The tent is essentially your home away from home and will serve as your only protection from rain, wind, cold weather, wildlife and other elements of the outdoors. Tents are also pretty expensive, so you don't want to have to buy a new one after a camping trip or two. While professional reviews are helpful, getting opinions from a variety of consumers is always a good strategy. Try to find tents that have been reviewed positively by at least 10 users and pay attention to the details of not only the tent, but also their uses. Find some reviews from users that enjoyed solid performance in conditions similar to those you are likely to encounter, and you can make the purchase with confidence.
Big Agnes Big House
Industry magazines and consumers agreed that the Big Agnes Big House is an excellent buy. ConsumerSearch.com names it the choice for Best Family Dome Tent and one of the top-rated family tents for car camping, citing storm protection, light weight, ventilation, storage and set-up as positives for the tent. In its rating, the organization found excellent reviews from a variety of sources including customer ratings on Backcountry.com and REI and magazines like "Outside" and "Backpacker." The Big House 6 enjoys a five-star rating on Backcountry (six reviews) and a 4.5-star rating on REI (17 reviews).
The Big House comes in four-person and six-person versions. The series consists of three-season double-wall tents with 7000 series aluminum poles. Set-up is streamlined through a color-coded system. The tent body is composed of polyester rip-stop and polyester mesh; plenty of windows and a skylight are included on the body. The tents include two doors for easy entry and exit. The Big House 4 weighs 12 lbs. 3 oz. packed.
Big Sky Evolution 2P
At the opposite end of the spectrum from the Big House, the Evolution 2P is an ultralight backpacking tent. ConsumerSearch.com listed this as another best pick, citing some in-depth reviews from sites like BackpackingLight.com and BackpackGearTest.org. The former is quoted as calling the Evolution 2P " the lightest, best designed, most user-friendly three-season two-person double-wall freestanding tent available." ConsumerSearch.com provides high marks for ventilation (a problem for many ultralight tents), weight and lifetime warranty.
The Big Sky Evolution 2P is a two-person tent with a starting weight of just 2 lb. 12.7 oz. (body, fly, poles). The weight will vary because Big Sky offers the option of selecting from a variety of rain flies, poles and other equipment, some of which make the tent even lighter. The weight given includes carbon fiber poles. The tent has two doors.
Black Diamond Guiding Light
In terms of four-season tents, the Black Diamond Guiding Light receives excellent reviews from Backcountry.com users (five stars, nine reviews). The tent also received an excellent review on BackpackingLight.com. Reviewers raved about the light weight, weather protection and durability of the tent.
The Guiding Light is the largest in the Black Diamond's Superlight line and houses four people. The tent is single-wall with a weight listed at 5 lbs. 6 oz. on Backcountry.com. The tent also boasts a packed size of just 7 by 12 inches, according to Backcountry's specs, making it a small, light, four-season option.