What type of tent should I buy for family camping?

What type of tent should I buy for a family holiday

Buying your first tent can be joyful, scary and confusing. Joyful because you have finally taken the plunge and purchased a tent. Scary because it has cost you a fortune, and you are wondering if you have purchased the correct Tent.

Tents are becoming more expensive every year. So purchasing a tent suitable for your lifestyle and holiday is essential.

How do you choose a family tent?

Before deciding what tent you want, research and visit camping stores. It will give you an idea of the style and different sizes available. Don’t buy impulsively because you have seen a good deal or have just fallen in love with a tent. Also considered transport, does it have sufficient space, material and many more.

What is your budget? Don’t be tempted to overspend

Visit camping stores and set a budget for your tent

Work out your price range, as this will help to reduce your search criteria. When selecting your budget, remember all the other gear you will need to buy, such as sleeping gear, cooking equipment, EHU unit and paying for your pitch.

Tents can range from £250 for a standard tunnel 4-man tent to over £2500 for a large family tent up to 6-8 people. A cheaper option is to purchase two tents rather than one large tent. However, It depends on the children’s ages and how many adults are in your group.

If you have two family tents, you will need to book two pitches depending on the campsite. However, if you have older children, you can add a pup tent to your pitch, which will cost, on average, £5 a night.

To purchase a bigger second-hand tent, you need to be careful. Never buy without viewing first; always ask the seller to have the tent pitched and ready to view. If they refuse, ask if you can pitch on arrival. Be aware of the pros and cons of buying a second-hand tent, as there are smells that cannot be removed, and repairs can cost more than buying a new tent.

Do you need to buy a tent for different weather conditions?

On average, a family tent will be 3000HH to 4000HH, which is the waterproofing level of a tent. If you intend to camp during spring, summer and autumn, the higher the waterproofing level will ensure that your tent withstands torrential rain.

You can have a waterproof level of 3000HH minimum for camping during the summer. It will withstand summer showers and some heavy rain.

Not everybody considers the water level of their tent, but it is an essential factor as it can ruin your holiday. Are you aware that groundsheets have a different waterproofing level than the main body of a tent? Or how often should you waterproof your tent? Understand the different waterproofing levels of a tent before you buy.

My main family holiday tent is 5 people, pole Outwell Escalon tent, is 4000HH. I have had no issues with water ingress from torrential rain during thunderstorms or hurricanes. Each year I clean, waterproof it, and store it in a ventilated area, ready for our next family camping trip.

What size tent do I need for a family camping trip?

Family Camping: Extra space for rainy days and cold evenings for your family

A tent should not be for the exact number of people in your group, especially if you are planning a family holiday. Tents are sized on the number of people. The rule of thumb is always to add two to your group to estimate the ideal tent size.

A tent for a family holiday needs to be spacious, with separate sleeping areas, a living area and an area to store clothing and food.

Give yourself space to move, and store your items, so you aren’t constantly having to move them or step over things.

You want a communal daytime area where you can sit comfortably and allow children to play inside on a rainy day. Have somewhere to retreat during the evenings to protect you against weather elements.

Add two people to your gaming group for the ideal tent size

Number of people in a groupIdeal tent size
1 person3 berth tent
2 people4 berth tent
3 people5 berth tent
4 people6 berth tent
5 – 6 People8 berth tent
7 – 8 People10 berth plus tent
The average rule for tent size is to add two people to the tent size

How heavy is a tent?

A tent’s weight depends on its size, design and materials. Canvas is the heaviest, but most family tents are nylon. The average female can carry 16kg, and a male can carry 25kg. On average, a tent can weigh up to 65kg, so you must ensure that there are two of you, especially for lifting into a car or trailer.

Larger tent bags have wheels, so you can transport them easily. However, it can be difficult when you come to store. Storing in a trailer in a safe area will reduce the worry of protecting your tent from vermin or trying to take it upstairs.

Lightweight family tents are available that range from 9.80kg / 21.60 lbs for a 4-berth tent to a 6-berth tent weighing 25.18 kg / 55.51 lbs.

The lightest ideal family tent is the Eurohike Genus 400 4 berth tent or the Kampa Hayling 6 Air Tent 6 berth tent that has a large sleeping area. Comparing both tents, they have their individual qualities. The Kampa has large windows that allow plenty of light, whereas the Eurokhike is a smaller tent suitable for weekend breaks. But what tent should you buy?

We tested 6 tents ranging from 4 to 6 berths and provided a breakdown of their qualities and suitability for family holidays.

Tent style: What should I buy for our family holiday?

