Family and Group Tent Buying Guide
Although most of the information you will need to purchase your tent will be found in the Basic Things to Consider When Purchasing a Tent article and within the individual tent reviews included on this website, there are a few things you may want to consider if you are looking to purchase a family-sized or group-sized tent.
Purchasing the perfect family or group tent for your camping excursion isn’t simply about selecting a large tent and going on your way. There are many more considerations you should explore before spending money on what will be your home away from home. This article has been written to give you an idea of some very specific things you will want to consider when purchasing a family-sized or group-sized tent.
The size of tent you choose to purchase will make an impact on both your camping experience and your car or trailer packing experience. The larger the tent, the more people and stuff you can fit inside. However, large tents take much longer to set up, are rarely available with a popup assembly, and take up much more space in your car or trailer during transportation.
For more information on how to select the perfect tent size for the number of people in your group and the ways in which you all intend to use your tent, please visit our article on How to Select a Tent Size.
Three Man Tent
Seven Man Tent
Seven Man Square Tent
Number of Exits
I cannot stress how important it is to consider the number of exits you would like your tent to have. It can be rather annoying having people climb over you on their way to the bathroom in the middle of the night (especially if you have selected a tent with a short roof.) Nighttime bathroom trips are the most popular reason people cite for choosing a tent with more than one exit. I would, however, like to bring another important reason to your attention – predators.
I’m not here to scare you. I am an avid camper and am the first person to tell you that camping should be fun and you shouldn’t worry too much about predators, especially if you are on a campground. That being said, it’s usually better to be safe than sorry.
A few years ago, my family and I purchased what we thought would be the perfect tent for the four of us. It was large and spacious with plenty of room for the kids to have their own private areas and for all of us to play a board game on rainy days. There were plenty of windows and a lot of space to move around each other in the night, so we didn’t consider a second exit to be all that important.
One night, I awoke to the sound of rustling outside the tent. I knew there was an active bear in the park which had been caught stealing food from a neighboring campsite earlier that day. My heart raced as the animal made its way around the tent, pushing on the sides until it reach the door. Knowing that the door was our only way out and that our children were trapped in the tent with us, my partner and I began throwing shoes at the front of the tent. The animal wasn’t perturbed. It only continued to rustle against the entrance and, finally, began to open the zipper. We threw a couple more shoes and made some really loud noises before it finally ceased.
The funny part of this story is that it wasn’t a bear at all. When we shone a flashlight out the window, I realized that it was the cutest raccoon family I have ever seen in my life. I suppose they had smelled the food my partner forgot to lock in the car. The morals of this story are – if it had been a bear we would have been trapped, two doors are better than one, and don’t forget to lock up your food.
Are privacy screens important to your camping experience? If there will be a bunch of you sharing this space together, you may want to consider a tent which comes with privacy screens. Of course, you can always kick everyone else out of the tent if you need to change your clothes, but that may a little insensitive if its pouring rain outside.
Some screens offer only partial privacy, allowing you to secure them to the tent at their four corners. Others allow complete privacy, featuring zippers which fully enclose one space from another.
Storage space comes in a variety of forms where tents are concerned. You may find that your mid-sized or large tent has a “gear loft” which is, essentially, a piece of mesh strewn across the ceiling area of your tent. Wall pockets are also included on many tents. While these can be helpful for storing lightweight items (such as cell phones and hairbrushes), they will not be ideal for many of the other things you find yourself lugging around with you.
Some tents are wide open square, rectangular, or circular spaces; some are shaped to have different alcoves or wings which can be treated as separate rooms. You can easily use one of those separate areas to store your cooking supplies, water cooler, clothing, and swim gear.
Personally, I prefer a tent with a mudroom. Mudrooms are great additions to tents. Not only do they give you a place to stand as your disrobe muddy shoes and clothing, they can also give you a place to store your extra items. We have been fortunate enough to find a tent with a full mudroom which even has a floor. We store all of our extra belongings in there, from clothing and shoes to board games and drinks.
There are a few other things to consider when purchasing your family or group tent. Tent material is very important. For more information on that topic, visit our Tent Fabric Types article. Many other important things you should consider have been covered in our Basic Things to Consider When Purchasing a Tent article.