I blinked my eyes open on a chilly morning in Colorado and peered out of my sleeping bag. The tent walls sloped high up above us, a small palace to temporarily call our home. My partner, our dogs and I finally started using the Habiscape 6-Person camping tent after tiring of camping in coffin-like tents. Although I wondered if this tent would be overkill for the four of us, I quickly came to love the red and gray fabrics and the safety they provided. With this tent, we no longer had to compromise. We could comfortably sleep in the woods without cramming ourselves into a small space. Yet it still came with all of the necessary protection we needed to rough it in the woods. Since one of the greatest barriers to finding comfort in the backcountry is your tent, I quickly learned that extra care should be taken when choosing the right family camping tent. The MSR Habiscape 6 is both a favorite family-friendly camping tent option and a regal home for me, my partner and our dogs.
What to Look for in a Family Camping Tent
Family camping tents should come with plenty of space, organizational features, and a simple design (because no one wants to wrestle with a complex tent setup while their kids are traipsing around the campsite). Since family camping tents host a large number of people, features like breathability, tent shape and vestibule space also make a difference in the camping experience.
Important Tent Considerations
When choosing the right tent for you and your family, it’s important to consider what kind of environment you expect to be using your tent in. Do you like to camp in the rain? Are you a frequent desert goer? Is your main camp season from spring to fall? Or do you dip your toes into winter adventures too? These types of questions better allow you to gauge your tent requirements. Rainy environments require some type of waterproof coating. Deserts tend to be cold at night and blistering in the daytime which makes ventilation important. And if you camp in the winter, you might benefit from the use of a 4-season tent. But most families will be able to get away with a 3-season option like the Habiscape.
Common tent traits that families should evaluate include:
- Living space
- Tent shape
- Number of doors
Camping brands typically measure living space according to the number of people that can sleep in a tent, and the dimensions of the floor space. Depending on the type of trip that your family is taking, it can be beneficial to overestimate the amount of space that you’ll need because it gives you wiggle room for stormy days and pets. The best family camping tents provide users with extra living space. The Habiscape 6-person tent provides users with plenty of vestibule storage space. After spending a few days in this tent with my partner and our dogs, I felt that it was a little bit big for us, but that six adults would overwhelm the tent. To optimize comfort, I’d recommend keeping it to four adults or less—especially if you intend to store any gear inside of the tent.
Most family camping tents come in dome shapes, but there are cabin-shaped tent as well. Domes, like the Habiscape 6P family camping tent, typically offer a higher ceiling than a cabin shape. And their shape allows them to perform more efficiently in inclement, windy weather. But cabin tents are generally better equipped to handle room dividers. Both tent styles come with their own strengths and weaknesses. Domes are typically the more popular family tent option purely because of the internal space and strength that they provide.
Number of Doors
Camping in a group presents a set of unique challenges. And when it comes to optimizing tent use, one of the biggest factors that supports a happy environment relates to the number of doors that the tent has. One door is pretty limiting, forcing campers to crawl over one another to get out. But two provides campers with multiple escape options. The Habiscape comes with two massive doors for this exact reason. These overlarge doors also make it a snap to bring in large air mattresses without a struggle.
A tent’s ability to vent is important no matter the number of people that are sleeping inside of it. But the more people that are sleeping inside of the tent, the more moisture they’ll create, which makes it particularly important. The Habiscape camping tent comes with plenty of mesh windows to allow the right amount of airflow. The top third of the tent is basically mesh and, while in use, the rainfly can be staked out at a distance to optimize internal airflow. This better ensures that the tent stays dry on the inside.
The Habiscape’s Greatest Strengths and Weaknesses
Every tent comes with its own set of strengths and weaknesses. But the Habiscape family camping tent sets itself apart from other products in a number of different ways.
The Habiscape combines functional outdoor amenities with comfortable features in order to accommodate the whole group. While some tents come with fragile fabrics and poor weather resistance, the Habiscape supports 3-season use in even the most challenging environments.
