Camping is the perfect way to get outdoors so you can reconnect and recharge. Bring along friends and family for a social adventure, go with just your significant other for some personal time, or on your own for some quiet reflection.
If you’re looking at purchasing a tent, you’ll need to make sure it fits your needs in relation to your typical camping style. This includes the number campers, the weather you usually encounter, the seasons when you like to camp, and more.
But how much space do you need in a tent? The most used method is based on capacity, but you could also look at square footage, and we will cover both methods in this post. We’ve also included information on features that make your tent feel larger, as well as situations where you shouldn’t follow the rule of thumb.
Recommended Tent Capacity
For your quick reference, here’s a table on what we recommend for tent capacity vs. number of campers. Keep in mind that this generally follows the rule of thumb, which is to decrease the recommended capacity by at least two campers. This is the number on the chart in the column under “tent capacity for comfortable car camping.”
If you’re looking for lots of room or even a glamping situation, you could easily double the number of campers to determine what size tent you should purchase. This is on the chart below as “tent capacity for glamping.”
If you are backpacking, you should use the same capacity as the number of campers since weight is more important than space. Once you start getting into more than three people, you will have to arrange for adults to carry their own tent, couples should partner up, and families will have to get the right capacity for kids. Keep in mind that most backpacking tents are either 1-person, 2-person, or 3-person and rarely exceed 4-person capacities.
If you want the full explanation of where these numbers come from, information on square footage, and any exceptions to the rule, please continue reading.
|Group Size||Tent Capacity for Backpacking||Tent Capacity for Comfortable Car Camping||Tent Capacity for Glamping|
|4||4 or two 2-person||6||6-10|
|7-8||two 4-person or four 2-person||10||10-12 person or two 5-6 person|
|9||adults should carry their own tent or partner up||12||12-person or two 6 person|
|10||adults should carry their own tent or partner up||12||12-person or two 6-8 person|
|11||adults should carry their own tent or partner up||multiple tents||two 8-10 person|
|12||adults should carry their own tent or partner up||multiple tents||two 8-12 person|
|13+||adults should carry their own tent or partner up||multiple tents||multiple tents|
Shop For Tents By Capacity
- Best 4 Person Tents
- Best 5 Person Tents
- Best 6 Person Tents
- Best 8 Person Tents
- Best 10 Person Tents
- Best 12 Person Tents
Questions to Ask Yourself
Here are some questions to ask yourself while you decide which tent capacity fits you best:
- What kind of camping will you be doing? Car camping and backpacking require two very different kinds of tents, but you also need to consider if you’re typically in established campgrounds or if you dispersed (a.k.a. wild camp) more often.
- Where will you be camping? While it may be tempting to buy the biggest tent you can afford, keep in mind that not all campgrounds have oversized tent pads. We’ve been to a few where even our 4-person tent didn’t sit properly in the designated space, so take a minute to think about the places you will camp (or have camped) and see if you can remember the size of the tent pad.
- When will you be camping? Since most people camp in the spring, summer, and fall, the most popular tents are 3-season tents. If you want to camp during winter as well, you would probably need a 4-season tent or sometimes you can use a 3-season tent in winter. Read more about the differences between a 3 vs. 4 season tent here.
- How many people typically camp with you? You could take into consideration the normal amount of people that accompany you, but you should also look at the maximum number of people that would ever join you, and that may give you a better idea of what size you need.
- What do you sleep on when you go camping? The average backpacking sleeping pad only allows for about 20 inches of shoulder space, while a camping cot or blow up air mattress will take up significantly more room per person.
How to Buy a Tent Based on Capacity
The most popular measurement of tent size is capacity, or the number of campers it will sleep. Companies calculate this number based on the minimum amount of space a camper could possibly need to sleep, so you’ll often see people sleeping shoulder to shoulder, or even head to feet in small backpacking tents. Basically, the designated capacity on a tent is going to give you enough space for sleeping in close quarters and nothing more. It’s as if you’re going backpacking, where the average sleeping pad is only about 20 inches wide, which makes anything more seem generous.
For example, the photo below is the intended sleeping arrangement for the Eureka! Copper Canyon LX 12-person tent, which made our list for best 12 person tents. As you can see, the tent measures 168″ x 144″ (14′ x12′) and they’ve squeezed twelve people into that space. This allows only 28 inches for the shoulders of each person, and 6 feet for the height of each person.
