I’ve been working as an outdoor gear salesman for the last couple of decades, and often, I bump into people asking me how much it costs to buy a camping tent.
My most annoying answer, probably the truest, is usually, “it depends.”
But for today, I’ll try to be more specific and detail-oriented.
Generally, most camping tents cost between $70 and $300. This price range provides a nice balance of affordability, quality, and space.
However, tent costs can go as low as $20 and upwards of $1,000.
There’re numerous variables involved in determining the price of a camping tent.
Just like cars.
For example, do you need a Vintage car to add to your collection? Or simply a casual car to get you through your high school? Or looking for something flashy along the line of convertibles?
I hope you get the idea.
While all are cars, they fill different roles and come at different prices.
So do tents.
Now, without further ado, let’s get into the basics of tent prices.
What Tent Price is Right for You? Factors Determining the Cost of a Tent
As we had mentioned earlier, different factors determine how much a tent cost.
But the five main ones include:
1) Season Rating
Tents usually are classified according to their season ratings.
There’re generally five season tent ratings, from 1 to 5.
The higher the season rating, the more expensive a tent is.
For example, a 5-season tent is generally more expensive than a 1,2,3, or 4-season tent.
Remember, season rating is not the literal season a tent is usable, but rather how substantial it stands up to the harsh conditions.
Therefore, it makes sense that a 5-season tent would be more expensive than other tents because it’s sturdily made to stand up to the challenging weather conditions.
On the other hand, the one-season and two-season tents are generally ultra-lightweight, usable in summer months, and under fair conditions.
A one- or two-person tent is lightly made with weak frames, so they can’t stand up to the harsh weather. Hence their generally low prices.
Now, let’s break down the cost of the “season” tent.
1 & 2 Season Tents
The 1 & 2-season tents are at the lower tier regarding weather protection.
They’re as basic and simple as they come and usually lack the frills and frays of the higher-rated tents.
Their primary use is usually in warm and light conditions that hardly exert any pressure on the tent.
Therefore, most of them will come with low-quality tent poles and fabrics. They don’t have a rainfly option, and their materials aren’t waterproof.
In short, they’re simple shelters to shield you against the sun and probably insects and bugs. Not anything much.
The pricing of the 1 & 2-season tent is usually on the lower side of the scale. It costs from as low as $20 to $50.
In my opinion, I would advise that you stay away from these tents.
While their price point is appealing, most are poorly made, lack durability, and won’t protect you from the elements.
The 3-season tent is one of the popular tent categories.
It ticks the boxes of most campers, thanks to its all-around use and versatility. And with customization, a 3-season tent can even be your only tent.
The three-season tent is usable in almost all seasons, except the harsh winter conditions.
Even then, with proper winterization, a 3-season tent will withstand any weather condition.
I’m a big fan of the 3-season tent because of how well they deal with the summer heat and the cooler nights during fall and spring.
Usually, the prices of the three-season tent will range from $50 to over $200. The exact price will depend on the level of customization, features, and other factors.
The 4-season tent is probably the most deceiving tent term because these tents aren’t usable for four seasons.
They’re much sturdier and firmer than the 3-season tent and with thicker materials.
Their primary use is in the winter and harsher conditions that a 3-season tent can’t take.
The four-season tent fabric is denser and will keep you warm in the most chilly conditions.
Their tent poles are also sturdy enough to withstand the blizzards and blowing snow wind.
And for this reason, the tents are more expensive. Their prices start at $100 and go up to $300.
The 5-season tents are the epitome of weather and element protection in tents.
They’re also known as the alpine or mountaineering tents.
These tents are as durable and sturdy as the tents come by and will take on the harshest weather conditions.
They go beyond the protection of a 4-season tent and can take on the harshest winter/alpine climate, including the strong winds.
A mountaineering tent fabric is super-dense, while its poles are solid and hardly break or bend.
And for this reason, they’re the most expensive class of tents in terms of element protection. Their prices start from $300, going all the way to over $500.
2) Tent Size and Cost
Size is another criterion used to determine the tent prices.
Generally, larger tents will cost more than smaller tents.
Size-wise, camp tents range from 1-person and dome tents to larger cabin tents that accommodate 12+ people.
Here’s a breakdown of the price of each tent and its corresponding size.
Keep in mind there’s a lot of overlap between the prices.
- 1 person tent- $50 to $100
- 2-person tent- $70 to $150
- 3-person tent- $80 to $200
- 4-person tent- $100 to $250
- 5-person tent- $150 to $300 (family camping tent)
- 6-person tent- $150 to $400
- 8+ tent- $250 to $500
Surprisingly, the trail weight of a tent also determines the cost.
