There are few things more fun in life than sharing a group camping experience.
And if you’re a family, the opportunity for a bit of grown-up space could be be difference between a great trip and terrible one!
So I’ve pulled together a list of the best 12 person tents; looking at the most important features like space, privacy, weather-proofing and value-for-money.
- The Browning Big Horn is probably the best 12 person tent. Possibly the most expensive, too, but worth it!
- The Core 12 is my favorite mid-range pick. Huge! And great value for money!
- The Ozark Trail 12 is my top budget pick. Not the most durable but great for 1-2 seasons!
Unpacked the Browning Big Horn is 10 x 15 x 7.5 feet. It weighs in at 35lbs. It boasts 2 large doorways, 6 windows and an array of mesh storage pockets. It also comes with an industry-leading lifetime warranty. ($$$$)
Browning Camping is an ALPS Mountaineering brand that focuses on seriously good build quality. Their gear is designed to tough out the most punishing weather season after season after season.
That means this is an extremely solid tent that will last you for years. So it’s not something I’d buy to go to a music festival; this is a tent I’d recommend to families who have (or plan to have) a regular outdoor vacation.
It’s got a great layout that splits into two large rooms by way of a removable divider. Each room has a private entrance and 3 zippered pockets. As a family man myself, I know the importance of having a bit of privacy. And I know that privacy is hard to come by out camping. That’s where the removable divider comes in; to give anyone almost instant privacy.
The only criticism I have is really minor (but a bit annoying): the windows on the doors don’t have any toggles to hold them open. (The main doors have toggles. The windows have toggles. But the windows on the doors don’t). As I say, minor quibble.
The thing that I think is really awesome about this tent is the price:durability ratio. In a world where we are all too used to throwing things away after a couple of uses, it’s really refreshing to see craftsmanship in action. It’s a great design, it’s sturdy and in the unlikely event of anything going wrong, the customer service is second to none.
If you’re just looking something big and cheap, this ain’t for you (check out the Tahoe Gear 12 instead).
But for anyone looking to invest in tent rated for 12 people that they want to use for many, many years this is an excellent choice. It’s comfortable, reliable and is the sort of tent that will make memories.
The Ozark Trail 12 Person Instant Cabin Tent is designed to make family camping altogether less stressful. It weighs 61lbs. It’s got a massive 256sq feet of floor space (dimensions are 16’x16’x7′) and it comes with two dividers that create 3 rooms, each of which can fit a queen size mattress (or 4 sleeping bags). It has 7 windows, an excellent awning and a ground vent that can fit an air-con unit. ($$$)
This tent is relatively easy to set up because the poles are pre-attached to the tent. So in theory you just unfold the tent and extend the poles. I say “in theory” because it’s not quite as “instant” as the name suggests. And you do have to be careful because if you damage any of the poles, that’s going to affect the whole instant mechanism. But once you get the hang of it, it’s a pretty smooth ride.
Once assembled, you can create three rooms plus a front awning. Each room has large windows and can fit a queen size camping cot. Overall, you can fit up to 12 sleeping bags inside. So it’s pretty huge!
It is a “value” tent and so suffers from many of the same things that any budget tent does. With that in mind you may want to upgrade it with a tarp to protect the floor and some higher quality tent stakes. It’s also worth considering swapping out the standard guylines with hi-visibility paracord and giving it an extra coat of tent sealant to be on the safe side.
All that said, this is quite a lot of tent for the money. And while Ozark tents aren’t known for their durability, you will have a shelter that is spacious, comfortable and weatherproof for a relatively modest investment. If you pimp it out with the upgrades above, you will extend the lifetime of the tent (although, if you’re going to go to that effort, you’d be as well to spend the extra dollars on the Browning Bighorn safe in the knowledge it’s designed to last and is backed by an amazing warranty…)
If you’re on a budget and are looking to buy a big tent for occasional use, this will work well for family trips, car camping and festivals. It will keep you dry and you will be comfortable. But it won’t last forever.
