Camping is a staple family activity that has been around since time immemorial. It’s a great way to build relationships and to commune with nature along with the people you love. But sometimes, nature follows its own plans and foils fun camping trips with rain, wind, and even snow.
To help ensure your camping trip isn’t ruined if the weather gods decide not to play ball, it’s wise to invest in a tent that can deal with whatever the weather gods throw at it. To help you choose, here’s a guide on how to choose the best option for your needs and a selection of our top picks.
Table of Contents
- Editor’s Choice
- How to Choose the Best Family Tents for Bad Weather
- Our Top 6 Best Weather-Resistant Tents for Camping Families
ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 4
At the end of the day, the best family tents for bad weather aren’t necessarily the most technical shelters. They should offer a good blend of convenience, durability, comfort, and, of course, weather resistance. And while the Alps Mountaineering Lynx 4 isn’t perfect, we feel that it balances all of these attributes just about perfectly.
The Lynx 4P is a great choice for both car camping and backpacking. Weighing in at 8 pounds, this family tent is big enough for casual campsite camping. But it’s also not too heavy when it’s load-divided into different backpacks for wild camping at the end of a longer trail.
In addition to the 75D 1500 mm rainfly and 2000 mm poly taffeta base, the dome’s low profile means the Lynx offers solid protection from the wind and driving rain. The uncomplicated dome frame also makes this tent easy and fast to set up, even for newbie campers who’re doing their pitching while trying to keep one eye on the kids.
While the rainfly’s ventilation could use some improvement, the inner canopy strikes a good balance between fabric and mesh parts, allowing adequate airflow at the same time as providing ample protection against the elements.
The bottom line: a versatile, relatively spacious, and highly durable tent that’s ideal for wet-weather camping trips with up to two adults and two kids.
How to Choose the Best Family Tents for Bad Weather
Bad weather during our time outdoors can come in various forms: high winds, snow, heavy downpours, hail, sleet, and even thunderstorms. A family tent that’s truly cut out for these weather phenomena should be double-walled, waterproof, structurally sound, and properly covered by its rainfly.
Tent models can have one or two walls. As the name suggests, double-walled family tents have two layers: a rainfly that acts as the protective outermost layer and the inner canopy layer that forms the sleeping area for the tent’s occupants. In contrast, a single-walled tent uses only one layer of protection.
Double-wall models are typically considered a better choice than their single-wall counterparts for a number of reasons. For starters, the use of two layers provides added protection against the elements, with the rainfly doing the bulk of the work and the inner canopy using a DWR treatment that fends off condensation or any H20 that makes it through the rainfly.
The breathable construction of tent bodies (the inner canopy is usually made of mesh) and the gap between the two layers also allow for superior airflow. This helps to prevent stuffiness and is especially important in thwarting the buildup of condensation in humid conditions.
Finally, the rainfly on double-walled tents also provides extra storage space for wet gear, which helps to ensure you can keep the tent’s interior nice and dry.
When buying a bad-weather tent, solid waterproofing should, of course, be the one non-negotiable feature that sits at the very top of your tick list.
But how do we know that the tent’s waterproofing is solid?
As always, check the Hydrostatic Head or HH rating. This rating describes how waterproof a material is. It’s measured by gauging how much water pressure the fabric is able to withstand before it starts to leak. The measurement is always given in millimeters, i.e. 1500 mm, 2000 mm, etc.
The higher the rating numbers, the more impregnable the tent is to water. A rainfly with an HH index of 3000 mm, for example, would perform better in heavy rain than one rated as 1500 mm.
The lowest passable HH ratings for waterproof tents should be 1200 mm for the rainfly and 2000 mm for the floor.
Lastly, be mindful of the seams. One of the key indicators of a tent that’s made to withstand bad weather is the use of a layer of polyurethane film over the seams, i.e. “taped seams”. Taped seams enhance your tent’s waterproofing in these notoriously leak-prone points by reinforcing the join between two pieces of the tent fabric.
Bad weather isn’t all about the rain—high winds can wreak just as much havoc on our camping trips if our tents aren’t built to deal with them.
To combat high winds, a tent should use strong steel or aluminum poles. Ideally, it should also use a geodesic or semi-geodesic, dome-style design for added sturdiness and stability. These tents have more aerodynamic shapes that have less surface for the wind to “catch”, which means even stronger winds will blow over their surface instead of buffeting or even collapsing the walls.
That said, because car camping tents are usually heavier and more robust, there’s normally less need for them to be quite so aerodynamic. This means that square or rectangular canopy-type tents will do the job in all but the blowiest conditions.
