Exactly how much should you spend on a tent?
Entry-level tents for car camping can cost anywhere from $100-$300, more technical models made for backpacking and mountaineering can cost upwards of $4,000.
Ultimately, how much you should spend on a tent depends on what you plan to use it for and the conditions you’ll face when you’re outside.
To ensure that you have a good idea of what you need to budget on your next camping shelter, here’s everything you need to know about tent prices and the tent buying process.
How Much Should You Spend on a Tent?
There’s no easy answer to the question of how much you should spend on a camping tent.
In reality, there’s a tent out there for nearly every budget, though not all tents are appropriate for every type of camping.
Therefore, determining your tent budget comes down to figuring out the type of tent you need.
For example, someone looking to go on a weekend car camping trip with their family would likely be better off with a multi-room cabin tent.
Meanwhile, an experienced mountaineer might find that a half-dome-style 4 season tent is more appropriate for their adventures.
So, just how much should you pay for a new tent?
Here are some rough estimates for what you should expect to spend, based on your needs:
- Car Camping Tent: $100-$500
- Canvas Tent: $300-$1,500
- Multi-Room Tent: $200-$600
- Backpacking Tent: $150-$600
- 4 Season Backpacking Tent: $300-$800
- Mountaineering Tent: $300-$1,500
- Basecamp Tent: $1,000-$4,000
As you can see, we’ve given you some pretty wide price ranges for each style of tent.
However, it’s important to note that, in each category, you can find tents that are priced well below or above the ranges we’ve provided.
This is particularly true if you’re looking for an ultralight tent or one with unique features, like built-in lighting.
Thus, the most important thing is that you know how to buy a tent.
Understanding the basic factors that make a tent perform better, though they might raise the price a bit, will help you determine when a fancy feature is worth your money and when it’s just a gimmick.
What to Look for When Buying a Tent
Tent shopping can be a complex process because there are so many different models to choose from.
At the end of the day, however, any tent purchase is a trade-off between 4 key factors, namely:
For example, if you want an affordable tent, you often have to sacrifice portability, durability, or livability to stick to your budget.
Alternatively, if you’re willing to sacrifice portability (i.e., buy a heavier tent), you can often get a model that’s durable and spacious while still being affordable.
All this means that choosing a good tent comes down to understanding your priorities. While a lot of great tents are out there, not all of them are suitable for your needs.
Start the tent buying process by ranking the 4 key factors we just mentioned based on your priorities.
This will help you determine what you’re willing to sacrifice and what features are non-negotiable.
With this information in mind, you can narrow down your list of possibilities and more easily find a tent that’s appropriate for you.
Once you have a list of about 5-10 tents that seem like they might work for your unique camping style, you can delve into the nitty-gritty details of what makes each model unique.
Is it Worth Spending a Lot of Money on a Tent?
If the thought of spending over $1,000 on a new tent makes your heart flutter a bit, you’re not alone.
That’s a whole lot of money to pay to sleep under the stars.
The good news is that not all tents cost this much. In fact, tents that cost more than about $600 are the exception, not the rule.
Granted, $600 is still pretty pricey, but it’s important to note that not everyone needs to spend this much to get a tent that’s right for their needs.
Ultimately, an expensive tent might be worth it, depending on what you plan to use it for.
As we’ve mentioned, affordability is 1 of the 4 key factors that will help you select a tent that’s right for your needs. If you have a budget, you should certainly stick to it.
However, keep in mind that more affordable tents are often heavier, less durable, and less livable than their pricier counterparts.
Of course, if you’re simply looking for a tent that you can use on occasional car camping trips, something within the $100-$250 is probably more than suitable.
Campers who want to take remote backpacking or mountaineering trips will often need to spend at least $300 to get a model that’s appropriate for their needs.
In the world of tents, anything above $400 or so is considered to be “expensive,” and anything above $600 is considered “very expensive.”
When you opt for a tent in these price ranges, though, you’re usually paying for better fabrics, lighter weights, and more durable designs that are meant to last in the mountains.
Are Expensive Tents Better Than Cheap Tents?
It’s important to remember that price doesn’t always correlate with quality, including when it comes to tents.
Just like with anything you can buy, some companies charge what many would say is way too much for their tents.
Therefore, you can use price as a general guideline for buying a tent, but it shouldn’t be the final deciding factor.
