Kelty tents are well known for their durability and excellent value for money. But not all of these tents are created equal.
We’ve reviewed every Kelty tent for its camping and backpacking performance. Whether you’re looking for something for family camping or backpacking, we’ve found the best Kelty tent for you.
If you’re in a rush, our favorite Kelty tent is the Kelty Dirt Motel which comes in 2 person, 3 person and 4 person models.
If you would prefer a more budget, fair-weather tent then we also highly recommend the Kelty Wireless which comes in 2 person, 4 person and 6 person sizes.
- Kelty Dirt Motel 2/3/4 Person Tent – Best overall
- Kelty Wireless 2/4/6 Person Tent – Great for families
- Kelty Late Start 1/2/4 Person Tent – Cheap backpacking tent
- Kelty Night Owl 2 Person Tent – The Dirt Motel on a budget
- Kelty Rumpus 4/6 Person Tent – Excellent for camping with dogs
- Kelty Grand Mesa 2/4 Person Tent – Alternatives are better
- Kelty Tallboy 4/6 Person Tent – Alternatives are better
- Kelty Field Tent 1/2 Person Tent – Alternatives are better
- Kelty Squad 4 Season 4-6 Person Tent – Alternatives are better
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Best overall Kelty tent
Best budget Kelty tent
Cheap backpacking tent
The Dirt Motel on a budget
Excellent for camping with dogs
Kelty Field Tent 1/2 Person Tent
Kelty Squad 4 Season 4-6 Person Tent
|Available Sizes||2, 3, 4 Person||2, 4, 6 Person||1, 2, 4 Person||2 Person||4, 6 Person||2, 4 Person||4, 6 Person||1, 2 Person||4-6 Person|
|Value for Money||3.5/5||5.0/5||3.5/5||4.0/5||3.5/5||4.0/5||4.0/5||2.0/5||1.0/5|
An excellent tent with durable materials that can be used for both camping and backpacking.
Good for space and excellent value for money, but not as good as the Dirt Motel in bad weather.
A decent budget backpacking tent, but the Kelty Dirt Motel is better in every other way.
Similar to the Dirt Motel but too heavy for backpacking and has lower quality materials.
Good tent for very casual campers in fair weather conditions and brilliant for dogs. But build quality is poor.
An average backpacking tent which could do with better tent stakes and more guylines. Alternative tents are better.
Not as tall as its name suggests. Other family camping tents provide more room and storage.
Amazing waterproofing but the vents can let in rain and huge condensation issues. Only suitable for specific situations.
Great for terrible weather and built to military spec, but terrible value for money for most backpackers.
Top Kelty tents compared
- Innovative rainfly clip for stargazing
- Cheap compared to many backpacking tents
- Comes with two doors for easy access
- 2 large vestibules for storing gear
- Small packed size for fitting into your backpack
- Strong aluminum poles and durable materials
- Great waterproofing provided by full length rainfly
- Heavier than ultralight backpacking tents (although still light overall)
- Could do with more guylines to improve surface tension waterproofing of rainfly
- Rainfly isn’t very well ventilated
The Kelty Dirt Motel tent tops our list and comes in 2, 3, and 4 person models. These are updated versions of what was previously known as the Kelty TN2, TN3, and TN4, respectively.
This tent is fairly lightweight, coming in at 4 lbs 13 oz. Although, this is a slight dead spot for tent weights. The standard sacrifices in size and materials have been made to reduce the weight, but the tent isn’t quite light enough to be classed as ultralight. Granted, many ultralight tents are significantly more expensive.
But for all but the most hardcore backpackers, it’s light and packs down super small in your backpack. It also provides excellent durability with high denier materials, a ripstop nylon rainfly and aluminum poles made by the market leader, DAC.
The lightweight nature of this product means it will never be able to have enough material to stand up inside, but it’s still fairly roomy. This is thanks to the shape not quite representing the classic dome shape. The tent instead extends at the ends, so you don’t headbutt the walls as you wake up.
We love what Kelty calls the Stargazing Fly. This is a rainfly that you can peel back and clip together, allowing you to easily lay back and gaze at the stars without the rainfly flapping about.
The tent comes with two large doors on each side, a must-have feature. Single door backpacking tents can be irritating if someone needs a bathroom break at night. Beside each of these doors is also a vestibule to help store your backpack, and there are small gear pockets inside for flashlights, sunglasses, and so on.
So what doesn’t the Dirt Motel do well?
As mentioned previously, it doesn’t quite make it into the ultralight backpacking category. But, frankly, we would recommend brands such as Big Agnes, Nemo, MSR, and Marmot over Kelty if you’re wanting high-quality ultralight tents and you’re willing to pay the significant price required. The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL is the sensible step up if this is a concern for you.