You can upgrade the tent with your own accessories to extend the lifetime of the tent. But if you’re looking for a something that will last years you may prefer to look at the Browning Bighorn. Or if you want a slightly higher quality tent (albeit a bit smaller) you could check out the Core 12 Person Instant Cabin Tent (review below).
The Core 12 Person Instant Cabin Tent boasts 180sq feet of floor space and a center height of 6’6″ (dimensions are 18′ x 10′ x 6’6″). It comes with two room dividers to create 3 separate rooms, each with space for a queen air mattress. For storage it has an array of mesh pockets and a handy gear loft. There’s an electrical cord access port. It weighs 53lbs and packs into a neat carry sack (dimensions of the bag are about 51″x12″x12″). ($$$)
It is an absolute breeze to put up! The marketing department at CORE claims the setup time is just 2 minutes. Take that with a pinch of salt. But it’s definitely achievable in 5-10 minutes without any practice and sub-5 once you’ve got the hang of it.
It’s a really big tent. I like the fact there’s quite a few different ways you can configure it. If you want to squeeze a lot of bodies in, there’s probably enough space for 12 people in sleeping bags. You definitely can get 3 queen size air mattresses in there. The most comfortable configuration is probably going to be two queens (and maybe a small double) off to the sides and leaving a large “hallway” for mingling, entertaining or stowing the dog!
The tent comes with an electrical cord access port which is really useful if you want an electric tent heater (I highly recommend Honeywell 360 Surround). And there’s a really nice touch in that the port is a flap that closes with velcro when it’s not in use (which not all access ports have).
The one thing I’d be a little bit concerned about is how well it performs in high winds. 15-20mph won’t be an issue at all. But I think the high walls could struggle a little with big winds (say 40+ mph).
It’s a huge tent that’s incredibly easy to set up (although a bit slower than 2 minutes). It’s a tremendous option for summer camping and festivals. If you plan to do any winter camping it could be a reasonable choice so long as you aren’t expecting high winds.
So it’s a perfect tent for warm weather camping and for sheltered sites. And a great price. But if you think you might end up camping in a gale, I’d probably refer you back to the Browning Bighorn.
The Tahoe Gear Prescott 12 offers 200 square feet of floorspace (20′ x 10′) and the centre height is almost 7 feet (6’7″ to be exact). The tent comes with a sewn-in, zip-down divider allowing you to split it into two large rooms (1/3 and 2/3). It breaks down into a carry bag that’s 30′ x 12′ x 11′ and weighs 31lbs.
It has two doors that can be tied back to be completely open, or just the mesh screen or completely closed. Similarly there’s lots of mesh windows that can be zipped up or down from inside the tent. There are no storage pockets. ($)
This tent is a great value-buy. It’s nothing fancy but there’s plenty of room; you’ll have no bother fitting a bunch of mattresses (you can fit 3 queen size air mattresses in at a push). What I liked most about it is that it’s a solid, basic tent that does the job with no frills. It means that families on a tight budget can enjoy camping too, which I think is really important.
I reckon Tahoe Gear are aiming this primarily at families. Certainly you can fit parents, 3-4 kids and 1-2 dogs in here without it getting too cramped. The other market could be for students who want to pool their dollars and have a cheap camping getaway.
The divider means that you can close off your sleeping space which keeps things really neat. It means that you can use the remaining two thirds of the tent for socialising. I can absolutely see folk getting together here in the evening to eat, play games or have a few drinks. The windows really come into their own here, because they let in the light and keep the air flowing.
Oh! And the mesh roof means you can use it with the rain fly or without the rain fly for stargazing!
All that said, do not lose sight of the fact it is a value-buy. This does mean that it’s light on a a few features. for example there’s no storage pockets or gear loft which might annoy some people. It also doesn’t have an access port for running cables in if you want an electric hookup. And, like any tent and the cheaper end of the market, it’s not something I’d like to use in very windy or very wet conditions.