If a tent is really expensive, it better have high-quality materials, a light weight, and a super sturdy design to warrant that extra money.
This is why it’s important to compare all the tents you’re looking at with others in the same price range.
If company A and company B both charge $500 for their tents, but company B’s tent is heavier and bulkier, and isn’t made from quality materials, it’s hard to argue that it’s a good value as compared to company A’s model.
The take-home point is this:
Yes, most expensive tents have better quality as compared to their more affordable counterparts.
But don’t get tricked by marketing or branding into thinking that a tent is better just because it’s more expensive.
Who Makes the Best-Quality Camping Tents?
These days, we live in a world of seemingly endless choices, and tents are no exception.
There are hundreds of tents to choose from, so buying from a reputable brand is a good way to ensure that you’re purchasing a quality product.
Not sure which brands make quality tents?
Here are some manufacturers to check out:
- REI. REI is a US-based outdoor retailer that also makes its own line of tents. The company offers a great return policy and manufactures a wide variety of reasonably priced tents that don’t skimp on quality. With an REI tent, you can expect something that’s well made, though the tents are often a bit heavy and bulky.
- Coleman. Coleman is a popular brand among budget-conscious campers because nearly all of its gear is very affordable. The company makes a wide range of tents that are suitable mostly for family-style car camping trips in mild to moderate conditions.
- Hilleberg. Hilleberg is a Swedish family-owned company that manufactures some of the best tents in the world. Each of the company’s tents is made from premium materials by a master tentmaker in the company’s Estonia factory. While even the most affordable tents will run you over $500, you can expect these tents to last decades, even in harsh environments.
- Black Diamond. A popular name in climbing circles, Black Diamond is a well-known manufacturer of mountaineering tents. The company’s equipment is usually quite pricey, but is also impressively durable, even in high alpine environments.
- MSR. Seattle-based MSR produces everything from snowshoes to stoves, but its tents have a particularly great reputation. With an MSR tent, you can expect a shelter that’s highly packable, durable, and functional, even if you have to pay a bit more for your gear.
- NEMO. NEMO is a relatively young company that’s known for its innovative designs. This New Hampshire-based company is an industry leader when it comes to super lightweight yet fully-featured tents that are great for backpacking and bike touring trips. That being said, they tend to be quite pricey.
Why Are Hilleberg Tents So Expensive?
Hilleberg is synonymous with “expensive” in the outdoor gear world, but few people realize how pricey their tents can actually be.
Indeed, some of the company’s most expensive 3 season tents can run you thousands of dollars. This is a big enough price tag to make anyone wonder if Hilleberg tents are actually worth it.
The reason the company’s products are so expensive is that Hilleberg uses only high-quality materials.
In fact, Hilleberg produces its own Kerlon fabric that’s up to 6 times stronger than standard ripstop nylon.
Additionally, Hilleberg has a factory in Europe (Estonia, to be exact), so you can be sure that each of its employees is paid a reasonable wage, which is reflected in its prices.
Every Hilleberg tent is also handmade by a single person (you can actually find their name on your tent label!), to ensure the utmost quality.
How Many Years Should a Tent Last?
The average tent should last between 2 to 10 years when cared for properly.
However, the lifetime of a tent depends greatly on how frequently it’s used and how durable it is to begin with.
Simply put, tents made from stronger, higher-quality fabrics, like ripstop nylon, last longer than those made from low-grade materials.
As you can imagine, these tents tend to be more expensive. If you do the math, however, a pricier tent that lasts twice as long as a cheaper tent is more affordable in the long run.
Plus, the more often you use your tent, the faster it will wear out over time. Even a high-quality tent can rip and tear within a year of purchase if it’s used daily in harsh conditions.
Buying a tent can seem like an overwhelming process, especially if you’re not sure how much you should spend.
The good news is that there’s a tent out there to suit any budget. That means you don’t have to spend more than you want to.
However, buying a tent is always a compromise between:
- livability, portability
While a higher price tag doesn’t always mean a better tent, you’ll often get a lighter and more durable shelter if you’re willing to spend a bit more.
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Gaby is a professional outdoor educator, guide, and wilderness medicine instructor. She holds a master's degree in outdoor education and spends most of her time hanging out with penguins and polar bears in the polar region. When she's not outdoors, you can find her traveling, reading Nietzsche, and drinking copious double espressos.