8 best family tents that are spacious, portable and quick to set up
If you've got kids running around, the bigger the tent the better, and with multiple rooms and compartments, you'll have room to spare
Camping with the kids is a prospect to strike fear into the heart of even the most redoubtable parent. But long gone are the days of the leaky canvas constructions and twisted pegs that still haunt former Scouts and Brownies.
Family tents on the market now range from multi-roomed luxury to technical and trail-ready: whether you’re heading to a festival this summer or planning a summit attempt, or you just want a full-size fort for the garden, there’s a tent out there to please every single member of your clan.
We tested these tents at family campsites and (where appropriate) wild camping; on multi-day trips and on a sunny Sunday in the garden. But we also took a couple – the Mutha Hubba and the Jack Wolfskin – overlanding without any family attached, and luxuriated in the palatial space.
Our first consideration was space: when family camping, you will never regret having a bigger tent. You need internal space for resting and running around, space for card games in the evenings and when it’s raining, space for someone to nap while everyone else is awake, space for storage and space for changing. We looked for tents with a big footprint, but that also had plenty of customisable compartments.
As our expert camping consultant Poppy Begum wisely put it: “You need rooms in a tent because it makes it look more like a house”. Even with bell tents and yurts, it’s worth buying a model with internal compartments where that’s an option: these help to regulate temperature, which kids are really sensitive to when sleeping.
Then we looked for the many little features that make family camping just a little easier: a built in awning for shade, a porch for wellies and toys that are too muddy to bring inside, but that you don’t want to get soaked; as many pockets as humanly possible; brightly coloured guy ropes (kids are proficient at falling over these); double stitching on seams to stop them coming apart when a small person flings themselves at a wall; double zips on sleeping compartments and external doors so kids can let themselves in and out.
Weight isn’t a huge consideration for family camping, so some of the tents below go up to a hefty 15kg. That is heavy, but with family camping it can often feel like you’re mounting an expedition anyway, and a few extra kilos won’t make much of a difference if you’re carting four mattresses, 17 board games and four suitcases of clothes along for the ride.
That said, there are families with older children who will want to travel fast and light and move on every night – on a hiking or biking trip, for example – so we included a couple of technical models. The biggest weight saver is inflatable vs old-fashioned pole construction: inflatables are faster to put up and lighter, but are often not as sturdy.
A final tip is to make sure your tent will be easy for your children to find again when they’ve been running around the campsite: many of the tents below are 2019 models so there shouldn’t be too many duplicates out there. But it’s worth bringing a string of fairy lights or some bunting to help too. Finally – don’t forget a mallet for some old fashioned tent-peg destruction!
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Vango stargrove air 600XL: £650, Vango
This tent does absolutely everything right, and at a sensible price. It’s airbeam (or inflatable instead of pole-based), so very light and quick to put up, without any of the folding poles that have a tendency to pinch tiny hands. It has three adjacent queen-sized bedrooms (you could just as easily turn one into a playroom or storage space), as well as an enormous living room and awning. There are plenty of features for the inevitable rainy day – like lots of windows and floor space – and, because the bedrooms are totally separate to both the porch and living areas, plenty of opportunities to stop muddy wellies from trampling over any sleeping bags. There are loads of pockets in the bedrooms, and because the dividers roll up you can change the layout to suit your family – to create one big room for parents and a crib, for example, and another room for an older child. All this plus the little touches – like the cable entry point for wires you want to run from the hook-up, and the light-blocking lining and curtains – make this our best buy.
MSR Mutha Hubba NX: £459, Elite Mountain Supplies
While the Mutha Hubba, the oversized version of MSR’s classic Hubba Hubba tent, isn’t officially marketed as a family tent, we found it comfortably slept three adults, or two adults and kids. It’s the most technical tent to make our list, with all the sports features of the Hubba Hubba – it’s ultralight, at just over 2k, with a durable green fly that’s perfect for wild camping, and it’s freestanding so pitches altogether and without needing to be pegged out. This makes it the ideal tent for adventurous families on hiking trips or for biking or walking holidays with teenagers. But because it lacks some of the frills and customisability of the heavier tents, it’s not for lazy family holidays or weekends when you don’t plan to pack up daily and trek on through the rain. Keep an eye out for MSR’s brand new family tent, Habitude, due to launch in 2020.
