The best tents 2020: for family camping holidays, solo adventures and wild camping | T3

The best tents 2020: for family camping holidays, solo adventures and wild camping

Make the most of your holiday outdoors with the best tents for car camping, solo adventures, and camping with family and friends

Best tents 2020
(Image credit: Josh Hild on Unsplash)

Thinking of spending a night under the stars? We've rounded up the best tents available right now, whatever kind of trip you're planning. Read on for our top options, plus a guide to the best places to buy. 

As the weather gets warmer, the idea of camping out in the wonders of nature seems a little more practical and pleasant, especially for those with families. A camping trip can have many magical effects, whether it's to de-stress you after a working week stuck indoors, build new memories, or provide endless entertainment for kids. Investing in one of the best tents can open up whole new possibilities for your trip, too. Whether you're livening up lockdown with a backyard campout with your kids, embarking on some socially distant wild camping, or kitting yourself out for future festivals or camping trips to managed sites, there's a tent in our list that'll do the job precisely.  

Of course, there's a huge variety of options on the market, so finding the best tent for you can feel daunting. Size is the key question, as the number of occupants you need to accommodate will dictate pretty much everything else. Next up is probably the weight, although pretending that a featherlight clingfilm arrangement will protect you from winter in the Highlands is unwise, so don't get too carried away. Many tents on the lighter end of the scale tend to use mesh and lightweight poles to cut the grams, which is great in summer, less so in the autumn chill. If you're car camping then anything goes (assuming it fits in your boot), so focussing on pitch times, blackout material and overall space are more pressing concerns. 

This buyers guide aims to offer solutions to a wide range of camping types and situations, so we've taken all the variables into account. However, if you're looking for something more specific, you might also want to explore our guides to the best family tents or the best pop up tents

In this guide, we've also avoided very cheap tents, because these often disappoint in use, and the point of picking a good tent is that it'll last for many happy years of outdoor adventure, thus working out cheaper in the long run. Our handy tool will pull in all the best prices, so you you'll see any price-drops displayed right here (for more hot outdoor offers, bookmark our guide to the best Amazon Prime Day deals).

You'll find a good range of the better brands here, including Wild Country, Vango, Coleman MSR and Snugpak, as well as challenger brand Tentsile. Read on, choose wisely, and most importantly – happy camping!

(Image credit: Getty)

Best tent for camping: our expert pick

In a hurry? Here's our top pick right now:

  • Our top two picks cover both ends of the camping spectrum: the Wild Country Zephyros Compact 2 is an excellent small, lightweight tent for adventure travel, while the Quecha 2 Seconds XL Fresh & Black is a fantastic low-cost campsite weekender.
  • There's a lot to be said for owning two tents that cover these particular bases – one cheap but reliable car camper that'll do duty for UK festivals, weekends away and the like, and one more specialised lightweight beast that'll cover anything from hiking the Highland way to valley camping in the Alps, as well as everything in between.

What are the different types of tents?

Modern tents for camping, backpacking, hiking and for general outdoors living come in a range of shapes and sizes. The most popular ones are:

  • Basic ridge tent
  • Dome tent
  • Geodesic and semi-geodesic
  • Inflatable tents
  • Bell tents
  • Teepees
  • Tunnel tents

Some of the major brands you’ll come across in your journey to find the best tent for you include Big Agnes, Vango, Coleman, MSR, Terra Nova, Outwell, Decathlon, Hilleberg and The North Face. 

There are lots of newcomers entering the (muddy) field too, with innovative designs coming from brands such as Tentstile, with its sublime floating tree tents, and Cinch, with its nifty pop up modular tent.

Best tents 2020: the illuminated Tentsile Connect Tree Tent hanging over water

The incredible Connect Tree Tent by Tentsile

How to find the best tent for you

The key thing you’ll want from your tent here is protection from the elements, as well as durability, as light weight as possible, and a bevvy of other considerations to follow. Fortunately, the world of tents is a competitive place, and choosing the best tent for your needs might be initially confusing, but rest assured there will be an ideal answer to your needs.

The first and easiest question to answer is how many people need to sleep in your ideal tent, and the second (as ever in the outdoors industry) is the type of conditions you’ll be camping in. If you’re car camping (ie: driving to a campsite and pitching near or next to your car) then you can choose anything that fits in your car, weight isn’t an issue. This, in turn, means you can choose larger size accommodation and heavier materials with impunity, which can keep costs down, and also leads to needing furniture and the like. Conversely, if you’re cycle touring or hiking you’ll want lightness pretty high up the spec list, as well as compactness.

