11 best tents 2018: for camping, festivals, family and more

Whether it's for a festival, family trip or adventure - here are the best tents money can buy

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When city life gets too intense, it’s time to head for the hills and seek out some natural beauty. One thing you’ll need in the outdoors is a decent shelter, and they come in all shapes and sizes, so we’ve rounded up the very best available on the market right now to keep you warm and dry no matter what the elements throw at you...

If you want a quick recommend rather than perusing our curated guide of the best tents you can buy, then our ultimate all rounder tent is the Big AgnesFly Creek UL 3, which is fantastic and well-priced. It has a durable design that will mean it withstands most conditions.

 Whether you're camping, glamping or have been thrown out by your spouse and lost your job, we've got the canvas temporary abodes you crave: tents. There's nothing like sleeping out, but you still need protection from the elements. Don't forget a sleeping bag, either! 

How to buy the best tent for you

There’s a lot of tents out there, from the pine and canvas family yurt to the ultralight kevlar solo marathon shelter, so your planned usage is the biggest question to answer. 

Better quality tents will last a lifetime, so it’s worth spending a little more if longevity is an issue. However, we don't reccommend rocking up to Glasto with a grands worth of Hilleberg. That's just plain silly. 

For heavy mountain use, you’ll usually be looking at a geodesic design, as they’re the most robust, while tunnel tents tend to be 3/2 season and therefore much lighter weight. 

Super-light options tend to involve lots of mesh panels, which are awesome in warm, humid conditions, but useless when battered by steady drizzle in the Lake District. 

Most importantly don’t be too swayed by weight – the lightest (and most expensive) tents available might weigh less than full water bottle, but they’re for superhero ultra runners to use twice, not for your clumsy mate to put his foot through in the carpark. 

Sometimes old-school and burly is better than lightweight and fragile...

The best tents you can buy today

1. Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 3

This lightweight tent from the US is the best all-rounder

Specifications
Sleeps: 3
Weight: 1.36 kg
Structure: Semi-geodesic
Packed size: 14x48 cm
Best for: Lightweight protection for three season use
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight protection+Three season use+Quality components
Reasons to avoid
-Very snug for three people-Not up to UK winter

One of the lightest 3-man tents around (less than half a kilo per person), this classic from US brand Big Agnes might have a silly name, but there’s bags of quality here. Top-flight components from DAC and proper fabrics means you’ll stay dry and happy in all but the worst conditions. 

2. MSR Access 2

The perfect tent if snow might be an issue

Specifications
Sleeps: 2
Weight: 1.64 kg
Structure: Semi-geodesic
Packed size: 46 x 15 cm
Best for: Lightweight snow-line camping, ideal for ski tourers
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight snowline camping+Ideal for ski tourers and splitboard fanatics+You'll be spotted from space
Reasons to avoid
-Heavier than a hiking tent-Less robust than a mountain tent

The most orange tent on the planet, the MSR is designed to be the ultimate shelter for backcountry skiers and splitboarders, warm but light, and strong enough to withstand snow loading overnight. One for the serious powder hunters.

3. Hilleberg Nallo 3 GT Tent

Arguably the best 3-man hiking and backpacking tent in the world

Specifications
Sleeps: 3
Weight: 2.6 kg
Structure: Tunnel
Packed size: 58 x 20 cm
Best for: Hiking and backpacking
Reasons to buy
+Exceptional weight to space ratio+Sleeps three in comfort+Innovative rear venting
Reasons to avoid
-Needs space to pitch

Light, robust and with enough space to cook, pack gear and faff about in, the Nallo GT will last long enough for your children to inherit, and won’t let you down in the worst conditions. It’s not cheap, but you won’t regret splurging a bit extra on this three-man leviathan. 

4. Vango Rosewood

Taking the whole family camping? You'll want this comfortable palace

Specifications
Sleeps: 6
Weight: 23.1 kg
Structure: Tipi
Packed size: 72 x 34 x 34 cm
Best for: Family glamping in style
Reasons to buy
+Massive+Deluxe Poly-Cotton fabric+Diamond Clear windows
Reasons to avoid
-This thing is seriously heavy-20 minute pitching time

The Rosewood is a techno-take on the classic tipi design, and delivers plenty of space for family getaways as well as tip-top protection from the elements. A sewn-in groundsheet keeps draughts and insects outside, while windows and air vents keeps the temperature just as you want it. Robust components and steel poles mean the kids won’t break it while putting it up.

5. Snugpak Ionosphere

Pretend you're in the SAS with this tent from Snugpak

Specifications
Sleeps: 1
Weight: 1.2 kg
Structure: Bivvy bag
Packed size: 48 x 14 cm
Best for: Adventure racing and wild camping
Reasons to buy
+Super compact+Low profile
Reasons to avoid
-Claustrophobic

Sometimes the best things come in small packages, and the Snugpak is certainly tiny, although still big enough to qualify as a tent, just. A duo of small poles gives some structure to the shelter, and extensive testing by the military hints that durability won’t be an issue.

