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Our National Parks celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2016, so let the celebration inspire you to get outside and enjoy Mother Nature’s grandeur. Make the most of your adventures with new gear. Here’s a guided list to help you decide which tent to pitch on your next overnight outdoors, whether you're summiting high peaks, backpacking through mountain wilderness, relaxing on a remote beach or setting up camp in your own backyard.
Best for Families: Coleman Longs Peak Fast Pitch Six-Person Dome Tent
So you finally scored a reservation in that coveted campground in Rocky Mountain National Park. Make Coleman’s Longs Peak Fast Pitch Six-Person Dome your base for exploring the iconic park, whether you’re thinking of climbing the 14,000-foot mountain for which this tent is named, or just photographing the park’s stunning High Alpine scenery.
This is the official tent of the National Park Foundation, so it’s versatile enough for three-season adventures in your favorite park. Coleman’s Fast Pitch system makes set-up 40 percent faster than comparable tents, so you can spend more time hiking. The outdoor company’s tested WeatherTec system can protect you from High Country squalls; the tent comes with a rain fly, and the floor material is welded with inverted seams to stay dry when weather conditions get wet. The Longs Peak tent is 100 square feet of floor space, enough to fit two queen-sized airbeds or six sleeping pads, and the center height is six feet, meaning there’s plenty of room for the whole family.
Best Backpacking Tent: MSR Hubba Hubba NX
MSR's Hubba Hubba is both light and spacious so it's a great choice to tent to bring along on your hike. Take it at its most basic — footprint, rain fly and poles — and the shelter weighs a scant 2 pounds 10 ounces. Add the tent, rain fly, and footprint, and you’re packing a full three-season shelter system under 4 pounds. Symmetrical design and non-tapered floors maximize all 29 square feet of floor space, and the rain fly adds a 17-square-foot vestibule to the equation. The three-season Hubba Hubba can hold up to whatever Mother Nature can throw at it; the floor is treated with Durashield polyurethane and DWR to keep water out. But why all the, ahem, Hubba Hubba? The two-person tent’s max height is just 39 inches, meaning most of your time inside is spent horizontal.
Best Four-Season Tent: The North Face Bastion 4 with Bastion Footprint
This winter weather specialist is a stalwart in The North Face’s Summit Series; it's engineered to hold up in extreme weather. And a welded 70-denier polyurethane-coated nylon weather fly is the first line of defense — the material is tested cold crack proof to -60°F. The canopy is made of a reinforced 40-denier polyurethane-coated nylon, and designed with plenty of top and bottom venting options. The North Face’s aluminum DAC pole and stake system deliver industry leading strength-to-weight ratio for holding tight against whipping winds and drifting snow, and a 40-denier ripstop nylon bucket floor adds structural strength. If you do have to wait out the storm, spread out over 61.5 square feet of floor space and store gear in hanging systems maximizing a peak height of 54.5 inches; the rain fly adds a 7.2 square-foot vestibule. Make your tent even more weatherproof by adding The North Face’s Bastion Footprint (Buy on Amazon.com), a tough nylon base engineered to protect the tent from abrasions and prevent water from pooling under the tent in wet weather.
Best Car Camping Tent: Tepui Ayer
Redefine car camping with this innovative tent that utilizes its roof rack as a base for a sturdy four-season tent. Tepui has designed a universal mounting bracket that makes it easy to build the tent on most roof racks or aftermarket bars. And you don’t need a massive SUV, either. The two-person Ayer is the perfect size to fit small SUVs and sport wagons, putting a classic A-frame tent with 136 square feet of floor space atop a welded aluminum frame. The canopy is a highly water-resistant and breathable cotton, polyester ripstop fabric, and the polyurethane coated polyester rain fly adds additional protection from weather. The built-in, high-density foam mattress eliminates the need to pack additional sleeping pads. Getting in and out of the tent is easier than it looks, thanks to the included telescoping ladder. Use the space under your tent as a shaded vestibule, and your car will be transformed into the ultimate base camp.
Best Scout Campout Tent: MSR Elixir Backpacking Tent
The tent features a freestanding system with color-coded poles and clips, so the kids won’t have any trouble setting it up (it weighs less than five pounds and packs into a manageable stuff sack). This tent can be set up in a variety of ways, including “Fast & Light Mode,” which just uses the rainfly. When they’re done setting up camp, they’ll have plenty of room to collapse in exhaustion, with almost 40 square feet of floorspace. The MSR Elixir also has two large doors and two large vestibules for storing camping gear. No matter how you set it up, this tent will protect the troop from the elements; the 40-denier ripstop nylon provides both warmth and ventilation and keeps rain out.
