How Much Should You Spend on a Tent in 2021? [24 Examples]

Here’s our analysis of how much you should spend on a tent. 

There are so many tents on the market. Which one should you buy? How much should you pay? Is that $400 tent really better than the $100 one?

Having tried a dozen of cheap and expensive tents and done 5+ hours of research, I’ve got an excellent answer for you:

In most cases, spending $60 – $180 on a camping tent would give you the best balance of quality, space, and affordability. However, tents can cost anywhere between $20 to more than $1,000. Expect to spend more on a tent if you want to go backpacking, camp in colder weather, or camp in large groups.

Let’s jump right in. 

Average Costs of a Camping Tent 

It’s helpful to understand how much decent tents usually cost. You can use it as a benchmark for how much you should spend. 

Size is the most important factor here. But even at the same capacity, there’s a wide price range because of different features. The “average costs” show the most common prices people pay. 

Size Average Costs 
2 person $50 – $100
3 person $60 – $120
4 person $80 – $150
6 person $120 – $180
8 person $180 – $250
10 person and more$200 – $300

Keep in mind that tents will be cheaper from November to March than in those summer months.

What Tent Price Is Right For YOU?

Ok, so should you pay more or less than the average?

Well, that really depends on what type of camping you do. I’ve gone over each scenario below: 

The Once Or Twice Car Campers  

This category describes people who really don’t camp often or are just getting started. 

If that sounds like you, the best way to go would be to borrow a tent from your friend. It would cost you nothing

But the downside of borrowing is that if you somehow break the tent, you may still end up paying for it. Plus, you won’t have a good experience if the tent is uncomfortable. 

Renting is another option. Large chains like REI and Outdoors Geek have high-quality gear, but they charge much more for the first night than subsequent nights. So it may not be worth it for short trips.

If you were to buy a tent, a basic one from Walmart or Amazon should be good enough. You won’t test the tent to its limit by using it so infrequently. 

Price Ranges to Expect: $20 – $100

Examples (click to check the latest price): 

  • Coleman Sundome Tent – very popular entry-level tent; has 2 – 6 person models; decent quality; comes with all standard features like rainfly, vents, meshed ceiling, etc.
  • Ozark Trail 3-person Tent – absolutely incredible value! 

Casual Car Campers

I’m guessing most of you would fall into this category. You probably go camping several nights a year in good conditions and want a tent that will last multiple seasons. 

Price Ranges to Expect (Footprint included)

  • Budget: $60 – $120
  • Standard: $120 – $250 
  • Premium: $250 – $450
  • Luxury/Glamping: $450+

If you want to go for tents in the budget and standard categories, please waterproof your tent before using it. Nothing can ruin a camping trip like a leaky tent. Better safe than sorry. 

I also highly recommend you look closely at the reviews to see how consistent the quality is. Because manufacturing costs are so low, it can really be a hit or miss. 

Instead of getting a new tent every season because it broke somehow, it’s actually cheaper to spend more on a tent upfront but use it for a few years. 

To make your tent last longer, include the price of a footprint or tarp in your budget. It will significantly reduce the amount of wear and tear to your tent floor. I’ve written more here about how you can make even a cheap tent last for many years.    

How much you should spend above the bare minimum depends on how much you value comfort and convenience.

Since weight is usually not an issue in car camping, you can get as many features as you want. Below are some common ones that really add to the cost of your tent: 

Larger floor space 

Who wouldn’t want to spread out more in their tent? At the minimum, size up by two people, like get a 4-person tent for a group of two. 

You can even get an 8-person tent for two people. Most would come with room dividers, so you can even create a separate bedroom and living room. 

Standing height

Being able to stand up in your tent opens up so many possibilities. Not only can you dress up and walk around as you would at home, but you can also put up dinner tables and chairs. It’s also good for your back.

Screen Room or Living Space 

Great place to hang out. You can also use it to store your gear or dirty shoes. This would keep the sleeping area clean and free up more space inside the tent.

Examples (click to check the latest price): 

Budget Coleman Sundome — basic model; quality may vary; footprint sold separately
BudgetMoon Lence Pop Up tent — sets up in under 1 minute
StandardOT QOMOTOP Instant Cabin Tent — vertical walls add a lot of space; instant setup; waterproof; up to 8 person
Standard Coleman Tent Coastline 3 Plus — comes with a living room
PremiumColeman Octagon 360 — 6 – 8 people, standing height, extremely sturdy and waterproof; converts into a screen room 
Premium REI Co-op Kingdom 4 Tent — spacious, durable aluminum poles, top-to-bottom rainfly with vestibules 
Luxury10 x 14 ft. Kodiak Flex-Bow Canvas Tent Deluxe — great insulation, spacious, sturdy, weather resistant, will last for years even with frequent use

Backpackers 

Are you starting to get more serious about camping and want to get away from the crowds? If so, you are in the market for an entry-level backpacking tent. 