Tent styles are a personal preference. If you like privacy, a multi-room tent allows you to section off sleeping pods and separate sleeping compartments from other areas of the tent. The bell tent is an open plan, the same as a dome tent.

Ideally, if you have younger children, buy a tent with a divider in the sleeping pod instead of a different end of the tent. You will always want them close to you for their safety and your peace of mind.

  • Tunnel tents with a side entrance have sleeping areas on either end of the tent. These sections are removable when not required to create a larger living area. However, they are ideal for storage if you do not need a large living area.
  • Another single-walled tunnel tent with primary door access at the front and side. The sleeping pods are separated by a liner and zipped entrance from the main living area, and there is plenty of light through the windows. However, ideally, you need an awning over the entrance to stop the inside from getting wet when it rains.
  • Double-walled dome tents are small; you cannot stand up in them and have no privacy as they are open-plan. These tents are ideal for quick stopover breaks or festivals but not for long-term summer holidays.
  • Bell tents are one large room that gives you space to stand straight. They look amazing, but their shape makes it hard to lay out your sleeping areas inside. The vents are around the base on the sides. They are great for wood burners which will heat your tent, and you can cook on them. However, you do need to section off if you have small children. They are one of the easiest tents to pitch on your own but are expensive.
  • Multi-room tents are wide tents with a central living area. Sleeping areas on either side and to the back of the tent. Each section is connected to the communal area of the tent. Multi-room tents are large, but they have separate bedrooms, and you can also have an area closed off for storage or a toilet area if need be.
  • Pop-up tents are not for family camping. They are straightforward and pitch in seconds. However, they are a nightmare to collapse and repack. Pop-up tents are for festivals as they are lightweight, quick to pitch and cheap. If they get damaged, it’s not a significant concern.

Remember, the larger the tent, the harder it is to pack away, carry and store. Plus, you need to test-run your tent before using it and be able to clean and dry it when you are home. Here are some tips if you have a larger tent on how to dry out thoroughly before storing.

It can be cold at night, especially if you intend to use your tent during April or late September to October. Consider how you are going to heat your tent quickly and effectively. Here are a few different ways you can stay warm without EHU.

I used my first dome tent for 4-days, and after a few nights, I had back aches. I do not recommend dome tents for large family groups and long-stay holidays. Tunnel tents with a front or side entrance are ideal for family camping holidays.

What is the difference between Inflatable and poled tents?

The two main tent design structures for family tents are poled or inflatable. Inflatable tents are becoming more popular as they are quick and easy to pitch. However, they are expensive, can be difficult to pack away, and you must ensure that all the air is out of the tubes.

What are traditional poled tents?

The poled tent structures are supported by threading poles through different tent sections. Each pole is divided into equal sections and strung together with an elastic cord, allowing easy packing.

Types of tent poles:

  • Fibreglass – lightweight, flexible, lightweight
  • Steel – rigid, heavy, strong, corrosive
  • Aluminium – solid appearance, strong, but costly

Tent poles can be awkward to pitch; usually, the last pole causes the most issues. Ideally, you need two people, especially for larger tents. Another issue with poled tents is that they can unclip whilst you are threading the poles.

The benefit of poled tents is that they are cheaper, depending on the type of pole structure. They compact more easily for packing and are lighter than inflatable tents. However, poles usually are aluminium for larger family tents to support the weight, increasing the cost.

Poles can snap in high wind, but fibreglass poles are flexible. I have not had a pole snap on me yet, but I have had a few moments where I thought they would.

What is an inflatable tent?

Inflatable tents air inlet and air release valve

Inflatable tents have been used since 1981, but it has taken a while to become popular. The inner tubes are filled with air via the air valves and are held in place via the sleeve.

The air tubes are pre-threaded through the tent sleeve sections and inflated to a specific PSI. It is important not to over-inflate, as they can burst. They have been known to burst in extreme weather, so you must underinflate as warm air expands.

Repair kits are expensive, and replacement tubes. Ideally, you need to keep a repair kit with you in case of any punctures. They are more difficult to repair. When you are camping, it is difficult to locate a puncture quickly.

Inflatable tents are bulky, as you cannot remove the tubes to pack the tent the same as poled tents. Larger inflatable tents are normally supplied with the bag on a wheeled trolley due to their weight. They are also much more expensive than poled tents and require more space in your boot.

Recently I camped on the top of a cliff in 40 mph winds. I underinflated to reduce the stress, the tubes did buckle a lot during the night, but then they just popped back into place.

Do you need a blacked-out sleeping compartment?

