Camping is more popular than ever and finding the right tent to suit your family needs is key to having a good camping experience. Whether you’re looking to pitch in a forest, campsite, farmer’s field, by the seaside or in your garden, we highlight what to look out for, how long each tent takes to set up and tents for different budgets. But first we begin with a guide to help you choose the right tent for you.
Essential features to look for in a family camping tent
Wherever possible, opt for a tent that has a darkened sleeping area, to ensure young children aren’t kept awake past bedtime by daylight and none of you are woken up at the crack of dawn by the early morning sun. It’s particularly important in summer but even when camping in winter, the dawn will be your alarm clock unless your tent’s sleeping compartment blocks out some light.
Conversely, you want to ensure that your living quarters are as light and airy as possible, to make your tent feel inviting and keep condensation at bay. Look out for large windows and additional vents on at least two sides of the tent. Just ensure there are blinds you can zip up to maintain privacy – you don’t want the whole campsite seeing into your tent.
Multiple rooms inside your family tent are also a massive bonus when you’re camping with kids, especially if you’re planning to put them bed before you turn in for the night. Families with very young children would benefit from a tent with two or more bedrooms side-by-side that are divided by fabric, which can be rolled up to soothe little one without having to get out of your sleeping bag or unzip a door. These types of bedrooms can often be customised by combining two or even three compartments into a larger bedroom.
Crawling in and out of tent is great fun for children but less so for their parents. Bending double to fit into your tent might be okay for a night or two but if you’re planning on camping for longer, invest in a tent that you can stand up inside. Your back will thank you for it.
There’s also nothing more irritating than being woken up by the sound of your fellow camper undoing a zipper to go to the loo. Quiet zips aren’t the most obvious thing to think about when shopping for a tent but believe us they make a huge difference at night, when the campsite is otherwise totally silent.
What’s more, a good sized built-in porch can transform your tent from so-so to superb. It’ll keep the entrance to your tent dry in a downpour and be used to store muddy wellies, clothes and toys that you don’t want to bring into your tent. Some are large enough to fit a table and chairs into, effectively giving you another room.
How much should I spend on a family tent?
Prices of family tents vary enormously – from £50 for a basic model that will sleep two adults and a child to around £2,000 for a sophisticated tent palace that a brood of eight could comfortably stay in for several weeks.
In between are tents of every size and shape to suit any budget but before you buy one, think about how much you’ll use it. Novice campers should consider buying an entry-level model that meets their space requirements to experience camping for a night or two, before committing to a more expensive tent.
If you’re a seasoned camper who hasn’t yet tried it with your children but reckon you’ll go away with your family for a week or more at a time, several times a year, it’s worth spending as much as you can afford on the best-quality tent for your budget. After all, a family of four would easily pay £700 to stay in a holiday cottage for a week so a decent six-berth tent that cost £600 would pay for itself on the second trip.
What size tent do I need?
The absolute minimum size you’ll need is enough floor space to allow all campers room to bed down – a four-person tent theoretically provides enough sleep space for four adults, but there are no standardised measurements so bigger or taller adults will likely feel squished.
Even if campers are small, opting for the minimum berth size won’t allow space for anything other than a sleeping bag per person as it doesn’t factor in luggage. You can stow your stuff in your car but if you prefer to keep some gear like your kids’ raincoats inside your tent, opt for one that has at least one extra berth than the number of campers, and ideally an extra berth for every two adults or three children.
This is particularly important on family camping holidays that last longer than a weekend. So two adult campers would be more comfortable in a three-person tent, two parents and three children in a seven-berth tent and so on.
Another consideration is the number and layout of bedrooms. These internal compartments are usually made from a light-blocking fabric and can often be modified , for example by rolling up fabric that divides two smaller rooms to turn it into a larger or master bedroom. These are great if you have young children who need to nap in the day, or children who don’t want to share a sleeping space with their siblings!
Unless the weather is guaranteed to be warm and sunny the entire time (sadly unlikely here in the UK), you’ll also need space inside your tent for eating, playing and socialising. Look out for tents that feature living rooms or covered porches large enough to hold a table that everyone can sit around, in case you find yourself dining ‘al tento’.
That said, don’t go large for the sake of it, else you may find yourself with a tent that needs to be put up by two adults, leaving your children unattended or so large, you’ll have to pay for two pitches. Instead, be savvy. Some tents have bedrooms that can be taken down to enlarge the communal spaces, transforming sleeping spaces into social places just by unzipping a length of fabric. Others have annexes that can be purchased separately and added when you need some extra space.
When it comes to pitching a tent, practice makes perfect so try to put your tent up at least once before you head off to your campsite. And if you’re camping with your little one for the first time, check out our article on camping with kids for top tips and our family camping checklist for all the essentials you’ll need.