If you’re on a tight budget and you’re looking for something you can use occasionally in the summer, you should definitely think about buying this tent because it’s a great tent for the price!
I would recommend looking at a different tent if:
- you want to use it more than a couple of times a year
- you want to use it in early spring or late fall
- you’re planning to camp somewhere that gets big storms
If you are worried about any of those issues above, then you might want to look at something like the CORE 10 Person Tent. It’s a bit smaller (140sq feet) but has more features and is a bit more robust. It’s a bit more expensive and is only a good alternative if you can compromise on the space. But it’s definitely worth looking at…
The NTK Super Arizona GT is one of the largest tents sold by NTK. There’s over 200 square feet of floorspace (20.6′ long x 10.2′ wide). The center height is nearly 7 feet tall. It breaks down into a storage bag that’s approximately 28″ x 16″ x 12″ and weighs around 40lbs.
The tent comes with a room divider in the form of a fabric curtain which attaches with toggles to the sides to form one small room and one large room. It has 3 windows and 2 large D-shape doors.
As large tents go, this is a really good one! It’s the Taj Mahal of tents; super-spacious and can be either one huge room or two separate rooms. Two people can set it up fairly quickly (and actually, it’s easy enough that one person can get it up on their own). It’s a great choice for bug protection as the mesh is very tight and the floor is reinforced.
This tent contains one frustrating design flaw. The windows only open and close from the outside. So, you will want to zip or unzip them before you settle for the night. However, that aside, once it is set up, you’re off to the races.
It’s got a good amount of ventilation if you’re camping in hot weather. But it also holds the heat very well when you batten down the hatches. So unlike a few of the cheaper tents listed here, this gets a green light for a full 3 seasons.
One of the really cool things about is this tent also comes with a lifetime warranty on the fiberglass poles. Obviously if you step on one and break it, that’s not covered. But if a pole breaks in the in wind then NTK promise to replace it. (You might be thinking “great, but there’s not much I can do about a broken pole when I’m on a camping trip” and you’d be right. I think what this guarantee does is demonstrate the confidence NTK have in that just not happening).
You want a durable tent rated for 12 people that’s going to last you multiple trips over a good number of years in a variety of different seasons and weathers, then you should absolutely consider this one.
The Tahoe Gear Gateway 12 is a very spacious, l-shape tent measuring 20′ x 15′ with 7′ of headroom. It has a small room and a big room which can either be open plan or separated using the divider that zips shut. The tent breaks down into a carry case that measures approximately 2′ x 2′ x 4′ and weighs around 40lbs.
It has two doors that can be tied back to be completely open, or just the mesh screen or completely closed. Similarly there’s lots of mesh windows that can be zipped up or down from the inside. ($$)
This mansion of a tent is a really nice design! I especially like the small room which you can choose to use in a variety of ways. You can use it as a “mudroom”, kinda like a hallway where you can take your outdoor gear off, keeping the main living space clean and dry. Or you might use it as a second bedroom for a couple of small kids.
If you have bigger kids who want their own space, you could put them in a separate tent and use the Gateway as the tent to socialise in, which means you could turn the small room as a storage room.
Or! You can put the dogs in there. Or you can use it as a dining room. The list goes on!
As you can see, it offers quite a lot of flexibility which is super handy!
It’s relatively easy to set up. One person could probably do it but it’s easier with two. Between the two rooms you can easily fit 3 queen size mattresses in (2 in the big room and 1 in the small room). Start to introduce smaller mattresses/cots and you can very quickly get a family of 6 or 7 in here with room to spare (as per tenting law, fitting 12 people in a 12 person tent is likely to be too much of a squeeze).
Given the very competitive price point I would have expected it not to stand up well in bad weather but it’s actually surprisingly sturdy. So I think you can have a lot of confidence that it will keep you dry. It’s also very well ventilated because of all the windows.