Full Rainfly Coverage
As mentioned above, rainflys are a vitally important component of your tent’s bad-weather armory. In addition to fending off airborne H20, the rainfly on the best weather-proof tents should engulf the entire canopy and leave enough vestibule space to store gear. If not, then the rainfly must at least be big enough to cover the most vulnerable spots of the shelter, using storm flaps that protect zippers and the base of the fly fabric.
Capacity, Size, and Comfort
Capacity refers to how many people can fit inside the tent without their gear. Whether it’s 2-person, 3 or 4, there isn’t really an industry standard that dictates how big a tent should be. As such, when choosing your tent, we recommend paying attention to its overall square footage and bearing in mind that the average adult sleeper will require roughly 14 square feet of floor space.
We also recommend always shooting high instead of low.
For a family of five, for example, a 6-person tent is more likely to provide the roominess required to keep things comfortable and stave off cabin fever if bad weather keeps you stuck inside. Ideally, you should also make sure the tent will provide plenty of headroom and allow you to stand upright inside without hunching over excessively.
Many canopy or extended basecamp tents have interior divisions that are great for privacy. While these tents are usually too heavy to be lugged into the backcountry, on car camping trips they offer a little more luxury and a more at-home kinda feel.
Weight and Packed Size
In most cases, the weight of your family tent and its packed size will roughly correspond: heavier tents have a bigger packed size and lighter tents have a smaller packed size.
Both weight and pack size aren’t such an issue when car camping, as you’ll usually have little or no distance to travel before pitching. However, when camping in the backcountry, always make sure you choose a family tent that you’ll be able to carry over longer distances. Also check that it will easily fit inside your backpack, leaving room for other important gear.
If you’re planning on a long hike before pitching your tent, consider purchasing a model like the Alps Mountaineering Lynx 4P that goes easy on overall poundage and bulk whilst providing above-average livability and roominess. For car-camping trips, heavier and bulkier tents become an option and are likely to score higher in terms of comfort, livability, and general convenience.
Ease of Setup
A family tent’s pitching time and convenience largely depend on its size, weight, and frame. If it’s a small dome-style family tent with a single-pole intersection, then it won’t take more than a few minutes to set up. Family tents are bigger and typically use more complicated structures. As such, they will normally take longer to pitch.
A few features that can help ease setup include color-coded poles and grommets, clips that allow you to attach the rainfly to the tent body for one-piece pitching, and a freestanding design (which means the tent will stay upright even without stakes, thereby making it possible for one person to pitch the tent alone).
Before heading to camp with your new tent, make sure you do a few trial runs in your yard or at the local park. This way, you’ll have your setup routine down and save precious minutes if you have to do your first backcountry pitches in rainy or otherwise bad conditions.
A tent should have enough ventilation to regulate the interior temperature and to keep condensation from forming.
Condensation happens when hot air inside the tent interacts with the cold walls and ceiling. Then, moisture forms, often to the extent that it looks like rain has leaked into the tent. This may seem like a mild annoyance, but moisture inside your tent can also damage gear and soak sleeping bags, seriously impairing their ability to insulate and keep you warm while you sleep.
Because they use less breathable fabrics, 4-season tents usually have condensation problems unless they’re used in frigid environments. Three-season family shelters, however, are typically designed to provide the optimal balance between breathability, ventilation, and weather protection. This makes them a more flexible option and the best bet for camping in variable weather conditions.
Which features contribute to providing adequate ventilation?
When buying, make sure you look for a 3-season tent with at least 1 ventilating window, a double-walled design, and plenty of No-See-Um high-density mesh in the tent body/canopy. Double doors also help to boost airflow, particularly if they have an awning or storm flap that lets you keep them open without rainfall entering the tent.
Our Top 6 Best Weather-Resistant Tents for Camping Families
Coleman WeatherMaster 6
Best Value for Money Family Tent
Weight: 32 lbs
Floor dimensions: 11 x 9 with 9 x 6 screen room
Coleman has a longstanding tradition of crafting reliable, low-cost camping shelters designed for car-camping families. And the WeatherMaster 6 is no exception. It’s size, comfortable interior, and above-average weather protection make it a great pick for buyers on a budget.
The WeatherMaster 6 is a big tent. Its 99 ft² of floor space allocates a generous 16.5 ft² for every sleeper and is roomy enough to fit 2 queen-size air beds. This model also has a peak height of 6 ft and 8 in, meaning even the tallest of campers will be able to walk around comfortably inside.
This tent also has a 9 x 6 ft screen porch—a hugely fun and convenient feature that provides bug-free lounging and stargazing opportunities. It can also house coolers, camping chairs, and other gear that you don’t want to be left outside at night. Do be careful with the mesh though. It gets punctured with holes if not handled carefully.
