What to Look for in Family Tents

A good family tent can be the difference between a fun outing and disaster. Yes, I'm sure you love each other, but everybody needs their "space." Family tents can give everyone a little breathing room-the best family tents can keep everyone dry and safe in the bargain.

Family Tent Shopping Pointers
As you look for a family tent (sometimes called a basecamp tent) here are some things to keep in mind:

  • The shape of things to come. Family tents come in two basic shapes: cabin and dome. Cabin tents have straight sides that create more interior volume. Dome tents have sharply sloped sides, but are better able to handle wind and heavy weather.
  • Elbow room. At a minimum, you'll want 16 to 18 square feet per person. As a rule of thumb, subtract 2 from the rated number of people a tent can fit for the most comfortable experience.
  • Privacy = good. Look for flexible room divisions in a family tent. Zip open partitions can help partition the tent and give you a bit of privacy. Separate rooms should have separate exits for the ultimate in flexibility.
  • What season is it? Most family tents are 3-season tents, which means they're not rated for winter camping. Unless you're taking your toddler to the ice caves, this shouldn't be a problem. If you're serious about winter camping, consider two smaller 4-season tents.

Family Tent Construction Details

How your tent is put together is important. Pay attention to these details as you consider a family tent:

  • What's holding it up? Tent pole systems use two methods to attach poles: sleeves and clips. Clips are easier to set up, but can leave parts of the tent flapping in moderate wind. Sleeves support the entire pole, but can be tricky to set up.
  • Your tent umbrella. A rainfly keeps rain off your tent, keeping you dry. A good rainfly won't touch any part of the tent body. A well-designed rainfly will also extend well beyond the edges of the tent itself. Finally, make sure the rainfly is water proof not just water resistant.
  • Rub a dub. A one-piece floor (sometimes called a tub floor) will keep you and your gear dry on a rainy day. A floor with seams is a floor that's going to leak one day.
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