For extra ventilation, whip off the rain fly and have fun stargazing through the mesh roof!
Or roll down the windows and enjoy a bug-free evening meal along with the last of the sunlight!
This is a HUGE tent and extremely good value compared to similar size tents. It’s a great combination of living space and sleeping space. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to larger families (or indeed anyone who wants to be able to spread out a bit while camping).
The l-shape design is especially cool because of all the different configurations you can have.
Why would anyone need a 12 person tent?
Big camping trips require a lot of sleeping space. While you can pack several smaller tents to house your many guests, there are several advantages to bringing a single tent rated for 12 people. First, you get to keep everyone together. If you are camping with kids, it’s convenient to keep them in the same space. They won’t need to move from tent to tent during the night if they need assistance. (Although, some people definitely see an advantage to giving them their own space, in which case you might want to consider getting a 6 person tent for the grown ups and a 3 person tent for the kids…)
Second, you end up packing less. While one large camping tent takes up a lot of space, it’s actually less material than several small tents. Also, you may have less weight overall. Third, a single tent simplifies set up. You don’t need to coordinate the packing, placement and set up of several tents.
Instead, you just bring one tent kit and set it up. If you are traveling as a family or a group of friends, a 12 person cabin tent saves you set up time and packing weight while keeping everyone together.
What to consider when buying a 12 person tent?
When you buy a 12 person tent, several factors play into your purchasing process. First, the size and weight of the tent impact your ability to travel. Second, the durability and tent material influence when and where you can camp. Third, the layout of a large tent impacts how many people can sleep inside. And remember that just because the manufacturer says a tent is suitable for 12 people, it doesn’t mean that 12 people will fit comfortably in the tent!
Size and Weight
Ideally, your tent will be large enough to accommodate 12 people while being light enough to manoeuvre into a campsite. Most of the time, a 12 person tent will be about 150- 200 square feet. Manufacturers typically divide these into several rooms for privacy. Each room may easily fit between 2-4 sleeping bags.
Also, your tent should be light enough for two people to carry and set up. Most tents of this size weigh between 30-50 pounds. That’s a lot heavier than a 2-4 person tent. As you are setting it up, the folded portions of the tent can be difficult to manouver. So, you’ll want to look for a tent that is easy to fold and unfold. Otherwise, the large size and heavy weight combined with an awkward design will make set up and take down unpleasant. As a rule, fiberglass poles are cheaper then steel poles, but do check the reviews to make sure that the fiberglass poles are strong enough to stand up in wind. The last thing you want is for the tent to collapse on you!
Durability and Tent Material
For recreational campers, a nylon or polyester tent will last them several, moderate weather seasons. Typically, a tent like this will have mesh windows and air vents meant for warm weather and light rain. Although they can be sealed using toggles and zippers, these coverings only keep out bugs. They won’t keep you warm in a harsh environment. Look for a tent with a rain fly that is really waterproof.
Large tents come with room dividers making several spaces. Some even have a room with mesh walls that can act like a porch. As you consider a tent, think about how you will use the space. For example, if you are travelling as a family, the parents may want their own room separate from the kids so look for a detachable divider that can be set up inside the tent. Also, if you travel with friends, you may just want one large space that fits a long row of sleeping bags. Whatever your preference, you can find a tent that works well for your camping needs.
Will Campgrounds Accept 12-Person Tents?
One of the challenges about rolling with a tent rated for 12 people is that not all campground pitches are born equal. While most sites are very aware that they need to cater for families who might be bringing a big tent, large pitches may be limited. The last thing you want is to rock up to a campsite only to find that there’s no room at the inn (or rather for your tent).
Don’t let this put you off buying a 12 person cabin tent. But once you’ve bought one, do make sure you know what the dimensions of your tent are and call ahead to check your campground of choice has a suitable pitch for you.