June 12, 2020
By Lisa Petrison, Ph.D.
This page provides details on larger and heavier premium tents that are appropriate for car camping and backyard use.
Tents listed with an asterisk (*) do not contain fire retardants.
Following is a list of links to additional articles in this series on non-toxic and less-toxic tents and shelters.
Although the tents in this section are fairly small in size, they are not especially appropriate for backpacking due to their being relatively heavy compared to backpacking tents of the same size.
The Diamond Brand Gear FreeDome 2 1/2 is proudly stated as containing no fire retardants.
This tent also is stated as being “healthy” and “eco-friendly,” and has a peak height of 46″.
The tent is available in several different colors for both the body and the rain fly, and users can mix-and-match the choices so that the tent feels more personalized.
Although I had not previously heard of Diamond Brand and have not yet tried out this tent, it seems like it might be a good choice for those who want to avoid fire retardants at a reasonable price.
While REI tents are not yet free of all fire retardants, I generally have felt pretty good about the tents from this company that I have tried.
New in 2020 is the REI Groundbreaker, which is a “no frills” tent available for $80.
This tent has only one door and appears to have only modest ventilation, and so probably will be most appropriate for use by just one person.
Individuals who want to give camping a try without investing very much into it or who are afraid of contaminating their camping gear may find this tent to meet their needs.
A car camping tent that I owned briefly and used a few times was the L.L. Bean Adventure Dome.
Although this tent seems to get pretty good reviews, the problem that I had with it was that it included so little mesh that ventilation was a problem for me.
It might be more appropriate for more difficult weather conditions, such as wind, rain or cold, however.
The L.L. Bean Vector is a more expensive tent with a similar design but a much sturdier construction.
That tent seems from the pictures to have a little more mesh than the L.L. Bean Adventure Dome, but not much more.
This section discusses tents that are tall enough for adults to stand in, and therefore that can feel especially comfortable and homey.
(Note that larger tents that function as shade shelters or screen rooms as well as for sleeping purposes are discussed on the Day Shelters page of this article series.)
The size of these tents in terms of maximum number of sleepers ranges from 4 people to 8 people – though, realistically, I would not imagine any more than four adults being inclined to sleep in one of these tents in most circumstances.
A downside of larger tents is that they can be challenging to wash and then to hang up to dry, meaning that it can be hard to get them and keep them feeling good.
In addition, most tents of this size have relatively little ventilation and can start to feel stuffy very quickly, especially when more than one person is sharing a sleeping area.
Most larger tents also tend to be quite expensive.
Therefore, I think it is going to be preferable in many cases to use multiple tents when camping with larger groups or when a sitting room is desired, rather than relying on one large tent.
However, in some circumstances – such as when a parent is camping with multiple children or when home-like comfort is a priority – a larger tent may be appropriate.
Both of these are basically cube-shaped, with plenty of headroom and a simple setup.
Especially for those who would like to use some regular-sized furniture (such as cots or chairs) inside their tent, these offerings may work well.
With some exceptions, individuals in the Mold Avoiders group tend to do well with higher-end REI tents and I have gotten several rave reviews about the REI Grand Hut over the past few years.
While Big Agnes tents seem to be high quality from a general perspective, I have gotten more mixed reports about sensitized people being able to tolerate them.
The generally very popular Big Agnes Big Hut (and its cousins, the Bunk House and the Dog House) may be worth some consideration, however.
If I were going to be car camping for an extended period of time, I might be especially inclined to spring for either the four-person model or the six-person model of the REI Base Camp series.
Although the Base Camp tents are a little costly, the one that I saw set up in an REI store seemed that it would be very sturdy and comfortable.
Reviews suggest that these tents go up easily and hold up well in wind.
What I like most about the REI Base Camp tents, though, is that they seem that they would work well as a nice little sitting area, where I could work on my computer or chat with friends.
