Best Camping Tents: The right tent is your home away from home when camping. Choosing the right tent can make the difference between enjoying your camping experience and making you want to immediately seek out the nearest La Quinta.
There are so many options out there, classified by season, sleeping capacity, and ideal use. Questions have to be asked. Are you backpacking? Car camping? Is it you, you and a friend, or your entire extended family? Are you big people, say like 6’5”, or small, like 5’2”? Where are you going and what month is it? Is it going to be hot? Cold? Rainy? It all matters.
Books have been written about choosing the right tent for all occasions, so to keep things moving along, in this post we’re going to discuss a couple of the best workhorse tents that rate highly in the Earth Gear preferred list: REI’s Half Dome 2 Plus, Marmot’s Limelight 3P, and the Mountain HardwearTrango 3.
These are good tents for various situations. Not the best for everything, and not the worst. If you just want a tent for a couple people, one of these will do the job. These three tents are good for light car camping excursions, and although not the best for backpacking, can be done with the right planning and sharing of the load – one person takes the nylon and steaks, the other packs the poles, etc.
A slightly larger version of one of the most popular 3-season tents on the market, the Half Dome 2 Plus is designed to give you just a little more room than the average 2-person tent, four inches wider and 10 inches longer, to be precise. It might not seem like much, but extra shoulder and legroom is useful when tossing and turning.
At just over 5lbs and $200, the Half Dome 2 Plus is the lightest and least expensive of our preferred tents, making it a good choice for backpacking, and offers a low profile and interesting setup option with only the footprint and rainfly if you’re into the whole minimalist thing. The large sections of mesh allow great breathability for summer use and the pole configuration is designed for maximum strength with minimal weight.
The Limelight 3P is the classic 3-person, 3+ season tent, meaning it can fit 3 people, but it’s perfect for 2 who want more space. Coming it at nearly 6lbs, the Limelight 3P is really close to the maximum for most people wanting to backpack in the summer, however, it can still be done if you share the load (see above).
The Limelight 3P is a breeze to set up with it’s color coded cross-poles design and comes with a ground cover footprint standard, which can be a pricey add on for almost all other tents in this category. It can sleep three, but really gives two campers a bit more space to move around and, like the Half Dome, it also sports two doors and two vestibules so campers can keep their gear separate and protected.
The Trango 3 is a 3-person, 4-season tent designed for even the most aggressive winter adventures and is one of the best choices for hardcore mountaineers. It’s built strong and stable for bad weather, but still has the footprint-fly pitching option if you want to go minimalist. Again, it is sized for 3 “regular sized” people, but is almost better suited for 2 with a little gear space to spare.
This is the best of the three if you are looking to go out in cold weather or up above tree line. The pole configuration is sturdy and built to withstand strong winds, and its huge vestibule has plenty of space for your mountaineering gear. However, at $700, this is a pricey option and the lack of breathability doesn’t make it suggested for summer use. Also, at well over 10lbs (not too bad for winter mountaineering tents), it’s probably too heavy for backpacking if you are looking to go light, but for cold weather mountaineering, there aren’t many better.