In a similar vein, it’s worth keeping a firm eye on tentmakers ‘season’ ratings, and be suspicious of anything with a two-season rating that isn’t a festival tent if you plan to use it in the UK. It’s well worth spending more on a better tent that will last for years, rather than a budget cheapie that might do the job once or twice, but then has to be scrapped - not only for ethical reasons, but also for your own sanity. Learning to pitch your tent just as you like it is a whole art form in itself. 

These are all great things to keep in mind when reading through our picks for the best tent below. During our research and testing, we considered tents of all shapes and sizes, but each of them has one thing in common: they’re designed to keep you and your gear warm and dry, no matter what the elements throw at you. 

Why use a tent for camping?

Our ancestors might have been down with dwelling in caves, and yes cave camping is still a thing, but most people opt for a little more luxury these days. Tents are essentially our temporary home outdoors; a (sometimes very swish) shelter to retreat to for more comfortable living and sleeping when camping. 

Depending on where you're camping and the climate, your tent can keep you safe from intense sunlight and heat, from rain, extreme cold and wind, or from falling debris and insects. Oh, and not to mention keeping you at arm's length from any local wildlife who might fancy a meet-and-greet while you're sound asleep.

Fun fact: the oldest known tent was found in Moldova, Eastern Europe. It dates to around 40,000 B.C. and was built using mammoth bones and hides, with animal fats used as a form of waterproofing. We can only imagine what it smelt like inside...

The best tents to buy right now

best tent: Zephyros Compact 2

(Image credit: Wild Country )

1. Wild Country Zephyros Compact 2

The best tent overall for outdoor enthusiasts – and a T3 Award-winner

Specifications
Sleeps: 2
Weight: 1.95kg
Structure: Tunnel
Packed size: 30x19cm
Best for: Hikers and bike packers
Reasons to buy
+Light+Strong+3-season, do it all
Reasons to avoid
-Small porches and snug for two

The most important thing about a really good tent is that it does a lot of things well, and that really applies in spades here. Light enough for hiking, but strong enough for pretty much everything, the Zephyros Compact 2 is a proper outdoors-persons main tent, only falling down on porch space. That's why we've awarded it the prize for Best Tent in the T3 Awards 2020.

Pitching is a rapid affair, one main hoop pole in the middle, peg out the ends and fit the short end poles into their slots, then faff with the guylines till they are tuned to your needs. Striking is rapid too, thanks to the pitch as one setup – remove pegs and poles, stuff into bag. 

It is a snug fit for two, to be fair, but then that's the penalty for a tiny packsize and sub-kilo weight per person. That snug space is for good reason though, as maintaining a low profile is essential to riding out storms, a popular UK camping pastime – aided significantly here with a Stormex P4000 FR flysheet, Aqua Stop P5000 floor and Superflex Alloy main pole. 

Each person gets their own entrance door too, which is pretty luxurious, and there's an ingenious mesh triangle at each end to aid ventilation, along with a tiny cover for when the weather comes in. The dual-skin design helps keep condensation at bay on colder nights, while lightweight but strong alloy v-pegs will handle most ground types with aplomb. Overall the packsize and weight are the big selling points here, making this a go-to tent for cycling or hiking journeys in all but the most extreme winter conditions. 

best tent: Quechua 2 Seconds XL Fresh & Black

(Image credit: Quechua )

2. Quechua 2 Seconds 3XL Fresh & Black

The best tent for fast pitching on family camping weekends away

Specifications
Sleeps: 3
Weight: 5.3kg
Structure: Semi-geodesic
Packed size: 85x9cm
Best for: Families
Reasons to buy
+Fast pitching+Decent quality for price+Blackout fabric

The Quechua 2 seconds 3XL fresh and black is essentially a seriously-scaled up version of a festival-style popup tent. Simply haul the metre-odd disc out of the car, unclip 4 clips, and boomf, home for the weekend is pitched. A quick handful of pegs and tweak of the guy lines and you're free to get on with something else. 

However, this is more than just a throwaway weekender – the bathtub-style groundsheet is nice and robust, there are plenty of internal pockets, and very usefully two large side vents can be adjusted for maximum ventilation. Children will immediately use them as 'secret' doors, but that's no bad thing. These vents should also help with wind-resistance in a stiff breeze, though the relatively high apex and popup poles don't bode well for serious weather (Decathlon rates this tent up to Force 6 gales though).

In other good news, the internal space is roomy for three adults, easily enough for a family of four, and the blackout material is effective enough to need a torch inside even in direct overhead summer sunshine. 

