Welcome campers and campettes to HelloTrail’s 3rd Annual Tenty Awards (trademark pending, but not really).
I’m your host Andrew, self-proclaimed wilderness whiz, backpacking buff, and environmental enthusiast.
I’ll guide you through the world of the latest and greatest outdoor technology as we journey through today’s top camping shelters.
The Best Camping Tents of 2021
This is the moment you have all been waiting for…it’s time to dole out the coveted Tentys.
We’ll lay out some important features of each winner (size, season, setup, structure, price) and even give out some honorable mentions.
From the bargain buys to the tip-top tents, let me present to you the best tents for camping in 2021.
Best All Around Tent: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2
Taking the top Tenty honor is the spacious Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2.
The high volume (HV) shelter boasts near-vertical sidewalls with it’s cross-bar design without sacrificing ultralight (UL) capabilities.
Whether you want to relax in at the campsite or trek into the backcountry, the Copper Spur will protect you from the elements throughout your outdoor adventures.
Big Agnes claims their proprietary patterned double ripstop nylon fabric makes the tent more durable than it’s counterparts.
Based on feedback from our campers, they seem to have a point.
Six years of regular use backpacking, bike camping, and car camping and it still works like the day I bought it.
On top of the long lifespan, the large vestibules and spacious interior pockets will give plenty of room to store your gear (and your camping memories).
Best Budget Tent: Coleman Sundome
If you don’t want to break the bank on an expensive tent, your best option is the Coleman Sundome.
Coming in 2-, 4-, and 6-person sizes, the Sundome offers a spacious interior without sacrificing the Coleman-brand quality.
Although, you may want to stick to the campsite with this bargain shelter, as opposed to backpacking deep into the wilderness.
The materials may be made of polyester, but the patented welded floors reinforce the same while keeping the tent from leaking at the ground level by plugging the needle holes in the stitching.
With an easy setup and great ventilation, the Sundome will brighten any campsite outing.
Best Family Car Camping Tent: REI Co-op Kingdom 6
Get some quality family time away from all the screens in the REI Co-op Kingdom 6.
The large, rectangle floor plan in conjunction with the 75” max center height will make you feel like your living in one of those tiny houses, not a tent.
There’s even a room divider, giving you and your partner a little privacy while the kids take the other half.
Don’t forget about the factory-sealed waterproof rainfly, bug nets, stargazing abilities, and all-around livability!
Perhaps the most interesting feature of this tent is the “mud room” (which is sold separately).
The extra awning gives you plenty of space to store your gear, cook in the rain, or simply relax in the open air.
Make sure to read our in-depth REI Kingdom 6 tent review…
CORE 9 Person Extended Dome – Great for big parties, but not very durable
Best Romantic Tent: MSR Hubba Hubba NX
Lay on your back and gaze into the twinkling stars of space with the MSR Hubba Hubba NX.
With its unique symmetrical design and relatively low weight, the Hubba Hubba has the versatility for a secluded getaway in the dense thicket surrounded by nothing but nature, or simply a safe rest steps away from your vehicle.
MSR boasts about its weather technology with fancy names such as Durashield and StayDry.
What it means for you is that the rainfly is factory coated and the doors specially treated to remain dry.
There’s plenty of ventilation with the abundance of mesh and kickstand fly vent.
The high-quality nylon fabrics give the shelter a longer lifespan, so you and your better half can make the memories of a lifetime, and maybe a little Hubba Hubba.
Best Rooftop Tent: Front Runner Feather-Lite
Did someone say ROAD TRIP!
With an easy pop-out pitch, the Front Runner Feather-Lite Roof Top Tent stores on your SUV’s roof rack, leaving no limit to what you can explore.
Weighing 93 lbs., the Front Runner may seem like a bulky lean-to, but it’s the lightest car-mounted tent on the market.
The Oxford 400D fabric is tough and durable, the Feather-Lite does not sacrifice moisture control with the heavier fabric, and there is plenty of ventilation with zip-up windows.
Although the tent is on the pricier side, if you and your loved one plan on venturing on a two-week road trip, compared to pricey hotel rooms, it pays for itself.
Another bonus feature with the cost is a built-in, 2”-thick mattress.
All you need is a sleeping bag and a pillow, and you’ll be ready to be a road warrior.
