It’s tough to get the family to spend time together these days. Maybe you can actually schedule time around playdates, soccer games, after-school clubs, homework, church meetings and late nights at the office, to get everyone into the same room at the same time.
But that’s only half the battle. Once they’re together, everyone’s so busy on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, or playing games on their phones or tablets, that you’re only together in body, not spirit.
One way to overcome all of these modern hurdles is to take (or drag, if necessary) the whole family on a camping trip. When there’s little-to-no connectivity, the only tweeting is being by birds and Facebook is replaced by face-to-face conversation, you’ll wonder why it took so long to take the family camping. It can also become a family hobby if it is regularly scheduled.
Of course, before you head off to the wide-open spaces (or the modern campground) you’ll need a tent – one that keeps everyone safe and dry, can be put up and taken down easily, and is big enough to sleep the whole family comfortably.
Which one should you choose? Keep reading, as we run down the top 5 best family camping tents on the market.
1. Coleman 8-Person Instant Tent
Even if you’re not a devoted camper, Coleman is probably the one name you associate with camping gear. (Everyone’s heard of Coleman stoves, right?) Well, Coleman has earned that reputation by making high quality products, and tents are one of their specialties. That means there is a big Coleman line to choose from; we’ve decided to rank their 8-person Instant Tent, but if you have a smaller family the 6-person Instant Tent is worth checking out instead.
We’d recommend sticking with this model, though, because the phrase “8-person” might be stretching things a bit. Or to put it another way, you might not be stretching out as much as you’d like, because this family tent is really suited more for four or five people at most. This Coleman is 14 by 8 feet, with a ceiling that’s just under 6½ feet high. What that means, as calculated by people who are better at math than we are: if eight people are inside, each would get 14 square feet. That’s enough space to sleep in, but definitely not enough for eight people to spread out.
For the “normal-sized” family, though, there’s a lot to like about the 8-Person Instant Tent. Most importantly for most people, the thing goes up (and comes down) in a jiffy, because the tent poles are already attached to the tent. All you have to do is take the tent out of its bag, spread it out on the ground, extend the telescoping poles and they’ll snap right into place. With two people, setup should take a couple of minutes at most (not counting the time it takes to put in the stakes and set up the rainfly) and takedown only a few minutes more. It’s heavier than our other choices, but worth it.
This Instant Tent also takes care of one delicate consideration for many families: separating the “girls” from the “boys” (or the kids from the parents), by means of a removable internal divider which can create two so-called rooms. There are two doors and seven large screen windows which provide terrific ventilation throughout the tent, the seam-sealed WeatherTec walls and durable integral floor are waterproof (although a separate tarp underneath the tent is still a good idea), and we love the dome roof which provides ample height.
There are a few negatives to consider. This tent isn’t built to withstand heavy wind and rain (and definitely not snow); you’re definitely going to want to purchase the optional rainfly, and we wouldn’t suggest taking the Instant Tent to the top of a high mountain. You’ll also want to lay out a few bucks for stronger tent stakes, since the ones that come with this Coleman are pretty flimsy. We also wish it came with a vestibule so you didn’t “bring the rain inside with you” when entering the tent during a storm.
Serious campers who are going to encounter serious elements should probably consider other options. For a fun family trip, though, the 8-person Instant Tent is available at a tough to beat price. For value and performance, we rank it at the top of our list of top 5 best family camping tents.
Specifications for the Coleman 8-Person Instant Tent:
2. Big Agnes Flying Diamond 8
If you read our review of the Instant Tent and decided you need something sturdier and don’t mind paying extra for it, this four-season Big Agnes model has your name all over it. It’s not much roomier than the Coleman and it’s a lot more time-consuming (and confusing, at first) to set up. But as long as you’re not planning to set up camp in a tropical storm or blizzard, it’s going to keep you dry and it’s not going to fly off like Dorothy’s house.
The Flying Diamond 8 has a bit more floor space than the Coleman, 14½ by 9½ feet, but isn’t quite as high; you may have to bend down a little to get in. The company says six people can sleep in the main “room” and two can sleep in the “annex,” but we’d add the same caveat as with the Instant Tent: unless all of your family members are extremely short, the Big Agnes is going to be much more comfortable accommodating four or five people.
Construction, however, is where this tent shines; it’s strong but lightweight. The poles are DAC featherlite aluminum and the tent is made from breathable polyester rip-stop with waterproof polyurethane coating and nylon mesh windows (not as many as on the Coleman, though), and the floor is also made of polyester which really needs a good ground tarp underneath it. The Big Agnes is built to be freestanding, but staking it wouldn’t be a bad idea (and again, buy some better stakes than the ones that come with the tent). It also comes with a breathable rainfly and there are integral vestibules for each of the two doors.
