Tents for Camping with Kids

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There are many characteristics to take into account when selecting a family camping tent, from size and weight to durability and weather resistance, but ultimately, all these factors converge on comfort.

orange tent in wooded area with the sun peaking through the trees, and text overlay reading "the best tents for camping with kids"

How enjoyable your camping experience is lies in how well the gear meets your comfort needs. The tent is just one part of the sleep system for your family camping, but one that plays a big part and contributes to a sense of ease and well-being throughout your outdoor adventure. 

While there is no such thing as a perfect tent, you can find a tent that works best for you and your family.

Important factors when picking a tent

Tent sizes 

Picking the tent size that will fit your family (and gear, and dogs) will ensure your family has the best camping experience.

  • Capactity: As a rule, divide the tent’s occupancy number by 1.5-2 for a realistic ‘comfort’ count. Similar to the king size mattress that magically gets smaller when kids are involved, the printed occupancy count generally doesn’t take into account your gear, extra blankets or sprawled out kids or dogs. Check to see if your tent comes with a sleeping arrangement diagram. You may be surprised to see that the manufactures expect everyone to sleep like a sardine.  
  • Height. Standing inside the tent is often overlooked but becomes crucial when helping kids, especially with activities like changing clothes. Opt for a tent where standing or leaning over is comfortable to enhance convenience and ease of movement.  
  • Weight. Large tents are heavy and fold up big. Some weigh up to 70 lbs, so if you get a big tent make sure you can carry it.  

Camping privacy and your tent

As kids get bigger, tents seem to get smaller!

One way to give privacy to older kids is to use a tent that has a divider. Older kids can have their own privacy and you have the comfort of keeping everyone in one tent.  

As kids start to get older, they may want to sleep in their own tent. It’s up to you to determine if and when your child is mature enough to do this.

Note: Stay away from the ‘pop up’ tents that fold up into a circle. These are play tents and not meant for camping adventures.  

Set up and take down time 

When you get to camp you want to relax, not spend an hour setting up the tent. Few things in camping are more frustrating than setting up and taking down a complicated tent.

This isn’t just how complicated the pole structure is, but also the support lines and putting on the rain fly. Most large tents require at two people to put up. For families with one parent this can ruin your trip quick.  Setting up the tent is an important step in setting up your campsite.

TIP: Don’t plan on getting your tent back in its bag. Instead of ending your trip frustrated trying to get the tent back in its bag store it in a plastic bin with a lid.  

Tent breathability 

Windows are great during a hot evening, but when the tent is completely zipped up there needs to be enough space and open venting for the moisture from your breath to escape the tent.

Otherwise it will condense on the inside and on your sleeping bags.  

Other things to think about when picking a tent

Do you need a 3 season or 4 season tent? 

Tents have different “seasons” they are rated for. Picking the right one will ensure your family is comfortable for the weather you are camping in.

  • Three Season Tents – These tents are great for mild weather camping. They have mesh windows and more breathable fabric.  
  • Four Season Tents – These are for winter camping and more temperature variations. They have less windows and are made of thicker material with the goal to retrain warmth. You don’t want to use this tent in the peak of summer.  

Quality leads to comfort 

Here are some extra tips to look for when picking a quality tent.

The tents bathtub

The tent’s ‘bathtub’ refers to the elevated, waterproof floor design that extends several inches up the tent walls. It acts as a protective barrier against ground moisture and ensures a dry and comfortable inside. The ideal height is about 3-6 inches up the side wall.  

The door

The tent door needs to be above the bathtub and oriented under the rain fly so that when it is opened during a rainstorm that water won’t drip directly in.  

The tent zippers

Cheaper tents have cheaper zippers that break and get stuck.

Check that if the zipper pull does break off, that you will still be able to open the tent for the middle of the night bathroom trips.

Also, tents that use zippers that make a curve are more likely to get stuck in the fabric. While two zippers may be more annoying than one, a consistently stuck zipper is the most annoying.  

The seams of the tent

Look at the tent to see if the seams have been sealed with tape or a seam sealer. Every puncture by a sewing needle introduces a potential leak spot. If your tent’s seams are not sealed then you can do it yourself.  

The rain fly

The rain fly needs to cover as much of the tent as possible. Unfortunately with the larger tents, the rain fly seams to cover less. Rain generally falls straight down, but in a more fierce storm it may be coming at your sideways.  

As an amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Our three favorite tents are:

  • Coleman WeatherMaster 10 Person Tent


    – This beast of a tent easily fits the whole family, your gear, your dogs, and gives everyone plenty of space. The fact that it has two rooms gives added privacy if you want it (great for teenagers!), and it is tall enough that you can actually stand up in it.
  • Core 12 Person Tent


    – This is really roomy and has great ventilation and waterproofing, making it a great tent to take out in all kinds of weather.
  • Portal 8 Person Tent


    – This tent holds less bodies, but it has its own screened in sunroom area, which is really nice for small kids to play in.

Pro Tip: Whichever tent you decide on, practice setting up and taking down your tent before the trip. You want to have experience doing this before you go out into the wild. If you can, spend a night in the backyard to get the family used to sleeping in your new tent.  There is nothing worse than getting to camp and having to set up a brand new tent in the dark or in the rain.

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