I’ve slept many nights in a lot of different tents, whether I’m car camping, backpacking, or thru-hiking. On those nights when it’s pouring down rain and the winds are howling through your campsite, you learn a lot about what makes a good tent.
There are so many choices and options when it comes to tents, it’s hard to differentiate between all of the brands and manufacturers. In this article, I’ll break down the best tent brands and provide a little insight into what you need to know before you buy.
If you just want the best of the best, here are my top picks of the best tent brands by category:
- Best Backpacking Tent Brand: MSR
- Best Camping Tent Brand: Marmot
- Best Ultralight Tent Brand: Zpacks
- Best Mountaineering Tent Brand: Black Diamond
- Best Rooftop Tent Brand: Roofnest
What You Need to Know Before Buying a Tent
Before looking at the brands of tents themselves, there are a few things to consider. First, what makes up a tent?
Generally, each tent consists of four main parts:
- The inner tent
- The rainfly
- The tent poles
- The stakes
Every part works together to keep campers protected from wind, rain, and, most importantly, bugs.
The next consideration is weight. If you’re carrying your tent on your back, you might want to look into some of the more backpacking-focused brands. If you’re going to do a national park road trip and weight is not as much of a concern, you can look into a more camping tent-focused brand.
Each type of tent does come with its pros and cons. For example, a backpacking tent might not weigh very much and pack small, but it’s made out of thin, fragile fabrics that can’t take the abuse that a car camping tent could take at a music festival. When looking into the best tent brands it is very important to find what each brand specializes in.
In the tenting world, you get what you pay for. If you want a high-quality, long-lasting tent, they are not the cheapest backpacking or camping item you will buy. That being said, a high-quality tent that is well taken care of will last you a very long time.
So what are good tent brands? So many companies make awesome tents. I picked a few of my favorites in a few different categories to share!
Best Backpacking Tent Brands
Backpacking tents are designed to be lightweight and packable. They use thin fabrics and are generally more expensive than your typical tent. These are the best tent brands for backpacking.
MSR specializes in 3-season backpacking and ultralight backpacking tents, but they make a line of car-camping tents and 4-season expedition tents as well.
Mountain Safety Research (MSR) is one of the leaders in the outdoor gear industry. They were started in 1969 by a Seattle-based mountaineer named Larry Penberthy. His idea was that better, safer, more reliable equipment is the key to unlocking greater adventures.
MSR is committed to minimizing their environmental impact through better materials, safer chemicals, and smarter packaging. Their tents are also built to last; MSR’s commitment to sustainability means that shouldn’t have to replace your camping tent for many, many years.
My favorite tents from MSR are:
- The MSR Hubba Hubba NX is a great all-around tent. The durability and ease of setup are ideal for thru-hikers because you don’t have to worry about gear failure or trying to set up an overly complicated tent when you’re tired and just getting into camp.
- The Zoic line has more budget-friendly backpacking tents with the same high quality features as other MSR tents.
- The Carbon Reflex line offers a high-quality ultralight tent with carbon fiber tent poles.
2. Big Agnes
Big Agnes was founded 20 years ago with the goal of outfitting adventurers who want to explore the backcountry (and have while fun doing it). Big Agnes specializes in backpacking tents and bike packing tents, but they also have a full lineup of high-quality car-camping tents and base camp tents.
Big Agnes tents are feature-packed with things like MTN Glo (pre-installed tent lighting) and gear lofts (added storage in the top of your tent for bike helmets, keys, and other small items that get lost inside your tent).
All of the Big Agnes tents have unique features, but they all set up the same. Each tent is designed for specific activities, like bike packing or long-range trekking.
Big Agnes makes the best backpacking tent because no matter the price point, they deliver the same high-end features in every tent in their line-up.
My favorites are:
- The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV is their premiere freestanding tent, this model got a little upgrade for this season: the rainfly can now be pitched into a sunshade with your trekking poles. Other than that it remains the same amazing tent it has been for years.
- The Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL is their semi-freestanding tent (you need to stake out 2 of the corners).
- The Tiger Wall Carbon line from Big Agnes is one of the only freestanding tents that combines carbon tent poles with a DCF rainfly and a sil-nylon body. Coming in at one pound eleven ounces, this is one of the best backpacking tents on the market.
NEMO Equipment (New England Mountain Equipment) is named for its location and nods to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’s Captain Nemo. They are founded on a commitment to adventure, and all of their gear is a representation of that. They started making tents in 2005 and they have been heavily awarded for many different models of their tents since.
