Buying your family tent should always be a well-thought and well-planned process. Having in mind that obtaining a home under the stars could cost you as much as buying a vocational estate, every detail about the functionality and your family’s needs should be considered.
What to be aware of when choosing a family tent? Choosing a family tent means putting comfort and reliability first. When we say comfort we have in mind a few factors:
1. The size of the tent
- Size of the tent’s vestibule
- Size of the sleeping premises
- The height of the tent.
2. Design of the tent
- Number and location of the entrances;
- Number and location of the sleeping premises;
- Windows and air vents;
- Extras – organizers, insect nets, cables hole, pockets, stands, lamps, and lantern hooks, etc.
3. Tent shape and frame structure
- Shape – dome, tunnel, hybrid, tipi, pavilion
- Rakes – fiberglass, steel, inflatable, aluminum;
4. The materials used for the tent’s fabrics
- Cloth material – polyester, polycotton and other;
- Water resistance rating
5. Size and technique for the tent set up
- Weight of the family tent;
- Size of the tent when folded;
- Size of the tent unfolded;
- Technique of set up;
Now let us review each of these factors in great detail so that by the end of reading this guide, you’ll know what type of tents and tent features there are and which one is right for you and your family.
1. What size tent do I need?
When choosing a family tent, one of the main questions is “What size should I get?”.
Shorter camping time – 2-3 days
For shorter camping, during the weekend, for example, you can go for smaller sizes, which have fewer features and extras but are lighter and easier to set up. And they are cheaper as well!
We assume that when you’re about to camp for one or two nights out, you could compromise on the extra comfort of a bigger, more expensive tent.
Longer camping time – more than a week
If, on the other hand, you’re about to go camping for a week or even longer, then it is preferable to go for a bigger ‘home’ below the stars which come with more extras at the ‘price’ of bigger weight and size.
Big family tents have lots of advantages – stability, enough space to bring all your equipment inside – kayaks, bikes etc.
Disadvantages of a bigger family tent
Let’s see what they are:
- They are heavy and big in size, making transportation harder. Take in mind the amount of space you have in your vehicle as well as consider your physical strength when it comes to the setting up of the tent;
- They take considerably longer to set up and require at least two people. If you have little kids which have to be constantly watched after, setting up the tent with your partner might turn out to be a hefty task;
- Having a bigger sized tent would mean you plan to bring more equipment for it, which in its turn requires more time packing, unpacking and transporting all that stuff;
More stuff, less time for fun.
- In some campgrounds, there are area limits to the width and length of your tent. So if you’re planning to bring a big family tent plus a sight for eating with an additional pavilion, then having a smaller tent might be better. Check the campground’s limitations before going camping.
We advise you to create a comparison table for the family tents you’ve chosen. This way, you’ll be able to decide what extras you need. The biggest tent is not always the best choice. Choose the tent considering your usual camping destination and according to the length of your stay. Think of your family tent as your little cozy home under the stars.
Classic dimensions for a four-man tent are as follows:
- Around 450 cm (177 inches) in length and 250 cm (98 inches) in width;
- Sleeping premises are with size 120 cm (47 inches) width and 205 cm (80 inches) length;
The shape and design of the family tent’s vestibule are what usually separates the different family tents. It can be rectangular or trapezoid depending on the shape and number of entrances.
In order to put all the explanations above into practical examples, we’ll compare a few of the most commonly used four-man tents:
- The Tornado 400 by EasyCamp
- The Outwell Nevada 4
- The Huntsville 400 by Easy Camp
- The Galileo 5 by Coleman
- The Coleman Octagon 8
All of these are four-man family tents, except the Cortes Octagon 8, which is designed to hold eight people and its construction and design are totally different compared to a standard family tent.
The smallest in size is the Tornado 400 by Easy Comp. Its main features are as follows:
- Its length is 350cm (137 inches) and its width – 260cm (102 inches);
- It has two sleeping premises with the same size – 120cm (137 inches) width by 210cm (82 inches) length which are separated by a removable curtain;
- The vestibule has a length of 130cm (51 inches);
- The tent comes with inflatable poles;
- Its weight is 9 kilograms (19lb).
