Camping

Examined: The most effective tenting tents of 2020

A version of this story appeared in the 2020 summer edition of Uncommon Path.

Whether you're a family car camper, an overlander, or somewhere in between, make yourself comfortable – your next search for nylon apartments starts here. This year's harvest of autocamping tents shows that there is a perfect home away from home for anyone who wants to get going.

Here's the thin one: When camping by car, you don't have to worry about the mass or weight of your equipment. That means you can enjoy shelters that are more spacious and functional than backpack tents. Such shelters are often easier to set up than their cousins ​​with a backpack and also cheaper. All of this can make sleeping on the floor an all-round pleasant experience.

We tested the best tents you can find at REI and converted all this feedback into what you can find in this manual. So pack up the car; Whether you are preparing for your next trip or planning a future vacation, you are sure to find the perfect tent for you here.

REI Cooperative Kingdom 6

Best tent for families

Score: 94

REI Cooperative Kingdom 6

    • Footprint: 83.3 sq. Ft.
    • Anteroom area: 29 sq. Ft.
    • Tip height: 75 inches
    • Number of doors: 2
    • Package weight: 21 lbs. 6 ounces.
    • Price: $ 499

Test results: A tester called this palace tent his "party house" and we could no longer agree. In our test, not only is the 75-inch peak height for tops bound, but between the floor area and the anteroom, this giant offers an area of ​​well over 100 square meters – larger than some brick and mortar bedrooms. For this purpose, the REI Co-op Kingdom 6 has a partition, so that campers can create two rooms with their own entrance in a rectangular layout. We had no problem putting three thresholds on each side, but we strongly recommend that the front room be turned into a lounge with chairs and a card table if you don't fully utilize the capacity.

Solid doors lead to a 29-square-meter vestibule on the front, where you can store boots, backpacks, and wet gear. If you subscribe to the "No dogs in the tent" guideline (no judgment), you can convert the vestibule into a kind of dog run. Or support the doors with a few tarpaulin poles and guylines to create a veranda with an awning. Or go it all out: Connect to the Kingdom Mud Room ($ 99.95, sold separately) to give yourself a 50 square meter foyer. "It's like in our workshop," says a tester. “At night we move our chairs, the side table, the firewood and the children's bicycles into it. If it rains, we even eat there. "

Luxury like this is of course not compact. The Kingdom 6 is packaged in a bundle the size of a toddler. Color-coded bars, clips and sleeves simplify the process. With such a large tent, you probably have help comparable to rearing a stable.

Bottom line:

Enjoy maximum living space in the Kingdom 6, which has two rooms that can easily accommodate families and people who want to spread out.

Test statistics:

  • Nights off: 60
  • Test states: Colorado, Utah, Washington
  • Best test story: "Google Maps is the key to good desert car camping," says one tester (yes, he is a millennium old). “A bit of chafing before this trip brought up some cool new ideas, but it wasn't until we drove almost straight to the edge of a 1,000-foot canyon and positioned ourselves with a view of the edge that we realized how good the clutch was for this preparation . "

Big Agnes Dog House 4

Best tent for small groups

Score: 88

Big Agnes Dog House 4

    • Floor space: 57 sq. Ft.
    • Anteroom area: none
    • Tip height: 60 inches
    • Number of doors: 1
    • Package weight: 8 lbs. 10 ounces.
    • Price: $ 249.95

Test results: Sometimes simpler is better. Take the Big Agnes Dog House 4, a no-frills shelter that does everything you want and nothing you don't. An intuitive bar structure as well as color-coded straps and buckles make the setup self-explanatory even for new campers. True story: Our tester was able to set up dog house 4 in just a few minutes on his first try ("without instructions", he emphasizes). The single-walled design also optimizes the furnishings, as campers don't have to deal with a separate rainfly. The partial fly (which stands on the tent like a bucket hat) is always appropriate and leaves little to be confused. Other nice details like pre-assembled guylines and tensioners add to the overall usability of this shelter.

Dog house 4 is surprisingly spacious. Steep walls and an almost square floor plan offer enough space for the whole gang – four adults could sleep comfortably from head to toe on a group tour in New York's Adirondacks (a family with small children has even more space). A large D-door, an oversized window and two ventilation slots in the top ensure sufficient ventilation and make it easy to come and go.

While this bare-boned tent lacks certain features like vestibules, double doors, and plenty of pockets (it has two plus inner loops for attaching lofts), it has everything you need. At $ 250, it is one of the cheapest tents in our test.

Bottom line:

Basic Dog House 4 has everything you need and nothing you don't need.

Test statistics:

  • Nights off: 12
  • Test countries: California, New York, Washington
  • Best test story: A tester's dog house 4 became his family's refuge in the backyard during the spring pandemic 2020. "The water resistance of the automatic sprinklers was above average," he says.