They’re also one of the top innovators in the tent world, always pushing the boundaries to make their tents lighter, more functional, and smaller when packed down.
NEMO is always trying to find new ways to make their tents more livable, whether that means adjusting their tent footprints or their pole designs. NEMO tents are just plain unique.
My favorites are:
- The NEMO Hornet is either a 1-person or 2-person tent, and is semi-freestanding (meaning that it has tent poles but also needs to be staked out). This is one of the most popular tents amongst thru-hikers every year.
- The NEMO Dagger is a fully freestanding tent that is also one of the best 3-season tents.
Sea-to-Summit is a newcomer in the tent world, but is quickly becoming one of the best tent brands out there. Prior to their foray into tents, they were one of the camping brands well known for their high-quality camping accessories: everything from pots and dishes to some of the best sleeping pads on the market.
Sea-to-Summit decided to get into the tent market, so founder Roland Tyson and Jake Lah, head designer for DAC (the gold standard for tent pole design), teamed up to create a line of truly unique tents.
Sea-to-Summit is the best new brand because although they only have two tent models right now, their designs and reputation with their other outdoor products will bring them success in the tent market.
My favorites are:
- The Alto is semi-freestanding. The Altos and Telos both come with a fully enclosed fabric inner tent for bad weather conditions (an all-season tent) or a full mesh inner (3 season tent).
- The Telos is a freestanding tent. The Telos’s has a unique feature allowing for the rain fly to be pitched separately and set up as a sunshade.
5. REI Co-Op
REI is a leading retailer of outdoor gear. They are a co-op, so with a one-time installment of $30, you can also become a part-owner. The membership gives you access to all of their exciting classes and activities both free and paid. What started as a group of friends looking to source quality outdoor gear has become one of the largest outdoor stores in the United States.
Although they sell gear from a lot of manufacturers, REI has started to sell their own brand as well. Over the years, this stuff has become very high quality at a slightly lower price point. REI is an awesome company and they are a one-stop-shop for all your camping needs.
REI Co-Op is the best budget backpacking brand because their tents strike a balance of weight, quality, and price.
My favorites are:
- The Half Dome SL. I have nearly spent more nights in this tent than I have in my own bed. I have taken one of these everywhere from a short stint on the PCT to a road trip around the US. It’s a 3 season tent with all tons of features at a very reasonable price point.
- The Quarter Dome SL is REI’s signature tent. It’s aimed at people who want one product that works for most situations.
Best Camping Tent Brands
Camping tents are usually a little bit bigger than their backpacking cousins. They are designed so you can drive into a campsite and set up a base camp for a few days. Camping tents tend to be heavier, more durable, and generally less expensive than the other types of tents on this list.
Here are the best camping tent brands.
Coleman has been helping people get out into the great outdoors for 120 years. They’ve learned a thing or two along the way, including how to make some of the best camping tents out there. They’re actually one of the best overall brands for campers: their stoves and lanterns have been a staple at campsites since they were first released in 1914.
Coleman makes BIG tents. When driving through any campground, you’re sure to notice at least one of their giant 8 to 10 person tents. If you’re looking for something durable, affordable, and easy to use for your next family/friend camping trip, Coleman’s is a good choice.
The Coleman lineup includes the classic dome tents as well as cabin tents for campers that need increased height. They use polyester with fiberglass poles to keep their prices down, and Coleman’s patented Weathertec System uses a tub-like floor with welded corners and inverted seams to help keep campers dry.
Coleman makes the best family camping tents because they offer an incredible selection of large tents in various configurations at a reasonable price point.
My favorites are:
- The Coleman Sundome is ideal for family camping trips and festival camping. Setting up is easy, and the affordability makes it a great choice for campers who probably only camp a few times a year.
- The Coleman WeatherMaster is the best of their cabin tents (tall peak-height), and is a six person tent. You can stand up in it!
Like Coleman, they aim to inspire people to go into the outdoors at a lower price point. They offer a full line of camping gear to help with people’s camping adventures. That isn’t to say that Kelty doesn’t make quality tents—Kelty just uses heavier materials to offer similar weather protection at a lesser cost.
Kelty makes the best camping tents because they have something for every type of camper. They provide people with great price-to-quality options.
My favorites are:
- The Kelty Late Start 2 makes setting up your campsite an absolute breeze.
