Travel Gear We Use: family tents for camping

This week in our Travel Gear We Use series, we’re talking about best family tents for camping. There are a mind-boggling array of family camping tents on the market, in a very wide price range. What’s best for your family will depend on where you’re camping, how often you camp, and the size of your family.


Best family tents for minimalists or backpackers:

All purpose: We love, love, love Kelty’s Trail Ridge tent.The Trail Ridge 4 is affordable yet high quality, making it a great double-duty tent: it can be used backpacking or car camping. It falls in the middle weight range for family backpacking–not the lightest tent you’ll find, but also not the most cumbersome-and it’s beautifully affordable at only $279. It technically sleeps 4, which to us, means it sleeps 3 (we always reduce the sleep number by 1 to be comfortable). Another solid option is the REI Half Dome tent, which is one of the easiest to set up of any we’ve tried.

Ultralight: Want to carry as little tent weight as possible? Camping with just one kid or as a couple? Try the Nemo Meta. The Meta is our go-to tent for these situations. It weights just two pounds, but is roomy for a two-person tent, with respectable height too. The catch: you set up the Meta with trekking poles (it does not come with tent poles at all). Set up takes some getting used to, but once you learn how to do it, it only takes about five minutes. You need to stake the tent every night, in order to keep it upright, and of course, you need to be hiking with trekking poles, which we do.

Only need a single person tent? Sometimes you have one extra person or are planning a solo adventure. Our teen checked out the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 during his PCT hike, and loved it so much, he uses it all the time now. Like the Meta, it’s just over 2 pounds, but on the Fly Creek, this includes the tent poles. If you want to get really posh, get the Fly Creek with Big Agnes’ light system, Mtn Glo. This LED light system illuminates the interior of the tent, freeing you up to go without a headlamp or flashlight inside. We’re spoiled now!

Best backpacking and small family tents at a glance:

Best family tents for car camping or large families:


Best big tent: As our family grows (in height and age, not number!) we’ve found the need for a larger, less portable tent for family car camping adventures in campgrounds and state or national parks. Enter the Slumberjack Grand Lodge 8-Person Tent. Sounds pretty fancy, doesn’t it? And to our minimalist standards, it feels pretty fancy, too: the Slumberjack has room dividers, multiple entrances and windows, and great ventilation. We can even stand up inside it! The Grand Lodge comes in an 8-person or a mind-boggling 12-person. Even for the 8-person, you’ll want to make sure your tent space is large in your campsite! The downside of such a large tent is the set up time: it takes considerably longer to set up the Slumberjack than the Kelty, and it’s definitely not pack-ready. However, it does get easier with experience, and does pack down into its own (large) duffel for car or garage storage.


Six person or less: Don’t need the 8-person capacity of the Slumberjack? Try the Coleman Carlsbad. This six-person tent includes a screen room attached, PLUS has ‘dark room’ technology, which is designed to help kids fall asleep when it’s still light out (does the sun EVER set in summer?). We’ve found our kids, naturally early risers, also sleep in with this tent. It does feel dark when you’re inside, however, so this isn’t the tent to hang out in during the daytime. It also comes in a 4-person size.

All the bells and whistles: Want lots of storage space and technology in your tent? Try the Eureka Jade Canyon. This six-person tent has 10 x 10 feet of space, with lots of built in pockets and sleeves. It even has a media pocket, where you can prop up your iPad in a transparent pocket to view movies or TV. It also features E!Luminate, which is Eureka’s technology that enhances light. You simply place the provided panels on your ceiling of the Jade Canyon, and your headlamp or lantern light will shine brighter. It really does work.

Best large family tents at a glance:

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Want more camping info? Get Pit Stops for Kids’ camping gear list!