Comfort Vs. Capacity
There are a few situations where you shouldn’t size up (see below), but for the most part we recommend taking the number of campers and subtracting at least two from the recommended capacity. That means a group of 10 would need a tent that’s at least a 12-person, or larger depending on what kind of sleeping arrangements you like.
In order to be comfortable, you could size up by more or even double the capacity. Using the example 12-person Eureka tent above, that tent would be a great option for even just a few people, and that would give you plenty of space for larger sleeping arrangements, gear storage, or even having a living space. See the photo below, where this couple has ample space inside this 12-person tent.
Camping Tent Size Based on Square Feet
The average backpacking tent gives each camper about 15-18 square feet per person and this is enough for situations where the weight of your gear matters more than extra space. But when it comes to car camping, you should allow for at least 25-30 feet per person. The average queen sized air mattress would allow for 30-34 square feet per person, which is even more generous.
Keep in mind that this is just space for sleeping, so if you want extra room for gear storage, a table/chairs, kids’ toys, or even a couch, then you would need to add even more space.
|Square Feet Per Person||Recommended Use|
|20-30||Campers with their own sleeping cot/pad|
|30-34||Campers on queen sized air mattresses|
|35+||More room for gear & toys|
Factors that Contribute to How Big a Tent Feels
Regardless of the designated capacity of a given tent, there are some other factors that contribute to how big the tent feels. The height of the tent is the biggest factor to consider, especially if you want the ability to stand up straight in your tent. The other factor to look at is shape, as the shape of a tent determines how much standing room the space can offer.
What is Peak Height in a Tent?
Peak height in a tent refers to the maximum vertical distance from the floor to the highest point of the tent’s roof or peak. It determines how much headroom you have inside the tent. It’s important because it affects the overall comfort and livability of a tent, but it can also play into its level of weather resistance. This measurement is usually included in the tent’s specifications.
Height is going to be one of the specifications in a tent that makes the most difference in comfort levels: more headroom gives you the space to change clothes and stand up straight, while less headroom gives you a tent that you have to ‘crawl’ into at night. Here’s a breakdown of the range of heights you may see in a tent:
Sitting & Kneeling Height
Sitting height is most commonly seen in 1-3 person backpacking tents where extra headspace just means extra weight. The max heights of these tents range from 35-45 inches (2.9-3.75ft), which is enough space to sit on the floor or lie down. This turns changing clothes into a workout, but that’s all part of the fun. Unless you’re backpacking or looking for a super minimalist tent, we wouldn’t recommend getting a tent this short.
When you start getting into 4 person tents, the height of the tent increases to stooping height. You can be on your feet to change clothes but cannot stand upright, and will instead need to stay bent over. The average height of a 4 person tent ranges from about 48-66 inches (4ft. – 5.5ft.). This is more manageable with young campers and will be a tad uncomfortable for anyone less spry.
As we said earlier, the height of a 4-person tent is where the weatherproofing really peaks, since they are short enough to have a full coverage rainfly but not too tall to catch serious wind.
Tents that range from about 68 inches to 84 inches (5’8″-7′) allow the average person to stand upright, but usually only in the center of the tent. A lot of these tents will be dome-shaped, meaning the roof will slope downwards from the peak height. You can stoop closer to the sides of the tent, or stand upright near the center, and you’ll see this most commonly in 5-6 person tents.
Once we get into 8-person tents and up, we start to see roaming height. This is where tents are more high-profile and have near vertical walls and tall max heights. Combine these two together and you have tents that are over 6.5 ft. tall in the majority of the tent space, which gives you lots of space to move around, get changed, and spread out in the space. While it’s an extreme example, the White Duck Alpha tent below has some of the best head room available in oversized tents – you can see where you would easily be able to roam freely in this tent.
The shape of the tent is another contributing factor for how spacious a tent feels on the inside, regardless of the capacity or height. Different tent shapes lead to different max heights, and determine the configuration of sleepers and where the standing height fits.
Dome tents are going to be the most common shape, and are shaped like a traditional tent. Its peak height is in the center of the tent, and it will usually have a full coverage rainfly that slopes downwards into the stake points. While the tent itself will be rectangular or square, the stake points on the rainfly will make it look more geodesic in shape. The SnowPeak Alpha Breeze below is a great example, and it made our list for best tents for high winds.
