To the untrained eye, many 3-4-season tent brands may seem identical in terms of virtually all characteristics except price; however, there are some major differences that have allowed certain brands to stand out from the pack.
Tents vary drastically according to materials including fabrics and poles. Campers almost universally prefer a tent that features a simple pole design and easy setup. These tents can be easily pitched using just one or two tent poles and will save you plenty of time in the long run.
When it comes to tent poles, generally speaking, there are two varieties; fiberglass poles that are ultralight; and aluminum tent poles that are sturdy but typically weigh more.
Canopy materials are either ultralight (in the case of 3-season tents), or heavy and insulated as is the case with 4-season tents. Although water-resistant materials such as polyurethane are often used for weather protection, campers who tend to find themselves in extreme weather conditions often prefer an ultralight rainfly with weather protection rather than weather protection in the tent itself.
These decisions and many other factors have driven an everlasting debate between outdoor enthusiasts of all types over which of the major brands is the overall best tent manufacturer. Coleman, Big Agnes, Kelty, MSR, REI, Eureka!, The North Face, Wenzel, ALPS Mountaineering, Marmot, and Ozark Trail are the major contenders. Be sure to keep reading as we take a closer look at each brand and break down the pros and cons.
1. Coleman tents
Coleman is one of the most well-known and respected brands on the market.
Coleman produces products that are highly durable and often feature an easy setup. Thanks to this, these tents are preferred by beginners and families alike.
Coleman produces some amazing six-person tents and family tents that make use of large tent poles for additional stability. These tents can stand some high winds. The only downside is that they are not ultralight by any means.
If your campsite is remote and difficult to reach, then a heavyColman family tent or multi-person tent may not be the best fit.
However, for beginners or for those who prefer a prepared campsite, then Coleman will definitely do the trick — especially in rough weather conditions with high winds.
- WeatherTec System patented welded floors and inverted seams keep water out, Spacious interior, room to stand and move
2. Big Agnes tents
Big Agnes offers plenty of ultralight backpacking tents and has even taken things a step further with their new ultralight designs.
These tents are designed for campers who tend to camp off the beaten path with rugged terrain underfoot.
Almost all Big Agnes tents are crafted from a Dominico Textile fabric that’s durable and ultralight. This fabric is used in parachute and paraglider manufacturing and makes for some of the best camping tents on the market in terms of portability and durability.
Mountaineering enthusiasts the world over have enjoyed Big Agnes tents and products for a long time. All of their tents are freestanding and feature ultralight tentpoles that can easily be carried deep into the bush.
3. Kelty tents
Kelty is a top brand in freestanding tents. These tents are favored for their lightweight design complete with quick setup.
Campers who experience inclement weather conditions won't have to worry about getting soaked while setting up one of these tents. Kelty tents generally feature a small number of aluminum tent poles to ensure their backpacking tents remain ultralight.
Kelty also offers fitted, color-coded tent footprints, which protect the bottom of the tent to keep water and moisture out.
They may not be the most ultralight tents on the market, but Kelty tents are sturdy enough to handle high winds, ensuring you remain warm and dry throughout any bad weather you may encounter.
4. Eureka! tents
Eureka! is another brand favored by backpackers and mountaineering enthusiasts. They produce many models that are suitable for all weather conditions, including 3-season tents for spring, summer, and fall and 4-season tents that are insulated for extra cold conditions.
Winter campers will love Eureka! tents as they're specifically designed for warmth and comfort, featuring enough room for sleeping bags, air mattresses, and additional blankets.
Eureka! is also renowned for its ultralight tent poles and stakes that can be used with guylines to secure against high winds.
Although rain flys are not particular to Eureka! backpacking tents, standard models will suit them just fine. In terms of price, Kelty and Eureka! are both affordable brands that produce less expensive cabin tents and mountaineering tents suitable for all weather conditions.
- Providing unmatched strength, stability, and ease of entry, the three-season, four-person Timberline SQ 4XT backpacking tent features a large 60.8 square foot interior.