Some of this tent’s greatest strengths include:
- Weather protection
- Ease of setup
- Sturdy, durable poles and materials
- Organizational pockets
- Its internal height
- Its ability to fit large mattresses
- Floor space
I set this tent up in my backyard in the Colorado mountains during hail season and was incredibly impressed to see that the Habiscape stood up against marble-sized pellets and a torrential thunderstorm. After a consistent half-hour downpour, the tent walls remained unharmed and saturation stayed on the exterior of the tent. This performance demonstrated that users could feasibly take this tent on an expedition or backcountry excursion and feel confident in the tent’s ability to protect them. There’s nothing like seeing a product in extreme weather to reinforce your sense of confidence, and the Habiscape certainly did that.
Additionally, while many large tents require at least two people to assemble them, the Habiscape requires only a single person during the setup process. Although it doesn’t come with instructions, the design of the tent is straightforward and intuitive, making it pretty easy to navigate. This tent also comes with 10 pockets of varying sizes that offer both interior and exterior access. I especially loved the ceiling pockets which provided a great storage space for items like headlamps.
While many family camping tents are dome-shaped, the Habiscape has near-vertical walls that maximize the internal space of the tent. Thus, most people will be able to comfortably change beneath the tent’s peak height of 77 inches (nearly 6.5 feet). Internally, the tent provides users with 83 square feet of space, making it a great space for large mattresses, games and other shenanigans. The vestibule adds an additional 24.5 square feet of storage space for things like muddy shoes and backpacks.
Let’s face it, every camping tent has weaknesses. The Habiscape tent prioritizes functionality and durability.
Here are its main weaknesses:
- Not ideal for backpacking
- A little expensive
Weighing 14 pounds and 6 ounces, the weight-to-person ratio of this tent isn’t bad. For most people, however, it is likely to be too heavy for a backpacking trip. But compared to other 6-person tents, the Habiscape is relatively light. Tents like The North Face® Wowona™ 6 and the Big Agnes® Bunk House™ 6 weigh closer to 20 pounds.
Additionally, Habiscape family camping tents aren’t exactly a small expense. But purchasing three 2-person tents is likely to cost the same or more.
Family Camping Essentials
There’s nothing worse than heading out for a trip only to find that you’ve forgotten something important. Creating a small checklist of family camping essentials reduces the risk of forgetting anything and helps you to keep everything in order.
The most important family camping essentials include:
- A tent, footprint or tarp, and stakes
- Sleeping bags
- Sleeping pads or mattresses
- Camp furniture (e. chairs, table)
- Stove and fuel
- Bathroom kit
- Biodegradable soap
- Baby wipes
Some families have unique essentials like games, books, and stuffed animals. The best way to prepare yourself for your upcoming trip is to choose the right gear, plan your itinerary, and curate the perfect gear checklist so it’s ready to go.
Family camping trips are great learning opportunities for everyone. They also have the potential to provide your group with some of the dreamiest adventures ever. But without a proper tent, it doesn’t take a lot for that dream trip to become a nightmare. The Habiscape 6-person camping tent is a great pick for those who want to ensure that they’ll be ready for any kind of weather. And if the skies turn gray, a tent like this one provides users with plenty of space to recreate indoors until the storm passes.
- Our Best Family Camping Tents
- 6 Trip Ideas for Adventurous Family Camping
- Easy Camping Meals for the Family
About the Author
Mary Beth Skylis has been lucky enough to begin her life of outdoor pursuits on long trails, hiking the 2200-mile Appalachian Trail, the 458-mile Colorado Trail and part of the Annapurna Circuit. She has feasted her eyes on the snowy Himalayan peaks, watched aggressive rhinos contemplating a charge, and observed Costa Rican monkeys leaping through the air. Her work can be found in Backpacker Magazine, Outside Magazine, and Yoga Journal.