Gear Guy

Any ideas for a tent to sleep the whole family?

I need a big family tent that's not too expensive but rugged enough to last many camping trips. I've compared Cabela's, Eureka, Coleman, and Wenzel. What is the best tent for the money and durability? Curt Woodward, Oklahoma

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Really, all those makers you mention make pretty good tents. Generally speaking, tents with heavier materials will last longer, weight not really being an issue for car camping. Plus, a tent with aluminum poles may be a little stronger than one with fiberglass. As you move up the price ladder, you’ll begin to pay more for additional features such as “rooms” inside the tent, sun porches, and so on.

Cabela’s sells a fine, big tent called the Backwoods Three-Room Cabin, which sells for a very reasonable $270 ( And I mean it is a BIG tent, with a ten- by twenty-foot floor—that’s a house in some parts of the world. Zip-out dividers let you create three rooms inside the tent for privacy. It’s made of nylon fabric, with fiberglass-and-steel poles, so it’s a pretty rugged design.

For something a little more compact, Eureka’s Equinox 6 tent offers enough room for five to six people (87 square feet) in a lighter package (19 pounds, versus the Three-Room Cabin’s 42). You sacrifice room dividers and some standing height. But you gain a somewhat more wind-resistant profile, aluminum poles, and a fly that offers better rain coverage. Cost is $319 because of its more exotic materials (

Wenzel and Coleman, generally speaking, come in at a little less price-wise. Examples include Coleman’s eight-person Cabin Tent (just slightly smaller than the above product from Cabela’s), which divides into three rooms and weighs 39 pounds. Price is $219 ( Wenzel’s Pueblo Pentadome has a 20- by 10-foot floor and three rooms, selling for a mere $160 (

For something with nostalgic value as well as good utility, check out the canvas tents from Davis Tent and Awning ( You can get a ten- by 12-foot tent with frame and water-repellent canvas for $395; pretty steep but consider it a lifetime investment if well cared for. The canvas is tough, durable, and breathes better than nylon, affording better comfort.

Happy camping!