If you’re just jumping into the world of outdoor recreation, one of your first purchases is probably going to be a tent.
There are hundreds of choices and the cost can run up really fast. Also, if you’re like me, you can sometimes overthink your options.
My goal is to simplify the process. I camp frequently both with and without my family.
I’m also obsessive about keeping up with new gear trends.
Frankly, outdoor gear manufacturers are always trying to come up with new “technologies” that make you think you need their product. Some of their use of new materials and technology is legit, but a lot of times it’s just a gimmick to convince you to spend more money.
You don’t have to have the latest and greatest to have an incredible time in the outdoors.
If you’re operating on a budget … keep reading
There are three main classes of tents to consider.
- Family – Car Camping These tents are intended for a large group of people or car camping. They’re ofter spacious, but heavy and bulky when compared to a backpacking tent.
- Backpacking – These tents are meant to be light, compact and a good when will be easy to construct in adverse conditions. Just because a backpacking tent is smaller, does not mean that it will be less expensive.
- Four Season – These tents are designed to take the extreme weather. Often that means gusty winds, snow, and hard rain. As you may imagine, that can run up the price real quick. There really is not an inexpensive four season tent, but below you’ll find my recommendation for best value.
Once you determine which class tent you’re looking for, the choices for the best bang for your buck become pretty clear.
($203) Coleman Steel Creek 6 Person Fast Pitch Dome with Screenroom
Pros – Really slick screened front porch, durable, fast pitch system (5-10 min)
Cons – Dirt and mud may wash into screen room during heavy rain, poorly designed carrying bag
($189) Mountain Trails Grand Pass Tent- 10 Person
Pros – Very Spacious, Large vents for warm climates, sets up surprisingly fast
Cons – Flimsy tent stakes, Needs a lot of space for tent and guy lines, thin material
($219) REI Half Dome 2 Plus
The “Plus” version of the REI Half Dome 2 offers a little more space with minor sacrifices to size and weight. The Half Dome is only available at REI.
Pros – Spacious for a two-person tent, durable, available in fun colors
Cons – A little heavy when compared to more expensive backpacking models
($101) ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1-Person Tent
Pros – Compact for backpacking, lightweight-under 4 lbs., great ventilation, durable fly, great value
Cons – Designed for just one person
($119) Featherstone Outdoor UL Granite 2 Person Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Pros – Lightweight – under 4 lbs, a lot of mesh for ventilation, compact
Cons – Thin material
($589) – The North Face Mountain 25
Pros – Super Sturdy, efficient pockets, high strength guy lines with equalizers, great price for four season tent
Cons – A little on the heavy side, some have complained about the fly sticking together when stored in hot areas
($700) – Mountain Hardwear EV2
Yes, this tent lists for $700 but I’ve seen it go on sale at REI for as little as $524. If you can get it on sale, more power to you!
Pros – Its design is extremely sturdy with just three poles and there’s great headroom for a four season tent. Pitches quickly.
Cons – Some complaints about poor ventilation. I know manufacturers call them “four season” tents, but you’ll be better served getting a regular tent if you plan on camping in the summer.
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