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Family Tent
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Genevieve Reichle
(Genevieve) - F
Family Tent on 07/15/2005 14:01:26 MDT Print View

I have no experience in the great outdoors but a am the mother of 3 year and 5 year old boys. So I am determined to take them camping and then backpacking when they are a little older. I would really appreciate advise on a what type of family tent would be good for a family of four in the Northeast -3 seasons. Thank you.

Paul Grube
(plosive) - F

Locale: Above Cache Creek, CA
family tent on 07/15/2005 14:51:51 MDT Print View

Hi Genevieve

I will base my suggestions on the example that my parents gave when they introduced me to backpacking and the outdoors. To start I remember helping put up and take down the tent during the daytime in the park and backyard to familiarize myself (and them?) to the “experience”. We would bring some lunch and make a picnic out of it. Next, I remember sleeping outside in the backyard with the lights on. This way if I had to go to the bathroom or if I got cold it was no big deal. Eventually, I graduated to car camping with hikes. Our hikes were short with no packs at first and gradually increased in length, pack weight etc.

When using a tent designed for 3 or more people and or car camping it is my personal opinion that it is not worth spending upwards of $500 on a “quality” tent. The inevitable soot of fire rings, broken glass and other debris found at most car camping sites make it impractical to spend that much money on a “family” tent. In my opinion Eureka, Kelty, Coleman and other discount brand tents are best suited for this level of camping. For example, the Eureka Tetragon ( sleeps 4 and costs just $120.00! By planning your trips during fair weather you should have no problem being comfortable in this level of tent. After all, if the weather is severe you always have the vehicle as a backup.

Once your children “graduate” to overnight backpacking they may be old enough and independent enough to have there own tent, or tarp. At that point they can actively participate in choosing the materials, design and features of the shelter system they desire.

Good luck and have fun!
“light is right”

Duane Hall
(PKH) - M

Locale: Nova Scotia
Family Tents on 07/16/2005 15:15:46 MDT Print View

You might consider LL Bean's Dome tents for your purposes, as well as the MEC Wandere 4 tent. I doubt you could far wrong with these and you will not break your bank account.



Genevieve Reichle
(Genevieve) - F
Family tent on 07/18/2005 07:47:01 MDT Print View

Thank you both for your advise - We are better prepared thanks to you!

Eureka tent on 07/18/2005 14:07:36 MDT Print View

Also, I have a Eureka Tetragon 9 that me and my wife use for car camping, and its a great tent for the use. its light enough also that its not gawd awful to lug in a few miles as well.

I strongly suggest checking them out. Also it can be had for 100 at

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Another idea... on 08/05/2005 00:55:14 MDT Print View

Hi Genevieve-

Since you're at our ultralight backpacking site, let me give you one more possibility which would be passable for car camping but wonderful for backpacking because it's so lightweight (and lighter packs make backpacking way more fun):

The Tarptent Rainshadow ( is a 3 person version of the Tarptent Squall which is a consistent favorite around here. The floored version sets up easily with only 2 poles and 4 stakes and it has a bathtub floor and full mosquito netting. It's less than 3 pounds and will have plenty of room for you and your boys.

If you decide to do more backpacking than car camping, you might love this tent.

Good job getting your boys into the great outdoors and best of luck with finding the tent that's right for you!

Doug Johnson

Jim Ells
(ellsfamily) - F
Family Tent on 08/05/2005 05:11:59 MDT Print View

Genevieve, I own a Tarptent Cloudburst, and to use someone else's words, you'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands. My point is that Doug's advice about the Rainshadow is worth a long look. My tent is easy to set up and use and I love the room and design.
Good luck

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
re: family tent on 08/05/2005 07:54:32 MDT Print View

Ditto the endorsements of TarpTents.

I'd add that the models I've used (original Squall, Cloudburst and homemade TT1) have all benefited from using 2 extra stakes and guy lines at the midpoints of the sides. I'm certain that this would be even more true with the larger RainShadow. You can order extra stakes and guylines at the same time you order the tent.

The benefits are reduced flapping, better wind stability and less sagging

Amy Christiansen
(achristi10) - F
family tent for little ones on 03/17/2009 11:18:24 MDT Print View

We also have a Tarptent Rainshadow and used it backpacking with our son, then 2. The only downsides are that it may be a bit "scarier" in stormy weather since you don't have exactly solid walls (which also lead to my dog attempting to burst through the back screen to get at some unknown entity outside the tent). Given the additional weight of carrying your little kids stuff, as well, perhaps as a toddler, the light weight of the tent is well worth it!

And by the way, I certainly don't think you need to limit yourself to car camping with the little ones! I know that I started backpacking at age 2 and wasn't introduced to car camping until much later in my youth. We're planning our first backpack this spring with our now 3 yr old and our now 17 month old! We just go a short distance (one mile) and go for one night, for starters. Enjoy!!!

(mountainwalker) - MLife

Locale: SF Bay Area & New England
Thumbs up on Tarptents and going backpacking now; Also check out this thread for car camping on 03/17/2009 16:45:35 MDT Print View

Genevieve, I also have this thread going, but it's specifically focused on car camping tents, , because my wife and I already have a backpacking mountaineering tent (for winter and higher elevation) and are about to pick up a lightweight Tarptent to replace a heavier older backpacking tent.

Let me second comments that you can take your kids backpacking right now, and it would be easy to pick up a nice roomy Tarptent large enough for all of you.

Note that I have cousins who hiked while pregant until a few weeks before they gave birth, and raised their kids backpacking from an early age. I didn't start backpacking until Cub Scouts at age 7-8, but my family took me hiking even before I could walk. Backpacking teaches so many valuable skills and lessons being lost in generations raised on instant-gratification tv, internet, etc.

There are some good resources on this site, other sites and in books on backpacking with kids. Highly recommend you search this site.

Also, my wife and I are also going to pick up a Tarptent and are just trying to decide between the models. We've been looking in particular at the Rainshadow 2 (very roomy), Double Rainbow (2 doors, bit stronger than Rainshadow 2 but less space) and Scarp 2 (stronger than Double Rainbow and Rainshadow 2, size similar to Double Rainbow).

(mountainwalker) - MLife

Locale: SF Bay Area & New England
Tarptent advice - will start new thread on 03/17/2009 16:58:54 MDT Print View

Would appreciate advice from all you Tarptent owners on choosing a Tarptent for my wife and I - will post separate thread so as not to hijack Genevieve's.

Good luck Genevieve!