If you like a little more space on a camping trip than one cramped tent, a wide, weatherproof freestanding gazebo is a great addition to your camp setup. Many campervans and tents, especially large family ones, have add-on porches or gazebos designed specifically for that model that you can buy separately, but we’d argue that a freestanding gazebo is far more versatile, and can be used to create a shady porch, a communal living space between tents in which to eat or relax, a playroom for kids if the weather is bad or just to offer shade at a summer party or event.

Like a good tent, a decent gazebo should have plenty of room for your camping group, have a waterproof outer layer to keep the rain at bay and if it does have enclosed sides, be breathable and airy when zipped up. Unlike heavy tents, gazebos are lightweight and don’t take up much storage space, so they’re a great way to expand your campsite without needing to lug around heavy equipment. We’ve selected six of the best freestanding gazebos on the market, and have included an option for most budgets.

A camping gazebo is far simper to shop for than a big family tent. Standing room is essential, so check the height of the model before you buy. If you want to use the gazebo as more of an extra tent or as somewhere to hang out in bad weather, look for one with a sturdy floor of coated nylon, plus unzippable walls with windows or mesh panels. If you’re keen to use your gazebo as somewhere to escape the sun or to relax as a group, a curved ceiling-only design will be perfect. Look for an easy to pitch gazebo with four poles and plenty of guy ropes, pegs and straps for stability, as gazebos can easily become loose in strong winds. The metal components should ideally be made of stainless steel.

Pick a gazebo that can accommodate the size of your camping gang. There are huge gazebos that you can fit big gatherings underneath as well as smaller designs ideal for getting a family of four under. The larger the gazebo the heavier it’ll be, and the longer it will take to erect – big gazebos usually require at least two people to put up. If you’re camping or wild camping alone and are looking for a simple rain shelter, a small, close-to-the-ground tarp is a lighter and easier to erect option. The pitch times suggested by manufacturers are usually optimistic, so expect a bit of trial and error the first time you erect your new canvas palace.

Spacious and versatile, the Vango Hogan Hub is our top pick for family camping. It can be erected in around 15 minutes as an open gazebo, or its wide four side panels can also be closed in bad weather. Inside there’s more than enough space for four adults to sit or stand. The Hogan Hub also comes with a removable groundsheet, so if rain threatens you can simply zip up the insect-proof sides of the tent and pop the groundsheet down to make a proper shelter. The outer material is fully waterproof and the fibreglass poles are study but lightweight. If you only buy one gazebo for summer camping holidays, this is a great choice that works brilliantly as both an open gazebo and as an impromptu waterproof tent.

Specs – Main material: Polycotton (65% cotton/35% polyester); Weight: 9.7kg; Pitch time: 15mins; Height: 230cm

This fun, tent-like shelter is ideal for extra storage space, to escape the rain, to set up a table for eating in bad weather or to create an outdoor playroom for children. The waterproof Living R Base pitches rather like a tent, and claims to fit eight people inside – we’d suggest four to six if you don’t want to be packed in like sardines. Inside there’s a tough, wipe-clean groundsheet perfect for playing on or eating over, and the wide walls can be removed or closed up according to weather conditions, and include big unzippable mosquito-proof windows, ideal for summer camping.

Simple, solid and sturdy, Coleman’s Event shelter is a great investment for camping trips for years to come. Despite its hefty weight, it’s very easy to erect, and once in place the curving roof offers reliable sun and rain protection. The Event Shelter works well as a central living space on camping trips or as an effective porch for larger tents, campervans and caravans, which a whopping 15ft-by-15ft of space to sit under, eat under or play in. Plenty of other sizes are available if you’re after something smaller.

This cheap and cheerful tarp is excellent for adding porch space to a smaller tent, for creating a temporary shelter on a hike or for erecting for more weather protection on a wild camping trip or at a festival. It’s small and lightweight enough at 1.45kg to stick in your rucksack and is fully waterproof. The Adventure tarp is easy to pitch and fits snugly around any tent door as well as working well alone, but doesn’t offer standing room, though it’s comfortable to sit under. At under £20 this is a bargain for smaller tents, or for adventures off the beaten track where you’re carrying your camping gear in a backpack.

Got more of a glamping vibe going on with your camping setup? The smart Robens Prospector is made of tough canvas and works perfectly as both a free-standing shelter (that would also look good in any garden) and as a porch for a bell tent or a safari tent. You can also use it to connect two tents together so that they face each other with a sheltered entrance and communal area between them. The canvas may look pretty but it’s also tough, and is breathable but water-resistant. The Prospector tarp is quick and easy to pitch, too.

2 Person Heavy Duty Doublenest Hammock

Hi Gear reckons this is perfect for ‘camping, festivals and parties’, and we’d agree. This simple, wide and curving gazebo is ideal for keeping the sun and rain at bay, with a vented ceiling to prevent condensation. It’s one of the heavier gazebos we tested due to the three strong steel poles. and we found it easier to pitch with two or even four people, but it’s worth it for the generous size, which will fit a good gathering underneath it at a festival or a garden party, or act as a roomy shelter for big family camping trips. We also found it very effective at withstanding wind. Side walls are sold separately.

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