Whether you’re going on a family adventure, escaping into the wilderness for some wild camping, partying at a festival, or simply popping away for the weekend, choosing the right tent can make or break your experience.
Here’s a run down of the best types of tents to consider buying for your camping trip, the pros and cons of each to consider and where to buy your tent from to get the best deal.
What kind of tent should I buy?
Trying to decide which tent to buy can feel a bit overwhelming. There are so many different types of tents to choose from, each offering its own benefits, key selling points and each with its own price bracket.
The type of tent you need, isn’t just about your budget, but should often be determined more by what you’re using it for. Here are some of the most popular types of tents for every activity.
How to choose the right size tent:
There are a few things you should consider when deciding what size tent to get. The number of people staying in a tent is one of the main factors this is commonly measured using the term “man” e.g. a 4 man tent could sleep up to 4 adults comfortably.
However, you should also think about how many separate rooms you want and any extra space you think you might need.
Deciding which size tent to buy depends on how long you are going away for and who with. If you’re camping with children or pets, you may want a tent with separate bedrooms as well as a living area.
If you’re going camping as a couple for a weekend, a two man tent may be enough space, however, you should usually consider going up a tent size to ensure that you are leaving enough room to be comfortable. For example, a couple going camping together could expect much more comfort and space to store luggage and belongings with an upgrade to a 3 or 4 man than they would from a 2 man tent.
Think carefully about everything you need to take camping as well as extra items for pets and children and base the size of the tent you buy by factoring in these accessories rather than on simply the number of people that you are taking along.
What types of tents are there?
There are lots of different types of structures and support mechanisms that are used to give tents rigidity when standing. The right tent for you to buy depends on what you will be using it for and where you are going to go. Here are the different types of tent structures available:
- A-frame/ Ridge tents – These tents generally have lightweight aluminium poles and an outside flysheet which is waterproof. These tents are best for 2 people and are simple to put up. They do lack headroom due to their shape and are quite heavy.
- Dome tents – One of the most popular types of tents, they’re made of two flexible poles that bend across the top of the structure and they’re then anchored to the floor in the corners. These tents are inexpensive and lightweight and easy to put up and down. These tents are great for couples or up to 4 people because the domed shape limits headroom at the edge, however, they do come in larger sizes if you’re looking for more space..
- Tunnel Tents – Perfect for large groups and families, these tents have a lot of headroom, living space and can have separate compartments. As well as often being large, tunnel tents use guy lines to keep it stable and they fare well in more extreme weather conditions like strong winds or heavy rain.
- Geodesic tents – Similar to a dome tent but with more poles, Geodesic tents are generally very sturdy and can be a good option for wild camping and winter camping. They are high quality and generally an expensive tent but they are normally lightweight with good headroom.
- Cabin Tents – are some of the best tents for families and larger groups as they tend to be very large and have plenty of space including separate rooms with dividers so everyone can get some privacy. They are normally waterproof and have enough space for you to stand up in. You can buy cabin tents reasonably cheaply however they can be complicated to erect, especially the first few times you put it up and they can be quite heavy to transport.
- Pyramid tent – These tents are very simple to set up, they comprise of a single central pole with a rainfly over the top and then held down at the edges, they also have guylines that help add to the stability of the tent.
- Multi-Room Tent – Tend to be amongst the biggest tents available, making them perfect for large families. They tend to be easy to stand up in and have multiple entrances and some even have extra spaces like a porch or a living room. They are one of the best options for sleeping between 4-10 people.
- Inflatable tent – This is an easy to put up tent, they come in different shapes like cabin, tunnel or even geodesic. They normally come with a pump and a repair kit in case you need to fix your tent on your trip.
- Pop up tent – These are quick to erect tents, inexpensive and lightweight. They can be bought for between 1-6 man. They’re great tents for festivals but aren’t always the most durable so bad weather can sometimes cause problems.
- Backpacking tent – These are lightweight and strong tents and are perfect for backpackers who need to be able to carry their tent for multiple days at a time.
- Bivvy tent – These are the best tents for solo campers and hikers. They are incredibly lightweight tents that pack down small.
- Hammock Tent – Similar to Bivvy tents but suspended off the ground. Great for forest camping and avoiding creepy crawlies but they aren’t the most versatile if you’re travelling between areas where there aren’t trees.
- Bell Tents – These are some of the best tents for glamping, they’re made of thick canvas and are great in bad weather due to their strong poles and guylines.
- Tipi – These tents are ideal for a longer term more permanent structure, they aren’t very transportable and are better placed being used as a semi-permanent tent. You’ll commonly find tipi tents advertised as boutique getaway accommodation or glamping style retreats with tipi’s typically providing space to sleep between 2 and 6 people.
- Canopy tents – These tents are similar in style and function to garden gazebos, they’re not suitable to sleep in but can offer protection from the elements for equipment and accessories like bikes or canoes or double as a sociable space out of the rain or hot sun.
- Beach Tent – If you want protection from the sun, something to keep the sand off or a shelter from the coastal breeze, a beach tent can be a great investment. Beach tents can offer UV protection and can keep children and babies out of the glaring sunshine, as well as a place to store essentials and valuables so you and the family can enjoy the beach.
- Rooftop tents – These tents are great for road trips, they are put up on the roof of your car – generally a 4×4. They’re easy to transport and relatively easy to put up but are generally quite expensive to buy and require a suitable vehicle to transport them on to make them viable.