Cabin style tents are more commonly seen in larger camping tents that have standing or roaming height, like the CORE cabin tent below, which made our list for best tents with screen room. They will have near vertical walls with a tall max height, and are usually rectangular or square-shaped. Shop the best cabin tents.
Tunnel tents are less common, but are still a really cool design. The Zempire EVO tent below a great example of tunnel-shaped tent.
There are also some less common tent shapes like a wall tent, bell tent, and teepee. These are more commonly seen in hot tents with a stove jack, but can be found in traditional 3-season designs as well.
Wall tents offer some of the most spacious tents currently on the market. The White Duck example below comes in sizes as small as 8’x10′ and goes all the way up to 16’x24′. They sleep anywhere from 4 to 18 campers based on traditional capacity measurements, and their peak heights range from 7’6″ to 10′.
Bell tents are commonly used as glamping tents and are usually made from canvas instead of traditional tent materials. They offer standing height or roaming height depending on the size option you order, but either way they are quite spacious.
Teepee tents are much less common but are still available on the market. They will have significantly less headspace, especially since the peak height is blocked by the support pole.
Capacity Vs. Price
Generally speaking, the bigger the tent, the bigger the price tag. More material and longer poles come with a price, so it’s important to balance desired size with your budget. It’s worth noting that tents don’t have to be expensive, but keep in mind that cheaper options will not last as long. They will typically have thinner material, fiberglass poles, and less weather protection, which could leave you unprepared if you experience adverse conditions while camping. If you want a tent that’s built to last, then it could be worth splurging a bit to get the perfect fit.
Backpacking Tent Size
Backpacking requires lightweight gear, and the lighter the better. It’s a given that increasing tent size usually increases the weight, and that’s a no-no when we’re trying to keep weight down. So if you’re using this tent for backpacking, we recommend getting your true capacity. It’s better to go light and tight rather than carry more weight than necessary.
Backpacking tents should have a generous vestibule (or two) that allows for gear storage without requiring a bigger tent and more weight. Yes, this does mean sleeping in close quarters, but that’s part of the backpacking adventure. Sleeping this close also can help conserve body heat, so it’s a win-win.
Note: backpacking tents aren’t generally bigger than 3-person, so for larger backpacking groups you would need several smaller tents instead of one larger tent.
1 Person Tent Dimensions
The dimensions of a 1 person tent can vary, but they are typically around 86-88 inches long, 31-43 inches wide, and have a peak height of 39-41 inches. Some 1-person tents may have dimensions that are separated by a slash (e.g., 43/31) and this shows that the width at the head side is 43 inches while the width at the feet is only 31 inches.
The square footage of a 1-person tent is usually around 20 square feet, with some variance depending on the specific tent model. The height is usually around 40 inches, meaning most people can sit up comfortably inside.
To give you a visual representation of 1-person tent size, here’s a chart of the four most popular 1 person tents and their dimensions:
|Tent Model||Square Feet||Dimensions||Peak Height|
|NEMO Hornet OSMO Ultralight 1-Person||22.3 sq.ft.||87 x 43/31 (head/foot) inches||39 inches|
|MSR Elixir 1||20 sq.ft.||86 x 33 inches||39 inches|
|Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL1||20 sq.ft.||88 x 38/28 (head/foot) inches||38 inches|
|REI Co-op Trailmade 1 Tent||20 sq.ft.||88 x 36.5 inches||41 inches|
Can 2 people sleep in a 1-person tent? You should never size down when it comes to tent size, so two people won’t comfortably fit in a 1-person tent. It would work in an emergency situation, but it definitely wouldn’t be comfortable. If you have two people, you should get a tent that’s at least 2-person or larger.
2 Person Tent Dimensions
A 2 person tent is the go-to for backpackers and hikers due to its size and design. It perfectly balances weight and space, making it an ideal choice for two backpackers.
A 2 person tent typically measures 84-90 inches in length and 42-54 inches in width. It gives enough space for two average-sized adults to sleep in close quarters. If a tent is square shaped, campers may opt to sleep head to feet so that each person has more shoulder room. In tents where the head and foot width are different, you must sleep shoulder to shoulder.
A 2-person tent height ranges from 39 to 41 inches, so campers can sit up inside. Most 2-person tents have a floor area of around 30 square feet and a peak height of 39 to 44 inches.
