Updated June 2022
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Buying guide for best 12-person tents

If the whole family is going camping or you have a large group, larger multi-person tents. They can be arranged for long-term stays, and many of them even have electrical access ports for added convenience.

The extra space and multiple rooms afforded by these multi-person tents make them feel more like a cabin or small house; in fact, they’re often referred to as instant cabins or portable cabins. However, unlike a cabin or house, they are lightweight and easy to transport. They typically come with large windows, storage pockets, lantern holders, and more.

These tents are comfortable and colorful, and most importantly, they’re simple to set up. The majority of them can be set up by a single person in less than half an hour. But which one should you get?

Keep reading and we’ll walk you through all the aspects you need to consider, the features that are important, the kind of prices you can expect to pay, and even some accessories to go with them for additional comfort and style.

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Designate one door of the tent as the main entrance for everyone to use, then arrange the room dividers so the other doors can be used as private entrances.

Key considerations


Many of these tents are advertised as 12-person tents, but there are caveats to that. They might sleep 12 people in individual sleeping bags nestled cheek to cheek; however, if you want some room to spread out and store your luggage, the actual number of people it can comfortably house might be considerably less.

If there is a screen “porch” with the tent, this is often counted as floor space for sleeping. Again, this indicates that the actual number that will comfortably fit into a tent is less than advertised. When shopping for these large tents, always look for the square-foot measurements, as that will give you a much better idea of how many people it will really hold.


Water-resistant and waterproof are two very different things. “Water-resistant” means the fabric will resist water but won’t totally keep it out. If you touch the side of a water-resistant tent that is wet, the water will wick through the material at the point of contact. From then on there will be a steady drip coming into the tent.

Waterproof” means exactly what it sounds like. Water can’t permeate the material at all. Unfortunately, waterproof material doesn’t breathe; a tent can either be waterproof or breathable, but not both at the same time. In a tent that is truly waterproof, it will quickly become hot and stuffy inside when the doors and windows are zipped closed.

If your tent is water-resistant rather than waterproof, rolling over in your sleep could bring you into contact with the sides of the tent. If you don’t have a full-coverage rain fly to protect the tent, you could get soaked very quickly when it rains. In that case, there needs to be additional space between the sides of the tent and the nearest sleeper(s), further reducing the number of people who can occupy the tent.


The tent’s shape will also determine how many people can sleep within, so it’s important to consider not only the floor length but also the layout.

  • Square tents: A square-shaped tent may work well for your needs, especially if the walls stand straight so you can utilize all the space within. These can have a larger footprint that tents of other shapes but are a solid option for those with a lot of gear.
  • L-shaped tents: This is a great layout for tent that needs to house a large number of people while providing divisions between “rooms.” If you want to go with an l-shaped tent, it might be more complicated to pack and you could have more trouble finding a tarp to go underneath.
  • Long rectangular tents: This type of tent can easily be divided into sections that can serve as sleeping or gear areas. If choosing this type of tent, it’s critical to pay attention to the number and location of doors to ensure that you won’t be climbing over a row of people each time you enter or exit.


The size and shape of the tent, combined with the location of the door(s) and the amount of storage space, will be major determining factors in the actual capacity of a tent. The following are helpful ways to determine capacity.

  • There needs to be at least six inches of space between each person when they’re laying down to sleep. People move, twist, roll over, and squirm around while they’re sleeping. Without some elbow room, even a large tent can end up feeling like a can of sardines.
  • You need storage room for all your gear, especially during inclement weather. Does the stated capacity of the tent include room set aside for your gear? In most cases, the answer is no.
  • How close to walls can you get while standing straight up? If you can’t get within five feet of the sides of the tent without stooping, the tent is going to feel smaller than it is.
  • A tent that is only water-resistant will require more room between the tent and the sleepers, unless you have a full-coverage rain fly.

Unless all of these factors add up to take up a lot of space within your tent, the simplest way to determine the capacity is to subtract two from whatever number is advertised. If you feel like you might need more space, take three or four off the listed capacity to estimate how many people will fit comfortably.



Tents used to be made out of heavy canvas, but today most are constructed from nylon or polyester to save on weight and make them easier to set up and pack up. These materials are more water-resistant than canvas, but they’re still not waterproof. Some tent poles may be made of fiberglass, but tents this size often require metal poles with greater strength to support the weight of the tent.


Storage inside a tent is often reduced to some hanging pockets along the sides, which are handy but insufficient for the bulk of your gear. The pockets can sway against the sides of the tent during rain and wind, creating places where water can wick through the material into the tent.

Some tents have an overhead storage net, referred to as a gear attic or storage attic. These are intended for small, lightweight objects only.

