The Best Camping Tents: Tested

Home is where you pitch it. And, thankfully, home is pretty comfortable with the year’s best tents for car camping.

Ryan Wichelns|Maren Horjus|Updated August 18, 2023

9 reviews with an average rating of 3.4 out of 5 stars
A group of campers hanging out outside the door of the Coleman Skydome Darkroom 6.


Whether you’re a family car camper, an overlander or somewhere in between, settle in—your search for your next nylon abode begins here. This year’s crop of tents for car camping proves that there’s a perfect home away from home for everyone who wants to venture out.

Here’s the skinny: When you’re car camping, you don’t need to worry about the bulk or weight of your gear. That means you can enjoy shelters that are roomier and more feature-packed than backpacking tents. Such shelters are also often easier to set up than their backpacking cousins, and more affordable, too. That all can make sleeping on the ground a wholly enjoyable experience.

We tested the best tents you can find at REI and distilled all of that feedback into what you’ll find in this guide. So get the car packed; whether you’re gearing up for your next trip or planning for a future getaway, you’re sure to find the perfect car-camping tent for you right here.

Our Top Picks
Check out the results of our field test here or scroll down for in-depth reviews.
Best All-Around Camping Tent for Large Groups
REI Co-op Wonderland 6 Tent
Best All-Around Camping Tent for Small Groups
REI Co-op Skyward 4 Tent
Honorable Mention: Best Camping Tent for Beginners
Gazelle T4 Hub Tent
Honorable Mention: Best Budget Camping Tent for Large Groups
Kelty Discovery Basecamp 6 Tent
Honorable Mention: Best Budget Camping Tent for Small Groups
Coleman Skydome 4-Person Tent with Full-Fly Vestibule

Test Results

Best All-Around Camping Tent for Large Groups

Test Results: One tester dubbed this palatial tent his “party house,” and we couldn’t agree more. Not only is the 78-inch peak one of the tallest in our test, but this behemoth serves up more than 83 square feet of space—bigger than some brick-and-mortar bedrooms. To that end, the REI Co-op Wonderland 6 comes with a divider, so campers can create two rooms in the rectangular floor plan, each with its own entrance. Testers had no problem fitting three sleepers on each side, but we highly recommend turning the front room into a lounge with chairs and a card table if you’re not maxing out the capacity.

The tent doesn’t feature any true vestibules, but awnings on each side provide plenty of room for staying out of the rain while you take your boots off. On clear days, you can roll them back to soak up some sun. And unless you’re filling the Wonderland 6 to capacity, you’ll have plenty of room inside the main area for storage: One tester said that filling the tent with a half-dozen felt a little snug, but any less than that afforded plenty of elbow room. If you need a true vestibule, go all out: Connect the Wonderland Mud Room ($125, sold separately) to give yourself a 56-square-foot foyer. “It’s like our gear garage,” says one tester. “At night, we move our chairs, side table, firewood and the kids’ bikes inside. If it’s raining, we’ll even eat in there.” The Wonderland 6 performed well in extended precipitation and wind when properly guyed out, and testers reported no leaking, even when it was pitched on the lawn when the sprinklers went off (all in the name of research). Another tester was also impressed with the tent’s ventilation during sunny 90°F days camping at a Texas park. But note that a shelter this tall with near-vertical sidewalls won’t be the best option in high winds. If you’re planning to camp in more exposed terrain or extreme conditions, opt for a tent with a more aerodynamic profile. 

Of course, luxury like this isn’t compact. The Wonderland 6 packs down to a bundle the size of a toddler, though it still leaves plenty of room in your trunk for other gear. On the plus side, with a tent this big, you’ll likely have plenty of companions helping out. Setup crews will appreciate the color-coded poles, clips and sleeves that simplify the pitching process.

Bottom Line: Enjoy maximum living space in the REI Co-op Wonderland 6, which has two rooms that can easily accommodate families and folks looking to spread out.