What is the best Tent for families?
When you’re off on a family trip you want to have the perfect tent to make sure everyone gets a good night sleep, however, it’s worth remembering that getting a suitable camp bed and sleeping bag can help make all the difference.
Multi-room tent – Best for Families
Great for families and those who are after a bit more space in their tent. There are normally multiple different entrances and have lots of different storage options.
- Plenty of space for sleeping and luggage storage
- Privacy offered by multi rooms
- Social spaces for gatherings and shelter
- Can be difficult and time consuming to erect
- Large and bulkier than some tents
- they can be expensive to buy
Pop up tents are great for those short on time and who want a hassle-free camping experience. They are generally lightweight and are often inexpensive making it a desirable tent for many campers.
- Easy to put up, usually in just a few seconds
- Good for beginners new to camping
- All in one design means less chance of forgetting tent poles
- Can be quite cheap to buy
- You may have to learn the secret to folding the tent to return it to it’s bag when leaving
- Most won’t have social spaces like larger multi room or cube tents
- More difficult to move around inside of than larger tents
Best Tents for festivals
Pop Up Tents
When you’re heading to a festival, you aren’t going to want to waste time assembling a difficult tent. Pop up tents are a great choice for festivals as they are quick and easy to erect and mean you don’t have to worry about carrying and inserting poles when you could be out having a good time.
- Easy to put up, usually in just a few seconds
- Festival goers may not always be the most experienced campers so easy to assemble tents make sense.
- Lighter and smaller than some others, meaning you won’t have to carry a heavy tent for miles to your campsite.
- Low costs can mean exposing the tent to the rigours of festival life won’t leave you out of pocket.
- Check it’s waterproof before you go, festivals are renowned for flooding and bad weather
- Finding your way back to it after a day of enjoying the festival may be difficult if it looks similar to tents others have chosen.
You want to make sure that you get a tent that will help you get a good night’s sleep even in the middle of a field with thousands of people. Buying a tent made of blackout fabric can make all the difference to getting a good night’s sleep and helps to make sure you won’t be woken up at 3 am by people outside with torches.
It’s generally a given when buying a tent, but making sure that the one you buy is fully waterproof is a must. Festivals are known for their unpredictable weather, which is fine during the day, but you must have somewhere dry to go back to to get a good night’s sleep.
Different tents can have different waterproof ratings, we’ve explained this in more detail below.
Best Tents for wild camping and backpacking
When you’re going to be up against the elements and carrying your home on your back for days at a time, something that is relatively easy to put up and down, lightweight, and able to withstand bad weather are all key things you should consider.
Backpacking tents are designed with portability in mind and many with ultralight weights, efficient all in one these tents should be high up on your list if this is what you need.
You will want to check the tent dimensions carefully before you buy one, especially if you are taller as they can sometimes be smaller.
For the solo camper out in the wild, bivy tents can be a good option, they are very small and lightweight and offer just enough protection to keep you warm and dry wherever your adventures take you.
Best luxury tents
Tipi tents are perfect for those looking for a camping experience that’s just a little more refined. Tipi tents can and often are left up for periods of time and are a popular choice for those looking for a glamping experience. Recently more and more lightweight tipi style tents have come to the market which makes them much more transportable and a bit less pricey.
The ideal glamping tent, that isn’t style over substance. Bell tents are warm, dry, stylish, and offer large amounts of usable living space inside. They are generally very sturdy, even during bad weather because of their strong canvas exterior, central pole, and guy ropes. They look great too.
Best Tents for Kids
Tents are a great place for kids to play in. They are a wonderful alternative to a den and can offer more space and be easier to put up and down. You can get kids tipis and even igloos. Kids play tents come in all shapes and sizes and can often have great designs to add to the magic.
You probably don’t want to take children away camping in play tents, however, they can make a great addition to the home or garden.
Where to buy a tent
You can buy tents from most outdoor retailers, and some high street shops may sell basic models too. If you’re after a specialist tent you may want to take a look online and order from a reputable shop or online outdoor specialist retailer. The best place to buy a tent will be the shop that stocks the right size tent that you need at an affordable price.
What are tents made of?
Most tents are made of man-made fabrics like polyester or nylon. Small tents are often made of nylon as the fabric is light. Old fashioned tents were once all made of canvas, however, this type of tent is generally more expensive today.
Are tents waterproof?
Not all tents are waterproof, so you want to check that the tent you are looking to buy is appropriately weather proofed for the conditions you will be camping in.
Many tents are just water-resistant; there is a waterproof rating that tents must meet to be considered waterproof. Look out for the Hydrostatic Head (HH) of a tent, the higher the HH rating, the more water-resistant the tent will be, anything above 1,000mm HH is considered waterproof.
The highest waterproof rating tents can have is 10,000mm.
If you’re using an older tent, are worried about the waterproof rating of your existing tent or just want to do everything possible to keep water out then a good waterproofing sealant can help keep you dry. They’re usually available as a spray for easy application to external facing surfaces.
Katie from bestcampingproducts.co.uk is a huge fan of the great outdoors. When visiting a new area she’ll always scout out a walk or beauty spot to visit. She’s been going camping since she was young and loves nothing more than waking up under canvas and a lighting a campfire to cook breakfast on.