5. MSR tents
MSR, short for Mountain Safety Research, produces tons of outdoor gear but is most famous for its MSR Hubba line of tents. This line includes models such as the Hubba Solo, Hubba Hubba, Mutha Hubba, and Papa Hubba tents. In that order, MSR’s most famous tents range from single-camper tents to 4-person tents.
MSR tents are built to last. They're ultralight and highly portable as they pack-up really small.
The symmetrical frame geometry of their tents and pole design protects against tipping in high winds. MSR also includes a rainfly with most of their Hubba models which works to keep moisture off of the canopy.
StayDry doors, water-resistant material, and lap-felled seams keep the inside of their tents dry regardless of bad weather conditions.
6. Marmot tents
Marmot is responsible for one of the best tents for a large group — the Lair 8-person tent. Plenty of storage pockets can be found in the interior of most of their tents that are great for storing extra trinkets and gear.
Marmot tents are durable, capable of standing up to rough terrain over multiple seasons. If you enjoy cooking on your camping excursions, then you'll love Marmot tents. Even if the weather takes a turn for the worst, these tents are large enough to cook inside of.
Additional design features such as their zippers and seams are reputably well-constructed and will stand up to plenty of use.
7. Wenzel tents
Wenzel is one of the best camping tent brands as they offer all of the essential features of a multi-person tent for a much lower price than other high-quality tent manufacturers.
One of these tents will provide you with plenty of square feet and floor space making Wenzel a great brand if you tend to camp in groups of 4 to 8 people.
The Wenzel Kodiak 9 model features two gear lofts and two rear lockers that are great for keeping your gear organized and out of the way. Wenzel offers several models that make a solid base camp; plus, they’re much less expensive compared to competing cabin tents.
Wenzel tents typically feature room dividers so you can create separate rooms when camping with friends and family. If your camping as a couple, you can create a bedroom and separate living space. As these tents aren't necessarily lightweight, they're ideal for car camping — you wouldn't want to carry one of these behemoths deep into the bush.
- Convertible screen room with inverted "T" style door and inside flap zippered windows
8. MOON LENCE Camping Tent
Moon Lence Camping tents combine durability with portability to provide you with an amazing camping experience.
Moon Lence tents vary in size from 2 to 6-person tents. Although these tents are very roomy, when packed up, a 2-person model only weighs 2.66 kg. As these tents are so lightweight, they're a perfect choice for remote caping in the wilderness.
Moon Lence tents are made from durable polyester and feature excellent ventilation. These tents are designed to withstand high winds and include a UV/water-resistant rainfly. In addition, they're incredibly easy to set up.
Moon Lence is known to pay attention to user needs. Mesh pockets are sewn into the tents to help keep essentials within easy reach.
These tents are extremely stable and come equipped with 9 lightweight iron pegs and 4 guy ropes to provide extra stability during high winds.
- Roomy 2-person Tent: With the unfolding size of 213*152*122cm (83.8*59.8*48in), the tent is spacious for 2 adults. Weigh 2.7kg (5.95lb), it can be stored in to the 42*15*15cm (16.5*5.9*5.9in) carry...
9. REI CO-op tents
REI Co-op has long enjoyed a comfortable spot among the most reputable high-quality camping tent manufacturers due in large part to their flagship half-dome tents.
These tents are highly portable. REI designs their half-dome models to be ultralight, making them ideal for campers headed to remote or difficult to access campsites.
Campers headed to remote campsites to escape light pollution are able to stargaze from inside these tents thanks to their signature see-through mesh domes.
These tents can be quite large so just make sure that your campsite has plenty of flat ground. For this reason, these tents may not be suitable for mountaineering enthusiasts who tend to sleep in narrow spaces.
Know Your Campsite
The first thing campers need to consider is the location and specific terrain of the campsite they’re going to use on their next camping trip to the backcountry.