If you’re hoping to conveniently store your gear in your 12-person tent, here are some add-ons that can help:

  • Compression bags: These bags can be filled up with all types of clothing and goods then compressed to be much smaller — a great space saver for your tent. Many of them are also waterproof, which makes them great for protecting your things.
  • Toolbox: A toolbox is a great way to keep cookware and kitchen utensils organized and easy to access. It can be stowed in a tent corner and used when needed.
  • Gear garage: If you’re going to have a lot of gear but not a lot of extra space within your tent, you might consider looking into an external storage unit alongside your tent. This will keep belongings protected while freeing up space for you.

Standing height

Since so many people will be in and out of your 12-person tent, you’ll want the tent to be tall enough to provide standing room. Tents with straighter, less sloped walls will provide more standing room and will therefore maximize the livable space.

Room dividers

This is the feature that turns a tent into a cabin. Room dividers separate the interior of the tent into multiple rooms — two, three, four, and sometimes more. These rooms can be designated as bedrooms or storerooms. Using one of them for your gear decreases the number of people who can sleep in the tent but increases the usefulness of the remaining space.

Doors and windows

When buying a large tent, you should avoid any that only have one door. Multiple doors are a major feature of large, cabin-like tents. They make life much easier and increase the sense of privacy in the various rooms.

Both doors and windows are often made of mesh and can be opened and closed with a zipper. Although this material is breathable to let in fresh air and let you see outside, it’s important to have multiple windows as well as multiple doors to provide ventilation and keep the tent from becoming too stuffy.


Setting up the tent should be straightforward and simple. The tent will come with setup instructions, which should be basic enough that you’ll be able to do it on your own by the second or third time you use the tent. Total setup time for most tents should be around half an hour or less depending on how many people are helping.

Rain fly

The rain fly on your tent is an extra layer of material that covers the tent without touching it. It provides an extra layer of protection from water since most tents are only water-resistant instead of waterproof. There are two kinds of rain flies: full-coverage and partial-coverage.


A full-coverage rain fly covers the entire tent almost all the way to the ground. The only part of the tent not covered are the doors, and they should have a porch roof that stands out over them. The problem with full-coverage rain flies is that they also cover the windows. If you will use your tent where weather can be harsh, though, it’s worth getting a full-coverage rain fly.


A partial-coverage rain fly is anything less than full-coverage. They work, but if the wind blows the rain sideways, the lower part of the tent that isn’t covered will get wet and be subject to wicking if you touch it from the inside. If you will only use your tent in a mild climate, a partial-coverage rain fly should be sufficient.


The lowest price range for decent 12-person tents is $190 to around $230. The sides may be slanted, reducing the amount of standing room inside.

For $230 to $300, you can find many solid mid-range options. In fact, most 12-person tents fit this price point.. They will often have room dividers and straight sides, creating more standing room inside.

Anything over $300 is considered the high end of the price range for 12-person tents. These will have more than two doors, multiple room dividers, and nearly straight walls all around.


  • Before pitching your tent, remove any rocks, pebbles, sticks, twigs, or other larger debris from the ground to prevent puncturing the bottom of the tent.
  • Using a tarp or ground cover below your tent can increase the tent’s lifespan. They are much more durable than the typical tent floor, and they are cheaper to replace if they wear out.
  • When pitching your tent, you want to pick a smooth, even, dry spot in order to maximize comfort and minimize potential damage to your tent’s floor. For a tent with multiple doors, the direction isn’t too critical, but you want to make sure it’s easy to enter and exit.
  • Don’t pitch your tent under a tree. During storms, trees are magnets for lightning strikes. They can also drop limbs and other debris that is knocked loose by high winds.
  • After pitching your tent, dig a trench around it for water to run into, then extend a leg of the trench away from the tent to carry the water away. The trench should be at least three inches deep and four to five inches wide.
  • Most 12-person tents are configured to be easy to setup even for only one person, but it can be helpful to have two or three sets of hands assisting in putting together one of these larger tents.
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Large tents can be used as a base camp for people engaged in a wide range of activities such as exploring, hunting, mountain climbing, attending music festivals, or providing volunteer shelters.


Q. What is the lifespan of a large tent?
Ideally, you should be able to sleep in it for 100 nights, all at once or spread out over a number of years. If you take care of your tent by cleaning out twigs and debris before storage and by never putting it away wet, you can increase the tent’s lifespan.

Q. Can a tent be rendered completely waterproof?
Yes, but once done it can’t be undone, and waterproof tents can’t breathe.

Q. What is the best type of rain fly?
It depends on the season. During the hot summer months when there isn’t much rain, a partial-coverage rain fly will be sufficient. During the rainy season or in cold weather, a full-coverage rain fly is recommended.

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