Suggested capacities for tents and practical capacities are often much different. Taking into account things such as gear storage and practical access and egress without disturbing your companions often makes tent selection for your backcountry experience frustrating. This article aims to bring a simple understanding to this topic and help increase comfort in the backcountry.
4 People do fit into a 4-person tent, but this would only give 4.5″ between each shoulder for an average adult. Most people would be more comfortable with 3 people in a 4-person tent, or even two people if gear will be stored in the shelter.
Though 4 people will fit into a 4 person tent a common suggestion to tenters is to lower the number of occupants to better increase comfort. This is the balancing act that many tenters find confusing when choosing the size of tent for their camping experience.
A Full House
Having 4 people sleep in a tent with a suggested occupancy of 4 people is not an impossible feat. However many things will need to be taken into account when attempting this and overall comfort is often sacrificed.
Sleeping arrangements are often side-by-side with no physical room between tenters. This means any extra equipment will have to be stored elsewhere and only essential equipment such as spare warm cloths can be inside the main tent.
With extra room being of extreme value it is recommended that you have a tent with a large vestibule to help protect equipment. However, expect even with an extended vestibule to have limited room for all your occupants gear. Important equipment such as backpacks and boots will fit however chairs, poles, tripods, and cooking equipment will have to be stored elsewhere.
The main advantage of 4 people using a tent ratted for 4 people is the fact that you can break up the weight of the tent between all 4 occupants.
Tents with a suggested occupancy of 4 people range anywhere from 14 pounds down to 7 pounds. Weight varies depending on the tents weather ratting and vestibule size furthermore, this is where it’s nice to break the weight up between occupants. Having anywhere from 3.5 pounds to 1.7 pounds added to your pack weight is easily managed.
I would only recommend 4 people using a 4-person tent if the terrain mandates it. If your end destination has limited space for individual tents one large tent may likely be your only option.
Optimal Use And Comfort
Comfort is one of the biggest concerns people will have in the backcountry especially when it comes to accommodation. Having a tent with a suggested occupancy of 4 people with only 3 occupants can help maximize nighttime comfort all the while not overweighting any individual on the pack in.
Sleeping arrangements will still more than likely be side by side however, with one less person you can expect to have some room between sleeping bags. This is often appreciated by people that have to get up during the night to go to the bathroom.
However, even with this extra room inside I would still recommend keeping only essential equipment inside the main body of the tent.
With 3 occupants I would still recommend using a 4 person tent with a large vestibule. The room will be more plentiful although still very precious. You can expect however to have all your equipment stored inside the vestibule protected from any rain or snow.
With tent weights coming in around 14 to 7 pounds 3 people can expect to have their pack weights increase anywhere from 4.5 pounds to 2.3 pounds. Keeping in mind a larger vestibule will commonly favour the heavier weights 4.5 pounds is still manageable when comparing the weight of a solo tent.
I would recommend this configuration of 3 people in a 4-person tent for the majority of users. Simply put it will maximize your comfort and effective space in a well-balanced package of minimal weight increase and shared workload for setup.
Comfort At A Cost
Maximizing available space inside of a tent often leads to maximum comfort. For 2 occupants in a tent with a suggested occupancy of 4 people comfort will be found easily. This however will come at a cost to the two occupants.
Sleeping arrangements can vary however sleeping to the outside perimeter leaving a large space down the middle of the tent will be most common for campers. With ample room, both campers can easily bring their backpacks into the main body of the tent leaving them at the foot end and maintaining good access and egress from the entrance.
For this situation of 2 people using a 4-person tent a large vestibule is not needed and can be dropped down to a more moderate size. This will help save weight in the tent all the while allowing enough room for boots, chairs, tripods, and other equipment that you wish to keep out of the elements.
Looking at the expected weight of a 4-person tent being around the 14 to 7 pounds this is where the cost of comfort will bite the hardest.
By reducing the size of the vestibule you can expect a 4-person tent to weigh in around the 8 to 10-pound range depending on weather rating. This brings the expected weight per occupant up to 4 to 5 pounds. Though still manageable there are other options available if weight begins to be a bigger concern.
I would only recommend 2 people using a 4-person tent in very specific conditions. Mostly being in situations where longterm comfort maybe required. Situations such as long backcountry trips or locations of extreme weather where you will potentially be held up in your tent for a day or two at a time.
In situations as just previously stated this is where the ample room of the tent will be much appreciated. With only 2 occupants your gear will be well protected and if needed the ability to cook inside of your vestibule is possible.
In conclusion to the question of how many people actually fit in a 4-person tent I would recommend that for the best experience 3 people using a 4-person tent will give you the best overall experience and outcome. With weight and usable space being divided up between 3 people rather evenly this will be the best situation for the vast majority of campers.
When considering using a 4-person tent with only 2 occupants consider dropping the size of the tent down to a 3-person to help reduce packed weight. However, if tent stricken for multiple days the increased room of the 4-person will be your best friend. This will be a decision of preference.