The peak height is 60″ for the four-person tent. Although this is not tall enough to allow adults to stand up inside, the low height actually seems to me like a plus since that would make it easier for me to put up on my own.
The six-person version has a peak height of 74″ and therefore seems like it might be a little more difficult for a solo camper to put up without help.
While the REI Base Camp does not use as much mesh as I might prefer, it still seems that it would be a nice little living space.
Another one-room tent with plenty of headroom is the REI Kingdom 4.
Although this tent is a little more expensive than the REI Grand Hut, it seems like it might be especially appealing due to the ample use of mesh that would allow more ventilation.
The six- and eight-person REI Kingdom tents – discussed on the Day Shelters page of this article series – also are potential options.
In general, REI Kingdom tents get good reviews and seem well-liked, but they also may take considerable effort to put up even when two people are involved.
On the other hand, the videos make it seem that the Nemo Wagontop tents are very well-designed and go up quite easily (with the four- and six-person versions being manageable even by a solo camper).
The Wagontop 4 is almost straight-sided, allowing a six-foot person to stand straight up throughout the whole inside of the tent.
The downside to this boxy design, according to one gear publication, is that the tent does not do as well in wind as some of the other tents.
Another downside of the Nemo Wagontop is that while it has large windows and doors, it still might not provide as much ventilation as I would want for sleeping purposes.
(The six- and eight-person versions of the Nemo Wagontop are discussed on the Day Shelters page of this article series.)
The L.L. Bean Acadia tents are another possibility for those seeking out larger tents.
The 6-person model of the Acadia is similar to the REI Grand Hut or the Big Agnes Big House in terms of living space, with a boxy construction and a peak height of 81″.
The eight-person model of the tent has two rooms and innovative features like a pet vestibule (which also can be used for items like dirty shoes).
It also features a magnetic door, eliminating the need to unzip and then zip the door every time people go in or out of the tent.
Compared to many other large tents of this size, the LL Bean Acadia tents are moderately priced.
Based on the pictures, the eight-person model looks similar to the very popular Coleman Tanaya Lake 8 tent (profiled on the Affordable Tents page of this article series), which unfortunately contains the fire retardant Tris.
Since LL Bean has stated that it does not use Tris in its own tents, my hope is that the LL Bean Acadia contains less problematic fire retardants instead.
Another fairly roomy choice is the Winterial Teepee Tent, which sleeps 6-7 people and is stated as not including any fire retardants.
The tent has an inside diameter of 10 feet and a maximum height of 8 feet. Especially for families with children, this could be a fun choice, I think.
Although the potential for mold growth is a major negative for cotton canvas tents, at least a few people pursuing mold avoidance have reported positive experiences with these kinds of tents.
Especially for those who are especially reactive to mold, it may be best to restrict the use of these kinds of tents to desert or mountain areas where rain is sporadic and where the tent can get completely dried out during dry sunny periods before being packed away.
Canvas tents also are considerably more expensive than most synthetic tents and are much heavier.
On the other hand, they have the potential of being more stable and sturdy than synthetic tents, thus providing a more home-like camping experience.
Cotton canvas tents are also said by some to be more flame-resistant than typical synthetic tents, meaning that there is perceived to be less need for fire retardants to be used in them.
(Note that treatment with wax or other similar substances can make canvas tents much more flammable, however.)
However, both of these companies’ canvas tents have synthetic floors, and I have not yet been able to determine whether fire retardants might be used on those.
I bring this up because I have gotten mixed reports in terms of people with mold and chemical sensitivities being able to tolerate Kodiak tents (and have yet to get any reports about Springbar tents).
Individuals purchasing most of the canvas tents from the Denver Tent Company can choose between material containing fire retardants and materials that are free of such chemicals.
Unfortunately, the company’s popular Colorado Range Tent seems to currently be available only in canvas that has been treated with fire retardants, though.
I have not been able thus far to obtain information on exactly what kind of fire retardants are used by this company.
