For most of us, our first introduction to the vast, magnificent world of the wild was a family camping trip. And while I’ve camped on snow and climbing trips too, with bros and at shows, for me, a tent will mainly get used in family adventures. With that in mind, below are the Top 10 Family Camping Tents.
Kelty Cabin 4 Tent.
Best Use: Car camping for giants who feel castrphobic in domes.
Are you tired of dome tents; do you hunger for something a bit more like a dorm room to avoid that claustrophobic feeling? Enter Kelty’s Cabin 4. Like everything Kelty makes, it’s probably overbuilt but I definitely appreciated that in my last stormy family camping trip at the City of Rocks. At 62 square feet, it’s huge for a “4-person” tent, and the steel/fiberglass poles go a way to explaining its 16-pound pack weight. Admittedly I’d have liked a vestibule and more than one entrance (though the airy tent negates any feeling of claustrophobia) but that would add to weight and complexity. As it is, this really does feel like a tall, square cabin – with a boxy 6-and-a-half-foot roof, I’d call this a must if you’re one of those grand Valhallan families that call the outdoors their home. Purchase: $299.99
Cabela’s Orion 3 Tent.
Best Use: Taking the family deep for cheap.
Do you need a tent that can take all nature throws at you and your small family in the backcountry for cheap, portable wilderness protection that doesn’t break the bank? Cabela’s Orion 3 weighs in at only 6 and a half pounds despite aluminum poles, a 47-square-foot footprint (with 8-foot vestibule) and 3000mm waterproofing (as well as a 1500 waterproofing fly). Plus it comes in a striking blue, perfect for spotting your tent after a day of wandering off in the middle of nowhere. With the Cabela’s name and emphasis on ruggedness, this is probably the best tent you can find for you, the spouse and the kids for under $150 bucks. Purchase: $149.99
Big Agnes Big House 4 Tent.
Best Use: Shoulder and summer wilderness adventures.
They call it a car camping tent but at only 8lb 4oz, the Big Agnes Big House 4 is every bit a backpacker’s basecamp tent. This is probably the best blend of price and quality when it comes to 3-season/4-person tents for rowdy backpackers, though you sacrifice some waterproofness with “only” 1500mm coating on the floor and fly. Still, with 6-foot ceilings that only have a slight curvature out towards wide square walls and its optional cavernous vestibules (highly recommended as they almost double your square-footage, a necessity when trapped inside by storms with a younger family, like I was just off the road in Nowhere, Idaho), there’s no better backcountry/car camping Shangri-la for the American nuclear family than the Big Agnes Big House 4. Purchase: $299.99
REI Co-op Kingdom 6 Tent.
Best Use: Privacy while car camping with the spouse and kids.
REI’s Kingdom 6 is about as close as I’ll get to have my own portable army barracks, this 2-bedroom suite is great for big families or even smaller families that just want some space. A zippered wall can split this into 2 rooms — a luxury when you’re a loving couple with memories of backcountry romance from before you had to start sharing the tent with a couple rugrats. At 20 pounds you’re not carrying this anywhere but when I plopped the 83-square-foot base 75-inch-high 75-denier nylon tent a couple yards from my truck at the trailhead, I made a basecamp for days of adventures followed by the kind of sleep you just don’t get in smaller tents. With the vestibule, you get basically a lean-to gear shack but add in the garage and it’s bigger than my wife’s and my first apartment together on Newport Peninsula. Purchase: $439.00
Marmot Limestone 4P Tent.
Best Use: Summer car camping and star gazing.
It says 4 and that’s true if you have some kids in that 4, and even then it’s cozy. At 11 pounds, it’s heavy for a 4-person. But that’s because the Marmot Limestone 4P is bulletproof and, even more important, basically humidity-proof. With 40D polyester no-see-um mesh for an unmatchably breathable but bug-proof canopy and 68d Polyester Taffeta 190T 1500mm for the fly, you could be in the middle of a summer Assateague Island mosquito swarm with the fly off for stargazing and coolness and not get a single itchy bump or devolve into a sweaty mess. And the DAC DA17 Poles’ simplicity and the canopy’s freestanding design make it one of the easiest tents to put up, even if it’s just you and the kids on your first 1-parent-only campout. Purchase: $359.00
Columbia Fall River 10 Person Tent.
