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The best tent for desert camping

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Last Updated: April 10, 2021

For desert camping, you want something tough that can withstand wind, sand and heat. There are a few on the market boasting compatible features, so let’s take a look.

The best tents for desert camping are:

Table of Contents

What tent do we recommend for desert camping?

Our top pick is the Kodiak Flex-Bow 8-Person Tent for its sturdy canvas construction and positive customer feedback.

Why trust us?

We evaluated each tent from an unbiased perspective, picked out its best and worst points and looked at customer feedback. We reviewed them from a desert-camping standpoint, looking at how well they protect you from the sand and the sun, as well as their overall versatility.

Reviews of the best tents for desert camping

Best Overall
Kodiak Canvas Flex-Bow Canvas Tent (4/6/8 Person)

A dust, wind and waterproof tent for rough weather conditions.

Overall:

Pros

  • Long, wide stakes.
  • Tough, high-quality materials.
  • UV protection.
  • Awning.

Cons

  • Very heavy.
  • Can grow mold.

Capacity: 8 | Weight: 84.59lbs | Dimensions: 114’ (W) x 10’ (L) x 6’5” (H) | Bag Dimensions: 30” x 13” and 50” x 5.5” | Doors: 2 | Power Cord Vent: No | Hydrostatic Head Rating: N/A | Price: $$$

This tent is made of tough canvas and steel. The poles won’t bend, and the canvas won’t rip easily. The floor is thick and performs well. This is the excellent craftsmanship you need in a desert-camping tent and will last you for years.

A canvas tent is perfect for keeping sand at bay, even in the wind. The thick material also provides excellent UV protection, and the awning helps if you want to sit outside in the shade. This tent also works in cold climates, so you can use it on all kinds of camping trips.

Customers are quick to praise the Kodiak canvas tent’s performance on sand but recommend you anchor the stakes with sandbags. Sandbags will add to the already mammoth weight load, which customers disliked, but it works for car camping. Users also disliked that the Kodiak canvas tent can grow mold in humid climates. 


Easiest Set Up
Quechua Pop Up Tent (2/3 Person)

This Quechua Pop-Up goes up in seconds – which is just one reason we loved this tent.

Overall:

Pros

  • Seals temperature in.
  • Easy setup.
  • Air circulation to prevent condensation buildup.
  • Durable exterior.

Cons

  • Fiberglass poles.
  • Weaker inner tent material.

Capacity: 3 | Weight: 7.3lbs | Dimensions: 6’ (W) x 6’8” (L) x 3’3” (H) | Bag Dimensions: 25.6” x 3.5” | Doors: 1 | Power Cord Vent: No | Hydrostatic Head Rating: 200mm | Price: $

This is great for campers who want something easy to set up. It pops-up then requires staking at the sides where the vents are—but you’ll need better stakes than those provided.

The large vents keep you cool easily. The white material stops heat attraction, and the black inner walls help keep things cool, too.

Campers and festival-goers alike found the material excellent for keeping out rain and small particles.

Some users worry about the interior material, saying it’s not as sturdy as the outside. Others disliked the fiberglass poles, as fiberglass isn’t as sturdy as steel.


Overall:

Pros

  • Integrated mattress.
  • Holds heat well.
  • Windows.
  • Long and roomy.

Cons

  • Heavy for its size.
  • May be uncomfortable.

Capacity: 1 | Weight: 17.5lbs | Dimensions: 3’ (W) x 6’8” (L) x 2’25 (H) | Bag Dimensions: Unspecified | Doors: 1 | Power Cord Vent: Yes | Hydrostatic Head Rating: N/A | Price: $$

This tent is for sleeping only. There are some windows for if you want to lie down during the day and take a reading or phone break. These windows can also keep you cool at night.

If the weather conditions are cold, users say the tent holds heat well and protects you from dusty wind. Although, they also say it’s difficult to get comfortable in such a small tent. Other users didn’t have this issue and enjoyed the tent’s integrated interior mattress.

Customers found carrying the tent an issue, though—it’s heavy because it’s canvas. Canvas tents are more durable than polyester tents, though, so you may feel the weight is worth the lifespan.


Best Budget Option
Coleman Instant Cabin Tent (4/6/10 Person)

Coleman’s instant tents are a top pick for an effortless setup in a matter of seconds. This 10-person straight wall cabin tent is large enough for four mattresses and has windows all around for ventilation.

Overall:

Pros

  • Darkroom tech keeps you cool.
  • Great for tall campers.
  • Budget tent, fantastic for festivals.
  • Fast setup.

Cons

  • Seams may let sand in.

Capacity: 10 | Weight: 42lbs | Dimensions: 14’ (W) x 10’ (L) x 6’7” (H) | Bag Dimensions: 48.4” x 12.4” x 11.5” | Doors: 1 | Power Cord Vent: Yes | Hydrostatic Head Rating: 600mm | Price: $$

Larger party? No problem. This Coleman instant tent holds four queen air mattresses, two per interior room.

The instant setup means your large party will be inside and relaxing in no time. However, the stakes will take longer than with regular instant cabins, and you will need to replace the stakes supplied.

Once set up, users found no issues with the tent except in the rain. This tent is more for hot deserts. The darkroom technology keeps it cool inside the tent and offers UV protection.

Users recommend seam seal, though—both water and sand can leak through the seams.


How to set up a tent in the desert

The main thing you want to focus on when setting up a tent in the desert is stakes. Sand is loose and won’t cling to tent stakes very well—you need to get in deep, to the hard stuff.

