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Heading on a camping adventure with all the family or all your backcountry buddies? If so, there’s no cozier, more sociable, or convenient way to do so than by supersizing your sleeping arrangements with a six-person tent.
In this article, we take an in-depth look at the features and attributes to look for when buying one of these behemoths of the world of camping tents and play matchmakers by introducing you to our selection of the top five models out there in 2020.
TL;DR: Show me the Best 6 Person Tent now!
|Best Overall: Marmot Limestone|
|Best Budget: ALPS Mountaineering Meramac 6-Person|
|Best for Liveability: Big Agnes Big House 6|
|Best Four-Season: Big Agnes Flying Diamond|
|Best Lightweight: Kelty Trail Ridge 6|
Six-Person Tents: A BS-Free Buyer’s Guide
What are the benefits of a six-person tent?
The main benefit of a six-person tent is their ability to accommodate all sleepers in one place. While this may be viewed as a pro or con depending on your sociability levels or need for privacy and personal space, from a practical viewpoint it’s ideal for families, groups who wish to stick together, or in colder conditions when a concentration of body heat results in a single, larger tent providing more warmth than two or three smaller ones.
What makes the difference between a good and bad six-person tent?
To answer this question, let’s take a look at the main features to consider when buying your tent:
Spoiler alert! In tenting terminology, the term “six-person” very rarely means six-person. In fact, it almost never does…
Sadly, capacity ratings for tents aren’t controlled by any industry-wide standardization, so tent manufacturers can happily throw around the s-word (six) and apply it to tents suitable only for a sextet of hobbits or, at best, four adults and two very small children.
Thankfully, a few of the big brands retain a degree of integrity, and their “six-person” claims are only stretching the truth as opposed to downright fabrications. If the number of people you hope to accommodate inside your tent is in fact six, then these are the ones you want to be buying from. Luckily for you, we’ve listed five of them in the review that follows!
But how do we know the truth stretchers from the fabricators?
Simple…by doing a little math.
When surveying the options to make a shortlist of tents, look through the specs to find the tent’s dimensions. By multiplying the tent’s width by its length, you can calculate its overall square footage. Working on the basis that each adult sleeper will require roughly 14 square feet of floor space, you can then decide whether the tent is genuinely suitable for six sleepers or not.
Another important factor is peak height, which refers to the height of your tent at its highest point.
And why is peak height important?
In a few words: for headroom, easy migration inside the tent, and, crucially, your sanity.
If you happen to be spending a single night in a tent with a low peak height, the coffin-like, sardines-in-a-can kinda feel will maybe be tolerable. Any longer, and you run the risk of developing some serious cabin fever.
The take-home is this:
Unless you actually happen to be a small clan of legit hobbits, choose a tent with a minimum peak height of 65 inches. Otherwise, things are going to get very “cozy” (a euphemism, to be sure!) and claustrophobic very quickly…!
The amount and size of storage options in your tent impact directly on its livability. When buying, look for the following:
- A large vestibule for storing wet or dirty gear (there are no downsides to vestibules unless you’re camping in very limited space, so, the bigger the vestibule area the better)
- Interior storage pockets—these let you keep clothes and gear off the floor, leaving more space for sleepers
- A gearloft—a large, usually mesh shelf attached to the roof of the tent
- Hanging loops for lanterns, headlamps, and clothing
While not all campers are all-weather warriors, having a tent that can keep you dry in the event of unexpected rain showers is undoubtedly the way to go. Mountain weather, after all, is notoriously fickle and rarely gives a hoot about weather forecasters’ predictions (often, in fact, seeming to change its plans for the weekend merely to spite them) or about our high hopes for blue skies and friendly temps.
So, what to do?
The obvious course of action is to get yourself a tent that will have you covered no matter what mischief the weather gods decide to throw your way. Matters are complicated, however, by the varying degree of waterproofing offered by different models of tent…
Wait, there are different degrees of waterproofing?!
Yep! While some tents are so waterproof they could almost moonlight as submarines, other models termed “waterproof” by their vendors are so short on water resistance that pitching a set of blinds over your sleeping spot might yield similar results.
So how are we know which tents will keep us dry?
Waterproofing in tents is quantified by hydrostatic head ratings.
The hydrostatic head (HH) of all outdoors product is tested by applying water pressure on the surface of the fabric and measuring at which point it allows water to seep through. For example: if the fabric begins to leak with 1,000mm of water pressure, then its HH rating is 1,000mm.
