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The Best Camping Tents

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One of the most important pieces of gear while camping is your shelter. Yes, your sleeping bag is also vital, but if it’s raining, the right tent can mean the difference between a nightmarish camping experience in the cold and a relaxing time spent enjoying nature. 

With this in mind, it’s important to put some serious thought into what tent you want to invest in. “You don’t want to have to buy a new one every few years because you skimped the first time around,” says outdoors freelance writer and photographer Emily Reed. However, Reed also notes the best tents can get expensive fast—think anywhere from $100 to upwards of $1,500. 

Technically, all the bubble tent in any of these categories would work fine for car camping, but these ones specifically maximize comfort and space for couples or small groups. In this category you’ll also tend to find a lot of extra features that you may or may not need or want. Wildlife photographer and Backpackers gear reviewer Deirdre Denali Rosenberg suggests avoiding “gimmicky things like built-in lights,” because they drive up the price tag and often aren’t worth the extra money.

“It’s larger than traditional two-person tents to allow space for your pup or additional gear,” she says. The car tent also features two doors so you don’t have to climb over your partner to get out, mesh side pockets for storage, and ripstop nylon fabric for durability, which Reed notes is a must for any tent. “I’ve had this tent for almost five years, and it’s my go-to for car camping.”

Four-Person Tent

At the same time, if you only have the cash for one tent and you want to bring a friend sometimes, the owner of Adios Adventure Travel, Jacquie Whitt, recommends getting a two-person tent. In that case, the Hornet also has a two-person version ($370, REI).

Car camping with family or friends is a summer pastime for many of us. Whether the campground itself is the main attraction or it's simply your base camp for nearby activities, this article will help you find the right camping tent—your home away from home. (Prefer backcountry camping? See the REI Expert Advice article, Backpacking Tents: How to Choose.)

When choosing your tent, first choose a model based on your group's size and whether or not you might need additional space for extra friends, gear or dogs. Keep in mind, however, that no industry standard exists that defines per-person tent dimensions.

When evaluating bubble tent capacity ratings, our general advice is this: Assume a close fit. If you seek more room, consider upsizing your tent capacity by 1 person, particularly if you or your usual tent companion(s):

If you like being able to stand up when changing clothes or enjoy the airiness of a high ceiling, then look for a car tent with a tall peak height (listed in the spec charts).

A rainfly is a separate waterproof cover designed to fit over the roof of your great tent. Use it whenever rain or dew is expected, or any time you want to retain a little extra warmth. Two rainfly types are common. Roof-only rainflies allow more light and views while offering fair rain protection. Full-coverage rainflies offer maximum protection from wind and rain.

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When my sister-in-law bought my kids a giant inflatable obstacle course Little Tikes Jump ’n Slide Bouncer for Christmas, my wife and I reacted with a mix of incredulity and mild annoyance. “This looks like a gigantic pain in the ass,” I thought. I was wrong. While we’ve been stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic, the bounce house has proven to be a godsend.

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