Think back to your first camping experience. Was it a traditional trip of outdoors activities with your extended family? An escape from adult life with your spouse? Or maybe it was a week of wilderness survival and badge earning with a scout group, and you’ve always wanted to try it again with your relatives. Whether your family campouts are a yearly event or just a handful of trips, they are always looked back upon fondly.
Just as we reminisce with our parents and siblings about the s’mores over the fire, nights under the stars, and sunrises spent by the lake, we also laugh at the disasters that took place. The tent that flooded in a downpour, the mosquitoes that entered through the broken zipper and ate you alive, and the weekend that you simply could not pitch the tent have a special place in the family memories too. Rather than become discouraged by these mishaps and choose to book a hotel room next time, consult this guide of what to look for when purchasing a family tent and find the best product to shelter you during your family adventures.
Buying a Family Tent? Consider This:
There are so many models and styles of family tents out there that it can be overwhelming to even start your search, let alone decide on a product. Each family will vary on what qualities they most desire in a tent, but there are a few general aspects you should keep in mind when considering your options:
When looking at a tent’s specs, consider the height of the inside of the tent and whether it will be high enough for your tallest family member.
How easy is it to set up the tent?
If you have small children, it may be a few years before they can help you set up the tent, and your spouse may also be occupied looking after them when it is time to pitch. The amount of time and steps it will take to set up your tent are important to think about if you’ll be doing it alone. Tents with poles that are already attached with clips are far easier to set up than poles that have to be threaded through the material. Many tents boast one step set ups, but it is always a good idea to read reviews online to see if customers have had that experience. The same way you may be setting up the tent alone, you may be carrying it alone—don’t get a model that is too heavy for one person to handle.
Tent Durability and Weather Resistance
The most important factor of a tent is comfort and durability during a storm. Investing in well-made quality products will save you another tent purchase in a few short years, as well as some sleepless nights if the rain soaks through. Higher denier fabrics tend to be more durable and waterproof. Tents that use two different types of fabric for the fly and the inner tent are best at keeping you dry and cool. The outside fabric should be denser, and the inside a little lighter. A tent with a full coverage rain fly offers better protection than a roof only style.
If you are camping in a warm area and worried about overheating, look for a tent with large mesh panels for ventilation, but that will still keep the bugs out. Wind can be the most damaging element even if the tent has been pitched perfectly. Look for details like guyout loops attached to guy lines which help you better secure your tent and protect it from flapping in the breeze. A dome style tent may handle high winds, snow, and other heavy weather better than a sloped cabin style tent.
Additional Camping Products You Might Need/Want
Another item you should consider purchasing to protect the longevity of your tent is a footprint. This large, durable material goes under the tent and takes the immediate impact of the ground, keeping your actual tent floor from getting damaged.
Types of Large Tents: Perfect Size for Any Family
What sets a family tent apart is the space it has and capacity of people it can hold. A family tent usually has at least two rooms to sleep in and then an additional room for storage and living space. While there are tents that have only one large room for sleeping in, it can be better to invest in a tent that has divisions between multiple bedrooms and the living area, so there is more privacy. Camping is a great family activity, but solitude can make the trip even more enjoyable.
Tents are sold with a recommended capacity of people it can hold. You might subtract one or two from the max capacity, depending on how much gear you usually bring along and will need to store in the tent. Also, keep in mind how much your family will grow when determining how much space you need. Your kids and their luggage may be little now, but they will only get bigger and so will the need for breathing room.
Tunnel Style Tents
Large, multi-bedroom tents are usually designed in one of two ways. Tunnel style tents are structured lengthwise, usually with a living area between the rooms. Tunnel style can be good for families with small children, because it’s easier to keep any eye on them and hear them if they need you at night.