It is a perfect tent for a family weekend in the outdoors – it is easily set up even by one person and can accommodate up to four people.
When it comes to size, three of the other tents we are about to inspect can be placed in the same category – the Easy camp Huntsville 400 (470cm x 260cm), the Coleman Galileo 4 (420 x 260cm) ad the Coleman Ridgeline 4 Plus (460 x 230cm).
A 400cm width and 250cm length is a standard size for a 4-man family tent and is suitable for any camping grounds. What separates those three tents is the design and structure. We will get into more details about that later in our guide.
Outwell Nevada 4 is a higher class four-person tent. It has a bigger vestibule (260cm) with a higher height (200cm) which explains the longer length of 485cm. The size of the two sleeping premises is standard – one is 140cm in width, the other – 120cm and both are 215cm long.
The Cortes Octagon 8 isn’t the typical family tent. It can be classified as a glamping camping tent – the modern luxury trend in camping. It has the pavilion structure which ensures its extra-large size.
- Its size is 36 square meters;
- Height – 208 cm (81 inches);
- Its shape is octangular and from one side to the other, it’s almost 4 meters long;
- The inside premise can be separated as you please, using the movable curtain;
- This tent can also be used as a gazebo which makes it perfect for prolonged, seasonal camping or even as a place to relax in your backyard or villa.
2. What to look for when it comes to the design of a family tent
What we mean by design is the distribution and number of entrances, sleeping premises, and extras – organizers, mosquito nets, tent cable access hole, pockets, stands, lighting hooks etc. Many of the family tents have the feature to expand its premises, to change the size of each premise with curtains or even to have a storage compartment.
Let’s have a closer look at each one of those design features, starting with the
Types of tent entrances
When choosing a tent, think of how many entrances you need and what their shape and location should be. A bigger entrance is important so you:
- Can enter and exit the tent without having to think about the surroundings on which you’ve set it up – in some camping grounds it may be more comfortable to enter a tent from the side, on others, from the back.
- Can ensure better air circulation especially during the summer heat – when a tent has more than one entrance, the flow of fresh air is much better.
- Don’t have to step over someone if you have to get up during the night.
On the other hand, you should know that all those extra entrances increase the weight of the tent. Why? Because all those extra zippers weigh more than just the surface material of the tent. Moreover, the zippers can make the tent less water-resistant, not a good thing if it’s about to rain a lot during your trip.
Some tent designers create the shape of the entrances considering the weather condition in which it will be used. Here’s an example. One of the entrances of the tent will be bigger and more spacious, good for use during hot and sunny weather, whereas the second will be smaller and with such an angle, that if it rains outside, the inside of the tent will remain dry when you’re going in or out.
The tent entrance flap
Did you know: that flappy cover on the entrance of tents is either called “entrance flap”, “door flap” or just “the door”
Each two-layer family tent has both an inside and an outside entrance flap.
The inside entrance flap is usually situated at the sleeping premises. It usually has a C-shaped form and is made of a two-layer lightened fabric. The first layer is simply a net made of very small holes, whereas the second is made of a dense, breathing polyester. The two layers are connected with a zipper. During colder weather, the denser layer ensures air circulation from inside out so the air in the tent doesn’t get too heavy or creates condense. On the other hand, it stops cold air from the outside to enter the tent. It is also opaque, which ensures your privacy. The net layer is great for warm weather, letting fresh air from the outside but protecting you from any insects.
The outside entrance flam is part of the outside layer of the tent. It comes in Λ-, C- and П-shapes. Most of the time, these doors are rolled up and tied and stay open.
The US leading tent manufacturer Coleman has built-in poles in the doors of the model Cortes Octagon 8 in order to ease the going in and out of the tent while camping with a group of friends or family.
The high-end family tents often times have built-in mosquito nets on the entrance flaps such as the Outwell Nevada 4 model. It has mosquito nets on both its entrances, whereas the Huntsville 400 by EasyCamp only has a mosquito net on its main entrance.
Should your tent have windows and air circulation vents?
