Kelty Grand Mesa 4
Easy both to set up and to pack away, the Grand Mesa 4 is reasonably priced. The mostly mesh design excels in warm weather, when you want to do nothing but look at the stars. It also has a full fly for rainy nights or when you’re at crowded campgrounds.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $190.
The Kelty Grand Mesa 4 is the best car-camping tent choice for couples, especially for those who tend to camp during the summer, in the backcountry, or in the desert. Although it’s designed to accommodate a quartet of people—hence the “4” in its name—we found that at 55 square feet, it’s most comfortable for two, plus maybe a small child, a dog, or lots of gear. This affordable tent is simple to set up and easy to pack away, but its winning feature is its four mostly mesh walls, which provide unmatched views of the sky and glorious airflow through the tent. The mesh makes this tent a little less durable than its high-walled brethren and somewhat less suited to stormy climates. But it’s sturdier than it looks, and the unobstructed 360-degree view is breathtaking. The Grand Mesa also comes with a rain fly, for when you want privacy or protection.
Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6
Spacious, versatile, and affordable, the Copper Canyon LX 6 has all the features most families need and none of the fussy extras they don’t.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $300.
The Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6 offers the best combination of a spacious interior, easy setup, good durability, and a reasonable price. With a peak height of 7 feet and a cubelike shape, the Copper Canyon LX 6 was among the roomiest of the tents we tested, with extra space to help you stay organized and sleep more comfortably. It is big and boxy, but as long as you plan on lugging your tent only a couple hundred feet, you don’t need something that’s ultralight and high-tech. Although it isn’t built for stormy weather, it’s still tough and durable enough to ride out most rainstorms and windstorms. With a time-tested design, this popular tent is one you can expect to pitch for years to come. (In theory, it’s meant to house six people, but in our experience, a six-person tent is the ideal size for two adults plus two or three children and gear.)
REI Co-op Base Camp 4 Tent
A full rain cover, a spacious vestibule, and a reinforced pole structure make this the best choice for couples who are committed to getting outside no matter the weather.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $400.
REI Co-op Base Camp 6 Tent
A large vestibule, a full rain fly, and a storm-ready pole structure make this the best choice for car-camping families who consider intense weather to be part of the fun.
Car campers who plan to brave miserable weather or who live in an area where it’s not unusual will appreciate the extra strength and protection of the REI Co-op Base Camp 4 Tent. Although our other picks rely on two poles for their support, the Base Camp has four aluminum struts weaved throughout it, somewhat like a basket. The Base Camp also offers the most privacy compared with the other tents we tested—with or without the rain fly. Our other favorite features are the tent’s two wide doors, which you can open halfway from either direction or fully open (you can tuck the doors into “roof pockets” to keep them out of the way), turning the tent into a useful beach tent or sun shade. Overall, this tent was the sturdiest, most reliable shelter we tested, regardless of the situation, making it well worth its higher price.
Families who regularly pitch their tent in rainy locales will want a wind-fighting tent with a good-size vestibule for storing wet shoes and gear, as well as a full rain fly for added weather protection. With almost 45 feet of vestibule space and six stability-enhancing criss-crossing poles, the next size up of REI’s Base Camp, the Base Camp 6 Tent, offers the best combination of space and features among the six tents we tested that fit those criteria.
Coleman 6-Person Instant Cabin
Spacious and very affordable, this popular Coleman shelter has pre-attached poles and no standalone fly to fuss with. It goes up in 2 minutes, pleasing harried parents for whom convenience is king.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $147.
The Coleman 6-Person Instant Cabin is bulkier when bagged and smaller when standing than our favorite family car-camping tent, the Eureka Copper Canyon LX. It also has smaller windows and fewer pockets, and it lacks a mesh roof for stargazing. But thanks to telescoping, pre-attached poles, it goes up and comes down much faster (in less than two minutes) than any other tent we tested. It also has no standalone fly, instead relying on a solid roof, which helps make setup easier.
Coleman Sundome 6-Person Tent
Great for backyard overnights, this simple dome-style tent is for parents who don’t want to spend more than $100 on a tent but also don’t want to be buying another one next year.
The best-selling Coleman Sundome 6-Person Tent has a footprint similar to that of our top-pick tent, but it feels significantly smaller because of its dome-style design. It’s intuitive to set up, has sufficient windows, includes a rain fly that’s easy to put on and stake out, and is cheery-feeling inside and out. (We don’t recommend the smaller version of this tent for couples who might actually take it on the road; it was just too flimsy in our tests.)