Price ranges to expect: 

  • Budget: $60 – $100
  • Standard: $100 – $200
  • Premium: $200 – $350

As a backpacker, you need a lightweight tent so that you can hike with it for miles to your campsite. Forget about those 20-pound luxury camping tents; you’ll have to settle for something basic. 

A weight of 2lb – 3lb per person is a good rule of thumb. This translates 4 – 6 pounds (roughly the weight of a 2-liter bottle of soda) for a 2 person tent. You can share the weight with whoever you are going backpacking with. 

Anything above that range is considered very heavy for a backpacking tent. Anything below that would get into the “ultralight” category and cost a lot more.

Also, you really need to make sure your tent is waterproof. If you get soaked when car camping, there’s always the option of sleeping in your car or driving to a nearby hotel. 

But when you are backpacking, you have nowhere else to go when your tent leaks. And wet clothes can make you catch a cold or get blisters. The consequences are a lot more serious.

Though most backpacking tents come with top-to-bottom rainfly and vestibules, water could still leak through the seams and floor. Look fortaped seams,” “sealed seams,” “bathtub floor,” and so on in the product description. 

The tent floor is particularly vulnerable because it’s rubbed against the rough ground all the time. Ideally, you want a floor with a waterproof rating above 2000mm. But you don’t always get this information from the manufacturer.

If you are purchasing budget backpacking tents, it’d be really helpful to waterproof your tent before taking it out

Ventilation is another important factor to consider. Yes, the meshed walls are great for airflow and stargazing, but the rainfly would cover it all up on a rainy day.

In that case, you don’t want a humid, hot, and stuffy tent. So look for ground vents. Roof vents better are adjustable to prevent rainwater from getting in.

Examples (click to check the latest price): 

I must say that when it comes to entry-level backpacking tents, Amazon ones tend to be better value than those from big legacy brands. 

Budget BISINNA 2 Person Backpacking Tent — shockingly affordable, great reviews, pretty lightweight, 2 doors; but not very roomy and can’t stargaze
BudgetClostnature 2 Person Backpacking Tent — pretty roomy, 2 doors, very waterproof (PU 5000), entire meshed walls and ceiling; on the heavier end
StandardNaturehike 2 Person Backpacking Tent — very lightweight (under 4lbs), highly waterproof with PU 4000 coating, footprint included; only 1 door, less roomy
Standard Marmot Crane Creek — roomier at 32 sqft, 2 doors, taped seams; didn’t specify waterproof rating, just over 5lbs packed 
PremiumEureka Timberline SQ 2XT — very roomy at 36 sqft with A-frame bent outward, super easy setup, extremely durable, adjustable vents; very heavy at over 7lbs fully packed
Premium NEMO Aurora 2P Tent with Footprint — spacious with near vertical walls, vents on rainfly, footprint included, 2 doors & 2 vestibules; 5.5lbs

Ultralight Backpackers 

I know we just talked about backpackers, but ultralight is a whole other category on its own. You are aiming for under 1.5lbs per person here. 

Price ranges to expect: 

  • Budget: $60 – $150
  • Standard: $150 – $300
  • Premium: $300+

While regular backpacking tents are sufficient for most hikes, some may want to take it to another level with thru-hiking. When you’re trying to hike for more than 2,000 miles (in theory), every ounce matters.

I wouldn’t recommend ultralight tents unless you are doing those long hikes. When shaving weight becomes the #1 priority, there will be sacrifices — most commonly smaller space and more challenging setup with trekking poles. 

Examples (click to check the latest price): 

Budget River Country Products Trekker Tent 2 — only 2.8lbs, trekking pole setup, shockingly affordable
StandardMIER Ultralight Tent — only 2.8lbs for 2 person model, trekking pole setup, silicone coated waterproofing, pretty spacious 
PremiumNEMO Hornet Elite 2 Tent — 2.1lbs! No trekking poles needed; space is very tight for 2 people though

Long Term Campers 

Long-term camping can last anywhere between a few days to multiple weeks. You would probably use this tent as a base camp for whatever you do, be it hunting, kayaking, or wilderness exploration. 

Price ranges to expect: 

  • Budget: $250 – $400
  • Standard: $400 – $800
  • Premium: $800+

Since you’ll be using this shelter for a while, it needs to be more livable and durable than those designed for much shorter trips. Here are the key features that drive up the price: 

Livability — you would want a pretty high ceiling with plenty of space to handle the foot traffic and to store all your gear.

High weather resistance — you don’t want a strong gust of wind to wreck your tent or to wake up soaked in the middle of nowhere. Look for canvas tents with steel poles. These are very waterproof and will hold their shape.