The two areas that the Dirt Motel disappoints a little are the waterproofing and the ventilation.
It could do with a few more guylines to keep the rainfly taut as we would worry that strong winds could result in the rainfly sagging, allowing water to pool and eventually enter the tent. Don’t get us wrong though, it will still do a great job in all but the worst 3 season weather but the Big Agnes tent above is hardier.
The ventilation offered by the rainfly is okay but not great. Of course, you could just pull up the rainfly a little to add some more ventilation but if it’s pouring and you’re camping in a very humid place, there is a risk of condensation.
For casual campers, this is not an instant setup tent so expect to spend a handful of minutes getting the poles through the fabric loops.
Overall the Dirt Motel provides excellent value for backpackers and campers alike. Although those who prefer to do more hardcore backpacking may be better suited to a lighter and more waterproof tent like the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL.
- Great value for money
- Comes with 2 doors for easy access
- 2 large vestibules for keeping equipment
- Very spacious
- A full length rainfly
- Decent amount of headroom in the larger models
- Far too heavy for backpacking
- Larger packed size takes up more room in a backpack
- Fiberglass tent poles bring durability into question
- Not much ventilation when the rainfly is on
- Could do with more storage space
- Won’t be able to handle rough weather
The Kelty Wireless tent comes in 2, 4 and 6 person sizes. And let’s get this out of the way immediately – the Kelty Wireless tent isn’t as good in bad weather as the Dirt Motel. It’s also heavier and generally less durable.
But that’s okay because the Kelty Wireless tent focuses on family friendly camping – and it does this excellently.
The Kelty Wireless tent is a budget tent that stands head and shoulders above other budget tents in terms of quality.
Firstly, let’s get some of the disadvantages of the Kelty Wireless tent out the way that don’t actually matter for family camping.
It’s heavy. Too heavy for backpacking, but absolutely fine for camping.
This Kelty tent also comes in a much larger packed size. You definitely wouldn’t be able to happily fit this into a backpack like you would with the Dirt Motel tent. But when you’re camping, you can just sling the carry bag over your shoulder as you make your way to your campsite.
Now that’s out of the way, what actually matters?
The tent comes with two doors, each with a large-ish vestibule. The vestibule isn’t big enough to have a person sitting inside but it’s good enough for keeping camping gear or muddy boots. And very few budget tents come with both two doors and two vestibules.
This tent is also very roomy. The 6 person model reaches 6 ft 4 in in the center of the tent which is tall enough for most people to walk around inside.
Critically, the Kelty Wireless tent provides brilliant value for money. Sure, there are better tents out there. But at this price point? It’s very hard to beat.
Unfortunately, one of the typical sacrifices at this price point is the use of cheaper fiberglass tent poles rather than lighter, stronger aluminum poles. We would always recommend upgrading to a tent with aluminum poles when possible, as they are significantly more durable.
The number of storage pockets is also a little disappointing. It does come with four storage pockets, but in the six person model it could probably do with a couple more.
Finally, be wary of camping near bodies of water on a wet day. Like the Dirt Motel, the ventilation on the rainfly isn’t brilliant, so condensation is a possibility. Of course, on hot days you can always open up the vestibules to let the breeze come through the mesh.
Overall, the Kelty Wireless tent is the best family Kelty tent. If you’re a smaller group and want to prioritize weatherproofing, the Dirt Motel tent is better suited. But if space, ease of use and value for money are your main concerns, the Kelty Wireless tent is top of the list.
- Lightweight for a budget tent
- Great value for money
- Small packed size in a backpack
- Full length rainfly for waterproofing
- Only one door
- Only one vestibule
- Headroom is a little low for tall campers to sit in
- Difficult to get rainfly taut enough for combating rain and wind
- No ventilation when the rainfly is fully closed
The Kelty Late Start tent is the updated version of the well-respected Kelty Salida Tent and comes in 1, 2, and 4 person models.
We’ll be the first to admit that the Kelty Late Start tent isn’t perfect. For starters, it only comes with one door and one vestibule. More exit points on a tent can be useful to help avoid waking people up on late-night bathroom breaks, and more vestibules give you extra storage space for gear or muddy boots.
The Kelty Late Start tent does provide pretty good value for money though. It’s a lightweight tent, coming in at 4 lb 8 oz for the 2 person model. And this tent packs down pretty small in a backpack with a packed size of 16 in x 7 in x 7 in.
The Kelty Late Start and the Grand Mesa tents are also the most affordable tents in Kelty’s range that come with aluminum poles. We’re huge advocates of aluminum poles and recommend upgrading to them over fiberglass poles when budget allows.
