The Best Stargazing Tents with Reviews, Comparisons, and Tips for Camping Under the Stars
Do you love staring at the night sky when you are out in nature? Of course you do! If you are a camper who loves being able to see the stars and planets from your campsite, we want to help you enjoy stargazing even more. We are here to help you get the perfect stargazing tent so you can enjoy that stellar view all night long!
In this buying guide we have gathered the top stargazing tents for a variety of different budgets and camping needs so that you can find the one that is best for you and your camping companions. You will discover key features to look for, how to find ideal dark sky locations for using your stargazing tent, tips for using your tent, and advice for how to create amazing stargazing trips for years to come!
What is a stargazing tent?
First let’s explore what a stargazing tent is. The best stargazing tents are double layered. This means that your tent will have tent body with a no-see-um mesh roof and a separate rainfly. Examples of single layered tents are many mountaineering tents and the canvas and festival types that you may have grown up with. They will not let you view the heavens once you have gone to bed and are not included in this guide.
The best stargazing tents offer a mesh roof and upper tent walls so you can easily see the stars, planets, and moon from the comfort and warmth of your cozy camp bed. When you aren’t stargazing, you can attach the rainfly over the tent for privacy and to protect you from the elements.
Why do you need a stargazing tent?
If you have an interest in both astronomy and camping, a stargazing tent is the perfect choice. You will always have the option of taking off the rainfly and camping with the stars when the weather and light conditions allow. But you will have a traditional tent to keep you warm, dry, and comfortable for all of your other camping adventures.
Camping with the stars: jump to your favorites!
Table of Contents
Stargazing tent comparison chart
|Tent||Cost per person||Weight||Square footage||Capacity|
|Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 3||$$$||7 lbs 1.2 oz||42.5 square feet||3|
|Kelty Late Start 1||$$||3 lbs 12 oz||20. 6 square feet||1|
|Kelty Dirt Motel 3||$$||4 lbs 13 oz||39. 6 square feet||3|
|Nemo Aurora 2||$$$||5 lbs 7 oz||31.8 square feet||2|
|TETON Sports Quick Tent||$||4 lbs 3 oz||22.2 square feet||1|
|Coleman Sundome 2||$||7 lbs 8 oz||35 square feet||2|
|Core 9 Person Instant Cabin Tent||$||30 lbs 8 oz||126 square feet||9|
|Ozark Trail 10-Person Dark Rest Instant Cabin Tent||$||20 lbs||137.5 square feet||10|
What to look for when choosing tents for stargazing
Here are the most important features to consider whey deciding on the stargazing camping tent that is just right for you.
Ability to see the stars
The distinguishing trait of a stargazing tent is that you can see the night sky from inside the tent. When choosing the tent that is right for you, consider the placement of the mesh. If you often camp in places with unobstructed views like the desert or the beach, mesh walls will let you see more of the sky. However if you mostly camp in forests or valleys, a mesh roof is likely enough to see your window into the sky.
For your night under the stars, also consider the color and weave of the mesh. The poles and fabric of the tent will be obstructions to your view, so keep them in mind when making your choice. In some cases clips offer more visibility than poles in sleeves. The Ozark Trail offers clear waterproof windows in the rainfly. This doesn’t allow for perfect viewing, but it does allow you to retain more heat in the tent on cold nights while still getting in some stargazing.
Stargazing camping tents vary widely in cost, generally ranging from $50 – $700. The range is related to the features discussed in this section: design, quality of materials used, size, weight, season rating, and brands. We will discuss most of these in greater detail in the subsections below.
Regarding brands, in general, reputable brands are going to cost more and provide higher quality and reliability. Premium brands can command top dollar because we are paying for that reliable reputation and quality materials. High end tents do not always mean they are the best choice for your needs, so don’t get too attached to the name.
You can always end up with a lemon, so check the return policy, set it up at home before you head out, and consider camp with a tent repair kit. Many mid to high end tents come with their own repair kit.
We do not recommend any of the least expensive, off brand tents. You are better off borrowing a tent than purchasing one that won’t last long.
Protection from the elements
We use tents to protect us from the elements while we sleep outside. You want to be sure the mesh weave is fine enough to protect you from insects. (All of the tents in this guide include this feature.) You also want a sturdy enough floor to your tent that it doesn’t rip when placed over objects on the ground. (See the durability section below.) When stargazing, your tent won’t provide you with protection from rain or trap much heat inside.
Instead, most of the protections offered by your stargazing tent will be available when you aren’t stargazing, but instead when you are using the rainfly. The quality and design of your rainfly will determine much of your comfort.