Not all 2-person tents have the same dimensions, so here’s a chart of the five most popular 2-person tents and their dimensions:
|Tent Model||Square Feet||Dimensions||Peak Height|
|The North Face Stormbreak 2||30.6 sq.ft.||87 x 50 inches||43 inches|
|Marmot Tungsten 2P||30.1 sq.ft.||88.2 x 53.9/46.1 (head/foot) inches||42.1 inches|
|MSR Hubba Hubba 2 Tent||29 sq.ft.||84 x 50 inches||40 inches|
|Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2||29 sq.ft.||88 x 52/42 (head/foot) inches||40 inches|
|REI Co-op Trailmade 2||31.7 sq.ft.||88 x 52 inches||39.9 inches|
3 Person Tent Dimensions
Three-person tents provide just the right amount of space for everyone to sleep comfortably and be compact enough to carry on hikes and backpacking trips. They’re perfect for two people who would like to carry a little more weight in exchange for some extra shoulder room at night.
3-person tents are roughly 84-90 inches long and 62-65 inches wide, with a peak height that usually ranges between 43-46 inches and a floor area of around 39.5-45.5 square feet.
Check out this table comparing the dimensions of the most popular 3-person tents currently on the market:
|Tent Model||Square Feet||Dimensions||Peak Height|
|The North Face Stormbreak 3||39.72 sq.ft.||88 x 65 inches||46 inches|
|Marmot Limelight 3P Tent||45.2 sq.ft.||88.2 x 70.1/63.8 (head/foot) inches||45.3 inches|
|Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 Tent||41 sq.ft.||90 x 70/62 (head/foot) inches||43 inches|
|MSR Hubba Hubba 3 Tent||39.5 sq.ft.||84 x 68 inches||46 inches|
|NEMO Hornet OSMO Ultralight 3P||39.7 sq.ft.||88 x 68/62 inches||44 inches|
4 Person Tent Dimensions
When talking about 4-person camping tents, very few of them are designated for backpacking, but they do exist. The Marmot Tungsten (first in the table below) is the only one on the table and you can see how its dimensions are significantly smaller than the rest. This shows that 4-person backpacking tent dimensions average around 93×82 inches (75ft. x 6.8ft.) with 53 square feet and a peak height of 53 inches.
The rest of the 4-person tents on the table below are for car camping, meaning they have more space and amenities that you don’t see in backpacking tents. In exchange, they are usually heavier and have a taller peak height that allows for more comfortable camping. The average dimensions of a 4-person car camping tent are around 90 x 95 inches (7.5ft. x 7.9ft.), with an average square feet that ranges from 58-63 and a peak height that ranges from 68-78 inches.
Size of a 4 person tent implies 4 people can sleep comfortably, but that doesn’t leave any extra space for gear. If you are car camping and you have four people in your group, it’s probably best to size up to a 6-person or even an 8-person tent so you have more space.
Here’s a table comparing some of the top 4-person tents and their dimensions:
|Tent Model||Square Feet||Dimensions||Peak Height|
|Marmot Tungsten 4P||52.7 sq.ft.||92.9 x 81.9 inches||52.8 inches|
|NEMO Aurora Highrise 4P Tent||62.5 sq.ft.||100 x 90 inches||75 inches|
|Gazelle T4 Hub Tent||61 sq.ft.||94 x 94 inches||78 inches|
|The North Face Wawona 4 Tent||58.13 sq.ft.||96 x 90 inches||68 inches|
|Eureka Space Camp 4-Person Tent||60 sq.ft.||96 x 90 inches||68 inches|
The other exception to sizing up is people who are regularly exposed to adverse weather conditions like wind and rain. If you aren’t the kind of camper who cancels their weekend plans due to weather, then you would fall into this category. This also includes people who regularly camp at high altitudes, where pop-up storms and high winds are a given. You should stay closer to your true capacity because smaller tents are able to handle these conditions more efficiently and larger tents are like a sail in the wind.
On the other hand, having enough space in your tent to spend time out of the elements could be a big benefit, so try to balance a bit of extra space while still maintaining weatherproofing.
In our experience, we found that the larger the tent the less weatherproof it was. The oversized tents we looked at had low waterhead ratings, a small rainfly, and fiberglass poles. If the tent was large but was made of better materials, it was very expensive. We think tents really hit their peak weather-proofing at 4-person capacity, as these tents are better at balancing a decent max height while still offering a full coverage rainfly and being an affordable price.
