Whether you’re wild camping, heading to a festival or escaping on a camping holiday with the family, owning a suitable camping tent – along with a good quality camping chair and camping stove – could either make or break your trip.
From ultra-lightweight one-person tents that you can fit in a rucksack to inflatable six-person tents ideal for family vacations, it’s important to properly consider where and how you plan to use your tent before you part with your cash.
To help you find the perfect camping tent for your next adventure, The Recommended spoke to an outdoors expert to find out what features you should look for and avoid. We’ve also included some useful advice on how to pitch and pack away your tent, how to keep your tent cool during warm days, and how best to clean and look after your gear to ensure it lasts.
Jump to the best camping tents:
- Best tent for wild camping: Wild Country Tents Helm 2
- Best tent for festivals: Vango Alpha 300 Tent
- Best social festival tent: Coleman Tent Octagon
- Best eight-person family tent: Skandika Montana 8-10 Person Family Group Tunnel Tent
- Best six-person family tent: Vango Orava II 650xl Tent
- Best air tent for families: Vango Homestead II Air 650xl Tent
- Best all-rounder: Coleman Darwin 2 Tent
- Best budget summer tent: Amazon BasicsTent
- Best tent for hiking: Terra Nova Laser Compact 1
- Best cold weather tent: GEERTOP 4 Season Dome Backpacking Tent
Our outdoors expert
David Scotland is the owner of Outdoor World Direct, Yorkshire-based, family-run camping equipment online retailer. David has been in the outdoors business for the past 16 years and is highly experienced in all things camping. He enjoys sharing his knowledge with customers to ensure they have the best camping experience possible.
What to look for and avoid when shopping for camping tents
According to David, what you should look for and avoid depends on what you plan to use your tent for, adding that it’s worth thinking about the different places and scenarios you envisage using the tent.
- Wild camping: If you are mainly going to be wild camping, you’ll need something lightweight and discreet, says David. You should opt for something that is both lightweight enough to comfortably carry on in your backpack and sufficiently waterproof and well-built to keep you dry and protected at night.
- Festivals: For festivals, David recommends opting for a lightweight tent that you can carry to your campsite, as well as something with a bedroom and living space for storing your belongings and to sit in if it rains.
- Family tents: For family campsite trips, David suggests looking at larger tents with multiple bedrooms and models that use air technology instead of poles. It should also be spacious, preferably standing height, and have plenty of living space. “This is usually achieved with what we call a ‘three-zone’ design,” says David, “consisting of a bedroom(s), living space with sewn-in groundsheet and front porch”.
If there’s one universal feature that you should look for when shopping for a tent, it’s how waterproof it is, says David. “You definitely want a minimum waterproof rating of 3000mm hydrostatic head,” he says. “Blackout bedrooms are also a welcome feature to ward off the morning sunlight.”
Tips for pitching and packing away tents
“Follow the instructions!” says David. “You’d be surprised how many people attempt to pitch a tent without reading the instructions, which then results in it being pitched incorrectly and renders it ineffective.”
He adds that It’s also worth checking the ground before settling on your pitch. “Is it near a body of water, and is it likely to flood if it rains?” he asks. “Try a few pegs in the ground, too, as you don’t want to pitch your tent only to find the ground is too hard to hammer the pegs in. I’d also avoid camping on a slope as it’s very uncomfortable when trying to sleep at night, and water can gather under the tent as it runs down an incline.”
When it comes to packing away your tent, David’s main piece of advice is to air your tent beforehand. “If you pack it away in the rain, then pitch it in your garden the next day to air dry. This will prevent mould developing, which can completely ruin a tent.” When rolling an air tent away, “keep the doors open and roll the tent towards the doors; this allows the air to escape and allows you to pack it to a smaller size for carrying”.
How to keep your tent cool in warm weather
According to David, most tents now feature additional ventilation for warm weather. “Look for any velcro flaps near the top of your tent,” he adds, “as there could well be some form of additional ventilation system. The instructions should have this information too, or if you’ve lost them, just search the tent model online and read the product details. Also, leave the main doors open and keep the flysheet closed to avoid insects in the bedroom.”
If you’re still too warm, David says “one of the oldest tricks in the book” is to camp under a tree to shelter from the sun. However, he warns to be mindful of the weather forecast, tree sap and bird poo if you do. “If there is thunder and lightning on the horizon, definitely do not camp under a tree,” he says. “Windy conditions can also easily cause branches to fall and damage tents. Instead, you can use a family shelter or tarp to shade your tent from the sun.”
How to clean a tent
For minor bits of mud and other dirt, “simply use a damp cloth and allow the affected area to dry”, says David. However, If your tent is mouldy, he recommends the following:
- Pitch your tent on a dry day.
- Buy some Milton Sterilising Fluid and make up the solution following the instructions.
- Use a clean cloth to gently wipe away the mould.
- Once clean and free from mould, allow the tent to dry.
- You’ll then need to re-waterproof the exterior of the tent so water beads off. You can do this with either Nikwax Tent Waterproofer or Fabsil Gold. Never use soapy liquid to clean your tent as it can damage the waterproofing.
