We use the same tent whether we are backpacking, cycle touring, or car camping. And since it’s rare that we do any of these activities without our dogs, we choose tents with a pet-friendly design.
Choosing a tent to accommodate your dog is not all that different from buying one for yourself. The perfect tent for backpacking or cycle touring should be lightweight, durable, weather proof, designed with high quality materials, and quick to set up.
When you bring your dog into consideration, you’ll need to think about their size (do they take up alllll the space?), their demeanor (will they scratch the mesh lining?), and their sleeping temperature (do they tend to run cold or hot?).
This guide will help you determine how to pick the best dog friendly tent for your needs so that you can be ready for camping season once the good weather hits.
What to Consider When Looking for a New Tent for Camping with Dogs
For many, weight is the most important factor when choosing a tent. You need to decide how much weight is worth carrying for your particular journey.
If you plan to use your tent regularly or on a trip like a several month long thru-hike or cycling trip, keep in mind that the lightest backpacking tent might not be the best option. You often sacrifice durability and price for the lightest tents. In the long run, carrying one or two more extra pounds is undoubtedly worth it if it means that your tent lasts longer. Remember, this is your home and comfort is a top priority.
When you’re tent shopping, you’ll notice that most specs list a “minimum trail weight” and a “maximum trail weight.” Minimum trail weight indicates the load with the tent, poles, and rain fly. Maximum weight for a tent includes the stakes, stuff sack, and footprint (which is usually sold separately).
This is the second most important decision to make when selecting a tent. Depending on the size of your dog and how much space they tend to take up when they sleep, you may want to consider your dog as an additional person. Dave and I always choose 3-person tents.
You may also bring some of your gear inside the tent, like clothing, bags, or other items that take up space. If you don’t accommodate for the extra gear in addition to your dog, then your sleep will suffer.
Pay attention to the design. Is the tent tapered at one end to save space or is it a rectangular shape to offer more room?
Other considerations for interior space include storage pockets, height, and hooks to hang gear like headlamps.
The vestibule area is the space created by the rain fly that provides covered space for gear or shoes. Some tents have vestibules on each side, while others have them at one or both ends of the tent. Depending on your vestibule needs, you’ll need to decide which is best for you.
For much of our cycle tour, we opted for a tent with a large vestibule on one end that could accommodate our bikes, trailer, and bags (I’m not recommending that specific tent here because it failed us in several ways). For most trips, the side vestibule doors will suffice just fine.
If you’re a hot sleeper like I am, then you’ll want a tent with lots of mesh, vents, and openings. Dave tends to sleep colder than I do, so we have a tent that allows individual customization for ventilation via the rain fly. If I need more air, I simply unzip my rain fly opening. If Dave is cold, he zips his up.
Aside from sleeping comfort, ventilation is important to fend of condensation and prevent mold. The average person exhales about 1 liter of moisture each night when we sleep. With multiple people and dogs in the tent, that amount increases. All that moisture becomes trapped by your tent and creates condensation. This can be a drag if you’re eager to leave early in the morning, but don’t want to pack a wet tent.
Unless you plan to do some winter camp trips, a 3-season tent is plenty sufficient. Three-season tents offer more ventilation, but can also provide insulation in cooler weather, including frost or light snow.
Now, this is one area that may seem a little silly to think about because it feels so obvious. A door is a door, right? Wrong. Our first tent had that great vestibule that could fit our bikes and the trailer, plus our bags if we needed it to. However, it meant that there was one side door and one door at the head of the tent.
If someone needed to get out in the middle of the night, they either had to climb over the other person or wrangle bags, bikes, and trailers. Do yourself a favor and choose a tent with two doors on either side of the tent for easy access for both people.
Freestanding vs Non-Freestanding
All of the tents listed here are free standing tents. What that means is that they are supported using tent poles. They usually come dual-walled, meaning they have a separate rain fly and the structure can stand freely without stakes.
Non-Freestanding tents are for ultralight backpackers or cycle tourists who use a tent pole to support the structure of the tent. They are single wall design, which means the rain fly is built in. Non-freestanding tents must also be staked in order stand fully taught.
The Best Tents for Dog Owners
The following list is based off of a few factors:
- You will be using the same tent for backpacking, car camping, and cycle touring
- You have two small dogs or one medium or large dog
- You are not looking for a tent with separate rooms that can fit a queen size air mattress and include a screen room for long term camping at a campground
- You are a couple who camps with their dog
For 3-person, 3-season versatile camping tents, these all make a great choice. They hold up over time, can withstand challenging weather, and fit two people and a dog or two comfortably. We have either used these tents ourselves or have known others who have used them long term.
