Jason Bean, from =) Bnpositive’s Blog, asked me the other day what my recommendation was for “a quality, yet affordable family tent for 4 people.” This was on Twitter, where brevity is key (Twitter limits posts to a maximum length of 140 characters), so I thought I would follow up on my response to Jason with a little more information about the two tents that I recommended; the Mountain Hardware’s Casa line and Kelty’s Green River model.
When looking for a family tent, the first question that you have to answer for yourself is whether you can live with a four person tent, or if your family will need something a bit larger. Both the Casa and Green River tents are available in four and six person sizes, with a price-delta of around $100 (including the footprint).
The Case for a Four-Person Tent
The general rule-of-thumb when sizing tents is to always get a tent rated for one size larger than the number of people you need to accommodate. While a four person tent will usually accommodate four sleeping bags just fine, there is no room left over for gear. Also, some tents have very low sidewalls, so while the footprint dimensions may look just fine, the sidewalls may be so low that some of the space along the sides of the tent is unusable.
This is not an issue with either the Casa or Green River models, which have near-vertical sidewalls. In addition, the rain fly on both of these models creates a large vestibule at the front of the tent, which adds about five feet of space for gear. With the gear out of the way, the Green River’s 9-foot by 9-foot and the Casa’s 6-foot by 8-foot floor areas provide enough room for a family of four.
The Case for a Six-Person Tent
Just sleeping in a tent is one thing, but it’s also nice to be able to move around a bit without having to step over people. For families in particular, parents and kids don’t always keep to the same sleeping schedules. It can be a challenge, in a four-person tent, to get in or out without waking everybody else up.
The six-person version of the Casa has an 8-foot by 9.5-foot main floor area and the Green River a whopping 13.5-foot by 9-foot area. You will really appreciate all of this extra space when getting dressed in the mornings and on those rainy nights, when the kids are sleeping and there’s still plenty of room for the parents to play cards, etc.
Depending on what type of camping you do, however, the size of a six-person tent can also be their shortcoming. With their rain flies (which creates the large front vestibule area) these tents are over 15-feet long. It can sometimes be a challenge to get 15-feet of uninterrupted level ground in a campground. It’s a particularly tall order out in the middle of the woods!
What’s the Bottom Line?
As with most camping gear, you get what you pay for and that’s the case with the more-expensive Casa versus the cheaper Green River. The Casa uses super-strong carbon fiber poles, while the Green River uses fiberglass. The Casa is really easy to setup, with its quick-pitch design where you setup the pole framework first, then just clip the tent to it. Lower-end tents, like the Green River, require you to thread the poles through channels in the tent material – a real and often frustrating challenge.
I know people are passionate about their tents, so if you think I’ve steered Jason in the wrong direction, let’s hear it!
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This looks like a helpful post; however, neither of the tents you name is available any longer. What would be the equivalent tents to the Casa and the Green River? Thanks!
Brent – great point about a huge tent. Plus, the poles on our 9×9 must be 20-feet long.
Eric – I’m torn about this, as you can through a lot of Y’all Mart $30 specials before you get to two or three hundred dollars. I think it’s worth the money to get something good, though. It doesn’t take much wind, rain, or cold to make a camping trip miserable in a cheap tent.
bnpositive – glad to help!
Steve – thanks, getting kids outdoors is an important cause.
Vegas710 – glad I could help! Checkout this week’s post on the Eureka Grand Manan, too – it’s a two-pole design, like the Mountain Hardware Casa, but the 6+ foot height is really nice.
Hey, found you on a google search for good family tents. Thanks for posting this, it was very helpful!
