Camping has been an excellent way to get out and have a break from all the normalities in our “civilized” lifestyle for quite some time. Camping is enjoyed by young people, old people, singles, families, couples, and groups of friends, all over the world, every day. I mean, let’s be honest, camping is fun! You get to hunt & fish without leaving the forest (if you’re into that), build fires, roast marshmallows, lay under the stars, which, can be absolutely breathtaking when you’re out, away from the man-made, bright lights of the city.
But regardless what your attraction is to the great outdoors, camping is a worldwide hobby that will probably be around indefinitely. You would most likely be surprised how easy it is to buy the wrong tent for your needs.
The first thing you should know about selecting the right tent, is that there are some models out there (mainly the cheaper ones) that are not worth the money, and will just leave you frustrated, or wet, cramped and miserable.
The following guide should help you get a scope on all of the factors involved with picking a tent. Hopefully, the information I am sharing with you will save you from buying something, and later on regretting that you didn’t get a tent that was more fit to your needs. I hope this helps.
How to buy a Tent
There are a few things you should consider when selecting a tent. Obviously you must answer the following questions: “How many people, Where, When and How long?” The answers to each of these questions will help direct you to the right tent choice.
Tent Sleeping Capacity
The tent sleeping capacity, even though it only refers to the size of the inside of the tent, implies a number of important things to take into consideration.
- Some tents may say, for instance, “4 – person” capacity, but because there so many manufacturers, and no industry standard in terms of measurement, you never can tell if a certain brand might be roomier. Also, the shape of the tent has a lot to do with how much room you have inside.
- If anyone in your party is claustrophobic- if they are, definitely get enough space to accommodate.
- Is anyone in your party a restless sleeper? You’ll want to have the space for them to roam if they are (or you could try tying them down while they sleep).
What is your ideal camping trip like? If you are anything like most of us, you probably like a sunny day, a nice, clear nice starry sky, and a cool breeze. The truth is, you can always hope for the perfect camping trip when you set out on an expedition. However, if something does get thrown out of whack, inadequate or inappropriate gear can be a total mess. I can end up being a nightmare to be honest. Everyone can end up wet and cold want to go home, or worse, it weather could suddenly get so bad that you can’t get out, and then you’re stuck there in the wet and cold getting leaked on all night. I’ve been there, and it’s better to be prepared. Trust me on this one!
The Three Main Tent Types (Seasonal)
Three Season Tents – Three season tents are the most popular choice of tent available. They are generally lightweight, and they are specifically designed for the more temperate climates, and generally tend to be used in summer, winter, and fall, hence the name. Three season tents usually designed with ample mesh vents, allowing for ventilation. the mesh screens keep bug out, and let air exchange throughout the tent, and three season tents are usually pretty affordable. If you have the rainfly on properly on your three season tent, it will most likely make it through a downpour, but if you are going to be dealing with higher winds, snow, or other extreme weather conditions, you may want to go with something more ready for that type of abuse.
Three to Four Season Tents – Three to Four Season Tents, also known as extended season tents, are designed to take on more vigorous weather. Specifically engineered for prolonged three season usage, these tents are useful for colder weather, snow, and moderate to heavy winds. They offer ventilation, better warmth retention, and a sturdier stance against the brutalities of harsh weather. An extended season tent will generally come with one or more poles, and fewer mesh screens than regular three season tents, but consequently let less of the high winds, snow, rain, or dust in that comes with extreme weather conditions. They are sturdy, but if you want the strongest type of tent, you’re going to want to look at 4 season tents.
Four Season Tents – These are the strongest types of tent in terms of weather resistance, and can withstand extreme weather conditions, such as fierce winds, heavy snows, and rain storms. These tents are recommended if you’re facing any of these conditions, or if you’re going to be above tree level, where winds and temps will be substantially harder to deal with. Four season tents have more poles, and thicker material than the other tent types, and they usually have dome shaped tops, so that snow and rain can’t collect and make your tent sag or leak. The rainflys usually extend all the way to the ground, offering and extra barrier of protection and insulation, and if you’re expecting mother nature to be an issue, your 4 season tent will make sure you have very few of your own.
Physical Factors to Consider in Selecting the Right Tent
Tent Height – If you’re the type of person that likes a lot of room, or can’t stand to have to stoop the whole time, or if you’re planning a long camping trip, you may want to pay attention to the height of the tent room. Taller tents are made so that you can stand up in them, and tend to be heavier, but more “homey”, and give you more overall square footage to boot.
Tent Form/Shape – There are two predominant tent shapes; cabin and dome.
- Cabin Style – Cabin style tents are exactly what they sound like, a little cabin. Some even come with rooms, or room dividers. If you have couples, kids, or dogs, and you would rather not have everyone sleeping elbow to elbow, these are you bet route.
- Dome Style Tents – These tents are more aerodynamic cutting through the wind and shedding moisture off better than flat roofed, cabin style tents, or even triangular tents. On a stormy night, you will really appreciate having a dome style tent, because they are designed to keep you warm and dry.
Tent Floor Length – Just a quick word of advice on this topic, and that is; if you are 6 feet tall or more, you may want to look at tents with a floor length of 90″ or more, so that you have room to stretch your legs out, and you don’t have to be cramped.
Tent Doors – If you have a family, or a group that you are taking camping, it is better to find a tent with more than one door, so that you’re not stepping on people to get out in the morning. Cabin style tents are usually a good place to look for this feature.
Tent Poles – The number and types of poles your tent has generally determine how hard the tent it to set up. Most family tents are free-standing, meaning that you don’t have to use stakes. The good thing about free-standing tents is you can just pick them up and move them, making it easier to relocate if you have to seek higher ground, or move spots for any reason. There are thread through and clip on poles, this will be more of a matter of preference. I personally don’t mind, because I’ve never had a problem setting up either kind.
Rainfly – The Rainfly is an extra sheet of material that generally comes out past the width of the tent, or down past the mesh screens to keep the rain out. Roof only rainflies allow more visibility and airflow, while full coverage rainflies offer more protection.
Tent Materials –I would steer away from really cheap tents, because a tent costs a certain amount to fabricate, engineer and manufacture, and when you go too low in price, you tend do just get cheaper materials, that will only rip and tear, and you’re basically wasting your money. Generally, cheap tents tend to be just that. CHEAP. They are made with low grade materials, poor craftsmanship and zippers, and seams that come apart. Take this as a warning.
Vestibules / Garage – Some tents come with extra storage, allowing you to keep your belongings organized, and they are usually sought by camper that camp for longer periods. (a week or more)
Ventilation – I mentioned this some already. Basically if you’re going to be in a dryer, hotter climate, these are better because they let the air pass through. If the weather is right, and the sun is hot, the more ventilation, the merrier (e.g. door, top, side window, etc.).
Interior Loops and/or Pockets – I like these because they give you a place to store things out of the way, allowing more room without clutter. Some tents come with pockets, some even come with attics. It all depends on what you prefer.
Guyout Loops –These are loops on the outside of the tent, made for tying off and they help prevent the wind from blowing your tent around as well as preventing the material from flapping in the wind.
All of the factors that I’ve discussed should be well thought out in advance, because as we all know, if we make snap decisions, we often just end up regretting them. This is why I decided to share my knowledge with people, because in the end, you go camping to have fun, not to get tortured by the weather or your tent. I hope this information helps you! Thank for reading!