Kayak camping trips are a unique and fun experience, full of excitement, energy, and an extreme sense of freedom.
But when speaking about any trip, choosing the right kayak tent will make the difference between a great experience that will be remembered for years and a bad experience.
We reviewed many tents here at tents101.com, and depending on where and when a specific tent will be used, our recommendation will change.
In this guide, we will review the best kayak tents that exist today, we will describe why we chose each one of these tents and what are the best features each one has.
What to check before buying a kayaking tent?
In this guide, we recommend the best and the latest kayak tent of this year, but if you just want a guide on how to choose the best one, you can check the following points:
Is this kayaking tent waterproof?
One fact that you must understand is that a kayaking tent will get wet.
It is pretty much impossible to keep it dry all the time.
And to get the best kayaking experience possible, you must choose a tent with waterproofing characteristics (a waterproof wall, waterproof floor, etc).
We recommend the use of plastic tents and avoid the usage of canvas tents, the canvas is good to lower the moisture levels inside the tent, but the added weight and the water absorption capacity of the canvas will add extra unnecessary weight.
But right now, some tent manufacturing brands (including the one this guide) uses a canvas that doesn’t add any weight while keeping the water outside.
You should also make sure that the tent you’re planning to buy has a watertight seam added to its vestibule, without this seams the water will leak to the inside ruining your entire camping experience (especially if you have some electronic devices with you).
You should also consider a kayaking tent with a sealed floor.
Sealer floors keep water and dampness outside the tent.
A rainfly is also a must in this case to get a complete waterproof camping experience.
Never buy a kayaking tent if it doesn’t have an included rain fly with it.
Ease of setup
You will move a lot when kayaking, whether by your kayak, walking, or by an SUV. but in order to gain time, you must have a tent that can be completely set up in minutes (generally no more than 15 minutes).
Freestanding tents are the best choice in this case, because of their ability to stand without any need for ropes or anchors.
In the case of using a non-freestanding tent, you can simply choose the one with the simplest design.
Fast tent setup is also useful in the case of bad weather, imagine that you are in a sudden rainstorm, you don’t want to be (alone or with a kayaking partner) under heavy rain and trying to understand a complex guide in order to set up your tent in half an hour or more.
One important thing to remember is that you are going to be too tired when you finish your day of kayaking. And you will be extremely grateful to not spend a lot of time and effort on your sleeping shelter after a day of adventures.
Kayaking tents should not be heavy
The best kayak tent should not be heavy.
It is very important that your tent should be lightweight enough to let you bring more gear and items in your kayak without the danger of making it insatiable in the water.
Tents listed here as the best kayak tents are here for a reason, packing essentials with you should be always the top priority.
If you are a beginner, you should know that most kayaks have enough space to carry a tent, even a heavy tent. But the hydrodynamics will play against you, always bring a medium to a lightweight tent with you if you don’t have enough experience.
You should also take the weight of any additional gear that you bring with you, whether it is a sleeping bag, a portable lighting system, cookware, and any food and drinks.
Adding too much weight on your kayak will make it more difficult to control during the average water current. And depending on where you are going for a kayak trip, adding too much weight might not be a wise idea.
The only situation where you can get a heavy tent is when you are camping with three people or more. This is understandable because the weight of the bigger tents will make it impossible to carry anything else.
A kayaking tent should be well ventilated
It doesn’t matter where you are going for a camping trip, moisture will be a problem if your tent lacks proper ventilation.
A good tent should have a large door and at least one window equipped with a mesh screen.
During summer, all you have to do is to use the mesh to block any insects from getting inside your tent. And let the cool airflow through your tent removing any excess condensation.
But the problem starts when you are camping in an extremely cold area, in this can, you can use a portable dehumidifier. Or just keep a window partially open.
You should know how many possible people are going to use a tent.
If you are solo camping always go with a 2 person tent.
The additional space can be used for many things, you can have a book or a tablet with you, you can stretch your body inside the tent without needing to go outside (especially if the weather is cold).
Best selling kayaking tents available right now
This is the most important section of this guide, here, you will find our picks of the best kayaking tents available on Amazon and elsewhere.
We will keep this list updated every couple of months depending on what’s new on the market and also depending on the feedback of the previous buyers.
Coleman Sundome 2 Person Kayaking Tent
The first kayaking tent that we recommend is the Coleman Sundome 2, it is, by far, the best selling kayaking tent, and one of the best selling tents in the world.
It succeeded to draw hikers and campers thanks to its combination of low cost and high quality.
And when you add the brand Coleman to this combination, you have a tent that is unbelievably attractive.
Coleman is one of the best tent brands that exist today. They make multiple tent series to cover all the needs that campers might need.
