June 2017 Update
This summer, we add a new Best Buy winner: the Instant Tent 6 which is the least expensive tents, scored well and is fast to pitch. We also confirmed that all the other models in our review have not changed.
REI Kingdom 6
Tall throughout tent with big doors and two rooms
Huge vestibule and lots of pockets
Backpack-style carrying bag
Only one vestibule
Small awning over second door
The Kingdom 6
continues its reign for another year. It's just so spacious and comfortable. The hooped design gives much more room than a standard dome tent. It's surprisingly wind-resistant and held it's own in torrential rains. At 6 ft 3 inches tall inside, most adults can walk around between the two divided rooms. One room is mostly mesh while the other is solid tent fabric, allowing campers to choose how much ventilation they want, and also allowing for some privacy even if you don't put the fly on the tent — a great option for hot nights. We enjoyed the Kingdom 6 from start to finish, including the very handy carrying bag designed as a backpack. And if you need The Kingdom Tent even bigger, check out the REI Kingdom 8
Read full review: REI Kingdom 6
Best Bang for the Buck
Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6
Excellent UV blocking and stays cool and dark
Fast n' easy setup
Partial fly and mesh "front porch" less ideal for rain
Sloppy carrying bag design
Not easy to seal against blowing dust/sand
The Carlsbad Fast Pitch
is a tent that lives up to its marketing claims. It took us only 12 minutes to set it up for the first time, solo and in the dark. Wow! It is also noticeably cooler and darker in the sun, allowing us to sleep in late, or get out of the hot midday sun. This is not the best tent for cold or inclement weather, but it will do pretty well through a rainstorm.
Read full review: Coleman Instant Tent 6
Best On a Tight Budget
Coleman Instant Tent 6
Fast to setup and easy on the wallet
Durable floor and tall ceiling
Must buy rainfly separately (and it offers mediocre protection)
Not good in winds or heavy rain
The Instant Tent 6
is the fastest pitching tent we've tested: most people can set it up in under 2 minutes. It also scores high for comfort as anyone under 6 feet can easily walk around. It's the perfect size for four people with big sleeping bags. It's the least expensive tent in our review - by a pretty good margin. If you don't think you'll encounter much rain or wind, it's an excellent choice, especially if you are new to camping or don't camp for than a few weeks a year. Need even more space? See the Instant Tent 8, our 2015 Editor's Choice winner.
Read full review: Coleman Instant Tent 6
Top Pick for Weather Resistance
Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6
Big and versatile vestibule
Two rooms that are well ventilated
Well designed carrying bag
Great in wind and storms
More complicated setup with lots of poles
The Flying Diamond 6
is the only tent tested that we agree can be called a genuine four-season tent. It would not be our first pick for polar expeditions, but it's a great choice for a family snow camping trip. If internal height is important for tent comfort, this is not your best choice: it stands only 5 ft 6 in inside. But it is a very fun family tent with two rooms, one smaller one like a cubby that kids will surely enjoy. And if you'll be needed to bring the kitchen sink, check out the larger Big Agnes Flying Diamond 8
Read full review: Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6
Top Pick for Versatility
Mountain Hardwear Optic 6
Strong design with rugged materials
Lighter color for warm weather
Seals adequately from storms
Tall and spacious
Awkward sleeping pattern for six
Not a lot of built-in storage space or pockets
The Optic 6
scored second highest and was a strong contender for Editor's choice. It is the best of so many worlds: it's tall and spacious but stable in high winds; easy to set up but still a fun and unique design; it is relatively light, not overpriced, and easy to carry with a shoulder sling on the stuff sack. It is a tent of intelligent compromises, a joy to use, and a genuine jack-of-all-trades. Plus, it had the best view of the sky when we left the fly off on a warm night in the high desert. For a smaller version of the same tent, check out the Mountain Hardwear Optic 2.5
Read full review: Mountain Hardwear Optic 6
Analysis and Test Results
In this review, we assessed eight popular tents, subjecting them to wind, rain, sun, heat, cold, late nights, late mornings
and energetic young campers. The above table shows where each tent ranked in overall score in our review, while the metrics below describe how we tested each model across individual performance areas.
(40% of overall score)
For a camping tent, comfort reigns. Most camping trips are meant to be fun, stress-free, family bonding experiences, or a chance to catch up with friends over a beer or s'more. Different campers will have different ideas of comfort, and will define livability according to different standards. Taller families will be at each others' throats in a too-short tent; bigger families might want more space and separate rooms; mountain lovers will want a more sturdy and reliable tent with a good vestibule; and beach goers will want windows, air circulation, and shelter from the sun. For longer trips with several campers, more pockets for storage and organization in the tent might help everyone have a sense of personal space.
Our overall winner, the REI Kingdom 6
, was the most comfortable tent in this review. It performed well, rain or shine, and didn't get too hot in the sun. It was a great performer for a broad range of camping scenarios. For more specific comfort requirements, such as shelter from the scorching hot sun in the desert, you might prefer the Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6
. The Wagontop 6 is comfortable due to the high ceiling
, but there were other tents in this review that provided a more balanced and versatile camping tent. The Instant Tent 6
is comfortable in shaded good weather due to its high ceiling. However, while it scored high it's dark materials soak up the heat making it uncomfortable in hot weather. In past reviews, we included the Instant Tent 8
which is much larger and has a taller ceiling. It's much heavier, more expensive and a little harder to set up, but might be the best option if you need more space and are on a tight budget.