Blacked-out sleeping compartments are essential if you have small children; otherwise, they will be awake at sunrise. They are unique materials that diffuse light, keeping the sleeping area dark. They are also ideal if you like to nap in the afternoons. They will not stop all of the light, so you cannot see your hand in front of you. However, they will prevent about 80% of the light from entering your tent.

Sleeping liners can be removed and may have separate sleeping areas divided by a screen inside the compartment. The doors are zipped separately and can be left partially open at the top for airflow. They can be zipped from top to bottom and vice versa, which is excellent if you want to stop children from wandering at night.

The doors can be rolled from the outside inwards and secured by toggles to avoid tripping. However, if you have a teenager like me, you can keep that area closed and pretend it does not look like a bomb has hit.

What type of doors do tents have?

Not all tents have two doors or more; it depends on the tent’s design and size. Ideally, a tent should have two zipped entrances with bug nets. One is generally on the opposite side of your sleeping area, which opens the full width of your tent if needed., and another is on the side.

The larger door is ideal if you want to air your tent and, open it fully, move camping furniture inside easily. They can be rolled and secured to the side or eyelets for extension poles to provide additional shelter if needed overhead.

Do you need a porch on your tent?

A tent porch is known as a vestibule – Ideal for additional cover from rain or shelter from the sun.

Tent porches are either open or closed in areas of your tent, not the main sleeping or living areas. These are known as vestibules. They are ideal for family camping, as they will provide additional shelter. If it rains or you need sun shelter, a tent extension is very handy. You can cook in the extension but not with open flames, as tents are flammable, even though they are flame-retardant.

When purchasing a tent, check the costs of an extension if it is not included in the price. They can be another £250 – £400 to buy new, or you can reduce the costs by securing a tarp to your tent or a short distance away.

I do not have a tent porch, as the universal extension for my tent costs half the price of my tent’s original purchase price. I use my tarp or Colemans’ universal extension, which cost me under £100 combined. They are very handy and adaptable for any location, and there is no restriction on a campsite, as they can be altered to suit your pitch size. Before you pay any extra money, consider cheaper options, they are not closed at the sides but are very handy.

What is the best material for a family tent?

Tents are available in different types of material. The most common is polyester for family tents. Canvas is the most durable and expensive tent typically used for bell tents. It is exceptionally heavy and expensive due to its lifespan.

Pros and cons of tent material

Tent MaterialProsCons
PolyesterMost common fabric for tents
Used normally in family tents
Mildew resistant
Strong fabric
High condensation
Needs waterproofing
Deteriorates under constant weather conditions
Limited lifespan, so must be maintained correctly
Canvas More susceptible to UV rays
Need to waterproof tent depending on usage
The tent wall will leak when the walls are touched
High condensation levels
Can rip across the thread
Heavy due to thickness
takes longer to dry
Can leak near seams

Cheaper to buy
Treated with a chemical for waterproofing and UV protection
More susceptible to UV rays
Need to waterproof tent depending on usage
The tent wall will leak when walls are touched
High condensation levels
Can rip across the thread
Pros and cons of tent material

Are sewn-in groundsheets best for family tents?

Groundsheets are thicker floor base that provides additional thermal and waterproofing against the ground. Not all tents have sewn-in groundsheets; some have partial sewn-in ground sheets connected to the side of the tent walls by toggles.

Sewn-in grounds sheets seal the base of the tent like are large tub. They create a barrier against wind blowing into your tent. Sewn-in ground sheets are more suitable for larger tents and longer holiday periods as it helps to maintain the heat inside the tent by reducing drafts.

Even if you have a sewn-in groundsheet, you need another groundsheet underneath. It provides an additional thermal barrier but also has the added benefit of protecting the base of your tent against dirt and damage from stones or other debris. Groundsheets are important, but you do not need to spend a fortune.

I have one tent, the Eurohike Genus 400, with no sewn-in groundsheet. It is great for weekends away during the summer but not the greatest tent during the colder season. During strong wind, it was blowing underneath, and I could not secure the sides to the base. It was very frustrating and cold. I have not had any issues with rain ingress underneath, but I use an extra large picnic blanket inside, so part of the blanket goes up the sides to offer additional protection against any drafts.

Key takeaway

  • Set a rigid budget
  • Add 2 people to the group for tent size
  • Consider the time of year camping
  • Research the porch of the tent before buying
  • Blackout bedrooms, especially if you have younger children
  • The main door to have a bug mesh covering
  • Buy a tent with a sewn-in groundsheet


I'm a single parent who loves pitching a tent and exploring the countryside at any opportunity. I am working with a glamping pod company and helping them to set up a family campsite in East Riding Yorkshire.

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