There's a serviceable small porch, but this is only really enough for shoes and the odd bag, there's little space for cooking or wet-weather entertainment. That said, the XL does fold away relatively easily too (although not in the same 2 seconds it erects in), so fleeing wet campsites won't be too much of an issue either. In short, this is a surprisingly capable family camper at a keen price point. 

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best tent: Coleman OctaGo

(Image credit: Coleman)
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best tent: Coleman OctaGo

(Image credit: Coleman)

3. Coleman OctaGo

The best tent for festivals and camping holidays

Specifications
Sleeps: 3
Weight: 10.9kg
Structure: semi-geodesic
Packed size: 69x25x25cm
Best for: Festivals
Reasons to buy
+Solid build+Plenty of space+Flexible performer
Reasons to avoid
-Not the lightest

Next up in our rundown of the best tents is the Coleman OctaGo. As the name suggests, this octagonal tent has more than a little hint of the glamping lifestyle, but in a robust steel framed, sensibly priced package. Sling some bunting around it for that Bestival vibe, tie the windows open for a kid's playhouse, or cover up for when rain strikes, this is a cheerful all-rounder. 

There is quite a weight here though, so this is car-camping and festival-trollying territory only, and although the steel poles are robust and the polyester fly has a hydrostatic rating of 2000mm, use in serious storms is not natural territory for the OctaGo. However, with plenty of space for three adults or a family with smaller ones, this is a flexible and fun choice for less serious camping enjoyment.

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best tent: Tensile Safari connect 2

(Image credit: Tensile)
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best tent: Tensile Safari connect 2

(Image credit: Tensile / Mickeal Thorne 2)

4. Tensile Safari Connect 2

A super-comfy, hammock-style tent ideal for uneven campgrounds

Specifications
Sleeps: 2
Weight: 11.2kg
Structure: Semi-geodesic
Packed size: 65x35x35cm
Best for: Arboreal
Reasons to buy
+Bonkers+Bouncy+Endless fun
Reasons to avoid
-Requires 3 stable trees-Pricey

The Tentsile Safari is a tent with a difference – instead of messing around finding flat ground and hammering in pegs, simply take to the trees. The basic premise is a triangle of trees, ratchet straps and a bouncy hammock-type number, upon which the tent poles, inner and flysheet are positioned.

The result is a magnificently comfy tent, as there are no hard spots or cold ground to deal with, and with the 70D PVC coated nylon flysheet protecting you from rain, you're set for anything short of a major flood. The downside is the need for three trees, and a bit more setup than a standard tent, but the newest iteration (v3) has a ground conversion kit that allows you to pitch on terra firma if you're dedicated to missing the point.

In use, it's a solid combo, with anti-roll straps preventing the heaviest person creating a slope for the other to slide into, and a decent flysheet to keep the weather out. However, peering up into the night sky through the insect mesh is a real treat.

Best tents: Vango F10 Xenon UL 2


5. Vango F10 Xenon UL 2

The best tent for easy-pitch camping weekends away without any drama

Specifications
Sleeps: 2
Weight: 1.64kg (trail), 1.9kg (packed)
Structure: Tunnel
Best for: Lightweight protection for three season use
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight protection+Three season use

The F10 Xenon falls into Vango’s alpine range, designed to be robust yet as light as possible, and with a star-studded spec-list to boot, it’s well worth a look for anyone planning to carry their home on their back for a while. A mere 800 grams per person, this three-four season tunnel tent provides plenty of space too, with a decent porch area that’s big enough for rucksacks, hiking boots and even for cooking at a push. 

'Pitch as one' means this tent will pop up in a trice, and that attention to detail extends throughout - ‘o’-shaped doors for one-handed opening, dyneema-reinforced peg points and an oversized opening in the packing bag to enable faster packing, Yunan SD70 Poles, mini line-lok guyline runners - the list goes on. 

Although it’s not a cheap tent (around the mid-£300 mark) the Vango F10 Xenon offers high-end features and low weight that you’ll only see on the best tents, making it very good value for money, and a buy that will continue to be great value for many years.

Indeed, the tunnel design could be potentially compared with the Hilleberg Nallo, a tent costing easily double the price. Light enough to carry on treks, strong enough for UK conditions, and roomy enough for a genuine two-person sleeper, the F10 Xenon is a bit of a gem.

T3 Awards 2019 Vango Utopia Air TC 500 wins our Best Tent Award

6. Vango Utopia Air TC 500

The best tent for easy-pitch car camping weekends away

Specifications
Sleeps: 5
Weight: 31.40kg
Structure: Tunnel
Packed size: 83x45x55cm
Best for: Families
Reasons to buy
+Great material+Large living space+Easy to erect

Whether you're planning a long-weekend or multi-week camping trip with family or friends, the key to enjoying an extended stay in the great outdoors is a tent that's easy to erect, and provides comfort, space and protection from the elements. The T3 Award-winning Vango Utopia Air TC 500 should survive a lifetime of outdoor enjoyment.

