Tunnel Tent Camping: The 10 Best Family Picks [2020]

The popularity of the tunnel tent is on the rise. Whether you are after extra room for your camping gear, or are camping as a large group – a tunnel tent may be the right choice for you when you step out on your next adventure. Tunnel tents are renowned for their size, structural integrity and stability in all weather conditions. Furthermore, they offer a plethora of storage space so you can keep all your belongings safe. 

I used a tunnel tent when I last went camping with a group of 9 people. We had loads of room for all our gear and to spread out on an evening when you wanted a little bit of space after a long day out on the hike! This versatility is why the tunnel tent is fast becoming the go-to tent for all your camping occasions. Traditionally, backpackers and hikers avoided tunnel tents because of the increase in weight and size which they would need to carry but with all things in this modern world, recent developments have made this a practical choice for all campers.  

There are a number of things you need to consider when picking which tunnel tent is right for you and your next trip. You need to think about the size you need, the material you prefer and the protection you need from the rain. For more information on all of these important features scroll down to my handy buyers’ guide. 

For now, let’s dive in to our best tunnel tents! 

In A Hurry......

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What is a tunnel tent?

Tunnel tents are named for their shape. They tend to be larger and longer than other designs, and are an elongated semicircle- like a tunnel. They’re quickly becoming more popular, and we really see why!

Tunnel tents are great for anyone who wants a little more room to stand up, move around or get changed, which can be pretty difficult in a dome shaped or an A frame tent. They don’t have to be massive, though: you can find one or two person tents for solo campers.

It’s also easy to get a tunnel tent  with a porch, so you can store anything from muddy boots to kayaks safely and in a dry place without tracking dirt all over the floor.

Tunnel tents are also good in windy and rainy conditions: the shape allows water to roll down quickly without soaking the material, and they’re also nicely wind resistant – provided you remember to peg them down properly! Finally, tunnel tents tend not to get as stuffy as other designs, because they’ve got additional height the moisture in the air is diluted, and it’s easy to open up parallel vents to allow airflow through.

Things to consider when buying a tunnel tent

Tunnel tent size

It’s important to pick a tent that’s the right size for you. Think about how many people are likely to be in the tent, and how much stuff you’re taking with you. Our advice is to think of your bags as another person, and adjust accordingly – so, a two person tent for one person, and a four person tent for two people. Aside from anything else, if you need to move about your tent in the night you don’t want to trip over everything! If you’re really committed to camping light or you’re willing to store things outside of the tent you might get away with a smaller one, but we would advise against that. Camping supply stores will often have tents pitched in the showroom so you can have an idea of how big they actually are, which is useful if you struggle to visualise size based just on measurements.  

Material

There are two different materials tents can be made from: polyester and cotton. Let’s look at them separately.

Polyester is a very commonly used fabric. It’s cheap, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not good quality: polyester also lasts for a long time, so you don’t need to worry about it ripping within a few uses (always check the warranty!). However, polyester can get quite stuffy really fast, which can feel pretty gross. The tents are light, which is great if you have to carry them, but means that the material shakes in wind and can keep you awake.

Cotton not what you’re expecting. Most people associate cotton with clothing, bedding and generally not being waterproof, which is essential for tents! Instead, this cotton is treated differently and becomes canvas (previously made from hemp) and the terms ‘cotton’ and ‘canvas’ are used interchangeably in tent descriptions. The biggest thing to discuss with cotton tents is how rain affects them. Some manufacturers will cover the tents with a waterproof coating, but not all of them. This means that the tent will absorb some of the water. It shouldn’t get inside of the tent, but you will need to make sure that it dries out fully before you pack it up. The flip side is that cotton tents feel much more breathable, because condensation in your breath isn’t stuck to the tent. Cotton is also a good insulator, so you won’t overheat in the summer or get too cold in the winter.