Aluminum tent poles are significantly stronger, lighter, and more durable than fiberglass poles. Given that a snapped pole is one of the easiest ways to end a tent’s lifespan early, and given how much you rely on the tent poles on a windy night, we highly recommend this upgrade.
These aluminum tent poles, along with 68 denier walls, are encouraging for the long term durability of this tent. Granted, we would always recommend picking up a footprint with the tent (sold separately) as tent floors are always prone to rips from tree roots and rocks.
However, we feel that this tent could have done with more guylines. It was difficult to get the rainfly fully taut and this is worrisome for heavy rain and wind. A rainfly that sags will collect water and eventually this rain will start to leak inside the tent.
The rainfly also doesn’t come with any vents to ventilate the tent. This is a big issue for camping in humid areas as the level of condensation on the inside of the tent can feel like it’s raining indoors. Of course, you can always open the rainfly at the door, but if it’s raining heavily at the time, you might feel like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Thirdly, these Kelty camping tents are very durable and can take a good beating. The 68 denier walls, floor and rainfly are thick enough to take a good knock and will last a long time.
Overall, this tent provides great value for money. However, we do feel that the lack of multiple doors and vestibules, the potential waterproofing issues, and the lack of rainfly ventilation means that there are better deals out there.
For example, the REI Co-op Passage comes in 1 and 2 person models and, while it’s a little heavier, we trust the weatherproofing more.
- Lightweight for a camping tent
- Easy to roll up the rainfly and secure for stargazing
- 2 doors for easy access out of either side
- Small vestibules beside each door
- Slightly better value for money than the Dirt Motel
- Heavy for a backpacking tent and 1lb 2 oz heavier than the Dirt Motel
- Lower quality materials than the Dirt Motel
- Not quite as portable as the Dirt Motel
- Could do with more ventilation on the rainfly
The first trade-off is in the tent poles. The DAC aluminum tent poles on the Dirt Motel tent have been swapped for standard Aluminum poles. This goes some way to explaining the additional weight of the Kelty Night Owl tent, sitting at 5 lb 15 oz compared to 4 lb 13 oz for the 2 person version of the Kelty Dirt Motel tent.
There has also been a trade-off in the materials used, again adding weight to the tent. The tent is made of cheaper polyester materials rather than the Dirt Motel’s nylon floor and ripstop nylon rainfly.
Polyester might be cheaper and heavier, but the fly is also a little thicker which should help with longevity. The rainfly is also a touch better waterproofed with an 1800mm hydrostatic head rating vs the Dirt Motel tent’s 1500mm waterproof rating.
Unfortunately, the Kelty Night Owl’s floor feels a little thin and this translates to the floor having a waterproof rating of only 1800mm (3000mm on the Dirt Motel). We would recommend picking up the additional footprint with this tent to avoid any tears due to rocks or tree roots.
As per the Dirt Motel, the Night Owl tent also suffers from ventilation issues with the rainfly on.
So how does the Kelty Night Owl tent stack up?
We feel that this tent lies even further into the dead spot between camping and backpacking tents. Due to its weight, this tent could only be a backpacking tent for the most casual of backpackers and is better placed as a decent quality camping tent.
All in all, you get better quality materials from the Dirt Motel without much of a difference in value. Unless you’re only using this tent for car camping – go with the Kelty Dirt Motel instead.
- Huge vestibule is great for rainy days or pets
- Decent amount of headroom in the 6 person model
- Unlikely to handle heavy rain and wind well
- The floor feels quite thin – definitely pick up a footprint
- Build quality overall feels a little disappointing
- Difficult to set up if you’re small
- Far too heavy for backpacking
- Only one door on the six person model
- 6 person model could do with more storage space
The Kelty Rumpus tent is an imaginative offering, coming in 4 and 6 person sizes.
The centerpiece of this tent is the HUGE vestibule at the front of the tent. This is ideal for any campers with dogs or lots of gear with them. It also provides plenty of space for sitting inside while staying protected from UV on a sunny day.
Unfortunately, we feel that Kelty missed a trick. A mesh door to this vestibule would have allowed it to act as a large screen room to keep away insects.
There are also a number of other annoyances with this Kelty tent.
The materials don’t feel particularly robust and the lifespan of this tent may disappoint. The floor, in particular, feels very thin and we definitely encourage you to pick up a footprint for this tent.
We do like that the 6 person model comes with a back door, a feature we feel is missing on the four-person model.
The six person tent is also tall enough for most people to walk around inside. However, this does make setting up the tent a little difficult for shorter people.
