Camping Gear Tips

Buying a Tent for Family Camping

Buying a Tent for Family Camping Gear Guide
Written by Stuart Wickes

Gearing Up

Buying a Tent for Family Camping

In this occasional series of posts, “Gearing Up”, we share tips, lessons and practical advice on different aspects of planning, organising or carrying out different indie style family adventures.  Camping has been a big part of our travel style. It’s simple, fun, outdoors and helps keeps costs down.

But what if you want to go family camping but haven’t got a tent?  How do you choose from the hundreds of models on offer?  Spending a bit of time thinking about what you want from your tent will help you choose one that suits you, your family and your camping aspirations. Here are a few things to bear in mind when choosing a tent for family camping.

Camping at Landmannalaugar

So you want to buy a family tent? How do you choose the right one?

How much should I spend?

First things first, what’s your budget? Prices for family sized tents vary wildly. You can pick up a budget tent for under £100. If you get technical it’s easy to splash out £300-£500. And if you start looking at expedition kit you could end up investing up to £1000 or more. So, think about what you want to use it for and invest in a tent suited to your needs and aspirations. If you’re only planning to go occasional summer weekend camping, or maybe just visiting a festival, you’ll probably be fine with a budget model.

If you’re only planning to go occasional summer weekend camping, or maybe just visiting a festival, you’ll probably be fine with a budget model.


Tents on Big Coast Ride Wellington New Zealand

For a festival or occasional use a budget tent is probably fine
Photo: At the Big Coast Ride, New Zealand

If you’re thinking of a longer camping trip, planning to camp out of season or where the weather may be worse, are heading off the beaten track or thinking of camping as a key part of your travel style then consider paying more to get something more robust, weatherproof and durable.

If you’re heading off for a season, out into the wilderness or anticipate severe weather, then don’t be shy about investing in expedition grade kit.  You may question whether the expense is justified, but believe me when you’re all warm and dry sitting out a storm in your tent while others are flapping about wondering whether theirs will last the night, you’ll be glad of it. We thought long and hard about investing £1000+ in a tent but ten years, 10,000 miles of touring and three kids later it’s still serving us reliably. Money well spent.

If you’re serious about camping, go for the most expensive kit you can afford.


Wild Camping New Zealand

If you are going wild, remote and self supported you need gear you can rely on
Photo: Camping wild near Queenstown, New Zealand

If you’re serious about camping, go for the most expensive kit you can afford. The quality of materials, construction, zips, poles, pegs, ventilation and insect mesh will be better, which means fewer problems in the field and a better night’s sleep.

Next: What size to get? Read Page 2


About the author

Stuart Wickes

Stuart's the adventure addict half of the team, always trying to persuade the family to get out, do more, go further. As co-founder and co-director he handles the business, creative, design, technical and publishing aspects of the project. He is our chief photographer and videographer. With training as a professional learning and development consultant. an engineer and musician, his contribution is eclectic and unpredictable!


  • A very comprehensive post !

    We run a number of camping trips throughout the year and tempt along many first time campers. I always recommend to either buy second hand or borrow for their first visit, I’ve lost count of the number of people who head to Tesco and end up with a cheap tent that simply isn’t up to the job…..and if the weather’s bad, can end up putting them off for life.

    I’ve had a number of tents over the years and have now graduated to a campervan, but still can’t help to get ‘tent-envy’ when I wander around a campsite.

    Roll on camping season!

    Chrissie x

  • A great post with perfect timing. Some ladies on a forum I moderate are talking about buying a first tent. I will pass this along to them!

  • Hi guys, thanks a lot for our brilliant post!!! You perfectly describe what we were thinking at: budget, dimension, stay dry…. actually we can’t wait to buy and start to camp!! Italy is summer 2013 destination…but still have to decide where!
    Let’s keep in touch
    Alessandra & the Toads Family

  • Many thanks for a really informative post. I’m in the market for a first-time family tent and your post has made me think about a couple of things I hadn’t previously considered.

    Thank you!


  • Hi,
    Glad I found this as I was searching the net about tents and wild camping and found this 🙂

    Our family started camping for the first time this year and we love it. The weathers turning abit now, but the summer we’ve had has made it well worth while and perfect for camping.

    We started off with a Quecha pop-up tent (we’re a family of 4) but recently had to change it due to some issues we had with it.

    We’ve now changed it for a Vango Icarus 500 and I just wondered if anyone else has one of these tents and what they thought of it?

    We’d also love to try wildcamping but are clueless as to where best to go and also if the tent we’ve now got is any good for the job.

    If anyone has used this tent I’d love to hear your views.

    Thanks 🙂

    • That was an Ozark Trail tent we bought from Walmart while in USA. Don’t know if they still make that model but there look to be similar designs from them. It was VERY heavy but very cheap.

  • It’s so easy to get carried away when buying a tent, when you start considering how many extra rooms you need besides the bedrooms! But unfortunately the bigger the tent the harder it gets to put it up, and that’s no fun with small children!

    • We have had a few tents over the years but our Hilleberg Keron 4GT has been one of our stalwarts. Still going strong after 15 years of use and abuse.

  • Wow. So glad I found this. I’ve been battling with tent for days now. Your article and one from familytentcenter(dot)com are life savers.

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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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