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.
EUREKA COPPER CANYON 6
Best 6-Person Car Camping Tent Under $300
Est. Price: $214 | Buy it from Camp Saver
- Spacious, boxy cabin, with a 100-square-foot base and a 7-foot peak.
- Color-coded tent rods make setup easy for two people.
- 4 large mesh windows with zip-up flaps for ventilation and a mesh roof for stargazing.
- Thoughtful extras like a port for an extension cord, mesh pockets in the walls, and a privacy curtain.
- Small rain fly may allow water to seep into the tent.
- Footprint to protect the tent base costs extra.
- Slightly heavy for a tent this size (just over 23 pounds).
Takeaway: You can spend $500 or more on a six-person tent for serious car camping, or you can buy this cabin-style tent and put the savings toward your next camping trip. There's ample room to set up cots or inflatable mattresses. This three-season tent comes with a gear loft, plus interior pockets to stash personal items, but it doesn't have a vestibule, so there's nowhere to shed gear or dirty clothing outside the living space. We also read several reviews from owners who say the partial rain flap doesn't do a very good job keeping water out of the tent during heavy storms.
COLEMAN CARLSBAD FAST PITCH 6
Best 6-Person Car Camping Tent Under $200
Est. Price: $177 | Buy it on Amazon
- Roomy screened-in vestibule and interior (140 square feet total).
- Blackout lining blocks most ambient light, something light sleepers appreciate.
- Very easy to set up, users say.
- Rain fly doesn't protect adequately in heavy downpours, reviewers say.
- No footprint available.
- Less headspace (5 feet, 8 inches) than other 6-person tents.
Takeaway: The Coleman brand is synonymous with family camping and a favorite of bargain-minded consumers. The manufacturer promises setup in 7 minutes, something owner reviews bear out. It also stays well ventilated, owners say, even though it has only one window. This three-season tent is a good choice for warm-weather camping, but a number of owners say they were not comfortable in colder climates. Although most people say this dome-style tent stands up to wind fairly well, some recommend buying reinforced metal tent anchors. We also read scattered complaints from owners who found small tears or other flaws in the fabric of their new tents.
BIG AGNES BIG HOUSE 4
Best 4-Person Car Camping Tent Under $300
Est. Price: $299.95 | Buy it on Amazon
- Sturdy aluminum stakes and easy assembly, owners say.
- Relatively lightweight for a 4-person tent (8.25 pounds).
- More than a dozen mesh wall pockets and gear hooks for stashing personal items.
- 5-foot peak is lower than other 4-person tents.
- Relatively expensive.
- Vestibule and tent footprint must be purchased separately.
Takeaway: The appropriately named Big House is a reviewer favorite. Although the six-person version of this tent is over our $300 price limit, the four-person model just makes the cut. Big Anges uses rip-stop polyester, which is more durable than the polyester found on cheaper three-season tents and coated with thicker polyurethane waterproofing than tents like the Eureka Copper Canyon. The result: Far fewer camper complaints about leaking or puddling during downpours. Despite its relatively low headspace, the 54 square feet of floor space, vertical walls, and two doors make it feel roomy, owners say, and truly negative reviews are rare.
ALPS MOUNTAINEERING TAURUS 4-PERSON
Best 4-Person Car Camping Tent Under $100
Est. Price: $99 | Buy it on Amazon
- Very weather-resistant, thanks to a thicker-than-average waterproofing layer and sturdy stakes and tent poles.
- 2 doors for easy access; 2 vestibules for extra room to stash gear.
- Good ventilation, reviewers say.
- Rain fly doesn't keep the tent dry in downpours, reviewers note.
- Some complaints about durability, particularly the tent poles.
- Taffeta-like polyester tent floor feels thin, some owners say.