Best Festival Tent: Core 9-Person Instant Cabin Tent
This Instant Cabin Tent checks the boxes for a perfect festival tent: it’s durable, easy to set up, and able to hold all your friends. And it’s certainly spacious ‑ this tent sleeps nine, with 140 square feet of floor space and an ample peak height of 6.5 feet. It even has a divider so you can split the tent into two rooms. But perhaps its best selling point is the set-up time: two people can assemble this tent in only 60 seconds. And you know the last thing you want to do at a music festival is waste time setting up a complicated tent.
The Instant Cabin Tent is also pretty convertible, allowing you to let in as much of your environment as you want. Remove the rain fly to expose panoramic mesh windows and a mesh ceiling, or unzip the T-door on the end and you can open the entire side wall. The body and footprint are made from durable polyester with H2O Block Technology that keeps water out, even along the seams, so you can take shelter from the weather without missing a beat.
Best Beach Tent: Coleman Road Trip Beach Shade
Forget about umbrellas — pack the right tent to stake your slice of sand at remote beaches or packed seashores. Coleman’s Road Trip Beach Shade is just six pounds and setting up the three-pole tent on the sand is simple. But this is more than just a sunshade — this tent’s UVGuard fabric protects against ultraviolet rays. Zip up the privacy door to change in and out of your suit; the back also works as a wall or mesh window. Anchor it to the beach with the extra long stakes, or weigh it down with sandbags. Other smart touches include a front awning for extra shade, interior mesh pockets for water bottles and gear and a built-in drying line.
Best Hammock Tent: Eagles Nest Outfitters DoubleNest
Eagles Nest Outfitters (a.k.a. ENO) have perfected the packable hammock with the DoubleNest — it packs down to the size of a grapefruit and weights less than a pound. Pick up ENO’s OneLink Sleep System and you can transform your beloved hammock into a mountain home. They call it the DoubleNest, because there’s plenty of room for two and the high tenacity nylon taffeta construction can hold up to 400 pounds. The OneLink Sleep System includes ENO’s Atlas Suspension straps and carabiners for easy set-up and 30 combined adjustment points to get the fit just right. It also includes a polyurethane-treated ripstop nylon rain tarp to keep you dry, and the Insect Shield bug net doesn’t just keep out pesky skeeters, it repels them. The entire OneLink Sleep System weighs less than four pounds and packs into its own stuff sack keeping your pack light and uncluttered for speedy ascents.
Best Ultralight Tent: MSR Thru-Hiker Mesh House Trekking Pole Shelter
If you want a simple tent without the bulk and added weight, this three-piece tent is the ultimate ultralight shelter. It starts with one of the best trekking poles on the market, MSR’s Swift 3. This three-piece pole is made of aerospace grade aluminum, and low-profile SureLock Adjust System ensures proper fit for your height and gait. When you’re ready to call it a hike, use the poles as the foundation for the Thru-Hike Mesh House and Thru-Hiker Wing 70 (Buy on Amazon.com). The Mesh House is exactly that, with micromesh canopy providing superior protection from bugs with ample ventilation and moisture control. The Thru-Hike Wing 70 blocks rain and protects from wind with a super light ripstop nylon treated with Durashield polyurethane and silicone. All together your two-person backcountry shelter weighs under three pounds.
Best Expedition Tent: Mountain Hardwear Space Station
They call it the Space Station for its otherworldly look, but this tent’s unique design is a result of testing in the most extreme conditions on planet Earth. A staple of alpine expedition base camps, Mountain Hardwear’s Space Station is among the strongest, most durable and largest four-season tents in the mountains. The rain fly and double-wall canopy are both made of weatherproof nylon taffeta with multiple Polyurethane and silicone coatings, and the dome holds up to extreme wind load and heavy snow weight with 15 industry-leading aluminum PressFit poles. Zippered top thru-vent lets out steam, and ten adjustable vents allow a sufficient amount of airflow. Mountain Hardwear estimates you can stand 20 adults in the tent, and it’s tested to sleep 15 with gear. However, with 284 square feet of floor space and peak height of more than eight feet the tent also makes an excellent mess hall, spacious alpine communication headquarters or makeshift medical center.