The size of a tent is the first consideration when choosing one for camping. Tents come in a range of sizes from tiny solo tents to two or three-people tents for couples and tents of up to 10 persons or more for long family camping holidays.
The camping tent size you should buy depends on several factors, such as how many people will use it, how long your camping trips will likely be, how you plan to reach your campsite, and how much space you have in your car.
It can be complicated to determine which tent size you need. For example, I tested four different tents, all rated for a four-person capacity, and I found that all tents have some variation in floor area and sleeping capacity.
Some tents I tested had enough space for four people to sleep, while the others struggled to fit four people inside. So, this is clearly a problem, and we need some solution to find out what size tent we will need for various camping expeditions.
In this blog, I will make this an easy decision for you, and we will walk through some important stuff that will make you understand what tent size you need for your upcoming trip.
- 1 Recommended Tent Capacity
- 2 Questions to Ask Yourself for Slecting Best Camping Tent Size
- 3 How to Buy a Tent Based on Capacity
- 4 Camping Tent Size Based on Square Feet
- 5 How Much Space Kids and Pets Need in a Camping Tent
- 6 Factors that Contribute to How Big a Tent Feels
- 7 Final Thoughts: Camping Tent Size
- 8 Frequently Asked Questions: Camping Tent Size
Recommended Tent Capacity
A practical and successful approach that you can use to find the recommended tent’s capacity is to take the number of people you will be camping with, then add two to it, and it becomes your required tent capacity. For example, if you are a group of four campers, go for a tent rated for six people so that your group of four can comfortably sleep inside along with your camp gear.
This usually works, but there are some exceptions to every good rule of thumb. If you are backpacking, you might think a little bit differently. But the “adding two rule” usually works for car camping because it gives you extra space without making the tent huge or bulky for a car camping trip.
Another method that you can use for calculating the required tent capacity is to measure the dimensions of your sleeping pads and then add an extra one-foot length-wise and four feet width-wise to determine the floor dimensions of your tent. However, this is a relatively detailed method but also the most accurate one. In addition, if you intend to bring some extra gear, you can increase the dimensions by one or two feet.
Shop For Tents By Capacity
1. Best 4-Person Tents
2. Best 5-Person Tents
3. Best 6-Person Tents
4. Best 8-Person Tents
5. Best 10-Person Tents
6. Best 12-Person Tents
Questions to Ask Yourself for Slecting Best Camping Tent Size
It would be best to know the answer to some essential questions while looking for a camping tent that comfortably fits you and your family.
1. What kind of camping will you be doing? Backpacking and car camping need different approaches to selecting your tent size. If you are backpacking, you need to be more conservative about the tent size and more concerned about the weight and packability of your tent. On the other hand, if you are camping in a vehicle, you can choose a spacious tent, even if it is larger and bulkier when packed.
2. Where will you be camping? It is also essential to give a thought about your campground because you may buy the biggest tent for you, but only some campgrounds will offer adequate space to pitch a large-size shelter.
3. When will you be camping? Three-season tents are popular because most people camp in summer, spring, and fall. But if you plan winter camping, you might need a four-season tent. Also, having a more spacious tent is critical for a cool and comfortable indoor environment. For winter camping, tight indoor space is not a problem and will help you remain warm and cozy.
4. How many people typically camp with you? If you want a versatile tent that you can bring along on your various camping trips, it’s better to consider the maximum number of people who may accompany you on a camping trip.
5. What do you sleep on when you go camping? It is crucial to choose the tent size based on what you will be sleeping on. For instance, an average backpacking pad is only 22 inches wide, while a camping cot or an air mattress can take up significantly more space.
How to Buy a Tent Based on Capacity
One of the most popular and straightforward ways to specify a tent’s size is the number of people who can sleep inside the tent, called the tent’s capacity. Also, the tent manufacturers usually specify their tent’s capacity based on the number of persons it can accommodate.
An important thing to understand is that the tent manufacturers calculate the person rating based on the number of sleeping bags it can fit inside. So, this usually becomes a very tight fit, and no additional space is available for your camp gear.
Most of the time, sleeping the company’s specified number of people in a tent is practically impossible. That’s why I have suggested above to add two extra people when deciding on the tent size based on the person rating. It will allow you and your group to fit comfortably inside the tent and have additional gear space.
Comfort Vs. Capacity
A large and spacious tent is more comfortable than a smaller one and vice versa. There is no question about that! A smaller, more comfortable tent may be a good option for camping alone or with another person.