The WeatherMaster’s doors are also unique. Two fiberglass poles are inserted along each door’s perimeter to make it hinged, just like your doors at home. This helps avoid snagging zippers and provides ease of access to the tent, especially for kids.
The WeatherMaster does, however, have a few downsides. Firstly, this is far from being the most weather-resistant tent on our list. While the coated polyester fabric and bathtub base will keep you dry in most rainy conditions, they might not be able to deal with especially heavy and sustained downpours.
The tent is also not freestanding, so it’s a little trickier to set up and needs to be secured with correctly tensioned guylines to keep it stable.
- Tall and roomy
- Huge screen porch
- Uniquely hinged doors
- WeatherTec system with patented welded floors and inverted seams
- Not freestanding
- Less durable mesh
- Less waterproof than other tents on our list
Bottom-Line: A roomy, very reasonably priced shelter that’s the ideal tent for family camping trips in all but the wettest conditions.
Geertop Portable 4
Most Versatile Tent
Weight: 9 lbs
Floor dimensions: 7’10 x 6’11
Geertop’s 4-person tent is a versatile and inexpensive shelter that’s great for all seasons of the year.
In particularly bad wet weather, the Portable 4 provides enough protection to ward off even heavy rain. The flysheet is made with 3000 mm, anti-tear, checkered polyester, and the base with heavy-duty Oxford material with a 5000 mm HH rating. These ratings both represent a significant upgrade on the vast majority of the Portable 4’s budget-friendly competitors.
In winter, this Geertop model can stand in as a snow tent thanks to its use of a snow skirt and high denier fabric. The trade-off with this attribute, however, comes in the tent’s performance in warmer conditions. While that 3,000mm-rated rainfly is great at keeping water out, it’s also a lot less breathable than models with lower HH ratings.
For summer, the tent’s inner canopy is designed with good mesh-to-fabric balance that ventilates the interior, alleviates overheating, and provides ample protection against the elements. A duo of small windows in the tent wall also help to boost airflow and let in a little daylight.
Perhaps the part where the Geertop Portable needs the most improvement is its base. It may be waterproof, but it’s notably thin. As such, you may have to invest in a good footprint to protect it against rocks, sticks, and other sharp, pointy objects that could cause tears.
- Mesh-to-fabric balance
- Thin floor
- Ventilation problems – not the best in terms of breathability
Browning Big Horn Tent 8
Biggest Family Camping Tent
Weight: 21 lbs
Floor dimensions: 15 x 10
The Browning Camping 8-person tent is the largest outdoor shelter in our list. With a total area of 150 ft² and a peak height of 7 ft and 3 in, it’s a mammoth car camping tent that can house 8 people, providing a whopping 18.75 ft² of space per person. That’s enough room for cots, air beds, camping furniture, and dedicated storage areas for extended stays.
The roominess inside the tent isn’t the only thing that makes this massive freestanding tent very livable. It provides great ventilation through 2 doorways, 6 large closable windows, and a mesh roof. And it also boasts a 75D and UV-resistant fly and a 150D Oxford floor with a 2000 mm coating that work together to keep the campers inside protected and dry.
The Big Horn 8 is not an all-season tent, so it won’t be able to hold its own in winter conditions. Additionally, since the tent is very tall and not geodesic, the high, flat walls aren’t aerodynamic enough to withstand slamming high winds. As such, this one’s best for use in less blowy conditions or pitched somewhere sheltered from the wind.
Another notable downside is the Big Horn’s lack of vestibules. While there’s ample storage space inside, this may prove to be a deal-breaker for campers who need a place to store wet and dirty gear.
Lastly, because of its large size, the Big Horn 8-person tent is understandably heavy, Weighing in at 21 pounds, this is definitely a car-camping-only kinda tent unless you happen to have calves of steel or a few porters willing to share the load!
- Incredibly roomy
- Comfortable interior
- Ideal camp tent for campsites
- Accommodates 8 people/family members comfortably
- Heavy and bulky
- No vestibules
Bottom-Line: An incredibly spacious, reliably waterproof tent that isn’t a top performer in high winds but makes up for this shortcoming with just-like-home livability.
NTK Cherokee GT 6
Most Beginner-Friendly Family Tent
Weight: 15.2 lbs
Floor dimensions: 10 x 10
The Cherokee GT 6 is one of the best options for families looking for a budget-friendly tent with solid waterproofing and is easy to set up.
This dome tent is made with high-quality 190T polyester fabric and a 2500 mm, coated rainfly that provide enough protection to keep you and your family dry in even heavier rainstorms. The slightly lower profile also helps to keep the tent steady and stable in strong winds.
