Camping tents 101: what to know & where to shop


Camping is one of the best ways to experience the great outdoors. It can be thrilling to be at one with nature, but it can also be a bit daunting if you don’t know what you’re doing. A tent can make or break any camping trip — which is why picking the right one is so important. But don’t fret, check out our top picks so you can enjoy a stress-free break. 

Whether you’re camping in the scorching sun, dead of winter, with your family, or simply enjoying the solitude — we’ll have the perfect tent for you here. From brands such as Trespass, blacks and Decathlon, there are plenty of options to choose from. 

So read on, and find out which tent suits you the best!

Read more: Find your next hiking backpack

Shop these editor-picked tents

Best overall tent

Coleman Sundome 4 Person Tent

Best tent for extreme weather

orange camping tent by water and trees
Photo: Quang Nguyen | Pexels

How to pick the right tent for you

What kind of tent you need is determined by numerous factors; such as weather conditions, location, number of people, and method of assembly. 

1. Consider the weather conditions

Short of hurricanes or floods, camping can be fun in virtually all weather conditions, the trick is to be completely prepared so you’re not spending the nights shivering or sweating. If it’s going to be cold, you’ll definitely want to consider a four-season, insulated, tent that will not only help keep you warm but withstand condensation, high winds, heavy rain and even snow. Another handy tip: the colder it is, the less empty space you’ll want in your tent, as that dead space can fill up with cold air and then there’s less chance you’ll be getting any sleep. 

By contrast, if you’re sleeping in the seemingly inescapable heat of summer, then buying a tent with sufficient UV protection is an absolute must. Ventilation is also an important aspect to consider. Without a way to create airflow, through window flaps or mesh sections, the warm air will become stagnant, and it may become warmer inside the tent than outside, which isn’t ideal. 

The UK is no stranger to unpredictable weather, so it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your tent’s ability to cope with a range of conditions.

2. Think about location

Location is also a crucial factor to consider. The location of your campsite might mean that there is a higher chance of strong winds, heavy rainfall, or even just a guarantee of being in close proximity to other campers. 

Generally, the higher you go the more inclement the weather and if you’re wild camping in Scotland for example, things can get quite extreme once you get over 2000ft, so don’t plan on going Munroe-bagging in a flimsy festival tent.

Planning on staying in a busy campsite? Then a secure tent with privacy windows is probably the best option to avoid the prying eyes of your fellow campers, particularly in festival situations. And at the bigger festivals, the best option might be to buy one with a distinct colour so you can easily find it after a long day listening to your favourite artists. 

If you want to set up a tent in your back garden for your kids to sleep out in over the course of a summer, then you need to consider one that will withstand UV rays which might otherwise cause its condition to deteriorate through prolonged exposure to the sun. 

A man and woman constructing a text in the woods
Photo: Cotton Bro | Pexels

3. Prep for the size of your group

Camping with friends and family can create some of the best memories — getting up close and personal with nature is a more affordable option than jetting off to an exotic paradise. So it’s not surprising that camping is such a popular family activity. 

If you’re travelling as a family with kids, then a larger tent, with zip-away rooms is undoubtedly the best option. You can rest easy knowing your children are safe and secure in the same tent as you, while still having a degree of privacy. 

When you’re camping with friends, it’s less likely that you’ll need, or want, to all share the same tent. Sleeping in your own tents in groups of 2-3 will likely make for a more comfortable, practical and indeed affordable arrangement all round. Family-sized tents can cost hundreds of pounds, and clubbing together to make a purchase can get complicated. Sticking to smaller groups will let you buy a less pricey tent that is more easily reusable.

4. Know how long you want to spend setting up

If you’ve ever been in a situation where you’ve hiked to your campsite for hours, just to face an hour of arguing over the instructions to build the tent, then you probably know by now the joys of a pop-up tent. Pop-up tents can save so much time when setting up camp, but they’re usually a nightmare to get back into their bags. 

Tents constructed with poles have that extra bit of weight to them, so they’re often a bit sturdier, but that also translates to spending longer setting up, so it’s important to know what your priority is — stability or ease and rapidity of erecting and taking down?

Our top editor-picked camping tents

We’ve scoured the internet looking for the best tents. So no matter the destination, no matter the budget, there will be one here for you. 

This four-person tent is the perfect all-rounder. It takes a mere ten minutes to build, giving you more time to get that campfire started and those marshmallows toasted. It also has an electrical access port, aka an e-port, which makes it so much easier to bring electrical devices such as a portable AC unit inside the tent, making it perfect for humid nights. With over 14,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, it’s clear that we’re not the only ones seriously impressed with this tent.

Best tent for extreme weather

Made specifically for expeditions, you can rest easy knowing you’ll be protected in even the harshest of conditions. This two-person tent weighs only 3.47kg, meaning it won’t be a strain to carry all-day-long. With great UV protection and WaterBloc fabrics to protect against heavy rain and winds, we think this tent is perfect for dedicated adventurers out there. However, with a hefty price tag of £800, it’s probably only necessary for more serious campers.

Upsides and Downsides

  • Great UV protection

  • Waterproof

  • Has two entrances

If you’re camping in the UK, chances are you’ll need a waterproof tent. We love this three-person one that has a waterproof groundsheet, but also a breathable polyester inner fabric to keep the air flowing. There are also handy lantern hanging points so you can keep the tent lit up without losing valuable floor space — you can also share the load as it comes with two waterproof carry bags. 

For only £79, there’s not much about this tent that we don’t love!

Upsides and Downsides

  • 15 minutes assembly time

  • Two carry bags

  • Very affordable

You probably also want to be able to identify your set up in the sea of other camps, so it’s also smart to decorate your tent in a distinctive way. This two-person tent from Active Era is both affordable and lightweight, making it the perfect choice for festival-goers. It’s also pop-up, meaning you can spend less time setting up, and more time exploring the scene.

We absolutely love this family tent. It has six (yes six!) darkened Nightfall bedrooms that block up to 80% of sunlight. The roll-up bedroom doors and dividers allow you to tailor the tent to suit your family, and with storage pockets scattered throughout, we think this tent will make the perfect alternative to the expensive trip abroad. 

It’s also on sale right now, for only £430, saving you a whopping £340!!

This two-person tent is a mere £45, making it a perfect option for first-timers wanting to test the waters. We love that it comes with an extended porch, giving you somewhere to dump muddy wellies, and at only 2.75kg, it’s also super lightweight. Reviews say that it’s super easy to put up and pack away and that it provided a comfortable night’s sleep — what more could you want?

Upsides and Downsides

  • Great value for money

  • Waterproof 

  • Easy to assemble

Our verdict

With so much choice and variety, it’s no wonder picking a tent can be a tricky task. However, once you know what your specific needs are, it can be a walk in the park. For experienced campers who travel to more extreme locations, you can’t get better than the Terra Nova Quasar Tent, while if you’re just staying in the UK, we think the best option is the Coleman Sundome 4 Person Tent.

For families and large groups, our top pick is the customisable Hampton 6 Nightfall Family Tent. Alternatively, if you’re just camping for a festival and want a quick and easy option, then the Active Era® Pop Up Tent is probably your best bet.

Prices updated on 31/10/2022. We are not responsible for any changes to the prices mentioned above.


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