The best camping tents
Best tent for wild camping: Wild Country Tents Helm 2
Lightweight and strong
Our expert says this tent is easy to pitch, lightweight enough to carry in or on a backpack, and offers great strength due to its alloy poles, making it a great option for wild camping and hiking.
With a fly sheet that has a waterproof rating of 4000mm HH, fully taped seams, and a groundsheet with a waterproof rating of 6000mm HH, this tent from Wild Country Tents promises 100% protection from rain and is designed to keep you dry even in heavy downpours. It packs down into a 32x21cm case to fit inside backpacks and weighs just 2.1kg.
Best tent for festivals: Vango Alpha 300 Tent
With blackout bedroom
Recommended by our camping expert for its affordability, reliability and spaciousness, as well as its darkened bedroom for blocking out light, the Vango Alpha 300 is a great option for festivals.
This tent is designed to fit up to three people and is made from 100% recycled materials, including fibreglass poles. Its outer sheet has a waterproof rating of 3000mm HH, and the entire tent has a pitching area measuring 300 x 200cm.
Best social camping tent: Coleman Octagon Tent
Ideal for groups
Ideal for festivals, this eight-person tent comes recommended by our camping expert, who says it’s a great social tent, has a spacious living area and doesn’t take up too much space on the ground.
Weighing 20kg, our expert David recommends using a trolley if you’re taking this tent to a festival. This tent has six large windows, providing a 360-degree view when inside. It also has a mesh roof for additional ventilation, two hinged doors and full head height throughout. The exterior is made from a 2000mm HH material, promising to be 100% waterproof.
Best eight-person family tent: Skandika Montana 8-10 Person Family Group Tunnel Tent
With three sleeping rooms
This eight-person family tent ticks all of our expert’s boxes. It has 200cm of standing room, three sleeping compartments, generous living space and three doors.
As well as being made from a flame retardant material, this tent has a waterproof rating of 5000mm HH and waterproof sealed seams. It weighs 28kg and measures 97 x 38 x 32cm when packed. There’s also mosquito mesh on the main entrance and sleeping pod entrances to keep out bugs.
Best six-person family tent: Vango Orava II 650xl Tent
A solid mid-range option
Our outdoors expert David rates this six-berth tent for its 4000mm HH exterior, pre-angled poles that provide additional strength and stability, and its blackout bedrooms.
Designed to comfortably sleep up to six people, this tent has three rooms, a large front extension and a living space with a sewn-in groundsheet. It also has a maximum standing height of 213cm, as well as a side door and customisable bedrooms depending on the size of your group.
Best air tent for families: Vango Homestead II Air 650xl Tent
Quick to pitch and pack away
Our expert David recommends this premium six-person air tent for families due to inflatable supporting beams as opposed to traditional poles, which make for quick and easy pitching and packing away.
This tent is made from a durable 150D fabric designed to slow down UV degradation and fading. It has a 5000mm HH waterproof cover, blackout bedrooms, a mesh ventilation system incorporated into the design, as well as a side pod with a curtain for additional storage. It has two dedicated bedrooms and is designed to sleep up to six people.
Best all-rounder: Coleman Darwin 2 Tent
Available to buy in two, three or four-person sizes, as well as two compact versions, this tent is a great all-rounder and ticks a lot of our expert’s recommendations.
This tent has a 3000mm HH waterproof cover with a fire-retardant coating. It also has a fire-retardant mosquito net for ventilation and to keep out bugs on the inside and comes with a 5000mm HH polyester bottom sheet. As a three-season tent, it is designed to withstand moderate weather conditions.
Best budget summer tent: Amazon Basics Tent
Great for gardens
This free-standing, budget tent is ideal for setting up in the garden for kids to play in or for first-time campers to use in moderate and dry weather.
This tent has a heavy-duty polyester base to protect it from the ground, a rainfly awning to provide shade and extra rain protection, and polyester-coated walls designed to withstand light rainfall. Measuring 2.7 x 2 metres and 1.5-metres high, it is designed to sleep up to four people.
Best tent for hiking: Terra Nova Laser Compact 1
Designed for mountaineering
This tent is a great option for hiking and mountaineering. It weighs less than 1kg when packed down, has a flysheet with a waterproof rating of 3000mm HH and a 7000mm HH-rated groundsheet.
This tent has a low-profile design to provide stability in windy conditions. It is designed to accommodate one person, but the manufacturer says it can fit two people at a push. This tent has an estimated pitch time of five minutes and features reflective guylines to ensure you don’t trip over the tent in the dark.
Best cold weather tent: GEERTOP 4 Season Dome Backpacking Tent
With built-in snow skirt
This tent is specifically designed to withstand cold and wintery conditions. It has a built-in snow skirt, a 5000mm HH-rated groundsheet and a 3000mm HH-rated flysheet.
This tent also has double-stitched waterproof seams designed to keep rain and snow out, as well as two large mesh ventilation panels that are designed to promote airflow and prevent condensation from building inside the tent. It sleeps up to two people and has two entrances for convenience.
If you want to read more expert-recommended round-ups and product guides, check out our Camping page, where you’ll find more home recommendations, including the best camping stoves and the best camping chairs.