Testing Stats:

  • Nights out: 69
  • Testing states: Colorado, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington
  • Best testing story: “Google Maps is the key to good desert car camping,” one tester says (yes, he’s a millennial). “A little bit of scouring before this trip yielded some cool new ideas, but it wasn’t until we drove almost directly to the edge of a 1,000-foot-deep canyon and set up with a view over the rim that we realized how clutch that prep was.”

Best All-Around Camping Tent for Small Groups

Test Results: Sometimes, simpler is better. Take the Skyward 4 from REI Co-op, a no-frills shelter that does everything you want it to and nothing you don’t. An intuitive pole structure makes setup self-explanatory, even for new campers. True story: One tester was able to erect the Skyward 4 in just a few minutes on her first try (“sans instructions,” she points out). The separate cap-style fly clips on easily.

Inside the Skyward 4, it’s surprisingly roomy. The livability comes from its geometry; the Skyward 4 is more cube-like than pyramidal, with steep walls and a nearly square floor plan. The entire floor plan is usable—four adults could sleep comfortably head to toe on a group trip to Colorado’s Carter Lake—and campers shorter than 6 feet or so can stand and walk around without brushing against sloping walls. It’s the perfect size for a couple of festival-goers or campers waiting out the rain: “We rearranged our pads and sleeping bags to create a living room on one side, then positioned the iPad on the other for an A-plus movie-watching setup,” one tester says. Plan on guying the tent out in wind, though; it’s not aerodynamic. A large D-door, opposing oversize window and two vents provide ample ventilation.

True, you miss on on certain features with the Skyward 4 (like double doors, abundant pockets or pre-rigged guylines and tensioners), but it has everything you need. And at $349, the price is right.

Bottom Line: Fit a small group comfortably in the no-frills REI Co-op Skyward 4, which showcases near-vertical walls.

Testing Stats:

  • Nights out: 14
  • Testing states: Arizona, Colorado and Washington
  • Best testing story: “We took our 10-week-old baby camping for the first time in Skyward 4,” one tester says. “It fits two oversize camping mattresses, a dog bed and a DockATot®, with room to spare.”

Honorable Mention: Best Camping Tent for Beginners

Test Results: “One minute,” declares our editor. “That’s how quick this thing goes up.” Once you unroll the body, the T4 Hub from Gazelle pops up instantaneously. Stake it down, then you’re done. If you’re wondering why all tents aren’t built like this, there are downsides—namely weight (30 pounds) and packed size (8.6 inches by 67.5 inches—not a typo). That means you need ample storage space when it’s not in use, both in your home and vehicle. But, if you’re set there, enjoy the easy-breezy pop-up design. The T4 Hub is also surprisingly sturdy in 20 mph winds, thanks to its weight, hefty poles and 210-denier polyester fabric. Inside, there is enough space for most people to stand up in, plus double doors and plenty of pockets and windows.

Honorable Mention: Best Budget Camping Tent for Large Groups

Test Results: A six-person tent for less than $200 is a bit of a unicorn, especially when that tent weighs less than 14 pounds. But that’s exactly what you get with the Kelty Discovery Basecamp 6. Of course, at this price point you’re bound to lose a few bells and whistles. This shelter is admittedly far simpler than the feature-rich Wonderland 6, but sometimes the basics are all you need for a night under the stars.

During a test in eastern Kansas, the tent comfortably fit a family of six and stood up to a nighttime shower. It shed the two inches of rain that fell during the night, and the dome shape handled wind better than other similar-size tents in this lineup. Plus, it was easy to set up, even with just one person on the job. One tester’s biggest concern was the tent-door zipper that occasionally became stuck or snagged on the fabric—a problem he worried could worsen with use.

Honorable Mention: Best Budget Camping Tent for Small Groups

Test Results: Car camping doesn’t have to be an expensive adventure. The Coleman Skydome gives you most of the features and function you’d want from a more expensive tent, at a fraction of the price of some others on this list. You’ll notice one of these features right out of the bag: The poles are pre-attached to the body, making for an easier setup because you won’t have to fish them through sleeves. Additionally, the tent held tough through strong Colorado afternoon thunderstorms and didn’t spring one leak. “Where other floors can soak through in a heavy rain, I’d feel very comfortable with the Skydome for multiple wet days in a row,” one tester says. 

