The Best 5 Person Tent - A Review
Choosing The Perfect 5 Person Tent
Choosing the best 5 person tent is not easy considering how many choices there are. This review of the top tents for 5 people will help you sort it out, and perhaps to better understand your needs and what you can expect from tents in this category.
I've bought many tents over the years, and have slept in dozens in all sizes, shapes and style. I own tents from a variety of brands and have spent considerable time reading about, and researching, products for camping, hiking and backpacking because that's what I love. So I believe that I can help you sort out the process of choosing the best tent for you and your family. At the very least you'll about some of the best values in the 5 person tent segment and the features that make them stand out, so you can then compare them to other brands or models you've considered.
First I think it needs to be said that there is a great deal of "brand snobbery" in the outdoor industry. The heavy hitters spend a lot of money advertising their brands and their products, and while there's no doubt that those top grade products are best in category, and do their jobs well, there is a point where the cost no longer out performs the quality for average people, like us. In fairness to those expensive, top quality products, they are truly necessary for technical or expedition use, but for normal families camping for a week or weekend, not so much.
The true value, the point where spending extra dollars doesn't add an appreciable amount of quality, is what we're looking for. In this review of the best 5 person tents I believe you'll find that I stayed true to that goal. The notable exception is in the four season tents, where severe weather dictates a heavier, more robust tent and in those cases I would opt for quality and reliability over potential savings.
Be sure to regularly visit the Tent sales at Amazon for a minimum 50% off.
"Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity..."
- John Muir
The Best Tent For You And Your Budget
While prices may be similar, there's a big difference in quality amongst brands and models.
I've been camping for decades now, and I've also learned a few valuable lessons. Take care of your equipment (wash it off after use and let the tent dry completely before storing, seal the seams, etc...) and don't get skimpy or lazy and just grab any old tent from the bargain bin; if (or more likely, when) it fails you in the field it can be an extremely miserable experience. On one outing we were camping above 10,000 feet in the Rockies, and while it was summer (July I believe), at that altitude it gets cold at night. As luck would have it we also got a heavy rainstorm one night and our tent started leaking like crazy. All three of us, and our gear, were soaking wet, COLD, and miserable.
While I've always made it a point to seam seal our tents before we go out, this was one time when I didn't because I thought it was still in good shape (I had sealed the seams the previous year). Saving a few dollars for the seam sealer and a little time was a costly and avoidable mistake that I won't make again. On another occasion we had went to set our tent up in the back yard before we left for a camping trip a few days later, and when doing so we discovered that the tent had some areas that were weakened and would likely fail (stress points near tie downs), so we threw it away and went to buy another one. Well, we waited until the day before our departure
to buy the tent and so that precluded an online purchase (we buy almost everything through Amazon for the savings, selection and no hassle returns). Heading to the local sporting goods store we were unhappy to see that they had a very limited selection of tents, and the one in our size was a cheaply made (really cheap) tent... but it was the only choice we had due to time, so we bought it.
Getting the tent home I started setting it up so that I could seal the seams, and while doing so two of the tie down straps separated from the tent itself... not a good sign. Having a huge time problem, as I stated earlier, I had to improvise so I got out the heavy duty thread and started sewing the tie downs (all of them) to the tent so that they wouldn't come off when I needed them most. Of course then I had to seal the seams and the new stitching holes really good.
The lesson I learned is plan, plan, plan... and prepare. Being out in the outdoors (especially if you camp OUT like we most often do) means you have to give a shelter, your new tent, careful consideration to make sure that you and your family are safe, and at the very least that your entire trip isn't ruined by an unexpected rain or snowstorm. Had I prepared I wouldn't have gotten my family and our gear soaking wet because I would've treated and sealed the tent before we left. Had I planned ahead of time I wouldn't have had to settle for whatever tents the local store had in stock, I could've shopped online for the biggest selection and the right tent for us.
Are You a Veteran Tent Camper Or Just Getting Started?
I would appreciate knowing about visitors to this article, and specifically what their past experience is with 5 person tents.
Is this your first time purchasing a 5 person tent?
My Top Pick - The 5 Person Tent Category - Alps Mountaineering Meramac
The best three season, all around tent for sleeping 5 people. Granted, this is listed and rated as a 6 person tent, but having used many 5 person tents, and knowing that manufacturers grossly over-rate their tent capacities, this is the true best choice for 5 people.
