Campers need tents, that’s for sure. But does every camper need a screen tent? A straightforward and honest answer is no. There are exceptions though.
While trends and styles change at ever-increasing rates, some things never go out of style. Think of jeans, red lipstick, apple pie, and The Beatles. Or camping. I could make a pretty long list of classic items, but I’ll leave it for another occasion. Today, I will talk about camping or more specifically – screen tents.
Camping has been popular for as long as I can remember. And I have to say, I could never fully grasp why we go camping so eagerly. When you think about it, it’s tedious work. Often it gets too hot or too cold, rain and storms can make it a hell on earth, and so on. Yet, we keep coming back yearning for more.
Don’t get me wrong here. I am one of those camping addicts. It’s my skeptic side that tries to downplay the significance of things that I can’t explain. And camping has some unfathomable magic about it.
No matter how many things go wrong, as time goes by we forget about mosquitos, rain, mud, or hours of shivering from the cold. We just remember a fabulous adventure. Maybe these potential difficulties help us to fully appreciate and cherish the fun part. Anyway, I can keep on like this all day long. But, instead, I’ll go back to my topic to help you choose gear that will make your camping trips more enjoyable.
What Is a Screen Tent
If you’re a rookie camper, here are some basic facts about screen tents. People also call them screen houses, shade tents, dining tents, or shelters.
Whatever you call it, the screen tent has several features to allow you to improve your outdoor experience. It is not a replacement for a sleeping or dome tent, though. The screen tent is a convenient shelter to avoid nuisance while preserving the outdoor sensation and feel. To make it simple, it shields you from sun, rain, wind, and insects.
A screen tent consists of a frame, tent top, and screen walls. The roof and walls are commonly made of lightweight synthetic materials. Walls are usually transparent, while the tent top should offer some protection against rain. These tents are collapsible, portable, and usually very easy to set up.
Things to Know Before Choosing a Screen Tent
There’s a large variety of screen tents and a considerable price range. The best screen tent is the one that fits your needs. And it’s not necessarily the best model for the next person.
However, there are some general guidelines to keep you happy and satisfied regardless of your demands and preferences. So, let’s break it down.
Screen tents come in a variety of sizes and shapes, typically 10 by 10 feet. You should be able to easily fit a table and 6 people inside. Of course, there are larger and smaller sizes. Consider how many people you want to fit inside. Then, check out the size of your picnic table.
The idea is not only to fit everyone inside but make them feel comfortable. However, you shouldn’t just go for the largest one. The larger the tent, the heavier and the bulkier it gets.
Furthermore, the height of the tent affects the available space as well. Are you tall? Low tent tops can make you feel uncomfortable. Also, the wall inclination will also lessen the space while standing.
While your tent should protect you from bad weather, no screen tent is a jack of all trades. You have to decide if your camping adventures usually include hot sunny weather or colder and wetter adventures.
For dry and sunny climate, you probably don’t need top-notch rain protection. But UV protection is a must. Without UV protection, the sun will degrade fabric rather quickly.
Also, you should look for more breathable wall materials to allow the airflow. Or you can use camping solar powered fans to stay cool. As for colder and windy weather, you’ll need a sturdier construction and waterproof top of the tent.
Water Resistant Top
I have already mentioned that there are different levels of protection against rain. Most screen tents are water resistant but not all of them are waterproof. It’s a small but crucial difference. A water-resistant tent top will withstand light and short rain. Commonly, it dries rather quickly. However, if the rain continues or it pours down heavily, it will leak. Waterproof tents will stay dry during heavy rainfall as well.
Obviously, your choice should depend on the climate. Or you can choose a waterproof roof, just in case. With a waterproof top and seams, you can relax and read your favorite survival book.
Tent poles are very important parts of the tent. You can have the best canopy materials, but if your poles can’t hold, your tent is useless. Most commonly tents have aluminum, fiberglass, or steel poles. Steel poles used to be the most common choice, but nowadays, aluminum and fiberglass poles dominate the market.
Steel is strong and durable. On the downside it is heavy and it corrodes.
Fiberglass or glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) is the most affordable pole material. It is flexible and doesn’t corrode. Also, it is easily replaceable. However, it’s not the most durable material, and if it breaks it shatters. Also, it loses flexibility in cold weather.
Aluminum is lightweight but strong. It won’t break under harsh weather conditions. Eventually, it may bend under pressure. But, it will keep you safe. On the downside, aluminum can corrode and it is pretty expensive.
There are also some new composite materials, but for now, they are very expensive and only professionals use them.
Walls make up the most of your tent. They are usually made of synthetic mesh panels and they all look pretty much the same.
