The Best Tent Brands on the Market
Campers who are also hiking and mountaineering enthusiasts know that long hiking trips necessitating a campsite as a base camp or overnight rest stop also require a high-quality, durable, water-resistant camping tent. Whether it’s a two-person tent or a six-person family tent, campers will need enough room to store camping gear and spread out sleeping bags or air mattresses.
To a novice, many of the most popular name brands of 3- and 4-season tent manufacturers may seem to be identical in terms of every characteristic but price. But there are some major differences between the best camping tent manufacturers that make certain brans advantageous in certain situations for certain kinds of campers.
Tents vary according to their construction material, both in the tent material itself and in the tent poles. Tent poles generally come in two varieties. Fiberglass poles are ultralight and aluminum tent poles are sturdier but usually weigh more.
Beginning hikers could decide they want to get acclimated to a heavy rucksack slowly and go for the ultralight fiberglass poles. Then again, if campers are inexperienced they may want to buy a camping tent with aluminum tent poles to make sure the tent poles don’t snap by mistake.
Pole design is another matter; campers will almost universally want a tent with a simple pole design and easy setup, one that can be pitched with one or two tent poles to avoid spending hours trying to get a backpacking tent pitched before moving on to the rest of the campsite.
The material of the tent wall is designed to be either ultralight, in the case of 3-season tents, or insulating in the case of 4-season tents. Water-resistant material such as polyurethane are often added for weather protection, but for campers going out in great weather conditions, they may choose to avoid such features or try to find an ultralight rainfly with weather protection rather than searching for weather protection in the tent itself. Even if you aren’t buying the biggest tent in the world, all these considerations are important to remember.
These decisions and many other important considerations drive the everlasting debate between campers, mountaineers, and hikers over which of the major manufacturers is the best tent-maker.
Coleman, Big Agnes, Kelty, MSR, REI, Eureka!, The North Face, Wenzel, ALPS Mountaineering, Marmot, and Ozark Trail are the major contenders. Read through the rest of this guide to the best tent brands for information so you can decide which is your favorite backpacking tent-maker.
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 in 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.
Coleman tents are some of the most well-known tents on the market.
Coleman manufactures their tents to be super durable with an easy setup. Beginning campers or campers who want to set up their family tent quickly to spend more quality time with their family will enjoy some of the Coleman models for this reason, especially their instant tent line. While the larger six-person and family tents from Coleman are really staid because they use longer tent poles for added stability, even in high winds. That being said, they are not ultralight by any means.
If your campsite is difficult to reach and you’re going to be carrying an especially large family tent or multi-person tent, Coleman might not be the best tent brand for you.
For beginning campers or campers who are going car camping or to a prepared campsite, Coleman tents 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
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.
Filling in some of the portability gaps Coleman tents don’t really fill, REI designs these half-dome models to be ultralight, ideal for campers headed to remote or difficult to reach campsites. Campers headed to campsites far-out enough to escape light pollution will be able to stargaze from inside their tent thanks to REI half-domes’ see-through mesh roof.
Campsites that don’t leave much room for tents with a large tent footprint probably won’t accommodate the REI half-domes so mountaineering campers planning to sleep on a narrow campsite will probably want to look elsewhere.
- Dome tent with a sturdy frame that withstands 35+ mph winds
Big Agnes tents
Big Agnes will round out this discussion of campsite requirements. At Big Agnes, they have plenty of ultralight backpacking tent options and have even taken it a step further with their crazy light backpacking tents. For campsites with rugged terrain underfoot such as rocks or sticks, almost all Big Agnes tents are manufactured with a Dominico Textile fabric that’s durable and ultralight enough for other outdoor gear such as parachutes and paragliders and so makes for some of the best camping tents on the market in terms of portability and durability.
Mountaineering enthusiasts the world over have enjoyed these design features of Big Agnes tents for a long, long time. All their tents are freestanding and the heavier design features such as tent poles are redesigned in the ultralight and crazy light models to be easily packable and easy to carry.
- AWARD-WINNING COMFORT - Based on the features of our best-selling, award-winning Copper Spur ultralight tents, the Copper Spur HV UL features a high volume pole architecture that creates steeper walls...
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.
Kelty is one of the big brands in freestanding camping tents. Most Kelty models include a rainfly that has been specifically designed for use with the tent. Kelty also designs backpacking tents that are lightweight with an easy setup.
Campers who are expecting inclement weather conditions will be especially grateful not to have to spend a long time out in the elements trying to set up a tent. Kelty generally uses a small number of tent poles and by and large sticks to aluminum poles to make sure their backpacking tents stay ultralight.