This web site/blog is similar to our efforts in breaking down the barriers to getting kids outdoors and to communicate with kids in their modern language of technology. The current discussion about nature deficit disorder misses the point about kids today. Besides the Internet there is a lot of great new technology out there including outdoor products that makes it easier, safer and a lot more interesting to be outside. Kids love technical stuff. Is it really off limits to bring an iPod or to play your Gameboy DS Lite with your dad in the tent at night? How about the new Jetboil stove that is super light, easy to use and can cook a meal for four in 15 minutes or less so that you can get on to playing Amimal Crossing on that DS. All kids today were born after the advent of the Internet and most are better at doing research and communicating about issues important to them through the medium of online technology that adults are, especially when they are outdoors. In fact technology is what they are interested in even more than “the outdoors”. One place looking at this is the new web site http://www.kidsoutdoorsonline.com. There they talk about What they did, Where they did it and How they did it (WWH) outdoors. Over time it will help break down the number one barrier to getting kids outdoors: lack of knowledge. – firstname.lastname@example.org
Hey thanks for the follow-up and deeper explanation. I think we’d definitely look at a 6-person tent as a minimum. The clarification on whether or not the tent has vertical side walls is also very crucial to us. Now, just need to get the money for the tent!
bnpositive’s last blog post..links for 2009-01-11
I have the green river six and I would say that it is just ok… A couple things I really don’t link about it, the floor is made of light weight material like you would find in a backpacking tent. More durable materials shoudl be used in car camping gear. After one outting in the tent the waterproofing (sil coating) was rubbed off in many places from the air mattress. Second, we camped in heavy rains a couple times and the water pools on the top of tent, not just a little either.
I do love the screen room and the size is nice… A six foot person can stand in it… It is great to be able change easily in the tent. I think the green river 4 would have been a better choice, but I got a great deal on the 6 so I went with it…
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I just went through the downsizing of tents. The kids are now old enough for their own tents and so there’s no need for the wife and I to bring the bohemoth one we have either. There are a myriad of tents from ultra-light through hiking versions to ultra featured expedition ones and everything in between. Took awhile to pick.
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Good post. I have a 10 person tent which is gigantic so I’m now in the market for either a 4 person or 6 person tent. Brent’s post reminded me that our site wasn’t really big enough as I ended up with part of my tent on an incline.
Where I think people are steered wrong is in when it’s recommended that they purchase ultra-expensive tents for fairly mild weather. Yes, I agree that you should get a good quality tent that can handle rain, but a $200+ tent will turn off folks who are just trying to get started. On the other hand too, a soaked sleeping bag will do just the same.
My advice is to get a middle of the road tent-pricewise and add 2 people extra to the size that’s actually going and you should be fine.
But either way, any tent is better than an RV when it comes to camping! 🙂
Eric’s last blog post..2009 is here.. It is time for change!
You know I forgot to add that if you buy a huge tent, then you have to find a huge place to set it up at. Most national forest campgrounds that we have been to in southern Utah, southern Nevada(where I’m from) and all of Arizona the organized campground has the space you just have to pay for it. We like to camp on blm land and not leave a trace when we leave. Sure it’s more work but you don’t have to complain to the camp host that someone is running their generator during quiet hours. Or having other people walk through your campsite.
Yep, ye be right again! It’s perfect for just the two of us; queen air-mattress that’s goes up to 17″ off the ground. Room to completely stand up in and sturdy. The whole thing uses 10 poles, it’s a wall type of tent, and will withstand a storm with 55mph winds, we were there! But for a family of four it’s also a good idea! But once the kids get to sleeping alone with their own little pup tent, that’s when kids really start liking camping. I mean first I would have them camp alone in the backyard at say 7 or 8 yr. maybe sooner, it all depends on the individual family. I remember when I was a kid back in the 1800s and I dreamed of the day when I had my own tent so I wouldn’t have to listen to anyone snoring. And I’m not saying who snored the loudest either, haha!
And one item I might add is that forget those cheap little tent pegs and buy good ones 9″ long (Wal-mart has them 6 for 7 bucks)
Yeah, I think you’re right in that there is no answer that will work for everyone. I tend to be against the dome-type tents for families with kids, because they don’t have as much vertical room throughout the interior. If I remember correctly, you’ve got a Eureka Copper Canyon?
Concerning tents for four people. That’s a loaded question. Do you room to stand up straight if you’re close to 6 feet tall? Is the tent for a family: 2 adults 2 children under the age of eight?
Generally speaking, one should always get the best tent that you can afford. It is suppose to be your home away from home. Even if you only use it once a year for a week, it should be able to withstand strong weather extremes, regardless of how careful one plans a simple trip to the chosen spot , weather can change. But to give a specific response, more need to be found out about who the tent is for.