Imagine the satisfaction of settling down for the night after a long day of hiking with friends that you haven’t seen since childhood. Now imagine everyone's feelings when you realize that your tent is too small! The group is packed in like sardines, and all the gear is outside at the mercy of mother nature.
Luckily, this type of nightmare can easily be prevented by selecting the right 4-person backpacking tent. It can make all the difference between a cramped, miserable night and a bonding experience that your friends will remember forever.
In this guide, I’ll help you find a backpacking tent that strikes the ideal balance between space, comfort, and practicality so that you can make your own memorable experiences.
My Review Process
I was raised by a family of backpackers and campers in the Rocky Mountains. The weather and terrain there can change at the drop of a hat. So I have been on countless vacations with friends and family that required different types of outdoor gear, including 4-person tents.
The best 4-person tents have plenty of livable space and are burly enough to take on kids, pets, and whatever mother nature can throw at you. It’s essential they are lightweight enough to carry on long trips.
My shortlist below consists of tents that combine all of these important factors. I’ve also added a buying guide to help you further understand the features that you should be looking for.
Even though I am short in stature, I find that I constantly have knots in my neck and back from hunching over in my tent. This is no longer a problem with the MSR Habitude 4.
The 73in. peak height makes this roomy tent feel infinitely larger than competitors' versions. This makes it comfortable for the whole family, no matter their age.
It also boasts 62.5sq ft of floor space, perfect for indoor activities like board games in case mother nature decides to downpour. There is even a built-in porch light on top of the vestibule making it easy to tie your shoes and read after dark.
The Habitude 4 is a little heavy for a backpacking tent at 12 lbs, but some extra weight is to be expected with such a spacious tent.
Overall, this is the perfect tent for backpackers who need some extra space to decompress and unwind after a difficult day of hitting the trails.
The freestanding North Face Talus 4 is great for families and friends with small children. It has two doors for easy access, which can be a miracle when camping with kids who have overactive bladders. The hanging gear loft also keeps electronics safe from rambunctious teenagers.
The 52 square feet of floor space is a little tight for four adults, and the two vestibules are relatively small but can fit plenty of shoes to keep the living area clean and dry.
All in all, the Talus 4 is a great starter tent for those who are new to backpacking and aren’t quite ready to make a large investment in gear.
Are you tired of spooning with your friends and family in your undersized tent? Yep, I thought so. Lucky for you, the MSR Elixir 4 has one of the largest floor areas for a tent that weighs under 9 lbs.
This massive rectangular backpacking tent has 90sq ft of floor space (12.3’ x 7.3’) and a ceiling height of 48”, making the Elixir 4 a vertically challenged person (such as myself) seem like a castle on the inside.
The only real downside to this tent is the limited 3-year warranty, which is pretty small compared to other major backpacking tent manufacturers. But considering that I can successfully fit 4 adults and 2 dogs into this tent without overheating, the Elixir 4 still has my stamp of approval.
Your furry friends are always a great addition to any backpacking trip, but like children, they can get rambunctious and put more wear and tear on your tent. Therefore, a tent that is extra durable, spacious, and easily set up is key for keeping them happy and calm.
The Coleman Skydome 4-person tent conveniently checks all of these boxes. This 3-season tent is the perfect size for snuggling up with your animals and will keep you and your pets dry and comfortable in almost any situation.
Unfortunately, it is on the heavier end of the spectrum at 14 lbs. But with the added ventilation (great for getting rid of that wet dog smell!), the Coleman Skydome makes a great 4-person tent for you and your pets.
I love listening to the sounds of a thunderstorm while relaxing in my tent, it’s one of the most therapeutic activities out there. However, trying to fix a leak during heavy rain can be one of the most frustrating. Luckily the Nemo Wagontop 4 is notorious for its ability to keep you dry.
The 75D polyester canopy has taped edges and is coated in PE to keep the rain where it belongs, outside. The 300D floor is also polyester coated in PE, making sure that it won’t tear and expose your gear to bad weather.
If you plan on doing most of your camping during the warmer months of the year but still need ample protection from rain and wind, then a 3-season tent is your best bet. The ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 4’s double-wall construction maximizes airflow while minimizing condensation during those rainy days, keeping the whole family comfortable.
It has two 12.5sq ft vestibules, perfect for shoes or jackets, plus the interior area of the floor is 64sq ft, larger than most tents at this weight (8lbs 10oz). I have even put an extra dog bed in the vestibules for a “doggy dry-out area” when my pup decides to jump into the river just before bed.
Unfortunately, the footprint isn’t included, and the warranty doesn’t cover any wear and tear. This is understandable, but it’s still a bummer since wear and tear is unavoidable while backpacking. Luckily, ALPS’s craftsmanship is top-tier, so as long as you take proper care of it, you shouldn’t ever need to repair it.
The Lynx 4 is another outstanding tent on ALPS Mountaineering’s roster. If you are looking for dependability and comfort, no matter the weather, then this is the tent for you.
For those of us who enjoy winter camping, backcountry skiing, or want some extra protection from the elements, four-season tents are always the way to go. Why spend money on a warm-weather tent and another for cold weather when you can have an all-in-one setup?
The rip-stop polyester fabric combined with single-wall construction is perfect for keeping the whole family warm in high-wind areas. The fly has a 1200mm waterproof PU coating, and the footprint is rated at 5000mm, ensuring that you will stay comfy and dry no matter what.