Now that we’ve got the technical jargon out of the way, let’s see how HH ratings translate into something meaningful for you, the camper, by looking at the level of performance you can expect from various ratings:
- 1,000 HH = This is the minimum HH rating required for manufacturers to market their tent as “waterproof.” In practice, however, this level of HH isn’t very waterproof at all and will only withstand very light showers.
- 1,500mm-2,000mm = The most common rating found in three-season tents, models in this range can withstand more prolonged exposure to heavier precipitation.
- 3,000 mm = Commonly found in expedition and alpine tents, this rating delivers solid, reliable resistance in even nigh-on biblical downpours.
Groundsheets (aka footprints) are the part of a tent most prone to leakage.
The added weight placed on the floor material of your tent by those inside and all your gear adds to the water pressure placed on the floor fabric of the tent. This being so, a higher hydrostatic head rating is necessary to ensure groundwater remains groundwater and not tentwater by seeping through the flooring.
While the flooring in your tent is already like to have a HH rating in the region of 1,500mm, if camping in wet conditions, we recommend adding a groundsheet with a HH rating of 2,000-3,000mm.
Poorly ventilated tent interiors are typically wet tent interiors. With six-person models, the consequences of poor ventilation—stuffiness and condensation—are exacerbated by the presence of six bodies producing the breath and body heat that can quickly make conditions inside more like a sauna than a sleeping area if your tent happens to lack adequate airflow.
To mitigate ventilation problems, when you’re buying your tent, look for the following:
- Large mesh panels on the tent walls and roof
- Ventilation panels in the flysheet
- Awnings that let you open the doors without exposing the tent body to rainfall
- Two doors to allow airflow throughout the tent
- A double-walled design that permits airflow between the tent body and rainfly
Ease of Setup
Choosing a tent that’s easy to pitch is always highly advisable, but never more so than in the case of six-person models.
Well, while one can easily make a fool of oneself pitching even the smallest one-person tent, all the added poles and extra material used in six-person models means the potential for flapping around without really getting anywhere is very high.
As such, when buying your tent, it’s a good idea to choose a model that gives you a bit of a helping hand. This should come in the form of the following:
- Color-coded poles, clips, and attachment loops (or grommets)
- A freestanding design (which means the tent will stay erect even without stakes, thereby making it possible for one person to pitch the tent on their lonesome)
- Attachment clips that connect the rainfly to the tent body for one-piece pitching
The Top 5 Six-Person Tents Out There in 2020
Best Overall: Marmot Limestone
- Value: 4.5 / 5
- Space: 4.5 / 5
- Wind-resistance: 4.5 / 5
- Rain-resistance: 4.5 / 5
The Marmot Limestone, in a few words, is the Taj Mahal, White House, Sydney Opera House, and Edinburgh Castle combined of the world of 6-season tents. It’s palatial in proportions, expertly designed, built to last, classy as hell, and, all told, something that the average tent aficionado would be happy to just sit and stare at, never mind sleep in.
But what makes this one such a winner over the best of the rest? you might ask…
Well, for starters, the Limestone is a true all-rounder, ticking every box we could possibly ask a 6-person tent to tick. This tent weighs in at a very manageable 17 pounds, which makes for a very portable 2.83-pound addition to the pack weigh of six sleepers. It also offers an impressive 83.8 square feet of floor space, a peak height of 76 inches, large D-shaped doors for easy entry/exit, and color-coded poles and clips that make setup a cinch even for newbies.
In terms of weather protection, the Limestone is a standout, too, with its semi-geodesic design offering great stability in high winds and its 150d 100% Polyester Oxford 3000mm floor fabric and 68d Polyester Taffeta 190T 1500mm fly fabric offering more than enough waterproofing for three-season adventurers.
- 83.8 sq. ft. floor space
- 76-inch peak height
- Lightweight (17 lbs.)
- Waterproof (1,500mm HH fly; 3000mm HH flooring)
- 2 large D-shaped doors
- 2 large vestibules for gear storage
- Tall, 76-inch peak height makes it slightly less stable in high winds than smaller tents
- Kinda pricey
Best Budget: ALPS Mountaineering Meramac 6-Person
- Value: 5 / 5
- Space: 5 / 5
- Wind-resistance: 4 / 5
- Rain-resistance: 4 / 5
For those who want outstanding performance but don’t want their bank balance to suffer the consequences, there are very few models of 6-person tent on the market that come close to matching this one.