Tent rainflies can be full or partial. Full rainflies reach almost to the ground surrounding the tent with a waterproof shell that protects you in heavy rain. These are preferred if you will be camping in a lot of wet weather.
Partial rainflies only cover the top and upper part of the tent. They provide more ventilation and are lighter in weight, which is important for backpackers. But, with only partial coverage, the tent can leak more easily in a heavy downpour or windy rain that comes at an angle. If your tent has a partial rainfly the only way to ensure the tent is waterproof is if the walls of the tent are coated with at least a 3000mm hydrostatic head, which is the way of measuring how waterproof a fabric is.
There are some key design features to consider when choosing your stargazing tent. Two doors allow people to leave the tent in the middle of the night without waking up their campmates. Ample windows and vents allow you to control condensation and temperature. Some tents include zip-up window coverings with or without a tie for the coverings.
Built-in loops and pockets allow easy organization, storage, and a place to hang a lantern, but pay close attention to where they are located in a stargazing tent since they can obstruct your view. Gear lofts, for example, are not useable when stargazing.
Vestibules are the porch-like overhang created by the rainfly (or sometimes added separately). They are very useful outdoor storage areas on tents. They also keep rain from getting in the tent when you open doors during a rainstorm. Those that offer two vestibules, one for each door, are especially useful.
Some of the larger tents offer room dividers which can provide a little privacy, but again, can obstruct your view when camping with the stars.
The tent durability, combined with how you use and store your tent, will determine how many nights of camping you will get from it.
You will see tent material evaluated in a few ways. Denier refers to the thickness of the fabric fibers and often (but not always) corresponds to the strength of the fabric. Generally, higher denier fabrics are used on the floors of tents than the walls and roofs. Thread count refers to the number of threads, both vertical and horizontal, in a square inch of fabric. Again, a lot depends on the material of the fabric so a higher thread count does not guarantee a stronger fabric. Finally, tent fabrics are evaluated by how waterproof or water repellent they are. The hydrostatic head of the fabric measures how much water can be sustained on top of the fabric before it leaks through. All of these variables are considered when manufactures choose tent fabrics and help to make the best tents for different purposes.
Ideally, you want a bathtub designed floor, which means there is not a stitched seam at the floor to wall junction of the tent. Instead, the floor fabric continues up the walls of the tent for a few inches. This helps to prevent leaks of the tent floor.
Quality zippers are an important feature of good stargazing tents. The best thing you can do to ensure the longevity of your zippers is use them gently. If they get stuck, carefully and gently remove the fabric or realign them, don’t pull roughly.
Ease of set up
Tent set up has come a long way– those of us who have camped a lot with old designs know just how valuable this is! If you have ever tried to pitch your tent in the rain or after nightfall, you will especially love this feature. Most of the tents in this guide include innovative design features that drastically reduce the time it takes to set them up. Because they utilize new techniques, watch videos and set them up at home in a low stress environment before you leave.
There are a few tips that can help ease tent set up. If your tent comes with traditional poles, consider color coding them to help with efficient set up. If you are short and adding a rainfly to a tall tent, see if you can attach it, or at least lay it on top, before extending the legs of the tent itself.
Tent sleeping capacity assumes a cozy fit and doesn’t include extra room for gear, young children, or dogs. When deciding on the size of your stargazing tent keep in mind the number of people in your group, the size of campers, and just how close people want to sleep next to each other. For comfort, especially if you are car camping, consider adding at least one person to the capacity of your desired tent.
Bigger tents can be more challenging to find space for at some campgrounds. They also don’t retain heat as well and some tall ones have difficulty withstanding strong winds. If you are looking at a bigger tent because your family has grown, weigh the benefits and disadvantages of getting older kids and teenagers their own stargazing tents instead. Still, big tents can be a fantastic choice and are great for glamping and enjoying plenty of comfort in your tent.
Weight is one of the key features that determines the price and useability of a tent. When you are car camping, weight is almost irrelevant. But if you are backpacking, it makes all the difference! To decrease the weight of backpacking tents, new, innovative materials are used and these drive up the cost.
If weight is a consideration, there are three different weights to be aware of. Consider how you will be using your backpacking tent when comparing weights.
Packaged weight – the weight of everything included with the tent: tent, footprint, rainfly, guylines, and stuff sack
Trail weight – the weight of a light setup: tent, fly and poles
Fast pitch — the weight of the most minimal setup: fly, footprint, and poles
Reviews of the Best Tents for Stargazing
Here are our favorite stargazing tents. Think about the features that are most important to you and the way you will be using your stargazing tent. One size does not fit all!