An important aspect of the comfortable camping is the availability of enough light in the main (living room) premisе of the tent. Some tent models provide considerably more light than others. For example, of the 6 tent models we use as examples in this guide, the Coleman Galileo 4, Outwell Nevada 4 and the Easy Camp Huntsville 400 have a considerably lighter and more spacious vestibule. On the other hand, windows can take away your privacy, so keep that in mind. It is a good option to get a tent that has embedded shutters/sunshades (the three models above have those).
The Nevada 4 even has dimmed windows against heat coming in the inside of the tent.
It is advisable that the sleeping premises have no windows so that the first light of the day doesn’t wake you up. However, your sleeping premises should have air vents in order to have no condensation or stale air. The vents are usually situated at the uppermost and lower parts of the tent. The upper vents can be opened and closed by a velcro zipper in times of hot or cold weather.
When choosing a family tent, check whether the outside upper layer of the sleeping premise is dimmed – which further ensures longer and cooler sleep during the warm summer mornings. The Nevada 4 has such a layer.
What to look for in the sleeping premises of your family tent
When choosing a tent, first think of how many premises you need and not how many people will sleep in a tent. The more compartments there are, the more space for your belongings you will have in your house among nature. It is well known that all tent manufacturers define the size of a tent by the number of people it will accommodate, however, it is often the case that in a 4-person tent only three people can sleep comfortably.
Did you know? The age of your children is a defining factor when it comes to the choice of a family tent.
If you go camping with a small child (between 0 and 7 years old), it is preferable to choose a tent sleeping premises are situated near one another and have a flap door with a zipper in between. The reason is this: when you’re purchasing a family tent, you’re investing quite a lot of money, which means you’d want to use the tent for years to come. When your child is little, you’d want to have the flap door open for more room and ease access to your kid, however, when a few years pass, you’d want to have the option to zip the flap door and let your child be more independent. Having the option to zip the door in between the sleeping compartments ensures flexibility.
Of course, when your kids grow up, even more, you could go with the option to have a completely separate small tent, situated near yours, in order to give them and yourself more the needed personal space. That’s a great way to make your kids want to come with you camping more often when they’re teenagers. That option is also suitable when you have two children with a bigger age difference, where one child can sleep in the second sleeping premise in your tent, while your teenager can have their own tent.
Have in mind! Some camping grounds have an additional fee for a second tent, even if it’s set up in the same camping unit.
Let us now compare the designs of two tents – Easy Camp Huntsville 400 and Coleman Ridgeline 4 Plus when it comes to entrances, vestibules, sleeping premises, windows, and vents so you know what features different tents have and which one you might want for yours
The Huntsville 400 by Easy Camp is a tunnel-type of tent which can accommodate 4 people and has two sleeping premises, situated one next to each other. They can either be combined or separated by a flap door with a zipper, which makes it a great choice for a family. The inner flap doors are two-layered, and it has a wide netted panel at the top which suits as a vent.
An additional air vent panel with a hook is situated at the backside of the sleeping premise. It can be unzipped with a velcro. The vestibule has two doors – at the front and the side. The front door has an anti-insect net. It is a П-shaped and can be rolled upwards. The vestibule also has panoramic windows with dimmed curtains. View the video review to learn more:
Ridgeline 4 Plus is made by the American manufacturer Coleman and has a completely different design. It is a dome-type tent with two opposite sleeping premises for two persons each, whereas the vestibule is situated in between the two sleeping premises. This tent also has two entrances, both of which are on the side, situated on both sides of the vestibule. The separated sleeping premises make the Ridgeline 4 Plus a better choice for families with grown-up children or for two couples. The vestibule of this tent has no windows, the entrances are П-shaped and their flap doors can be lifted up with poles in order to turn them into a canopy. This model’s air vents are also situated above the sleeping premises and can be regulated by velcro zippers.
What extras do 4-person family tents have
There are other little features in the design of family tents which an inexperienced eye might not notice which separate luxury from standard class tents.