Best tents for family camping including set-up times…
1. Quechua 4 Man Inflatable Blackout Tent – Air Seconds 4.2, £299.99
– Great value tent for small families
Weight: 17.9 kg | Sleeps: 4 | Pitch time: 2 minutes with two people and 2 hand pumps | Packed dimensions: 77x38x38cm | Pitched dimensions: 510x280x195cm
This quirky-looking tent is quick and easy to assemble and dismantle thanks to its all-in-one inflatable structure and pre-assembled bedrooms. Blow-up tubes curve under and over the sand-coloured outer fabric, lending it a futuristic feel and providing impressive wind resistance. Inflating the tubes only takes a minute with a decent hand pump, though you’ll need to buy one separately.
There’s no need to duck as you step inside the lofty living room – the ceiling height here is just under two metres – and openings at both ends keep it well ventilated. Either side of the communal space is a double bedroom lined with an effective blackout material, which is essential for summer camping if you don’t want to be woken up too early.
Other touches include built-in mosquito nets, storage pockets and a detachable groundsheet that can be removed for easy cleaning, which is impressive for a product that costs just under £300. Hardly surprising that it receives high praise from customers such as, “I had my doubts about inflatable tents but this is the best tent I have ever used or owned. Very easy to erect and take down, and can easily be done by one person. My tent has stood up to heavy rain and strong winds without any problems: All round, an excellent tent.”
Pros: very easy to erect and put down, tall ceiling in living space, highly resistant to wind and rain
Cons: narrow bedrooms
Available from: Decathlon
2. Hi-Gear Hampton 8 DLX Nightfall Tent, £449
– Best tent for large families
Weight: 29kg | Sleeps: 8 | Pitch time: 25 minutes |Packed dimensions: 76x47x44cm |Pitched dimensions: 730x380x207cm
With large windows positioned along the generously sized living area and porch, this competitively priced tent is a spacious and bright place to stay on your next family camping trip. Along with the two end bedrooms, there’s a third two-person bedroom pod in the middle section of the tent which can be taken down in the day to increase the living space or, for smaller families, used as storage, as one camper explains. “This is a great tent for our family of five – we use two of the bedrooms to sleep in and the third for our camping wardrobe and camping toilet.”
Thanks to the tunnel shape, there’s plenty of headroom to move around inside the tent as well as good ventilation. And at the front entrance, there’s a large covered porch which can easily hold a table and chairs, or provide shelter for wet and muddy things. Impressively, added extras include cable access points for electric hook-up.
The only downside is its weight and packed size. At 29kg, it’s hefty and comes in a two bags – one for the tent and the other for the poles and pegs – so takes up considerable space when stored away.
Pros: high ceiling, flexible accommodation
Cons: takes up a lot of space when packed away, bedrooms not completely dark
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3. Mountain Warehouse Pop-up single skin 2-man tent, £59.99
– Best tent for garden camping or an extra bedroom
Weight: 1.5kg | Sleeps: 2 | Pitch time: seconds | Packed dimensions: 73×2.5cm | Pitched dimensions: 210x120x95cm
This is a great little tent to purchase in addition to your main one – take it on family camping trips to use as an extra bedroom for older children who want some independence, or throw it up in the garden for an impromptu sleepover on a warm summer’s night. It couldn’t be easier to pitch – just remove from the bag and watch the flexible fiberglass poles unfurl, pulling the single layer of material into shape.
This tent ticks all the most important boxes: a sewn-in groundsheet and water-resistant finish to keep campers warm and dry inside, with a mesh door and vents to encourage airflow. Despite its diminutive size, the tent can comfortably sleep three younger children or two teens, and the bright colours (it comes in teal and orange) make it easy to spot on a crowded campsite – so it’s also a good choice for taking to festivals.
The only drawback is putting it away can take some practice, as one customer explains: “I’ve never had a pop-up tent before so struggled to pack it away the first time but once you know how to fold it back up, it’s easy”.
Pros: pops up, lightweight, packs small
Cons: unsuitable for use in cold, very wet or windy weather, unsuitable for taller teens
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4. Easy Camp Quasar 300 Teal Green, £92.99
– Best tent for first time campers
Weight: 3.6kg | Sleeps: 3 | Pitch time: 10 minutes | Packed dimensions: 64x18cm | Pitched dimensions: 300x120x180cm
If you’ve never camped before and you’re not sure how you or your family will take to it, this entry-level tent is an inexpensive way to find out. Easy Camp is popular with festival-goers looking for decent quality tents in classic designs at wallet-friendly prices. This three-berth dome-shaped pod is all those things and can comfortably sleep a couple and baby or small child or an adult and two children, making it a great choice for a single-parent camping trip.
