Coming in many different shapes and sizes, all tents serve one simple purpose. Here are some of the best tents to consider if you’re going camping.
Sleeping under canvas is a childhood rite of passage, and the best family tents can make all the difference to a camping trip – especially if the weather isn’t on your side. Wherever you end up camping, you’ll need somewhere roomy, waterproof and comfortable both to sleep and hang out in, come rain or shine.
In this article, we’ve selected an excellent line-up of the best family-sized tents on the market, and have included options to suit any budget. There are also some rather posh tents in the mix, for anyone who fancies a bit of glamping.
Before we pitch you our favourite tents, though, you’ll find a handy buying guide covering what you need to know before buying a brand-new family tent.
How to choose a good tent
What features do I need?
Multiple bedrooms are an excellent idea, especially if you have teenagers. Standing room is essential for sorting out the myriad bits of gear involved with camping with children, and a spacious living area will give you somewhere to hang out and play games on rainy days. A porch or anteroom is also useful for popping muddy boots in.
Look for a sturdy, sewn-in groundsheet with a coated nylon floor to keep you warm and dry, a waterproof rain fly (this is the outer layer of the tent) and plenty of guy ropes for stability. We like airy tents with plenty of windows and multiple doors – these stop your portable home from feeling claustrophobic. And the more loops, hooks and pockets in the tent’s interior the better, for hanging up lanterns or stashing belongings.
What size is best?
Tents are sized by the number of adults they can feasibly sleep (two-man, four-man, six-man). The usual rule of thumb for tent sizes is that if you half that number, you’ll get the number of adults the tent will actually sleep in relative comfort, especially if you’re off for a long camping holiday.
Two adults and two or three children will usually find a six-man tent the best fit, with lots of spare space for bags, clothing and other bits and pieces.
The larger the tent the heavier it tends to be, of course, and the longer it’ll usually take to put together. If you’re hopping around lots of different campsites on your holiday then those factors are definitely worth taking into consideration, but if you’re just headed to one campsite and your car has a roomy boot, it’s worth going as big as you can afford – you’ll only have to pitch it once, after all.
The pitch times suggested by manufacturers are usually optimistic, so expect a bit of trial and error the first time you erect your new canvas palace. If you aren’t sure how big you want to go, it’s definitely worth borrowing a few models from family friends to test out first.
The Best Camping Tents in 2021
Coleman Gold Series Chalet 9 Person – Bang for your bucks
Price: $439 | Buy now from Catch.com.au
There’s not much better for simple traditional camping than the Coleman Gold Series with a large nine-person footprint. And even though it’s basic in term of looking like a traditional long dome tent, it has three separate ‘rooms’ including a living area, LED light, gear organiser, seam sealed skylight and a strong geo design for added strength. It’s also relatively simple to setup, too.
Man size: Nine Standing room? Yes Bedrooms: Three Pitch time: 20min Weight: 26kg Price $439
Retreat 280 5 Module Tent – Premium adventure tent
Price: $998.98 Special Price: $699.99 | Buy now at Kathmandu
The versatile Retreat 280 has two rooms plus a ‘living space’ with separate roll away divider that can even make a third room. It provides a large amount of space for a family (and if you need even larger, check out the Retreat 360), ideal for sleeping children and a family that wants to spread out. If you find tents claustrophobic, you’ll love the high standing room and the large windows.
On a warm day, open up the sides and sleep in a breezy space, and enjoy the stars with the stargazer window. It even has a solar-charging pocket. Best of all, it packs up relatively compact.
Person size: Five Standing room? Yes Bedrooms: Two/Three Pitch time: 25 mins Weight: 24.3kg Price $699.99
Backpacker 3 Man Tent – Budget adventure tent
Price: $152.99 | Buy now from Mountain Warehouse
The Backpacker is roomy enough to sleep a family of three yet light and versatile that it can be taken into more secluded and private campsites.
Deliciously light at just 2.7kg, quick to erect and well made, the Backpacker is at home both in the bush or at a festival. If you fancy taking the family wild camping or backpacking and don’t want to lug a heavy tent, this is the one to pick. If you’re just camping out of your car boot, you could get away with packing something bigger.
Person size: Three Standing room? No Bedrooms: None Pitch time: 10 min Weight: 2.7kg Price $152.99
OZTent RV-3 – Best for couples (plus a dog or two)
Price: $929 | Buy now from Caravan RV Camping
Though it’s billed as a three-person, we feel that the OZTent RV-3 works much better as a spacious tent for couples. This Australian-designed tent can be set up by one person and in less than 30 seconds. The front porch area of the tent extends beyond the interior doorway and provides extra cover for the rest of your gear. The additional space is handy as you don’t have to drag all your kit inside the tent at night, meaning there’s heaps of room to sit up and move around. If it’s cold and rainy, your canine pal could join you inside, and if it’s warm they can sleep under the porch.
Setup is nice and easy, taking only 30 seconds when you know what you’re doing, thanks to its brilliant Aussie design. And despite its large dimensions when standing, it packs down into a compact carry bag. It offers plenty of protection against the elements, too: it’s 100% waterproof and covered by a two-year warranty.
Person size: Three Standing room? Yes Bedrooms: None Pitch time: 30 seconds min Weight: 22kg Price $929
Dometic TRT120E 12V Rooftop Tent – Best car camping tent
Price: $2499 | Buy now from Caravan RV Camping
Okay, you got us – this isn’t really a traditional family tent, but who cares when you can press a button on the remote and let the 12volt tent setup itself up in minutes while you get the BBQ going.
As the name implies, it is mounted to the top of your car on roof racks.
The base includes a 50mm foam mattress for comfort and it will comfortably accommodate two. Helping it fit into any environment is a water resistent two-layer construction with PVC outer cover for insulation in winter, and a UPF 50+ rating plus insect screen windows that suits harsher environments in the sun.
Access is via a ladder, which lets you sit above the ground for a safe, calm nights sleep before you pack it up with the press of a button again.
Person size: Two Standing room? No Bedrooms: None Pitch time: 3-5 minutes Weight: 56kg (including ladder) Price $2499