We recommend ensuring your tent has wide stakes that are longer than average. Consider anchoring them with heavy objects too.

Our second tip for setting up a tent in the desert is to face the door downwind. We also recommend using a tarp under your tent to stop any abrasion between the sand and the tent floor.

Does it take longer to set up a tent in the sand?

It can take longer to set up a tent in the sand. If you need to anchor the stakes, it adds time to your setup. Longer, wider stakes may also take longer to work with.

What can you do to prevent sand coming into your tent?

There are a few things you can do to prevent sand from coming into the desert tent.

  • Pitch your tent with the door facing downwind.
  • Remove shoes outside and use a welcome mat.
  • Bring a brush—if sand gets in, you can sweep it back out swiftly.
Someone backpacking in the desert

Which tent is best for dealing with sand?

All of the camping tents above are fantastic at dealing with sand, but there’s one clear winner. The Kodiak Flex-Bow, with its canvas construction and long, wide stakes, can’t be beaten.

What materials/features make a difference?

Canvas is better at keeping sand out of your tent. Polyester and other synthetics are great, but sand can corrode them and they tend to be quite thin.

Bathtub floors in tents are great for desert camping too, but none of the tents above have this. Consider constructing one using a tarp.

Which backpacking tent performs best in the heat and the cold?

Heat

The Coleman performs best in the heat. The darkroom tech keeps campers cool, but also seals heat in decently if it gets colder.

Cold

As a four-season tent, the Kodiak Flex-Bow performs best in cold weather conditions. Customers don’t recommend you let snow pile up on it, but it seals heat in well.

Other factors to consider

How long will each tent last?

The longest-lasting will likely be the Kodiak Flex-Bow. The high-quality canvas material and sturdy steel poles boast intense durability that the other tents for camping can’t beat. 

We predict that the Quechua has the shortest lifespan, thanks to the fiberglass poles.

How much value is in each tent?

None of these tents have particularly special features, but we feel the Kodiak Flex-Bow and Kodiak Swag have the most value as they’re canvas. The canvas construction is more durable, so they’ll last the longest.

Camping in comfort

Dimensions and interior size

The best tents for desert camping vary considerably in size, so we can’t do a direct comparison. However, we can recommend the most comfortable tents for different parties.

Larger parties should go for the Coleman instant tent if comfort is your main concern. It holds the most people comfortably, great for huge groups and glamping.

If you’re a comfort-loving solo camper or couple, then the Kodiak Swag is best for you. Solo campers could use the Quechua, but you won’t be as comfortable.

Is the tent heavy or difficult to carry?

The best tents for desert camping have various ease-of-carry rankings:

  • Kodiak Flex-Bow: Very difficult, bulky and heavy.
  • Quechua: Lightest tent, great for backpacking or hiking.
  • Kodiak Swag: Too heavy for backpacking and long distances, but not bad for short distances.
  • Coleman: Not bad if you take turns carrying it in a large group.

What size of tent is good for desert camping?

The size you want depends on your group’s size. 

Pro tip: Camp with two fewer people than the tent can hold. This gives you more personal space and some room for gear.

Example: The Kodiak Flex-Bow holds eight. Camp with six.

Which backpacking tent is best for tall people?

The Coleman is best for tall people thanks to its 6’7” height.

Are there storage options?

None of these tents have particularly great storage options.

Pro tip: Larger tent + fewer people = more storage.

What makes these tents special?

One thing that makes the Kodiak Flex-Bow special is its canvas construction. It’s highly durable, great for camping in the desert. Another special tent is the Coleman with its room divider.

Do these tents come with dark room technology?

The Coleman desert tent comes with darkroom technology, and the Quechua’s interior walls are black despite not being advertised as darkroom tech.

Frequently asked questions

How to deal with desert creepy-crawlies?

Deal with desert creepy-crawlies by:

  • Keeping tent doors closed at all times.
  • Bringing a fly swat to whack them with.
  • Carrying bug spray.

Are canvas tents better for desert camping?

Canvas tents on the market like the Kodiak canvas Flex Bow tent are better for camping in the desert. They’re tougher, last longer and easier to alter. The thicker material offers more sun protection than polyester.

Does the color of the tent matter?

The tent color doesn’t matter for the most part but go for light colors if you can. Black exteriors attract heat, and that’s the last thing you need!

How do you keep cool in the desert?

Keep cool by bringing:

  • Lots of drinking water.
  • Handheld fans.
  • Light clothing.

How to keep cool in your tent?

The best tents for desert camping need to be cool, thanks to the scorching desert sun. Here are some tips.

At night

It’s naturally cooler during the night, but keep cool in the tent by sleeping in light pajamas with thin sleeping bags. Ensure there are extra blankets around in case it gets too cold.

During the day

In the daytime, the sun may be your worst enemy. Ensure you bring light clothing and handheld fans, but also consider bringing a portable air conditioner that you can supervise.

If a tent comes with a darkroom version, consider that too. They’re often fitted with heat shields that block UV rays.

A woman backpacking in the desert

The top camping tent for desert camping

The best tent for desert camping is the Kodiak Flex-Bow 8-Person Tent. It’s a great choice as it’s tough, excellent at keeping the sun away from you and highly durable for camping and backpacking in the desert.

You won’t need to replace the tent stakes if you invest in sandbags or wood, and campers had few issues with it in all seasons.

Author at Wilderness Redefined camping website
James Black

James has been escaping to the outdoors for as long as he can remember. This first started in family camping trips but soon turned into adventure camps and hiking through the Scottish Hebrides. Now he has turned towards trying to make camping more comfortable and accessible.