Planning your summer camping trip and looking for a new tent? You've come to the right place! After researching over 30 camping tents, we chose 10 top models to put through our side-by-side tests. We subjected them to heavy rainstorms and humid environments in the Pacific Northwest and then took them inland to Oregon's high desert, where harsh sand, bright sun, and spiky plants abound. All the while, we paid attention to key features, like how easy they are to set up and if they provide a comfortable camping experience. Keep reading below to see which are our favorites. We also have some individual recommendations for those on a budget or who need a seriously waterproof model.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Spring Update 2018
Sometimes we have trouble picking one absolute favorite product. We've been a fan of the REI Kingdom 6 for a long time, and it has won our Editors' Choice award several years in a row. We keep testing new tents and trying to find one we like more, and this year we almost, but not quite, dethroned the Kingdom 6 with The North Face Wawona 6. Which one is best for you? We lay out the pros and cons below. We also have some top budget-friendly options for you to consider, and the best one for keeping you dry when it's pouring.
REI Kingdom 6
The REI Kingdom 6 continues its reign as our Editors' Choice award winner for another year, but it now has some close competition (see the Wawona review below). The Kingdom stayed on the throne thanks to its spacious and comfortable design. The hooped poles give it a lot more room than a standard dome tent, and greater head clearance throughout (6 ft 3 in!). It was surprisingly wind-resistant; usually taller equals less stable in high winds, but the Kingdom stayed strong and also kept us dry in torrential rains. We loved the "room" divider, and one side of the tend is solid while the other is mesh. That gives you some options for ventilation on warm nights and extra privacy even when the fly isn't on top.
Fast and easy set-up
High ceiling and two rooms
Huge vestibule and lots of pockets
Backpack-style carrying bag
Small awning over the second door
Only one vestibule
The optional second vestibule is cool but makes it more expensive
While there are two doors, we thought the awning over the rear door was a little small. It's not a deal-breaker, but a pair of sneakers left under there at night would probably get soaked if it started raining and it didn't do much to protect the door from moisture. You can purchase an additional vestibule for that side, called the "Garage," which is massive and has an awning, but it'll set you back another $100, making this a spendier option. Small quibbles aside, we enjoyed everything else about the Kingdom 6, including the handy carrying bag that doubles as a backpack. And if you need something even bigger, it's also available in an eight-person size.
Read review: REI Kingdom 6
A Close Second Best
The North Face Wawona 6
The North Face Wawona is the first tent to challenge the Kingdom 6's dominance in a long time. While The Kingdom still edged ahead in our overall scoring, the Wawona impressed us in all of our testing metrics. It has great ventilation, with two large picture windows and vents at the top, and its weather resistance was also solid. Setup was fast and easy, and we were even able to do it with only one person, which is impressive for a larger tent, and key if one parent needs to be wrangling kids while the other is setting it up. Best of all is its vestibule, which is almost as tall as the tent, very spacious, and has a huge door.
Best built-in vestibule we have ever tested
Many ways to ventilate the tent and reduce condensation
Good wind and rain protection
Fastest setup time of a top-scoring tent
No room divider
Can only open windows and vents from outside
Hard to ventilate vestibule if cooking
We did have issues venting the vestibule when we tried to cook inside in bad weather. The only option is to open the door, but you don't want to do that when it's raining hard. The Wawona also lacks a few of the creature comforts found in the Kingdom, like a room divider. However, the TNF Wawona retails for $400, which saves you a little over the Kingdom 6 and includes the awesome vestibule. This tent comes in a 4-person version for $299. However, we don't recommend it because it lacks the big vestibule and you can't walk around inside if you're taller than 5' 6".
Read review: The North Face Wawona
Best Bang for the Buck
Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6
The Carlsbad Fast Pitch is a tent that lives up to its marketing claims. It took us only 12 minutes to set it up for the first time, solo and in the dark. Wow! It is also noticeably cooler and darker in the sun, allowing us to sleep in late, or get out of the hot midday sun. The front mesh "porch" increases the sleeping area on dry evenings, providing bug protection but still giving you that sleeping-under-the-stars feeling.
Excellent UV blocking - stays cool and dark
Fast and easy setup
Partial fly and mesh "front porch" less ideal for rain
Sloppy carrying bag design
Not easy to seal against blowing dust/sand
This is not the best tent for cold or inclement weather. The fly doesn't cover the entire body or the mesh porch, and it's also permeable to sand and dust. This is a perfect beach-camping tent, but not for windy locales. We were less than impressed with the carrying bag, which, while compact, is virtually impossible to get the tent back into once everything has expanded. However, since you are only spending $280 on the Carlsbad, you could also buy a small duffel bag to go along with it. Our Best Buy winner is half the price of some other models! Check out the Coleman Instant 6 below for even more savings.