Kelty also offers fitted and color-coded tent footprints, which are basically just tarps that protect the bottom of the tent and keep water and moisture out. They may not be the most ultralight tents on the market, but Kelty is a common backpacking tents and they are sturdy enough to handle high winds and keep campers dry through bad weather conditions.
Eureka! is another brand favored by backpackers and mountaineering enthusiasts. They have an option for any weather condition, either 3-season tents for spring, summer, and fall or 4-season tents for every season (but mostly constructed to insulate in cold weather).
Campers planning on winter camping will enjoy Eureka! tents because they are specifically designed with enough room for sleeping bags, sleeping mats, and extra blankets if so desired. Eureka! also manufactures ultralight tent poles and tent stakes that can be used with guylines to secure the tent against high winds.
There aren’t rainflys that are particular to Eureka! Backpacking tents, but standard models should suit them just fine. In terms of price, Kelty and Eureka! are both considered to be less expensive cabin tents and mountaineering tents that can still handle rough 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.
MSR, shorthand for Mountain Safety Research, constructs lots of outdoor gear but is most famous among the best tent brands for its MSR Hubba line of tents, which includes models such as the Hubba Solo, Hubba Hubba, Mutha Hubba, and Papa Hubba tents. In that order, MSR’s most famous tents go from single-camper tents to a 4-person tent. They are built to be ultralight and transportable, plus they pack up really small.
Symmetrical frame geometry built into the tent and pole design protects the tent from tipping in high winds. MSR also includes a rainfly with most of their Hubba models to keep moisture off the top of the tent. StayDry doors, water-resistant material in the fabrics, and lap-felled seams keep the inside of the tent dry through bad weather conditions.
- Unique pole geometry optimizes headroom and fits two mats; adaptable rainfly allows for excellent views
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. 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, the number of campers s 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. Family camping tents for multiple families often include removable dividers to separate rooms and living space in larger tents.
Marmot is a dependable brand and they’ve built one of the best tents for a large group with their Lair 8-person tent. They’ve included storage pockets on the interior of most of their tents so multiple campers have enough room for all the gear storage they need.
Marmot tents are durable so the outside generally lasts through rough terrain and the inside handles multiple campers tracking around well. If you plan on cooking for everyone but the weather conditions aren’t going to be ideal for outdoor cooking, there are Marmot tents that are large enough to cook inside.
Additional design features like the zippers and seams are reputably well-constructed on Marmot tents as well.
- Body Zone Pre-Bends Create Vertical Walls for a more spacious living area
Wenzel is one of the best camping tent brand contenders that generally offers the essential features of a multi-person tent at a lower price point than other high-quality tent manufacturers. They are constructed with plenty of square feet and floor space for several campers, but it may perhaps be most ideal to sleep between three people and 8 people in a Wenzel family tent since there’s only one zipper door on most of their family cabin tents.
The Wenzel Kodiak 9 model features two gear lofts, two rear lockers, and two gear-lofts to keep large groups of campers organized. Wenzel has several models that make a solid base camp, and they’re much less expensive on the whole than some of the competing cabin tents.
Wenzel tents usually have enough room for dividers, separate rooms, and even some general living space if there’s only three people sleeping in the tent. They are also fairly ideal for car camping since Wenzel tents aren’t necessarily ultralight but solid enough to get the job done.
- Convertible screen room with inverted "T" style door and inside flap zippered windows
The North Face tents
The North Face is arguably the most popular of the best camping tent manufacturers because of the wide range of other outdoor gear they offer. Non-campers probably know the North Face for their flannel and pullover sweaters, but The North Face tents are a legend in their own right for people who know about backcountry camping gear.
These are perhaps the most high-end camping tents on the market and while some campers forego them due to their generally higher cost, other campers swear by The North Face tents with good reason.
Unique pole design and wall construction leave plenty of headroom and The North Face has one-person tents, two-person tents, options for three people, and so on all the way up to larger family tents and massive cabin tents for 10 people or more.
Campers who plan to engage in many various outdoor activities on their camping trip will be happy with The North Face tents’ easy set up so they can get to the fun stuff around the campsite. There is enough room for outdoor gear storage in the storage pockets and gear-lofts built into most tents from The North Face.
- QUICK PITCH. Our easy-to-pitch, three-person camping tent is refreshed for spring with a new vestibule design that makes camping in adverse weather more enjoyable. Larger doors allow for easier...
The tent market contains multitudes, but comparing the best camping tent brands is made much easier by remembering these three categories of considerations: 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 in the tent, 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 beginning campers, Coleman tents are the most common. They are neither ultralight nor packed-out with the most 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 has 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 can give you 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: Take a look behind the scenes in this how-it’s-made video for canvas tents!