The CampingSage is all about family camping, in tents, and with a high degree of comfort. Getting your family camping tent requirements clear is at the heart of our philosophy.
We go into great detail about the range of tents available to you in our guide to choosing a family tent. In this short article we are going to provide a view on exactly what we consider the Essential Family Camping Tent Requirements.
Family Camping – Our Assumptions
- More than 2 people in the party
- Typically stay for 2 or more nights
- Camping is a vacation choice – not just an overnight trip
- Your tent and campsite will be the base of you vacation activities
- You are going to be cooking and eating at your campsite (we know of many people who jump in the truck and shoot off to the nearest fast food joint anytime they need to eat)
Core Family Camping Tent Requirements
Here is the CampingSage view on what is expected of a comfortable family tent.
- Must be big enough for the whole party to sleep comfortably
- ‘Big enough’ tent will be rated for 2-4 people more than will be in your party
- If you camp regularly, we strongly suggest you look for a tent rated for at least 4 more people that will be traveling.
- Sleeping comfortably will require more than simply throwing sleeping bags on the floor. As a minimum, you should be able to get a queen sized air bed in for the adults and self inflating sleeping pads for each child
- Sufficient Height to Stand Upright
- This really gets to be a ‘biggie’. If you are doing any activity involving water you are likely to get wet. You will need to use your tent to change clothes. Being able to stand upright makes peeling off wet gear and getting changed so much easier
- Being able to stand upright helps enormously in just moving around the tent in normal circumstances.
- Multiple doors and windows
- If you are only ever camping for one night, this requirement may not seem too important
- Multiple doors improve light and ventilation in the tent. Helps keep the temperature down on those hot, sunny days. It can also help you get rid of any damp smells following the latest kayak dunking
- All doors and windows must have bug proof mesh screens that allow light and ventilation while keeping the pesky bugs out.
- All doors and windows must have a zippable waterproof covers as well as the mesh screens
- Easy to Pitch/Easy to take down and pack
- If you are new to camping, we strongly suggest you practice pitching your tent in your yard or a local park before going camping. Every family tent is advertised as being easy to pitch. And they are. If you know what you are doing. There is little more frustrating (and sometime embarrassing) than spending hours trying to pitch your tent
- Easy to take down and pack should be obvious. Tents need to be collapsed. Poles and pegs removed and the tent than folded. It’s usually pretty easy but we have seen more than a few tents crammed into the back of a car (molded around the kids already sitting there) as the frustration of folding and packing take hold.
- Tough and Robust
- Most family camping tents are fairly cheap – in the $100-200 range. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be able to survive many camping trips over the next few years. The best way to check how well tents last is to read the reviews online
- Every reputable family tent sold will be made from waterproof materials. The floors will be rated for a hydrostatic head of at least 4000mm. The rest of the tent will be rated for 3000mm.
- While the fabrics and materials are waterproof – the seams, doors and windows all provide weak points
- Most good tents will also have a rain fly. The rain fly should stop most rainfall hitting the tent at all
- Integrated floor tub. There continues to be a lot of debate about the value of integrated floor tubs. For us, they are essential. We have camping in a cloudburst with 2 inches of surface water running through the campsite. Our tent stayed dry. Some of our neighbours were not so lucky with sleeping bags and other possessions ruined
- Integrated Lantern Hooks
- We call them lantern hooks. In reality, it is amazing the range of things that get hung on these hooks that are molded into internal tent seams
- Storage Pockets
- Most larger tents include a number of pockets on the inner surface of the tent. These work for storing everything from mobile phones, to underwear, to sneakers and more.
- Keeping a tent interior uncluttered is a key to comfortable camping. Integrated storage pockets help enormously
- When you are camping with kids, you tent is going to take a few knocks. Everyone will trip over the guy ropes at some time. You kids are likely to run full tilt into the tent at some point (don’t ask me why – it always seems to happen). The last thing you need is for poles to break easily and the tent collapse.
- Light weight – compact when packed
- One of our assumptions is that you are always going to be camping from your car. Your campsite is never going to be more than 200 feet from your parking spot. You still need a tent that is light enough to move and carry to where it’s needed.
- If, as we assume, you use a car, you are going to be short on space when fully packed. The less volume taken up by your tent, the more space you will have in your car for other, luxury camping gear.
Should Have Family Camping Tent Features
There are a number of features that we think a family tent ‘should’ have. One or 2, like multi-room, are, for us, essentials. We just recognise that for many, these fit into the ‘should have’ category.
- Multi – Room Tents
- The minimum multi-room tent is one with a separated screen/mud room and living/sleeping area.
- For us, you should also be looking at separate bedrooms. It is incredibly relaxing for the children to go to bed while the parents/adults are able to sit up in the screen room enjoying a glass of wine and a game of cards.
- E-ports – really just a dedicated flap through which to pass an electric hook-up or generator cables, are becoming ever more popular. We know all the arguments for leaving all you personal connectivity devices at home. Trouble is, most of us just can’t manage to cut ourselves off from the internet and social media. That means we will need some way of charging all your devices. An e-port, allowing an electrical hook-up, is one option.
Nice to Have Tent Features
Tent design and features have moved on a long way in recent years. It is still true that most of what the tent manufacturers marketing team reckon are essential elements are just nice to have.
- Fluorescent tent pegs and guy ropes.
- Fluorescent tent pegs and guy ropes are normally provided for the entranceway of a tent. While quite a good idea, they help you find the tent door in the dark, they definitely fit in the ‘nice to have’ category. The prevalence of cheap solar lights and lanterns, and hugely powerful LED flashlights, mean we can readily light the tent and our route home.
- Awnings and vestibules
- Many tents have optional awnings and vestibules. These can dramatically increase the entrance area of your tent which can provide additional storage areas or even sheltered areas for you camping stove. We have an awning – it’s great. We bought it 2 years after buying the tent.
- Matching windbreaks
- Windbreaks are great. They can turn a cold and draft campsite into one that is snug and warm. There is absolutely no necessity to buy an expensive windbreak that matches your tent. You can buy a perfectly serviceable windbreak for just a few dollars.
What Type of Tent
We spend a lot of time considering the various types of tent you can buy in our article “How to Choose the Tent that is Right for Your Family”. There is an astounding range of types of tent available to you.
If you are relatively new to camping, we recommend you consider a dome tent. They have a great set of features, are reasonably priced, and are easy to set-up and have good portability.
For the more experienced or more confident camper we recommend either tunnel tents or cabin tents. These tend to be a bit heavier and a little more challenging to set-up than dome tents. In return, you get more usable area for a given footprint. These tents tend to have more of the features you should be look for too.
You can see our tent recommendations, depending on the number of people in your party, in the following articles:
- Best 6-person tents
- Best 8-person tents
- Best 10-person tents
- Best large tents
- Best pop-up tents
In this article we have supplied some of the tent features we look for broken down into ‘must have’, ‘should have’ and, ‘nice to have’. Your priorities and requirements are likely to be a bit different.
Use this list to get you started. Then create your own prioritized list of tent features. Once you have done this you are going to be in good shape for choosing the tent that is right for you and your family.
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