But this family tent’s main selling point is how easy it is to set up. The simple dome design makes it beginner and kid-friendly. With two long poles, one intersection, and four hubs on each corner, it’s easy to master and perfect for teaching the kids the basics of camping.
However, like the Flex-Bow, the Cherokee GT has no vestibule, only a small awning above the doorway that is unlikely to keep your gear dry in anything worse than very light rain. Also, the Cherokee uses Nano-flex fiberglass poles that are less durable than aluminum varieties and prone to breakage in particularly cold conditions.
Finally, the NTK Cherokee GT 6 ‘s center height is a few inches shorter than other 6P tents—something that could prove to be a problem for claustrophobic or taller campers on longer camping trips.
- One of the easiest family tents to set up, even in bad weather
- Accommodates six people with room to spare
- Highly water-resistant
- No vestibules
- Less durable fiberglass poles
- Lower center height
Bottom-Line: a very affordable, spacious family tent that lacks a little in the way of headroom but is super easy to set up, performs well in wet weather, and boasts enough space for up to five adult sleepers or two adults and four kids.
ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 4
Best Heavy Duty Water-Resistant Family Tent
Weight: 8 lbs
Floor dimensions: 7’6 x 8’6
While most of the family tents in our best-of list are car camping models, the Lynx 4 is a little bit different. By nature, it is designed for car camping, but it’s officially marketed as a backpacking tent. That’s because, like many models, it’s an upsized version of its smaller counterpart, the Lynx 2.
Family ackpacking tents typically weigh 6 lbs and under. While the Lynx four pips that mark by a full 2 lbs, its parts can be separated and divvied out to two or more carriers to spread the load.
The Alps Mountaineering Lynx 4 is highly durable and also offers ample weather protection thanks to its 75D polyester fly with 1500 mm, anti-UV coating, and poly taffeta base.
This tent is also easy to pitch. Like the Cherokee, the dome-style design is self-explanatory and highly convenient when it comes to pitching in a hurry in the middle of a downpour. However, you do have to watch out for the guylines that hold the vestibules, which are a little tricky and time-consuming to set up.
Another downside to our best family tent is a slight shortage of ventilation. While the main canopy has enough mesh parts to aid breathability, the rainfly’s mini windows are a too little mini to boost airflow without opening the vestibule doors.
- Backpacking family tent
- Relatively lightweight
- Fast and easy to set up
- Solid water resistance
- Guylines a touch tricky to set up
- Less effective ventilation
Bottom-Line: a highly versatile family tent that’s ideal for both backcountry and campsite camping, and a winner in terms of overall value for money and performance in bad weather.
Kodiak Canvas Flex-Bow 6
Most Durable Tent
Weight: 65 lbs
Floor dimensions: 10 x 10
In an industry filled with nylon and ultralight models of tent, canvas shelters have remained a beloved classic when it comes to family camping as they reminds all of us of a bygone era of outdoor adventures. The Kodiak Canvas Flex-Bow 6 is one such classic.
Because of its size and canvas materials, this tent is very comfortable to sleep in. The canvas is smooth, supple, and soft to the touch, and is not noisy like the wall fabric used in synthetic tents. It also has a 6′ 6” ceiling height and a perfectly square 100 ft² floor area that offers plenty for up to six adult sleepers.
Canvas tents are also notable for being burly. The Flex-Bow 6 is no exception. Its ceiling and walls are made from a 10 oz and 8.5 oz Hydra-Shield, Kodiak’s patented thick material constructed from 100% Cotton Duck Canvas. And the dense reinforced vinyl floor comes with a 16 oz HH coat and seamless construction, meaning there’s less chance of moisture seeping in from wet and muddy ground.
The Flex-Bow poles are made with highly durable, 3/8-inch spring steel that keeps the tent taut and boosts performance in strong winds.
And the downsides?
Well, the canvas fabric, steel poles, and vinyl base all contribute to make Kodiak’s Flex-Bow extremely heavy and definitely not a good bet for hikes to far-flung camping sites that can only be accessed on foot.
The tent is also single-walled and, while the awning provides a little sheltered space outside the doorway, there are no designated vestibules, but it doesn’t provide the same advantages.
- Incredibly comfortable interior
- Strong Flex-Bow frame
- Durable floor and fabric
- A classic among camp tents
- Performs well in bad weather
- Suitable for a family of 5/6
- Extremely heavy
- Single-walled design
- No vestibule
Bottom-Line: a classy, highly robust tent that lacks a few convenient features but scores high on comfort, roominess, weather resistance, and durability.