14 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: a group of friends wild camping near a lake

Camping does wonders for your wellbeing, and can help you shake off any stress you may be experiencing at work or in your daily life. In fact, escaping into the wilds, even just for a weekend, is a powerful mood booster. To do so enjoyably, and to stay sheltered from the elements, you'll need the best tent for your needs.

With so many tents for camping to choose from, it can feel a little overwhelming when you first start shopping around. Tent size is usually a great starting point, as you may be looking for a one-man tent for a solo adventure, or a large inflatable tent to accommodate your family or big group of friends. 

Those of you intending on car camping (that means travelling by car to the campsite) can take pretty much any size tent you want. Those travelling by public transport will need something lighter and more compact.

Or you might love hitting the trail alone, pitching up wherever you can find a quiet spot to experience proper wild camping. In that case, a lightweight, fast-pitch backpacking tent would suit you best as you'll have less to carry on your pack.

Walk into any camping gear shop and you’ll quickly see the sheer volume of tents available now. So much choice could make it harder for you to find the best tent for you, so in this buyer's guide we've covered off all of things you will need to consider.

These considerations range from the hardiness of your tent (ie, how robust it is, how waterproof and windproof it is), through to how many it sleeps comfortably and how easy it is to pitch. All in the aid of helping you easily find The One.

To make things even simpler still, we've expertly curated a selection of the best tents you can buy right now from a range of top camping brands. These include camping royalty Vango and Coleman, as well as adventure-ready brands such as Terra Nova, MSR and Snugpak. 

Camping is fun, so there's no reason for tent shopping to be any different. Buying a new tent is exciting, and if you choose the right one it'll last you a long time and help you and your family or friends make some great memories in the outdoors.

Best tents 2019: a family camping

Best tent for camping: our expert pick

  • Car camping is on the rise, and if you're travelling to your favourite campsites by car you can afford to take the best tent and camping gear with you, as packing weight and space aren't so much of a big deal compared to more wild camping trips where you're travelling by foot. These types of tents are spacious, stunning and packed to the gills with tech to keep you protected and having fun outdoors.
  • For those reasons, our current top choice is the Vango Utopia Air TC 500. Sturdy, spacious and so gorgeous in the flesh, this inflatable AirBeam tent will delight you on many camping holidays. It's simple to erect, so you don't need to worry about how to get it up and running once you've hit the campsite. 

It’s tempting to go for the cheapest option when choosing a tent, but, in our many years of testing, this is often a false economy – that tent you paid £40 for will probably end up in landfill before next summer.

Investing in a high-quality tent that will last you years means you won’t have to go through the rigmarole of researching and buying a new one each spring. It’s also good news for the environment, so you’re doing your part for the planet’s wellbeing in addition to boosting your own by getting outdoors more.

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 do it with a little more comfort and 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 arms 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...

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 2019: 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. 

Ready to dive in? Then here’s our expert picks, with each individual tent carefully chosen because it’s the best option for a specific scenario, use or budget.

The best tents available to buy right now

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

1. Vango Utopia Air TC 500

The best tent for easy-pitch car camping weekends away

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 is the best tent you can buy and 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.


(Image credit: Press)

2. Quechua 2 Seconds Fresh and Black Tent

The best tent for those who aren't sure if camping is for them

Sleeps: 2
Weight: 3.3kg
Structure: Dome
Packed size: 65x9cm
Best for: Super-easy pitching
Reasons to buy
+Pops up almost instantly+Blocks early morning sunshine

Want to try camping but don't want to spend a ton on a tent just in case you don't actually get on that well with holidaying in the wilds? Or perhaps you do like camping but hate pitching a tent? Either way, this is the best tent for you. 

As it's name suggests, the 2 Seconds Fresh and Black Tent can be thrown up almost immediately. It's super-simple to erect, making it ideal for beginner campers and anyone nervous about being the laughing stock of the campsite (that never happens, so don't worry).

Decathlon has designed this tent to be well-ventilated, which is especially important if it happens to rain and you're sheltering in your new tent a lot. It also ensures no build-up of nasty smells.

There's blackout tech in the bedrooms too, which works to block out that pesky early morning sunshine for longer, so you can lie-in on your camping holiday. Just be sure to peg the tent down to make it extra secure, otherwise a big gust of wind might run off with it.

The Decathlon Quechua 2 Seconds Fresh and Black Tent is available to buy direct from Decathlon.