High durability — If you use a regular tent many weeks at a time, the waterproof coatings will peel off, and there will be holes on the floor. That’s why you may want to consider canvas tents, which stand up better to the elements and last 20 – 30 years.

Examples (click to check latest price; prices may have changed): 

Budget Canvas Dome Tent 3 Person
StandardKodiak 12 x 9 ft. Cabin Tent with Deluxe Awning
PremiumSibley 450 ProTech — iconic bell-shape

Winter Camping  

You can argue that camping is best during the summer. But what if you get that itch to get out in the colder months? 

Well, winter camping will be a very different experience. You’ll have to deal with both the cold and moisture (from snow), which can be brutal. And there will be strong winds more often than not. 

One part of the solution is to get a 4-season tent or an all-season tent. These are double-wall tents, with the inner wall made from regular nylon/polyester fabrics rather than mesh. 

This will keep you warmer but sacrifice a bit of ventilation, so I don’t recommend you use any 4-season tent in the summer. 

Also, some 4-season tents are built to be very sturdy in high winds and could handle large amounts of snow. This really makes a difference if you are buying it for alpine expeditions. 

Price ranges to expect: 

  • Budget: $100 – $250
  • Standard: $250 – $400
  • Premium: $400+ 

Examples (click to check latest price; prices may have changed): 

Budget GEERTOP Portable 2 Person 4 Season Tent – highly waterproof PU 5000+, snow skirt, nylon mesh, sealed seams
StandardEureka Mountain Pass 2 Person Tent – great option for those who may also use their tent in the summer and don’t camp in super cold conditions
PremiumEureka! Assault Outfitter 4 Person – storm-shield rainfly, adjustable air vents, marine corps design

Are Cheap Tents Worth Buying?

Some cheap tents are of decent quality and are worth buying. At $50 – $100, many come with standard features like waterproof seams and coating, guylines, stakes, vents, and meshed walls. That being said, quality can vary dramatically, so it is important to shop around.  

Cheap tents can be really hit or miss. If you decide to get one, I recommend you go with a high-volume brand like Coleman

Their tents aren’t the cheapest ones you can find but still very affordable. Because they sell so many of them, the reviews on aggregate would give you a pretty good idea of the quality and consistency. 

For example, when you see close to 30,000 reviews on the Coleman Sundome, with 80% of them being 5 stars, it’s a strong indicator that the tent will also work for you. 

If you want to learn more about this budget brand, I’ve written a whole article on whether Coleman tents are good. The short answer is, Coleman makes decent tents at a great price that will meet the needs of most campers. 

But some cheap tents are really bad. Like completely ruin your trip kind of bad. In the video below, the $35 tent turned into a pool in the rain: 

Anyhow, I recommend you spend at least $50 on a tent, even if you are very new to camping. 

And always weatherproof a cheap tent before you ever spend a night in it. More often than not, it will leak in heavy rain even if the manufacturer says it’s “seam-sealed” or waterproof. 

If you go camping quite often, cheap tents may not be worth it. Think about it. If you get a $50 tent that breaks after 1 – 2 trips, it may end up costing more than purchasing a $150 tent upfront, not to mention all the frustration.  

What Is the Best Cheap Tent? 

We believe the best cheap tent is the Coleman Sundome. It is actually very high-quality for a budget tent with all the features you need on most camping trips. It comes in 2 to 6 person capacities.  

To begin with, it’s pretty roomy. You can easily fit a queen-size air mattress in the 4 person and 6 person models. And the ceiling is high enough such that even tall people would be able to sit up straight. 

And most people said the tent has kept them dry in rainstorms. But remember to apply some waterproof treatment before you go and put down a tarp to protect the bottom of the tent. 

I also love the meshed ceiling. Imagine stargazing on a clear summer night. It also helps a lot with ventilation. 

That being said, this is not a tent for harsh weather conditions. The poles would likely bend in strong winds, and you may feel either too hot or too cold. 

Pros:

  • Bargain price
  • Well-ventilated with mesh walls, large windows, and roof vents
  • Will keep you dry in the rain  
  • Roomy enough for you to put queen-size air mattresses in the 4 to 6 person models
  • Easy to set up — less than 10 minutes  
  • E-port makes it easy to bring electricity inside the tent, an uncommon feature on cheap tents 

Cons: 

  • Not sturdy in strong winds with fragile tent stakes and fiberglass poles 
  • Won’t be comfortable in very hot or freezing weather 

Emma

My name is Emma, and I’m a city dweller who jumps on every opportunity to get out and enjoy nature! I’ve gone on a number of car camping and backpacking trips since my first experience in 2015. I created this site to inspire others to get outside and to make the process easier for you.

Emma

Emma

My name is Emma, and I’m a city dweller who jumps on every opportunity to get out and enjoy nature! I’ve gone on a number of car camping and backpacking trips since my first experience in 2015. I created this site to inspire others to get outside and to make the process easier for you.