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- Best Overall: REI Half Dome 2 Plus at REI "Has been a well-loved classic for years."
- Best Budget: Stansport McKinley Camping Dome Tent at Amazon "For the price, why not get the three-person?"
- Best Lightweight: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL at Amazon "You get high volume, thanks to a new single-pole design that yields more usable square footage."
- Best in Bad Weather: Hilleberg Nallo GT at Moosejaw "Both tear-proof and waterproof."
- Best Four-Season Tent: Marmot Thor at REI "For campers, it has 38 extremely spacious square feet."
- Best for Backpacking: MSR Hubba Hubba NX line at Amazon "The tent weighs just three pounds, seven ounces, so it's easy to pack and carry."
- Best Roof Top Tent: Tepui Tents Ayer Sky 2 Tent at REI "For more adventurous types, this style of tent is also great if you’re a little off the beaten path."
- Best Festival Tent: FiveJoy Instant Popup Camping Tent at Amazon "You will get an easy-to-pitch shelter, meaning there’s more time to enjoy the great outdoors."
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: REI Half Dome 2 Plus
For campers who don’t have to carry their own shelter on their backs, REI’s Half Dome has been a well-loved classic for years. Weighing just 5.31 pounds, it could be carried on the back in a stretch, though it’s by no means as light as a purpose-built backpacking tent. But it truly has enough space for two with almost 36 square feet (most people camping in pairs use a three-person tent). It also comes with color-coded poles for quick setup, and it’s super-livable, with almost vertical walls. Side-opening doors are also a perk: They open larger and wider for taking in the scenery when you’re hanging out. The only downside? Some complain that the tent doesn’t come with enough stakes or guy lines.
Best Budget: Stansport McKinley Camping Dome Tent
Technically speaking, yes, this is a three-person tent. But if you’re an infrequent, three-season camper who’s there for fun, not survival-level living, the extra room for gear will be much appreciated (all in all, it boasts 49 square feet). And, for the price, why not get the three-person? This is one of the lowest-priced tents we’ve seen, but it holds up great in rain showers, thanks to a bathtub floor, two-peak roof and well-sealed rainfly (though it’s never a bad idea to do a little DIY sealing of your own after purchase). It also has two large doors for easy access and shock-corded poles, which make setting this up — and taking it down — a chore that takes a matter of minutes. With four-and-a-half feet of headroom, even the tallest campers have space to sit up and change. It’s far too heavy for backpacking, at eight pounds, nine ounces, but those who go camping sans pack should seriously consider this as a budget option.
Best Lightweight: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL
The Big Agnes Copper Spur, with 29 roomy square feet for two, is just three pounds, six ounces, qualifying it for the ultralight category in backpacking, where packs should be no more than five pounds. As light as it is, however, it has a lot to offer (in fact, it’s Big Agnes’ most popular ultralight tent). The “HV” in the name stands for “high volume” and that’s exactly what you get, thanks to a new single-pole design that yields more usable square footage — and makes this version of the tent far easier to pitch and take down than its predecessors (the color-coded grommets help, too). Although it’s not going to give you the creature comforts of heavier, more cumbersome tents, you do get a vestibule, which is rare in these lightest-of-light tents. The Copper Spur holds up well inclement weather, thanks to an aerodynamic design that keeps high winds skimming right over the shelter.
Best in Bad Weather: Hilleberg Nallo GT
Hilleberg’s tents are widely known in the industry for being the shelter you want to be in if bad weather hits. The Nallo’s low-slung tunnel design is great in high winds, and its Kerlon fabric — strengthened by three (!) layers of silicone — is both tear-proof and waterproof. On hotter days, campers will also love its great ventilation and construction that keeps overnight condensation (thanks, humidity) at bay.
Overall, this model is great for the kind of inclement winds, rain and snow most campers might hit on a standard or adventurous expedition, though Hilleberg makes tents for truly extreme conditions as well. It sleeps two tall people comfortably, and with the addition of a groundsheet, a third person could even sleep in the porch area. Backpackers should know that this tent packs up incredibly small, and pitches easily for one and even more so for two. One of the best parts of the tent is the quirky design that comes loaded with bonus features. Case in point: the clever clothesline that runs through the sleeping compartment.
Best Four-Season Tent: Marmot Thor
Having a four-season tent is great if you love the beauty of snowy camping — or if you live in an area where temps drop off suddenly and steeply at night. The Marmot Thor, which packs down to 8 x 20 inches, is a great pick for those looking to get the most out of some pretty standard year-round camping or are heading out on a mission to brave the winter cold. Weighing eight pounds, six ounces, it’s not great for backpackers, but for campers, it has 38 extremely spacious square feet (and lots of interior pockets) to share between two, plus a 10-square-foot vestibule for boots and gear. It’s made even more dependable, thanks to its low-profile design and ripstop nylon fabric. The reflective tabs are great when returning to the tent after nighttime stargazing. Bonus? The Catenary Cut floors are specially designed to reduce round contact (and, therefore, wetness).
Best for Backpacking: MSR Hubba Hubba NX line
MSR’s Hubba Hubba line is a huge favorite among backpackers who don’t mind spending a bit more on a tent that will last and last — even with a few tumbles (the lifetime warranty all but ensures you’ll have it forever, too). The tent weighs just three pounds, seven ounces, making it great for those carrying their gear on their backs. It has color-coded clips to make setup a snap (about six minutes total), and two different fast-pitch options to get the shelter up in a flash. Roomy — and with a little outdoor area for that first cup of morning coffee — it’s a fantastic choice for backpacking with a friend (the tent packs down to a decent 6 x 18 inches). Some users complain that there aren’t enough guy lines or stakes included, and that the latter may not be of the best quality, so keep in mind you might have to buy some in addition to the price tag.
Best Roof Top Tent: Tepui Tents Ayer Sky 2 Tent
Sky tents, which attach to the roof rack on your car, are becoming something of a trend, thanks to their convenience and treehouse-like feel. After all, who didn’t dream of having a palatial treehouse to live in as a kid? Plus, you get great views — while avoiding bugs — and these tents are also fairly easy to set up. (Once it’s properly put on the roof, it’s only about another 10 minutes until you can take a nap.) For more adventurous types, this style of tent is also great if you’re a little off the beaten path and there’s no actual campsite to pitch a tent on (like, say, a gorgeous shoreline). They’re a little more expensive, but if you’re a weekend warrior always looking for the next scenic location, it might be worth it. Tepui makes great ones, and this two-person model, with 24 square feet, has a 2.5-inch thick foam mattress and included ladder.
Best Festival Tent: FiveJoy Instant Popup Camping Tent
Maybe dealing with guylines, poles and all sorts of clips just isn’t your thing — or maybe you’re heading to a festival and want to get to the fun stuff ASAP. Pop-up tents are great for occasional campers who just want something easy to put up and then crash in. You won’t get too much in the way of durability here, at least when it comes to bad weather — you’ll want it to be good weather to use one of these — but you will get an easy-to-pitch shelter, meaning there’s more time to enjoy the great outdoors (or the headliner at the concert). This FiveJoy tent, which sets up in seconds, is great for two with gear and is incredibly roomy at almost 59 square feet. It also has clever features, like spots to hang clothes and extra bags. At eight pounds, you won’t be taking this on the trails anytime soon, but it’s manageable enough to lug from car to site.