There are five steps to setting up the Quasar 300, which involves assembling poles and tying them into position to construct the inner tent before setting up the flysheet. There’s nothing to inflate – this is old-school tent pitching, which can be part of the fun – and instructions are written rather than illustrated so it’s worth practicing before you get to the campsite, especially if your children aren’t old enough to help out.
The dome shape lends itself to having an adult sleep in the middle where the tent is tallest, with a child on either side. And while there is no separate bedroom, the inner tent has darkened walls and ceiling to cut out some light. Other features include a large protected porch for storing bags and muddy wellies, an organiser pocket and a hanging point for an electric lantern. Not at all bad for under £100.
Pros: Portable, protected porch, affordable
Cons: No separate bedroom, basic ventilation
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5. Coleman Octagon BlackOut, £300
– Best tent for glamping
Weight: 20.6 kg| Sleeps: 8 | Pitch time: 15 minutes | Packed dimensions: 85x32x28 cm | Pitched dimensions: 208x396x396cm
The Octagon’s distinctive yurt-like shape, 360° mesh windows and rigid hinged door have made it a hugely popular glamping tent since its launch in 2016. Upgraded for 2020, this new version features Coleman’s patent-pending fabric that claims to block out 99 per cent of daylight and modify the inside temperature, making it easier to put the children to bed while it’s still light and help you all sleep for longer in the morning.
With a decent ceiling height (147cm) and cavernous inside space (15.7 metres squared), this tent has room for eight single sleeping bags on the built-in groundsheet – though they’ll take up all the floor space. Alternatively, on weekends away without the kids, it can be set up as a luxury glamping bedroom, complete with double blow-up mattress and fairy lights.
In the day, with bedding stowed out the way and blinds open, the tent becomes a light and airy living space, offering views from all eight sides so you can make the most of the scenery. There’s further uses: back home, pitch the Octagon without the flysheet in your garden to create a bug-proof screened outdoor room that’s the perfect place to enjoy a BBQ.
Pros: unusual shape maximizes light and space, multiple uses, conventional front door
Cons: no separate sleeping compartment, no storage pockets
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6. Outwell Knightdale 7PA, £1,249.99
– Best tent for families with siblings who need their space
Weight: 30.1kg | Sleeps: 7 | Pitch time: 10 to 20 minutes | Packed dimensions: 100x46x46cm| Pitched dimensions: 745x220x390cm
Persuading your teenager to come on your next family camping holiday will be easy if you’re staying in this swanky pad, which boasts a separate third bedroom away from the main sleeping quarters at the back of the tent, giving your teen a sense of independence from the rest of your family. And if your teen decides to stay at home, the third bedroom can be removed, enlarging the communal living space.
If you’ve got two people, set up is a mere 15 minutes thanks to a colour-coded pegging system that prevents pitching errors, pre-shaped airtubes (inflatable tent poles) and an inner tent and flysheet (the tent’s waterproof cover) that pitch together. Take-down is also simple using easy-to-access deflate valves.
There are tinted windows for privacy, a cable entry point to allow electricity into the tent (vital for charging your devices) and a HookTrack system that allows you to position lights and other items that need to be hung up wherever you need them.
A favourite innovation is the Quick & Quiet entry system found on the main bedrooms doors. Magnets within the fabric soundlessly pull apart then clip back together, keeping the bedroom in silence and darkness – and your fellow campers happily asleep.
Pros: optional third bedroom, tinted windows with curtains for privacy, quiet access/exit via bedroom doors
Cons: Takes at least two people to erect, expensive
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7. Vango Stargrove II 600XL, £500
– Best tent for mid-size families on a budget
Weight: 23kg | Sleeps: 6 | Pitch time: 25 minutes | Packed dimensions: 80x38x38cm | Pitched dimensions: 700x380x210
Proving that you can get a reliable tent with sensible plenty of living space, sleeping space and storage for a sensible sum, the Vango Stargrove 600XL 6-berth tent is the perfect choice for families of four or five. It’s particularly suitable for families with prams or wheelchairs as it has drop-down doors and an adaptable doorstep that can be dropped to ground level so there’s no need to step over the entrance.
It has three adjacent double bedrooms separated by toggled inner dividers so you can customize your sleep space, creating a larger room for parents and a travel cot with a second for an older child, or merging two into a master bedroom and turning the third into a playroom or storage space. The bedrooms also feature a wider than usual opening and step-free access, allowing for easier entry.
When the inevitable rain falls, the tent is an appealing place to stay, with large windows that allow light into the enormous living room (at night they can covered by the roll-away toggled curtains), mesh doors and ventilation panels to encourage airflow and a fully sewn-in groundsheet to keep draughts and bugs at bay.