Best Use: Big group car camping for a fraction of the cost.
Seven feet tall. Two rooms. 250 square feet. 38 pounds. The Columbia Fall River 10 person is a party in a bag. Affordable and portable, the possibilities are endless. One room for the grown-ups, next for the kids; one for the family the second for the mess; one for chillin’, one for dancin’; even go with friends and put one family in each room. With Omni-Shield waterproofing it’ll keep off any reasonable weather and gives you the semblance of wide privacy whether trying to enjoy a creekside logging road as I used it when we had a couple families enjoying the backwoods; or at Outside Lands, with your closest psychedelic tripsters. Purchase: $349.99
MSR Papa Hubba 4 Person Tent.
Best Use: For going light and fast.
This is the most hi-tech engineered tent on this list. At less than 6 pounds in full, 4 pounds 11 ounces when taken to fast and light mode, you’d be hard-pressed to find a much lighter 4P. With 53-square-foot floor, it’s more voluminous than its not-quite-4-foot ceiling would lead you to believe. Made of 20D ripstop with a 1500mm rain fly, this 4-person, 3-season, 2-door portable bedroom is so light you have plenty of room to carry the rest of the family’s gear too and ensure the kids make that 7-mile hike without complaining. It’s my go-to for our adventures in the high alpine wilderness, like our mission to get the kid to our secret lake deep and high in the Winds. Purchase: $599.95
Basin and Range Escalante 4 Person Tent.
Best Use: West coast car camping and backpacking on a budget.
Sometimes you’re not looking for an adventure in the rainy snowy mountain forests. You want to get away as they do in all those trippy movies, deep into the dry desert or out on the coast. Joshua Tree. Red Rocks. San O. Zion. Big Sur. Coachella. I took it out to Point Mugu, where its emphasis on moisture wicking and 68D polyester kept me and the family dry – comfy for me, the wife and the kid and two dogs. But at 8 pounds, the over-four-feet tall with aluminum poles would be just as great in the Ventana Wilderness “in” Big Sur, for a price that makes it, well, considerably more disposable than its engineering would allow for. Purchase: $299.95
Mountainsmith Conifer 5+ Tent.
Best Use: Spring through fall car camping for 5.
“5 plus the family dog” is how it’s advertised and Mountainsmith’s car camping hotel lives up to that. With a height of 6’2” and 84 square feet of floor space (plus 33 feet of vestibule space), it’s about the size of that hotel room you squeezed the family into on the last trip to San Francisco. Obviously for a 3-season (PU 2000 MM fly, poly breathable tent) super-suite with a suitcase-style stuff sack, you’re talking a lot of weight and at almost 15 pounds you’d have to have your family-weight-distribution game on lock (it does incorporate Clip-pole attachment to get it down) to make it into a backpacking pack. But at 22inches by 10.5 by 10.5, it’ll fit very easily in your overloaded car. Purchase: $399.95
Eureka Copper Canyon 12 Person Tent.
Best Use: Car camping like a boss with your big group.
I will likely never own a Himalaya Hotel. But the Eureka Copper Canyon 12 is all I really need for 90% of the big group adventures I go on, especially since they’re usually throughout the Tetons with family and friends. And you’ll definitely need all those people for this one. 9 poles. 14 by 12-foot floor and 7-foot high ceilings with big flat walls. A blend of 75D 190T Storm Shield and 1200mm coating ensures that family you introduce to the great outdoors don’t get washed away during their first outing while the 2-room divider cuts down on the creep factor of two families, 1 tent. I really liked setting it up in the acreage-heavy backyard for a bonfire party where the kids could run in there and chill, then warm by the fire, then into the garage climbing wall and eventually pass out in a near-glamping situation while we grown-ups carried on into the late night. Purchase: $469.99
Family Campgrounds Near Me:
- #1. Family Camping California – https://www.parks.ca.gov
- #2. Family Camping Colorado – https://www.colorado.com/colorado-campgrounds
- #3. Family Camping Texas – https://texascampgrounds.com
- #4. Family Camping in PA. – https://www.pacamping.com
- #5. Family Camping in Wisconsin – https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/camping
- #6. Family Camping in Oregon – https://www.oregon.gov/oprd/PARKS/pages/camping.aspx