Should you buy a 2 or 3 person tent? That’s a question many people ponder when shopping for their first tent.
You may be thinking “well there are two of us going camping, we must need a two-person tent”. That was my initial thought as well until I actually got inside of my tent and quickly realized then (and over the years of many other tent purchases) that tent sizing is not what you think. So while it may seem straightforward, unfortunately, it’s not.
Camping Trip Conditions To Consider For Tent Size
If you’re headed out on your trip and considering tent sizes, there are a few considerations to think about before you pull the trigger on that new tent. Let’s be honest, most quality tents are not cheap, so make this decision count.
- Type of Camping Trip: This is a big one. Let’s say you are planning on a “pack-in” type of trip where you park at a trailhead and must “pack-in” your camping gear (tent included) into the camping area. This is common in many National Park dispersed camping areas. For example, Yellowstone National Park offers a few drive-up camping areas, but MANY “pack-in” camping areas, same with Rocky Mountain National Park. So, how you get to your spot matters.
- Weather Considerations: Consider the weather of where and when you are camping. For example, if you are planning on a camping trip where rain or snow is on the radar, chances are you will not be keeping your gear, packs, and hiking boots outside of your tent (for obvious reasons). Due to this, going a size up from a 2 person tent to a 3 person tent may make better sense as you will have some extra room for your gear. Sleeping with your boots crammed up next to you isn’t fun.
- Size of the People: While this seems humorous, it matters! For example, if I am 6’5 and 300lbs, where I lay my head at night will matter a bit more than a camper who is 5’10 and 175lb when it comes to tent capacity. It’s just like a car, the area you decide to cram into for long periods of time, matters. would imaging if you are 6’5 and 300lbs, your not getting a sub-compact coupe, you may be getting a Toyota Tundra Crewmax, apply this same line of thought into tents.
If you’re planning on heading out in the depths of winter, definitely look into a 4 season tent, we have a guide the Best Winter Tents you should definitely take a look at, it pairs well with our article on Winter Camping Essentials too.
Who Are You Camping With?
This will be a quick one, let’s be real, who are you camping with and sleeping next to when camping? If its your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend, well thats a easy choice, cuddle up! Conversely, if you are co-workers on an adventure or just friends, you may not want to cuddle up (you do you, I’m not judging). However, these considerations matter!
The “One Size Up Rule”
Splurge on yourself! Im serious here, let’s think about it, If you’re not a serious backpacker where literally every ounce matters, then why get the smallest tent possible? It doesn’t make much sense. Even if you have to pack-in, you can still add a little bit of weight size and for short hikes it wont matter (much).
My general rule of thumb, is to grab a tent thats one size up from your typical planned trips. If there are 2 of you going, grab the 3 or 4 person tent. If you are a family of 4, grab the 6 person tent. This gives you extra room for finding a comfy position and have ing extra room for gear.
While it may seem excessive, it will make life a little easier down the road, trust me on this one.
Conversely, if you are a hardcore backpacker trekking the Pacific Crest Trail for 5 months, well, then grab the smallest and lightest tent you can, you will be lugging that on your back daily, so again, it matters!
How Do Tent Sizes Work?
Our friends over at CleverHiker put together this sweet quick chart for tent sizing. Despite what the label says about sizing on your tent, this is generally how the tent actually feels:
Generally speaking, this is how most backpacking and camping tent sizes feel:
- 1P Tents – Usually comfortable for 1 person with gear stored in the vestibule
- 2P Tents – Luxurious for 1 person with interior gear storage space. A tight fit for 2 with gear stored in the vestibule(s). Will fit 2 regular width sleeping pads (not wide pads).
- 3P Tents – Luxurious for 2 people with interior gear storage space. Will fit two wide sleeping pads. Comfortable for 2 people plus a small child or dog. A very tight fit for 3 average adults.
- 4P Tents – Luxurious for 2-3 people with interior gear storage space. Tight but possible to fit 3 people and a child or dog. A very tight fit for 4 average adults.
- 6P Tents – Comfortable for 4 plus gear. Tight for 5 or 6.
- 8P Tents – Luxurious for 4 plus gear. Comfortable for 6 if some are children or dogs.
- 10P Tents – Luxurious for 4 plus gear. Comfortable for 6 plus gear. Tight for 8+ people
Read more at CleverHiker.com
For a few quick Go-To 2 or 3 Person tents we love, check out these great options:
- NEMO Firefly: NEMO Equipment just makes excellent quality tents that are backed by a Lifetime Warranty. Specifically, the Firefly strikes a unique balance between affordability and lightweight livability in a freestanding backpacking tent. The large trapezoidal vestibules are designed to fit gear without obstructing entry and have multiple roll-back points to customize visibility and airflow. It’s agile on the trail, quick to set up, and well-appointed for rejuvenation in camp. Check it out at NEMO.
- Mountain Hardware Mineral King 2: Symmetrical and rectangular design allows head-to-toe sleeping configuration to maximize individual space and comfort. 2 large doors provide easy entry/exit and an expansive view with the vestibule rolled back. A full mesh upper canopy optimizes ventilation and enables unobstructed views. Fly rolls back and secures halfway for stargazing at night or shade during the day. 2 full-size, dry-entry vestibules with a vent at the top provide a work area and gear storage. Check it out at REI.
- Coleman Sundome: This is an excellent budget option, seriously the price and number of reviews (over 25K) back this up. It’s light, easy to use, a trusted budget brand, and ships very fast! Check out the Polyester taffeta 75 denier flysheet. Weatherproof: Welded corners and inverted seams keep water from getting in; included rainfly offers extra weather protection. Wind and rain tested: Strong frame withstands 35+ mph winds. Great ventilation: Large windows and ground vent for enhanced airflow. Stay connected: E-port makes it easy to bring electrical power inside. Check it out at Amazon.
Remember, it’s about the area, the weather, your camping partners, and your overall goals. Hopefully, this was a helpful guide in understanding what considerations to take in before pulling the trigger on that next camping purchase.
As always, I hope to see you out on the trails and GET OUTSIDE!