Pros: step-free access into tent and bedrooms, tall ceiling, value for money
Cons: side door lacks weather protection
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8. MSR Habitude 6, £518.50
– Best tent for adventurous families
Weight: 6.08 kg | Sleeps: 6 | Pitch time: 10 minutes | Packed dimensions: 58 x 25 cm | Pitched dimensions: 305x254cmx195cm
For families who love outdoor adventure and relish camping off the beaten track, the Habitude 6 family and group tent is the dream. It’s light enough to carry into the wildest camping spot, strong enough to withstand the rigors of children and the elements, and large enough to let a family of four move around comfortably (though technically it can sleep six adults).
The six-berth tent can be erected by one adult, leaving the other one free to take the children to forage for firewood or explore the surroundings. The inner dome-style tent is a single room with vertical sidewalls to maximise the headroom (195cm at its peak) so everyone can move around comfortably and stand up to get changed.
The full-coverage fly sheet provides watertight protection over the entire tent and creates an impressively large porch area that’s 122cm deep and perfect for storing wet or muddy adventure gear and bags.
The inner room is partly made from mesh, for essential ventilation, and features multiple storage pockets close to the floor at sleeping-bag level and on the ceiling, plus extra hang loops so you’ll have your stuff close to hand overnight. When you’re ready to move on, the tent and its poles fold away easily into the oversized carry bag, all set for the next adventure.
Pros: easy for one person to pitch, strong and durable fabric, lightweight
Cons: single bedroom, no groundsheet under porch
9. Kampa Dometic Kielder 5 Air Tent, £750
– Best tent for growing families
Weight: 27.8kg | Sleeps: 5 | Pitch time: 20 minutes | Packed dimensions: 69x41x41cm| Pitched dimensions: 580x345x210cm
The clear ceiling panels and full-size front entrance flood the living areas of the Kielder 5 Air with natural light, while step-free access makes wheeling buggies into the tent a breeze and keeping trips and stumbles to a minimum. Keeping an eye on older children playing outside is easy from the enormous porch that can hold plenty of camping furniture.
Although the conservatory-like construction means the tent can get warm inside, a mesh side door provides bug-free ventilation to keep the inside cool, and blinds stowed in easy-store pockets beneath the windows can be used for shade or privacy. Darker material is used at the rear of the tent, limiting the amount of daylight that reaches the sleeping pods.
Inside are two bedrooms with a toggled divider for flexible sleeping arrangements, allowing parents to sleep with their little ones until children are old enough to transition into their own room, plus tent organiser pockets and cable entry points for hooking up a lamp or charger.
Despite the Kielder’s impressive size, it can be put up by one adult, as this customer discovered, “I’ve just got back from a camping trip with my two children and managed to put the tent up on my own with no problems. It’s really roomy, light and airy with all the windows, plus the mesh side door helps to keep the tent cool.”
Pros: very light and spacious, no-step access into the tent, lots of standing space
Cons: bedrooms aren’t totally dark, can get too warm without doors open
Available from: Winfields Outdoors
10. LittleLife Family Beach Shelter, from £40
– Best tent for days out on the beach
Weight: 2.5kg | Sleeps: small children for naps only | Pitch time: Five minutes | Packed Dimensions: 53x15x15cm | Pitched Dimensions: 170x170x110cm
While some beach ‘tents’ are actually three-sided windbreakers with a roof, this sturdy product offers privacy and 360-degree protection from the elements thanks to the inclusion of a zip-up door. This makes it ideal for seaside visits as you can use it as a changing room, nap space for babies and toddlers, and a picnic spot when the weather turns chilly.
Made from durable UPF 50+ fabric that protects from the sun’s rays and supported by strong fiberglass poles, the tent features exterior sand pockets that you can fill to give it extra stability on windy days. It’s also roomy – “it can easily fit a family of four inside with the zip closed”, says one customer. Another describes it as “perfect”, saying, “it provides shelter from the sun and wind for our little one and there is enough room and height to [breast]feed in comfort.”
When you’re ready to head home, the tent packs down into a small case with straps so you can easily carry it away or stow it under a pushchair.
Pros: high sun protection, sturdy, spacious
Cons: tricky to erect – tent poles can be fiddly to put together
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About the author
Gabrielle Nathan has been working as a journalist for nearly 20 years, on publications including GQ, Red, Women’s Health and Tatler. She began writing about parenting and family travel while pregnant with her first child in 2012 and joined the MFM ranks in 2014.
She lives in London with her husband and three children but can often be found camping in greener and quieter parts of the UK. After a few mishaps (think leaky tent and punctured air mattress) she’s becoming an expert on all the essentials you need for a successful family camping trip.