The Mountain Hardwear Mineral King was Outdoor’s Tent of the Year in 2020. Not as a stargazing tent, but as an overall tent! It is easy to see why. We love it for these same features, but also for its excellent stargazing possibilities.
It has many features that make it the best stargazing tent. It has a super fast and easy set up as well as a quality build that can withstand heavy weather. It is all mesh except for the bathtub style floor so your stargazing views are excellent. The two doors are extra spacious which means that getting gear in and out is easy. The rainfly offers two fair sized vestibules and can also be rolled back to half so you can stargaze while it is still attached. There are multiple interior pockets and it comes standard with a durable footprint.
The Mountain Hardwear Mineral King is a great multi use tent. You will be comfortable car camping since it is spacious with plenty of headroom and space to store your gear. The 3 person model is a little heavy for a 2 person backpacking trip, but it is manageable. Keep in mind that this tent is not treated with fire retardant.
The Kelty Late Start is a great one person backpacking tent. It has a mesh ceiling and walls with a quality bathtub floor. The Late Start gets its name from its super fast set up– you can sleep in and get a late start to your camping day because it is so fast and easy to set up.
It is 3 lbs 12 oz making it a little heavy for a backpacking tent. But it is manageable and saves the extra hundreds you might have to invest to get a good ultralight tent.
The rainfly on the Late Start is pretty solid but doesn’t allow for prime ventilation. This means it can keep you warmer on a cold night than many of these other mesh tents, but condensation can build up inside the tent making it damp and uncomfortable.
The coolest feature of the Kelty Dirt Motel is that it is that the rainfly is made for stargazing! You can go to bed with it rolled up for looking at the night sky, and then if you feel any rain or get too cold in the middle of the night, you can close it from inside while still warm and cozy in your sleeping bag.
It has all mesh sides and top and two big zippered doors with two way zippers. There is a vestibule outside of each door and ample headroom. The Dirt Motel is also easy to pack into its stuff sack. Best of all, it is made by Kelty, so it is made with quality materials and design features.
The downsides to this stargazing tent are that it is a pricer tent and it is often out of stock.
It is in the name! The Arora offers stellar views of the sky, whether you are viewing an aurora, the stars, or the dawn. The mesh ceiling and upper walls make it a great stargazing tent. It has two large doors and vertical walls making it spacious and comfortable for a backpacking tent. It comes standard with its footprint and boasts a fast and easy set up. It is longer than many backpacking tents, making it a good choice for tall folks.
This is our top pick for camping with your pooch too. It comes with built-in snaps to attach the NEMO pawprint that you can purchase separately. This floor liner protects the floor from your pup’s claws.
This is a multi use tent, spacious enough for car camping, but light enough for backpacking. It is on the heavier side for multi night backpacking trips, but can easily be split into two packs. The biggest downside is that it only has single zippers in the doors. This can make it challenging to get in and out, especially with the rainfly on. Keep in mind that this tent is not treated with fire retardant.
The TETON Sports Quick Tent is a very affordable option for stargazing. It has an awesome full mesh top that gives you a great view. It also has a unique popup structure that allows for setting up and taking down in a couple of minutes.
TETON offers some unique upgrades to this tent too. It can be placed on top of a TETON cot, or two cots for the two person model. They also offer attachable storage organizers for the cots. The two person model offers two doors, which is always a plus when sharing the tent in the middle of the night.
This is advertised as a backpacking tent, but if you are putting in a lot of miles, it is really too heavy at 4.2 pounds for one person. It slopes down so much at top and bottom that tall people might find their feet against the tent itself and this tent doesn’t come with a bathtub floor.
The other challenge with this tent is the rainfly. If you will be camping in much rain, you will want to upgrade to the Elite Rainfly, which is an extra expense. The included fly doesn’t go down far enough, which is an even bigger problem if you pitch it on top of the cot. You’ll be stuck with an extra rainfly, but you can use it over your outdoor gear.
If you want to get into a quality stargazing tent at one of the lowest price points, the two person Coleman Sundome Tent is the top pick. Coleman is all about affordable quality. Even though we have upgraded a lot of our camp gear, it is our trusty Coleman camp stove that still cooks us perfect car camping meals after 30 years!
The visibility in the Sundome isn’t as expansive as the other tents in this guide, but you will still be enjoying gorgeous views of the night sky. Coleman will keep you dry in heavy weather and they have the reputation to keep you confident.