Setting this baby up does take some time. The poles are color-coded, which helps, but you’ll need to follow the directions for the first few times, after which two people can get it set up and broken down in about 20 minutes. It’s worth the time, as long as you have an average-sized family or don’t mind being a bit cramped inside – and as long as you don’t mind the price tag.
A look in detail at the Big Agnes Flying Diamond 8:
3. Wenzel 8 Person Klondike Tent
This is one of the biggest family tents we’ve checked out, 16 by 11 feet with a 6½ foot dome roof. We don’t think it quite measures up to the quality of our first two choices, but it’s a nice fallback option that’s established a long track record of popularity, at a good price.
The company says the tent will fit eight people and is 16 by 11 feet (with a height of 6½ feet, but as you’ve learned by now, you have to take those numbers with a grain of salt. The capacity and size are based, in part, on utilization of the large screened “sun room” at the front of the Klondike as a sleeping area (which you should know has a 5-inch threshold for entering the main tent). You can close panels around the screen mesh of that extra space for sleeping or to prevent rain from coming in so they’re not being disingenuous, just using “best case” numbers. At any rate, the Wenzel 8 person is better suited for a family of four of five, just like our other top choices.
With a smaller group calling the tent home, the sun room really is a nice feature; it gives you a separated area for eating or socializing. You might find yourself spending a lot of time there because there are only two windows in the main domed tent, none in the back and one on each side. The ventilation is more than sufficient, as the windows each take up about half the size of the side panels, but there’s still more of a closed-in feeling than with our other choices.
The Wenzel is made from polyester with polyurethane coating and has a polyethylene floor. It’s waterproof, but not to a fault; you might want to add extra treatments and use a ground cover underneath. A rain fly is included. This is a three-season tent, and best used for an outing or camping trip in decent weather that isn’t too windy or rainy. Setup and breakdown are of average difficulty, with both taking about 15-20 minutes with two people involved.
This tent is a good option for the family that isn’t “too serious” about its camping and wouldn’t dream of heading out when bad storms are forecast. It provides a relaxing base camp at a reasonable price.
Facts and figures on the Wenzel 8 Person Klondike Tent:
4. Mountain Trails Grand Pass Tent
Budget campers, this is your family tent. It is a bit larger than any of the others we’ve looked at, with dimensions of 18 by 10 feet (with a dome roof a little over six feet high), nominally suitable for ten people but definitely comfortable for a normal-sized family of five or perhaps six. The big attraction here, though, is the price.
The fiberglass frame and the semi-waterproof fabric, as well as doors which don’t do a great job of keeping out the elements, make the Grand Pass a bit dicey in wind and rain. You’ll need to do some extra waterproofing if you plan to take this one out in questionable weather. There are two “D” style Dutch doors, a polyethylene floor, several mesh windows and roof vents for good ventilation, and an included hooped rainfly. There is also a divider inside, which lets you divide the tent into two “rooms.”
Setup takes around 15-20 minutes or so, as does take-down. The pin-and-ring system used with the poles helps considerably.
This wouldn’t be our choice for a tent to take out over and over again in all sorts of weather. It’s definitely a roomy and functional choice to consider for non-demanding trips, though, and it’s a real bargain.
A closer look at the Mountain Trails Grand Pass Tent:
5. Browning Camping Big Horn Family/Hunting TentNo products found.
Browning Camping plays it smart by not specifying the number of people who can comfortably fit into this tent. The dimensions are 15 feet by 10 feet (with a room divider), so it fits right into the middle of all of the models we’ve included on our best family camping tent list; we’d suggest four to five people if you want to be comfortable. The dome roof does reach to a height of 7¼ feet, which is the best headroom of all of our top choices.
As with the Grand Pass, the tent material will require additional waterproofing to be sure you’re secure against the rain, and the thin polyester floor begs for additional ground cover. There are two doors and six windows, providing good ventilation throughout the Big Horn. It also comes with a rainfly.
The relatively-thin fabric is prone to develop holes or rips if you’re not careful, and that’s the primary reason it closes out this list instead of topping it – a family tent, to us, means durability, and we don’t think this Browning Camping model is durable enough to justify its price tag. But if you’re going to use it solely for adult occupants in a base camp (particularly if they’re tall adults), the added headroom makes the Big Horn worth considering.
More info on the Browning Camping Big Horn Family/Hunting Tent:
Your House Garden has also reviewed the Top 5 Best Two Person Camping Tents.