The 8 Best Tents for Camping in the SummerPublished on 08/03/2023 · 16 min readStay cool and comfortable on your summer camping trips with the best hot-weather tents of 2023. Check out our top picks for your adventure!
Photo by Orion Productions
Summer camping is a great way to get outside, take advantage of the nice weather, and avoid high temperatures in the city by escaping to higher elevations. Out of all the gear you need to think about when making your summer camping checklist, a tent is one of the most important items to pay attention to. Your tent not only provides you with shelter from any weather and bugs that may be around, but it’s also largely responsible for how well you’ll be able to sleep during your trip. There’s nothing worse than waking up in a beautiful location with a full itinerary of hiking, fishing, or exploring just to realize you slept terribly and you are now too tired even fully to enjoy where you are. Though this is true no matter what season you are camping in, it’s particularly true in the summer.
As wonderful as the summer can be, it comes with its unique challenges. High temperatures during the day, unpredictable rain showers, bugs, and strong winds are all common enough during summer camping trips that you’ll want to be well-prepared to handle them. A good summer camping tent is one that can stand up to these challenges while providing a comfortable and enjoyable living space.
I have been going on camping trips since I was a little girl, and living in Utah, we have super hot summers. Camping in the Utah or Colorado desert, which are among my favorite places to camp, there is also almost no shade at any campsite. This has left me with many instances where my tent is the only shelter from the elements. I’ve tested out several different tents over the years in several different types of climates and terrains, and at this point, I have a pretty good idea of what to look for in a summer tent versus what to look for in tents that will primarily be used in cooler conditions. It’s a real game-changer to stay cool in your tent at night while sleeping in the summer heat and have a tent setup that can double as a place to hide out from the blistering sun on super hot days.
In this article, I’ll share with you what I’ve learned over the years about what makes a tent a good option for summer camping and a list of the best hot-weather tent options! Let’s get into it!
Different Types of Tent Categories by Season
Tents are typically categorized by seasons: 1-season, 2-season, 3-season, and 4-season tents. These categorizations reflect a tent's capacity to withstand various weather conditions throughout the year.
- 1-Season: Meant for warm-weather camping with no threat of storms. They are typically really simple and don’t offer any protection from rain or high winds.
- 2-Season: Step up from 1-season tents. They are still meant to be used primarily in hot weather camping, but they will keep you protected in some light wind or rain.
- 3-Season: Designed for the relatively mild spring, summer, and fall conditions. It can handle heavy rain or wind but sometimes can be a bit too warm for camping in higher temps.
- 4-Season: Meant for year-round use. They can withstand heavy snow and are typically very heavy.
For summer camping, a 2- or 3-season tent is typically the best option because it provides some protection from unexpected weather but can still keep you cool if it’s warm overnight. A 1-season tent could also work if you plan to only camp for shorter trips, in places that won’t have much rain or wind. A 4-season tent would be a bad option for summer camping since it would be way too warm and unnecessarily heavy.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Tent for Summer Camping
Before we jump into our list of the top summer camping tents, let’s talk about a few key factors that you’ll want to look for in a summer camping tent.
- Ventilation: Summer tents are designed with an emphasis on ventilation to keep the interior cool and comfortable, even in sweltering heat. They will often have mesh windows, doors, or roofs to allow for cross-ventilation, reduce condensation, and offer a way to stargaze while keeping the bugs out.
- Material: Summer tents are usually made from lighter materials to help keep the weight down for backpacking trips and enhance breathability. Make sure that you balance the low weight of the materials with ensuring that your tent is still durable enough to withstand elements. Most tents are made from nylon or polyester, which are both relatively durable and water-resistant.
- Weight and Portability: Since they're made with lighter materials and have less structural complexity, summer tents tend to be lighter and easier to carry than their 4-season counterparts. This is especially beneficial if you plan a backpacking trip where every ounce matters. Weight may be less of an issue if you're car camping, but you'll still want a relatively easy tent to transport.
- Removable Rainfly: Even in the summer, you may encounter rain. A rainfly is a separate waterproof cover designed to fit over the roof of your tent for extra rainfall protection. Usually, they are sold with the tent, but occasionally they are sold separately, so make sure you figure that out before purchasing your tent. Some rainfalls cover only the roof, while others extend down the sides to protect the doors and windows. Some tents also come with the rainfly built-in, which I would not recommend for summer camping because it will decrease the amount of ventilation. A rainfly is a necessity for summer camping, but you should also be able to remove it on nice weather nights when you want to stargaze and need to get some airflow.
- Size and Capacity: The size and capacity are important considerations no matter what type of tent you are looking for. The size of the tent you need will depend on the number of people who will be sleeping in it. Ensure there is enough space for everyone and pets to sleep comfortably. I also like to get a tent with a little extra room in it so that I can fit all my gear inside if it starts downpouring so that everything stays dry.