For starters, the Airbeam design makes the Utopia Air a breeze to erect. Three inflatable 'poles' can be blown up quickly using the supplied double action pump. The beams are pre-angled, creating more space and headroom inside. It’s just as easy to pack down thanks to AirSpeed Valves.

Inside is room to comfortably sleep up to five people in two separate bedrooms, and there’s a huge living area for relaxing, eating and storing gear. Vango has also seen fit to include its excellent SkyTrack II system inside the Utopia Air, ideal for hanging lanterns, wash bags and more, freeing up valuable floor space.

Camping at the height of summer can be an uncomfortable affair, thanks to high temperatures, early morning light and noise. Thanks to Vango's durable Sentinel Signature material – a blend of cotton and polyester – the Utopia Air promotes airflow and the dense weave acts to reduce ingress of light and noise. If the weather isn’t so favourable, Vango's TBS II tension band system and Webbing Storm Anchors are on-hand to keep the tent stable in high winds.

Nowadays there’s no reason to be uncomfortable when camping. With so many great features, smart looks and luxurious comfort, the Vango Utopia Air TC 500 will make you the envy of everyone on the campsite.

Check out more of this year's award winners on our main T3 Awards 2019 page.

Best tents: MSR Access 2

7. MSR Access 2 Tent

Ideal for camping on snow covered ground

Specifications
Sleeps: 2
Weight: 1.62kg (total, but excluding pegs and bags)
Structure: Semi-geodesic
Best for: Lightweight snow-line camping, ideal for ski tourers
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight +So bright you'll be spotted from space

You won’t have any issues with mistaking your tent for someone else’s when it’s this bright. The MSR Access 2 is a firm favourite among backcountry skiers and splitboarders, as it’s light to carry, easy to pitch, and provides warmth and protection from the cold. Lighter than a mountaineering tent but warmer than one built for backpacking only, MSR has designed the Access 2 with an innovative pole structure that stands proud against the wind, actively ‘shedding’ it to stay upright. It’s strong enough to withstand overnight snow-loading too, so even if there’s a fresh downfall while you sleep, it won’t cause you any trouble come morning. Without question, this is the best tent for serious powder hunters.

Best tents 2019: Coleman Blackout 3 Festival Dome Tent

8. Coleman BlackOut 4 Festival Dome Tent

The best budget festival camping tent with blackout tech

Specifications
Sleeps: 4
Weight: 6.6kg
Structure: Semi-geodesic
Best for: Festival-going and all-round car camping
Reasons to buy
+Blackout interior+Three season use

This highly rated festival tent delivers plenty of space and features for the money, putting quality camping within reach of smaller budgets. In fact, you’ll probably see this tent at lots of campsites this summer, so best attach some kind of flag or ribbon to yours to distinguish it from others.

Coleman’s 4-person BlackOut tent provides an attractive mid-point between being the space constraints of smaller tents and the enormousness of full-fledged car camping tents. And it's packing some genuinely useful features...

Seasoned festival goers will understand the pain of being woken up by blazing morning sunshine, but this tent includes Coleman’s blackout fabric tech. It’s designed to reduce incoming light by up to 99 per cent, so you can avoid the startling 5am summer sun wakeup call and snooze for longer (great news if you’re hangover).

That very same blackout fabric traps heat in the day, resulting in a cooler daytime interior and slightly warmer environment at night (you’ll appreciate this when the temperature naturally drops during the wee hours). 

A 10-minute pitch time and a roomy porch top off a robust offering. Yes it’s heavier than the lightweight mountaineering tents featured in this best tents buyer’s guide, but it’s a heck of a lot lighter than the premium car camping models.

Best tents 2019: Snugpak Journey Solo

9. Snugpak Journey Solo

Need shelter on a solo wild camping trip? There’s room for one right here

Specifications
Sleeps: 1
Weight: 2kg
Structure: Hoop bivy
Best for: Solo minimalism in all weathers
Reasons to buy
+Small footprint+Very wind-resistant

The Snugpak Journey Solo joins a long heritage of solo bivvies from Snugpak. Although it is a single person tent, the hoops transform it from a real bivvy (which is basically a waterproof bag), into the realms of actual camping. This means that reading a book or checking a map from the comfort of your sleeping bag is a practical option, which is very useful in unpredictable UK weather.