Thule Tepui Kukenam 3 Roof Top Tent – Built for rugged off-road adventures
Best Ultralight Backpacking Shelter: NEMO Hornet Elite
While the Hornet Elite snuck its way into this category (since it’s technically semi-freestanding), it’s one of the best backpacking shelters on the market.
Its Y-shaped structure doesn’t allow for much head room, but has plenty of floor area to fit you and your partner as you partake on an epic journey into the woods.
At only 1 lb. 12 oz., your packs will be light enough to carry for a 20+ mile hike.
NEMO has listened to their “hardcore minimalist” users, fine tuning every aspect of the tent to become lighter, yet without sacrificing durability or comfort.
They have incorporated volumizing guyouts, which pull the tent’s canopy outwards when the fly is connected for more livable space.
They even added “Light Pockets” so your headlamp can turn into a tent lamp.
Aside from merely sleeping under a tarp, it’s clear that the Hornet Elite is made for rough and rugged hikers, without having to rough it in the outdoors.
Sierra Designs Summer Moon 2 – Less expensive, but slightly heavier
Best 4 Season Tent: Marmot Thor 3P
Marmot Thor 3P is a great option if you plan on any lengthy alpine expeditions or mountaineering treks.
Its freestanding capability offer a fast set up, but I’d strongly recommended using the included guylines and stakes if there is a chance of high winds.
Although the interior may seem a little cramped compared to our other winners, Marmot did add loft pockets for your gear, which could even work as a spot to store you headlamp for ambient light in the evenings.
There are also two vestibules, giving you more space to store the muddy equipment and shoes you used on your day adventures.
The floor is made of 70d 100% Nylon which gives it the strength you need to avoid wear and tear, as well as 10000 mm waterproofing rating for those not so dry days.
A couple of down sides I want to note are, a foot print is not included and must be bought separately from REI and this tent is pretty heavy for a long backpacking trip.
Best Instant Pitch Tent: CORE 9 Person Instant Cabin
Okay a one-minute setup may be promising a bit much, but CORE’s 9 Person Instant Cabin allows for an easy pitch at least.
The large interior (enough for two queen-sized air mattresses), room divider, and multitude of storage pockets will make it seem like your home away from home.
It even comes with a built-in access port for an electrical cord so you can plug in all your electronics.
Like most large tents, this one does poorly in high winds due to its box shape, but unlike its competitors, it is surprisingly water resistant.
Utilizing the “CORE H20 Block Technology,” you and your family will remain dry and comfortable at the campsite.
Tentys Scoring Explained
I based the Tentys-scoring on the self-dubbed ‘Five S Method’.
You might say, well price doesn’t start with a S… well, we are going to pretend it does since money always starts with a $.
Despite what anyone tells you, size does matter.
From snug 2-person shelters to family-style domes, the interior space of a tent can greatly affect the outcome of your camping experience.
Some of the more specific features that are listed are floor area, ceiling height, weight, etc.
Tis’ the season to go camping, fa la la la la la la la la!
The blistering hot summer isn’t the only time of year that you can enjoy the beauty and serenity of the outdoors.
Many tents are specifically designed to withstand the wet spring through the cool fall, which are deemed as 3-season shelters.
If you want to venture into the snowy slopes in January, you may need to invest in a 4-season tent.
Are you the kind of person who fumbles with the mere concept of do-it-yourself or do you construct IKEA furniture with your eyes closed?
Different tents require varying levels of effort and skill to pitch.
Typically, you have either a free-standing tent with a pole structure that maintains the architecture or you have a supported tent which requires a little extra rigging.
Will the tent protect you from the weather?
Will you be carried away with the wind like a kite into the alpine canopy?
Make sure you and your loved ones are safe and secure in the outdoors and that your tent itself has a long, happy life.
Another day, another dollar. Sure, you could empty your bank account on a high-end tent.
But, cost alone is not the best indicator for overall quality.
Weigh your options carefully and really focus on the price-to-performance ratio of each tent.
Thank you all for attending the 2021 Tenty Awards, it’s been a blast.
Congratulations to all the winners and honorable mentions, you’ve really outdone yourselves (why am I talking to a tent?).
Anyways, hopefully you’ve got a better idea of what’s trending in the industry and maybe, just maybe, I’ve motivated you enough to venture into the outdoors.
From all of us here at HelloTrail, we’d like to say to you, “Camp On!” (roll credits).