The 5 Best Family Tents and How to Choose Yours
If you’re planning a camping trip with your little adventurers then you’ll want to make your life as easy as possible. Choosing between the best family tents can be a daunting task as there are just so many on the market in a variety of different shapes, colors and styles. Camping manufacturers don’t really make life easier either, as they all tend to rate their own tents differently – such as the number they give to indicate how waterproof their model is.
The aim of this guide is to cut to the chase and present you with a clear and easily readable guide on the top rated four to six person family tents.
We’ll start this guide with the list of the best tents, and then if you scroll down further you’ll find a full buying guide that tells you what you should be looking for when choosing a tent.
The Coleman Instant 6 Person Cabin Tent
BRIEF DESCRIPTION: This tent is a great starter cabin tent for families looking for a simple, easy to use tent where you can get on with enjoying your vacation. It is big enough for six people to lie side by side (or four people with a bit more spare room), and being a cabin tent it gives quite a bit of vertical height so getting dressed doesn’t have to be done lying down (the writhing caterpillar impression!)
EASE: What can we say, this tent is the ultimate in convenience. Coleman boast that the tent can be erected in under 60 seconds. The poles are all pre-attached so all you need to do is unfold the tent, and click and lock the poles in place.
SIZE & WEIGHT: Although the emphasis with this tent is on convenience and comfort, it can cosily sleep six people side by side. Internal dimensions are 10ft x 9ft6in with a vertical height of 6 feet. This gives the benefit of being able to stand up (or nearly stand up) in the tent, which is great as you won’t have to sit down all the time. Two queen sized airbeds can be laid side by side to maximise the space. The weight is 25kg, so it’s not exactly a lightweight backpacking tent, but that’s probably not the priority if you’re camping with kids.
FEATURES: Probably one of the main benefits is the real ease of putting the tent up, however it has a few other nice touches. It’s “WeatherTec” waterproof system with welded floors and taped seams means there’s no separate groundsheet. There is also an additional rainsheet that can be purchased to provide added peace of mind. In nicer weather you can roll up the window covers to leave a meshed window to enjoy the views of the outdoors.
The Coleman Carlsbad 4 Person Dome Tent with Dark Room
BRIEF DESCRIPTION: This is a really nice and handy four person dome tent that is suited to two adults and two kids (or perhaps just two adults if you want a bit more room). It has the added advantage of a porch, meaning you can keep muddy hiking boots and other stuff outside under the cover of the porch.
EASE OF USE: Once you’ve had a few goes at putting this tent up then you should be able to do it in around ten to fifteen minutes. It’s quite straightforward, with single sleeves going diagonally over the dome of the tent that you slide the poles along. They then just slip into rings on the end to secure them.
SIZE & WEIGHT: The overall tent footprint is 9ft x 7ft, and the interior sleeping compartment is 9ft x 4ft. It will be cosy for four people, but should be fine with two adults and two kids, or two adults and one child.
FEATURES: I really love this tent for the ‘dark room’ technology. Those of you that have camped with kids will be all too familiar with waking up at 5am as most children just can’t sleep when it starts getting light outside. Coleman claim that 97% of light is blocked by the material of this tent, meaning you’re more likely to get a longer night’s sleep as the kids don’t wake up too early.
This tent is also waterproof with the WeatherTec technology and will prevent you getting wet in a downpour. It has a rainfly that is included within the package and goes over the inner tent.
- Dark room technology keeps the light out and keeps the kids (or you!) sleeping longer
- Quite easy to put up (10-15mins)
- Handy porch to store boots etc.
- Includes additional rainfly for added rain protection
- Quite cosy for four people – four adults would be a squeeze
- Being a dome tent you won’t be able to stand up inside
Arizona GT 8 to 10 Person Tent
BRIEF DESCRIPTION: This is a large tent that has won awards for being one of the best family tents in 2016. It has numerous features such as a main room with divider to provide a semi-private separate room. It has two doors, the one on the side can be raised like an awning. It was designed by a Brazilian company to withstand Amazonian style weather – assisted by it’s sewn-in bathtub style flooring and twin-skin exterior rainsheet.
EASE OF USE: It should take you around fifteen minutes to put this tent up, and it has fibreglass poles that you push through the sleeve and then clip the inner tent onto the poles. The internal sleeping area divider can give you privacy – and gives the kids somewhere slightly separate to sleep.
SIZE & WEIGHT: This is a generously sized tent and could comfortably sleep 8 people, with up to 10 persons a possibility. The floor dimensions are 17.4ft x 8ft, and the highest point inside the tent is 6.7ft – plenty enough for most people to be able to stand up.
FEATURES: The tent has lots of windows giving good airy ventilation and great views of the outside. Reviewers on Amazon really praise this tent for its waterproof-ness, many people report that they have had the tent in torrential downpours and it’s stayed bone dry inside… being designed to withstand Amazonian conditions really seems to be a genuine claim by the manufacturer.