Exped Outer Space II

Best tent for people who only want one

Score: 91

Exped Outer Space II

    • Floor space: 30 sq. Ft.
    • Anteroom area: 26.9 square feet for the larger ones, 7.5 square feet for the smaller ones
    • Tip height: 59 inches
    • Number of doors: 2
    • Package weight: 6 lbs. 5 oz.
    • Price: $ 449

Life is complicated enough without having to buy special tents for camping and backpacking. Simplify your life with the Exped Outer Space II, a brand new shelter that can do both comfortably. And you will be comfortable: This tent has a vestibule that is large enough to accommodate two chairs and a cooler.

It makes sense: We camp to spend time outdoors, not indoors. The 27 square meter vestibule of the Outer Space II, which is larger than many backpacking tents, has its own pole structure that can be pegged out normally. However, campers can roll the rain fly back from the sides to create a covered terrace (see illustration)). For our testers, this was a meeting point under all conditions. They used it as a front row seat for the fantastic summer storms in Colorado (yes, below the tree line). When a washout was imminent, our testers detached the tent body from the fly to create a covered space large enough to accommodate a few wet neighbors from the nearest campsite.

As far as the tent body itself is concerned, the Outer Space II offers the type of bedroom that you can expect from a backpack tent: two campers have plenty of shoulder room when lying down and enough space to sit. Corner pockets and a second (much smaller) vestibule compared to the larger one make organization a breeze. At around £ 3 per person, it's heavy for backpacking, and since it uses an outer pole, you can't remove the fly in good weather – but these are small compromises for the most versatile tent in our test.

Bottom line:

Make the most of bad weather with the Outer Space II, which has a massive, tent-sized vestibule and is just light enough to be used twice as a backpack shelter.

Test statistics:

  • Nights off: 12
  • Test conditions: Colorado
  • Best test story: "During the camp in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, it was warm enough that I could sleep with both vestibules retired," says one tester. "As such, I could see the massive moose bulls strolling through the camp one morning."

Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2

Best Cartop tent

Score: 90

Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2

  • Floor area: 28 sq. Ft.
  • Anteroom area: none
  • Tip height: 38 inches
  • Number of doors: 1
  • Package weight: 105 lbs.
  • Price: $ 1,199.95

Test results: Somewhere between autocamping and van life, a roof tent offers a luxurious and comfortable home away from home. Thule's pop-up style protection nests in a large zipped compartment attached to your car carrier. To use it, just remove the cover, extend the ladder, and open the bottom. The learning curve is minimal and a tester has a set-up time of up to 30 seconds. (Although the Ayer 2 can be mounted on most roof racks, it is difficult and cumbersome to install. Instead of removing it every weekend, we recommend installing it once and leaving it there for the camping season. The cover is durable and protects the tent The small mass of the thing had little effect on our gasoline consumption in the city.)

During a two-week road trip from Colorado to Nevada and back, another tester noticed that there was no need to find a smooth place to drop. She was able to arrive late at camp and snap up her Ayer 2. On dry nights, she rolled up panels on the sides to reduce condensation, and when the weather was fine, she completely removed the rainfly and pulled the skylights back to the stars like a skylight. The Ayer 2 can accommodate two adults who can sit upright and play cards comfortably (with a 70-pound husky on the other end), or three adults to sleep shoulder to shoulder.

You don't need a sleeping pad inside. The Ayer 2 comes standard with a 2.5 inch foam mattress that is one step further than what college kids sleep on. Throw your sleeping bag up there or wrap it with sheets and a duvet from home if you want to impress.

Bottom line:

Camp wherever you park with the ultra-comical Ayer 2, which appears in less than a minute after installation.

Test statistics:

  • Nights off: 26
  • Test states: California, Colorado, Nevada, Utah
  • Best test story: “We weren't sure if we could find a manageable campsite in the grounds behind the Red Rocks National Conservation Area in Nevada, but when we came across an opening bordered by rocky cliffs and desert cacti, we knew that it was going to be one of the best campsites of the trip, ”says one of our testers.

Other top performers

REI Co-op Grand Hut 4

Score: 90

REI Co-op Grand Hut 4

    • Floor space: 59.7 sq. Ft.
    • Anteroom area: 35 sq. Ft.
    • Tip height: 75 inches
    • Number of doors: 2
    • Package weight: 14 lbs. 2 ounces.
    • price: $ 299

Test results: The REI Co-op Grand Hut 4 is like a portable cabin for a small group that takes advantage of the luxury and space of the Kingdom 6 and the simplicity of the Dog House 4 and divides the difference. The viability comes from its geometry; The Grand Hut 4 is more cube-shaped than pyramid-shaped, so the entire floor plan can be used. Campers taller than 6 feet should be able to stand up and walk around without bumping into sloping walls. It is the perfect size for a few festival goers or campers who were hiding during a rain storm: “We rearranged our upholstery and sleeping bags to create a living room on one side and the iPad for an A on the other side -Plus film – watching setup, ”says a tester. The same tester found that there were no leaks in either of the vestibules because the rain fly extends to the floor. (Since the tent is fairly high, you should use the Guylines in the wind.) The Grand Hut 4 can comfortably accommodate three sleepers and "four are tight but doable," says our tester.

