The family tent is an essential component of any family camping excursion. It provides a safe, comfortable environment for everyone and shields you from the whims of mother nature. But finding just the right family tent is not always easy.
There are a lot of variables involved and factors to consider when shopping for a family tent. It can be a pretty time-consuming endeavor if you have to go it alone. That’s where we come in. We’ve done the research for you and determined that the following are the best family tent options of 2021.
1. Coleman Elite Montana 8 Person Tent
Nobody does family camping gear like Coleman. It’s been their stock and trade since the company was founded 121 years ago. Their Elite Montana 8 Person Tent is highly functional, spacious, sturdy, easy to assemble and affordable. With a footprint of 16’ x 7’ it will comfortably accommodate mom, dad and several kids, and with a ceiling of 6’ 2” everyone but the tallest individuals will be able to stand up straight inside.
There’s an extended awning that keeps out the rain and provides a safe space to store gear, a 75D polyester fly, welded floor seams to keep sleeping bags dry inside and a mesh “skylight” for those nights when the Milky Way beckons. There’s also a hinged door that makes going in and out of the tent super easy for the kids. Set up takes just a few minutes with color-coded poles to simplify the process.
2. Coleman Octagon 6-8 Person Dome Tent
For those who aren’t particularly fond of the hall-style family tent, Coleman offers the Octagon 6-8 person Dome Tent. This tent is made for standing and stretching out, which is something most people don’t realize they miss until they’re in a backpacking tent with a 4’ ceiling. But it’s not just a big, comfortable space, it’s a really well-built, thoughtfully designed big, comfortable space that’s perfect for late night card games and general socializing under the night sky.
With nearly 16 square meters of total floor space there’s plenty of room for a family of 4 or 5 no matter how you arrange things. Mesh windows occupy the upper half of every side of the Octagon making for unequaled circulation. And though the design is distinctly vertical, the robust guylines will keep the Octagon firmly planted on the ground when the wind is howling. Your only problem may be finding a tent site large enough.
3. Mobihome 6 Person Family Camping Tent
While similar in layout to the Coleman Elite, the Mobihome Family Camping Tent features a slightly smaller footprint that’s ideal for a family of 4, although it could conceivable accommodate a couple of more kids, depending on their size. The tent features a mesh skylight, 3 windows, fiberglass poles, an effective rain fly and a durable polyethylene floor that won’t fall victim to detritus from the forest floor beneath it.
The company boasts that you can set up the tent in seconds. In reality, it’s more like a couple of minutes. But compared to some tents that are a real ordeal, we’ll take a couple of minutes. The 68D polyester shell will stand up to the campground environment. The weight of just over 14 pounds isn’t going to break anyone’s back (as long as you’re not carrying it into the wild). And the price is very family-friendly.
4. World Famous Sports 2 Room Camping Tent
If the kids are a little older (or if you’re camping with another couple) the World Famous Sports 2 Room Camping Tent is an ideal choice. The tent is an impressive 15’ x 10’ which equates to 150 square feet of total floor space. That space is divided evenly between the 2 rooms with a pair of double doors between those rooms that can be opened to create one large space during the day and closed for privacy at night.
The center of the interior space reaches an impressive 7 feet, meaning no one is going to have to slouch over inside. The shell is fashioned from thick polyurethane with extra reinforcement in the floor. There are a pair of mesh stargazer panels in the roof, and the tent comes with a full coverage rain fly. Keep in mind too that if there’s just 2 of you, the second room can be used as a living room where you can set up a table and chairs.
5. UNP 2 Room 10 Person Family Tent
The UNP 2 Room 10 Person Family Tent is really more 1 great big room of 160 square feet. Yes, there is a divider that you can install, but it’s kind of an afterthought, to tell the truth. But that’s okay because we love how spacious this tent is, how easy it is to set up, how effectively it keeps the rain out and the fact that it has an electrical port for those campgrounds that offer electrical hookups.
Another thing we love about this tent is how stable it is in the wind. There are quite a few family tents that use this basic layout, but not all are great when the wind is up. This one is rock solid. Beyond that, the center of the ceiling is 78 inches high, there are a pair of mesh skylights for star watching, a gear loft for getting things off the floor, plenty of storage pockets, a reinforced bathtub style floor and a large, 2 panel front door.
6. Moon Lence 4-5 Person Pop Up Tent
Small families don’t always need a behemoth of a tent. For them something like the Moon Lence 4-5 Person Pop Up Tent will more than suffice. It features a 6-sided design that peaks at about 4 1/2 feet. The shell is fashioned from durable polyurethane and the ground sheet from water resistant 210D Oxford material.
