Welcome campers and campettes to In Case of Camping’s inaugural Tenty Awards (trademark pending, but not really).
I’m your host Jay Spring, self-proclaimed wilderness whiz, backpacking buff, and environmental enthusiast. Alliteration aside, I’ll guide you through the world of the latest and greatest outdoor technology as we journey through today’s top camping shelters.
From the bargain buys to the tip-top tents, let me present to you the best camping tents of 2018.
You know that part of the awards show where they get a celebrity to present the category winners?
So you’ll simply have to read-on about how I based the Tentys-scoring on the self-dubbed ‘Five S Method’.
Despite what anyone tells you, size does matter. From snug 2-person shelters, to family-style domes, the interior space of a tent can greatly affect the outcome of your camping experience.
Remember that your tent is not only a protective shelter, but your home away from home. Some of the more specific features that I’ll dive into during the Tentys include floor area, ceiling height, weight, etc.
Tis’ the season to go camping, fa la la la la la la la la! The blistering hot summer isn’t the only time of year that you can enjoy the beauty and serenity of the outdoors.
Many tents are specifically designed to withstand the wet spring through the cool fall, which are deemed as 3-season shelters. If you want to venture into the snowy slopes in January, you may need to invest in a 4-season tent.
Are you the kind of person who fumbles with the mere concept of do-it-yourself, or do you construct IKEA furniture with your eyes closed?
Different tents require varying levels of effort and skill to pitch. Typically, you have either a free-standing tent with a pole structure that maintains the architecture, or you have a supported tent which requires a little extra rigging.
There are a few sub-categories involved, but we’ll get into those later. For now, think about how easy you want your tent setup to be.
Then comes tent security. No, not like the secret service; your personal security. Is the material durable? Will the tent protect you from the weather? Will you be carried away with the wind like a kite into the alpine canopy?
Make sure you and your loved ones are safe and secure in the outdoors, and that your tent itself has a long, happy life.
$$ - Price
Another day, another dollar. Sure, you could empty your bank account on a high-end tent. Hell, if you have enough money you can probably hire a few people to form a human dome around you on the campsite.
But, cost alone is not the best indicator for overall quality. Weigh your options carefully, and really focus on the price-to-performance ratio of each tent.
The Best Camping Tents of 2018
This is the moment you have all been waiting for...it’s time to dole out the coveted Tentys. We’ll lay out some important features of each winner, and even give out some honorable mentions.
Best All-Around Tent: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2
29 sqft floor area, 40” ceiling height, 3 lb. 1 oz. packed weight
3-season, double-walled tent with excellent ventilation and weather protection
“X” design with cross-bar for maximal interior space allows for ten-minute pitch
Durable nylon and polyester materials, although floor is prone to tearing without footprint
Taking the top Tenty honor is the spacious Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2.
The high volume (HV) shelter boasts near-vertical sidewalls with it’s cross-bar design without sacrificing ultralight (UL) capabilities. Whether you want to relax in at the campsite or trek into the backcountry, the Copper Spur will protect you from the elements throughout your outdoor adventures.
Big Agnes claims their proprietary patterned double ripstop nylon fabric makes the tent more durable than it’s counterparts. Based on feedback from our campers, they seem to have a point.
Six years of regular use backpacking, bike camping, and car camping and it still works like the day I bought it.
On top of the long lifespan, the large vestibules and spacious interior pockets will give plenty of room to store your gear (and your camping memories).
Best Budget Tent: Coleman Sundome
2-Person (7’ x 5’), 4-Person (9’ x 7’), 6-Person (10’ x 10’)
3-season tent with limited weather protection
“X” design under ten-minutes
Polyester materials are well-manufactured, but not top-tier
2P: $37, 4P: $49, 6P: $76
If you don’t want to break the bank on an expensive tent, your best option is the Coleman Sundome.
Coming in 2-,4-, and 6-person sizes, the Sundome offers a spacious interior without sacrificing the Coleman-brand quality. Although, you may want to stick to the campsite with this bargain shelter, as opposed to backpacking deep into the wilderness.
The materials may be made of polyester, but the patented welded floors reinforce the sames while keeping the tent from leaking at the ground level by plugging the needle holes in the stitching.
With an easy setup and great ventilation, the Sundome will brighten any campsite outing.
Best Family Car Camping Tent: REI Co-op Kingdom 6
10’ x 8’4”
3-season tent with excellent weather protection
Two hubbed pole assemblies allow for simple setup that creates two rooms
Durable nylon and polyester material that comes factory-sealed
Get some quality family time away from all the screens in the REI Co-op Kingdom 6. The large, rectangle floor plan in conjunction with the 75” max center height will make you feel like your living in one of those tiny houses, not a tent. There's even a room divider, giving you and your partner a little privacy while the kids take the other half.
Don’t forget about the factory-sealed waterproof rainfly, bug nets, stargazing abilities, and all-around livability!
Perhaps the most interesting feature of this tent is the “garage” (which is sold separately). The extra awning gives you plenty of space to store your gear, cook in the rain, or simply relax in the open air. Turn your outdoor oasis into a true castle with the Kingdom 6.
Best Romantic Tent: MSR Hubba Hubba NX
29 sq ft floor area, 39” center height, 3 lbs. 13 oz.