The tent may be a little more cramped than higher-end models: One New Hampshire-based tester said it would have been a tight squeeze for a family of four (even with two tweens), but three adults had plenty of room under the 4.5-foot dome. The shelter’s made with dark materials that make it easy to sleep in beyond early summer sunrises. Downside: You might need a headlamp or lantern if you’re playing cards on a rainy day.  

Buying Advice

Car-camping tents are generally larger, more spacious and more feature-packed than backpacking tents, but also heavier. That would be a problem if you had to haul your setup everywhere—but that’s the beauty of car camping. When you drive to your campsite, weight isn’t an issue. The tents in this guide are roomy, feature-rich and affordable. They’re not the most portable, but there are some crossover tents that are light enough to backpack with and would still be incredibly comfortable in a front-country campground.

In order to select the best shelter for you, consider the following factors.


Every tent model features a number in its name that corresponds, roughly, to how many people can fit inside, lying down shoulder to shoulder. There isn’t an industry standard for how much room each person gets, so think of it as a maximum; four sleepers can fit in a four-person tent, but you’ll be more comfortable in a six-person shelter.

Also take a look at tent specs before buying. The floor area can help you think about where the sleeping pads would be positioned to maximize space, and peak height can tell you how much headroom you’ll have.

Vestibules and Doors

The space inside the main body of the tent isn’t the only space that matters. Especially if you’re dealing with weather or otherwise spending extended time inside your tent, you’ll want to get extra stuff out of the thing. That’s where vestibules come in. These indoor-outdoor spaces on the other side of the door are covered and accessible from the inside of the tent, but don’t eat into the floor space. They’re great for storing extra gear and wet clothes.

If there are more than a couple of sleepers in your tent, having multiple doors is nice. It allows folks to enter and exit without stepping over one another or getting in anyone’s way.


It’s also worth considering things like organization, ventilation and even color. Extra features tend to add cost to the shelter, but can be worth it. Interior pockets, gear lofts and gear loops let you get your sundries off the floor and out of the way, preserving floor space for sleeping. It’s nice to be able to designate one pocket for every sleeper, but not essential.

Being able to remove the rainfly completely in good weather can improve the feeling of being outside. If you have multiple people sleeping in a tent or are camping in rain or humidity, you might want the ability to open vents in the tent to increase airflow and minimize condensation.

A bright-colored tent may make the inside feel more comfortable and pleasant when it’s gray and murky outside. It’s also more visible from afar. A neutral-colored tent, on the other hand, will blend in with its surroundings more.

Related Articles

How to Choose a Camping Tent

How to Set up a Tent


Beginning in the summer and fall 2019, we’ve sent more than 20 members (and their friends, families and pups) from across the country out into car campgrounds and parcels of wide-open public land to evaluate the best shelters you can find at REI. They’ve dealt with blazing sunshine, unrelenting rain and gale-force winds, scrutinizing everything from leaks to privacy windows.

Ultimately, after each testing season every tester rates each shelter on its spaciousness, weather protection, durability, features, price and usability. We averaged those scores to give each tent a combined score out of 100; these seven tents are proven to provide the best night’s sleep. The REI Co-op Wonderland 6 and REI Co-op Skyward 4 performed supremely well in most categories; the Gazelle T4 HubKelty Discovery Basecamp 6 and Coleman Skydome 4-Person Tent with Full-Fly Vestibule performed well in at least one—but not all—categories.

About the Authors

Ryan Wichelns

Ryan is a freelance journalist and climber. His favorite climbs are the random, unaesthetic snow- and ice-covered heaps in the middle of nowhere that require a weeklong scree-choked slog to maybe climb. Don’t ask him why. REI member since 2017.

Maren Horjus

Maren Horjus is a former associate editor for Expert Advice and Uncommon Path, presently chasing powder and a humidity-free lifestyle in Boulder, Colorado. REI member since 2012.