Build quality is excellent throughout with high-quality SBS zippers, sealed seams, lightweight alloy tent stakes, and durable fiberglass poles. It’s a pop up tent, so set up takes only a few seconds (though staking it down will take longer). And for a pop up tent we have to say we were impressed by how solid it felt when set up. The tent weighs only 10 lbs and comes with its own carrying sack.
7. Core 9 Person Extended Dome Tent
The Core 9 Person Extended Dome Tent is perfect for young families with 1 or 2 kids. It offers 144 square feet of floor space, large mesh skylights, a very stable design and an advanced venting system that keeps the air moving through in both the upper and lower parts of the interior. It will technically fit 3 queen size airbeds, but you’d be wise not to try and fit more than 2.
At the center the tent rises a respectable 72 inches (6 feet). There’s a gear loft and lantern hook for night time illumination and an electric cord access port for powering your electronic devices. The shell is water resistant, and all seams are taped to prevent leakage. The rain fly is easy to install and effective, and the tent comes with its own handsome carrying sack.
8. REI Co-Op Kingdom 6 Tent
If you’ve got a little more to spend on your family tent we would recommend the REI Co-Op Kingdom 6. This is an extremely well-built tent that is spacious from end to end and floor to ceiling. With its vertical walls it will comfortably accommodate 5-6 people and it boasts one of the most effective rain covers you’ll find anywhere.
Fore and aft entrances are large with high-quality zippers. There are huge skylights for those cloudless nights. The floor is tough and waterproof, the walls lined with plenty of storage pockets and you have the option of installing a divider to create 2 rooms. Toss in the fact that it’s remarkably stable in the wind and there are lots of folks who will gladly cough up the extra Benjamins to get it.
9. Coleman Connectable Tent Bundle
Coleman applies modular design concepts to the humble family camping tent and comes up with the Connectable Tent Bundle. This system uses a central unit whose exterior panels can each be used to attach a slightly smaller satellite tent. The basic bundle comes with 1 such satellite, but you can always purchase more and create your own space station on earth.
While it can take some time to set it all up (and the more satellites, the more time) we can accept that because the final product is so compelling. This is not a multi-room tent created by hanging a tissue down the middle. These are distinct rooms that the kids are going to love. Inside there’s space galore and the entire concoction is very well engineered and built.
10. OT Qomotop 4 Person Pop up Tent
If your tastes run more to the exotic you will no doubt develop a hankering for the Qomotop 4 Person Pop Up Tent by OT. This is a true pop up that opens itself in seconds once you remove the restraints. Once opened it’s not shy about touting its design credentials with its ultramodern lines and round footprint.
Fortunately, the Qomotop is more than a curiosity. It’s a generally outstanding family tent that will comfortably accommodate parents and a couple of young children. There’s an electrical access port, plenty of pockets, generally good ventilation and it behaves itself in the wind. The icing on the cake is the reasonable price.
What Size Family Tent Do You Need?
This is the first question to ask yourself before you start shopping for a family tent. It doesn’t make sense to buy a tent that is larger than you need, simply because it will take up more space in the car, take longer to set up, will weigh more, and cost more. At the same time you don’t want a tent that is too small. Sleeping in a sleeping bag is uncomfortable enough as it is, without those bags butting right up against one another, not allowing anyone to stretch out. Also, keep in mind that some campsites may have limits on how big a tent can be. The last thing you want is for your vacation to be ruined because your campground rejected your tent.
Are Tent Windows Important?
Very. Windows allow for the circulation of fresh air through the tent. Without enough windows, and with large numbers of people in a single tent, exhaled carbon monoxide levels increase, which can cause the air inside the tent to become very stale, even unhealthy. Dirty, sweaty clothes just add to the noxious miasma. An insufficient number of windows also means the tent is going to heat up fast inside when everyone is present.
A tent with few windows that are sealed up tight defeats the purpose of camping, which is to experience the great outdoors, revel in the sights and sounds of nature and breathe in the fresh air. At the same time though, if you set up your tent in a crowded campground, privacy becomes an issue. So a family tent should have windows with zippable covers, or a fly that you can install that will cover the windows without blocking air flow.
One more thing about the atmosphere inside the tent. Never, repeat never, bring a gas stove into the tent to cook or to try to warm things up. Whereas 8 – 10 people in a closed up tent will result in foul air, bringing a gas stove inside a tent can, and in too many cases does, result in carbon monoxide poisoning and death (1)(2).
What are Some Other Things to Look For?
When it comes to family tents most people are looking for more functionality than is offered by a hardcore mountaineering tent. For mountaineering, the tent needs to be two things: tough and light. For family camping it needs to be spacious and it should provide some of the comforts of home. With that in mind, here are some of the other things people look for in a family tent.