- Pockets – almost all tents have small pockets in their sleeping premises. Higher class tents have more pockets as well as in the vestibule area. Those pockets consist of organizers similar to shelves. They are perfect for storing all those little equipment pieces and belongings that you don’t want to lose when camping;
- Lighting and lantern hooks – those are situated in the center of the sleeping compartment. Some tents have such hooks in the vestibule as well, which makes them much more comfortable when the weather is bad and you dine in the vestibule;
- Cable slots in the vestibule and sleeping premises provide electricity where you need it. These slots are protected by a water-resistant fabric and a zipper from dust, dirt and water;
- Thermal-reflective layer on top of the fabric above the sleeping premises – reflects sunlight in the hot summer days and lets you reside in the tents at any time during the day;
- Dimmed windows in the vestibule – reflect sunbeams and ensures the optimal indoor temperature;
- A canopy above the entrances – protects against heavy rain and wind;
- Floor with inverted edges against water and dust coming in the tent;
- Function – easy to pitch – each pole and each sleeve are painted in the same color to ensure easier and faster set up of the tent;
- Rain cover – an extension of the outside layer of the tent which doesn’t let mud or water to get to the inside layer when there is a whirlwind.;
- Light-reflection stripes – placed around the ropes, pegs and other outside parts which a person might trip over at night. The Danish tent manufacturer Outwell have such stripes;
- Additional equipment – canopy, hoods, carpets, protectors for additional comfort and protection. The list goes on depending on your specific needs.
Let us now compare the Outwell Nevada 4 and the Coleman Galileo 4 when it comes to additional design extras. As we said, extras are characteristic of higher class tents.
The Nevada 4 is produced by Outwell, and has:
- A 4-person capability with two sleeping premises with extra-large sizes (140 cm and 120 cm).
- The sleeping premises are situated one next to each other and are separated by a flap door.
- The vestibule has big, panoramic windows, which have dimmed shutters against overheating.
- The vestibule has two entrances – at the front and side. Both doors have mosquito nets. The side door has a hood against rain. The floor of the vestibule has inverted edges against water and other outside elements getting in.
The sleeping premises have a thermal-reflective cover on the fabric which protects from the heat during summer. The air vents are at the back of the tent where the sleeping premises are and can be regulated easily with velcro, letting air circulate in and out.
The air vents at the entrances of the tent have mosquito nets and can be completely shut with velcro zippers during times of bad weather.
All compartments of the Nevada 4 have lighting hooks as well as pockets (organizers).
The outside of the tent is protected light-reflective strings against tripping in the dark. The pegs and ropes have extra reinforced seams.
Additional featured offered for the Nevada 4 are a carpet, front section for extending the vestibule, a ground protector for the tent as well as a protector for the cover.
View this video review to learn more about the Nevada 4:
The Galileo 4 by Coleman
It is a spacious family tent for four people, suitable for a short weekend vacation as well as a longer stay in the wild. It has two sleeping premises (120cm wide each), separated by a movable flap. The vestibule has big panoramic windows with added curtains. It has two entrances – front and side one.
The inside door flaps of the sleeping compartments have embedded netted panel for ventilation, which can be additionally opened for better air circulation, at the upper part of the sleeping compartment there is a large ventilation panel as well, which can be stretched with ropes on the outside of the tent. During bad weather, it can be closed with a zipper and velcro. This decreases the risk of condensation and ensures enough fresh air entering the inside of the tent.
The vestibule is spacious and light and you can easily put a table and chairs in it. The upper cover of the tent is long enough to reach the ground and has poles that ensure its durability during bad weather.
The cable slot is secured with an extra zipper. The cables can also be secured to the tent with lines of velcro. To easily set up the Galileo 4, it is equipped with colorful poles each one with a separate color same as its respective sleeve.
The Galileo 4 can be extended where you can unfold an extra canopy and extend the vestibule area. Having that option makes it easier to store equipment such as bicycles, fishing poles etc.
So far we’ve inspected the different features of family tents when it comes to size and design. Now let’s focus on the frame, fabric materials, volume as well as the technology for setting up the tent.
3. Types of the structure of family tents and tents overall
Shape and form of the tent
According to the shapes of the family tents, there are a few types – domes, tunnel, tipi and pavilion.