3-season tent with excellent weather protection
Easy pitch with one bungeed “DAC Featherlite NFL” support
Open mesh ideal for star gazing, yet structure can be flimsy in high winds
Lay on your back and gaze into the twinkling stars of space with the MSR Hubba Hubba NX.
With its unique symmetrical design and relatively low weight, the Hubba Hubba has the versatility for a secluded getaway in the dense thicket surrounded by nothing but nature, or simply a safe rest steps away from your vehicle.
MSR boasts about it’s weather technology with fancy names such as Durashield and StayDry. What it means for you is that the rainfly is factory coated and the doors specially treated to remain dry.
There’s plenty of ventilation with the abundance of mesh and kickstand fly vent. The high-quality nylon fabrics give the shelter a longer lifespan, so you and your partner can make the memories of a lifetime, and maybe a little Hubba Hubba.
Best Built-On Car Tent: Front Runner Feather-Lite Roof Top Tent
7'9" x 4'3"
3-season rooftop shelter with excellent warmth
Quick and simple pitch as it sits on roof rack
Durable Oxford materials and an elevated height will keep you safe outdoors
With an easy pop-out pitch, the Front Runner Feather-Lite Roof Top Tent stores on your SUV’s roof rack, leaving no limit to what you can explore.
Weighing 93 lbs., the Front Runner may seem like a bulky lean-to, but it’s the lightest car-mounted tent on the market. The Oxford 400D fabric is tough and durable, the Feather-Lite does not sacrifice moisture control with the heavier fabric, and there is plenty of ventilation with zip-up windows.
Although the tent is on the pricier side, if you and your loved one plan on venturing on a two-week road trip, compared to pricey hotel rooms, it pays for itself. Another bonus feature with the cost is a built-in, 2”-thick mattress.
All you need is a sleeping bag and a pillow, and you’ll be ready to be a road warrior.
Best Ultralight Backpacking Freestanding Shelter: Nemo Hornet Elite
27 sq ft, 1 lb. 12 oz.
Easy pitch with Y-Shaped with lightweight Featherlite DAC NFL supports
A combination of PeU, ripstop nylon, and silicone give the tent a unique durability
While the Hornet Elite snuck it’s way into this category (since it’s technically semi-freestanding), it’s one of the best backpacking shelters on the market.
Its Y-shaped structure doesn’t allow for much head room, but has plenty of floor area to fit you and your partner as you partake on an epic journey into the woods. At only 1 lb. 12 oz., your packs will be light enough to carry-on for a 20+ mile day on the trail.
NEMO has listened to their “hardcore minimalist” users, fine tuning every aspect of the tent to become lighter, yet without sacrificing durability or comfort. They have incorporated volumizing guyouts, which pull the tent’s canopy outwards when the fly is connected for more livable space. They even added “Light Pockets” so your headlamp can turn into a tentlamp.
Aside from merely sleeping under a tarp, it’s clear that the Hornet Elite is made for rough and rugged hikers, without having to rough it in the outdoors.
Best 4-season Tent: Hilleberg Jannu 2
92” x 47”, 7 lbs 1 oz
May be difficult to pitch in blizzard conditions, practice recommended
Top-of-the-line Kerlon 1200 fabric protects from harsh winter elements
Hillberg is an expert in mountaineering, and the Jannu 2 exemplifies their mastery. Although the interior may seem a little cramped compared to our other winners, this shelter is specifically designed since it’s hard to find enough flat ground in the mountains.
Per the Hilleberg website, the setup is tailored for knife-edge ridges and small ledges. Although that sounds dangerous, like one small gust could turn you into a rolling avalanche, Hillberg has engineered their tents to withstand the strongest of alpine winds.
Weighing in around 7 lbs., the Jannu 2 is light enough to trek into the Rockies, but strong enough to withstand an intense snowfall. But, even if you’re hiking in a lower, hotter elevation, there is a plenty of ventilation to keep you comfortable and satisfied with your journey. Although it may seem a little pricey, this shelter is the ultimate barrier between human comfort, and harsh nature.
Best Instant Pitch: CORE 9 Person Instant Cabin Tent
14’ x 9’, 78” Center Height
3-season (but you shouldn’t use it if there is any) chance of freezing
Instant 60-sec pitch
Not ideal for harsh conditions, but still waterproof
Okay a one-minute setup may be promising a bit much, but CORE’s 9 Person Instant Cabin allows for an easy pitch at least.
The large interior (enough for two queen-sized air mattresses), room divider, and multitude of storage pockets will make it seem like your home away from home. It even comes with a built-in access port for an electrical cord so you can plug in all your electronics.
Like most large tents, this one does poorly in high winds due to its box shape, but unlike its competitors, it is surprisingly waterproof. Utilizing the “CORE H20 Block Technology,” you and your family will remain dry and comfortable at the campsite.
Thank you all for attending the 2018 Tenty Awards, it’s been a blast.
Congratulations to all the winners and honorable mentions, you’ve really outdone yourselves (why am I still talking to a tent?). Anyways, hopefully you’ve got a better idea of what’s trending in the industry and maybe, just maybe, I’ve motivated you enough to venture into the outdoors.
For all of us here at ICOC, we’d like to say to you, “Camp On!” (roll credits).
Jay toes the line between hiking enthusiast and vagabond as he treks across the world, soaking in it’s natural wonders. When he’s not exploring the trail, he writes articles to help guide others through their outdoor conquests.