September 16, 2022
The quality of your family camping tent determines whether your outdoor experience is a success or disaster. If the instructions printed on the tent bag are too difficult to decipher (there’s no way to watch an online video demo and we’ve been struggling with setting up for more than five minutes), tempers start flaring in my family, ruining the entire mood of our trip.
Our top pick for the best family tent, the spacious Nemo Equipment Wagontop, gets each outdoor escape off to a smooth start with quick and easy pitching. Besides ease of setup, other factors to consider when choosing a tent include the hydrostatic head rate, weight, and capacity. You’ll also need to weigh the pros and cons of different tent forms, such as A-frame, cabin-style, dome, geodesic, inflatable, and connectible. Some are better for handling snow (dome and geodesic), while a connectible design allows you to configure your space based on the needs of each trip. It’s also important to know which materials will best suit your family, from insulating cotten to rigid polyester to stretchy and abrasion-resistant nylon.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is R-value?
“R-value” stands for thermal resistance, the ability to resist transferring heat. The higher the R-value, the more resistance the sleeping pad has to heat flow, and the warmer it is while you’re resting up. The R-value you should aim for in a sleeping pad depends on how you camp and what time of the year you will be out in the wilderness.
R1 = Best in summer or around 50 degrees Fahrenheit
R2 = Works for summer, spring, and fall or around 30 degrees Fahrenheit
R3 = Performs best at around 20 degrees Fahrenheit
R4 = Best in winter or around 10 degrees Fahrenheit
R5 = Best for extreme cold or around -30 degrees Fahrenheit
How big of a sleeping pad should I get?
Standard sleeping pads are 72 inches long and 20 inches wide. Long pads are 78 inches. If you are backpacking and weight is a concern, then select a short pad that is three-fourths the length of a normal product. Double-wide sleeping pads are 40 inches and work a lot better than piecing two sleeping pads together. (Note: If one person is a hot sleeper, and the other is a cold sleeper, you might be better off with two separate sleeping pads.)
You’ll also want to consider which sleeping pad shape will work the best for you. Brandon Bowers, Product Manager at Therm-a-Rest, says, “When you choose a sleeping pad, there are a few considerations to make, like the pad shape and size. We have rectangle and mummy pads. The mummy pads shave a little weight and are smaller in size, therefore more packable for backpacking. The pad size should also be based on your height. In terms of width, most of our mattresses are 20 inches wide, but we also offer wide pads that are 25 and 30 inches wide for increased sleep area.”
How do you care for a sleeping pad?
Most sleeping pads are made of synthetic materials that are not machine-washable. However, you can and should wipe down your sleeping pad after use with a non-detergent soap and cloth. You can also spot clean with a wet or soapy cloth as needed. Be sure to thoroughly air dry your sleeping pad with any valves open before packing or storing to avoid any mold or mildew.