Tents Field Tested by Active Junky
Active Junky lives by the motto "More Amazing Days," promoting active and outdoor lifestyles of all kinds. Their experts field-tested and evaluated each of the products in the following guide. Check out the guide for selecting the Best Tent as well as their favorite performers.
Lead Reviewer: Drew Zieff
Editor: Melanie Ott
When choosing a tent, there a number of considerations that go into the decision. Whether you are looking for the best backpacking tent, best camping tent or best family tent, Active Junky can help you decide which tent will be your next purchase.
Considering both well-known backcountry brands as well as Coleman and REI tents, Active Junky field testers took these tents to the mountains and the desert both in Colorado and Utah for practical testing over a course of two weeks. They also used the tents for less rigorous car camping. All scenarios put tents to work, determining quality of performance, durability and versatility among other features to help you decide which the best tent is for you.
Which Is the Best Camping Tent? How to Decide
With so many options for tents in the market, knowing what to look for and what considerations are most important can be overwhelming. When selecting a tent, you can start by asking a few simple questions:
How many people will it need to fit?
Tents are categorized – and often named – by the number of people who can utilize its livable space. There are one-person tents for solo adventuring, two-person tents for partners in crime and up to family tents that can sleep eight or more. But not all so-named tents are the same size. A lightweight two-person backpacking tent may be less roomy than a two-person camping tent to cut down on weight.
Pro Tip: Pay attention to the floor plan and floor square-footage to know if it is large enough for you and your crew. If you have a lot of gear you want to store out of the elements, keep that in mind as well.
What is the primary activity?
On a similar vein as the number of people is the main purpose for purchasing the tent. If you will be backpacking most often, you may want a smaller, lightweight tent to save ounces in your pack. However, if you are mainly car camping and weight will not be an issue, you may want more room, both on the floor and above your head. A four-person tent easily falls between the two extremes, blending lighter weight with more room.
What is your budget?
You can spend anywhere from $50 up to hundreds of dollars on a tent. Some car-camping tents can be inexpensive but may sacrifice quality to save a few bucks. Ultralight backpacking tents can be an investment, but if you're serious about the activity, the quality will justify the cost. Active Junky tested and identified some of the best camping tents based on value for both backpacking tents and car camping tents backed with solid warranties.
How We Selected the Best Tents
With so many tent possibilities, Active Junky testers made sure to pick from top brands and select a sampling of costs. The focus was on the most commonly purchased tents: two-person backpacking tents and four-person car camping tents. Many of the tents tested come in varying models – one-person instead of two, three-person instead of four – so you can still select the correct size while taking advantage of Active Junky's field test results.
How We Evaluated: Key Tent Reviews Attributes
We considered and evaluated each tent based on specific attributes of specs and features:
Performance considers how well the tent fulfilled its primary mission, including livability and waterproofness.
Intuitiveness (ease of use) was rated on how easily the tent could set up by first-time users and was easier with each subsequent pitch.
Weight was compared against other tents of similar use and category.
Durability looked at individual elements, such as fabric and poles, to ensure the longevity of the tent even through harsh weather.
Versatility means the tent can handle a variety of scenarios, such as a backpacking tent being adequate for car camping.
As testers evaluated the tents, they assigned each Key Attribute category a score of one to ten, resulting in a composite score to determine the best tent for specific use cases. Have a look at each tent review to see how they performed.
What We Found
Based on testing and evaluation metrics, Active Junky found some models stood out. The following are our top picks:
Best Backpacking Tent
Despite not being the lightest backpacking tent, testers chose the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 for their top pick in two-personal backpacking tents with its relatively large livable space, dual vestibules, MTNglo lighting technology and overall ease of use.
Best Ultralight Two-Door Tent
Weighing in lighter than the Copper Spur Big Agnes tent, the MSR FreeLite 2 was our testers' top choice for ultralight adventures. Two doors can be a huge convenience, and this MSR tent offers that without being overly heavy. It is lower to the ground and more angular, which may make it feel more cramped, but packs smaller and lighter for trips where ounces count.
Best One-Door Two-Person Tent
Not only was the Mountain Hardwear Ghost UL2 the lightest tent tested, it was the top pick for its small size and weight at only 2 lbs and 9 oz. With only one door, this tent is better suited for solo adventures but has the space two with a 27 square-foot floor plan.
Best Value Backpacking Tent
Finding a balance when selecting a value tent comes with low cost that still provides a durable and reliable package. The REI Quarter Dome 2 is cheaper than most of the tents we tested. There are less expensive options, but the cost, weight and reliability of this tent make it a top choice in overall value.
Best Car Camping Tents
Depending on the size you're looking for, there are a number of good car camping tents. The North Face Talus was solid and weatherproof, albeit expensive, four-person camping tent. The Mountainsmith Genesee was simple to set up and ranks well in value. Finally, families looking for a large tent complete with mesh for stargazing would do well with the Slumberjack Daybreak.
To read more on these and the other tents field tested by Active Junky, have a look at each product's review page, complete with scores for key attributes and overall composite score and performance. For even more gear and product reviews, check out ActiveJunky.com.