Coleman mackenzie 6 blackout: £439.99, Leisure Outlet
Coleman just won the award for Best Family Tents in Camping and Caravanning Club’s 2019 customer satisfaction survey, so you can guarantee they know what they’re doing. From its absolutely enormous selection of family tents we picked the lovely mackenzie 6 as our favourite. The layout is great – two end compartments are divided by a living space, with one compartment subdivided into two generous bedrooms and the other a sort of standalone room – great for a teenager who wants their own space, or for parents who want a chance of peace and quiet. But best of all was the blackout material, which we found totally blocked sunlight (99 per cent of light, Coleman says) from the bedrooms and kept them cool in the early morning and daytime. Coleman says the fabric then releases the heat at night to keep the bedrooms a few degrees warmer, although our reviewer didn’t notice a huge difference. The blackouts are ideal for camping with kids: whether that’s getting them to bed early or encouraging a lie in – but our reviewer wished they were standard issue for grownup tents too, particularly after late nights at festivals.
Robens aero yurt: £1499.99, Robens
The ultimate aspirational tent, a full-size yurt, is finally made truly family-friendly thanks to Robens’ innovative inflatable 2019 model. Yurts are gorgeous – think glamping, windspent plains dotted with nomad camps, or the posh bit of Glastonbury – but are, usually, a procedure to put up. By contrast the aero yurt is simpler to set up than a normal tent: just lay it out and pump up the airbeams through a single valve using either a hand or electric pump. The yurt will sleep eight people comfortably, although that uses all the floor space, but it’s ideal for a family of three or four if you want to set up camp beds. It’s elegantly simple – apart from the door and windows, the only internal features are the floor vents to keep you comfy and cool while sleeping, and a tough, 10,000 mm hydrostatic head groundsheet to keep water away. It is undeniably expensive; if you’ve always dreamed of owning a yurt but felt intimidated by the technicalities, this is the one to buy.
Outwell montana 6P: £940, Outwell
A really lovely tent with some of the most generous living space we encountered, the 6P is the family-sized spin on the classic Montana design. The full-sized mesh door is the camping equivalent of having a ground-to-ceiling window, albeit one with a full-sized view of the campervans next door if you’re at a standard campsite, but is still a brilliant idea if you’re facing rain. The side porch is also great, with a generous space for wellies and dirty toys. The bedroom opens up fulls and integrates into the living room, leaving basically a huge, bright space. It’s the perfect tent for parents who don’t mind sharing a room with the kids – or who have to set up a crib, because there’s more than enough headspace – and a wonderful bet if you know where you’ll camp will have a good view. Even it’s pouring all weekend, you can still sit inside and enjoy the panorama with a cuppa and 17 rounds of Uno.
Quechua air seconds 4.1 XL: £199.99, Decathlon
Not sure your family will survive a camping trip? This is the tent to buy for a trial run: at under £200, it’s by far the cheapest tent we reviewed, but covers all the basics for a weekend away. At that price it lacks some of the fancier features – like the blackout walls (although the dimming fabric did help it didn’t create a complete blackout like the Coleman) and full length mesh windows – but ultimately it’s tall, very well-ventilated and has a generous and well-covered porch for wellies, muddy clothes and muddy toys. With one large bedroom and a living room there’s not quite enough compartmentalisation for a really long family holiday, and you might struggle with cabin fever on a long and rainy weekend, but this tent is perfect if you’re anticipating sunshine or planning to be out and about during the day. Because it’s so easy to put up and isn’t insanely expensive, it’s also a great pick for family camping at festivals.
Jack Wolfskin great divide: £825, Jack Wolfskin
Sleek, stylish and spacious, Jack Wolfskin’s silver family tent is a high-end model that even the most reluctant teenager will be proud to be seen in. Its multi-poled structure means that it’s a bit of a project to set up, but the payoff is a well-structured and secure-feeling tent: ideal for a windy weekend or a particularly exposed campsite. But our favourite feature was how customisable the space was: a third door at the front opens into a wide porch that’s perfect for socialising in good weather, the side doors have both good weather and batten-down-the-hatches options; and the second bedroom is detachable if you want a larger living area. There was plenty of storage space, but we could have done with more pockets. This is a tent that sits perfectly between a performance model like the MSR and a hotel-style space like the Outwell.
Easy Camp hurricane 500: £356.99, World of Camping
Perfect for a small family or weekends away with older kids, Easy Camp’s budget-friendly full-sized tent has acres of roomy, light living space, with a tall porch that stretches well out over the footprint. The two separate bedrooms are great for personal space, or for storage, while the mesh walls and generous windows mean that there’s scope for the outside to come inside if you’re stuck in the tent all day for any reason. There are plenty of pockets in the living space and, because it’s inflatable, it pops up and folds down easily.
The verdict: Family tents
Vango’s tent proved to be the most family-friendly of the bunch, with multiple rooms, loads of space to run around, plenty of pockets and nice dark bedrooms for encouraging the kids (or the adults) to sleep in. But there’s something undeniably wonderful about owning your own yurt: Robens’ elegantly simple, uncomplicated model could well be a game changer.
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