- Plenty of internal space for 8 to 10 people
- Extremely waterproof – it has great reviews for this
- Room divider inside gives a bit of privacy
- Easy to erect, especially for a large tent
- No external porch (but plenty of room inside)
- Perhaps not the best looking model
How easy will it be to put up?
Everyone wants to be able to put their tent up quickly and easily, however it can sometimes be a compromise between convenience and durability. A pop up tent for example would be the quickest to ‘erect’, however it would do diddly squat to protect you from the elements if some strong winds passed through.
Probably one of the next easiest are the so-called ‘Instant’ tents, such as the Coleman one reviewed above. This one can be erected in under sixty seconds, by simply unfolding the tent from its bag, laying it out, lifting it up and then clicking and thereby locking the poles into place. The video below shows you how to do this:
Most dome tents aren’t too difficult to erect either. I’ve put up a few of these and I find when they have continuous sleeves going from one side to another then they’re easy to slide the poles through. Sometimes the poles get stuck on the material but if you just pull it back as you slide it along then it’s not too big an ordeal.
Colour or number coding can also help, and the larger family tents should have the poles marked so you know which ones go with what.
How big should my tent be?
It’s important that you have enough space inside for your mattress, sleeping bags or duvet. Typically most tent brand manufacturers are optimistic in how many people the tents will hold. As someone on Amazon quite comically put it, a ‘four man tent’ should be called a “four skinny hipsters size tent”. Although sizes vary, this typically holds true for most tents. So, if you want to fit cosily and get away with the minimum-sized tent that you can, then go for a tent designed for the number of people you have. Alternatively if it’s comfort you’re after then opt for the next size up – say perhaps a six man tent if there are four of you. Being squished to the edge of the tent isn’t a great idea as it can wick moisture through the tent skin and soak your bedding or clothes.
Next up is the space ‘outside’ the tent, ie: in the porch. Some tents (such as cabin tents) don’t have a porch, and that’s fine if you expect the weather to stay nice. Everything has to be stored inside the tent (including boots, rucksacks etc), and so if it’s been raining and the ground is muddy then you’ll be bringing this into your sleeping area – not ideal.
Personally I always choose a tent with a porch, as we live in the UK and find it invaluable to be able to store wet hiking gear outside our sleeping area. Some tents have sort of a standing porch area between two sleeping pods – these are great for preparing food in or setting up your camping chairs and enjoying a beer.
Do I need a tent with a single sewn-in rainfly or should it have double layers?
Basically tents can either have a single skin, or they can have double layers with an external rainfly over the internal tent skin. Some tents are designed to be ‘waterproof’ with just the one layer, however I wouldn’t always trust the manufacturers’ recommendations on this. They will probably claim that no extra rain sheet is needed, but if you are expecting a downpour then it would be advisable to have one just in case. The last thing you want is water seeping through and wetting your sleeping bag and clothes.
That’s another point – with a single skin tent, in cold weather you can quite often get condensation forming on the inside. This can then drip down the skin and annoyingly land on your head or sleeping bag – particularly if you’re like me and often find your head pushed into the edge of the tent. Double skin tents are usually more well ventilated, as the inner skin is usually a mesh type material that keeps bugs and mosquitos out.
What about windows?
Windows are a nice thing to have in a tent – obviously not the glass type, but most have zip or roll-up window covers that cover plastic windows. These are nice for letting light into the tent, and for you making the most of the wilderness views that probably brought you camping in the first place.
What if the weather’s really bad?
Although not really a family tent, there are certain styles of tent that are more suited to bad weather conditions. Geodesic tents are quite fancy-looking and complicated geometric shapes, however they are usually low-ish to the ground and can be anchored really securely. The best backpacking tents are typically of this design, either this or of the dome variety.
Will I be carrying my tent in my backpack, or will I be ‘car camping’?
As mentioned above a geodesic or dome tent is the traditional backpacking style of tent, and some of these can be used in mountainous terrain and alpine conditions. If you are backpacking then weight will be a big issue for you. You want to opt for a lightweight or ‘ultralight’ tent to minimise the strain on your back. Pack size is also important, and the smaller the pack the more space will be left in your rucksack for everything else.
‘Car Camping’ on the other hand, where you simply unload your tent from the back of your trunk means you can compromise on weight and size, and can make comfort and spaciousness a bigger priority. Obviously this has benefits for family camping as you’ll all be happier if you’re more comfortable and have more space. There are loads of websites out there where you can find somewhere to camp, you can find a few national rules and also a list of camping reserves here.
Do I need a four-season tent?
Four season tents are typically for in winter. You’ll probably not be family camping in winter due to the cold, but if you do then a four season tent would be what you’re after. They are usually more substantially built in terms of walls, skin and mesh and can withstand really bad conditions including snow. Additionally they tend to have more room for keeping your hiking gear, and some even have a hole in for your camping stove so you can cook without leaving the tent. Being more advanced than summer tents, these are designed to help keep you warm in winter and cool in summer.