However, they differ in strength and durability. Most of them will keep insects at bay, but you should look for long-lasting materials. Also, pay attention to seams and potential gaps at the ground level.
Overall, it is an affordable piece of equipment. More expensive models are made of more durable or/and waterproof materials, hence the heftier price tag.
I would prioritize quality and durability over price. Cheap and low-quality tents might fall apart after only a couple of uses so you’ll be out looking for a new one in no time.
5 BEST SCREEN TENTS YOU CAN BUY RIGHT NOW
1. Quick Set 9281 Escape Shelter Popup Screen Tent
If you’re looking for a high-quality and versatile screen tent, Clam’s Quick Set shelter fits the bill. Seriously, when it comes to quality and performance, it’s difficult to find anything to complain about. It is a pretty spacious, sturdy tent that provides shelter for both hot and colder weather.
Also, it has a generous height allowing taller people to be comfortable while standing. Sturdy and thick mash provides excellent protection from insects. Additional fabric at the base of the tent will prevent the most persistent bugs from entering the tent.
This tent will easily fit 6 to 8 people, but if you need even more space, the XL version is available. Furthermore, it is unbelievably easy to set it up. One person can do it alone, and it really takes less than a minute.
Pros of This Screen Tent
- Super-fast setup
- Very durable and sturdy materials
- Total bug protection
- Water resistant roof and waterproof seams
- 50+ UV protection
- It can withstand harsh weather
- 78” x 10” x 10” packed size is a little bit difficult or impossible to fit into smaller car trunks.
- It is on the heavier side (34 lbs).
- If you need weather panels you have to purchase them separately.
2. Gazelle 4 Person 5 Sided Portable Pop Up Gazebo Screened Tent
As the name of the company suggests, this tent is lightweight and fast. Well, it doesn’t run, but anyone can set it up in the blink of an eye. It’s not the largest screen shelter out there, but it’s a very convenient and high-quality tent. If you like it but need a larger size, a 6-sided larger version is available. However, if a 4-person tent fits your bill, you’ll be delighted with this one.
It has reinforced corners to provide durability. The construction is strong and can withstand strong winds and moderate storms. Moreover, it is surprisingly lightweight (23.5 lbs).
- Durable with reinforced corners
- Water-resistant roof
- UV protection (50+)
- High-quality zippers
- Base skirt to keep ants and crawling bugs at bay
- Not very large
- Tight weave mesh prevents airflow, so it can get hot in there
3. Coleman Blue Mountain View Screendome Shelter Canopy
This is probably the most versatile screen shelter. It’s large and offers excellent protection from the sun. All four wall mesh panels can be removed if needed. It’s a unique feature that allows you to enjoy the summer breeze and accommodate even more people as long as you don’t have to worry about bugs. It includes two shade panels for extra protection.
- Very versatile
- Tall roof
- Removable walls
- 2 additional shade panels
- Best sun protection
- Difficult to assemble. It takes at least 10 minutes and if you’re inexperienced it can become a nightmare.
4. Eureka Northern Breeze Aluminum Frame Screen House
This is another fantastic screen tent. It is made of durable materials while aluminum poles provide a strong and sturdy framework. It is very spacious and the height is not an issue. Side walls are almost vertical to maximize the space.
If that’s not enough for you, there are four wind/rain panels that can transform into awnings. So, you get all the space you need when it’s sunny. Sturdy aluminum poles and rain curtains will keep you dry and protected from winds and rain. It is waterproof, and it can withstand heavy rainfall.
- Two doors
- Four wind/rain panels
- Rugged aluminum frame
- It is large
- UV protection
- It takes two people and some time to set it up
5. Wenzel Magnetic Screen House
Wenzel is a respected name in the outdoor gear industry. This screen house offers some unique and convenient features. With 99 square feet base and vertical walls, it provides more than enough space.
Also, it is the lightest product on our list. But, it’s the doors where it really shines. Having two doors is convenient, but magnetic doors provide additional convenience for hands-free entry and exit. The see-through mesh will keep the insects away while allowing a decent airflow.
- It is spacious
- Beautiful design
- Magnetic doors on two sides
- Easy setup
- It comes with a 10-year warranty
- There’s a gap under the door, so smart insects can get inside
- No UV protection.
While most screen tents appear to be similar, it is not the case when you look closer. There are considerable differences when it comes to quality, water resistance, tear resistance, breathability, durability, and ability to withstand the elements. Our top picks combine all these features to provide the best overall experience. They also offer the best value for money. The best choice depends on your preferences as well, so with our suggestions and guideline, you should be able to pick one and enjoy camping for years to come.