- The dome types of tents are those with tent poles which can be crossed above the vestibule or above the sleeping compartment. An example of such a family tent is the Coleman Ridgeline 4 Plus.
- Tunnel tents have a structure of two or more poles placed in parallel to each other. Such tents are the Nevada 4, Huntsville 400, Galileo 4 and the inflatable Tornado 400.
- Tipi tents have a central vertical pole on the top, around which additional poles go down in a circular shape.
- The pavilion type of tents have multiple fabric walls sewn to each other or separated by thin poles that provide extra security to the tent. Such a family tent is the Coleman Cortes Octagon 8.
In the family class of tents the dome models are two types:
- With one dome-like bedroom and a tunnel vestibule
- With one dome-like vestibule and one or two tunnel bedrooms
The advantage which the dome tents provide is that it can withstand wind thanks to the crossing of its poles. A negative feature of those tents is that its walls have a steeper incline which leads to less space to use inside the tent.
Out of all the family tents that we give as an example, the dome-like Ridgeline 4 Plus is a tent with dome vestibule and two tunnel sleeping compartments. Its poles cross high in the vestibule and provide a height of 205 cm at the center – so that a tall person can stand up freely. However, the space in the sleeping compartments is relatively small – the height there is 160cm.
Tunnel tents are easy to set up and offer more space, as its walls don’t have such a steel angle as the dome ones. If you decide to go for a tent with a tunnel construction, we advise you to go for one of higher quality. The lower quality ones may be quite unstable during heavy wind.The Coleman Galileo 4 has a height of the sleeping compartment is 170cm and the vestibule is 180cm. The overall area is 29 square meters, with a vestibule of 200 by 260 cm which easily lets you place a table and chairs in it.The Nevada 4, which is a higher quality tunnel-type family tent has a height of the vestibule varying between 180 and 200cm, and 160 to 180cm for the sleeping compartment.
In the last few years, there is a visible rise in the glamping camping. Luxurious tents of types such as the tipi, pavilion and yurt are becoming more and more popular. The mass manufacturers now pay attention to those new tendencies and create product lines from easily accessible family tents as well as luxurious glamping tents. Such a luxury tent is the Coleman Cortes Octagon 8. It offers a 360* view, which makes it suitable for setting up to secluded places with an amazing view towards nature. Six of the eight walls of the tent can be completely opened and can ensure a lot of light and fresh air. On the other two walls, the doors of the tent are situated.In each of them, there is an embedded fiber pole to be easier and more practical to open and close – as a normal door. This tent lets you place a bed of standard size, and you will have extra space for comfort. If you wish, you can separate this space with two specially made ‘doors’ with hooks.
Types of tent poles
Poles are what creates the structure which holds the family tent. There are different materials used for the poles – fiberglass, steel, inflatable and aluminum. The family tents usually use the first three materials listed. The aluminum and titanium poles are used for ultralight tents for big traces and hikes in mountains at high altitude.
Fiber is usually used for lightweight tents of middle and low class. Of course, the improved variants of poles from fiberglass are used for higher class tents as well and stronger and thicker material is used then. Out of the tents that we review in this guide, the Nevada 4, the Huntsville 400, Galileo 4 and Ridgeline 4 have fiber poles.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of fiber poles:
- They are cheaper;
- They are used for small and light-weight tents. They aren’t suitable for big and heavy tents.
- They are easy to repair – they have standardized height and diameter. The separate sections of the poles can be changed if they break;
- They don’t withstand high winds well – easily bend and can break.
- When a fiber pole breaks there is a change of cutting or tearing the cover of the tent or even harming a person. Therefore choose a pole with textile isolation around it;
Steel tent poles – advantages and disadvantages
The steel poles usually are made of alloy and not of pure steel. This is done to make the poles and the tent itself lighter.
The Coleman Cortes Octagon 8, due to massive construction is made of steel poles. They have embedded fiberglass poles, but only on the doors.