It’s, in my opinion, one of the biggest determinants of tent pricing and purpose.
Generally, the lighter the tent, the more expensive it is.
For example, consider a 4-season typical waterproof tent. It weighs between 4 and 6 pounds and costs between $100 and $250. The bulkier tents are ideal for car camping.
However, a similar 4-season tent, weighing much less, say, something between 3 to 4 pounds, will go much higher.
The ultralight tents of the same season rating and element protection will even cost an arm and leg.
4) Tent Features
This is quite self-explanatory.
The more loaded a tent is, the more expensive it is.
Camping tents with lots of frills and frays, especially the premium and high-end features, will definitely cost more than the plain and basic tents.
Some extras that influence the surge in price include the addition of a full-coverage rain fly, fabric waterproofing, more doors, vestibules, sturdy tent floor, gear storage pouches, screen room, more floor space and level of ventilation.
In short, the more convenience features a tent has, the more likely it’s going to cost more.
5) Tent Brand
The tent brand also influences the cost of a tent.
While it’s sometimes misleading, some brands are known to command a premium price compared to others.
For example, the Chinese knock-off and lesser-known brands will offer their tents at the lowest price.
On the other hand, established brand names such as Coleman, Big Agnes, and Black Diamond will generally be premium.
Usually, the prices and brand are reflective of the overall quality.
The bigger brands command a higher price because their products are quality, durable and reliable. Plus, they’ve been tried and tested.
But this isn’t the case for the lesser-known brands. Their quality and reliability are usually a hit and miss.
However, it’s important to point out that some brands usually ride on their previous success to overcharge for their products.
In some cases, it’s easy to come across an exorbitantly priced tent from an established brand that is trash.
Conversely, if you’re lucky, you might come across a quality tent at an affordable price from a lesser-known brand.
Choosing the Right Tent Price
Knowing the elements that determine the cost of a tent isn’t enough to make a purchase decision.
But in the section below, I’ll share everything to know on choosing the right tent price for you.
If you’re new to camping or on a tight budget, I advise you to pick a lower-end budget tent.
I’d specifically recommend the one or two-season dome tents because you’re unlikely to go winter camping for your first few camping trips.
Alternatively, you could even borrow from a family or trusted friend. It’ll cost you nothing.
A better suggestion would be renting a tent.
In short, aim to spend the least amount if you’re a beginner so that you won’t feel a pinch even if you feel tent camping isn’t for you.
At this level, choose anything between $20 to $100.
Most of the campers fall in this category.
They’ve graduated from beginners but aren’t full-time campers yet. The casual camper will go for several nights in a year and good conditions.
So, you want something sturdier to support your multiple camping use and different season use.
At this stage, choose anything between $50 to $150. It’s the best value for money.
If you decide to go backpacking, it’s worthwhile to buy separate, lighter-weight pop-up tents.
Trail weight is usually an issue with backpacking tents, so you must pick something ultra-light.
I’ve a Coleman Dome Tent, which weighs 3 pounds. It’s much more expensive than my cheaper 6-pound festival tent.
But the plus with my backpacking tent is I can carry it for miles without fatigue, and I hardly notice its presence.
The backpacking tents at this level are a bit more expensive and will cost between $200 to $300, especially for the premium options.
Backpacking tents is a great option to haul your tent over miles.
But if you need to take the tent lightness to a new level, perfect for thru-hiking, you should consider the ultralight backpacking tents.
As their name suggests, the ultralight backpacking tents are dead-light and perfect for those aiming for tents under 1.5 pounds.
With such an ultra-light backpacking tent, it’s easy to hike for 2,000 miles without hardly getting bogged by the tent.
But unless you’re doing those long-hikes, I wouldn’t recommend a backpacking tent.
Their weight-shaving characteristics make the backpacking tents ideal for long rides, but at the same time, they bump up their prices.
Most of the ultra-light backpack tents will go upwards of $300.
Long-term Campers (Family Camping)
Tents for long-term campers should support extended stays in the wilderness, lasting from a few days to several weeks.
These tents are perfect for those planning to take on long expedition trips such as kayaking, hunting, or simply exploration.
They’re also great for a large family.
The long-term shelters are sturdy and well-designed to handle the harsh weather conditions for extended periods.
They’re durable and can last for several seasons without breaking down.
Plus, their element protection is usually top-notch.
Of course, with such positive features, expect to dig deep into your pockets.
The standard tents for long-term camping can go upwards of $400.
Winter Camping Tents
If you need a camping tent, primarily for winter and colder weather, be prepared to invest in a 5-season tent.
The 5-season tents will shelter you against brutal weather conditions, including snow load, strong winds, and intense moisture.
