Spring is coming and now is the time to start looking into that new tent for the upcoming camping season. With so many camping tents on the market, it can be difficult to find which ones offer the best value for your needs. Tents can be found for as cheap as $50 and go all the way up to several hundred dollars. Generally, unless you are an avid seasoned camper, spending over $500 on a tent is unnecessary. While the quality of materials will certainly be better, they will usually offer features that you probably don’t need and honestly, most mid-priced tents are good enough.
On the flip side, the cheapest tents should generally be avoided. Most of them are made very poorly, with low-quality materials that will usually wear out or break quickly causing you to pay for a replacement. Here are some quality tents that offer good value and decent quality without breaking the bank.
Coleman Instant Tent 6
If you are looking for a no hassle, easy to set up tent, then the Coleman Instant Tent 6 is the ideal choice. The tent comes with pre-attached poles which allow you to assemble the tent easily within just a couple of minutes. It’s a true “lazy man’s” tent. No more searching for that last missing tent-pole piece! Simply unfold, extend the poles and stand it up. Finally, secure the tent to the ground and you’re done!
The tent is spacious with a 90 sq. ft. of floor space and a 6-foot center height. A nice feature of this tent is what Coleman calls “Dark Room” technology. The fabric in the walls of the tent will block 90% of the sunlight keeping the tent cool and helps block out unwanted early morning light. It also has a few other nice features such as welded floors and inverted seams to make sure you stay dry in wet conditions. Everything you need to take the family out for a weekend of camping without consuming too much of your time.
Kelty Grand Mesa Backpacking Tent
If mobility is what you are after, the Kelty Grand Mesa Backpacking Tent is an excellent choice. This tent is available in 2 and 4 person versions weighing 4 lbs. 1 oz. and 6 lbs. 13 oz. respectively. Being relatively light, with its backpack friendly folding poles, makes this tent perfect for a hike deep into the bush or other areas inaccessible to vehicles. The tent comes with easy to use, color-coded clips for hassle-free setup in minutes. The 2 person has a floor area of 30 sq. ft. and the 4 with 55 sq. ft. Lots of room for your extra gear and supplies.
Coleman Sundome 6 Tent
The Coleman Sundome 6 is a great little tent for those looking for a traditional dome tent without spending a lot. With 100 sq. ft. of floor space, this tent offers plenty of room for sleeping and camping gear. It comes with the same weather protection as the Coleman Instant (welded floors, inverted seams) in addition to a hooded fly.
Other features include mesh vents for circulation, storage pockets, and a handy E-port for running an extension cord into your tent without compromising dryness in wet weather. If your only camping once or twice a year and are just looking for something simple and cheap, this is the tent for you.
Eureka Copper Canyon 6
The Eureka Copper Canyon 6 is more expensive than the Coleman tents but is also an upgrade in quality. It has a similar 100 sq. ft. floor area, but with nearly vertical walls which helps make it feel extra roomy. The tent uses a durable steel/fiberglass frame that is sure to outlast rain and wind storms making sure you and your gear stay dry. The large mesh windows allow for maximum airflow and have a few extra features like an “E! Port” to streamline electrical cords into the tent, and handy storage areas around the roof to give you maximum storage space. A good choice for those who don’t mind spending a little extra for a more durable quality tent.
ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 4-Person Tent
The ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 4-Person Tent is an easy to assemble tent with an aluminum two-pole design that makes setup a breeze. It’s a little bit smaller than the other tents with a floor space of around 65 sq. ft. but light enough to carry coming in at 7 pounds 9 oz. It also happens to be one of the cheapest tents on this list.
The tent has decent weather protection with factory sealed seams on the fly and floor as well as a durable poly taffeta floor. Both the floor and the fly have been treated with a thick water resistant coating for extra weather protection. As with the others, there is plenty of storage space with interior pockets and a large storage loft to hold your extra gear. A good choice for a “cheap tent” that is still well made.
How to Choose a Tent
Tent Size When in Use
The first thing you need to think about is tent size. How many people will need to sleep in it? When tents specify their capacity in number of people, it’s usually calculated with campers sleeping shoulder to shoulder. Do you like to have more personal space when sleeping? Do you need extra room for gear and other supplies? A good rule of thumb is to look for a tent that is at least sized for 1 more person than you need. You will appreciate the extra room.
Tents also come in two main styles, cabin-style and dome tents. Cabin style tents use almost vertical walls giving you more usable space inside the tent. Dome tents on the other hand, while being superior at handling wind and more extreme weather, use more angled walls that will limit space inside and will only be usable at its full height standing directly in the middle of the tent.
Tent Size and Weight Packed
If you are just sticking your tent in the trunk of your car and driving to a campsite, this might not be an issue for you. If you plan on backpacking or hiking to your campsite, then this is hugely important. If this is the case then you should definitely take a look at tents designed specifically for backpacking. Not only are they designed to be extra light to carry, but also ergonomically designed to be compact and easy to carry on your back or attach to your backpack.
Weather and Seasonal Tents
When do you plan to be using your tent? Most tents are 3 season tents that are designed mainly for late spring, summer, and early fall. They have plenty of airflow and are designed to handle moderate rain storms, but may not be adequate in extremely harsh or unpredictable weather.
Then you have 3/4 season tents that are similar to the 3 season tents but made more rugged with less mesh venting. These tents will be able to withstand weather better in early spring and late fall when you may encounter some light snow and colder temperatures.
Finally, there are the 4 season tents that are essentially designed to be usable year-round, especially in the winter. Be aware that 4 season tents have less airflow and more insulation so sometimes can get too hot in warm weather. If you don’t plan on ever camping in the winter, stick with the 3 or 3/4 season tents.
Ease of Setup
Do you dread setting up your tent? Some manufacturers have simplified the process so that you can have your tent up in minutes. Others are more complicated and take some practice getting used to them. Also, some tents may require more than 1 person to be involved in the setup process. Make sure to look into the setup system being used for tents you are interested in buying. Some are well thought out while others not so much.
Tents made of higher-denier fabrics will be better at keeping out the elements. Also, high-denier fabrics on the floor, as well as inverted seams or seam tape, will help make sure you stay warm and dry when you run into unexpected harsh weather. If you plan on doing multi-season camping, investing in a higher quality tent is worthwhile.
Other things to look for are the extra luxuries many tents come with. Things such as a gear lofts, repair kits, loops/pockets, and vestibules are all nice things to have in a tent. One of my personal favorites is the Coleman “Dark Room” technology that acts like blackout curtains for your tent. Not only does it keep the tent cool but also blocks the light if you don’t like waking up at the crack of dawn. Generally, the more expensive you go, the more extras you get.