Family Camping- How To Choose A Tent

Are you trying to choose a tent for your next family camping trip?  The right tent is crucial.   A family camping tent is typically a tent that sleeps 4 or more people and is the tent we are focusing on today.

Types of Family Camping Tents

Dome tents. Dome tents are very durable. They can withstand high winds and are excellent for shedding water.  They offer lots of headroom, while the sloped corners provide space for storing your camping gear.  Dome tents come in many sizes.

Cabin tents.  Cabin tents have large square and rectangle designs.  Many have room dividers for extra privacy.  Some cabin tents also feature a screened in porch which is a great place to store extra equipment so that it doesn’t take up as much space in your sleeping area.  The porch is also a good area to place your lawn chairs when it starts raining or when you are leaving the campsite for the day.  Look for a cabin tent with a slanted or domed roof to help with rain runoff.

Tent Size

When selecting a tent, size matters!  This is especially true when it comes to family camping.  How many people will be sleeping in the tent?  Personally, I choose a tent a little larger than what is recommended on the tent box.  Our family of 5 loves our 9 man tent.  We call it the BAT (big butt tent).  We like the extra space in case we actually want to turn over in the night or we decide to walk around in the tent.  A good rule of thumb is to buy a tent that is twice the manufacturer recommendation so that you have plenty of room for your camping gear.


What seasons and climates will you be camping?  3 season tents work well for most climates except harsh winter climates.  4 season tents are built for extremely cold climates.  Other terms you may see  include all season or convertible tents.  These tents may be used year round but they are not recommended for harsh cold weather.  Most cabin tents are all season tents.

Tent Assembly

Another consideration is the tent assembly.  How difficult is it to setup the tent?  These days tents are getting easier to setup all the time.  Coleman® has a line of tents that can be setup in 60 seconds (watch their product guys setup the Instant Tent in this video).  I don’t have an Instant Tent, but I would love to see how fast I could set one up.


Of course,  for most camping families price is a big factor when making any purchase.  You can get a very inexpensive tent at your local discount store.  You may want to go this route if you have never tent camped and you are not sure it is something you will like.  But, if you are planning to go camping several times a year, you will probably want to invest in a good quality tent.  A good quality tent will withstand different weather conditions better than a cheapy tent.

Other considerations:

Tent poles.  The number of tent poles determines the tent weight and sturdiness.  Aluminum poles tend to be preferred over fiberglass poles.  Aluminum poles are light, more durable and inexpensive.

Rainfly.  A full coverage rainfly offers better weather protection than roof only styles.

Tent floor. The tent floor should be made of waterproof polyurethane coating.

Ventilation.  Good ventilation is important to prevent condensation.  Mesh windows that may be unzipped a little when it rains may help with condensation by promoting cross-ventilation. These ventilated areas should be covered by a waterproof rainfly.

I hope these tips help you to find the camping tent that is right for you and your family.  As with many purchases, it really comes down to your personal preference.  Only you can decide which tent is best for you.

I’ll see ya by the campfire.


Photo credit: Tent by RichardBH (license info)

Are you a tent camper?  What other tips would you give to someone selecting a tent?


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Tiffany loves tent camping and knows how to bait a hook.

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  1. Bigger isn’t always better depending on your climate! We’ve completely had to overhaul our camping style from Ontario to Alberta. In Ontario, for regular spring/summer/fall camping, you basically needed something to keep you dry. In Alberta, especially in the mountains, temperatures below 0C are usual even in the middle of summer. We’ve switched to a high quality 4-season, smaller 4-man tent (smaller means less air to warm) with less ventilation (enough to keep condensation at bay but not enough to let in a lot of cold air). We also use high quality Thermorests as they are better at insulating you against the cold ground than an air mattress.
    Suzi recently posted..TGIF!My Profile

    • Campy Mom says:

      Thanks so much for your comment. This is good advice for camping in colder climates. I live and camp in the South (United States). It is currently the end of January and 65 degrees at my house. I looked up Alberta and the site said it is -3 degrees there. I don’t believe I have ever experienced -3 degree weather. What is the temperature that you believe is too cold for tent camping?

