up the space of 2 sleeping bags! How about vertical space? Some large camping tents have room to stand up while others are the crawl-in and crawl-out type. If that’s important to you, you’ll want to look at the interior height.

Are you driving or hiking to your campsite

A 52-pound tent with a gear loft, porch, bay window and cup-holders could make your camping trip a blast…unless of course you have to hike a mile into the woods with it?! A backpacker’s tent can be very different than a scoutmaster’s tent! Be sure to look at the pack weight of the tents before you buy it, especially if you’ll be carrying it for any significant distance.

What is the tent frame (pole) material?

You’ll notice the high-end tents have lightweight aluminum poles while others have fiberglass or steel poles. While aluminum poles are great, I have nothing negative to say about shock-corded fiberglass poles as these have served me quite well over the years. With aluminum poles you get a stronger frame for the carry-weight, so if weight is a consideration you may want to look for an aluminum framed tent.

What is the tent material?

Almost all new camping tents are made out of nylon or polyester taffeta. Most will list a weight in denier (d) or ounces and the type of coating. Nylon is lighter than polyester; and the polyurethane coating than some polyester tents are coated with is susceptible to wear from UV rays. A camping tent with ripstop is a stronger poly thread that’s woven into the fabric to prevent large tears or rips. As you evaluate the tents side-by-side, pay particular attention to the tent’s material that goes against the ground – this needs to be durable and thicker than the tent walls. Look at the material for the rain-fly (if applicable) and if the seams are double stitched. All of this is important for the long-term ability of a tent to keep you dry.

I think it would be fair to say that all reputable camping tents will keep you dry on their first few uses, but over time the cheaper tents will wear and tear (literally) and these holes and thin areas can allow water and bugs to get in (no fun). You’ll notice that the higher-end tents are nylon or heavy polyester…you get what you pay for. But it’s also worth noting that with proper care a polyester tent with polyurethane coating can last for 10+ years of dry, fun camping!

The tent comparison charts below are good 2-3 season tents for family outings, serious backpacking, or scouting trips. They are listed by size: small (1-2 person); medium (3-5 people); and large (6+ people). There are over 50 camping tents from reputable vendors...there should be one there that fits your needs & budget...

Please note that manufacturers continually change tent makes & models, in which case alternates may be listed on the product link pages

Small Camping Tents for 1-2 People:

Tent Model Price Person Wt (lb) Area (sf) Ht (in) Frame Fabric
Eureka Apex Solo Tent $119 1 5.9 20 36 Fiberglass 70d Nylon
Eureka Solo Spitfire 1 $91 1 2.8 18 40 Alum 70d Nylon
Big Agnes Seedhouse 1 $299 1 2.5 22 38 Alum 40d Nylon
Eureka Timberline 2 $109 2 5.8 38 24 Alum 1.9-oz Nylon
Eureka Tetragon 5 $60 2 5.2 35 48 Alum 75d Poly
Eureka Apex 2XT $109 2 5.8 36 44 Fiberglass 70d Poly
Kelty Teton 2 $120 2 4.7 31 40 Alum 68d Poly
Kelty Grand Mesa 2 $99 2 4.1 29 44 Alum 68d Poly
Kelty Gunnison 2.1 $159 2 5.6 37 40 Alum 68d Poly
Coleman Sundome $44 2 7.4 35 48 Fiberglass Polyester
Coleman Milky Way $35 2 6.5 34 38 Fiberglass Poly
Wenzel Pinion Sport $30 2 6.8 49 50 Fiberglass Nylon
Wenzel Starlight $29 2 3.4 22 36 Fiberglass Poly
Big Agnes Seedhouse 2 $157 2 3.4 28 38 Alum 40d Nylon
Sierra Lightning $177 2 3.9 30 40 Carbon 40d Nylon
Sierra Electron RC $181 2 5.4 33 40 Alum 70d Nylon
Sierra Meteor Light $198 2 8.2 40 43 Alum 40d Nylon
Sierra Omega 2 $253 2 6.9 37 40 Alum 70d Nylon



Medium Camping Tents for 3-5 People:

Tent Model Price Person Wt (lb) Area (sf) Ht (in) Frame Fabric
Kelty Gunnison 3.1 $220 3 6.5 48 46 Alum 68d Poly
Wenzel Windsong $70 3 10.0 68 50 Fiberglass Poly
Big Agnes Copper Spur $393 3 4.5 44 44 Alum Nylon
Big Agnes Parkview $244 3 7.5 50 48 Alum 40d Nylon
Big Agnes Emerald Mountain $294 3 5.0 44 Alum Nylon
Sierra ASP 2 $329 3 5.0 34 40 Alum 40d Nylon
Sierra Antaras 3 $235 3 7.1 49 45 Alum 70d Nylon
Sierra Velox $244 3 5.4 42 44 Alum 40d Nylon
Sierra Tengu $299 3 7.9 50 44 Alum 70d Nylon
Eureka Sunrise 9 $189 4 16.3 81 72 Fiberglass 4-oz Poly
Eureka Tetragon 8 $97 4 8.4 64 60 Fiberglass 75d Poly
Eureka Timberline $225 4 10.8 63 58 Alum 1.9-oz Nylon
Kelty Green River 4 $214 4 21.8 81 71 Fiberglass 70d Nylon
Kelty Yellowstone 4 $110 4 10.1 64 59 Fiberglass 68d Poly
Kelty Trail Dome 4 $110 4 8.2 55 57 Alum 1.9-oz Nylon
Kelty Gunnison 4.1 $250 4 8.0 57 52 Alum 68d Poly
Columbia Hawkridge $145 4 14.9 70 60 Fiberglass 1.9-oz Poly
Wenzel Timber Ridge Sport $48 4 8.0 63 52 Fiberglass Poly
Wenzel Sentinel $55 4 12.0 85 52 Fiberglass Poly
Big Agnes Big House 4 $229 4 10.7 65 68 Alum 40d Poly
Big Agnes Pine Island $263 4 9.4 63 42 Alum 68d Poly
Columbia Bugaboo II $150 5 21.0 108 74 Fiberglass Poly
Wenzel Beartooth $90 5 19.0 140 72 Fiberglass Poly



Large Camping Tents for 6 or more:

Tent Model Price Person Wt (lb) Area (sf) Ht (in) Frame Fabric
Eureka Copper Canyon $259 6 23.4 100 84 Steel & Fibrgls 75d Poly
Wenzel Klondike $249 8 27.3 176 78 Fiberglass 1.9-oz Poly
Big Agnes Big House 6 $299 6 10.8 90 75 Alum 40d Poly
Coleman WeatherMaster $299 6 32.4 153 82 Fiberglass 75d Poly
Coleman Montana 8 $219 8 11.7 112 75 Fiberglass Poly
Coleman Bayside $98 7 24.3 150 72 Fiberglass Poly
Wenzel Sycamore $130 7 22.0 180 74 Fiberglass Poly
Coleman 2-room Durango $112 8 23.1 150 77 Fiberglass Poly
Coleman Tucana $140 8 34.9 160 84 Steel Poly
Columbia Cougar Flats II $280 8 54.0 150 86 Steel & Fibrgls Poly



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