So you've been invited on a camping trip by your buddies? That's cool, but you lack the one thing you need to go camping. No, that doesn't mean a bottle of whiskey and a cooler. You need a tent. Somehow you have managed to make it through life without ever having to purchase a tent. Well, you do have that old 60 pound 20 person tent your family would lug out to the lake once a year for a weekend of family bonding, but it hardly fits the bill of sleek, easy to put together, and stylish. Let's not Griswold up the woods.

You need a new tent. You need one that will fit your needs and not break the bank. This should be easy but can easily become confusing quickly. There are A-Frames, Domes, Tunnel and Hoops, Free Standing and Non-Free Standing. There are so many options. Where to begin?

Well to start, what are you going to be using this tent for? Let's assume you are like me. You live in a fairly moderate climate and do most of you camping in the spring, summer, and fall. That means you will need a 3-Season tent. You will most likely be sleeping in the tent by yourself or if you're lucky with one other person. That means you need a 2-3 person tent. I have yet to meet the person who can fit in a 1-person tent. I think that one person must be a malnourished Pygmie with tiny feet and hands. You plan on camping in a well sheltered area free from the howling winds of the tundra and mountainside. This means that a free standing A-Frame or Dome will most likely meet all your needs. If this doesn't describe you see my article defining tent terms and adjust accordingly.

Okay to review we are looking for:

  • A 3-Season Tent
  • Designed (according to the box) for 2-3 people
  • Free Standing
  • A-Frame or Dome

That narrows things down considerably. There are several excellent tents on the market that fit these criteria. To get a tent like this you should expect to spend between $100 and $350. Wait! Don't get sticker shock. Remember this is your home in the woods, and if you take care of it, it will serve you faithfully and keep you dry for many years. If you had bought a tent in the offseason instead of the Friday before the camping trip you might have gotten it at a discount! If you are really strapped and don't plan on camping that often, Coleman makes an excellent line of cheaper tents you can look into. The ones we will be looking at here consistently rate the highest among serious campers, hikers, and backpackers.

Let's start off with the Cadillac!

Big Sky Evolution

The Big Sky Evolution 2P MSRP $350

The Big Sky Evolution consistently ranks first in its class among hikers and backpackers. Built using Ultralight technology it weigh in at just 3.25 lbs the Evolution will not break anyone's back. The Evolution's features double walls and excellent ventilation to minimize condensation. It features a 42 square foot footprint, two doors for ease of ingress and egress, ample storage room and an 8 foot square vestibule. Perfect for the solo camper or couple.

Sierra Design Vapor Light

The Sierra Design Vapor Light 2 MSRP $330 ($237 on Amazon)

Light at 3.25 lbs and easy to put together the Vapor Light is a great tent. A little on the small side at just 25.5 square feet it still provides ample floorspace and head room for two campers. Its SuperSeal floor is sure to keep out water in inclement weather. An 8 foot vestibule provides even more storage space.

MSR Hubba Hubba

The MSR Hubba Hubba MSRP $300

Featuring the MSR all in one hub pole and swivel design the Hubba Hubba weighs in at just under 4 lbs. With 2-doors and vestibules the Hubba Hubba can easily accommodate the space needs of two people. Another unique feature is the fact that the tent can be configured in three different ways. So you can change the tent to suit your needs.

Sierra Flashlight

The Sierra Design Clip Flashlight MSRP $200 ($180 on Amazon)

This affordable tent features a 32 square foot footprint and a 7 square foot vestibule, yet weighs in at only 3.6 lbs. A top seller year in and year out this tent combines everything the solo camper could need in one affordable package.

Eureka Apex

The Eureka Apex 2XT Adventure MSRP $130 ($76 on Amazon)

A little heavy at 5.75 lbs, the Apex 2XT features a 36 square foot footprint and all the features you would expect from a quality tent. Such as: 2 6 foot vestibules, factory taped bathtub floor, and a shock corded fiber glass frame. Easy to put up, the Apex 2XT is perfect for the camper/backpacker on a budget.

You cannot go wrong buying any of these tents. They are the best of the best in regards to quality and functionality. I would suggest starting with the Eureka Apex as it is the cheapest and will provide the most bang for your buck. If you decide you like to camp and backpack, you can always trade up. I would hate for you to spend $400 dollars on something that will just sit in your basement.

For more on caring for your tent and making it last many camping seasons, see my article on tent care.

For help on learning what all these terms mean please look here.