Best tents 2019: Terra Nova Laser Compact 2

3. Terra Nova Laser Compact 2

The ideal tent for cycle touring, plus adventure racing and hiking

Sleeps: 2
Weight: 1.08kg (minimum), 1.23kg (packed)
Structure: Tunnel
Best for: Lightweight protection for three season use
Reasons to buy
+Light and compact+Pedigree heritage

The Terra Nova Laser compact is a big fat cheat. It’s not new, or clever. However, it is one of the world’s most popular and proven ultralight tents in a new, shorter format for 2019. So short in fact, that it fits easily in bike panniers. The result is a tent that’s been tested across the globe in every set of conditions you can imagine, but more portable and improved in a few other subtle ways. 

It’s light, of course, at a shade over a kilo. Plus, it's packable and super-quick to pitch due to the inner and outer being connected to ‘pitch as one’ - very helpful if you find yourself striking camp in the pouring rain. The main pole is a high quality DAC NFL alloy, which won’t split or break under normal conditions, and you’ll have a hard time breaking the Dyneema guylines. 

As ever with the Lazer, ‘two man’ is a bit of an exaggeration, sizing up pretty snug for two, but when traveling fast and light you’ll not worry about that too much.

It’s also important to note that even though this is rated as a three-season tent, that’s three UK seasons, which means it’ll hold up in pretty brutal conditions. In short, if you’re looking for a lightweight 1-2 man tent with the shortest packsize and designed to withstand all UK weathers, this is the one.

Best tents 2019: MSR Access 2

4. MSR Access 2 Tent

Ideal for camping on snow covered ground

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

5. Coleman BlackOut 4 Festival Dome Tent

The best budget festival camping tent with blackout tech

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 ten-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

6. Snugpak Journey Solo

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

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 2019: Vango F10 Xenon UL 2

7. Vango F10 Xenon UL 2

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

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, 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.

Best tents 2019: Terra Nova Quasar

8. Terra Nova Quasar

The best tent for intense, four-season mountain expeditions

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 2019: Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 Platinum

9. Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 Platinum

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

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 2019: Nordisk Alfheim 19.6

10. Nordisk Alfheim 19.6

Get your glamping on with this stunning teepee tent

Sleeps: 8-10
Weight: 18kg
Structure: Tipi
Best for: Camping with friends / spacious family camping holidays / glamping
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeously big tent+Internal cabins to help you share

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.

Best tents 2019: Outwell Montana 6

11. Outwell Montana 6 Family Tent

The best tent for big group camping on a budget

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. 

Best tents 2019: Decathlon Quechua Arpenaz

12. Decathlon Quechua Arpenaz 2

A decent option for fair-weather camping couples on a tight budget

Sleeps: 2
Weight: 2.2kg
Structure: Geodesic
Best for: Camping on a budget and festivals
Reasons to buy
+Good value+Easy to put up

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.

(Image credit: Snow Peak)

13. Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2

The ultimate tent for hiking

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’.

(Image credit: Big Agnes)

14. Snow Peak Lago Pro Air 1 Tent

The best tent for solo adventurers

Sleeps: 1
Weight: 0.9kg
Structure: Hoop
Pack size: 17x8.5x8.5cm
Best for: Packing light
Reasons to buy
+Small packsize+Very, very light

Carrying a heavy tent is a chore, they seem to get heavier with each step of a long day. If that sounds familiar, this is the tent for you. Packing down smaller than a pint glass, and weighing less than a full water bottle, this is among the lightest tents in the world, making even bivvy bags look bulky and heavy by comparison. 

There is one big trick behind this extreme smallness, and that is that the Lago Pro Air 1 only comes with one a tiny ‘u’ shaped pole - your walking poles slot into this to make it into a proper tent shape. This is an ingenious plan, but obviously does mean that dropping your pole into a river en route means your tent has gone too. That aside, it’s hard to argue with the pack size and weight on offer here, and that includes guy lines and pegs. 

The materials here might not stand up to 3-4 season use, but that’s not surprising at this weight - although what is surprising is that this is a proper double-wall tent, sporting a 20D Silicone polyester ripstop fly as well as a 20 D polyester mini-ripstop inner tent. This is particularly important, as some very light tents opt for a single-wall construction, which often leads to condensation problems. Overall, if you’re looking for a tent that you can forget you’re carrying, this is one of the best out there. 

The final word:

As we said earlier, when buying the best tent for your outdoor needs, it pays to spend as much as you can afford. A good quality tent will last longer, have a wider range of features, and offer you better protection outdoors. 

For the ultimate in luxury, space and tech when car camping, look no further than the Vango Utopia Air TC 500. This is a brilliant tent to invest in, and is such much fun for couples and small families looking to camp in style. If you’re looking for a more party-sized yet versatile model, the Coleman Blackout 4 Festival tent offers plenty of space at a keen price point indeed.

About the authors...

Mark Mayne is an outdoors journalist who specialises in camping, hiking and diving.

Claire Davies is Senior Content Editor at T3 and routinely tests camping gear, and walking and hiking tech for the Outdoors channel.