3 Tips to Choosing the Right Tent Size for Your Camping Style

People sleeping in a tent in a grassy area

Camping tents come in dozens of shapes and sizes, designs and intentions. So do campers. I recently observed a perfect example of this at a state park campground, at neighboring campsites.

tents shopOn one site, a 10-person tent with attached screened room, housed one person — big tent, small occupancy. But, the guy had a pile of kayaking gear stacked inside the screen room so space was necessary for him. Next site over, a family of two adults and three kids spent the weekend using a four-person tent as home. Tight sleeping quarters it must have been, but they enjoyed the close family time. Not a lot of gear, as they spent most of their time away from the campsite fishing or hiking.

1 arrow pointAlso Read: Tent Buying Tips

Both tents fit the set ups of each camper. Selecting the proper tent size for your camping style can enhance the camping trip, so here are three tips to consider before purchasing a new tent.

1. Look at Tent Capacity

A tent's person capacity is possibly the most important. Tents are sized by the number of persons accommodated, not including gear. For example, a four-person tent handles four adult sleeping bags shoulder to shoulder.

1 arrow pointTip: Select a tent that is rated two persons more than the number of persons in your camping party. This allows extra space for a small gear bag for each person and tip-toe room for manoeuvring inside.

3TipsSelectTentSize chart
A 6-person tent, such as this one, suggests there's room for six sleeping bags, not necessarily all the gear six people will have.

2. Consider Sleeping Area

The second issue is the type of sleeping base planned. A foam sleeping pad takes no more space than the sleeping bag that lies on top, but if sleeping cots are preferred, then extra tent space is needed for getting into and out of the cot. Space under the cot is utilised for storing gear to keep an isle clear for walking.

1 arrow pointTip: If cots are used, select a tent size rated for four extra persons; so two cot campers need a tent rated for at least six persons.

1 arrow pointAlso Read: Which is Right for You: Air Mattress, Sleeping Bag or Cot?

3. Think of How Your Tent Will Be Used

Will the tent be for sleeping only? Or will a portion of the tent be used as a living quarter or dry activity space during rainy days? Personally, when car camping, I use an eight-person tent for the wife and I. The eight-man job accommodates two cots and two folding chairs.

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Cabela's Outdoorsman XL Fold-Up Chair

1 arrow pointTip: Camp chairs like the best selling Cabela's Big Outdoorsman XL Fold-Up Chair provide a cozy reading space on rainy days and efficient gear racks. I also use the extra space in the tent for storing a cooler which keeps it out of the direct sun, lengthening ice life

My Advice on Tent Size

I recommend selecting as large a tent as the specific camping trip, and means of travel, can efficiently handle. For a casual, short distance backpacking trip, a two-man tent houses one person and pack. A kayak camping trip welcomes a four-man tent. For a car camping trip, follow the tips above to keep from experiencing a cramped camp.