Takeaway: Many reviewers say this Alps Mountaineering tent has held up in the wind and rain remarkably well given its low price. Although cheap tents like this one don't have the features or heavy-duty materials found on more expensive models, it's worth noting that the Taurus has a 2,000 mm waterproofing layer. There's also a small window in the rain fly, a detail owners say they appreciate. On the downside, several campers complain that the aluminum tent poles broke or bent after just a few uses. Others recommend buying a second rain fly if you're planning to camp in wet climates and the optional footprint to protect the tent base.
REI CO-OP CAMP DOME 2-PERSON
Best 2-Person Car Camping Tent Under $100
Est. Price: $100 | Buy it from REI
- Weighs 5 pounds, relatively light for a 2-person camping tent.
- Sturdy aluminum tent poles.
- 2 doors for easy in and out.
- Funky patterns on the rain fly make the tent stand out at crowded venues.
- Rain fly is difficult to attach, many owners say, and could be bigger.
- Some users say the ventilation could be better, especially in humid climates.
- Footprint costs extra.
Takeaway: REI enjoys strong loyalty from its customers, and professional reviewers consistently recommend the outdoor store's house-brand gear. But REI tents command premium prices, and only the two-person version of the highly recommended Camp Dome tent fits within our price range. Still, if you're camping by yourself or with a partner, reviewers say, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better car camping tent under $100. The biggest complaint from owners — and negative feedback is relatively rare — has to do with the rain fly, which several people say isn't big enough to keep out water during heavy downpours.
REI CO-OP HALF DOME 2 PLUS
Best 2-Person Backpacking Tent Under $300
Est. Price: $229 | Buy it from REI
- 2 large doors for easy access; 2 vestibules for plenty of storage.
- Roomy for a 2-person backpacking tent (35.8 square feet).
- 44 inches of headspace, more than many competing models.
- Setup can be difficult, users say.
- Relatively heavy for a backpacking tent (5 pounds, 5 ounces).
- Footprint sold separately.
Takeaway: Backpacking tents must be light enough to carry all day and small enough that they don't hog precious pack space. Although this REI tent is heavier than other backpacking tents, owners don't seem to notice it — something several make a point of noting in reviews. With 22.5 square feet of vestibule space in addition to the interior room, you're unlikely to find a larger two-person tent, reviewers say. Campers appreciate details like ample mesh pockets in the roof and walls and say this tent is easy for one person to set up in a few minutes. The chief drawback is a rain fly that many owners struggle to attach properly. Otherwise, this tent does a good job keeping out the elements.
MARMOT TUNGSTEN 2P
Good 2-Person Backpacking Tent Under $300
Est. Price: $199 | Buy it from REI
- Relatively roomy for a 2-person backpacking tent, at 32 square feet.
- 2 doors for easy access; 2 vestibules provide extra space for gear.
- Withstands inclement weather as well as pricier tents, reviewers say.
- Heavier than many other backpacking tents (5.25 pounds).
- Footprint costs extra.
- Very few truly critical consumer reviews.
Takeaway: Reviewers say this three-season Marmot tent offers excellent value for the price and performs as well as more expensive models by REI and Big Agnes. It comes with nice extras like a footprint to protect the tent's base from sharp objects on the ground and a small pocket on the roof to stash a headlamp — details you don't always find on other tents in this price range. Reviewers say this tent is a breeze to pitch, keeps the rain out, and stands up to brisk winds far better than other models. In general, owner complaints about build quality are rare. The only true drawback, most reviewers say, is that the Marmot Tungsten is a bit heavy for backpacking.
REI CO-OP PASSAGE 2
Best 2-Person Backpacking Tent Under $200
Est. Price: $159 | Buy it from REI
- 31 square feet of sleeping space is fairly roomy for a tent this size.
- Low trail weight of 3.6 pounds.
- Excellent customer service, consumers say.
- Sloping walls and 40-inch ceiling height may feel tight for tall campers.
- Aluminum tent poles and stakes could be stronger, some owners note.
- Footprint costs extra.