First and foremost, the Meramac boasts an incredible 100 square feet of floor space, making it one of the roomiest 6-person tents on the market and meaning it offers more tent for your $ than almost any other branded three-season model out there.
This tent also has a respectable peak height of 72 inches, a simple, two-pole design, offers more than adequate ventilation thanks to its large, zippered mesh doors and oversized and mesh paneling, and boasts plenty of interior pockets and a large gearloft to help free up floor space.
With regard to weather-resistance, the Meramac isn’t one you’d like to be caught in during a biblical downpour, but is more than capable of dealing with the odd heavy shower and also offers above-average wind resistance. The only notable downsides to this tent, when compared to other three-season models, are its small vestibules and the limited water-resistance provided by its floor fabric, which, at a mere 1,500mm HH, falls roughly 1,500mm HH short of many of its competitors.
- Lightweight (16 lbs. 1 oz.)
- Waterproof (1,500mm HH fly; 1,500mm HH flooring)
- 100 square feet of floor space
- 72-inch peak height
- Excellent ventilation
- Large gearloft and storage pockets
- Floor fabric short on waterproofing
- Small vestibule areas
Best for Liveability: Big Agnes Big House 6
- Value: 4 / 5
- Space: 5 / 5
- Wind-resistance: 4.5 / 5
- Rain-resistance: 4 / 5
This wonderfully commodious, 95-square-foot tent uses “high-volume architecture” to provide a living area so spacious that many users are likely to consider it an upgrade on their current living arrangements.
But the Big House has a lot more going for it than bigness alone…
What we love most about this tent are its versatility and the plethora of user-friendly features and design characteristics that contribute towards giving it the feel of a true “home away from home.”
Let’s start with versatility…
The Big House comes with a detachable fly that can be partially rolled up to improve ventilation and/or improve your views for a touch of stargazing or just to keep half an eye on the kids while kicking back inside. Also, while this tent’s 1,500mm HH fly and flooring, sturdy poles, and robust fabrics make it a solid performer in three-season conditions, its extensive ventilation panels, ample airflow channels between the tent body and fly, and the option of pinning back the fly at various points mean it’s highly breathable even in rainy conditions and can be customized to remain relatively cool in high temps.
With regard to those user-friendly features and design characteristics, the most notable are the Big House’s color-coded webbing, buckles, and poles, huge interior storage pockets, spacious vestibules, a “quick-stash” door keeper, hanging loops in the walls and roof, and, finally, a backpack-style carry bag with adjustable shoulder straps.
- 95 square feet of floor space
- Very lightweight (16.7 lbs.)
- 75-inch peak height
- Stable in high winds
- 8 large interior pockets
- Integrated foot mat
- Waterproof (1,500mm HH fly and flooring)
- Limited waterproofing in floor fabric
- Vestibule sold separately
Best Four-Season: Big Agnes Flying Diamond
- Value: 4.5 / 5
- Space: 4.5 / 5
- Wind-resistance: 5 / 5
- Rain-resistance: 5 / 5
More of a portable hurricane-cum-bomb shelter than tent, the Big Agnes Flying Diamond is the perfect choice of tent for all-weather warriors and folks who like to carry on camping even after the mercury starts to take its seasonal turn south.
This fantastically robust tent uses a geodesic, five-pole design that creates a 92-square-foot living area and provides enough wind resistance to deal comfortably with pretty much everything short of a tornado. It’s also waterproof, reasonably lightweight, and uses a lower peak high to provide added stability in high winds.
The Flying Diamond also scores very high in terms of livability, boasting a 26-square-foot vestibule, a fabric wall that lets you divide the sleeping area into two separate rooms, a dozen (!) mesh pockets for gear storage, and a breathable polyester and polyester mesh tent body that all but eliminates the risk of condensation.
The bottom line? A tough-as-nails, highly livable basecamp tent that’s absolutely ideal for camping with all the family or larger groups in more inclement weather.
- 92 sq. ft. floor space
- 67-inch peak height
- Relatively lightweight (18 lbs. 11 oz.)
- Fabric wall lets you divide tent into two “rooms”
- Waterproof (1,500mm HH fly and flooring, 3,000mm HH optional footprint)
- Footprint sold separately
- Slightly lower peak height than other models in our review
- Overkill for fair-weather campers
Best Lightweight: Kelty Trail Ridge 6
- Value: 4.5 / 5
- Space: 3.5 / 5
- Wind-resistance: 4 / 5
- Rain-resistance: 4.5 / 5
For those who plan on putting in serious mileage on the trails before pitching their 6-person tent, Kelty’s TR6 is a tent that merits a place somewhere very near the top of your shortlist.
