Wellies. Check. Cooler. Check. Tent… Hmm. If you’re all ready for festival season, but it looks like your current canvas won’t make it past the Thursday night, you need to look beyond low quality, throwaway tents that are bad for a good night’s kip and even worse for the environment.
Instead, you should tailor your tent to the number of nights you’ll be using it this summer and the number of people who are going to be crashing in it. If you’re going solo and aren’t staying for more than one night, then you can afford to keep things quite basic.
However, if you’re headed to one of the bigger festivals, that could translate to up to five nights under canvas, which is going to demand something more durable and comfortable than a pop-up.
Regardless of size, (the rule of thumb is to get a tent that fits double the number of sleepers), your tent is going to need to keep you dry. That’s why you have to be aware of the hydrostatic head rating of a tent, which is a measure of how water-resistant the material is. Anything above 1000mm is considered fully waterproof and all the tents in our roundup more than qualify.
It’s going to need to be portable when packed because you may have to trudge a fair distance before you find a pitch, and when you finally get there, it needs to be easily erected – after all, you don’t want to be wrestling with poles and guy ropes when the headliners are halfway through their set.
Good ventilation, to stop condensation inside the tent and keep things cool on the hottest of festival days, is a must; as well as integrated ground sheets to make sure you wake up clean, dry and not overrun with insects. Finally, it helps if your alfresco accommodation stands out from the festival crowd, so a range of colours or graphics can be helpful to aid navigation when you’re stumbling home after hours.
Remember to invest in a tent that will last longer than the festival season. Thousands of tents are abandoned at festivals each year, partly because many festival goers believe that the gear they leave behind will be donated to charity. But this is sadly not the case – up to 90 per cent of tents that get left behind end up in landfill or the incinerator. Our roundup features a range of tents to suit all budgets, but are durable enough to see you through years of camping.
We erected and spent a night in a range of tents to see how they would fare at any one of the hundred or more festivals happening around the UK this summer. The British weather didn’t disappoint and tested every last tent peg. Here are our headliners.
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Boutique Camping 4M weekender bell tent: £279, Boutique Camping
Bring a touch of glamping to your pitch with this four-person, leopard-print, bell tent that will fit easily into any festival wagon. The weekender replaces the classic canvas material that bell tents are usually made from with polyester, making it much lighter and fully waterproof, so you keep the distinctive design without the drawbacks. Bell tents are based around a single central pole, door frame and guy ropes – and we managed to get it up in just fifteen minutes, which is really quick for such a sizeable tent – if there was more than one of you on the job you could probably halve that.
The 4m central pole and floor area gives you a lot of room to manoeuvre inside (including 8.2ft of headroom) and we really liked how the ground sheet could be unzipped; not to mention the sides of the tent, which rolled up to open the space up for chilling during the day. The size of the living/sleeping area, as well as four zipped windows and top air vents, will keep you cool even when temperatures soar – and everything, from pegs to poles, is top quality. If you don’t think your festival hangover will be able to take the leopard print in the morning, there are five other designs available from mid-June too.
Quechua 2 seconds XL fresh & black pop up tent: £109.99, Decathlon
This is a very well-thought-out pop-up that is ready for sleeping bags in seconds. The three-person tent has large side ventilation panels that you can open and close from inside, but where the pop-up really excels is once the fun is over and it’s time to go home. We found that one of the problems with pop-ups is that although they’re easy up, they can be a nightmare to get back down as you wrestle with the sprung poles – the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling a little jaded. However, with just a little bit of practice you can get this tent back in its sleeve in under a minute.
Tentsile stingray: £635, Tentsile
If you’re going to a festival where there’s woodland camping available, and you want to rise above the revelry, then you could consider this ingenious three-person tree tent which unpacks out of a small holdall. It anchors between three trees using a clever strap and ratchet buckle system and it took us no more than 20 minutes to string up after we’d found some suitably spaced trunks. Two tent poles give you 1.2m of headroom at the highest point and the flysheet was equally easy to install – and guarantees a dry night. Just don’t forget that you’re a few feet up when you answer the call of nature in the middle of the night.
Coleman blackout 3 festival dome tent: £156.91, Amazon
No matter which festival you’re off to, the chances are you’re going to want (or need) a lie in. However, this can be tricky once the sun’s up. This three-berther is lightweight, roomy and features “blackout bedroom technology”, which is incredibly effective at blocking out direct sunlight, leaving you to catch up on your kip. Add to this a 15-minute pitch time, good ventilation and plenty of room in the porch for those festival essentials and you're onto a winner with this tent.