Read review: Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch
Best On a Tight Budget
Coleman Instant Tent 6
The Instant Tent 6 is the fastest pitching tent we've tested: most people can set it up in under 2 minutes. The poles come pre-attached, so you don't have to search for the right grommet or slide them into sleeves. It also scores high for comfort as anyone under 6 feet can easily walk around in it. It's the perfect size for four people with big sleeping bags, or two adults and a gaggle of kids. It's also the least expensive tent in our review by a pretty good margin - only $180!
Fast to setup and easy on the wallet
Durable floor and tall ceiling
Must buy rainfly separately (and it offers mediocre protection)
Not good in winds or heavy rain
The Instant 6 is a single-wall tent with no rain fly. While the material itself is mostly waterproof, it's not breathable, and there are few options for venting in a storm. There's no vestibule either, and rain pours into the tent as soon as you open the door. If you don't think you'll encounter much rain or wind, it's an excellent choice, especially if you are new to camping or don't camp for more than a few weeks a year. If you need more storm protection, see our Top Pick for Weather Resistance below. Need even more space? There's also the Instant Tent 8, which was our 2015 Editors' Choice winner.
Read review: Coleman Instant Tent 6
Top Pick for Weather Resistance
Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6
The Flying Diamond 6 is the only model in this roundup that is a genuine four-season tent. It would not be our first pick for polar expeditions, (see our Four Season Tent review for that), but it's a great choice for a family snow camping trip. There's a "kids-room" or storage compartment at the back, and the whole thing folds into a handy carrying case.
Big and versatile vestibule
Two rooms that are well ventilated
Well-designed carrying bag
Great in wind and storms
More complicated setup with lots of poles
The main downside to this tent is its internal height. At only 5'6" in the main room and 4'1" in the cubby, it's not the best for tall people. The setup is a bit involved as well. Big Agnes color-coded the poles and corners to help make it go faster, but it takes significantly longer to get it set up than tents like the Coleman Instant 6. However, once it is set up and guyed out, this tent can withstand a lot, so if you love year-round camping even in miserable conditions, the Flying Diamond is our top choice. If you need even more space, check out the larger Big Agnes Flying Diamond 8.
Read review: Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6
Analysis and Test Results
We assessed the performance of ten popular camping tents by subjecting them to wind, rain, sun, heat, cold, late nights, late mornings… and energetic young campers. The above table shows how each tent ranked overall after our side-by-side testing process. Below, we'll delve into the criteria that we rated them on, explaining their importance, in our estimation, and how all of the different models compared to each other.
There are many importing things to take into consideration when purchasing a camping tent, and the price is certainly one of them. The models that we tested ranged between $180 and $700, a pretty staggering difference. And while a higher price tag usually correlated to higher-quality materials or bomb-proof construction, sometimes there is a sweet spot between the more expensive models and the bargain basement ones where you can find exceptional value. The chart below shows you the price of each model (Y-axis) relative to their score in our tests (X-axis). The models that lie towards the bottom right of the group represent a great value and include our Best Buy winner, the Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6 ($280), along with the Eureka Midori ($300).
Comfort is one of the most important considerations when purchasing a camping tent, and we tallied each comfort rating as 40% of the overall score. Most camping trips are meant to be fun, stress-free, family bonding experiences, or a chance to catch up with friends over a beer or s'mores. Different campers will have different ideas of comfort and will define livability according to different standards. Taller families will be at each other's throats in a too-short tent; larger families might want more space and separate rooms; mountain lovers will want a more sturdy and reliable tent with a spacious vestibule; and beachgoers need windows, air circulation, and shelter from the sun. For longer trips with several campers, more pockets for storage and organization in the tent might help everyone have a sense of personal space. Here are our comfort ratings for each model.
Our overall winner, the REI Kingdom 6, was the most comfortable tent in this review. It was a top performer for a broad range of camping scenarios. There is ample headroom (6'3"), a room-divider, a large vestibule for your gear and lots of pockets inside. For more specific comfort requirements, such as shelter from the scorching hot sun in the desert, you might prefer the Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6.
The North Face Wawona 6 came in just behind the Kingdom for comfort. It has tall ceilings and a substantial built-in vestibule. The three large doors and four windows/vents helped with air circulation and kept us comfortable on hot days. You can add a vestibule to the Kingdom but it will cost you an extra $100 ($170 with awning poles) and adds one more step to the setup process.
The Wagontop 6 is comfortable due to the high ceiling and great ventilation, but it's not very stable in high winds. We loved the "dark-room" in the Coleman Carlsbad, which let us sleep in on sunny mornings without overheating. The Coleman Instant Tent 6 is also comfortable in shaded weather due to its high ceiling. However, while it scored high, it's dark materials soak up the heat making it uncomfortable in hot weather.
Be sure to check out the floor plan images with each tent, too, in case specific sleeping arrangements or patterns are a priority for your camping needs. Most of these tents say they sleep six, but that is six packed in like sardines. If you use a comfortable bag, as we recommend in our sleeping bag review, you can usually only sleep four adults comfortably in a "six-person" tent.