Big Agnes Wyoming Trail
The Big Agnes Wyoming Trail 4 Tent is a typical tunnel style tent. You’ll notice that the family tents often have the capacity of people they hold right in the title—this tent sleeps four people in two separate sleeping areas. Each area has its own door and is 32 square feet in total size. The vestibule in the middle has flaps that can be left open during the day, or zipped down during bad weather or at night to even create an additional room. This tent is free standing and very easy to set up, with no stakes to put in the ground.
Another four-person option for the more rugged camping clan is the Hilleberg Saitaris 4-Person Tent. With stability and strength against the elements, it is ideal for use at base camp, above the tree line, or in arctic environments. The outside vents can also be unzipped for summer use, making this four-season tent a worthwhile investment.
REI Kingdom 8
If you have a large family or are looking for a tent to also sleep extended relatives or friends, try the REI Kingdom 8 Tent. The tallest point of the tent is 77” so there is definitely room for the tallest family members to stand. The interior of the tent has a divider to split the space into more private rooms. Rainfly walls and a cape roll up or down over bug proof netting, depending on the weather and the level of privacy you want. A separate hobitat garage can also be purchased to add on another section of storage space at the front of the tent.
Still need more space?
An even larger tent option is the Gettysburg 12 Person Family Camping Tent. The tent is divided into three rooms that hold three to four people each, but these rooms can further be divided so there are twelve individual rooms altogether! This could be very convenient as the kids get older and want even more of their own space. Even though the Gettysburg is large, it is lightweight and easy to set up.
Modular Style Tents
The other family tent option is a modular style tent. Modular systems come with a central tent that can be used on its own as a sleeping arrangement. You then buy modules separately, which are smaller tents that can sleep about two people. These pods can be attached to the central tent, which then can also become a storage or living area.
Modular style tents offer an amazing range of versatility. They allow you to only pack the number of pieces you will need for small and large camping parties, so you aren’t stuck with a giant tent for only two people. These tents are a great option for families whose members might want to go on different camping trips in the same weekend. They also overcome some of the problems that one piece tents can present, such as being too big and heavy to travel with and being harder to set up. They can be set up in multiple ways, and you can attach the pods as they will best fit the campsite.
The Camping Equipment Co. Axis and Zulu Modular Tent System is an excellent choice. The central tent is the Axis. It can be used as a sun room or bug free area, or a tent to sleep in at night by rolling down the sides. On its own, the Axis costs only $219, and sleeps four people. The other part of the system is the Zulu pods. The Zulu is a freestanding three person waterproof tent. Each pod costs $199, and sleeps up to three people.
The modules have two exits, so when they are zipped up to the main Axis, you can still leave without disturbing others. Up to four Zulu pods can be connected to the Axis for a multi room tent. The Axis and Zulu pods are very lightweight and easy to set up. First the pieces are assembled separately and then linked together. The whole system is made of durable materials and lasts well in harsh weather.
Throw in a few Cabela Deluxe Tent Cots for fun!
Whether you choose to camp out in a tunnel style tent or a modular set up, your family will get a kick out of the Cabela Deluxe Tent Cot.
This cot and tent combination is easy to set up and an inexpensive alternative to sleeping inside of the family tent. It is wind resistant, durable, and waterproof, with a gutter system to keep you dry and mesh to keep the bugs out. The door even opens into an awning, turning this into a tiny home away from home for one—or for two, if you want to try the double version. This is a fun alternative for older kids if you are in a safe campsite, and an inexpensive add-on to your family camping equipment.
Have Fun Camping with Your Family!
Once you and your family have picked the perfect tent to provide cozy accommodations during your campout, there are plenty of opportunities for your whole brood to learn and play on the trip! Board games and card decks are a welcome alternative to homework and a needed break from computers.
Check with the camp offices and local tourist information about the best hikes and swimming spots near by. Involve kids who are old enough with the set up of the campsite area, firewood gathering, and site clean up. Teach them about how to be courteous to other campers and to the environment by being quiet, clean, and not leaving a trace. Most importantly, appreciate this trip as an experience you and your children will happily remember for years to come.