Looking for the best tent for your camping trip? We're here to help out. At the moment, with far-flung foreign travel still complicated at best, camping has seen a boom in popularity. The right tent can easily make or break a trip, so before you invest, take a little time to choose carefully – there is a vast array of options on the market, ranging from surprisingly cheap to astonishingly expensive, and teeny-tiny to downright palatial.
Perhaps you're on the hunt for the best 3-man or 4-man tent? Or something more luxurious that'll happily house the whole family, even if it rains solidly for the whole trip? Our guide includes a wide range of options, at price points to suit everyone, although we're focusing more on family and casual group trip tents here – for specialised adventuring options, head to our best backpacking tent guide instead. We'll start with some buying advice, then move on to our roundup of 2021's best tents.
Best tent 2021: what to look for
Aside from the number of sleepers (self-explanatory), think about weight. While this is most relevant if you're backpacking, even if you're driving it's worth taking a look at how heavy and bulky your tent is before you buy – especially if you need to walk any distance with your tent. If you're car camping then reliability, pitch time and extra luxuries like blackout bedrooms to keep the sun out, head-height living areas, and mesh doors for warm evenings should inch up your wishlist.
A final consideration is the pole type. For most, traditional poled tents will be the best bet, but now you can also opt for 'air poles' that you simply pump up – you'll have to pay extra for the convenience though. (If it's minimal effort you're after, and you're willing to skim a little on quality, head to our guide to the best popup tents instead). Whatever category of tent you go for, you'll get what you pay for, and a good tent is one of the outdoor items you'll never regret spending a little more on. Now let's kick off our list of the best tents around.
- Illuminate your camp with the best camping lantern
- Pick up one of the best camping chairs to relax in style
- ... amp up the luxury with one of the best camping beds
The best tents 2021 to buy right now
If camping appeals to you but you'd quite like to have a bit of space, Outwell's Pinedale 6DA could be what you're after. It's a six-person inflatable tent that's easy to pitch (you should be able to manage it inside 20 minutes) and provides plenty of room in the form of a big 'blackout' bedroom that can be divided into two, a spacious living area and a small porch area at the front, with big clear windows providing excellent views.
It's well weatherproofed with an outer flysheet that's waterproofed to 4,000mm (which means it can cope with heavy rainfall), and to stop things getting stuffy in fine weather there are wide vents all through the tent to improve air flow.
The Outwell Pinedale 6DA's not cheap, and it's far from lightweight; you'll need plenty of space for it in the boot of your car, and packing it up when you head home could well be a challenge as well. But it's big and versatile with plenty of room for a family of four and lots of nice touches such as luminous guy ropes and slightly tinted windows to give you a bit of extra privacy. Need to know more? Get all the details in our Outwell Pinedale 6PA air tent review.
For comfortable family camping, our go-to brand is Coleman, and topping our best tent list is the Coleman Meadowood 4L. This tent boasts a bright, airy living space, cosy blackout bedrooms that block the light startlingly well as well as helping to regulate temperature inside. Coleman has packed in lots of thoughtful extras to make life under canvas that much more comfortable – think mesh doors that can be deployed on warmer evenings, lots of pockets, step-free access and more. The reason we've gone for the 'L' version is because of the spacious porch area, which extends the living space considerably, as well as providing covered storage. Head to our Coleman Meadowood 4 tent review to see what we thought of this tent's slightly smaller sibling.
Others in the range: The Meadowood is also available as a 6L (large, 6-person), 4 (smaller 4-person) and Meadowood 4 Air (small 4-person with air poles).
The 2021 Sierra Designs Meteor Lite 2 is our best backpacking tent right now, and the winner of the coveted T3 Award 2021 in the tent category. Available in 1, 2 and 3-man variants, this our favourite smaller tent right now. Quick and easy to pitch and pack away, it packs down very small and light but offers a surprising amount of space when pitched – thanks in part to the smart design, which includes two porches where you can store kit, keeping the sleeping area clear. It also has a hidden surprise: you can remove the outer waterproof 'fly' (either entirely or half-way) when the weather is warm and dry, and engage in a spot of stargazing. A solid investment for years of lightweight adventuring. Head to our Sierra Designs Meteor Lite review to find out more.
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. While it does appear in our best festival tent guide, 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.
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.
Alternatives to consider: If you love this panoramic style design, but want something you can walk around in, Coleman has you covered with its Octagon 8 tent. It's a very similar design but much bigger, and comes in blackout and non-blackout versions.