It has a capacity of two to three people inside it, but we generally recommend it for two people, especially if you need enough space inside for any personal heavy gear.
Its structure is in the shape of a dome.
Sundome 2 design is stylish and optimized for warm and even tropical climates, it’s one of the best performers in the category of kayak tents.
The dome shape in tents design is beneficial to increase the resistance against a strong wind, and increase the general lifespan and durability of the tent.
This X-shape is also crucial for kayak camping because it allows for a quick movement from point to point.
You can pitch this tent on the ground quickly so don’t you can find the best spots near the river that you like and sleep there.
The measures of the Coleman Sundome 2 are 7’ by 5’ by 48’ when you set it up.
It is very spacious on the inside due to the optimization of its internal space.
Entering and exiting from the tent is easy and this is a rare tent for 2 person tents thanks to its large door.
This large door, combined with a large window, lets the airflow inside of the tent, this air ventilation removes any excess moisture or bad smells.
Similar to the majority of the high-end tents manufactured this year, the Coleman Sundome 2 has a waterproof floor made from Polythene 1000D that prevents water from leaking inside the tent (extremely useful when camping in the snow or during rainstorms).
Camping near a beach or near any area with strong wind is possible with this tent, its structure is capable of withstanding wind without generating too much noise.
The setup process of the Coleman Sundome 2 is fast and doesn’t have any unnecessary and complicated steps.
All you have to do is to set up the two poles following the instruction (can be found on the carrying bag), you don’t need any further tools due to the use of a freestanding design of this tent.
Coleman Sundome 2 kayak tent comes with an AC port if you need electric power, this port has a zipper to close it if it’s not needed.
You can also run electricity inside thanks to the zippered electrical installment port for AC power.
The Sundome 2 does include a rainfly and a large mesh screen to cover the door and the window, this makes it usable during the whole year.
In summary, Coleman Sundome 2 is the best kayaking tent that you can get, you can easily store and transport it, in addition to your kayak, it is a must-have tent for any kayak trip.
It is comfortable, easy to set up, looks good, and comes from a very known brand at a cheap price.
Kelty Salida 2 Person Kayaking Tent
- Backpack-friendly compact folding poles, Gearloft loops, Color coded clip and fly attachment.Wall material: 68D Polyester, 40D No-See-Um Mesh,Floor material: 68D Nylon, 1800 mm
- Roll top cube carry bag, Easy set up, Free standing, Fabric/mesh tent walls
- Kelty hug clip, Easy entry D door, Internal storage pockets, Fully seam taped construction
- Seasons: 3, Number of doors: 1, Number of vestibules: 1, Number of poles: 2, Capacity: 2
- Floor area: 30.5 ft² / 2.83 m², Vestibule area: 10 ft² / .93 m².Wall material: 68D Polyester, 40D No-See-Um Mesh,Floor material: 68D Nylon, 1800 mm
The second kayak tent on this guide is the Kelty Salida 2 Person Tent, I tested it in many areas and here is my review.
The Salida 2 tent features an innovative compact and lightweight design and can be easily transported during kayak trips.
Its aluminum poles are light and can withstand water droplets and high moisture weather.
Its internal space is enough for 2 persons with additional items, items like smartphones, tablets, portable lighting, dehumidifiers, and much more.
The Kelty Salida kayak tent is completely waterproof, its walls didn’t leak water even during a strong rainstorm.
A vestibule with taped seams will help you to secure your belongings and prevent water and snow from leaking inside your sleeping area.
It’s also usable during hot weather thanks to its good ventilation level.
Some kayak campers worry about mosquitoes getting inside the tent at night, don’t worry, this one got a high-quality mesh screen that keeps cool air flowing to the inside but blocks all annoying insects on the outside.
UV protection is a must while camping during summer, Kelty offers an additional UV cover to attach to the tent when the sun rays start to get stronger.
Its aluminum poles can fold to make it easier to move from spot to spot, a nice feature to have if you are kayaking alone.
After folding the poles, you can put the entire kayak tent inside its own bag.
This bag facilitates movement and protects the tent while in storage.
It got a floor with an area that spans over 30 sq ft.
And a door that opens and closes using a vestibule (with its own watertight seam).
This tent is rated as a three-season tent, but I used it during all season without any issue, the most important thing is air management inside the tent, always keep the air flowing as much as possible.
Inside the tent, you can attack every camping item that you need to have.
Attaching items on the inside is easy thanks to the included attachment points.
In summary, the Kelty Salida combines many features that any kayak camper might need.
Its lightweight aluminum poles allow for fast setup, and easy transport from place to place.