The tent also comes with fairly poor waterproofing, with a hydrostatic head rating of 1200mm. Don’t get us wrong, this is still much better than many budget tents out there. However, we would recommend only taking this tent out in fair weather conditions.
Overall, if you’re a casual camper who wants to set up a tent in a campsite, have a few beers, and have plenty of space, this tent may suit you well despite its downsides. If you are looking at only using this tent for summer camping then you may also be interested in the Core Instant Cabin Tent.
- Decent value for money
- Ok performance in moderate rain and wind
- Small packed size
- Aluminum tent poles
- 4 person model is quite heavy
- Only one door, although this is on the front
- Only one vestibule
- Could do with more guylines as the rainfly touches the tent
- Low quality tent stakes
- Vestibule only opens half way
The Kelty Grand Mesa tent comes in 2 and 4 person sizes.
This Kelty tent is okay as a budget backpacking tent. It does come with aluminum poles which is great to see.
However, it suffers from a number of drawbacks. It only comes with one door and one vestibule. Granted, this door is on the end of the tent rather than the side, which makes it less likely that you’ll have to crawl over someone to get out.
We have a few concerns with the built quality of these tents. When set up, the rainfly touches the inside of the tent. This breaks the surface tension and can lead to rain leaking in. Technically, the Kelty Grand Mesa does come with more guy points which can fix this, but that requires buying additional guy lines and poles.
And speaking of poles, the ones that come with the Grand Mesa feel pretty flimsy. These should be replaced with better ones as a priority.
Annoyingly, the vestibule only opens half way which can make it difficult to crawl in and out of the Grand mesa too.
All in all, the Kelty Grand Mesa isn’t a bad backpacking tent, it’s just not a particularly great one either. If you do buy it, you’ll need to invest in a footprint, new stakes, and additional guy ropes. And with that extra expense, you may as well go for a better tent.
- Feels very roomy to sit in
- People around 5’8” height or less can stand up inside
- Cheap zippers can catch
- Rainfly doesn’t provide full coverage
- No vestibule
- Only one door for access
- Height is not tall enough for most men to stand up inside
- Ventilation is not great
- Below average waterproofing and durability
The Kelty Tallboy comes in 4 person and 6 person models.
This tent aims to provide a better camping experience by adding height. Unfortunately, we feel it misses the mark.
The Kelty Tallboy features the usual drawbacks associated with budget tents. It has less durable fiberglass tent poles, a large packed size, it’s heavy, it comes with just one door, and it has no vestibule. Unlike the other Kelty tents, this one also doesn’t come with a full length rainfly.
Where the Tallboy falls short is its height. Despite being named “Tallboy”, it’s not particularly high. The maximum center height of the tent is 70 inches on the 4 person model and 72 inches on the 6 person model. Given the sloping sides, it’s difficult for anyone over 5 foot 8 in or so to walk around in this comfortably.
If you’re camping and okay with models that have deprioritized weight and weatherproofing in place with a tall, spacious, family-friendly tent, you’re better off looking elsewhere. We recommend the Eureka Copper Canyon LX as an alternative. Sure, it can only be used in fair weather conditions but almost everyone can stand up in these and they come with loads of storage options.
Kelty Field 1/2 Person Tent
- Built to US military specifications
- Very durable, strong, thick materials
- Very waterproof
- Fly door can be set up as an awning
- 2 doors and 2 vestibules
- Rectangle storage bag is great for fitting into backpack.
- Poor value for money
- Very heavy
- Side vents are poorly designed and rain can easily come inside
- Huge condensation issues even with the doors open
- Waterproofing disappears quickly
The Kelty Field tent comes in a one person and 2 person size. This, and the Kelty Squad, are the only Kelty tents made in the USA and built to US military specifications.
As you would expect from military specifications, it’s tough. Super tough, in fact. You won’t find many products with materials that are as durable and thick as those on the Kelty Field.
And with this thickness comes brilliant waterproofing. However, we have noticed that this wears off after a while so make sure to reapply a waterproofing spray every half a year or so.
However, this material thickness also contributes to a major problem. The tent isn’t breathable. Even when you open the doors, you’ll still have to deal with condensation issues on the inside.
This is made even worse by the poor design of the side vents that easily let in rain. You’re left deciding between rain coming in, or closing the vents and having condensation raining on you instead.
The thickness of the materials also means it’s very heavy. The two person model sits at 7 lb 2 oz, compared to the 4 lb 13 oz of the Kelty Dirt Motel.
Are there specific situations where the Kelty Field is the right choice? Sure – especially if you’re looking for durability. But for all other uses, we recommend avoiding this model. It provides a host of waterproofing and condensation issues and provides very poor value for money.