But, if you’re camping with a group, you should prefer a larger tent with more capacity. Some family tents are huge and have lots of space for camp gear and furniture, like inflatable sofas, coffee tables, and sideboards. If you have plenty of space in your tent, there is a lot you can do to turn your tent into your home away from home.
The concept of a glamping tent also starts with providing a very spacious and high-quality shelter for ultimate luxury and comfort. That’s why the size of a glamping tent is usually not specified based on the number of people it can accommodate, and the actual size of the tent is mentioned. It allows you to choose the tent as spacious as you want, depending on your preferences and desired comfort level.
Camping Tent Size Based on Square Feet
Another method of determining the tent size is to take 20 square feet of space for one person and multiply it by the number of people camping with you to get the minimum floor area for your tent. That means if you have a family of four, you will need a tent with a minimum of 80 sqft floor area.
Now, I must say that I don’t like this method because the square feet can sometimes be misleading. Because some tents may meet the square feet requirement, but you also should look at each dimension (length and width) separately. A tent that is adequate length-wise may be short in width, making it challenging to utilize the indoor space effectively.
Here are some general guidelines for choosing a tent based on square feet.
1-2 person tent: 20-30 square feet
3-4 person tent: 40-60 square feet
5-6 person tent: 80-100 square feet
7-8 person tent: 120-140 square feet
It’s essential to remember that these are just general guidelines. You should not buy a tent solely based on the above guidelines and without considering other crucial factors contributing to a tent’s size.
How Much Space Kids and Pets Need in a Camping Tent
Although kids and pets are only a fraction of an adult in size, counting them as adults are suggested. The reason is that kids may be small for now, but they will keep getting bigger and bigger and take up more space. Also, kids have even more gear, like toys, cribs, and many clothes, which can take up extra gear space.
If you’re going camping with a toddler or a kid, you may want to prepare a particular sleeping area for them, such as a portable crib. You should also get a giant tent with room for a separate sleeping area and a room for parents. Similarly, pets have specific comfort needs, like a separate sleeping place to keep them cozy and contained.
Factors that Contribute to How Big a Tent Feels
A combination of factors can contribute to how big a tent feels, and it’s critical to consider all of them when choosing a tent.
The available headspace is also critical, like the floor area and the number of people sleeping inside the tent. Similarly, people ignore something important: the shape of the tent and its walls design. Because of the near vertical walls, the tent’s interior becomes much roomier and more useable. And that’s why some tents offer additional room compared to their competitors because of the improved design.
A tent with more ceiling height will appear bigger, roomier, and more comfortable. Having more headroom can create a sense of openness and is critical for taller campers. Apart from the peak height, there are various other heights to check before buying a tent.
Sitting & Kneeling Height
The sitting height of a tent is vital to ensure that you sit comfortably inside and don’t bump your head onto the ceiling. Usually, the sitting height is critical in 1-3 person backpacking tents where the peak height ranges only from 35 – 45 inches.
If you are a camper with above-average height, there is a good chance that you will feel cramped in a backpacking tent with an average sitting height.
When choosing a backpacking tent, you must check the available sitting height and verify that it is comfortable. Unless a backpacking or an ultralightweight tent are the only options, I wouldn’t suggest going with a low peak height tent as it significantly reduces the liveability and comfort offered by the tent.
Generally, the four-person and above tents offer a height range of 4 to 5.5 feet, allowing you to stand inside the tent in a bent-over position. So you cannot stand upright but need to adopt a stooping posture instead. This height range is more comfortable than sitting or kneeling and allows for a more convenient indoor environment.
The stooping height of a tent depends on the tent’s peak height and the angle of the walls. Some tents feature curved poles or angled walls that can increase interior space and reduce the need to stoop.
A tent that offers standing height means that you can stand straight in the tent but only in the center where the height is maximum. The standing height is usually available in tents with a six-person capacity or more, ranging from 5’8″ to 7′.
A standing height makes the tent’s interior user-friendly for a more comfortable camping experience. Considering the standing height is vital, especially if you plan to spend a lot of time inside the tent or have mobility issues.
When you get into eight-person tents and above, you can enjoy an excellent ceiling height that allows you to roam freely inside your tent. These tents feature a high ceiling and near-vertical walls for a uniform indoor height throughout the tent.
The roaming height can be affected by various factors, including the tent’s peak height, the tent walls’ angle, and any structure-related obstructions, such as tent poles. A tent with roaming height will be over 6.5 ft tall to offer you ample headspace throughout the tent’s interior.