6. Terra Nova Quasar

Practically a bomb-proof tent

Specifications
Sleeps: 2-3
Weight: 3.47 kg
Structure: Geodesic
Packed size: 54 x 18 cm
Best for: Mountain expeditions in all weathers
Reasons to buy
+Durable+'No rattle' zip pulls+UV resistance with superb waterproofing
Reasons to avoid
-Not exactly lightweight

The classic mountain tent, the Quasar has been proven over decades of heavy abuse to be the ultimate shelter for all weathers and all climates. The same basic design has a variety of spinoffs for different extremes, from an ultralight version, through to a full-fat polar expedition number with snow valances. If you’re looking for bombproof and long lasting, this won’t let you down anytime in the next few decades.

7. Vango Banshee Pro 300

Great little trekking tent for those doing DofE

Specifications
Sleeps: 3
Weight: 2.82 kg
Structure: Tunnel
Packed size: 46 x 17 cm
Best for: DofE, Beginners and value camping
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+All-in-one pitching+DofE recommended
Reasons to avoid
-Little on the heavy side

The Vango Banshee is a smashing little trekking tent that won’t break the bank. Easy to pitch and with lots of neat features like twin doors to allow access to both ends, the company’s ‘TBS II Tension Band System’ makes a decent fist of tackling the issues of crosswinds too. Not only that, but even at sub-£150 you still get proper fabrics and Yunan Eco Alloy poles. The weight is the main disadvantage, but you’ll need to spend a lot to improve on this.

8. Coleman Instant Dome 3

Easy to set up

Specifications
Sleeps: 3
Weight: 4.1kg
Structure: Geodesic
Packed size: 100 x 30 cm
Best for: No-nonsense camping
Reasons to buy
+Easy to set up+Cheap
Reasons to avoid
-No inner-Not for heavy usage

Pop-up tents are pretty much synonymous with festivals these days, thanks to the speed and simplicity of pitching, but they're not really designed for the more mature audience looking for a little more comfort. Coleman has come up with a grown-up alternative – the Instant Dome 3, with space for three people and a 1-minute pitching system thanks to poles that are already attached to the tent.

9. Nordisk Alfheim 19.6

For those who'd like a Yurt instead

Specifications
Sleeps: 8-10
Weight: 18 kg
Structure: Tipi
Packed size: 36 x 99 cm
Best for: Camping with a load of friends
Reasons to buy
+Huge tent+Internal cabins to help you share
Reasons to avoid
-Heavy-Not the design for everybody

Sometimes, only a yurt or a circus top will do the job, and in the former case, the Alfheim is the big tent you're looking for.

Sporting a super-heavyweight 18kg cotton construction, the Alfheim is for car camping trips and semi-permanent dwelling only, unless you're a circus strongman, but it will sleep 8-10 people in luxurious comfort.

Named after the home of the light elves in Norse legend, obviously, it proffers enough room for a stove or a campfire in the centre, and the top of the tent opens like a chimney for just this purpose.

Don't worry about draughts as a result: there are a series of internal 'cabins' available to sleep up to 4 people, as well as a zip-in floor - also handy for keeping the cobras out if you're on safari.

10. Outwell Montana 6

One for the family

Specifications
Sleeps: 6
Weight: 21 kg
Structure: Tunnel
Packed size: 39 x 80 cm
Best for: Family on a camp site
Reasons to buy
+Lots of space+Cheaper option
Reasons to avoid
-Large design may not suit all-Customisation options cost extra

When you've got a family to think about, your camping needs are pretty simple – you want as much space as possible. Outwell makes tents exclusively for families, and its range is vast – there are over 40 to choose from on the website, ranging from simple to out-of-this-world.

The Montana hits the middle sweet spot, with space for up to six and loads of room to relax inside. It also has a range of customisation options, such as a porch extension and a beefed-up roof for when the weather turns extreme.

11. Decathlon Quechua Arpenaz

Basic but does the job

Specifications
Sleeps: 2
Weight: 2.2 kg
Structure: Geodesic
Packed size: N/A
Best for: Camping on a budget and festivals
Reasons to buy
+Good value+Easy to put up
Reasons to avoid
-Boring design-No room to stand

The thought of spending more than £100 on your first camping trip is probably a little off-putting for most people, especially if you don't need a load of space or a tent that folds down to the size of an orange.

Decathlon's sizeable Quechua range offers solid options in just about every size and type of tent, starting with this perfectly fine two-man job, the Arpenaz 2. Easy to put up and good value, it won't let you down.