When it comes to family camping tents, there are a lot of choices out there, all with their own unique characteristics. To make it a little easier to compare tents against one another, we’ve put together a list of things to consider when choosing your family camping tent.
- Ease of setup
- Ease of access
- Weather resistance/quality of construction
- Additional features
Something as simple as the size of your tent can have a big impact on your camping experience, so that’s where we’ll start. Though you can rarely go too large when camping with a family, you can go too small. No one wants to wake up in the middle of the night feeling like a human burrito, snuggled up against someone solely because the tent is cramped. It's much better to choose a tent with enough space to allow for a little personal breathing room, and let the snuggling be a conscious decision.
Tents typically state the number of people that the tent will hold within the name of the tent. Be aware though, this number does not include space for things like gear storage, cots, air mattresses, coolers, or the impromptu pillow fight.
A good rule of thumb when it comes to family camping tents is to get one that’s double the size of your family. So, a family of 4 might choose an 8-person tent. It may seem like a lot of space, but you’ll appreciate being able to spread out a bit in the event of rain, playing games, or the previously mentioned pillow fight.
Family camping tents come in two basic shapes: cabin and dome, each with their own benefits.
Cabin tents have straighter walls which increase head room and provide an overall larger space. Simply said, you can stand up and walk around in the thing. The tradeoff is that due to their high profile, they are not quite as stable in high winds. And by high winds, we’re talking 35+ mph winds that can make your cheeks flap like a flag.
Dome tents have lower, sloping walls which make them a bit more stable in high winds, but those sloping walls reduce the overall interior space. You may be able to stand up in the middle of the tent, but don’t count on getting in your 10,000 daily steps.
Ease of setup
Due to their larger size, family camping tents may seem a little intimidating to set up at first. Don’t be discouraged. CORE® Equipment recognized this and simplified the process with things like color-coded poles and joints. And though it should go without saying, it also helps to READ THE MANUAL or watch the SETUP VIDEO. Yes Dad, we’re talking to you. Most times, setup will go a bit more quickly with more than one person.
There are also a variety of “instant tents,” or pop-up tents. Instant tents come with the tent body already attached to the poles. All you need to do is lay the tent out, unfold the poles, and extend them to their locking positions. This type of tent can be set up faster than you can make a s’more.
Ease of access
Ease of access is a fancy way of saying, “How many doors does it have?” One door of course means just one way in and out of the tent. In a family situation, this usually means people climbing over each other. That might not be an issue for you, but if think it could be, and you don’t want a knee in the stomach at 2am, maybe consider a tent with more than one door.
Ventilation is another important element to consider when choosing your family camping tent. The key to good ventilation is having an adequate number of mesh panels and windows. Not only does proper ventilation keep your tent cooler in the summer, but it also helps to manage condensation in humid conditions. It’s all about being comfortable, which is crucial to a good night’s rest. So, unless you and your family enjoy feeling like you’re sleeping in a sauna, look for a tent with large mesh panels and windows.
Weather resistance/quality of construction
Weather resistance and quality go hand in hand. A tent that is constructed well of high-quality materials will also most likely offer good weather resistance.
Check to see that the floor of the tent is made of a durable material. Not only does the floor of the tent have to stand up to the foot traffic of you and your family, but it’s also subjected to twigs, small rocks, and whatever else may be underneath it. A “footprint” or tarp under your tent can help with this too.
Also look for a tent that says it has sealed, or “taped” seams. This will help to prevent water from leaking into the tent.
Make sure you get a tent with a rainfly, which is the cover that goes over the roof of the tent. The rainfly is designed to not only keep out water, but they generally have attached guylines which can help to stabilize a tent in high winds.
A tent that remains dry and upright will be your best friend on any camping trip.
With the basics all covered, there are some additional nice-to-have features you may want to consider depending upon the needs, and/or wants of your family.
- Storage pockets. Sewn-in storage pockets are great for keeping items organized and off the floor where they can get lost under sleeping bags, gear, etc. They’re particularly handy for things like mobile phones, flashlights, personal items, and of course, packages of cheese/peanut butter crackers.
- Electrical port. Some tents have an electrical port which you can use to run an extension cord inside the tent if your campsite has electrical hookups. It’s a great feature to have for keeping mobile phones charged, powering string lights, running a fan, or, if you want to get really fancy, getting a projector and having a family movie night!
- Dividers are polyester panels you can hang in the interior of the tent to create separate rooms. Some large family tents have the ability to create two, sometimes even three rooms. Maybe you would prefer to have the adults on one side and the kids on the other. Or maybe you would like a divider to create a sleeping area, and more of a lounge, or living area. It’s up to you. Ball pit room anyone?
- Mesh roof. A mesh roof is great for increased ventilation, but if you’re fairly confident of a rain-free night, you can also remove the rainfly to open the tent for a night of star gazing. See if you can spot Orion’s Belt. Bonus points if you can find his pants too.
Now that you know what to look for, have fun shopping for your new family camping tent! At CORE® Equipment, we pride ourselves on making quality products to help people get out and enjoy the outdoors. You can find our complete line of family camping tents with all the features you need to have a memorable camping experience here. Oh, and when we say “memorable,” we mean that in a good way. Not in a what-were-we-thinking sort of way.