Kelty Squad 4 Season 4-6 Person Tent
- Incredible waterproofing
- Comes with a camo rainfly
- Great in heavy snow or rain
- Thick materials
- Terrible, terrible value for money
The Kelty Squad comes in a single size rated at a 4 to 6 person capacity.
This is a four season tent designed to handle the worst weather imaginable. It features an incredible 15,000 mm hydrostatic head rating and claims its poles can handle up to 4 lbs per square foot of snow.
It also comes with a camouflage rainfly, three doors, and large vestibules for storing gear.
However, we’ll keep this review brief. It provides terrible value for money. Frankly, unless you’re planning to invade a country, we recommend staying well clear.
Kelty Tents by capacity
An often confusing part of buying tents is the stated capacity. Manufacturers rate capacities by how many people they can fit inside when they’re packed in like sardines.
Sure, it’s technically correct, but most of us like to have a little more room and potentially a place to store camping gear.
We’ve listed all the Kelty tents by size and performance below. But, as a rule of thumb, if you want to be comfortable, add one to the number of people you have!
2 person camping tents
The Kelty Dirt Motel is a great 2 person tent. It provides strong, durable materials and is light enough to take camping or backpacking. It also features excellent waterproofing and plenty of space in the vestibules to keep your gear.
As a budget alternative, the Kelty Wireless will be best. The materials aren’t as good, and we would recommend upgrading if it’s affordable, but it does provide great value for money.
Related: If budget is your main concern, you may be interested in our Coleman tent reviews.
|Wireless||2||2||7 lb 5 oz||Fiberglass|
|Grand Mesa||1||1||4 lb 12 oz||Aluminum|
|Late Start||1||1||4 lb 8 oz||Aluminum|
|Night Owl||2||2||5 lb 15 oz||Aluminum|
|Dirt Motel||2||2||4 lb 13 oz||Aluminum|
The Kelty Dirt Motel is a good 4 person tent. It comes with two doors and two vestibules for easy access as well as gear storage. It’s also pretty lightweight and has excellent quality materials.
Again, the Wireless provides great value for money. It’s the only budget tent with 2 doors and 2 vestibules which we find very valuable. It’s far too heavy for backpacking though, so bear that in mind.
|Wireless||2||2||11 lb 2 oz||Fiberglass|
|Grand Mesa||1||1||7 lb 7 oz||Aluminum|
|Rumpus||1||1||13 lb 1 oz||n/a|
|Late Start||1||1||6 lb 14 oz||Aluminum|
|Dirt Motel||2||2||6 lb 14 oz||Aluminum|
The Kelty Wireless ticks all the boxes for a 6 person tent. The two doors and vestibules are critical for additional gear space. The Wireless features a full-length rainfly for waterproofing too, another reason why it provides excellent value for money.
The Rumpus is an interesting alternative with a large front vestibule. This could be a great solution for campers with a dog or who want to sit in the shade during a summer’s day. We would only recommend using it in fair weather though.
|Tent Model||Doors||Vestibules||Packed Weight||Poles|
|Tallboy||1||0||14 lb 1 oz||Fiberglass|
|Wireless||2||2||17 lb 3 oz||Fiberglass|
|Rumpus||2||1||18 lb 7 oz||n/a|
Are any of these Kelty tents good for backpacking?
The freestanding Kelty Dirt Motel is the most suitable tent for backpacking. It’s fairly lightweight, although not light enough to be classed as ultralight. It comes with durable and waterproof materials that will handle moderate rain and wind.
However, if you’re an avid backpacker then we recommend saving up for the Big Agnes Copper Spur instead. This has slightly better weatherproofing credentials and weighs very little, although it does cost a pretty penny.
Are Kelty tents good?
Kelty tents are suitable for camping and beginner backpacking. They are typically seen as a high-quality budget brand. These tents will suit you if you’re looking for an upgrade on Coleman but you aren’t looking to spend the amounts needed for brands like Big Agnes, MSR or Nemo.
Are these tents waterproof?
Kelty tents are typically waterproof in all but the worst weather conditions. Their Dirt Motel, Field, and Squad models can handle heavier rain while the other tents can handle moderately bad rain. However, we recommend that hardcore backpackers or those going mountaineering should seek out brands such as Big Agnes, MSR or Nemo instead.
Where are Kelty tents made?
Most Kelty tents are made overseas and imported. However, the Kelty Field and Squad tents are made in the USA. These are built to US military specifications.
Where is the Kelty Sequoia and the Kelty Gunnison?
Unfortunately, the Kelty Sequoia and Gunnison tents have been discontinued.