Teton Sports also makes a few canvas tents, but I have not been able to obtain any information about whether or what kind of fire retardants may be included.
Denver Tent Company:
Large Group Tents
For those who have an appropriate piece of land, a large home-style tent may have the potential of serving as a good temporary shelter while more permanent housing is being built or other plans are being put into place.
For instance, I recently corresponded with someone pursuing mold avoidance whose family had lived comfortably for a number of months in a 14′ x 16′ canvas expedition tent from Davis Tent & Awning.
This person wrote to me the following:
We have had this tent set up and in place for about eight months and our family has been living in it for about a month. It’s amazing and can be ordered without fire retardants. It has withstood 80+ mph winds and 15″of snow at one point. It’s absolutely the best long-term tent option available.
We have four cots and a crib in here, as well as a wood stove and a two-burner camp stove. We use gravel on the floor. No rain fly, just the canvas.
Really heavy storms like the 3″ of hail we had recently let some water come through, but that is why we keep our possessions in totes.
There is absolutely zero mold. Zero mildew. And it is perfectly clear in here, despite having stored all kinds of contaminated stuff in here all winter.
I upgraded the stove and added two more windows when I ordered it. All said and done it cost about $2200.
They also have a pellet stove option now that would be my choice if I were to buy it again. Acquiring and storing firewood is difficult, because it needs to be stored in the tent during the winter, and mice like that.
It’s great for storing generators and hanging laundry in winter, particularly when it is really cold.
I probably would get an awning upgrade if we were to buy it again, because we are short on shade here.
Another type of large group tent that could be useful for some situations are the synthetic ones designed to be used as base camps for mountaineering expeditions.
For instance, Mountain Hardwear offers two sizes of dome tent that are designed to provide shelter for larger groups of people in tough weather conditions.
The Mountain Hardwear Stronghold Dome has a floor area of 171 square feet and a peak interior height of 77″. It is stated as being able to provide shelter to 10 or more people.
The larger Mountain Hardwear Space Station Dome has a floor area of 284 square feet and a peak interior height of 101″. It is described as providing standing room for 20 or more people and to be especially suited to serving as a dining hall or communications center.
Like all Mountain Hardwear tents starting in 2019, these tents are free of fire retardants.
The Big Agnes Guard Station 8 is another large mountaineering tent that could be an option for some situations.
The tent has a floor area of 128 square feet and a maximum height of 84″.
This tent does contain fire retardants.
Canvas Wall Tents:
Teepees (also spelled “tipis”) provide a larger and more stable dwelling place.
A downside, as far as I am concerned, is that teepees do not get much air flow and thus may feel stuffy.
This conceivably could be an asset for some people during the winter months for those who are trying to stay warm, however.
Several companies – including Nomadics Tipi Makers, Colorado Yurt Company and Crazy Crow – make teepees from cotton canvas.
The teepees are treated with a waterproofing substance called Sunforger in order to prevent mold growth.
Fire retardants are optional.
Although I originally would have been afraid of mold growth in cotton canvas teepees, the ones that I visited outside Taos Drums (in Taos, NM) felt pretty good to me.
One problem that some people pursuing tent camping have reported is that mold has the potential of growing between the bottom of the tent and the ground underneath.
Camping mostly in relatively dry and pristine areas in the western half of the United States, I did not experience any problems with that myself.
I can see the problem being much more prevalent in areas such as the Midwest, where glyposate (an agricultural chemical invented by Monsanto and sold by them under the trade name of Roundup) has decimated the natural microbiome of the land.
In such locations, the soil is less likely to contain good probiotic bacteria and more likely to contain toxic mold such as Fusarium (which can appear as a white substance growing underneath tents).
In such situations, a tent cot that gets the user off the ground and provides some protection from the elements can be useful since this may eliminate the potential for mold growth to occur.
While a rain fly can be used with tent cot to provide some protection from harsher weather, my fear is that there would not be enough air circulation in a small space like that to allow me to sleep comfortably.