Marmot limestone 4P

Score: 88

Marmot limestone 4P

    • Floor space: 60 sq. M. Ft.
    • Anteroom area: 21 sq.ft.
    • Tip height: 61 inches
    • Number of doors: 2
    • Package weight: 11 lbs. 11 oz.
    • price: $ 370

Test Results: Although the Marmot Limestone 4P does not have the height or headroom of the Grand Hut, it has a similar layout for a simple life. Our group of four testers easily exposed to some rain in Limestone 4P, New York's Coyle Hill State Forest, and found that the clever venting system kept condensation to a minimum. Even if our crew invited five more friends to cards, each person would fit nicely if they sat in a circle with space in the middle to play. And when the party was over, the massive, double-width door at the front made it easy to send everyone on the way (you can either open half or the whole thing). Another smaller door at the back makes getting in and out easier without disturbing your partner.

Kelty Discovery Dome 4

Score: 84

Kelty Discovery Dome 4

  • Footprint: 55.3 sq. Ft.
  • Anteroom area: none
  • Tip height: 59 inches
  • Number of doors: 1
  • Package weight: 9 lbs. 8 ounces.
  • Price: $ 99.95

Test results: You don't have to break the bank to sleep under the starry sky. Enter Kelty Discovery Dome 4, a four-person shelter for less than a Benjamin. The simple three-pole frame is intuitive and easy to master even for our newcomers to camping. You won't get many features at this price, but our testers were pleased to report that the removable rainfly and durable bathtub-style floor kept water out during a thunderstorm in Shenandoah National Park. The Discovery Dome 4 also has a large, D-shaped door, organization pockets on the inside and internal loops for hanging a headlight or loft.

Buy all car camping tents

camping

Buying advice

Auto camping tents are generally larger, more spacious and full of functions than backpacking tents, but also heavier. That would be a problem if you had to take your setup with you everywhere – but that's the beauty of autocamping. When you drive to your campsite, weight doesn't matter. The tents in this manual are spacious, feature-rich, and affordable. They're not the most portable, but there are some crossover tents (like the Exped Outer Space II) that are light enough to backpack and that still feel incredibly comfortable on a foreshore campsite.

Consider the following factors to choose the best shelter for you.

capacity

Each tent model has a number in its name, which roughly corresponds to the number of people who can lie shoulder to shoulder. There is no industry standard for how much space each person gets. Imagine this as the maximum. Four beds can fit in a four-person tent, but you'll feel more comfortable in a six-person shelter.

Check out the tent specifications before you buy. The floor area can help you think about where the mattresses are positioned to maximize space, and the top height can tell you how much headroom you will have.

Vestibules and doors

The space in the main part of the tent is not the only space that counts. Especially when you're dealing with the weather or otherwise spending a long time in your tent, you want to get extra things out of the thing. This is where the vestibules come into play. These indoor and outdoor areas on the other side of the door are covered and accessible from the inside of the tent, but do not eat into the floor. They are great for storing extra gear and wet clothes.

If your tent has more than a few sleepers, it's nice to have multiple doors. It enables people to get on and off without stepping on one another or getting in the way of someone.

properties

It's also worth considering things like organization, ventilation, and even color. Additional features usually increase the cost of the shelter, but can be worthwhile. In the inside pockets, gear lofts and gear loops, you can lift your little things off the floor and clear them out of the way, thereby preserving the space for sleeping. It's nice to have a bag for every sleeper, but not essential.

Being able to completely remove the rain fly in good weather can improve the feeling of being outside. If multiple people are sleeping in a tent or camping in the rain or wet, you may want to be able to open ventilation slots in the tent to increase airflow and minimize condensation.

A colorful tent can make the interior more comfortable and pleasant if it is gray and cloudy on the outside. It is also more visible from a distance. A neutral tent, on the other hand, blends in better with the surroundings.

How to choose a camping tent

methodology

In the summer and fall of 2019, we sent 22 members (and their friends, families, and puppies) from across the country to auto campsites and plots with wide open public lands to rate the best accommodations you can find at REI. They dealt with brilliant sunshine, relentless rain and stormy winds and examined everything from leaks to privacy screens.

Ultimately, each tester rated each shelter for its spaciousness, weather protection, durability, properties, price and ease of use. We averaged these scores to give each tent a combined score of 100. These seven tents are proven to offer the best sleep. The REI Co-op Kingdom 6, the Big Agnes Dog House 4, Exped Outer Space II and Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2 did excellently in most categories. The REI Co-op Grand Hut 4, Marmot Limestone 4P and Kelty Discovery Dome 4 performed well in at least one – but not all – categories.

We would particularly like to thank our testers who sacrificed more than a few nights away from home for us.

The article Tested: The best camping tents of 2020 first appeared in the REI Co-op Journal.

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