Choosing the right size camping tent is one of the most important decisions you will make for your trip, especially if you’re going with a larger group. However, the camping tent sizes that you see advertised aren’t always accurate, making it difficult to choose the right one.
Fortunately, our team of experts knows a thing or two about picking the right tent size from experience and can help you make a good decision. Continue reading below for a complete guide on choosing the perfect tent size for you.
How Rated Tent Capacity is Measured
Generally speaking, tent capacity ratings will underestimate how many people can comfortably fit in a tent. The rating system was designed with backpacking tents in mind, which are meant to be as small and lightweight as possible for easy transportation.
This means that tent sizes measure how many people can fit in a camping tent sleeping shoulder to shoulder, with only a standard sleeping pad and bag underneath them. This may only be about 20 inches of space, really not much if you think about it.
Therefore, as a general rule of thumb, we suggest subtracting 2 people from whatever the stated sleeping capacity is to get a more accurate figure.
For exact tent size recommendations, check out the table below. This is assuming each camper is an average-sized adult, so adjust accordingly.
|1-Person Tent||Can snugly fit 1 person with a standard sleeping bag, pad, and gear inside.|
|2-Person Tent||Very comfortable for 1 person, tight for 2.|
|4-Person Tent||Very comfortable for 2 people, reasonable for 3, and tight for 4.|
|6-Person Tent||A good size for 4 people and luxurious for any less. Tight for groups of 5 or 6.|
|8-Person Tent||Ideal for 4 to 6 people and large for smaller groups. Tight for groups of 7 or 8.|
Backpacking Tent Size Guide
For backpacking tents, odds are that you’re going to be carrying them with you during your trip. Since tents can be a heavier part of your gear and take up lots of space, we’d suggest opting for a true-to-size sleeping capacity.
The only exception to this is if you’re traveling with a very large group, in which case you can opt for a larger camping tent, as you’ll have plenty of people to carry gear around.
Camping Tent Size Guide
If you’re not going to be carrying your camping tent everywhere you go, then you won’t be restricted by size and weight like you would be with a backpacking tent.
Therefore, we’d suggest going with a larger and more comfortable camping tent. Follow the guidelines we gave in the rated tent capacities above, but also feel free to go with an even larger tent if you want.
Another thing to note is that some camping tents use a different rating system than backpacking tents, which makes them a bit more spacious.
Even if the tent you’re looking at advertises this, we’d still recommend that you size up. Having a tent that’s a bit too large is much better than being cramped in a small tent.
Other Things to Think About
Beyond the rated sleeping capacity, there are several other things to think about when choosing your tent size. Some of them will be measurements, while others will depend on the type of trip you’re taking.
Tent Floor Space
The average backpacking tent offers around 15 square feet of floor space per person that it can fit. However, a normal adult will typically be more comfortable in something like 25 to 30 square feet. This would be around a 7-foot tall by 4-foot wide space, leaving plenty of room for a wide sleeping pad and space to walk around and relax.
While our tent size recommendations earlier in the article should give you plenty of floor space to work with, make sure it’s something you check when you’re shopping for tents.
This is especially true if you’re planning to use wide sleeping pads instead of standard sized, as not all tent sizes are designed to fit those.
When choosing tent height, there are two things to consider.
First off is the listed tent height, which typically comes in sizes between 3 and 7 feet. This will typically scale up with the tent size rating, but you’ll have some choice over what you get. Depending on if you want to stand in your tent or are fine with slouching or sitting, your choice here will change.
The design of the tent also influences the height. Dome-style tents peak in the center and then slope down to be shorter at the sides. Meanwhile, a cabin tent has straight walls for more space throughout.
If you’re purchasing a smaller tent, it will probably be a dome tent by default, but you’ll have more choices if you opt for a larger one.
Cabin tents are more difficult to assemble and often more expensive as well, but they can be worth it if you’re planning on spending a lot of time inside the tent. If you’re looking for a family tent, a cabin style will also suit your group better.
Type of Trip
The longer your camping trip is, the more it might make sense to size up your camping tent. While one night might be fine to snuggle in with several people, an entire week will require a more spacious tent.
As a backpacker, the distance you’re traveling also matters. If it’s a short hike, perhaps you could go with a larger tent size, but you don’t want to be carrying too much if it’s a more strenuous trip.
As a general rule, if you’re going to camp somewhere with worse weather, then you should opt for a larger tent. If it’s raining outside and you’re spending a lot of time in the tent, then you’ll appreciate the increased space.
If you’re going to be camping somewhere colder, a smaller camping tent will be better for the increased insulation. The opposite is true if you’re camping in hot weather.
Members of Your Camping Group
Are you in a tight-knit relationship with your camping group and fine sleeping side by side? Then maybe it’s okay to get a smaller tent. In other cases, you might prefer some more space.
Families with small children can also probably size down, as they won’t take up as much space inside the tent.
Choosing the right size camping tent can be harder than it looks, but if you follow this guide then you should have no trouble picking the perfect tent for you.
If you have any other tips or comments on choosing the right camping tent sizes, please leave a comment below. Happy camping!
Carl is a content writer for The Camping Buddy, specializing in informational camping articles and product reviews. Carl has been a freelance writer for outdoor news sites while spending his time backpacking across the world. His favorite camping spot is Malaekahana Beach in Hawaii.