Waterproof

Having a tunnel tent which is waterproof is a must! If it’s not, you’re likely to get wet and your belongings could get damaged- it just doesn’t make for a good camping trip! We’d recommend finding the most waterproof tent possible, even if you’re in a drier area because having a leaky tent is so bad. When you’re looking to buy a tent, check the hydrostatic head measurement. This determines how waterproof a tent is. When manufacturers are testing the hydrostatic head measurement, they pour water onto tents from different heights. The higher the height (measured in millimeters) the better the tent is keeping water out.

Ease of use (putting up the tent)

It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned camper or you’ve never done it before: always, ALWAYS practice pitching your tent before you go camping. That way you can make sure there isn’t any damage and nothing essential is missing, and you know how hard it’s going to be to put it up. Pick a nice day to do it, and know that when you actually go camping you might have to pitch in the rain, wind or at night. Tunnel tents aren’t automatically difficult to pitch- user’s views vary, probably because of variation between models- but it’s worth knowing that it will be a different experience than pitching other tents, because of the new structure. If you’re feeling unsure, check the manufacturer’s websites to see if there’s an instructional video and take a look at the reviews.

Type of Pole

Most people won’t pay close attention to the type of pole they use in their tent. It’s much easier to just use the ones that come with the tent you like, and assume that it’s been designed to work well with everything else. This isn’t incorrect, but you should still look at the poles: if they fail and the tent falls down, all you’ve really got is an oversized sleeping bag. Here are some popular types of poles, and their advantages and disadvantages.

 Fiberglass. It’s reasonably strong, although it’s not suitable for any kind of extreme weather. It’s also heavy and the poles can splinter and break beyond repair. Fiberglass splinters can be pretty nasty, so overall we try to avoid these.

 Steel. It’s strong- in fact, it’s the strongest type of pole. They’re also really tough, and there’s no chance of them snapping or splintering. However, they’re very heavy and they do rust easily, so they’re not great for anyone who’s hiking and camping over a few days.

 Aluminium. Like steel, it’s strong, but it’s much lighter, making it the perfect choice for anyone who has to carry their tent in a boat, bike or whilst walking. The poles can snap in half, but it’s pretty unusual so the main disadvantage is they can rust but again, they’re often anodized to prevent this happening. We think these are the best poles.

Ventilation/Breathability

Having decent ventilation on a tent is really important. A lot of people’s least favourite thing about camping is waking up and feeling sweaty and uncomfortable, so it’s a good idea to make sure that you’ve found a nice tent that won’t feel overly humid. We recommend looking for a tent made with a breathable fabric that will let the moisture out without compromising the waterproofing outside. It’s also a good idea to find a tent with some vents or windows- these can usually be zipped up and closed when you’d like some privacy, and opened when you need fresh air.

Tunnel Tent - FAQ's

Yes! It’s necessary for all tents to be waterproof, and tunnel tents are no exception. There’s no way to guarantee that it won’t rain at some point during your camping trip, and if this happens your stuff can get wet and damaged – and so can you!

This really depends on the tent, and how well it’s been pitched! Tunnel tents are usually alright, although you want to position them into the wind so they’re less likely to blow over. Make sure you’ve got all the pegs and guy ropes in place if bad weather is forecast. They’re also pretty good in the rain, because there’s nowhere for water to collect so it just rolls straight off.

For standing up in, and for additional storage. Tunnel tents are usually much roomier than other designs, so they’re great for adults, anyone with extra luggage or if you like to be able to stand up, get changed and move around a little in your tent. Tunnel tents are well designed and can be perfect for solo campers, couples or families.

Conclusion: Tunnel Tent

The best tunnel tent for your family will be a great base for you to explore the wild and enjoy your next adventure. A tunnel tent will give you the space you need to get comfy and for all the family to take those (few!) extra comforts so that you can be totally relaxed on your trip away. 

If you are looking for a tunnel tent you are not alone. The popularity of this type of tent is on the rise and it is now the tent of choose for lots of people. 

They are popular because of their size, structural integrity and stability in all weather conditions whilst being as easy to use as ‘ordinary’ tents. 

To quickly recap my top pick: 

 

 

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