The characteristics of the steel poles are the following:
- They are more expensive – used for higher class tents;
- They ensure better strength of the tent during strong winds
- They are used for bigger tents
- They are bigger and heavier – they are harder to transport;
- They take more time to set up;
- They are harder to repair – most of these poles are made especially for each tent model and cannot be interchanged between different models;
Inflatable tent poles
In the last few years, there is a new trend which becomes more and more popular which is the inflatable poles. Back in the day, such tents were used mostly for luxurious tents, however as technology has become more easily available, inflatable poles have found their place in the middle-standard tents.
The advantages and disadvantages of the inflatable pole tents are:
Very fast set up of the tent – the poles are inflated only through one valve, and the whole tents raise in a matter of seconds;
They provide a considerable lightness to a tent – there are no steel poles used, however, in the textile of the poles there are steel strings sewed in, which stabilize the structure of the tent after it’s inflated;
Some critics of this type of poles say that such tents are unstable during high winds same as the steel ones.
The smallest tent out of all that we look at – the Easy Camp Tornado 400 is with inflatable poles. This model is suitable for young families. The structure is tunnel type and comprises two parallel inflatable poles. They can be inflated separately one after the other and that can easily be done with a pump. The valves are situated on the outside and are protected with a special sleeve.
The material of this tent is made of polyester and an applied polyurethan layer. The seams are glued. Ventilation openings above the windows of the vestibule and at the backside above the windows are made to let air easily go in and out of the tent. The vestibule has a detachable floor with edges turned upside down so that water does not get inside the tent, as well as other unwanted debris or insects. The windows of the vestibule are embedded with curtains. There are two sleeping compartments, which can be separated from one another with zipper.
4. The types of fabrics used for family tents
Most of the tents you find on the market are made out of polyester, but of course there is a big difference between one type polyester and another. Therefore, if you are not a specialist, you can concentrate on the waterproof ratings. This parameter is the one that determines how much rain a tent can withstand without any water getting inside. The higher it is, the more waterproof the fabric is.
Warning! The higher waterproof rating is connected to the lower breathability of the fabric, making the ventilation properties of the tent much lower. This is due to the fabric being much thicker and not allowing any of the humidity to pass through it. Even microscopic elements can’t get through some of the fabrics with a very high waterproof rating.
Some of the most expensive tents are made out of polycotton – a combination of polyester and cotton. In comparison with polyester. This tent leaves the inside much warmer in cold weather and much cooler in warm weather.
The quality of tents can easily be recognized by the extra layers over the fabric. For example, the Coleman has a special layer that burns slow when lit on fire (fire retardant). This will ensure enough time to leave the tent if such an accident happens. Moreover, this layer helps polyester to not drip down when burning, protecting from burns. Outwell, on the other hand, puts a layer of thermal reflecting layer on the inside of the sleeping compartments. It helps by protecting from overheating during sunny days. With such a tent you can take long naps and not worry about waking up all in sweat.
5. Volume and technology of setting up a family tent
This is the final topic we will discuss in this extended family tent guide and we hope you will then have a good idea of what you need and what to get for your trips in nature.
When you choose a tent, it is important to consider the volume and weight of the tent when it’s folded. These are important firstly – to store it safely when it is not used, secondly – the space it will take in your vehicle, thirdly – how easy it is for you to carry it and set it up by yourself and lastly – the weight of the tent will affect your gas expenditure.
The four-man tents of low class start from a weight of around 6.5 kg and a folded volume of 25 x 60. The middle class varies around 10-12 kg with a folded volume of 30 x 70 cm. The highest class and the unorthodox models such as the Coleman Cortes Octagon 8 can go above 16kg and a folded volume of 30 x 80 cm.
The setting up of the tent can be done in three ways:
First the cover of the tent, then the sleeping compartment – a standard for family tents
First the sleeping compartment, then the cover – a standard for small and light-weight models such as the tipi, pavilion, and yurta.
There are models in which two layers connected one to the other beforehand and are unfolded together.
That is all folks, you can now compare different sizes, designs, entrances, vestibules, sleeping compartments, extras, poles, structure, material, volume, etc. We hope you will now find the best family tent for yourself and your loved ones