Takeaway: Reviewers say this two-person backpacking tent is a great pick for couples who hike and camp occasionally throughout the year, with enough room to stash gear and stretch out. The polyester fabric resists wear, and complaints about poor workmanship are rare. This tent also does a better job of keeping campers warm than cheaper models, making it a true three-season tent, campers say. Unlike some two-person tents, this one actually can accommodate a pair of adults, owners say, although tall campers may find the dome-style design confining. Professional reviewers love the more expensive four- and six-person versions of this tent, too.
MOUNTAINSMITH MORRISON 2-PERSON
Good 2-Person Backpacking Tent Under $200
Est. Price: $111 | Buy it on Amazon
- Relatively low price for a 2-person backpacking tent.
- 2 doors and 2 vestibules make it easy to access the tent and stash gear.
- 52 square feet of total space is relatively roomy for tent this size.
- Weighs 5.75 pounds, which is rather heavy for a backpacking tent.
- Some owner complaints about poor workmanship.
- Footprint costs extra.
Takeaway: Whether you're backpacking with a partner or just want extra room for yourself, this three-season tent is a good pick for a person who hikes once or twice a year. It's relatively roomy, even for tall people, and does a good job keeping rain out and warmth in. Campers say there's plenty of room to stash personal items in the vestibule, mesh wall pockets, and ceiling loft. The biggest drawback, owners note, is the fact that it weighs more than 5 pounds when packed. A number of campers also say the included tent stakes aren't strong enough to anchor the tent without bending and recommend using aftermarket stakes instead.
COLEMAN SUNDOME 2-PERSON
Best 2-Person Backpacking Tent Under $100
Est. Price: $27 | Buy it from Walmart
- Very low price.
- 2 large, zippered windows.
- Easy to assemble, owners say.
- 35-square-foot interior is snug for two, especially with an air mattress.
- Not designed for cold-weather camping, reviewers complain.
- No vestibule.
Takeaway: Professional reviewers and consumers love this cheap Coleman tent, saying it's a great value for the money if you camp only a few times a year in warm weather. The Sundome has an electrical port, a handy feature if you want to charge personal devices, but fewer places to stash gear than other two-person tents; there's only one mesh pocket. No footprint is available for this tent either. A handful of reviewers complain of leaking or puddling during rainstorms, but in general most owners say the quality is satisfactory given the low price.
ALPS MOUNTAINEERING LYNX 1-PERSON
Best 1-Person Backpacking Tent Under $100
Est. Price: $78 | Buy it on Amazon
- Low price for a 1-person tent.
- Aluminum tent poles and clips are sturdy and simple to assemble, users say.
- Relatively few owner complaints for such a cheap backpacking tent.
- Rain fly and vestibule do a very good job keeping the tent dry, owners say.
- 32-inch headspace is confining for tall campers.
- At 4 pounds, it's relatively heavy for a backpacking tent.
- Footprint costs extra.
Takeaway: Compact size and light weight are critical for solo backpackers. Although this one-person tent doesn't pack down as small as some other models, most owners say the low price and solid construction make it worth the tradeoff. It also can stand up to the wind and rain in most circumstances, several campers say, a claim that few cheap one-person backpacking tents can make. On the downside, this tent is only 32 inches tall at its peak, so there isn't much room for extras like a big pack or a dog (something more than a few reviewers note). We also found a smattering of complaints about poor workmanship, such as loose stitching or flimsy tent poles.
OZARK TRAIL 10-PERSON
Bonus: Best Party Tent
Est. Price: $99 | Buy it from Walmart
- 175 square feet of floor space is ample room for a big family, reviewers say.
- Relatively low price for a tent this size.
- 3-room design offers privacy and plenty of space for belongings.
- 6.5 feet of headroom.
- Rain fly doesn't prevent water from seeping in, reviewers say.
- Many owners say the tent stakes are flimsy.
- No footprint available.