How to Space Out Tents When Camping
While it’s recommended to have at least 10 feet of space between camping tents, a more exact measurement comes down to personal preference and the amount of space you have to fill. If you have a large campsite and can spread out, why not take the opportunity and do so? If you are limited to a small campsite at a campground, you may have to put your tents closer together in order to fit into that space.
The main thing to keep in mind is the space needed for guylines. You should always guy out your tent, and this requires and extra few feet around the tent in all directions. Set up with this in mind, and the rest is up to you.
If you are camping in a shared area with other tents from people who aren’t in your party, always set up as far away as possible so both groups can still have the privacy and quiet time they came out camping for.
What sizes do tents normally come in?
Tents normally come in capacities of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, and 12 person. Notice that we skipped 7, 9, and 11. For 13 people or more, tents that large do exist, but they’re quite limited and you’re more likely to enjoy two or three tents of the normal capacity numbers.
What size tent do I need for camping?
Tents are usually sold based on capacity, so it’s important to know the number of campers that would typically accompany you. In general, we recommend purchasing a tent that’s at least 2 sizes larger than the amount of campers (e.g., 6 campers would like an 8-person tent or larger).
How many square feet should a tent be?
If you’re purchasing a tent based on square footage, the recommended amount per person goes as follows: 15-18 square feet per person for backpacking, 25-30 for campers with their own sleeping pads, 30-34 for campers on queen sized air mattresses, and 35+ if you want ample space for gear, luggage, furniture, and/or toys.
When should you not size up for camping tent size?
While going up in tent capacity benefits most people, not everyone should size up. There are two main situations: backpacking and wind. When backpacking, you should use the designated capacity on the tent. If you’re camping in windy weather and adverse conditions, smaller tents will be able to handle the stress more.
How many people can sleep in a 10×10 tent?
The square footage of a 10×10 tent is 100 square feet, which means it’s the same as a larger 6-person tent. A tent of this size can sleep six people in close quarters, four people more comfortably, or two people who want lots of space for a glamping experience.
Should I Get A 2 Or 3 Person Tent
Choosing between a 2 or 3 person tent depends on your specific needs and preferences.
If you frequently camp with a partner and want extra space for gear or just a little more shoulder room, a 3-person tent may be a better option. On the other hand, a 3-person tent will be more expensive and heavier so you will end up spending more and carrying more weight.
However, if you primarily camp alone or with one other person and prefer a lighter, more compact tent, a 2-person tent would be sufficient. You’ll lose a little shoulder room but it will be lighter to carry and more affordable than a 3-person tent.
Can 3 People Sleep in a 2 Person Tent? While two people can sleep in a two person tent, three people can’t sleep in a two person tent. You should never size down when it comes to tent – always size up! That being said, if it was an emergency situation, you could definitely squeeze three people in a 2-person tent, but it wouldn’t be very comfortable.
How Much Space Do Pets and Dogs Need in a Camping Tent?
For medium to large size dogs, we would count them as a whole person as well, especially if they get their own camping dog bed. Smaller dogs may not need that much space, but better to be safe than sorry.
How Much Space Do Kids Need in a Camping Tent?
While you could count a child as a fraction of our adult recommended capacity, we would suggest counting them as a whole person. They may be small now, but they will grow and will continue to take up more space. Plus, kids may have even more camping gear between their toys and bikes, so they could use the extra space.
How Many People Can Sleep in a 3×3 Tent?
A rough standard for a comfortable sleeping area per person is about 2 square meters. This allows for some personal space and room for a regular-sized sleeping bag or small mattress. So, in a 3×3 meter tent (9 square meters), you could technically fit up to 4-5 people if you’re only considering sleeping space and very minimal gear. That being said, it would be more comfortable with 2-3 people.
However, this is quite a tight fit and doesn’t take into account space for personal belongings, extra gear, or moving around. Comfort and practicality are important considerations. For these reasons, a 3×3 meter tent is generally recommended for 2 to 3 people, which allows for some personal space and room for belongings.
Now that you know all about tent capacity, square feet, and shape, you can make an informed decision about what size you should purchase for you and your camping group. Use the chart at the top of this article as a reference, and remember that the general rule of thumb is to purchase a tent that’s at least two campers larger than what you intend on having. That means a 4 person tent would be great for two people, and a 10-person tent would be great for 8 people or less.