The best family tents 2020 - chosen by Mumsnetters
Our tent buying guide contains everything you need to know to avoid a
row challenging start to your family camping trip. Whether you're a seasoned camper or a nervous newbie, these Mumsnetter-recommended family tents will do the job.
Tent buying guide
The humble tent has certainly changed over recent years, with even the humble tent pole now deemed obsolete for some campers. Terms you'll see used include:
Air-tents which use inflatable 'beams' (yes, really) instead of poles. Quick to erect (ahem), lightweight and sturdy. You will, however, need to remember the air pump – every trip, without fail, or you're doomed.
“We have an air tent which is so much easier and offers more rigidity in wind.”
Pop-up tents just er, pop up. Typically smaller, and probably best suited to short breaks or a night in the garden.
Tunnel tents are based on a (you guessed it) tunnel design, where a series of poles – or indeed air-beams – form arches, giving plenty of headroom. Most 'family' tents are based on this design.
“A simple tunnel tent is quick and simple to put up – and spacious.”
Bell tents (of glamping fame) – think cotton canvas, a single structure and one large room (dividers can be purchased separately). Although they're easy to put up, bell tents take up a lot of space when drying out and can be heavy to transport.
“They are worth every penny, just treat it like an extra child and give it somewhere dry and warm to live in the house when not in use.”
Trailer tents – old-school perhaps, but they hold their own in terms of the space offered. You'll need a tow-bar fitted to your car, but the biggest hurdle is perhaps where to keep them when not in use.
Related: See Mumsnet's top 10 UK campsites for the best domestic breaks.
What should I be looking for?
The general consensus is always size up at least two people from what it says. A four-berth tent will be quite 'cosy' for two adults and two children, especially with all your camping paraphernalia inside.
Space and height
Unless you fancy crawling around a tent, look for one with plenty of headroom. Additionally, having a spare sleeping pod for 'stuff' can come in very handy.
“Always buy the biggest you can afford. Get plenty of living space with good headroom if camping in the UK, as misery is a cramped tent in the rain.”
Canvas or nylon?
With the exception of bell tents, most family tents are made from nylon. You can purchase canvas tunnel tents, but these are slightly more expensive. Canvas is cooler but unless you're venturing out of the UK you might not enjoy the temperatures necessary to appreciate it.
Do I need to buy new?
If you've never camped before it is worth borrowing or buying a cheapo second-hand tent (look on eBay and local selling sites) before you make a significant investment. Even if you're a seasoned camper looking to upgrade, there's absolutely no need to buy new with so many bargains to be had, especially at the end of the summer.
“Try and get to a camping or tent show. You can see a selection already pitched and if you see one you like they discount the models at the end of show.”
Read more: See our round-up of the best water bottles for Mumsnetter-approved options that won't leak.
Do I need a dark tent to block out the sun?
Anyone with young children will appreciate how, erm, full of life they are first thing, and the thought of children up at the crack of dawn is enough to put anyone off the camping life. But a word of caution if opting for a dark tent – they don't let light any through, but they do absorb heat and can become stifling very quickly once the sun's up.
A more viable option from popular brand Vango is a range of tents with darker 'lights out' sleeping pods. Or, you could attempt to whip up your own bedroom liner with some blackout material and a few clothes pegs.
Alternatively pack something 'quiet' (portable DVD player, tablet, jigsaws) for the kids to do while the rest of the camp sleeps in – and keep your fingers crossed that the fresh air and exercise works in your favour.
“My daughter is an early riser. At home, she's usually awake by 6am but regularly sleeps till 8am when we are camping, which is sheer luxury for us! She charges around with the other kids till about 9pm then a quick supper and into bed by 9.30ish.”
Related: Best places to stay in Cornwall.
The tents Mumsnetters recommend
Outwell Montana tent, £459.99
With two bedrooms (somewhat grandiosely named “Ambassador master bedrooms”) and one big living area, this tent can sleep up to six people and won't leave you short on space should you need to take cover on a rainy afternoon. Inside the bedrooms, there are organiser pockets so you can keep essentials within easy reach – no more scrabbling around in the dark for a torch. There's also a side porch area with detachable bathtub groundsheet – perfect for keeping muddy shoes outside.
Colour-coded pegs make pitching it straightforward and a thermo-reflective coating prevents this tent from becoming too oven-like in the heat of the day. Plus, thanks to a technology called 'night sky ceiling' which reduces the amount of light in the bedrooms – and plenty of fresh air and exercise – you should all sleep pretty well on your next camping adventure.
Pitching time: 30 minutes
“Our first camping trip took place in very unseasonal rain, gales and hailstones – July in France, too! This tent saw us through the awful weather. The porch made it possible to come in and out without soaking the whole place, and the huge living area meant we could entertain two active children indoors.”Buy now from Amazon
SoulPad 5000-ease, £605
SoulPad creates classic canvas bell tents that will give your next camping trip a distinctly luxurious feel. Mumsnetters love them for their retro look, the sheer amount of space they provide, and their breathability – they're a lot less sweaty than your average nylon tent
if when the weather heats up.
