Sleeping under canvas is a childhood rite of passage, and the best family tents can make all the difference to a camping trip – especially if the weather isn’t on your side. Wherever you end up camping, you’ll need somewhere roomy, waterproof and comfortable both to sleep and hang out in, come rain or shine.
In this article, we’ve selected an excellent line-up of the best family-sized tents on the market, and have included options to suit any budget. There are also some rather posh tents in the mix, for anyone who fancies a bit of glamping.
Before we pitch you our favourite tents, though, you’ll find a handy buying guide covering what you need to know before buying a brand-new family tent.
READ NEXT: The best hiking boots for men and women
Best family tents: At a glance
How to choose the best family tent for you
What features do I need?
Multiple bedrooms are an excellent idea in a family tent, especially if you have teenagers. Some tents also use blackout material to line bedrooms, keeping them cooler and darker and ensuring a better night’s sleep. Standing room is essential for sorting out the myriad bits of gear involved with camping with children, and a spacious living area will give you somewhere to hang out and play games on rainy days. A porch or anteroom is also useful for popping muddy boots in.
Look for a sturdy, sewn-in groundsheet with a coated nylon floor to keep you warm and dry, a waterproof rain fly (this is the outer layer of the tent) and plenty of guy ropes for stability. We like airy tents with plenty of windows and multiple doors – these stop your portable home from feeling claustrophobic. And the more loops, hooks and pockets in the tent’s interior the better, for hanging up lanterns or stashing belongings.
What size is best?
Tents are sized by the number of adults they can feasibly sleep (two-man, four-man, six-man). The usual rule of thumb for tent sizes is that if you half that number, you’ll get the number of adults the tent will actually sleep in relative comfort – especially if you’re off for a long camping holiday.
Two adults and two or three children will usually find a six-man tent the best fit, with lots of spare space for bags, clothing and other bits and pieces.
The larger the tent the heavier it tends to be, of course, and the longer it’ll usually take to put together. If you’re hopping around lots of different campsites on your holiday then those factors are definitely worth taking into consideration, but if you’re just headed to one campsite and your car has a roomy boot, it’s worth going as big as you can afford – you’ll only have to pitch it once, after all.
The pitch times suggested by manufacturers are usually optimistic, so expect a bit of trial and error the first time you erect your new canvas palace. If you aren’t sure how big you want to go, it’s definitely worth borrowing a few models from family friends to test out first, and we recommend having a go at pitching your new tent in the garden before a big trip to check everything is in working order.
READ NEXT: The best waterproof jackets
The best family tents you can buy
1. Skandika Montana 8: The best budget multi-room tent
Price: £335 | Buy now from Amazon
For large families working to a budget, there’s no better multi-room tent than the Skandika Montana 8. It can sleep up to eight people, as its name suggests, and offers heaps of room for standing, sleeping and relaxing. This massive tent can be divided into two rooms or as many as four, which is perfect for families as well as for groups of friends who want to share. There are three doors, which means you can avoid disturbing the slumber and privacy of others if you need to pop out in the middle of the night.
There’s plenty of standing room, and more than enough space in the central area to fit a table and chairs. As you’d expect from any decent tent, the Montana 8 has sealed seams, a fully waterproof top sheet that’s also flame-retardant and built-in mosquito nets. Handily, it even comes with its own repair kit. It’s a shame that Skandika doesn’t include a sewn-in groundsheet for the living area, but you do have the option to buy one as an add-on.
Specs – Man size: 8; Standing room? Yes; Bedrooms: 4; Pitch time: 30 minutes; Weight: 25.8kg; Waterproofing: 5,000mm
2. MSR Elixir 4: The best tent for wild camping
Price: £352 | Buy now from Outdoor Gear
You may recognise MSR from wild camping photos, as the brand is best known for its super-light, portable backpacking tents. That doesn’t mean it can’t do family-sized dwelling brilliantly too, though. The Elixir is roomy enough to sleep a family of three in comfort – or a family of four if your offspring are smaller.
Deliciously light at just 4.25kg, quick to erect and well made, the Elixir has plenty of space for everyone to stretch out in the main room, plus a roomy porch for storing wet kit and muddy boots. If you fancy taking the family wild camping or backpacking and don’t want to lug a heavy tent, this is the model to pick. If you’re just camping out of your car boot, you could get away with packing something bigger and heavier.
Specs – Man size: 4; Standing room? No; Bedrooms: None; Pitch time: 10 minutes; Weight: 4.25kg; Waterproofing: 1,500mm
Buy now from Outdoor Gear