It has its own mesh for protection against mosquitoes while keeping the tent ventilated.
The no-see-um mesh allows you to see the stars at night, a great experience while camping in summer.
ALPS Mountaineering Mystique 2-Person Kayak Tent
- There's no assembly frustration with our Mystique Tent series; this aluminum two-pole design can be setup with ease
- Weatherproof tent fly resists water, UV damage and stays taut during all weather conditions
- Fly provides a vestibule over each mesh covered door, offering extra storage and weather protection
- Fully equipped with #8 zippers, mesh storage pocket, aluminum stakes and guy ropes
- Base Size: 5' x 8', Center Height: 40", Total Weight: 5 lbs. 6 oz., Minimum Weight: 4 lbs. 9 oz., Color: Copper/Rust
If you are looking for the best non-freestanding and the lightest camping kayak tent, the ALPS mountaineering Mystique kayak tent is the best option to have.
It is made to have 2 people inside it, and it introduced many new features to the camping tents industry.
The only thing that we didn’t like when we tested this tent is the fact that it’s not a freestanding tent, so you’ll need some extra time each time you need to set it up.
You should set it up on a ground where you can attack the included anchors, which might be difficult if you are camping on a place with a non-attachment friendly ground.
However, we used the ALPS Mountaineering Mystique on the sand, rocks, gravel, and other types of terrain without any noticeable problem.
And now for the positive points of this kayak tent. It got a fully waterproof floor, made from plastic-based material (Polyester to be more specific).
The same material is used for the fly, so you have complete protection from rain and snow, and also from the sun (thanks to the UV fly).
The poles of this tent are strong enough to be used in windy areas, they are made from high-grade aluminum, and can be quickly set.
The most interesting difference between this tent and the previous two is the use of two doors instead of one.
Two doors mean it’s easier to get in and out of the tent. And also remove any smells and moisture faster. During cold weather, you can open the two doors and ventilate the tent in half of the time needed to do the same thing in the two previously mentioned tents.
Each door has its own vestibule and watertight seam.
In summary, the Mountaineering Mystique is a very durable tent that offers many features for its price.
Its lightweight makes it very attractive for kayakers around the world, weight is one of the choosing factors of any good kayak tent.
Even if it is not freestanding, we consider it to be a great purchase, and one of the best kayak tents on the market right now.
Kelty Late Start 1 Person - 3 Season Backpacking Tent
- Updated Version of Kelty Salida Tent
- The tent measures 85” x 40” x 30”, giving you an interior area of 20. 6 square feet. The peak height is 36. 5 inches. There is a single vestibule protecting 6. 4 square feet of storage space.
- The two aluminum poles are pre-bent to create extra room inside the tent. Pockets at the corners of the tent keep one end of the pole secure as you move around to deal with the other end.
- The tent has a single door. The walls are No-see-um mesh and the floor is tough 68 denier fabric, water resistant to 1800 mm. Internal storage includes a ceiling pocket.
- The tent body is protected by a waterproof 68 denier rainfly. All seams are sealed to keep the water out. The freestanding design means you can pitch the tent and then move it around to find the best site.
This is basically the Updated Version of Kelty Salida Tent, it brings new features to the table, but it doesn’t replace the original Salida tent.
Its measures are 85” by 40” by 30”, with an interior area of 20.7 square feet.
It has a vestibule protecting the included storage area if you need to store any items of food with you.
Just like its bigger sister, this tent structure is based on two aluminum poles that are made to create an additional room inside the tent while being secure and capable of supporting the weight of the tent.
Single door design with a no see um mesh to keep insects out.
The floor is made from a strong and high durable denier fabric, and it is waterproof with a rating of 1800mm.
The ceiling of the tent has some storage pockets (similar to the ceiling storage of the top of the end rooftop tents).
And it is also a freestanding design for a quick setup and wind resistance.
The new thing about this tent is the new colorful waterproof rainfly that can be easily attached.
The tent does also has many waterproof seams to prevent water from leaking inside it.
This was our complete guide of the best kayak tents available in the US and elsewhere. I should also note that I didn’t include any tent that I didn’t personally test for durability and usability, mainly due to the fact that many of the tents available online are great on paper but not so much in real-life conditions.
Please share this guide, this will help a lot here at tents101, we also have other great tents guides if you like to learn more.
You can also check our new section related to rooftop tents, these tents are a really good choice if you are going to camp with your own vehicle.
This article was written by Max Dupont., a lover of everything related to kayaks and camping, now working as a camping guide.
I love to share my experience with the biggest number of people, everyone should know that feeling of an awesome kayaking adventure.
- 1 What to check before buying a kayaking tent?
- 2 Best selling kayaking tents available right now