- The Grand Mesa line has lots of relatively lightweight budget tents.
- Their Wireless line is awesome for larger groups.
Marmot is a mountaineering apparel company that started out making down parkas and sleeping bags. As with most of the brands on this list, they’ve perfected the art of making quality gear, which translates directly into making great tents. Marmot tents are mostly aimed at camping, backpacking, and mountaineering. They offer some of the best tents in the budget category as well.
Marmot tents are multi-use tents because they have options for both car camping and backpacking. If you like to switch things up, these tents will suit your needs.
My favorite tent from Marmot is:
- The Tungsten 2 person tent is perfectly versatile for all kinds of camping. It’s a bit on the heavier side because it’s made of polyester, but because of this Marmot is able to offer a lower price point.
Alps Mountaineering is another budget-friendly company. They are not as well established as Kelty and Coleman, but they still make very good products. Their motto is “Exceed Your Expectations,” and for years they’ve been offering quality gear to campers at affordable price points.
They make a full line of tents for camping, as well as tents for families and groups…all for budget prices.
My favorites are:
- The Camp Creek cabin tent, which comes in a 4-, 6-, and 2-room 6-person version. This is the perfect family tent!
- The Lynx 1-person is an ideal budget option for campers looking to try backpacking for the first time. If you discover it’s not for you, then you won’t have wasted a ton of money.
Best Ultralight Tent Brands
Zpacks is the best ultralight brand on this list. If you are looking for the lightest option with the highest quality material, Zpacks is the best brand for you. All of their tents and shelters are made from DCF fabric—a tent fabric that does not absorb water. When it gets wet, you can just shake the water off.
How light are these tents? Their 2 person backpacking tent (the Duplex) weighs in at 19 oz (539 g) and is still able to withstand adverse weather conditions. Zpacks is a worthy brand for someone looking to do any sort of long-distance hiking where pack weight is a concern.
My favorite is:
- The Duplex, a 2 person, 3-season shelter coming in at just over 1 pound. The Duplex uses a unique pole design (or lack thereof): your trekking poles actually prop up the entire structure. To keep the weight down, you should use carbon fiber poles rather than aluminum poles. (If you don’t use trekking poles, you can purchase two poles from ZPacks separately.)
Best Mountaineering Tent Brands
If your next adventure takes you above the tree-line and into areas where you might experience heavy snowfall and high winds, a mountaineering tent is the best option for you.
These tents are expensive, durable, and made to endure the most intense weather conditions. In the past few years, these tents have gotten lighter, but they are still by no means ultralight.
11. The North Face
The North Face was originally a mountaineering company, but over the year they became known for durable outdoor apparel and super high-quality expedition gear (it’s a common brand used by climbers of Mt. Everest). Their tents are a great example of this. If your needs include camping at high elevation in high winds and potentially large amounts of snowfall, The North Face has you covered.
Mountaineers have long relied on North Face’s gear to help them get to some of the most remote locations and climb the tallest peaks in the world.
My favorites are:
- The North Face Assault 2 FutureLight tent is a fairly lightweight 4 season structure built to withstand high winds at high elevations. This tent is not designed for average campers.
- The North Face 2 Meter Dome is iconic: you’ll see the geometric dome tent design at mountaineering base camps across the world. It’s built to withstand the harshest weather conditions out there, with weather protection features like heavy-duty Fly Fabric to protect you whether you’re in Antarctica or the Himalayas.
12. Black Diamond
Black Diamond is a climbing and skiing company that also designs some of the toughest tents on the market. This means their tents and their bivy shelters (basically a waterproof shell) are designed to help people access remote zones.
Black Diamond tents are on the lighter weight, higher-end side. You’ll pay a pretty penny for these things—up to $1,000! But for winter skiers and campers, these tents will carry you through some incredibly harsh conditions.
My favorites are:
- Their 4 season Eldorado tent ticks all the boxes if you are looking for a lightweight mountaineering structure. The square feet is limited, but it has enough height to cover taller climbers.
- Their more camping and backpacking-oriented tent, the Firstlight, is also an awesome option for a lightweight 2 person tent.
Best Rooftop Tent Brands
Rooftop tents are the pinnacle of tents for camping in your car. These tents are mounted onto the roof rack of your car and can be set up in seconds. They come with a built-in mat on the bottom so you don’t need to bring your sleeping pad. They’re heavy and definitely on the expensive side; however, their ease of use and convenience makes it an incredibly popular option for regular campers.