From the same family as Vango tents, the Lichfield Eagle Air 6 is a tunnel tent with two bedrooms, a large living room and a wide porch without a groundsheet. It's designed 6 people, but with only two bedrooms (or one, with a removable divider), we'd say it'd be better for a family of 4-5. Like most family air pole tents, it's a cinch to put up but slightly more of a faff to put down. On test, the study air beams took on blustery conditions with ease. The sandy colourway lends it a safari-tent vibe that makes this tent look pricier than it actually is, and the living area feels light and airy, with big clear windows. The doors have mesh layers to keep bugs out, and there's good headroom throughout. For a more detailed look at what's included and how this tent performs, head to our Lichfield Eagle Air tent review.
Sitting in Vango's 2021 Earth Collection, the Vango Joro 450 uses Sentinel Eco Fabric, which is made from recycled single-use plastics. As well as those admirable green credentials, the Joro includes lots of features to make family camping simple and enjoyable. There's a large living area including a roomy porch (the poles are cleverly angled to maximise usable space), two doors both with mesh layers that can be deployed to keep the bugs out and let the air in. A slight drawback here – for light sensitive campers, anyway – is that the bedrooms aren't blackout, although Vango has deployed a 'Nightfall' fabric that's designed to reduce early morning light. Head to our full Vango Joro 450 tent review to find out more.
Also in the range: Alongside the 4-person Joro 450, the Joro 600XL (larger, and sleeps 6), and both of those sizes are also available with air poles (browse all Joro tents here).
No roundup of the best tents would be complete without at least one fiendishly priced offering from French outdoor brand Decathlon, and this is a doozy. One of the cheapest family tents you can buy, the Quechua Arpenaz 4.2 might not deliver luxury but you do get a lot of tent, with two bedrooms and a decent living area in between. Sleeping four with ease, this has all the mesh fly screens, random pockets and portability (11kg) you’d expect, with none of the excess or quirkiness of more costly models. For simple, car-based family campsite action you could spend a lot more and get a lot worse.
The Coleman Weathermaster Air 4XL is an outstanding family tent. The living space is roomy, light and airy, with a spacious porch area and mesh door layers you can close up at night if you want airflow without the bugs. The all-important blackout bedrooms are very effective: not only do they block out evening and early morning light, they also help regulate the temperature inside the sleeping compartment.
An all-in-one design and air poles mean this tent is extremely quick and easy to put up, so you can get on with your holiday as quickly as possible (let's face it, wrangling with a tricky tent after hours in the car can be fraught at the best of times, let alone with grumpy kids in tow). At a push, one person could even do it on their own – let's say, if the younger family members aren't cooperating at the time. In short, the best family tent for comfortable and relaxed family camping, whatever the weather's doing.
This kind of convenience does cost though, and you'll find many similar design features in the cheaper Coleman Meadowood range, so check that out too if you're on a tighter budget. Or head to our full Coleman Weathermaster Air review for a more detailed look at what we thought when we tried it out.
Others in the range: The Weathermaster is available in XL 4, 6 and 8-person versions.
The Vango Beta 450 XL is a reliable tent at a keen price point, sleeping four in comfort and with a good size living area to boot. You'll thank us for this when you're three days into a family camping trip and craving your own space. Although headroom is relatively low at 1.55m, that’s sufficient to sit and relax of an evening, even in the worst weather. Weighing in at a reasonable 7.9kg, this is an old-school campsite classic, and as it’s from Vango, it’ll probably last a lifetime.
The new Outwell Airville 6sa sleeps six in two master bedroom pods, both equipped with near-blackout ‘dark inners’. The tent is also standing-height throughout, with masses of non-bedroom space. So much in fact that there’s a sizable wing lounge side pod, as well as a large living/dining area and a fully opening front zip onto a covered veranda. Many a city house will seem small on your return. But the spec list hasn’t even started yet. The easy-inflate air structure ensures there’s no battling bent poles, and taped seams keep and a wind brace system keep things stable and weatherproof. There are also dedicated power hook-up inlet points, and even an (optional) fitted carpet. This really does leave nothing to be desired.
The only downsides are the lack of proper blackout bedrooms (although it gets pretty close), as well as the hefty weight and equally hefty price ticket. But if you want to compromise on absolutely nothing else, the Outwell Airville 6sa is the family camping palace for this summer and well beyond.
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.
This highly rated festival tent delivers plenty of space and features for the money, putting quality camping within reach of smaller budgets. IColeman’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. 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.
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 tent
- Bell tent
- Tunnel tent
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 Tentsile, with its sublime floating tree tents, and Cinch, with its nifty pop up modular tent.
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.