Gear Guy

What’s the best car-camping tent for my family?

What's the best car-camping tent for me, my wife, our daughter, and, if he's good, a dog? We prefer two doors and an aluminum frame, but we're flexible. Henry Davis Willisville, New York


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Aw, let the dog in-I’m sure he’s a good boy!

Lots of good car-camping tents out there. Eureka has a really big presence in this market, with a wide array of good quality, well priced tents. An example: The Tetragon 9 ($180), which sleeps four to five and has a roomy, well ventilated design. The Equinox 6 ($350) steps up several notches with aluminum poles (the Tetragon has fiberglass poles) and sturdier, more-weatherproof design. Really a nice car tent, or for any application (canoeing, for instance) where weight (20 pounds) isn’t a huge factor.

Some big tents borrow design features from backpacking tents, resulting in lower profiles for better wind-resistance, and lighter weight. An example of that is Kelty’s Valhalla 5 ($300), which uses a fly/canopy configuration (most family tents have a single, waterproof fabric layer) and aluminum poles to cut the weight to about 13 pounds while still sleeping up to five. But really, for car camping, the classic “umbrella tent” design such as used by Eureka most other family tent makers is best.

Some makes also still make canvas-wall tents. Canvas is actually extremely water-repellent when treated properly (and all come with water-repellent coatings) and more breathable than coated-nylon. Kirkham Outdoors’ Springbar Model 3401 ($375) sleeps four in a canvas-wall tent that has excellent ventilation and a built-in front awning. Very nostalgia inducing, for those of us who remember car camping from the 1960s.

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