We’d all like to imagine that we’ll always find a perfectly flat clearing with a soft mossy floor and perfect weather conditions that won’t require much out of our outdoor equipment. But anyone who’s spent much time mountaineering and backpacking knows all too well that campsites in the backcountry can be unforgiving and anything from inclement weather to high winds or rocky terrain can put your camping gear to the test. This certainly goes for backpacking tents and family tents as well.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at which brands best suit rough-and-tumble conditions for campers of various experience levels.
Know the weather conditions
Once you know all about the intended campsite, you should do some research into what kind of weather you can expect to face. Many of the best camping tent brands manufacture additional tent equipment designed to make it easy for campers to weather any storm.
Rainflys are floorless, almost tarp-like outer layers for tents that are often made out of material similar to the tent itself. A strategically placed and well-angled rainfly can keep snow and water off of the tent in bad weather conditions. High-end rainflys are water-resistant and offer ample weather protection.
Backpackers and hikers heading to high-altitude campsites in a season when snow is likely will want to find a tent brand that builds durable tents with a strong floor seam to keep snow and water from entering the tent.
Know your campers
After you figure out all the external factors such as the campsite terrain and weather conditions, it’s time to consider who will be along on the camping trip — including yourself. Questions that need answering revolve around physical considerations, i.e. the number and height of campers, as well as personality factors.
What outdoor activities will the campers be participating in?
Avid hikers and mountaineering enthusiasts might want to look at tent brands that include a vestibule for gear storage out of bad weather conditions and afford enough room to remove dirty hiking boots and keep mud and dirt off the floor space of the tent.
Naturally, knowing the number of campers who will join you is important to make sure there is enough room for everyone. Height is important as well to make sure there will be enough room for longer sleeping bags and enough headroom. Check out our best tents for tall people list if you have a tall person in your group. Family camping tents for multiple families often include removable dividers to separate rooms and living space in larger tents.
The tent market contains multitudes of models, but comparing the best-camping tent brands is made much easier by considering the following factors: campers, campsite, and weather conditions.
Some of the best tent brands are more effective in one specific application and have some kind of trade-off in another. For example, some brands have mastered the art of ultralight construction with superior fiberglass tent pole design but can’t offer the same stability in high winds and bad weather conditions that heavier camping tents can.
Campsites are important as well. Some tents are simply too heavy to be backpacking tents but make great car-camping tents.
Campers who pack lots of camping gear or other outdoor gear will want enough room for gear storage, and taller campers will want plenty of headroom and ample floor space to accommodate longer sleeping bags. Weather conditions are critical to consider when examining the best tent brands, especially for campers who enjoy winter camping and mountaineering. Snow-covered campgrounds have many more innate challenges than standard campsites. 4-season tents are often constructed with tighter seams and additional insulation against cold weather conditions.
For beginner campers, Coleman tents are the most common. They are neither ultralight nor decked-out with additional design features like gear-lofts and storage pockets. That being said, Coleman tents can take a beating and the aluminum poles used in most models are less likely to break, making Coleman tents ideal for mishaps common in novice campers. On the other end of the spectrum is The North Face which manufactures tents with all the trimmings.
Large groups of campers will find that The North Face offers enough room in its family tent models but has miraculously not sacrificed too much in terms of weight and certainly has built one of the sturdiest tents on the market. High winds and bad weather conditions aren’t going automatically ruin camping trips for campers with a tent from The North Face.
Just like they do with other brands of outdoor equipment, campers who have been out in the backcountry many times have strong opinions about which tent manufacturers make the best camping tent. Some campers start camping in Coleman Tents and haven’t tried anything else. Others swear by an MSR Hubba tent or a Big Agnes they’ve had for a decade.
Ultimately the most important takeaway is that there is definitely a tent that will provide you with shelter on your next camping trip. Now that you know what considerations matter most in comparing tent-makers, go on out and try to decide which you think are the best tent brands.
Bonus tip: Check out this video that quickly details the best tent brands on the market, including brands that we discussed.