Takeaway: Tents that can accommodate eight or 10 people tend to be pricey, but this Walmart exclusive gets good marks from pros and consumers as an affordable option. Owners say the layout, with a main domed area and two wings, gives families some privacy, and there are plenty of places to stash belongings, as well as an electrical port for powering portable devices. Walmart identifies this is an "all-season" tent, but it's not designed for cold-weather camping. Several owners also say this Ozark Trail model — like many cheap tents — is prone to leaking and puddling when it rains. Some also recommend buying aftermarket tent stakes, rather than using the ones that the manufacturer includes. But for backyard camping or a summer weekend at the lake, this is a good budget option.
KODIAK CANVAS TRUCK BED TENT
Bonus: Best Canvas Base Camp Tent
Est. Price: $339 | Buy it on Amazon
- Waterproof canvas walls are far more rugged than nylon or polyester.
- 5 feet of headspace makes the tent feel roomy, according to reviews.
- Steel-tube tent frame is exceptionally sturdy and can stand up to inclement weather.
- Assembly instructions are hard to understand, many owners say.
- Does not fit all truck beds.
- Bugs occasionally sneak in under the flaps.
Takeaway: Before nylon and polyester were invented, most tents were made from cotton duck canvas. Although very heavy, canvas is an excellent insulator, keeping tents cool in hot weather and drying quickly after rain. It's also durable, making it a good choice for long-term camping. On the downside, canvas tents are very expensive (some models cost more than $500). Despite the steep price, owners — many of them hunters — say they love how this Kodiak canvas tent allows them to turn a truck into a backcountry base camp. The biggest drawback: The tent's many straps and poles make it a bear to assemble — even for two people, reviewers say. We read a number of complaints from otherwise-satisfied buyers who say it took an hour or longer to set it up correctly the first few times, and several share setup tips in comments on online retailers such as Amazon. Once it's up, it's very sturdy, owners say.
TEPUI BAJA SERIES AYER 2-PERSON
Bonus: Best Rooftop Tent
Est. Price: $925| Buy it from Backcountry.com
- Box-like base frame has a built-in mattress that is very comfortable, owners say.
- Exceptionally sturdy structure.
- Removable mesh canopy for shade.
- Designed only for SUVs and crossovers with roof racks.
- Weighs 90 pounds and requires two people to assemble.
- Not designed for cold-weather camping.
Takeaway: Rooftop camping tents, which are designed to be mounted on top of an SUV or station wagon, are an expensive indulgence. But if you have the money and the desire to take car camping to the next level or are serious about off-road wilderness adventures, Tepui's Baja Series gets great reviews from owners and pros alike. The upper walls are mostly mesh, providing excellent ventilation, campers say, and the rain fly keeps water out. Unlike other models in the Tepui line, the cheapest Baja model isn't designed for cooler climates. Few reviewers have much negative to say about these rooftop tents.
COLEMAN INSTANT TENT 6
Bonus: Best Pop-up Tent
Est. Price: $212 | Buy it at Walmart
- Pre-attached tent poles make setup very easy, reviewers say.
- Roomy, cabin-style design has 90 square feet of floor space and 6 feet, 2 inches of headroom.
- Large, zippered windows on each wall.
- Rain fly doesn't do a good job keeping the tent dry, owners complain.
- Zippers are prone to breaking, according to reviews.
- No vestibules or footprint.
Takeaway: If all you seek is a spacious family tent for a few easy summertime camping trips, reviewers say this Coleman is a great pick. Campers confirm the manufacturer's claim that it can be pitched by one person in just a minute or two. It's very sturdy for a box-style tent, they say, with plenty of room for taller people and a large door and two big windows. Older models didn't come with a rain fly, something many owners complained about; Coleman includes one with new tents. Despite this extra feature, several reviewers say this tent is prone to leaking during rainstorms and isn't insulated enough for camping in cool weather. A few consumers also report that the tent materials begin to wear out after a few seasons of use.