This tent may be a little short on floor space (82 sq. ft.), but it makes up for this shortcoming with a very friendly pack weight of just 15.1 lbs.—and that’s with the footprint included.
Not bad, right?
Also not bad are the color-coded poles, clips, and grommets that make setup easy as pie, the large mesh ventilation-cum-stargazing panels, its wealth of internal storage pockets and gear loft, taped seams, and bathtub-style, ArcEdge floor design that keeps the seams off the ground to avoid leakage from groundwater.
And we haven’t even gotten to the best bit…
What we love most about this tent are its duo of 22-foot vestibules either on either side of the tent. Not only to these include sizeable vents to optimize airflow, but also create a superbly commodious sheltered space for gear storage, cooking, changing clothes, or for night owls to while away the nocturnal hours without disturbing their sleeping tentmates.
In terms of waterproofing, this one’s no slacker, either, using 68D polyester fabric with a 1,800 mm HH rating in both the floor and rainfly and fully taped seams, both of which make it a solid performer in even the very worst of three-season conditions.
The bottom line?
This tent’s the ideal choice for groups or families who don’t mind slightly cramped sleeping quarters in return for a lower trail weight, a fuss-free, minimalist design, and absolutely oodles of vestibule space.
- Lightweight (15.1 lbs. with footprint and rainfly)
- Rollable rainfly permits stargazing and/or improves ventilation
- Waterproof (1,800mm HH fly and flooring)
- Uses two 22-square-foot vestibules
- Plenty of storage pockets
- Fully taped seams
- Ventilation panels in rainfly
- Not the most spacious tent in our review (82 sq. ft. floor space)
- Two-pole design means it’s not the best performer in high winds
Frequently Asked Questions
Which style of six-person tent is the most windproof?
In a word: geodesic.
“Geo-who?” You might ask…
Geodesic tents are those that use multiple poles that cross over each other in the center of the tent roof. The use of multiple poles divides the tent into several smaller segments, which increases stability and, in most cases, makes the tents self-supporting.
As a general rule, tents with lower peak heights also offer better performance in high winds because less fabric is exposed, meaning crosswinds gain less “purchase” on the frame.
Is it better to use a six-person tent or two three-person tents?
This will depend very much on where you happen to be doing your camping and how well you get on with the rest of your camping crew.
Naturally, a six-person tent makes for a very intimate, cozy sleeping environment. They also provide a communal space that enhances the sense of togetherness among your crew and reduces the number of tents to be pitched, of course, from two to one.
On the downside, the potential for a bit of aggro or squabbling is exponentially higher than in smaller tents—being at such close quarters for several nights on end, after all, is almost sure to result in the odd tiff or disagreement, particularly if there happen to be any snorers, farters, night owls, or light sleepers in your group.
Is it better to buy from a big-name brand?
While there are bargains to be had from low-cost tent manufacturers, as a general rule it’s always better to buy from a reputable, big-name brand?
Well, as with any product, these brands earned their reputation and that prefix of “big-name” on account of producing quality products that made them a standout against their market competitors. In most cases, they did so by making tents designed by experts in the field of both fabric technology and outdoor pursuits, meaning the tents are not only more advanced from a technological point of view, but also on a more practical level.
Typically, big-name brands also offer better post-sale service in the form of extended warranties, part replacement, and repairs.
The Best 6 Person Tent: The Verdict
In the above review, we’ve seen a selection of the best six-person tents on the market for all types of camper, from commodious polyester palaces to “bombproof” boltholes for all-weather badasses.
It’s hard to go wrong with any of these tents and the one that will be best for your needs will depend on where and when you do your camping. However, if you fall into the largest demographic of campers—the three-season variety, that is—then you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more practical, convenient, hard-wearing, and high-performing tent than the Marmot Limestone.
This tent’s super-easy to pitch, waterproof, exceedingly well made, performs well in high winds, and is about as user-friendly as they come. While not the cheapest 6-person tent out there, this one’s built to last a lifetime and, given it will be occupied by 6 people, its per-person price, if you happen to sleep in it for a total of a mere 50 nights, works out at just over $1 per night…
Not bad at all, right?
Kieran James Cunningham is a climber, mountaineer, camper, and all-round lover of all things wild and wonderful. He’s climbed a handful of 6,000-meter peaks in the Himalaya, 4,000ers in the Alps, and 14,000-footers in the Rockies and currently lives in the Italian Alps.