      • Your lucky that you didn’t look up the temperature last week or it would have said -39C/-38F :) Both my husband and I have done some winter camping with temperatures down to about -20C/-4F but we haven’t gone with our 2 1/2 year old in the winter yet – not sure when we’ll be brave enough for that. We’ve experienced temperatures to about -5C/23F overnight when camping in the summer with our son… it’s not unusual for things to be a little frosty in the morning… daytime temperatures need to hit about 5C/41F for us to even think about camping.
        Suzi recently posted..TGIF!My Profile

  2. Great, helpful post! I love to tent camp :) … unfortunately, more so than my husband! But I do draw the line when it gets really cold. When I shopped for my sleeping bag, and I’d see those “rated for -20 degrees”, I’d just chuckle to myself. I’m pretty sure I’ll never camp in -20 degree weather!

    I’m not sure what it’s called, but our tent has a “patio” screened in area which is just open on the floor. Works great for muddy dogs, or just sitting inside with a couple of chairs if it’s raining. Ahhh… I’m in the mood to go tent camping now!
    Tami recently posted..Sonja’s Snuggables – Review & GiveawayMy Profile

  3. Great post. We have a smaller, low profile 4-person tent, which fits our varied needs. We car camp, but also backpack to primitive sites, so small and light is great for that. We don’t feel like we’re missing much with it when we car camp either, though. It’s only the three of us (2 adults, one 2-year-old), and we don’t tend to spend much awake time in it. We love it. If we add more family members though, we’ll definitely need a BAT :-) There are so many great options out there. The tips here are really helpful in trying to determine need.

    • It sounds like ya’ll have lots of great adventures! We have 5 campers (2 adults and 3 kids) and we car camp. And yes, we love our BAT. Of course, we are planning another camping trip soon and my older kids are already begging to bring friends. I’m not so sure that our BAT can even handle that (or maybe that will be my excuse). ;)

  4. BAT for the kids, cozy 3-man for mom and dad?
    Pablo at Family Wilds recently posted.."Love you, Texas…"My Profile

  5. Great stuff! We’re a dome tent family. We like being on the move and the smaller set-up works great for us. We use our tent to store gear, sleep, and change mostly. Most of the time we’re out-and-about so we opt for the smaller versions. I can’t stress enough how important a full coverage rainfly is! Also take notice of how many exits and vents there are. Not having to crawl over someone for that late night restroom break is nice, and having vents for airflow and electrical cords (if you so desire) is nice. We also like having a privacy sheet to separate the adults for the children.

  6. Angilena Hunt-Brown says:

    We have a 8 man tent for just my husband and I. I’m about 5’9″ and needed room to stand up inside, plus it has plenty of room for our battery operated Queen size air mattress. At my age a bed roll does not work for us any more.

  7. Ron Nelson says:

    This is a great write-up! I’m really glad to have found your site, we are a camping family with an 8-man dome for a family of 4 + 1 dog. We’ve been using it since the days of pack and plays and are still enjoying it now that the boys are getting bigger and much more active!

    • Campy Mom says:

      I’m glad you found my site,too! We love meeting other camping families here on the blog. We share a lot of info here. I usually start the conversations but my readers are great about adding recommendations and tips that they have come across as well. Stop by anytime!

  8. Nice write up. We also have a family of five and have recently searched for a large three season tent. There are many other considerations to consider including tent material. Canvas is still used by the most ardent outdoors folks ecause it is more durable than nylon. If you take a look at what those in the outback use, you’ll find some of the most protective, waterproof and fast tents made (note, they are NOT for backpacking!). Look up OzTent and Kodiak tents and you’ll be amazed at the additional options. The vestibule and/or awning part of any well structured camp site should be sufficient for lounging and keeping cover during a storm (although it is recommended to sit in a vehicle or building during a storm where lightning is present). The strenth of the poles and tensile strength of the tent material are also important when considering protection from falling branches and projectiles during a wind heavy condition. In a campground it is a lot like driving, you have to protect yourself from the decisions of others. Nothing like laying there at night during a storm an worring the campsite nearby has camping gear ready to take off like a beach umbrella in the wind and become a projectile. Fast set up tents like the Oztent (less than 60 seconds) are great for those unfortunate times when you need to set up camp in the rain or in the dark.

    Hope this is helpful.

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