The best tents are

  • Waterproof. Nothing ruins a camping trip like wet people and damp equipment. A tent should have bathtub-style floors to keep water from seeping in, sealed seams and a good rainfly.
  • Well ventilated. Tents should have good venting even when they need to be sealed against the rain or cold. Poorly ventilated tents can leave a camper feeling uncomfortable and claustrophobic.
  • Resistant to wind. Look for at least two guylines with multiple guyouts to add more in high wind conditions. Poles should bend but not break. Fabric, doors and windows should not flap around.
  • Easy to set up. While not every tent sets up instantaneously, it shouldn't take more than about 15 to 30 minutes for even the largest tent. Ideally, it can be set up by one person. Fast-pitch options are considered a necessity for serious backpackers.
  • Simple to repack. Tents should fit neatly back into whatever pack or bag they were removed from.

Know before you go

What size do you need? Take into consideration how many people you'll be sharing your tent with on a regular basis. Also, will you have your car available for storing your gear, or do you plan to store your equipment in your tent? Experts and avid campers suggest buying a tent rated for two more occupants than you typically plan to share it with in order to have sufficient room.

What will the weather be like? If you are camping in harsh conditions, you will need a tent that can withstand high winds. For wintertime camping, your tent should have steep sides to keep the snow from accumulating.

Will you have help setting up camp? Consider the skill level of campers joining you. If you are the only adult and must set up the tent alone, you'll need an easy-to-assemble model.

Will you be carrying the tent? If you must carry the tent to your pitch site, you'll want to choose the lightest tent you can find.

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