Beginner camping, family tent recommendations?

Submitted: Thursday, Mar 06, 2014 at 17:29
ThreadID: 106573 Views:8208 Replies:8 FollowUps:5
This Thread has been Archived
First post, first topic here! :)

So I've finally convinced my husband that we should take the kids (we have 2, a 3 year old and a baby) camping. I used to go a lot, in national parks, when I was younger but he has never been camping. Ever. He likes showers and toilets and electricity, so I think we'll be going to easy powered sites.

I'm looking to buy a good beginners tent, for fair weather. Budget of 400ish. I've looked around a bit, and found the Boab Matterhorn 10 man at Ray's for 399; the coleman instant up 8 online for 349; the oztrail highlander for 179 online.

Does anybody have any thoughts on these tents? I'm leaning towards the coleman as I like its size, I just have to confirm that it'll fit in my car (tiny!).

If anybody has any other suggestions, I'd be happy to hear them too. Thanks so much in advance for your help! :)
Back Expand Un-Read 0 Moderator

Reply By: Member - John and Val - Thursday, Mar 06, 2014 at 18:22

Thursday, Mar 06, 2014 at 18:22
Hi Pink,

Good for you getting back into camping. Your kids will thank you for it when they are a bit older, and hopefully your man will come to learn what great fun it can be too.

I can't specifically comment on the brands that you mention, but I suggest that you try to get a good quality canvas tent first up as a good one will last a long time. There are often good secondhand buys to be had if you have the time and inclination to look around. You will want something with a bit of space. The instant-up tents are good but quite small compared to the older style "cottage" tents that take a bit longer to erect. But if you are staying in one place for say a week, I personally dont think an extra 10 minutes of setup and pack up time is really an issue. Dome tents a OK for good weather but may not stand up too well if the weather turns nasty.

As for fitting a tent into your car... remember that its not just the tent that you have to consider but all the other stuff like bedding (usually pretty bulky), chairs, table and cooking gear, clothes etc. So make sure you factor all that into your planning. With young children you will also need toys etc - I used to think that the smaller the children the more gear we needed to take when travelling. You might need a small trailer to make it all feasible.

Above all, whatever you get, enjoy the whole experience, including the planning and preparation. And finally, there has not yet been invented a perfect camping set-up. Its all a compromise, and needs change as children grow, as you gain experience and so on. So my suggestion would be to get a secondhand tent in good condition, in the expectation that over the next 10 years or so you will probably try different approaches to camping that require different gear.

Hope that helps a bit.


J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein

Lifetime Member
My Profile  My Blog  Send Message

AnswerID: 527776

Follow Up By: Charlie B2 - Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 13:28

Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 13:28
Hi Pinkukelele,

Once upon a time, a long time ago, we also had young kids we used to take camping - and on long touring holidays, too - using our old, narrow Ford Cortina.

We would often be on the road for 6-8 weeks at a time (as we were when we took the family - my wife, three kids 1, 3 & 5 and yours truly) on a trip from Adelaide to Cairns) and used an old South Australian made "Sar Major" centre-pole type canvas tent, 10 feet (3.05 metres) square at ground level, with no floor except for a separate canvas groundsheet I'd inherited from my parents.

Somehow or other we managed to fit pretty much everything in - folding camp stools (NOT chairs) and the rigid stuff in the boot, soft stuff like clothes and sleeping bags/sheets & blankets between the front seat and the rear seat squab up to seat level and on top of the rear seat itself. Sure, the road rules were different and we didn't have to deal with car seats and baby capsules, so your challenges are greater than ours might have been back then.

Now, that car had a reasonable sized boot, but there was no way on earth that tent was EVER going to fit in the boot, too, so we bought the cheapest possible roof bars that we could find, and roped the tent to them over on the driver's side.

One thing is for certain though, we did this (a) on a shoestring (b) with the least amount of gear we thought we could get away with and (c) with a tent that, even for the time, was looked at with some considerable disdain by others we met on the road..

We just didn't care about that - we really didn't have much choice if we wanted to do what we were doing.

I guess my point is that you can certainly do it, but try really hard not to over-burden yourselves with "stuff" and that includes biggish tents. Kids don't take up much sleeping space, unless you want them to and we found that the five of us could sleep quite comfortably in that tent, with room in one corner for clothing. The two-burner gas stove we moved in and out of the tent as needed for storage or cooking.

I emphasise, however, that my wife holds the World Championship in vehicle-packing! And that's a skill that will certainly need to be developed.

Most of all, ENJOY! The kids are only young for such a short time and the day will otherwise come when you had all wished you'd done what you're starting out to do. Overloading your car and yourselves won't add to the enjoyment, but the occasional sacrifice regarding creature comforts can be good for the soul.


