INTO THE WOODS
There are tents designed for every degree of "roughing it," from extreme backcountry hiking to "glamping." Although high-end tents can cost $600 or more, there are cheaper models for car camping or backpacking that are rugged enough for inclement weather. Cheapism.com consulted professional test results and owner reviews to identify the best tents under $300 from top manufacturers like Coleman, REI, Ozark Trail, and more. We've also included a few specialized tents from upscale brands Tepui and Kodiak.
Our top picks have features found on pricier models. We looked for aluminum tent poles; nylon instead of polyester for the walls and floor; a waterproof coating of at least 1,200 mm (1,500 mm is even better); and a large rain fly to keep water from dripping onto the roof and walls and seeping in. Most of the models we reviewed are three-season tents, designed to withstand light precipitation or a dusting of snow and stay comfortable down to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. In truth, many owners say, they aren't comfortable below 40 degrees, especially if it's windy or rainy.
Size is another issue, particularly if you plan to sleep on an air mattress or want extra room for your belongings, your dog, or just to spread out. Nearly all manufacturers offer tents designed for anywhere from one person to eight, or even 10 to 12 people, but pay attention to ceiling height and floor space. More is better, most reviewers say. Weight is less of an issue for car camping than it is for backpacking, where every inch and every ounce is precious. Still, 15 or 20 pounds may be as much as you want to lug. A backpacking tent for one or two should weigh 4 pounds or less, according to experts.
To protect the base of the tent from scuffing or tearing, and provide a layer of insulation between you and the cold ground, some experts recommend a waterproof ground cloth called a footprint. Only a few manufacturers include a footprint with the tent, and some don't even sell them as an optional extra.
Prices and availability may vary.