When we considered the weather resistance of each model, we included more than just keeping us dry in the rain. Campers are outside through all types of weather, from scorching heat to blowing sand and dust, wind, and even hail storms. The chart below shows our weather resistance ratings.
The Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6 was the burliest tent in this review. It's the only tent we reviewed that we'd take on a winter camping adventure. It has a low profile and reliable guylines to keep it stable in high winds. The North Face Wawona scored highly as well with its aerodynamic design, solid guylines, and burly poles. The Wawona also had the best built-in vestibule for hanging out and cooking in during storms. The Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6 crushed the competition when it came to keeping cool in the hot summer sun.
The Instant Tent 6 scored lowest with a 4/10 overall. The optional fly will increase its weather resistance to a 6/10, but it would still be the lowest scoring tent in our review for this metric. On the plus side, the Instant Tent had one of the more durable floors tested.
Wind resistance often depends on how well you stake down a tent and use guylines to keep it taught. For most tents, we recommend buying extra cord, burlier stakes, and a mallet (or just grab a hammer from around the house). Even the top-scoring tents often come with flimsy stakes. Just about any after-market stakes are an improvement. Our favorite style stakes look like this. There are many brands and they are all about the same and cost about $1 per stake. It's money well spent. The 7-inch models are light and also work great for backpacking. The 10-12 inch models are better for soft ground. Beware that the styles that look like nails are prone to bending.
Ease of Set Up
This is the category to consider carefully if your number one priority is a quick setup. Like when you arrive at the campground late at night after a long and stressful week followed by a long and stressful drive. Some tents were extraordinarily intuitive to set up while others reminded us of an adult-sized erector set. We weighed ease of setup slightly less than overall livability and weather resistance in our scoring (only 15%), but not far behind.
The Mountain Hardwear Optic 6 was a top scorer for ease of set up. With only three poles and a simple dome shape, we pitched the Optic 6 in mere minutes. The Coleman Instant Tent 6 also received a perfect score in this category. We are often suspect of products that have "instant" in the name. (Is instant coffee really even coffee?) However, the Instant 6 lives up to its name. One person can assemble it in just a few minutes without reading the instructions. Two people, once they are familiar with the poles, can set it up in under a minute. If you're new to camping, you will appreciate both Coleman's fast setup time and price.
Of the top-scoring models, The North Face Wawona 6 was by far the easiest to set up. There is no extra fly to install, and the pole design is relatively easy for one person to raise. The Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6 was also easy to set up, and lived up to its name as well: we set it up in 12 minutes on our first try! The Eureka Midori 6 and the Marmot Limestone 6 also scored highly for ease of set up, though they did not earn any of our overall awards.
Getting your tent level is essential for a good nights sleep. We recommend either bring a small level or downloading a leveling app for your phone. A little extra time spend finding a perfectly flat site makes all the difference. If you can't find a spote without a little slope, make sure you head is uphill.
Things that made setup less easy were multiples poles in different configurations, as on the Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6, or a huge rain fly that takes several people to get it over the tent, as on the Marmot Limestone 6.
The overall quality of materials, design, and manufacturing gives consumers a good idea of the long-term durability and shorter-term reliability of a camping tent. This is an important category to consider if you want your tent to last for more than one trip.
We were very impressed with the rugged Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6. It had solid, clean, and durable stitching, tensioned nicely, and the fly fits snugly around the tent body. The REI Kingdom 6 was close behind, with big, sturdy poles, a straightforward and sturdy design, and strong guyline attachments. We also liked the Mountain Hardwear Optic 6 for its reliable, durable design (living up to the company's reputation for producing excellent outdoor products and especially burly tents, like the industry standard-setting 4-season Trango series). It has an asymmetrical design that we found to be both aesthetic and functional.
In general, you get what you pay for when it comes to outdoor gear. The Coleman tents were the cheapest and scored the lowest in this category. That's fine if, like most people, you only camp a few times a year. However, if you plan to use a tent with a poor workmanship score regularly, expect things to start unraveling and breaking after a dozen uses.
We accept that camping tents are big and heavy, but only to a point. You still have to fit it in your trunk, and you might have to carry it a few hundred feet to a walk-in campsite. As such, we took each model's packed size into consideration, but not too heavily at only 5% of the overall weighting.
The Eureka Midori 6 picked up some points in this category as the smallest and lightest tent in the review. However, the REI Kingdom 6 still managed a high score because the backpack design was such an asset on a car camping trip. The Flying Diamond 6 also had a well-designed carrying case. It carries reasonably well, like a duffel bag, but it was pretty bulky. The Marmot Limestone 6 and the Mountain Hardwear Optic 6 were similar in size and both more cumbersome than the Midori, but with a shoulder sling and a handle, respectively, for easier carrying.
— Lyra Pierotti
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.