How To Choose a Tent for Camping


Tucker Ballister

Favorite Trip

5 Months Solo on the Road

Home Base

Hendersonville, NC

Favorite RV

2008 Fleetwood Bounder

About Contributor

Tucker Ballister is our Technical Content Writer. He’s a lover of the open road and the proud owner of a 2021 Sunlite Classic travel trailer (his 3rd RV to date). Check out more of his RV adventures, gear reviews, and outdoor advice at

When most people picture camping, they see a wooded area with leaves on the ground and a roaring fire alongside a cozy tent. With the emergence of glamping, times have certainly changed, but there’s a place for tent camping today. No matter where you plan to set it up, your journey begins by understanding how to choose a tent, and it’ll be aided by our favorite Camping World tents below.

Many still prefer the more rugged setting of camping in the woods with a tent and sleeping bag. Backpacking is popular for camping tents, although these differ slightly from your average camping tent. Let’s also not forget about tent camping at the RV park. Most of my childhood memories at the campsite involved sleeping in a tent with my friends while the adults stayed in the RV.

The Best Camping Tents For Different Uses

Camping tents near lake
Photo by Getty Images

No matter what type of camping you’re doing, let’s review everything you need to know, from size and quality to our best Camping World tents for any occasion.

Best Couples Camping Tent: Camper’s Choice 3-Person Tent

Green Camper's Choice couples tent
Photo by Camping World

The Camper’s Choice is one of the most affordable Camping World tents for novice camping couples. It features a rainfly to keep the interior dry, and it has lightweight fiberglass poles that are easy to set up and take down. The mesh walls let in cool air, and the large entry door allows quick and easy inside access. 

CapacityWeight (lbs.)Rainfly (Y/N)Pole ConstructionTent Fabric

Best Tent for Car Camping: Venture Forward 5-Person Cabin Tent

Venture Forward car camping tent
Photo by Camping World

The Venture Forward Cabin Tent is one of our must-have Camping World tents for car camping. The vertical walls provide enough headroom for even the tallest campers, allowing most to stand inside comfortably. The seams are taped for maximum water resistance, and the x-frame design makes for a fast and easy setup. 

CapacityWeight (lbs.)Rainfly (Y/N)Pole ConstructionTent Fabric
5-Person18.6YSteel and FiberglassPolyester 

Best Family Tent: North Shore 8-Person Cabin Tent

Venture Forward family tent
Photo by Camping World

The North Shore Cabin Tent is one of the most spacious and comfortable Camping World tents for the whole family. The included rainfly and taped seams ensure you stay dry in inclement weather. It also has plenty of windows and a screened-in porch for ventilation when the weather is nice. When it’s time to get some shuteye, you’ll be happily secluded in your own section thanks to the built-in dividers. 

CapacityWeight (lbs.)Rainfly (Y/N)Pole ConstructionTent Fabric
8-Person36YSteel and FiberglassPolyester 

How Do I Know What Tent to Buy?

Learning how to choose a tent can be overwhelming. Many things must be considered to ensure the right fit, such as size, season, material, and durability. Let’s review in more detail.

Should I Buy a Bigger Tent?

Family sitting in tent
Photo by Camping World

A larger tent generally offers more headroom, elbow room, and space for your gear. However, with more space, you have trade-offs such as increased weight, larger pack size, and a more challenging setup.

Most manufacturers refer to tent sizes by the number of people they can sleep (i.e., one-person, two-person, etc.). However, we recommend sizing up one size for added comfort, as most manufacturers’ ratings are on the smaller side. 

You can also determine your ideal tent size by dividing the interior square footage by the number of people sleeping inside. This estimates how much space each person will have.

Remember that you may need extra room in one of our Camping World tents for backpacks, lanterns, and other camp tools. If you’re camping with kids, a tent with a divider is especially nice. It allows you to separate your sleeping space from the kids for more privacy and a better night’s sleep. 

Vestibule Space

Camping tent light up at night
Photo by Getty Images

A vestibule is the covered space outside the tent’s main body. Some tents have one or multiple vestibules that can protect shoes, backpacks, and other gear from overnight weather. 

Vestibules keep your gear covered without it taking up valuable space inside your tent. If you’re backpacking, vestibule space for your pack is essential. Vestibule space is less important for car and RV camping because you can store excess gear in your vehicle overnight. 


