11 family tents tested, ranging in price from $141 to $700
A family outing using a tent can be a wonderful event. The scenic surrounds, the (expected) great weather and the prospect of some family time are things most people look forward to. A good camping tent can make or break this experience, so when you start preparing for your outing, look over your current tent to make sure it’s in good repair. But if you don't already have one, which tent should you buy?
For more information on camping and hiking, see Outdoors.
If you need to buy a tent, be wary of the capacity claims.
- We find the four person tents on test are comfortable for two adults with luggage.
- But they are fairly heavy so you'll probably be carting them about in a car – and keeping most of the gear in the car.
Tent capacity is based on the number of sleeping bags that will fit in, rather than storage space for luggage and other camping gear. Good camping retailers have samples of their tents erected in store so you really know how much room you will have. Take the family when buying and get them to try to fit inside the tent – this will give you an idea of just how tight the fit is, and you want a tent with separate rooms for the kids and yourselves.
- Most of the tents on test have a vestibule, or annex where you enter the tent and store your gear, then most have a zipped doorway to the sleeping compartment.
- All tents tested have waterproof heat-welded tape over the stitching.
- Pricing was erratic when we purchased the tested tents. It really does pay to shop around. We included a more expensive sample to see what kind of bang you get for your buck, and it was purchased at almost half the recommended retail price.
What about the weather?
We had moderate gusts of wind during testing and all the tents managed to stay erect. All needed their guy lines (the ropes that attach to the tent pegs) re-tightened in the mornings, but this is normal for the tents to lose a little tension overnight.
Some tents specify what weather they are best for – some manufacturers argue that better ventilation is important for Australian weather so its water resistance is less important. We don’t pretend to know which way the weather will turn however, so it would be best to plan for the best and worst weather in a tent purchase, waterproof when needed and good ventilation when not.
You’ll also find that tents are being constantly redesigned so you may find minor differences between what we test and what you find on the shelves, such as colour and features.
Brands and models tested
- Black Wolf Tanami 4EV
- Boab Outdoor 4ENV Geo Dome Tent
- Caribee Starlite 4
- Coleman Instant Lakeside Dome Tent 4 Person
- Diamantina Discovery 4EV
- Kathmandu Retreat 180
- Kiwi Camping Kea 4 Dome Tent
- Outdoor Connection Escape 4
- OZtrail Breezeway 4V Plus
- Roman Tracker 4VD Tent
- Spinifex Longreach Dome Tent
What’s a vestibule?
A vestibule is generally a covered area near or in the entryway and act as a place to store your gear out of the direct sleeping area. You can also change into drier clothes here and avoid tramping mud into the sleeping area in case of wet weather. They aren’t necessary, but they are very useful in case of wet weather, and when camping it’s best to plan for the worst. One downside is that they add to the weight of the tent.
How we test
Usability Our tester, Peter Horvath, rates the tents on how comfortable they are to live in and use, taking into account: the usable area of the inner tent and vestibule (height, walls and floor area), access to the tent and ventilation.
Rain test The tents are also assessed for water resistance, in this case by an artificial rain system on all the tents.
Ease of assembly This measures how long it took to put the tents up and take them down. Times ranged from 15-25 minutes to put up the second time around and 10-20 minutes to take down. These times are only a guide because they’re based on the times of an experienced user putting the tent up in ideal conditions. Times will vary depending on experience, weather and ground conditions.