There are lots of different size options – from three metres across up to a whopping six metres – but this model will comfortably sleep at least four, with lots of space for luggage and equipment too. The 5000-ease model (as the name suggests) is also the easiest SoulPad tent to pitch and has a 'bathtub' style groundsheet sewn into the waterproof canvas of the tent, which means it definitely won't leak. This model also has four zipped windows and four vents at the top to let light and air in, with mosquito mesh to keep bugs out, and a secondary mosquito mesh entrance too.
Pitching time: 15 minutes
“Nothing beats waking up in the morning with no condensation. Nothing feels damp – it looks, smells and feels lovely.”
“We've got a SoulPad. It has a sewn-in groundsheet. It's eight years old now and still going strong. I like the fact that one person can put it up within 10 minutes with ease.”
“I have a SoulPad – had it four years and love it. You won't regret it. And they don't take that long to dry out – I've not even got the tiniest bit of mould. I could never go back to nylon now!”Buy now from Amazon
Quechua Air Seconds 4 XL Fresh & Black four man tent, £119.99
Trying to pitch a tent with a few crucial pegs and poles missing can test even the strongest family bonds, and many a new camper has been put off by tales of tent-based woe and marital strife. If you don't fancy testing your relationship
to absolute breaking point next bank holiday weekend, opt for this inflatable Quechua tent and prepare to be amazed.
A single adult can erect this tent in 10 minutes. Simply inflate it using a hand pump (forget this at your peril), secure a few guy ropes, and voila! Your family has shelter for the night and you can sit down in a camp chair with a hard-earned glass of wine. The Air Seconds tent is spacious, with a bedroom that can sleep four, a large living area, and storage pockets in the bedrooms. The bedrooms are made from blackout fabric and the tent is designed to withstand tropical downpours (200 mm of rain per hour) so you'll stay comfy and dry whatever the weather. It can also withstand winds of up to 60 km/h, but hopefully, the weather won't be that bad for your weekend camping excursion…
Pitching time: 10 minutes
“We have just bought a Decathlon air tent for our family weekend tent. It's inflatable, so up in about five minutes. Decathlon does some of their tents in a 'fresh and black' option which is AMAZING! The bedroom is blackout to keep out the sun and has windows to let the air in so it doesn't get too hot. The sleeping bit is just big enough for four and you can keep stuff in the porch.”
“I bought the Fresh and Black 4 XL for us this year and we loved it when we camped last month (husband said it's the best he's ever slept camping). I put it up and packed it away by myself and it was really quick and very easy.”Buy now from Decathlon
Eurohike Rydal 500 tent, £180
This dependable Eurohike tent is perfect for a family of four, or five with smaller children. The bedroom area can be kept as one large room or zipped into two smaller pods for privacy, and the darkened bedrooms and breathable inner lining stop you from waking up with the larks every morning (unless that's your thing).
The Rydal tent is reasonably lightweight – ideal if you prefer to camp in more secluded spots – and the colour-coded poles make it quick and easy to erect. It's fully waterproof with taped seams on the flysheet and groundsheet, so you'll stay dry no matter where you camp, and it also has a zipped electrical hook up access point so you can neatly power your lantern and any other essentials.
Pitching time: 15 minutes
“It has plenty of space for me and my two children (seven and 10) but I think it would be fine for two adults and two younger children. I've used it on shorter trips only – weekends and a four-night trip. It's been in several heavy downpours and held up brilliantly – no leaks. It's easy to put up and take down and there's plenty of space in the front section.”Buy now from Eurohike
Vango Odyssey Deluxe tent, £411.93
This sizeable eight-man tunnel tent from Vango is a great option for families with older children as it has two roomy sleeping areas which can be divided to make four separate bedrooms, a central living area big enough for the whole family, and a covered porch area which is ideal for storing your gear.
It has a fully sewn-in groundsheet to keep out draughts and insects and multiple doors so you can get a breeze circulating in hot weather. There are convenient lantern-hanging points and storage pockets throughout the tent and, thanks to its special 'lights out' inner tent, the early morning light won't be waking you up (you can leave that to your kids/inconsiderate neighbours/wood pigeons). Plus, it comes packed in an expandable carry bag with an oversized opening to make
cramming it back in tidying it away a lot easier.
Pitching time: 30 minutes
“We are a family of five and have an eight-man tent – it's fab! Our is about 4 × 7 which means it fits on one pitch – with some really big ones you have to pay for two pitches, so double-check this.”
“We have a so-called eight-person tunnel tent: two sleeping areas, one each end, and a living space in the middle. It is great for a family of four.”Buy now from Amazon
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What else might I need?
Groundsheet: Choose between an integral (sewn-in) or separate groundsheet. Some campers prefer integral to keep the bugs out, others prefer being able to unclip and dry a groundsheet separately.
Footprint: Basically an extra groundsheet, cut to the exact size of your tent (you erect the tent on top). Not essential, but it will add an extra layer of warmth and waterproofing – buy here.
“Get a tent with an awning and footprint: it gives you somewhere to leave muddy shoes where they won't get rained on, so the inside of the tent stays nice and clean (though take a brush and dustpan to sweep out before you pack up and go home).”
Carpet: Eh? Essentially a rug, but deemed a 'tent carpet' in camping circles. Some tents have specific carpets available to buy which fit the tent exactly. They do add an extra layer of warmth – but so too would a picnic blanket.
For more insider knowledge, take a look at Mumsnetters' list of camping essentials.
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