For rooftop tents, the best tent for you will depend on your existing roof rack system and whether you want a hardtop (more expensive, more aerodynamic) or a soft top (more affordable with many more options in sizes and setups).
These companies are at the forefront of the rooftop tent market.
Roofnest is probably the least known brand of the three in this list. They’re one of the only tent manufacturers making exclusively rooftop tents, with just three models and a few variations in configuration and size.
The Sparrow, the Falcon, and The Condor (all named for birds!) are all hardtop, meaning that when closed, they are more aerodynamic and weather resistant than the soft-top tents. Each Roofnest model is equipped with hydraulic struts so they are deployed in about the time it takes to undo the latches. When open, the nylon and mesh walls provide great ventilation and views to outside.
My favorite is:
- The Falcon is the top-of-the-line rooftop model from Roofnest. The entire shell is made of lightweight aluminum, and there are accessory channels around the entire outside of the tent so you can mount basically anything onto it (including crossbars to store bikes, or even a roof box).
14. Thule Tepui
Thule is a household gear company when it comes to accessories for your vehicle. They are probably best known for their lineup of bike racks, crossbars, and roof boxes.
It made a lot of sense for them to acquire Tepui (one of the first brands making rooftop tents) in 2018. With their integration into the Thule rooftop system, these rooftop tents are incredibly convenient to put on your car. Thule Tepui tents come in a few different models and are mostly soft shell tents, making them a bit more affordable than the hardshell versions.
Thule Tepui’s rooftop tents are just remarkably easy to use. Their integration with the crossbars makes setting up quick and efficient.
My favorite is:
- Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2 is equipped to withstand severe weather conditions, and the high-density foam mattress is incredibly comfortable. You’ll have a better sleep than in your own bed.
Yakima is another company that specializes in car accessories. It was a natural next step for them to also produce a rooftop tent that integrates with their roof rack system. They offer models in 2 different sizes that are built to be 4-season tents.
Yakima’s rooftop tents have amazing versatility. Their tents are fully enclosed with zip-open windows, allowing them to be used in various weather conditions, whether it’s warm and muggy or cold and windy.
My favorite is:
- The Skyrise HD is an awesome option for people with a Yakima roof rack system. They’re rugged and made with 600D Ripstop polyester fabric, and a 300mm waterproof coating.
Considerations When Choosing a Tent
After going through the different tenting brands, here are a few questions to ask yourself before deciding on your new tent!
How Many Seasons Do You Plan To Camp?
Tents mostly come in 3-season and 4-season models. Generally, a 3-season tent can hold up in the harshest conditions, barring snow.
However, if you are going to sleep at high elevation in an exposed place, the extra protection from the winds and snow that a 4-season tent offers is very helpful. Also, 4-season tents have less mesh to trap in more heat and are made of a thicker fabric. (Campers: keep your eye on those weather conditions before you set out!)
How Many People Are Going On The Trip?
The size of your tent is also important. You don’t want to go camping with four of your friends and bring a 2 person tent. Tent manufacturers will list the dimensions for the floor area and the peak height.
If you measure out how much space you need (sleeping pads, people, gear) you can get a really good sense of what you can fit in the tent.
How Are You Planning On Getting To Your Campsite?
The next consideration is how you are going to get to your campsite. Will you be driving up to it? Maybe a short walk from the car? Or are you going on a backpacking trip? Maybe you’re new to camping and don’t know how you want to get to your site.
This is a huge factor in deciding what the best tent is. Lighter, more packable tents are way more convenient for backpacking, but when you are going to the local state park for the weekend a huge family tent is so much easier and more comfortable.
How Much Does Your Tent Weigh?
The weight of your tent is incredibly important. When backpacking, your tent is usually the heaviest thing you’ll carry in your pack. If you’re going to be doing some long-range hiking or backpacking, the lightest tent possible is your best option.
On many gear company’s websites, they list a couple of different weights for their tents. They give the shipped weight, which is the tent and everything that it comes with (guy lines, stuff sacks, rainfly, tent poles, and stakes). Then they list the minimum trail weight. This can be a very misleading metric because there is no industry standard for what the brand leaves behind. Generally, trust the shipped weight because most of the time you are going to want to stake out your tent and use the accessories that the tent came with.
These are our best tent brands. All of these companies have incredible options for campers, but it depends on what your specific needs are. The bottom line is to enjoy nature and have fun on your camping adventure! And please pack out your trash.