How To Choose the Best Family of 4 Camping Tent
Picking a camping tent for family or group use is different from picking a tent for individual use; there’s more than the size and capacity.
In this guide, I’ll detail everything you need to know about picking the right camping tent for your family. I’ll even provide some personal recommendations based on experience.
Size Matters: The Bigger the Better
When picking a camping tent for a family or group, I recommend getting a bigger tent than you think you need. One that’s big enough to spend your evenings after it gets dark or during the daytime when it might be showering. So, better bigger than smaller.
Regarding the capacity, understand that the size rating of tents is funky and, most of the time, misleading. The idea of tent sizing by manufacturers is they assume people are packed like sardines, and it only works if everybody squeezes and there’s no space left for extra gear.
But the reality is each camper will have clothes and personal items with them and want to get out of bed without stepping on the next person. Therefore, when picking a group camping tent, look for one that holds about twice the number of campers you want to accommodate. For example, a 4-person tent is meant to accommodate 2. On the other hand, a 6-person tent can comfortably accommodate 3 campers.
However, like shoes, every tent and every manufacturer’s sizing rating differ. I’ve had 4-person tents that wouldn’t accommodate more than two adults and a 2-person tent that would fit an adult, a kid, and a small dog sufficiently.
Based on experience, the correct way to determine the right sizing of your tent is first to identify your sleeping arrangements (consider the sleeping pads/mats you’ll use). And based on that, figure out the footprint you need for your tent. In short, look at the floor dimensions, and decide how spacious you need your tent to be.
*Tip: The average sleeping pad is 20”x72”. This is the space you need for every person in a tent.
Of course, you’ll also want to account for extra space for storage, but the sleeping pad dimensions should be the bare minimum.
Consider the Tent Design
The most comfortable tents for families or groups are the ones the tallest member can stand in. Understand family tents are more than just sleeping spaces, but also shelters to spend time with family and relatives. They’re meant for relaxing and enjoying camping.
And therefore, it makes more sense to choose family tents with vertical walls as they’re roomier inside. Choose a wall tent.
Camping tents with walls are popular with groups or family campers because they have got a vertical rather than sloping wall. There’s more room for walking about compared to a tent with a similar footprint but with sloping walls.
The cabin-style family tent is a great design for a wall tent. Compared to other designs, such as dome tents, the former has steeper walls (near-vertical). It helps to maximize the overall peak height and livable space.
While the cabin tents are generally tougher to set up, require more poles, and have a complex design, they’re usually adopted for family use because of their spaciousness.
In group camping, not everyone is comfortable sharing their living space. Personal living space is also important for couples with kids around.
Therefore, when picking a camping tent for a family, consider those with a room divider to offer some potential separation. There are many group tents that will allow you to separate the tent into “rooms” if needed.
Get Multiple Tents
Sometimes, investing in multiple smaller tents makes much more sense than a bigger group camping tent.
I advocate for a larger tent that holds everyone and everything, but it should also be small enough to fit the available space in a typical campsite. Unless you’re boondocking, understand that most campsites usually have a designated spot for setting up a tent. Most spots have tent pads, which are fairly level but won’t accommodate the huge tents.
Chances are, even if you’re not in a regulated campsite or won’t go anywhere crazy camping, know there’re restrictions out there. A larger tent means you’ll need to find an even larger flat location for setup.
Plus, if you care more about privacy and get a single tent with fake wall dividers, and crappy curtains, your kids may blindly run through.
So, you might as well consider getting multiple smaller tents for everyone. Having a separate space for everyone is nice and is more fun than bunking together.
Buy Quality Tent
As with any other outdoor gear purchase, you don’t want to have buyer’s remorse because you spent too little on your family tent. I understand family tents can be a bit more expensive than normal tents, but one of my favorite sayings is, “I’m too poor to buy a cheap pair of shoes.”
See, I’m always willing to dig deeper into my pockets when selecting a family tent to ensure I’m happy. The problem with cheap group tents is most are flimsy, lack waterproofing, and the available mesh is less than stellar. The floor tent on the cheap family tents is less than substantial, and the rainfly usually doesn’t have enough coverage.
Even then, I would caution that you don’t spend much money on a family tent, especially if you plan to camp once or twice a year. Get a decent tent and a worthy tent.
Tent features are another aspect you shouldn’t overlook when picking a family tent. Some crucial features are:
The ideal family tent should have enough aeration, especially if you’re summer camping. It should have more mesh panels to allow the free flow of air, enhance cross-ventilation and manage condensation.
If you plan to camp in rainy conditions, consider investing in a tent with a rainfly. A rainfly is made of weatherproof material and covers the tent’s body to keep everything dry during rain. It also helps to maintain warmth.
Vestibule and storage pockets
These are handy, especially when you’re camping with the family. They make the organization of your gear effortless and make your tent tidier and less messy.
A footprint extends the longevity of your tent. It keeps the bottom scratch-free and free from damage.
Best Brand for Family Camping Tents
As I mentioned, I prefer to spend more on quality camping gear than going cheap. Based on experience, I’ve realized that Kelty offers the best of both worlds: quality family camping gear without busting my pockets.
Of course, it’s not the “best” brand for family tents, especially if money is a non-issue, but for the price, and quality, it competes favorably with the more premium and super-expensive tents. It also exceeds, by miles, what the cheap, flimsy tents can offer.
I also like that the brand provides tents in different shapes and sizes, and will therefore accommodate your needs, all while keeping you comfortable.
Another brand that gets it right in the world of company tents is REI. Their designs are quality, spacious, and reasonably priced. The REI Kingdom tent line, in particular, is a popular option with campers looking for large-sized tents.
It’s a luxury item with a vertical wall and a tunnel-shaped design that is spacious and offers fantastic livability. While it’s a bit on the higher side, it’s reliable, durable, and worth
If money isn’t an issue, and you prefer something luxurious, consider North Face. The North Face family models are high-end tents and great if you need to make a statement while having something you can use multiple times.
Q: What makes a good family tent?
A: Size and capacity are crucial in a family tent. The right tent for your family should be spacious and livable. In addition, it should be reliable, easy to use, friendly, and withstand everyday use and inclement weather.
Q: What do you need to consider when choosing a tent?
A: Your camping needs should be the deciding factor when selecting a family camping tent. Consider the number of people you’ll be camping with, the weather conditions, the location, and any other special needs.
Q: What size tent is best for a family of 4?
A: The general rule for picking a tent is to choose a tent that is rated twice the number of people you need to accommodate. Therefore, the right tent size for a family of 4 should be rated as an 8-person tent if you want to stay comfortably. Alternatively, consider the footprint, and choose a tent that can accommodate at least four sleeping pads.
Q: What are the 4 types of tents?
A: There’re various tent designs, but most can be largely categorized into A-frame, Pyramid, hoop, and Dome tents.
Conclusion: Picking a Family Camping Tent
That’s a wrap for today’s topic and everything you need to know about selecting the best family tent.
One note is whatever the size of the family tent is rated for, remember it’s for kids, midgets, or emergencies. Always double the capacity when selecting the right sized tent for your family. Of course, going with the exact size is doable and will keep you dry, but you won’t enjoy the experience.