Small camping tent in woods with couple
Photo by Camping World

Camping tents are primarily designed for sleeping. But if you get stuck inside on a rainy day, having more headroom increases comfort. Regarding headroom, there are two tent shapes to consider: cabin-style and dome-style.

  • Cabin-style tents offer the most headroom and overall living space. They generally feature vertical walls; some offer room dividers to accommodate multiple private sleeping areas.  
  • Dome-style tents offer more durability and wind resistance. Some are still quite tall in the center, but the walls slope away to help with wind shedding, decreasing the living space inside. 

Cabin-style Camping World tents are better for family camping because of their expandable living spaces. But dome-style tents are recommended if you’ll be camping in less-than-ideal weather conditions.  

What Waterproof Rating Should a Tent Be?

Water drops on the tent
Photo by Getty Images

A tent’s weather resistance has much to do with the rainfly construction. A tent with a rainfly is essential if you’re camping with any possibility of inclement weather. You can always remove the rainfly if you’re camping in nice weather and want to enjoy stargazing once you lie down. 

You’ll typically find tents with a full-coverage or roof-only rainfly. Full-coverage rainflys provide maximum protection from wind and rain and some additional insulation.

Roof-only rainflies offer some rain protection but are designed for fair-weather camping. 

Another feature to look for when choosing a weather-resistant tent is the construction of the tent’s seams. Tent seams are the most likely locations for leaks to develop. Tents with sealed or taped seams offer more leak protection than those without. 

Some tent manufacturers finish their fabrics with a durable water-repellent coating. This provides additional weatherproofing if you tend to camp in areas with a higher likelihood of precipitation. 

You can also determine whether tent manufacturers have labeled their tents for 3-season, 3-4 season, or 4-season use. 

  • 3-season tents are made for spring, summer, and fall. They offer privacy and shelter from bugs and mild weather. 
  • 3-4 season tents are suitable for early spring through late fall. They are generally sturdier and warmer than 3-season tents. 
  • 4-season tents are primarily designed for inhospitable winter weather, including high winds, colder temperatures, and substantial snow loads. They usually feature rounded dome roofs to eliminate the possibility of snow collection and guy lines to provide added wind resistance. Because they are warmer than three-season models, a four-season tent is usually not well suited for summer use.

For most campers, a three-season tent will do the trick. But once you gain experience and want to avoid crowds in early spring, late fall, or winter, you may need to upgrade to a more weather-resistant camping tent. 

Is It Warmer to Sleep in a Tent or Car?

Camping bonfire, tourist tent and car in the forest
Photo by Getty Images

I spent many cold nights lying in my tent, wondering if it would be warmer in my car. This is a very common question regarding tent and car camping. The answer is not as straightforward as you think. 

Yes, car camping is typically warmer than tent camping. However, this is only true for the first few hours or so. This is because your car has more insulation and does a better job of trapping heat. Once your car has been sitting long enough and you have opened the door a few times, it will likely be at or slightly above the temperature inside a tent.

However, tent camping has other benefits. Generally speaking, you’ll have more space to stretch out and roll around in a tent than in a vehicle. You’ll also typically have a flatter surface to sleep on as most cars, even if the seats lay flat, are not completely level. 

Unlike car camping, you also have many more choices for placing your tent. Some parks can even restrict car camping. 

We can say for sure that RV camping is warmer than tent camping and car camping. That’s because most modern RVs have a gas, electric, or hydronic heating system.

How Can You Tell If a Tent is a Good Quality?

Close up photo of zipper on tent
Photo by Camping World

The most common camping tent fabrics are nylon, polyester, and cotton canvas. However, different fabrics can be used for various tent components, such as the body, the floor, and the rainfly. 

When it comes to evaluating tent materials, most manufacturers use denier count to denote the thickness of the individual fiber threads or filaments used to create the fabric. Tents with higher-denier fabrics generally offer more durability than tents with lower-denier fabrics. 

Additionally, most camping tents have mesh panels that provide ventilation, which is critical when camping in hot climates. No-see-um mesh is a variety with thinner holes that restrict the entry of smaller pesky flying insects. 

A tent with larger mesh panels will provide more ventilation to prevent condensation inside the tent. Larger mesh panels will also offer better views from the tent when you open a vestibule. 

Pole Construction

Poles are another critical component of a tent’s construction. Tent poles often determine how difficult it is to set up a tent and play a role in its durability. You’ll most commonly find tent poles made of aluminum or fiberglass, but some tents offer poles made of carbon fiber, steel, or composite materials. 