- Ease of Setup: After a long day of hiking or exploring in the summer heat, you don't want to spend a lot of time setting up camp. This is also important if you are looking for a fall, spring, or winter tent. Look for a tent that's easy to assemble, preferably one with fewer poles and a straightforward design. Make sure you set your tent up at home once or twice before setting it up on your camping trip so that you are well prepared and can watch a YouTube video on how to set it up if need be!
Other special features:
- UV Protection: Some summer tents come with special coatings to reflect UV rays and reduce the greenhouse effect, keeping the tent's interior cool during sunny days.
- Gear Loft: This mesh shelf hangs from the top of the tent. It’s a handy place to store your phone, keys, or headlamp and a great place to put a light to keep your tent illuminated while you set up your sleeping bag or read before bed.
- Storage Pockets: Similar to a gear loft but found on the tent's interior walls, storage pockets are useful for keeping small items organized and easy to locate.
- Vestibule: A vestibule acts like a mudroom at the tent's entrance. It gives you space to store gear, remove muddy boots, or even cook in bad weather. It's particularly useful for keeping the tent's interior clean and clutter-free.
- Footprint: A footprint is a custom-fitted ground cloth under your tent floor. It helps protect the tent from abrasion, keeps it clean, and adds an extra layer of protection from water. Sometimes tents are sold with these and other times sold separately.
With these features in mind, you can pick a summer tent with all the necessities for your camping style. Ok, now let’s jump into our list of the best camping tents for the summer!
Top 8 Tents for Summer Camping
The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV is a popular 3-season tent among summer, spring, and fall campers. It’s super lightweight and durable and has a high-volume hub design, which offers enough living space for up to three campers (or two campers and a large pup!). The Copper Spur HV UL features two large, dual-zipper doors with discrete seams for easy entry and smooth closure. The two walls with the doors are entirely mesh, with a mesh ceiling, giving you awesome ventilation and allowing you to get a good night’s sleep in warmer temperatures. The included removable rainfly is designed so that when on the tent, you can prop two sides of it up with tent poles or sticks, making for a vestibule for storing gear out of the rain, wind, or heat.
The NEMO Hornet OSMO is an ultralight 3-season, two-person tent, a great pick for summer backpacking. Its main selling point is its minimal weight and small pack-down size, making it easy to toss in a backpacking pack for long treks. The tent uses a single-pole structure to save weight. Still, it has a decent amount of headroom, so it won’t feel claustrophobic if you are waiting out some weather in the tent or reading before bed. It has two large doors on either side of the tent, offering easy access to get in and out without stepping over your tent partner. Similar to the Copper Spur, it also has mesh walls and a ceiling for superior ventilation during hot summer nights.
It is an ultralight tent, so if you are expecting to camp in a lot of places with high winds or rain in the summer, it won’t be quite as sturdy as other heavier options. Though it will still keep you plenty dry and safe in bad weather, you will feel and hear it more than you would in a tent with thicker walls. That being said, if that’s not the type of weather you expect to encounter, the ultralightness will help keep the tent cooler on hot days and nights since it is super breathable.
The Sea To Summit Telos TR3 is a super versatile 3-season tent suitable for up to three campers. It comes with a ventilated, tensioned rainfly, which provides protection from the elements without worry of moisture or condensation buildup inside the tent. When packed up, the tent is packed into three separate stuff sacks, making it easy to split the load across three backpacks so that one backpacker isn’t carrying all of the tent's weight. One of the three stuff sacks can be attached to the inside of the tent when it’s set up and set up as a lightbar, providing diffused illumination across the tent's ceiling.
My favorite feature of this tent, and what makes it so versatile, is that the rainfly is designed to be set up on its own to act as a tarp or shade canopy to sit under during the day. The versatility of setup options, combined with the low weight and the three-stuff sack packing feature, make this a great backpacking tent for the summer months. It's not the cheapest tent on the market, but the versatile features make it a great investment for frequent campers.
This 3-season, two-person tent from Big Agnes balances weight, livability, and cost. It offers three doors, one on each side for easy access and one upfront to allow for a versatile awning-style setup, with one side of the removable rainfly acting as the ceiling (can be propped up with hiking poles or sticks or tied to a nearby tree). The awning can be set up when the rainfly is on the tent or separately from the tent if you want to separate your sleeping spaces from your shady hangout spot. The additional shade from the rainfly awning is great for summer camping, especially in areas with little natural shade. The entire top half of the tent is mesh, and high ceilings provide plenty of ventilation and airflow during hotter camping trips.