This is a car camping tent and too heavy for backpacking. You will want to upgrade your stakes and consider getting a footprint.
If you are an REI member, your best budget stargazing tent is the Kelty Discovery. This is a newer Kelty design and is lightweight enough for backpacking if you split it between two people. It does not offer a full mesh top, but you will still get a good view of the night sky. Don’t expect to store your gear inside though since the footprint is small.
The Core 9 person Instant Cabin Tent is one of the fantastic glamping tents for sale. It comes in models that sleep 6, 9, or 12 people with slightly different features.
Because of its expansive size this tent is ideal for large groups or comfortable glamping. One side of the tent completely opens up as a door allowing easy access for your big queen size inflatable mattress and other glamping accessories. It has lots of goodies like a room divider making it a multi room tent, storage pockets, and an electrical cord access port. It has good ventilation and the windows all around can be unzipped allowing even more stargazing from certain areas of the tent.
With its pre-attached poles, it is an easy tent to set up and take down. If you clip the rainfly on before you extend the poles it will make attaching the rainfly easier. This tent fits easily in the storage bag.
We recommend purchasing better tent stakes. the floor fabric is not as strong so protect it with a tarp or footprint. Use the zippers carefully. Not all window covers have ties, some just hang down. Also, the air vents can’t be closed and can make it hard to keep the tent warm so if it is going to be a cold night, put your duffles in front of the vents.
The Ozark Trail Dark Rest Instant Cabin Tents are a fun choice for stargazing. They come in sizes for 6, 10, and 12 people with slightly different features.
The tent includes clear panels in the rainfly, so you can get in some stargazing between passing rain clouds. The mesh skylights have covers like the windows that can be zipped closed. This is a blackout tent and features dark, sun blocking walls that keep the tent dark in the morning. After a late night of stargazing, those extra hours of shuteye will be appreciated.
The poles are pre attached to the tent making this an easy tent to set up. It will be even faster if you watch the video beforehand. One person can set this up alone, but two people will make it easier, especially if you are putting up the rainfly.
This is a big heavy tent and good for comfortable car camping. It only has a partial rainfly so it is more prone to leaking in heavy rain. You will benefit from getting a larger bag to store it in and purchasing more heavy duty stakes.
What about bubble tents for camping with the stars?
Sorry to pop your bubble! You might wonder why there are no bubble tents listed in this review when they seem like they would be ideal for stargazing. Bubble tents are very Instagrammable clear inflatable tents for ultimate glamping. The high quality bubble tents that you see at some glamping resorts are many thousands of dollars and require careful planning for set up. Most of the bubble tents advertised online are poor quality and do not work well in campgrounds. You are better off getting one of the stargazing tents in the guide and planning a trip to a glamping resort if you want to try one.
How to find the best locations for camping under the stars
Now that you have decided on your stargazing tent, here are some top tips to help you find the best time and place to see the most stars.
Camp in a dark sky area
Light pollution makes stargazing very challenging in most urban areas. This is why we need to find remote areas for the best views. Thankfully, some municipalities have started to curb light pollution, so dark skies are not always related to population density. Use Dark Site Finder to find the darkest locations near where you want to camp. The site superimposes a color coded map onto Google maps and shows how much light pollution there is in a given area. It offers worldwide coverage so you can use it on your travels. Another good site to visit is The International Dark Sky Association which will help you find dark sky locations for camping with the stars.
Find the best time for under the stars camping
Astronomical viewing is all about visibility so there are many factors to consider. The best time for stargazing is actually the winter. There is less moisture in the air and the air is clearer. Nights are longer allowing more hours for stargazing. Unfortunately, this also makes for colder camping so if you go for winter stargazing, pack the right gear to stay warm while enjoying the view from your stargazing tent.
Keep the moon’s phase in mind as you plan your trip. Unless you are going to enjoy a lunar eclipse from your tent, you will want to plan your trip around the new moon. You will be able to see many more stars without the moon’s light.
Stay abreast of the astronomical calendar. There is nothing like watching a meteor shower from a dark sky area! You will create memories that will last a lifetime. Watching planetary conjunctions, lunar eclipses, comets and more can all be fantastic events to plan your stargazing camping around. Use this astronomical calendar to get started!
Pitch your tent in the right place to see the sky
When camping with the stars, you may choose a site that is different where you will pitch your same tent for traditional camping. For the best view of the night sky, you don’t want any obstructions. When expecting rain, experienced campers often pitch their tent under a tree for a warmer microclimate with less condensation. However, you will want an exposed location for prime viewing.