I might consider putting the tent cot underneath a tarp or inside a shade shelter without a floor for some added protection from moderate rains, however.
Some individuals pursuing mold avoidance report having had good experiences taking regular tents and cutting the bottoms out of them, and so that could be an additional way that overhead shelter from the elements could be obtained when sleeping in a tent cot.
Tent cots also may be helpful for achieving protection from bugs or cold when sleeping on a balcony, since stakes are not needed to hold the tent cot in place.
I’ve heard a number of positive reports (as well as one or two negative reports) with regard to tolerability from people pursuing mold avoidance about Kamp-Rite tent cots.
Although I have yet to try a Kamp-Rite tent cot myself, I did have a chance to try a Cabela’s house brand tent cot at a Cabela’s store and thought that it felt very good to me.
This seemed peculiar at first, since the Cabela’s tent cot contains a Proposition 65 warning on the Cabela’s website.
When I looked into the topic a bit, I found reported in several places that Cabela’s tent cots are made by Kamp-Rite.
I also learned that Kamp-Rite has stated in private correspondence to users that it does not use any fire retardants in its tent cots.
My guess is that since Cabela’s uses toxic fire retardants in most of its tents (which do feel bad to me), it automatically put the Proposition 65 warning on its website for its tent cots as well.
On the whole, the Kamp-Rite and Cabela’s tent cots seem to me quite similar to one another.
Those making a decision between the two may want to keep in mind that Cabela’s is oriented mostly toward hunters, many of whom are larger men who like to camp in comfort.
The Cabela’s single tent cot is more roomy than even the oversize version of the Kamp-Rite tent cot.
The Cabela’s cot also offers the ability to extend the door to the cot into an awning with included poles; has a plastic window on the ceiling to allow stars to be viewed at night; and includes cupholders and other interior organizational features.
While all of this may sound good, it comes at a price since larger tent cots are considerably heavier and take up much more room when being transported in the vehicle.
Personally, I thought that the the Cabela’s tent cot (which is 86″ long and 32″ wide) seemed unnecessarily large for me to sleep in by myself.
Probably if I planned to be sleeping in it with a small child or a medium-sized dog, it would seem just about right. (It’s definitely not large enough for two adults, however.)
For sleeping on my own, the Kamp-Rite Original Tent Cot would be more my size and also would be considerably smaller when packed up for travel purposes.
One down side, though, is that the Kamp-Rite Original Tent Cot has only two legs (rather than the four legs offered in the Cabela’s model and the Kamp-Rite Oversize Model).
I’ve read a few complaints that the Kamp-Rite original model does not feel all that sturdy and sometimes can even tip over.
On the other hand, the Cabela’s model felt super-solid – to the point that I think that it would do much better in high-speed desert winds than any tents that I have ever used.
The interior height of all these tent cots is about 24″.
This means that even a short person would not be able to fully sit up inside the tent cot.
However, all four sides of the Cabela’s tent cot that I tried had windows that allowed plenty of air to come into the tent cot through mesh (or that could be opened entirely to the elements).
At least for me, this went a long way towards keeping the tent from feeling unpleasant or restrictive.
For those looking for a double tent cot, one more possible option is the Winterial Double Tent Cot.
Winterial has reported that it does not use retardants in these cots, and they do seem to get pretty good reviews on Amazon.
I have not heard any reports from mold-sensitized people about Winterial tent cots, however.
One big problem with all of these tent cots – especially the larger ones – is that they take up quite a lot of room when being transported in the vehicle.
Here is a list of the stored dimensions. (For comparison purposes, the dimensions of Coleman camping cots also are included on this list.)
Coleman ComfortSmart Cot: 34″x24″x6″; 18 pounds.
Coleman Deluxe ComfortSmart Cot: 40″x31″x5″; 20 pounds.
Kamp-Rite Original Tent Cot: 35″x31″x6″; 24 pounds.