In this article I'll list the top contenders in this 5 person tent category for you to consider, where price, quality and features are a factor. This Alps Mountaineering Meramac is one very rugged, reliable and affordable tent. My family spends a lot of time outdoors and we often have friends or other family members going with us, so we have a variety of tents that we own and use, from a 2 person backpacking tent to an 8 person behemoth. Because of my experience in using tents a lot, and the time I spend researching and writing about outdoor products, I feel well qualified to offer my opinion.
This ALPS Mountaineering Meramac is a typically spaced 6 Person Tent that measures 10 x 10 feet. It uses two freestanding fiberglass poles (shock corded) and gives a 6 foot center height for easy maneuvering. The poles use aluminum connecting ferrules (the tips on the poles that connect together) for light weight and because steel rusts (cheap tents... are cheap tents). First, it sets up really easy, which is one of my requirements. Nothing is worse than spending 2 hours to set up a tent... in the rain, cold or dark. The pole clips on the tent make snapping it onto the fiberglass poles a snap.
One thing which makes Alps Mountaineering stand above the rest, in my opinion, is their factory seam sealing. While all tents claim to be seam sealed, an Alps tent is truly sealed. While I always re-seal my tents anyway, if necessary I would use a brand new Alps and not worry about it leaking. The fly is super light and super strong, using a 75D 185T Polyester material that stretches tight and is resistant to the damage caused by UV light... for frequent campers this is great!
Another area that Alps Mountaineering proves stellar in is their floor design. This one features a 75D 185T Taffeta tub floor with a
serious 1500mm coating, ensuring that you won't wake up in a pond of water. The tent doors use large #8 zippers for long life and dependability. There are two doors, both of which have zippered windows for fresh air and ventilation if needed, and large mesh screens to keep critters out. The fly is a full length fly, which you'll really appreciate when the storm lets loose. Many, if not most, of the cheapest tents use a half or 3/4 length fly, and in really strong storms you will get spray coming in under the fly with those skimpy tents.
It's worth noting here that both the #8 zippers and the fiberglass poles are larger than you'll find on most tents... a testament to Alps Mountaineering's concern for performance and reliability.
When it's time to replace my current one, I will absolutely be buying one of these for our 5 person trips. If I just couldn't afford the extra $50 or so extra over other reasonable tents, then the following tents are the one's I would consider. But if you do go with the Alps (or if you have used Alps Mountaineering gear before), please leave a comment at the bottom, I would love to hear about your experiences. I'm not affiliated with Alps Mountaineering, I am just a huge fan of the price and quality that the company provides and I think they should be considered among the top tier brands in outdoor gear.
Base Size: 10' x 10'
Center Height: 6'
Tent Area: 100 sq. ft.
Tent and Fly Weight: 14 lb.
Total Weight: 14 lb. 14 oz.
Packed Size: 8.5" x 26"
Pole Diameter: 11 mm
Tent Repair Kit
Always make certain that you have a Tent Repair Kit in your gear bag and that you are familiar with how to repair many of the common problems you may encounter. For example, always have Duct Tape; it allows you to make a quick field repair to a rip or hole in your tent. Simply apply duct tape to both sides of the tear. You can also put duct tape around a damaged tent pole, or tape the poles together if the bungy cord inside the poles breaks, and you can also tape a small stick around a broken tent pole to create a makeshift pole section to get you by until you're home. I recommend the Mcnett Tenacious Patch Kit, and here's a manufacturer's video detailing it.
Tent Repair And Camp Sewing Kits
Eureka Apollo 9 - A Great 5 Person Dome Tent - Can't Go Wrong With Eureka, A Trusted Name In Tents
Eureka! has a great reputation that is well deserved. This is my second favorite, general purpose 5 person tent and for a lot of reasons. First, as you learned earlier, easy set up is a must and this is another two pole design that makes setup a snap. It's also roomy with a 6 foot ceiling, but in all fairness this tent falls into the "not quite" category. Most tent manufacturers "overrate" their capacity, for whatever reason. This tent can sleep five, but it'll be close quarters. Realistically it'll handle 4 and a pet just fine.
But making this tent worthy of it's rating is the full length fly. Like the Alps I listed as my favorite 3 season tent, this one has a full fly that will keep you and your gear dry in even the heaviest rains. It's called StormShield technology by Eureka, but what it means is a full length fly that is specially treated to repel water, which it does handily. And like the Alps, this design is very effective at keeping you dry, yet allowing the air to circulate through. If you've camped much at all then you know that if the air cannot circulate you will wake up in the morning to condensation, and wet gear.