Tips to use your stargazing tent for camping under the stars
To ensure you have a fantastic stargazing camping trip, use these tips.
Set it up at home before your trip
This is a low stress way to learn about your new tent and work out any kinks. You will also discover any missing parts. Most of the tents in this guide even have videos you can watch from home.
Bring a footprint or tarp to protect your tent
Something you can do to protect the longevity of your tent is use a footprint. Many stargazing tents have their own footprint that either come with it, or that you can purchase separately. You can also use a tarp or buy Tyvek® material and cut it to size. Your footprint should be slightly smaller than the tent itself. This prevents water from pooling under the tent. If you bring a tarp, be sure to fold and tuck it all underneath the tent floor.
If you camp with your pup, a tarp or blanket on the interior floor can help protect it from your pooch’s claws.
Waterproof your seams if they do not come sealed
Not all tents come with properly sealed seams so read the manufacturer’s guidelines before you head out. Take the time to seal your seams in advance when you do your practice pitching of your tent in the yard. Even if they do come sealed, plan to reseal them after a lot of use.
Invest in higher quality stakes/pegs if needed
Stakes are often the Achilles’ heel of otherwise good tents. Aluminum stakes are standard with affordable tents and they can easily be bent by the substrate when you pound them in. They also often pop out of the ground with too much tension or rain. If the stakes with your tent aren’t up to the job, spend a little more before you go out and get quality pegs like these. It is always useful to have a few extra stakes for your guy lines too.
Choose your tent location carefully
As with all tents, you want to find a flat area of your campsite and clear it of debris before laying out your footprint. Feeling a sharp rock under your ribs at 3:00 AM makes for a long night and a ripped floor!
Store your tent well
The number one thing you can do to extend the life your tent is to store it clean and dry. Never store a damp tent. If you have to pack a damp tent at the campsite, just pitch it in your yard, garage, or nearby park on a sunny day to dry it out completely. Also be sure to sweep or shake any dirt and sand and clean up any spills. Finally, store your stargazing tent in dry, rodent free conditions.
Have an astronomically better time camping! Stars, planets, comets: how to learn more
Once you have ordered your tent, get started learning more about astronomy to make the most of camping under the stars. Celestial bodies are, by their very nature, otherworldly in their beauty! When we look at them after some research and with a deeper understanding, viewing them can be transcendent. Here are some of our favorite resources once you have your stargazing tent!
Stargazing apps for sleeping under the stars
There are wonderful stargazing apps that allow you to identify celestial bodies in real time while you are snuggled up camping with the stars. Be sure to download any apps from home when you still have a strong wifi connection. Don’t wait until you are at your campsite or you may not have a connection.
Star Tracker will reveal the wonders of the night sky for free. Simply point it towards the night sky and it will identify what you are looking at in real time.You can pay a few dollars to get the pro-version to avoid the ads. It is available on both iOS and Android. Sky Map is only available for Android and is another fantastic choice.
Star map and a red light for camping with the stars
Camping is the perfect time to take a break from screens, so consider using a star finder or, when you are beyond the beginner stage, The Celestron Sky Maps. Going old-school requires us to really try to understand how the celestial bodies are moving in relation to each other. These resources also don’t use up your phone battery while you’re camping.
Have you ever noticed how you see more stars the longer you stare up at the sky? At first, your pupils are adjusting to the darkness and allowing you keener eyesight the longer you are in the dark. Eventually, the rods in your eyes become dark adapted and, if exposed to bright light, can take over 30 minutes to regain sensitivity. If you turn on your regular white light headlamp or flashlight, it will take a long time for your pupils to readjust. To solve this problem, get a red light below 650 nanometers to use while stargazing. Here is a good flashlight and this is a good headlamp.
Learn about astronomy from home
I am a former public highschool science teacher and have been privileged to have taught astronomy to many learners. From my experience, the more you understand about astronomy, the more you realize you don’t know! The universe is vast and our scientific understanding is always improving. Cosmos is a perfect series to get started. If you take the time to study from home, your stargazing will be even more amazing.
Create your own stargazing tour
Excited about learning more? We have a whole article about how to create your own stargazing tours. Learn about how to plan your trip, telescopes, binoculars, astronomy clubs and more.
The best tent for camping with the stars
Did you find the stargazing tent that is just right for you? I hope you found the perfect tent that fits your budget, your camp-group size, and your dreams of watching the stars from bed! Your stargazing tent will bring you years of comfort, delight, and deep wonder.
Have you found your perfect stargazing tent? What are some of your best memories camping with the stars? Tell me about it in the comments. I would love to hear!