Vango ringstead air 400: £324.71, Amazon
If you’re a regular festival-goer then this inflatable tent is definitely worth the investment. All you have to do is pump up the poles that make up the frame, peg in the guy ropes and you’re good to go. The tent will comfortably sleep a family of four and has excellent ventilation. We really liked the design of having two bedrooms separated by the living area because if you get your sleeping arrangements right it means that those who like a lie in won’t get woken up by others who are up for a spot of dawn yoga.
Field Candy original explorer tent: £399, Field Candy
Want to turn your tent into a piece of art? Then look no further than these lightweight, statement A-frames, which have a digitally printed graphic covering the entire polyester fly sheet. From Beatles cover art to Banksy’s; this British manufacturer produces roomy two-person tents that fly up in around 10 minutes. A sewn-in groundsheet, good quality pegs and collapsible poles add to the usability and it packs down to a small holdall. It’s well-ventilated with a porch big enough for a few crates of liquid refreshment to boot.
Coleman mosedale 5: £249, Go Outdoors
Taking the kids to one of the many family-friendly festivals happening in the UK? Then this five-person offers some separation and privacy, if needed. It pitches in around 20 minutes and has two bedrooms that both feature blackout fabric, so that the kids can still go to bed earlier than the grown-ups and not be kept up by light summer evenings. It boasts quality materials, good ventilation and we particularly liked the kid-friendly, reflective guy lines that minimise the chance that little (and big) legs will get caught up in them.
Robens fairbanks tipi tent: £299, Go Outdoors
If you still want the roomy feel of a bell tent, but don’t have the floor space, then this four-person tipi is a good option. The polycotton material it’s made from offers just the right mix of waterproofing and breathability, and makes muggy nights more comfortable. We really liked the wide porch opening, which can be completely rolled away in warmer weather, or kept in place to offer up ample storage for packs and provisions. There’s plenty of ventilation and the centre pole of the tipi is slightly angled to allow more space for the tent rhinos in your group
DD Frontline hammock and tarp: £52 for the hammock, £37 for the tarp, DD Hammocks
Okay, this isn’t your traditional camping option, but it’s worth considering if you can access some woodlands within the festival grounds. All you need to do is string the hammock between two trees and you have a place to retreat to at night or in between bands. After a couple of practice runs you’ll be able to set it up in five minutes flat and you can add a waterproof tarp in another five. The other big advantage is that both hammock and tarp pack down extremely small and take up minimal space in your rucksack.
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Coleman instant tent tourer 4: £166.69, Amazon
This was one of the easiest tents to set up on test – we were ready to get in within 90 seconds of getting it out of the bag; the steel telescopic tent poles are already attached to the tent material in a single frame – all you have to do is get the tent out of the bag and lock them all into place. Inside it’s very light and airy and we particularly liked the big windows at the front that meant we could see everything that was going on outside even when the doors were closed.
Vango beta 550XL alloy: £320, Vango
This spacious tunnel tent is ideal for Glasto groups who plan to stay for the whole festival because it offers just the right mix of living and sleeping space. Pitching in around 15 minutes (even less if everyone gets involved) the bedroom, which can be divided, sleeps four adults comfortably without you all feeling like sardines in a can. Air circulation was good and kept down any condensation build-up in the morning. The real bonus here is a great living area with plenty of light, head height, storage space or room to just relax while others head off to the Pyramid stage.
Wild Country foehn 3: £280, Terra Nova
If you’re heading farther afield for your festivals (Europe and beyond) and you’re guaranteed good weather, then this three-person dome will make sure you keep your cool, and is a real dome away from home. The inner has all-round mesh for optimum ventilation and if you don’t have to contend with wind and rain, you can even pitch the tent free-standing without guy-lines and be set up in under ten minutes. Alloy poles and pegs make this one of the lightest tents on test and is also ideally suited for backpacking.
The verdict: Festival tents
Lightweight, quick to pitch and offering acres of space, the Boutique Camping 4M weekender bell tent is the perfect place to hang your jester’s hat over a weekend. Versatile and well ventilated, it’s an “everyone back to mine” tent or a great family friendly option that will mean you’re always covered, no matter how many festivals you go to in the future.
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