11 best tents 2018: for camping on family holidays, solo adventures and thru-hiking

Pitch up with the best tents in town and boost your enjoyment of the outdoors, whether you’re going it alone or camping with family and friends

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Nothing beats camping out under the stars, but to do so comfortably you need the best tent for your situation. Although you might get swept away by the Insta-gorgeous looks of a bell tent, or fancy a slice of the quick-pitch action that comes with inflatable tents, in truth you might need something different. 

Walk into any outdoor gear shop and you’ll quickly see the sheer volume of tents available. Such an overwhelm of choice could make it harder for you to find The One. The good news? That’s where our expertly curated guide comes in!

Camping offers significant gains for your wellbeing, so investing in a high quality tent that will last you years is a smart move for your health (both mental and physical). 

We’ve considered all shapes and size of tent, but each of them is designed to keep you feeling warm and dry no matter what the elements throw at you during your camping trip or outdoor adventure. 

Beyond that, the canvas shelters featured in our best tents guide differ hugely. Some of the bigger tents, for example, have extra spaces for chilling out. Some of the smaller tents pack down to barely nothing so that you can travel light.

How to buy the best tent for you

There are a lot of tents out there, from the pine and canvas family yurt to the ultralight kevlar solo marathon shelter, so how you plan to use yours is the biggest question that needs answering before you buy.

Premium quality tents will last a lifetime, so it’s worth spending a little more if you plan on having it in your life for longer. However, we don't recommend rocking up to Glasto with a grand's worth of Hilleberg. That's just plain silly!

For heavy mountain use, check out geodesic design tents as these are most robust. Tunnel tents tend to be 2-3 season and therefore much lighter in weight, making them perfect for travelling.

Super-light tents are often designed with lots of mesh panels, which are awesome in warm, humid conditions, but useless when battered by drizzle in the Lake District. 

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

Yes, sometimes old-school and burly is better than lightweight and fragile...

The best tents available to buy right now

The best tents 2018: Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 3

1. Big Agnes Fly Creek UL3

The best tent for camping in the wilds

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
Reasons to avoid
-Very snug for three people-Not up to proper UK winters

An award-winning tent that thrives in the wild, the Fly Creek UL3 is perfect for those of you who regularly love adventuring in the big outdoors and want a reliable, three season tent to give you waterproof shelter at night. 

This best tent champion has been redesigned with a vertical door to give you more headspace when climbing in and out. A dry entry vestibule keeps the inner space dry if you're constantly coming back and forth in the rain.

One of the lightest three-man tents around, this Big Agnes beauty is fast and easy to pitch, even if you're mostly doing it alone. If you do intend to pack three people into the tent, we'd suggest sleeping two up, one down to eke out some extra space as it does get a bit snug in there.

Best tent

2. Vango Illusion TC 500 XL

The best tent for luxury camping with your family

Sleeps: 5
Weight: 50.55 kg
Structure: Tunnel
Packed size: 80x53x58cm
Best for: Luxury camping; outdoor holidays with the family
Reasons to buy
+Easy AirBeam pitching+SkyTrack in-tent hanging system
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Very heavy

Booking a last-minute family holiday and fancy taking your squad into the great outdoors? Make your trip special with one of Vango’s most luxurious inflatable tents, ideal for families and friends to camp comfortably together. 

There’s so much space inside the 500 XL AirBeam, you could throw an in-tent party and still have room to set up your camping table, laden with treats and drinks, as well as a few padded camping chairs for added luxe.

The best tent for longer camping holidays where space and comfort are a must, Vango's 5-man 500 XL AirBeam offers king-sized bedrooms, a big living space and a pre-attached awning that can be opened up as an additional seating area.

There are many other features making the 500 XL AirBeam worth checking out. These include Super AirBeams, Vango's inflatable 'poles'. The tent also benefits from a SkyTrack II hanging system, giving you the means to hang camping lanterns, wash bags and more, freeing up floor space.

The best tents 2018: MSR Access 2

3. MSR Access 2

The best tent for snow covered ground

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+So bright you'll be spotted from space
Reasons to avoid
-Less robust than a mountain tent

Well, 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 coming morning. Without question, this is the best tent for serious powder hunters.

The best tents 2018: Hilleberg Nallo 3 GT

4. Hilleberg Nallo 3 GT Tent

The best tent for thru-hiking and backpacking

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. A true legacy tent, this is one to aspire to if you're invested in exploring the outdoors.

Ideal for all-seasons camping, through summery and lousy weather, this Hilleberg stunner will consistently keep you dry and sheltered. The light weight is surprising considering how much room there is inside, especially if there's only two of you camping in it.

It’s certainly not cheap, but if you love backpacking and thru-hiking, and especially if your work involves camping out regularly, you won’t regret splurging a bit extra on this three-man leviathan. 

The best tents 2018: Snugpak Ionosphere

5. Snugpak Ionosphere

The best tent for pretending you're in the SAS

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

If you have a survival experience coming up and need to take your own camping gear, this is the best tent for you. Military tested, the Snugpak Ionosphere is purpose built for toughing it out in the wilds.

Lightweight, small and low to the ground, the Ionosphere uses two small poles to gain some structure and offer you breathing space. All that but without creating too much height to give away your position.

There's a decent amount of floorspace in the tent, so you'll be able to take your pack in there with you, as well as your shoes and any valuables.

The best tents 2018: Terra Nova Quasar

6. Terra Nova Quasar

The best tent for all-weather mountain expeditions

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

A 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 soon.

The best tents: Vango Banshee Pro 300

7. Vango Banshee Pro 300

A superb trekking tent for those doing DofE

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 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 with this one, but you’d have to spend a lot more money to improve on this quality tent.

The best tents 2018: Coleman Instant Dome 3

8. Coleman Instant Dome 3

The best tent for fuss-free camping

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, a tent offering space for three people and boasting a 1-minute pitching system thanks to poles that are pre-attached to the tent.

If you love the idea of camping but are put off by the thought of having to mess around with poles and instructions, this is the best tent for you. Bonus: it's easy on the bank balance too.

The best tents 2018: Nordisk Alfheim 19.6

9. Nordisk Alfheim 19.6

The best tent for stylish glamping

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
+Gorgeously big tent+Internal cabins to help you share
Reasons to avoid
-Heavy to lug across fields-The light colour attracts dirt fast

Looking for a yurt to erect in your garden, or to take with you on an extended camping holiday? Sporting a super-heavyweight 18kg cotton construction, the Alfheim is ideal for car camping trips and semi-permanent dwelling, sleeping 8-10 people with ease.

Named after the home of the light elves in Norse legend (obviously), the Alfheim 19.6 provides enough room for a stove or a campfire in the centre, with the top of the tent opening 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 four people, as well as a zipped-in floor for further protection and heat retention.

The best tents 2018: Outwell Montana 6

10. Outwell Montana 6

The more affordable large tent for group camping

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.

The best tents 2018: Decathlon Quechua Arpenaz

11. Decathlon Quechua Arpenaz 2 Camping Tent

A budget-friendly option that packs down unbelievably small

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

Want a tent for less than £20? You got it. The thought of spending tons of cash on camping gear can be a little off-putting for beginners, especially if you don't need a load of space or you want a basic tent that's easy to wrangle.

Decathlon's Quechua range offers solid options in just about every size and type of tent, starting with the perfectly fine two-man Arpenaz 2. It's easy to erect and pack down, and offers UV protection as well as shelter from drizzle and wind.

You'll be able to pitch it by yourself without any drama, and when you're done the tent rolls down into a carry sack, so just sling it over your shoulder and go.