The Kingdom 6 easily fits oversized sleeping pads lined up in multiple orientations.
Be sure to check out the floor plan images with each tent, too, in case specific sleeping arrangements or patterns are a priority for your camping needs. Most of these tents say they sleep 6, but that is 6 packed in like sardines. If you use a comfortable bag, as we recommend in our sleeping bag review, you can only sleep 4 comfortably in a "6-person" tent.
(25% of overall score)
Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6 is great in the midday heat: it stays dark and cool!
At first, we thought of weather resistance as the ability to keep you dry in the rain. However, campers are outside through all types of weather, which includes scorching heat, blowing sand and dust, wind, and even hail storms.
The Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6
was the burliest tent in this review. It's the only tent we felt inclined to pitch in the snow for a winter camping adventure. It has a low profile and reliable guy lines to keep it stable in high winds. The Mountain Hardwear Optic 6
also scored very highly with its aerodynamic design, solid guy lines, and burly poles. The Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6
crushed the competition when it came to keeping cool in the hot summer sun. The Instant Tent 6
scored lowest with a 4. Buy the optional fly,
that would go to a 6, but it would still be the lowest scoring tent in our review for weather resistance. On the plus side, the Instant Tent
had one of the more durable floors tested: it's a burly tarp.
This category factors heavily into our rating for each tent, and our discussions will let you know how each tent does in inclement weather, of course, but also in the stagnant heat of the midday sun when a tent becomes a veritable greenhouse.
Wind resistance often depends on how well you stake down a tent and use guylines. For most tents, we recommend buying extra cord and more burly stakes. Carrying a small hammer or rubber mallet is also a good idea.
Ease of Set Up
(15% of overall score)
Struggling to get the fly over the top of the Marmot Limestone 6 tent. The fly often got caught on the two small tensioning poles that stick out at roughly head height.
This is the category to consider carefully if your number one priority is to avoid arguments while pitching your tent late at night when you finally arrive at the campground after a long and stressful week followed by a long and stressful drive and all you want to do is chill out and relax already.
Some tents were extraordinarily intuitive to set up while others reminded us of an adult-sized erector set. We weigh ease of setup slightly less than overall livability and weather resistance, but not far behind. Look to this category, however, if you have any specific needs for setup, like one that is easy for kids to set up, or one that is easy for solo setup.
The Optic 6
and Instant Tent 6
ran away with a perfect ten in this category. With only 3 poles and an intuitive dome shape, the Optic 6
was fast and easy to set up, even after a long drive to our favorite camping spot. We are often suspect of products that have "instant" in the name (is instant coffee even really coffee?). However, the Coleman Instant Tent
lives up to its name. One person can assemble it in just a few minutes without reading the instructions. Two people, once they are familiar with the poles, can set it up in under a minute. If you're new to camping, you will appreciate both the Coleman's fast setup time and price.
The Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6
was also easy to set up, and also lived up to its name: we set it up in 12 minutes on our first try! The Eureka Midori 6
and the Limestone 6 also scored highly for ease of setup
, though they did not earn any of our overall awards.
(15% of overall score)
REI Kingdom 6
The overall quality of materials, design, and manufacturing gives consumers a good idea of the long-term durability and shorter term reliability of a camping tent. This is also weighed at 15% for consumers who are not interested in wasting their money on a disposable camping tent.
We were very impressed with the rugged Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6
. It had solid, clean, and durable stitching, tensioned nicely, and the fly fit snugly around the tent body. The REI Kingdom 6
was close behind, with big, sturdy poles, a straightforward and sturdy design, and strong guy line attachments. We also liked the Mountain Hardwear Optic 6
for its reliable, durable design (living up to the company's reputation for producing excellent outdoor products and especially burly tents, like the industry standard-setting 4-season Trango series). It has an asymmetrical design that we found to be both aesthetic and functional.
In general, you get what you pay for. The Coleman
tents were the cheapest and scored the lowest in this category. That's fine if, like most people, you only camp a few times a year. However, if you plan to regularly use a tent with a poor workmanship score, expect things to start unraveling and breaking after a dozen uses.
(5% of overall score)
We accept that camping tents are big and heavy, but only to a point. You still have to fit it in your trunk and you might have to carry it a few hundred feet to a walk-in campsite. As such, we took packed size into consideration, but not too heavily at only 5% of the overall weighting.
The Midori 6 picked up some points
in this category as the smallest and lightest tent in the review. However, the REI Kingdom 6
still managed a high score because the backpack design was such an asset on a car camping trip. The Flying Diamond 6
also had a well-designed carrying case. It carries reasonably well, like a duffel bag, but it was pretty bulky. The Marmot Limestone 6
and the Mountain Hardwear Optic 6
were similar sizes, both more cumbersome than the Midori, but with a shoulder sling and a handle, respectively.
The award winning camping tents for 2016
We understand that the process of finding the right tent can be a big undertaking. We hope we were able to help you make an educated decision on whether or not a camping tent will best suit your needs, and which one is the perfect model for you, your family, and friends. Happy trails!