The shape of a camping tent can affect its stability, available interior space, and ease of setup. It is another critical factor to decide how spacious a tent is, irrespective of capacity and height. The most popular tents shapes are as under;
Dome Tents: Dome tents are the most popular shape for camping tents. These tents feature curved walls that provide a sense of openness and are suitable for weatherproofing, especially wind-stability. The dome tents can offer an excellent standing height but are unsuitable for roaming inside the tent due to the low ceiling height near the tent’s walls.
Cabin Tents: Cabin tents do much better regarding the walls’ vertical shape. They offer a more uniform headspace throughout the tent, creating a spacious and comfortable indoor environment. Cabin tents are a perfect choice if you need roaming height inside your tent.
Overall, these tents are also bigger and roomier and often feature multiple rooms inside the tent. However, they can be heavier and more challenging to set up than other tents.
Tunnel Tents: Tunnel tents have an unconventional tunnel shape and are less common than a dome or cabin tents. They are often lighter and more compact than other tents, making them popular for backpackers and hikers.
There are also some less common tent shapes, such as wall tents, bell tents, and teepee tents, which have merits and demerits and are designed for unique outdoor adventures and special camping conditions.
Capacity Vs. Price
In general, the price of the tent increases as you go for a bigger tent. Larger tents require more material, structural support, and manufacturing resources and cost more.
Tents can be cheap, but it also doesn’t mean buying a low-quality tent is the way to go. Low-quality tents will only last for a short time because of thinner material, fiberglass poles, and inadequate weatherproofing.
You may need to compromise on cost if you have a large family or group and need a spacious tent. On the other hand, if you are tight on budget, you can compromise on capacity and choose a smaller tent that is more affordable.
But never compromise on quality when purchasing a tent because it will initially cost you less money but will not hold the rigors of the outdoors and adverse weather. Investing extra money in a sturdy and long-lasting tent is worth it.
Situations Where You Shouldn’t Size Up
While we have discussed only the benefits of a bigger tent so far, there are some situations where it may not be necessary or even advisable to do so. Here are a few examples:
Backpacking Tent Size
Backpacking is a type of camping where you must travel on foot for extended periods with a bag on your back containing all your camp gear. Sizing up your tent for extra comfort or luxury is never advisable in such circumstances, and going with the minimum tent size possible is recommended.
Generally, backpacking tents offer a vestibule area to provide additional space for your gear. The backpacking tent’s interior is compact, which means sleeping in close quarters. Because instead of carrying extra weight, it is much preferable to go light and tight.
If you camp a lot in bad weather and rain and wind cannot make you cancel your camping trips, then that is another instance in which you shouldn’t choose a bigger tent. Bigger tents are more prone to high winds and are less waterproof too.
In addition, the people who camp at high altitudes face heavy storms and winds. That’s why mountaineering tents are designed with a low profile to prevent them from blowing away and consist of high-quality and sturdy materials.
Final Thoughts: Camping Tent Size
Let me quickly summarize what I have suggested above about sizing a tent and identifying the size you need. You can start by following the “adding two” rule and find the recommended person rating for your tent. Let’s say you are a group of four campers, so you want a six-person tent according to the “adding two” rule.
Then from the list of the best six-person tents, choose the one you think is most appropriate and suitable for your camping trip. In the end, always check the tent’s dimensions and the dimensions of your sleeping bag or mattress to verify that everything fits comfortably inside the tent, along with your camp gear.
Frequently Asked Questions: Camping Tent Size
Following are the frequently asked questions about camping tent size.
1. What sizes do tents usually come in?
Answer: Camping tents are generally available in 1,2,3,4,6,8,10, and 12-person capacities. These capacities cover the needs of most campers.
2. What size tent do I need for camping?
Answer: The most popular method of indicating a tent’s capacity is the number of campers it can accommodate. It is advised to go up at least two campers than the actual number of campers you intend to accommodate inside the tent.
3. How many square feet should a tent be?
Answer: When buying a tent based on the square feet or floor area, it is recommended to consider 20 sqft of space per camper for backpacking.
If you intend to use sleeping pads, consider about 25-30 sqft of space per camper and increase the required space to 30 sqft per person for air mattresses. A 35+ sqft of space per person should be considered for ultimate luxury and glamping.
4. What size is a standard tent?
Answer: There are no defined dimensions for a standard camping tent. Every tent manufacturer specifies a tent’s dimensions considering the number of people to be accommodated, the tent’s shape and design, and the comfort level to be provided.