Aluminum tent poles are stronger and more durable than fiberglass. They are common in lightweight backpacking tents. 

Fiberglass tent poles are common in the most affordable car camping and cabin-style tents. They are heavier and fairly flexible but more likely to crack or split when stressed.

Carbon fiber tent poles are stronger and lighter than aluminum. But they are more expensive, which makes them less common in family camping tents and more common in backpacking or mountaineering tents.

Steel tent poles are heavy but strong, rigid, and cost-effective. They are generally found on heavy cabin-style or tunnel canvas tents. 

Composite tent poles are more flexible than aluminum. They flex under stress without breaking and can return to their original shape. In terms of weight and price, composite poles are comparable to aluminum poles. 

While less common, there are also inflatable camping tents. These tents utilize air beams to retain their structure and come with an air pump for easier inflation during setup and breakdown.   

What are the Tent’s Interior Features?

interior pockets inside tent
Photo by Camping World

Interior features like room dividers go a long way when camping with multiple people in one large tent. But other features, such as interior loops, phone storage pockets, and the number of doors, improve your tent camping experience as well. 

The number of doors is a feature that often gets overlooked. But if you’re sleeping in a large tent with a single door, multiple people could climb over you when nature calls in the middle of the night. In that case, having multiple doors is the difference between a rejuvenating rest and waking up groggy and sore. 

In addition, storage pockets, loops for clipping carabiners, and a loft to store gear will help you keep your tent organized during your camping trip. Especially after the first night, phones, keys, and other small items can easily get lost amidst the sea of sleeping bags in family tents. Organizing these items in their dedicated pockets will make camp life much easier. 

How To Put Up a Tent

Man setting up tent
Photo by Camping World

To put up a tent, you must first understand the differences between freestanding and non-freestanding tents. Freestanding tents will generally support their own structure whether or not you install the tent stakes. 

Nonfreestanding tents require the stakes to be secured in the ground to keep the corners taut and provide the structure for the tent poles. There are various standard and proprietary tent pole designs out there, but most manufacturers categorize their tents as freestanding or not. 

If you’re new to tent camping, freestanding tents are the easiest to set up and break down. If you have enough inside the tent and it’s a relatively windless day, you may also get away without securing the tent stakes, which saves you a step in setup and breakdown. 

Once you set up a freestanding tent, you can also move it to your ideal location before packing your sleeping bag and camping pillow. However, nonfreestanding tents are more popular for experienced backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts because they are generally lighter and more compact for carrying long distances. Some of them use trekking poles to support an even more compact footprint.

What Tent Accessories Do You Need?

Some camping tents include additional accessories, but some do not. Here’s a short list of tent accessories to look for when you’re shopping for camping tents: 

  • Tent footprint/ground cloth: Goes under your tent to protect the tent floor and provide additional moisture protection. 
  • Extra stakes/anchors: Different campsites may require more heavy-duty stakes or tent anchors than others. 
  • Tent repair kit: Stay prepared for broken tent poles, torn mesh, and other potential tent maintenance needs. 
  • Indoor-outdoor floor mat: Gives you a place to wipe your feet and leave shoes to minimize tracking dust and dirt inside the tent. 
  • Seam sealer: Reseal your tent seams if you start to notice leakage. 

Rechargeable fan: Keep cool when camping in hot weather.  

Are You Ready to Upgrade from a Tent to an RV?

Family shopping for new RV
Photo by Camping World

If you’re new to camping, starting with a tent is a good idea. It allows you to explore sleeping outdoors and exploring nature while saving money and enjoying a comfortable place to sleep at night. 

But a natural progression leads many tent campers to upgrade to an RV. How do you know when you’re ready to make that jump?

Here are a few reasons to consider shopping for a new or used RV: 

  • You’re tired of sleeping on an air mattress or thin camping pad.
  • You’re tired of packing up a wet tent in the morning.
  • You’re tired of unpredictable water pressure at campground showers. 
  • You’re sick of the questionable sanitation of campground bathroom facilities.  
  • You want a weatherproof cooking space
  • You want added protection from wildlife and the elements. 
  • You want a climate-controlled space for four-season camping.
  • You want the ability to tune into your favorite movies or shows on rainy days. 

If you’re ready to make the transition, here are some useful buying tips to find your perfect RV: 

What do you look for in a camping tent? Share your experience in the comments below!

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