Essentially a mini tunnel tent, the Journey Solo has two aluminium hoops, a complete mesh inner-first pitch (so you can pitch mesh-only in the summer if you’re feeling brave), and is possibly the most wind-resistant tent available today. A set of broad vents will keep condensation to the bare minimum, while a robust groundsheet and included protective footprint will prevent any nasty spiky surprises on the ground from ruining your snooze. At 2kg there is a penalty to pay for this full-feature list, so it is worth looking at light 2-3 man tents if you need flexibility. For the lone ranger though, this is a veritable tent-palace.

Best tents 2020: Terra Nova Quasar

10. Terra Nova Quasar

The best tent for intense, four-season mountain expeditions

Specifications
Sleeps: 2
Weight: 3.16kg (minimum), 3.47kg (packed)
Structure: Geodesic
Best for: Mountain expeditions
Reasons to buy
+Durable+'No rattle' zip pulls+UV resistance with superb waterproofing

A classic mountain tent for two, the Quasar has been proven over decades of heavy use to be the ultimate shelter for all weathers and all climates. It was updated last year with 30 denier nylon ripstop Watershop fabric for the flysheet, reducing the weight of the tent even further. 

The same basic design has a variety of spin-offs for different extremes, from an ultralight version through to a full-fat polar expedition number with snow valances. 

We’ve used the waterproof and UV resistant Terra Nova Quasar in all sorts on conditions when hiking, and we’ve noticed it’s a lot quieter inside, even during high winds, than other tunnel-style tents. If you’re looking for bombproof and long lasting, this won’t let you down anytime soon.

Pitching is easy too, as the tent comes with colour coded poles that makes it pretty much idiot-proof. 

Best tents 2020: Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 Platinum

11. Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 Platinum

Ideal for lightweight thru-hiking and wild camping with a couple of mates

Specifications
Sleeps: 2
Weight: 870g (trail), 1,020g (packed)
Structure: Semi-geodesic
Best for: Three-season adventuring
Reasons to buy
+Lighter than a 1L water bottle+Three season use

Big Agnes has made a bit of a name for itself in the world of ultralight tents, and the newest contender from across the pond takes that to new levels. 

The Tiger Wall 2 Platinum weighs in at a frankly bemusing 878g trail weight. In context, that’s about the same as a single mountain boot - so light you could carry a spare one and use it as an ensuite gear store. 

However, the Tiger Wall 2 Platinum already has a kind-of-ensuite, with two porches provided for all your stuff, as well as a host of other quality attributes. DAC poles, lots of pockets (even phone-size ‘media pockets’ by your head for night-time podcast listening), gear loft loops, colour coded webbing and buckles and storm flaps all add up to a pretty incredible package for the weight.

Of course, light does come at a price, so if you’re expecting a burly hessian beast that’ll cope with crampon accidents, you’re in the wrong place. Also the mesh inner is more suited to spring-summer UK use than at the colder end of the seasons. 

That said, it’s a lot of tent, and when weight is a concern the Tiger Wall 2 Platinum is the ultimate solution.

Best tents 2020: Outwell Montana 6

12. Outwell Montana 6 Family Tent

The best tent for big group camping on a budget

Specifications
Sleeps: 6
Weight: 19.5kg
Structure: Tunnel
Best for: Family on a camp site
Reasons to buy
+Lots of space+Cheaper option

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 people 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.

There are two separate and generously sized bedrooms, so you can introduce some private space as needed. If the weather’s nice, unzip the side porch and extend your living space directly into the field you’re camped on. 

(Image credit: Snow Peak)

13. Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2

The ultimate tent for hiking

Specifications
Sleeps: 2
Weight: 1.2kg
Structure: Dome
Pack size: 50x15cm
Best for: Backpacking
Reasons to buy
+Very light+New awning space

The Copper Spur range from Big Agnes have long been popular due to a deadly combination of light weight and solid features, but the latest iteration takes this combination even further. The most obvious addition is front and back vestibules that turn into awnings when attached to walking poles and guyed out. This flexibility gives you masses of space for cooking, meditating or just soaking up the view when the weather is fine, and still means you have a waterproof space when it’s lashing down. 

At a hilariously light 600grams per person the Copper Spur is a brilliant candidate for distance hiking, or anything else where you’re carrying it all day, and a three season rating means it’ll keep you snug in all but the most brutal winter conditions. The rating isn’t just guesswork either, the quality of components here is premium, not only sporting DAC poles, but DAC stakes too. With ingenious design (gearloft, 3d pockets, maximised airflow) and No PVC or VOC's, this is a serious contender for ‘the only tent you’ll ever need’.