Kamp-Rite Oversize Tent Cot: 36″x34″x7″; 32 pounds.
Cabela’s Deluxe Single Tent Cot: 36″x35″x9″; 39 pounds.
Winterial Double Tent Cot: 49″x34″x8″; 44 pounds
Kamp-Rite Double Tent Cot: 56″x34″x8″; 51 pounds
Cabela’s Double Tent Cot: 57″x37″x8″; 56 pounds.
An alternative to these tent cots that fold up somewhat smaller for storage are the Kamp-Rite Collapsible Tent Cots.
Although the legs on the collapsible tent cots look a little spindly for their intended purpose, they do seem to get good reviews.
The Kamp-Rite Collapsible Tent Cots fold up into a different shape than the regular tent cots (more long and narrow).
They still take up a fair amount of room in the car, though.
Following are the measurements when stored:
Kamp-Rite Standard Compact Tent Cot: 43″x10″x9″; 25 pounds
Kamp-Rite XL Compact Tent Cot: 42″x9″x8″; 28 pounds
Kamp-Rite Double Compact Tent Cot: 45″x12″x12″; 42 pounds
An additional advantage of the Kamp-Rite Compact Tent Cots is that they can be used as just a cot or just a tent, as well as a tent cot.
That might be helpful for those who would like the versatility of being able to use the same cot on its own inside a cargo trailer or van during rainy or colder weather, and then outdoors when the weather is nicer.
Another possibility for those who like the tent cot concept but do not want to be wedded to it is the Kamp-Rite Insect Protection System (IPS).
This is basically the tent part of the Kamp-Rite Tent Cot, which can be used on its own on the ground or on top of a large cot.
Apparently, this works best when the cot is at least 84″ x 32″ – that is, about the size of the REI Kingdom Cot 3.
A rain fly is included.
Cabela’s Tent Cots:
Kamp-Rite Tent Cots:
Kamp-Rite Collapsible Tent Cots:
Kamp-Rite Insect Protection System:
Roof Top Tents
Rooftop tents are transported on top of the roof of the vehicle and then set up almost instantly upon arrival at the destination.
They were originally designed for use in Australia when predators made camping in a tent on ground unsafe.
They also can be useful for situations where appropriate ground that can be used to pitch a tent is not going to be available.
Conceivably, those who have problems with mold growth when using their tent on the ground could consider these tents as a possibility.
Tepui lists a general Proposition 65 warning on its website without providing any further information.
Although REI does not state that the Tepui rooftop tents carry a Prop 65 warning on its website listings of the tents, I would want to look into the issue carefully before making a purchase this expensive.
Car Bible – June 3, 2019
Popular Mechanics – April 26, 2019
About This Blog
Living Clean in a Dirty World provides useful information for those working to recover from chronic illness through mold avoidance, clean living and related therapies.
It is presented by Paradigm Change.
Previous Living Clean Guides include:
Lisa Petrison is the founder of Paradigm Change and Mold Avoiders. She holds a Ph.D. in marketing/psychology from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Paradigm Change also provides a wide variety of additional information on the topic of the role of mold toxins in chronic illness.
The remarkable life of Erik Johnson (including details about the Lake Tahoe epidemic) is summarized in the book Back from the Edge, written by Lisa Petrison.
A PDF copy of the book is available for free to those signing up for occasional email newsletters from Paradigm Change.
Erik’s approach to mold avoidance is outlined in the book A Beginner’s Guide to Mold Avoidance.
It is available for free in PDF format to those signing up for occasional email newsletters from Mold Avoiders.
The book is also available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions.
The Mold Avoiders discussion forum is run by Paradigm Change and is designed to help those who are seriously interested in pursuing the approach to mold avoidance described in the book to get their questions answered.
Only those who have been approved as Mold Avoiders Participants can read or post in the forum.
The Mold Avoiders Facebook group is designed for more casual conversations among those who are interested in this approach to mold avoidance.
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