Family camping is an excellent way to build lasting memories. Today there are so many electronic distractions – cell phones, video games, tablets, computers, and etc. Camping in nature is a way to temporarily escape from that world and go back to our roots. Not only is camping a great way to get out and see nature, but it is also a cheap way to travel. A hotel usually costs $100 per night. A campsite with full amenities is usually around $20-$35 per night for tent camping. This means you can spend 3-4 times more vacationing days by camping for the same budget. When traveling with your family you will need a really good tent. The best family tent changes as your family grows and develops. No matter what your family’s situation there are several things you should consider when finding the best tent for your family.
Qualities that make the best family tent
- Capacity – How many people does the tent need to hold? When a tent says the capacity is 6 people this usually means if you like to be packed in like sardines then you can fit 6 people, but to be comfortable you usually can fit 4 people. Sleeping capacity specified by the manufacturer usually means each person has his or her own floor mat to sleep on and all the camping gear is left in coolers outside or in a vehicle. I personally prefer a larger tent so I can inflate a nice air mattress up for my wife and me. Some tents on the market also have multiple rooms. This can be very nice when you are camping for more than a night or two because it gives some privacy. Adults in one room and children in the other. The walls in these types of tents are not sound proof in case you have any crazy ideas about what you want to do. In my own opinion a single room tent is best when you have infants camping with you. I have a new baby daughter and we take a portable crib with us camping. Having room for our air mattress and a portable crib in a single room is a requirement. As kids get a little bit older having a multiple room tent might make more sense. By the time your kids are teenagers they will most likely just want to camp on their own in a separate tent.
- Seasons – Most of the tents you can buy are rated for three seasons. Late spring, all of the summer, and early fall. If you are an extreme outdoorsman (or outdoorswoman) and plan on doing camping in the winter then make sure the tent you buy is rated for four seasons or specifically rated for winter temperatures. I have generally found that most family sized winter tents tend to be made from heavier materials to help retain heat and keep wind out. The thicker material does make your family tent heavier. Some tents can have heaters, but just remember that some heaters require good ventilation.
- Height – I’m 6’3″. Unless I’m backpacking I want a tent where I can stand fully erect and still stretch my arms a bit. My wife on the other hand is 5’1″. Our needs in tent heights are very different, but in this case the taller person usually wins. If you are in a place where you will be changing your clothes often, like a campsite near water and you will change from your regular clothes to a swim suit and visa versa, then having a taller tent gives you a very easy changing room. If the tent is not tall enough then you will be changing your clothes while on your knees or laying down on the ground. Another benefit of having your family tent taller than you is the ability to hang a lantern at the top of the tent. Before the days where everyone had a personal electronic device like a phone or tablet, there was usually only one light source in a tent. Either way having a camping lantern is a good idea because you can see in emergencies and make sure everyone is ready for bed at nights. The picture to the right is from a camping trip you can take in Thailand. I loved this tent because you can hang your backpacks on the sides and there are nice lanterns hanging from the ceiling.
- Doors & Windows – Consider how easy it is to get in and out of your tent. Having a door that also has a screen will help with ventilation. Are there windows on opposite sides of the tent that can let a cross breeze through during the warm summer? Does the door seal tight enough to not let insects through?
- Rain protection – Almost all tents are water-resistant and made from hydrophobic material. However, some tents are more water-resistant than others. If a tent you have doesn’t have a great rain fly there are some things you can do to waterproof your tent.
- Ease to assemble/disassemble – All tents are going to be a little bit of work to set up and tear down. What makes some tents far better than others is how easy the tent is to assemble and take down. A tent that is easy to put up will have all the poles either numbered or color coated. Sometimes the poles are always attached to the tent. The tent will then have marks that match the numbers or colors showing you where to put the tent poles. Fewer poles is not necessarily better either . . . having more poles that are smaller makes storing the tent easier. I have used a tent that would setup itself by simply pulling it out of the pack. Even though the setup of the tent was a piece of cake, the tear down was terrible. I had to fold the tent in just the right way and hold it in a very specific shape while I put the tent back into the carrying case. I quickly got rid of that tent. I like my tents to be easy in both directions, not just one.
- Storage – My parents have a big family cabin tent. When the tent is compressed and bagged up it takes up a lot of space. Three times the space of other tents that size. Although it’s a good tent and will probably last forever, you need to consider the storage space the tent uses. If you are vacationing with your family and plan on camping – a larger tent means less room for other gear or luggage.
- Accessories – With so many family camping tents available on the market there are also lots of various accessories with each tent. This includes but is not limited to built-in fans, repair kits, broom and dustpan, floor mat, sitting canopy, and electricity.
Top rated family tents
The best family tent is a tent that meets the needs of your family better than any other tent on the market. You need to decide what features are most important within the budget you have. The following are just a few of the great family tents available.