FollowupID: 810279

Reply By: Bazooka - Thursday, Mar 06, 2014 at 19:02

Thursday, Mar 06, 2014 at 19:02
BlackWolf makes good tents. A vestibule is a must with kids imo along with ease of erection and dismantling, although I'm not a fan of instant tents.
AnswerID: 527779

Follow Up By: Shaker - Thursday, Mar 06, 2014 at 23:13

Thursday, Mar 06, 2014 at 23:13
Turbo Lite Twin 300 would be perfect for them, but much more than $400.00

FollowupID: 810260

Reply By: Member - Peter G20 - Thursday, Mar 06, 2014 at 20:35

Thursday, Mar 06, 2014 at 20:35
Hi there Pink
We purchased a Coleman 4 man instant tent (divorce proof!) and we're not impressed as it blew down one night when we were camping out next to Lake Ballard at 2 am!
We were hit by strong easterly winds and were camped in an open unprotected area.
The tent is ok in mild conditions, but I sure don't recommend it as Murphy's Law dictates that the weather will turn adverse at any time on any day!
Once the tent collapsed it was quite difficult trying to get out of it!
We bought a hard floor camper trailer after that episode!
AnswerID: 527785

Reply By: rocco2010 - Thursday, Mar 06, 2014 at 20:45

Thursday, Mar 06, 2014 at 20:45

Got any camping hire shops near you? That would be my advice before splashing out. You might get to try different styles of tents and also get to make sure that this is the road you wish to travel.


AnswerID: 527786

Follow Up By: Phil P - Thursday, Mar 06, 2014 at 21:45

Thursday, Mar 06, 2014 at 21:45
We started out in 1998ish with a 5 man dome tent that was around $150. Similar age kids. Best tent ever for occasional use, still gets used. Because we just went camping for the odd weekend we could check the weather forecast and decide not to go if it was going to be bad weather.

When we go on touring trips we use a canvas pyramid style tent. Takes up a lot of room and is quite heavy. Much easier to setup and good in any weather conditions.

The Coleman products have always been good for me, so I wouldn't hesitate with the instant up tent.

FollowupID: 810251

Reply By: Cobalt - Thursday, Mar 06, 2014 at 23:51

Thursday, Mar 06, 2014 at 23:51
We did the research back in December and went for a 3 room tent, us at one end, kids at the other and a room for eating and storing stuff. The polyester tents are pretty good if you get a decent one and you do get what you pay for. Coleman chalet got good reviews as you would expect from a good brand but we forked out a little extra and got the Outdoor connection Brampton which is more upright but as yet untested in heavy rain but survived 40-60kph winds no worries. As far as room goes, it's a big tent and with our gear, even going away for a couple of days to a Caravan Park, the Falcon is chockers. We will be investing in a trailer very soon. All the best, you'll love it.
AnswerID: 527793

Reply By: freedomseeka - Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 08:23

Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 08:23
We started camping as a family a few years ago. We have 2 children. We went with 2 Coleman tents, one is a 4 person with a vestibule area and the other is a 3 person tent for the kids. In the vestibule area we can store most of our gear including a portable toilet. If you end up getting a trailer then you can invest in the 4wd roll out beds instead of an air bed.

I also take a tarp and rig up an outdoor shade area for cooking etc.

The Coleman tents are awesome.
Check out tents at Kangaroo Tent City. At least they have them setup and most of the staff are campers.

I now have a roll out awning off my 4wd as well.
AnswerID: 527800

Follow Up By: Cobalt - Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 12:02

Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 12:02
Aren't the kids a bit young for a separate tent at 2 and 3mths?
FollowupID: 810275

Reply By: Member - John and Lynne - Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 18:18

Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 18:18
We went through the family camping in a tent with three kids years ago. It is well worth doing! We were lucky enough to be able to borrow a tent for our first trip so we could get some idea of what we needed before spending a lot on the wrong tent. We started with a large canvas tent but it was heavy and we needed a trailer to cart it and the gear! Since then we have owned several smaller tents. As your children grow you may change to two smaller tents. Modern tents are often lighter and easy to erect but don't rely on smooth talking salesmen - have a go at it yourselves before purchase and then practice before leaving home. Some tents are instant divorce and your kids are still too young to help! I think the best idea is to try to borrow or hire the smallest tent you think will fit you and your most essential gear. You do need a decent awning too. Then go on a short trip in good weather. Fitting everything into the car may be a nightmare - especially if you have to pack up wet gear! A trailer (hired?) would make life a lot easier. Don't rush into spending money on a lot of gear until you have a bit of practice and know what you really need - you can start with places that have good camp kitchens, playgrounds and laundries etc! Good luck and stick to your plans! Lynne
AnswerID: 527856

Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 18:35

Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 18:35
Excellent advice!
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein

Lifetime Member
My Profile  My Blog  Send Message

FollowupID: 810306

Reply By: Member - Wildmax - Saturday, Mar 08, 2014 at 22:47

Saturday, Mar 08, 2014 at 22:47
Our 32-year-old son is still using the Coleman he first camped in before he was born (ie, when his mum was pregnant) so I can vouch for the quality of the old originals. We now have a Black Wolf which we use when not towing the camper trailer and it's been fantastic, even in very rough weather - not cheap but you get what you pay for; you may be able to find a good second hand one.
2018 Hilux and Black Wolf 210 tent - for the outback tracks less travelled
Formerly an AOR Eclipse and a TVan

My Profile  Send Message

AnswerID: 527931

Sponsored Links

Popular Products (9)