REI Co-Op Quarter Dome 3 Tent
Packaged Weight: 4lbs 9oz
Floor Dimensions: 88 x 70 inches
Floor Area: 40.9 square feet
Peak Height: 44 inches
Footprint sold separately: REI
Price at REI: $399
REI Co-Op brand products are great because they are high quality for a great deal and the Quarter Dome 3 is no different. The tapered design provides ample head space and the latest version has expanded side vestibules that accommodate plenty of gear.
Several reports mentioned the tent staying in tact and dry in torrential storms with heavy winds. The reflective guy lines means that no one will trip over your tent all night long and you simply can’t beat the price.
We used the 2-person version of this tent before heading off on our cycle trip and it was a tight squeeze for us + two dogs, hence why we invested in a new one.
Just looking for a car camping tent with the same quality but better price? We recommend the REI Co-Op Half Dome 3 Plus tent for a steal at $279.
Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 3 Classic Tent
The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 3 is the tent we currently use. We used it during the last part of our cycle tour in South America and continue to use it today. It’s showing some minor wear and tear in the mesh and seams, but still completely usable. We’ve camped in wet conditions during our Oregon Rode Trip and we always woke up dry.
There is ample ventilation and space in the vestibule to store shoes and a bag and the sides on the rainfly go down far enough to keep the rain from kicking up mud during a storm.
The Copper Spur has the largest floor space of all of the tents listed here, so if you have a large dog or two medium to small ones, then this would make a great choice.
The main downside is that the materials are a bit thin and the mesh can tear easily (keep those nails trimmed!).
MSR Mutha Hubba NX 3 Tent
We nearly purchased the Mutha Hubba for our bicycle trip, but it came down to a few factors, such as the vestibule size and the door placement. MSR consistently makes durable, reliable, and super high quality tents.
Several fellow cyclists opted for the 2-person tent and used it for the entirety of their multi-month or year trips, including in Patagonia where the tent was able to withstand serious winds.
The doors are placed at the head and foot of the tent, which I think would bother us now, as I prefer to have them on the side. However the placement does mean a larger vestibule space to store gear. Also, this is the smallest tent, so if you have a large dog, then you may want to opt for a tent with a larger floor area.
The price is certainly steep, but the Mutha Hubba is practically bullet proof and you get what you pay for.
Just you and your pup? Get the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 instead for $100 less.
NEMO Dagger 3 Tent
For some reason, I’ve always been enamored with NEMO tents. We have yet to try one out ourselves, but I appreciate the dedication they put into making their products and that they are a dog-friendly workspace. Their sustainability goals mean that they build products meant to last and stay out of landfills. When they do wear out, the company stands by their full lifetime warranty.
Now, in terms of the Dagger 3, this tent gets our recommendation thanks to the durable, yet lightweight materials and the large vestibule space on either side of the dual doors. The Divvy stuff sack allows you to split up the load when hiking together. Pre-bent poles offer more headroom and the 90” length is great for taller campers. This is one of the largest and lightest tents on this list.
What separates NEMO from the rest are their pawprints. These washable liners snap inside the tent to create a soft floor space that protect your dog’s paws from sharp objects below the tent. They also help keep the tent cleaner as you can simply shake it out to remove fur rather than unstake your tent and tilt it upside down. While it seems they don’t make one for the Dagger, you can use one the one made for the Galaxi and just not snap it in.
Marmot Tungsten 3P UL Tent
For those who tend to get hot sleeping (like me), the Marmot Tungsten is a great option, as the majority of the tent is made from mesh, meaning cool air flows through all night long and minimal condensation. This is the tallest tent of the group, as well as one of the roomiest and lightest.
Weight saving measures mean that the side doors are a bit smaller and there are only two interior pockets to hold gear. Further, we would cautions against this tent unless you have camped with your dog previously and know what they’re like inside a tent. All that mesh means an excited pup will tear it in a second. If you have a chill dog, then this would be a great tent.
If you want something with a bit less mesh, but similar quality, consider the Marmot Limelight 3PTent. The price is great at $299 and the weight is on the heavier side for backpacking, but still manageable at 6lbs. 11 oz.
Want more helpful information and gear recommendations for camping with dogs? Check out these related posts:
- 9 Dog Camping Gear Items we Can’t Live without
- How to Pack Food When Traveling with Pets
- Travel with a Dog Gear Guide
- How to Bike with a Dog