Other great leading features include the fully sealed tub floor design, an easy open fly with windows, and of course fiberglass, shock corded poles that are color coordinated with the tent to make setup even easier. This is another tent I would feel comfortable taking my family out with. As with all tents, even the most expensive ones, I seal all of the seams myself, regardless of what the manufacturer has done. I've been through leaking tents and will avoid it again if at all possible.
Update: The Apollo 9 is currently not available, but I've added two other models below which you should consider, both of which have solid features and great user feedback. I'll resubmit the Apollo 9 once it become available again.
Take a second and share your thoughts on "Brand Snobbery"
As I've mentioned, I believe there is too much weight given to a manufacturer just because they spend millions on advertising and sponsoring events, specifically as it relates to real world value and practicality for most of us. For example, when you see a review of the top backpacking tents in a magazine you will see a lot of tents in the $500 range, which simply isn't practical for most people or those who are only occasional hikers. Of course for heavy duty, four season tents the cost will be higher and quality a much larger issue.
Maybe I'm wrong on this, but it just seems to me that there's a point where price no longer outperforms quality, and that's where I draw the line for gear that I buy and use.
Do you think there's a degree of brand snobbery in outdoor gear?
No, you really do get what you pay for.
A Very Good "Four Season" 5 Person Tent
The Big Agnes Flying Diamond is, yes, technically a 6 person tent. However, recall our discussion earlier about the misleading capacity ratings for tents? Well, when you're looking for a four season tent it means you anticipate some seriously foul weather such as heavy rains, snow, ice and blistering winds. Because of the very reason you're buying a four season tent you also need more room.
Think about this... if you're traveling to an area where snow and ice are likely (or torrential rains), how much more gear will you have to stow, and how much more fuel are you having to pack (and stow)? Exactly, for this type of tent I absolutely recommend a tent that is rated for slightly larger than the capacity you expect to need. When you're climbing in to your tent while it's a virtual blizzard outside, you'll be thankful for every single inch of extra space you have to maneuver inside.
Yes, this is an expensive tent... all four season tents are because of their robust construction and the more expensive materials they have to use. If you NEED four season protection (i.e. heavy snow, blizzards, etc...) then DO NOT go cheap on your tent... a heavy duty, four season rated tent is a must for your safety.
Most of us don't need a four season tent, and the top rated tents we discussed earlier will serve you extremely well, and reliably. But this particular tent is for those who know they'll need more, or are simply preparing for the worst conditions. On Amazon, one reviewer wrote: "OK its a little more money then a Coleman, but when you factor in the fact I will have this tent for twenty years, it is well worth it."
First, the name Big Agnes needs no introduction to anyone who spends anytime outdoors... they are well known for making rugged outdoor gear (albeit a little pricey). This tent features two areas, one larger area can serve as the sleeping quarters while the other can serve to fix your meals, or even add more sleeping space (still consider this a tent for 5 people max, even with both sections). Features that make this a stellar tent are the large vestibule so that when you're coming in out of the rain or snow you can shake off and remove your boots and clothes before entering the main areas. You can also stow your packs out there at night for added sleeping room.
The tent is well ventilated to prevent condensation and of course, it has a heavy duty and solid fly that protects you from the elements. This tent is sealed from top to bottom, so there is no real need to seal these seams before using (though I would and of course regular annual maintenance would include sealing the seams, for me). It's not as simple to pitch this tent, but it's not difficult either; Big Agnes uses color coding on the tent, fly and poles to help you set it up quicker. If I were heading into nasty weather and needed a four season tent, this is the one I would buy myself, no doubt about it. I've been wet and cold enough times to know I don't care for it.
Backpacker.com wrote this about the Big Agnes:"You know a tent is big when you have to decide which room to sleep in. Such is the dilemma with this four-season palace. For high-mountain base camps and family camping trips in challenging weather, the six-person Flying Diamond combines deluxe space with true storm-worthiness."
Ultra Light 5 Person Backpacking Tent
Not really an option, just a discussion
When you're backpacking with larger groups, as we often do, you're simply not going to pack in a 5 person tent in most cases. Instead you'll have a mixture of one and 2 person, maybe a 3 person, backpacking (ultralight) tent. As you know, space and weight are at a premium when backpacking. When you really want to pack in just one tent for a group of four or five people while backpacking on shorter trips then you will most likely be dividing up the components so that one person carries the fly, another the canopy, and someone else the poles and stakes. In a case like that you'll want the lightest, quality tent that you can afford, and either the Eureka Apollo 9 or the ALPS Mountaineering Meramac would do. While the Eureka comes in a full pound lighter, if it were me I would still opt for the Alps for quality reasons.
If you're looking for something smaller, in the ultralight category, check out something like the NEMO Espri.
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