If you’re looking for a good summer tent for a large group or family, look no further than the Eureka Copper Canyon LX. It is a 3-season cabin tent designed to accommodate up to eight people. It is designed with near-vertical walls and a peak height of 7 feet, offering plenty of headroom for taller campers. The tent's removable rainfly paired with the large mesh windows and roof, offer great ventilation, even with eight campers sleeping inside. Since it is larger and heavier, this tent is more suitable for car camping than backpacking. It also takes a bit longer to set up since it is so large, but two people can easily do it, and its setup is fairly straightforward despite the size.
For solo campers looking to stay cool while sleeping outside in the summer, spring, and fall months, the Mountain Hardwear Nimbus is for you. A 3-season, one-person tent designed with the solo backpacker in mind, this tent is incredibly lightweight, at about 1lb 11oz, making it ideal for long treks. The tent features an exoskeleton design and mesh canopy for superior ventilation and to reduce condensation. Its streamlined design helps it stand up to wind and light rain. It is fairly minimalist and doesn’t have much internal room, so if you’re primarily looking for something with a comfortable space or have a larger dog you plan to bring along, the Nimbus will feel a bit small.
7. Marmot Limestone 4P Tent
Another great option for family campers, the Marmot Limestone is a sturdy, 3-season tent with a spacious interior. It features a large front door, a rear D-shaped door, and a vestibule area for gear storage. The full-coverage rainfly and canopy with breathable No-See-Um mesh ensure you stay dry and cool in a summer storm or heat without worrying about bugs. The sturdy design and extra features make this tent a bit heavier, so it’s a better option for car camping than backpacking.
This six-person, 3-season tent offers plenty of space for families or groups of campers. The NEMO Aurora Highrise has steep walls for maximum interior livability and two large doors with vestibules. Its heavy-duty construction rides the line between excellent wind and rain resistance and breathability in the heat. It comes with an included footprint under the tent, ensuring that your tent floor stays in good shape for years to come. The tent also features large mesh panels for optimal ventilation and stargazing opportunities, making it a solid choice for summer camping. As a larger tent, it's more suitable for car camping than backpacking.
Take Care of Your Tent
Even if you primarily camp in nice weather, your summer tent will still take a bit of a beating with the hot sun shining on it all day. Taking good care of your tent will prolong its lifespan and keep it functioning well for many upcoming camping trips. Here are a few things to know about taking care of your tent!
1. UV Protection
Summer tents are often subjected to long hours of sunlight, which can degrade the fabric over time. If your tent isn't made with UV-resistant material, try to set up camp in the shade as much as possible so that your tent doesn’t get quite as much direct exposure to the sun. Some campers even use a UV-protectant spray on their tents as an added layer of protection.
2. Proper Ventilation
Ensure that your tent is adequately ventilated to prevent the build-up of condensation, which could potentially lead to mildew. Open up the vents and doors during the day to allow air to circulate. Mildew can damage the waterproof coating and weaken your tent's fabric, so always allow your tent to dry completely before packing it away. If you have to pack up camp after a rainy day or morning, set up your tent in your yard or living room when you get home so that it can adequately dry before you store it.
3. Dust, Dirt, and Sand Cleaning
Summer can mean dealing with dust, dirt, and sand, particularly if you're camping at a beach. Shake out your tent thoroughly before packing it up to avoid taking these particles home. If necessary, gently sweep or vacuum the inside of the tent. It’s not only annoying to have a bunch of sand in your tent the next time you go to use it, but sand or dirt rubbing against the tent inside the stuff sack can also seriously degrade your tent's fabric.
4. Zipper Care
Zippers can easily get damaged by sand and dust, so keeping them clean is important. If the zippers stick, clean them with a soft brush and consider using a zipper lubricant. Don’t forcefully yank on them if they're stuck. If your zipper breaks entirely, contact the tent manufacturer, as this is often something they can fix if you send your tent to them for repair.
5. Long Periods of Storage
When you’re storing your tent for an extended period of time, make sure it’s loosely packed in a cool, dry place. Keeping it tightly packed for extended periods can stress the fabrics and waterproof coatings. Avoid storing the loosely packed tent in places like damp basements, hot attics, or garages for long periods, such as over the winter.
6. Periodic Checks
Check your tent before and after each camping trip for any damage, such as rips or leaks. Addressing these early on can prevent further deterioration and prepare your tent for the next adventure. If you come across a hole or a leak, contact a Curated Camping & Hiking Expert or the tent manufacturer for more information on how to fix these on your own!
Find the Right Summer Camping Tent for You
Finding the perfect tent for summer camping can help you make the most of every camping trip. No matter what type of camping you want to do this summer, there's a tent designed to meet every camper's unique needs and preferences.
As you narrow down the perfect summer camping tent for you, feel free to reach out to me or a fellow Camping & Hiking Expert here at Curated. We can answer any questions you might have on choosing the right tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, or any other hike/camp-related questions. Happy camping!