The dome tents for winter camping make a difference when sheltering in the alpine and mountaineering conditions.
Usually, the premium options for the winter camp tents will go as high as $400+
Difference Between a $50 Tent and a $600 Tent
If you head to any department store, you’ll find most tents in the $50 to $100.
And most of them have great reviews.
You’ll also come across the premium options, some for upwards of $600. Also, with great reviews.
With such mixed information, I know you’re wondering what makes the huge cost variation.
Understand that tents aren’t any different from the regular camping gear, sleeping bags, or commodities, so you get what you pay for.
Usually, the main difference between the cheapos and the premium tent is the material’s weight and quality.
But that’s not the only difference.
In the section below, I’ll detail the differences and ensure you don’t set yourself up for a miserable camping trip by investing in the wrong kind of new tent.
One of the major differences between the cheap ad expensive tents is the choice of tent poles.
Cheap tents use fiberglass, while the expensive options use aluminum or carbon.
The problem with fiberglass poles is their propensity to break. Once it breaks, the sharp ends will usually slice through your tent fabric.
On the other hand, the aluminum or carbon poles are sturdy, and when pushed to the limit, they bend instead of breaking.
Quality of Manufacturer
When starting, I made a three-day camping trip in a cheap tent, and I hated everything about it.
There was plenty of plasticky material, the threading wasn’t up to par, and the poles were crappy. The mesh was also ineffective, and ugh… it was a disaster.
That’s the difference between a premium and a cheap tent. Quality of manufacturer.
On the premium tent, you’ll notice how well the threads are locked, how the stitches land on the seams, and the absence of loose fabric.
Everything on a premium tent is well made, and it doesn’t seem like it’ll stretch or break after a couple of uses.
The poles are sturdy but light. I’ve used one on fairly strong winds of 40+mph, and everything on my tent was fine.
Attention to Design Details
A premium tent works as it should and is optimized for its specific purpose.
For example, I’ve a large Coleman Sundome Tent and love its instant setup. I’ve no problem setting it up by myself.
Even better, it provides the ultimate element protection, and when you use it, you sense that the designer tried and used it.
It’s unlike the cheaper tents, which aren’t constructed well, and lack finer detailing such as poles cracking and zippers jamming.
The choice of material also separates the premium and the cheap tent.
Depending on the purpose of your tent, the choice of material may influence the breathability, lightness, and protection.
For example, protection-wise, the high-end tents can withstand the pounding of the elements much better than the cheaper tents.
And when it comes to breathability, the premium tents will allow more free air flow, or rather, avoid condensation.
Simply put, the choice of material, which is reflective of a tent task, will be much better and superior on a premium tent than on a cheap tent.
The premium tents have better support and replacement parts.
Plus, their parts are also customizable and offer a personalized experience.
In addition, the better tents have long warranties, and their after-support is usually incredible.
This isn’t the same case with the cheaper versions.
Weight usually goes hand-in-hand with the quality of the material.
For example, I’ve used a cheap Walmart tent for car camping. It has been great for the most part, and I don’t see anything wrong with it.
The problem is that it’s quite bulky and will fatigue you if you plan to backpack,
So, if you plan to backpack and carry everything on your back, it makes sense to invest in expensive and ultra-light camping gear.
The better and more expensive tent comes with plenty of accessories and extras that may lack in the cheap tents.
For example, the better tents have better ventilation, rain fly, and other convenient features.
Unfortunately, there’re exceptions, and an expensive tent doesn’t necessarily mean it is the most quality or durable option.
But in most cases, you can never go wrong with an expensive tent. And if you think the quality tent is expensive, you’ll hate buying a cheap tent followed by an expensive one shortly.
Caring for your Tent
And as with most things, you must care for your tent.
Care is important even with a quality tent as it’s likely to define how your tent will act, rather than how much you paid for it.
Expensive tents don’t necessarily mean they’re full-proof to damage or breakdown. You need to take care of them.
Are Cheap Tents Worth?
Cheap tents are usually a hit or a miss.
Some cheap tents are of decent quality. However, others are trash and wouldn’t recommend them.
It’s all about how selective you’re, with some luck.
Wrap Up: How Much Do Camp Tents Cost?
In my opinion, the “sweet spot” for the average price of a camp tent is between $150 to $250.
It’s an affordable price range that will also give you access to some nice tents with a full range of features.
Many tents within this wide price range are also light, good quality, and durable.
But as I mentioned earlier, tents will fill different roles, so if you’re a beginner, you don’t have to pick the $200 tents.
And if you’re a seasoned tent camper looking for a tent for alpine camping, a $400+ tent would be a better choice.
Finally, ensure you take good care of your tent.