Storage – Families have lots of stuff. Your family tent should acknowledge this fact and provide more storage pockets then you’ll get in a mountaineering tent.
Power cord opening – Most family tents are set up in campgrounds that have electricity. And most families want to take advantage of that. So the tent should have an opening designed specifically to allow a power cord through while keeping water (and living things) out.
Lantern hook – It’s always nice if your large family tent has a hook at the apex that will accommodate an electric lantern.
Groundsheet – Some tents come with a groundsheet. Some do not. Without a groundsheet things can get very uncomfortable inside the tent, unless it has a reinforced, fully waterproof bottom.
What are the Different Family Tent Styles?
There are 3 main styles of family tent:
The Dome or Igloo tent is the simplest. The limitations of its shape also means it is the smallest, typically accommodating no more than 4 people.
The tunnel tent is a more flexible design and can accommodate many more people. Most family tents are in fact some type of tunnel tent. Tunnel tents can also be divided up into separate rooms for kids and parents.
Hybrid tents take on many shapes. One such example is the Coleman Tent Bundle. That tent is built around a central unit that has zippered openings on each of its sides. These can be used to connect other ‘rooms’ depending on how many people you need to accommodate.
Are Family Tents Easy to Assemble?
When camping with the family you have enough to think about without having to spend hours trying to set up your tent. Fortunately, tent designers and manufacturers keep this in mind when producing their tents. At least the better ones do. Most high-quality family tents like the ones on our list will set up in 10 minutes or so. Maybe a bit longer the first few times you use them.
If you really want to cut down on set up time, try a “pop up” tent (3). They basically set themselves up. Just remove them from the bag, drop them on the ground and in about 2-3 seconds they’re ready to receive sleeping bags. (Though it will take you a couple of minutes to tie them down.)
Do Family Tents Stand Up to the Weather?
It is foolish to assume you will always encounter calm, clear weather when camping. As such, you need to make sure the family tent you purchase is appropriate to the climate where you intend to camp. At the very minimum you want a tent that is water resistant.
A water resistant tent won’t have any trouble standing up to a light rain. A truly waterproof tent, on the other hand, will keep you dry in a downpour (4), but it’s also going to be significantly heavier than a water resistant tent. Some family tents come with a waterproof fly. Others will offer it as an option. In some cases the fly will cover the entire tent. In other cases it won’t. So be aware.
The degree of wind resistance your family tent displays will depend in large part on the type of poles you choose. And we’ll get to those next.
Do the Type of Tent Poles Matter?
The type of poles that come with your tent are important for a couple of reasons. First, if the poles are cheap and break easily, your tent is useless. And second, if the poles cannot stand up to strong winds, your family may have a very unpleasant experience if the weather turns during the night.
Fiberglass tent poles are some of the most common because they’re light and inexpensive. Aluminum poles tend to be stronger and will put up more of a fight in bad weather. Carbon fiber (5) poles are both very light and very tough. But they’re also expensive. Steel tent poles are the strongest, but also the heaviest, and they tend to corrode over time.
Of course, if you want to avoid poles altogether you can opt for a so-called “inflatable” tent. An inflatable tent is not what it sounds like. The tent itself is not inflatable. Instead, designers have eliminated steel or fiberglass poles and replaced them with inflatable tubes that act as poles. You attach an air pump to a valve on the tent and pump for a minute or so, and viola!
The obvious problem with such a design is that if someone punctures the air tubes, the whole tent comes down on you. Also, if you forget your air pump you have no way to set up the tent, and these tents are not as stable in strong winds as metal frame tents. For whatever reasons, inflatable tents tend to be more popular in Europe than they are in the states. At least for now.
Are Family Tents Expensive?
As with most things the price of a family tent will come down to things like materials and workmanship. Where the tent is made will also have a large impact on the final cost. There are some fine family tents available for under $200, and we have highlighted a few of them on our list.
However, when purchasing a less expensive tent it behooves you to look carefully at the material used, the type of poles, whether the tent is water resistant, and even the kind of storage bag it comes with. Because, how the tent is stored can also impact its longevity (6). Check the same things on an expensive tent to make sure it’s worth the asking price.
The Bottom Line
Family camping is likely to produce memories that will stay with everyone for the rest of their lives. It’s also a great way to familiarize the kids with the many joys of the great outdoors, and to teach them respect for nature; things that will pay handsome dividends for them as they go through their own lives.
Safe, enjoyable family camping, however, is not as simple as stuffing everyone into your backpacking tent. In order to facilitate the family camping experience you will need a tent that is large enough and has enough features and amenities to accommodate everyone comfortably and effectively. Use the above information to choose just the right tent to suit your needs.