Some would say that its 11.3 lb minimum trail weight is a bit much for extended alpine adventures, but considering the 81sq ft interior, this is hardly a problem at all.
All in all, this impressive setup is the king of four-season tents. It’s a great choice if you want to introduce your friends and family to backpacking in the beautiful snow.
Do you plan on bringing your rowdy children and excitable pets on your next backpacking trip? If so, I’d recommend skipping ultralight tents and jumping for something with more backbone, like the GEERTOP 4.
This sleek tent is crafted with heavy-duty ripstop nylon seams, despite only weighing just over 9 lbs. The 3000mm anti-tear polyester fly and 5000mm floor come with double stitched seams that will ensure your comfort, even during a downpour.
The GEERTOP 4 is a 4-person tent, however, it will get a little tight if everyone is over six feet tall. The combination of its sloped sidewalls and 53” peak height make it better suited for shorter people and children.
Finding a quality 4-season tent that is both lightweight and large enough for four people is usually a chore. Fortunately, the GEERTOP 4 checks all of these boxes without costing you an arm and a leg.
Ultralight tents are a lifesaver on long backpacking treks, but they can be hard to come by in 4-person models. The trick is finding an ultralight tent that is durable and warm enough to keep the whole family happy.
It consists of a 1200mm waterproof polyurethane-coated fly and floor for added protection on those extra stormy nights. There are also reinforced seams that combat wear and tear, plus a heavy-duty ripstop nylon fabric with a minimum weight of 5 lbs 3oz.
The Copper Spur’s tall profile is prone to catching the wind. However, its sturdy design and spacious vestibules make for a tent that is a pleasure to use for many backpacking trips to come.
Every backpacking trip with friends and family will be different and call for a tent that meets certain criteria. After all, a quick summer camping trip with your wife and kids will require a different tent than a week-long winter backpacking excursion.
Here are some of the most important factors to consider before making your final decision.
4-person tents can cost considerably more than their smaller counterparts, but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank when selecting a larger tent. Reputable brands can cost anywhere from $50 to well over $1000.
Don’t even consider the cheapest options out there unless you don’t mind buying a new one next year. I recommend that you start your search in the $200-$600 range to find a tent that is durable, lightweight, and spacious.
Take the time to consider your budget and compare multiple options so that you don’t end up regretting your choice after your first trip.
Backpacking with young children or inexperienced family members can be a bit like herding cats, so it’s important to find a tent that is easy to set up. Larger versions will usually have more poles and mechanisms to work with when setting the tent up.
Keep in mind that setting a tent up in the dark or in inclement weather will be more difficult than doing so in your living room. Practicing this before you get into the field will save you a headache and unwanted stress.
Trail Weight & Packed Weight
One of the cardinal rules of backpacking is to eliminate pack weight wherever possible. Bulky setups can make for an especially uncomfortable hike, taking some of the fun out of your trek.
Don’t confuse trail weight with packed weight because they can differ significantly. Trail weight refers to the tent, rain fly, and poles. Packed weight also includes accessories like tent stakes, stuff sacks, and guy lines which you might not need on certain trips.
Consider the length of your hikes before buying a tent. You can get away with a heavier setup if most of your camping is within a short distance of the car. On the other hand, longer hikes will sap more of your energy, especially with a heavy tent in your pack.
Imagine you are in the middle of a week-long backpacking expedition and your tent’s seams split wide open. Nobody remembered to pack a repair kit, and a cold front is supposed to roll through after sundown.
Your memorable trip just turned into a living nightmare, and this is exactly why you should always opt for a tent made with high-quality durable fabrics.
Nylon and polyester are lightweight materials, whereas canvas is far too heavy for a backpacking tent and mesh can be too weak. Be sure to look for features like reinforced seams and heavy-duty zippers for added durability.
Ventilation is an important consideration when it comes to comfort, especially with 4-person tents. More bodies in a tent mean more moisture and condensation. This goes doubly for more humid locations.
Trapped moisture in a tent can make a warm night feel muggy and sticky, and on a cold night, it can make the tent feel even colder. Look for features like roof vents, fly vents, mesh panels, or a mesh canopy to help regulate moisture and keep your friends and family comfortable.
Weather protection includes protection from water and wind, which is a crucial component of a tent’s comfort and safety.
A tent’s water protection mostly depends on its material (nylon vs. polyester) and whether or not it has been treated with special coatings like DWR, PE, or PU.
Wind protection depends on a few key components:
- Number of tent walls
Double-walled setups block more wind and breath better than those with single walls, but they are usually heavier.
- Guy points & guy lines
More guy points offer more points of contact for the guy lines to be secured to; more of these mean a heavier tent.
- Pole strength
Pole strength depends on their material, and stronger poles mean less movement in the tent when the wind is ripping. You will need to strike a balance between weight, strength, and price.
For example, steel is very strong but heavy, carbon fiber is strong and light but very expensive, while aluminum poles are a more middle-of-the-road option.
- Reinforced seams
Look for seams that have been taped or sealed to prevent tearing during high winds.
A tent that stays warm and dry on the inside will not only be pleasant to sleep in, but also help prevent things like hypothermia and frostbite in a cold humid environment.
The best overall 4-person backpacking tent is the versatile MSR Habitude 4. If you prefer an ultralight tent to make the hike into the field easier, the Copper Spur HV UL4 is by far your best choice. Maybe you need a 4 season tent so you can get your friends hooked on backpacking in the winter, be sure to check out the Big Agnes Guard Station 4.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.