Tent Buying Guide
The decision on what tent to buy shouldn't be taken lightly. After all, it is the most important factor that determines your comfort and protection when you are spending a long night outdoors. Whether you are looking for a tent for a long camping trip, or you just plan to pitch in your back yard and enjoy your surroundings, your tent is your shelter from the elements of the outside world.
While we at TentsEtc.com have an array of tents to suit any given situation, the only way to determine the right tent for you is to consider your intended use. Once you know exactly how you will be using your tent, that will narrow down your search, and also make it easier to figure out what other camping essentials are needed to make for the smoothest night camping possible.
How Will you Use your Tent?
Where do you plan to use your tent? There are currently three categories that tents fall into based on how rugged your journey and camping experience will be.
These tents are intended for use at established and easily accessible campgrounds during fair weather. If you are planning to camp in the backyard, on flat national parks, or anywhere else that would be family and kid friendly, then you could use a camping tent. Also note that these tents won't hold up in inclement weather, so make sure that you aren't planning a trip with these tents during storm season.
Backpacking and Trail Tents
These tents are made to travel and protect you from moderate to extreme weather. These tents last a long time, are compact, durable, lightweight, and easy to carry on your back. It is easier to pack and assemble than a campground tent, and usually comes with an easy to carry case. These are good for hiking treks where you may be gone for a few days.
Mountaineering and Wilderness Tents
These tents are built for heavy use and to withstand even the most extreme types of weather. The quality of wilderness tents is much higher, and they have increased reliability during poor weather. Mountaineering tents can endure frequent and prolonged use, harsh environments, and remote locations. They come equipped with a full coverage fly, additional weatherproofing, and resistance to extreme wind. This added durability also results in a higher price range, but you get a much higher bang for your buck.
Now that you know what you will use your tent for, and you have an idea of what type of tent you will need, you also have a few more factors to consider:
- What time of year will you use the tent? A summertime camping trip might call for a more breezy tent, while a wintry excursion would need something with more wind guard and insulation.
- What will be the season? If you aren't planning to camp during the winter, then a Three-Season tent could work best for the largest span of year. With these tents you stay dry with rain protection, though you should not take these tents out during snow or very windy climates. These tents are designed to be lightweight, with an option of become lighter if you choose to remove the rain guard. These tents can offer a quick set up as long as you remove the rain fly. However you should make sure that there is no chance of rain before you set up. Another option is the Four-Season tent for the frequent camper. These tents are very versatility, and they can be used in conditions that vary from warm to cold to extremely windy. Four-season tents offer zippered panels that can be opened or closed to provide protection or ventilation depending on the weather.
Tent Types and Features
There are several types of tents that you can get if you look around. Each type has its own unique features and draws that you should consider when making your choice. Firstly, you need to know the terrain you will be setting up camp on. There are two types of tents: those that can stand freely on their own, and those that need to be staked into the ground. If you are planning to camp on mesas or rocky surfaces, you need to make sure that you select a tent that doesn't need to be staked into the ground.
Hoop tents are a very popular form of tents that are a series of parallel hoops with fabric stretched over them. This gives them the shape that they are named for. One of these tents may have anywhere from one to three hoops, and the sizes can vary. These tents are valued because they are easy to set6 up, and you get to utilize maximum interior space. Most hoop tents do require tent stakes, so you will want to make sure you aren't setting up camp on rocks. If you are planning to go trail hiking, you will want to choose a hoop tent that is compact and easy to pack, though that is not an automatic feature of a hoop tent.
The next step up from a hoop tent is a dome tent. These are made up when four or more hoops criss-cross the middle of the tent. In some cases there is even another smaller hoop to create the tent's entrance. Because they are free standing, they are aerodynamic and very stable. In fact, they can withstand inclement weather conditions without a problem. This is an ideal mountaineering tent as it can shed wind and all types of precipitation, and the setup os very simple.
For those who are in for a more luxurious camping experience, cabin tents would be the best choice. These tents can house up to 8 people making them ideal for families. These tents work best on established campgrounds or base camps, and they are designed to be roomy. Expect high ceilings and vertical walls, and even for them to accommodate portable chairs, air beds, hiking essentials, and even cots to sleep on.
When it comes to determining the size of your tent, you need to consider how many people will sleep in it as well as how much gear you wish to store in it. Even if you aren't counting on storing all of your gear inside, you may have to in the case of bad weather, so make sure you have enough room in case you need to. You should also consider how far you will have to travel with your tent. If you plan on taking a several day hike and camping each night, you will have to find a tent that you can comfortably carry.
If you are planning to go to campgrounds or wilderness areas, then larger dome tents or cabin tents are the most chosen shelters. These will allow more space without having to worry about how far you have to carry the tent. If you are planning on backpacking or hiking, then you may opt to look for a lightweight hoop tent. When deciding how many people your tent will sleep, make sure to pay attention to the square footage as there is no industry standard for how many people a tent will sleep.
If you are in doubt about how large of a tent to purchase, take into account these rules of thumb:
- Look at the peak center height measurement. This will allow you to know whether you will be able to stand inside of the tent or not.
- Use how many campers you are considering to determine the smallest possible tent you can get away with.
- Also think about the equipment that may have to be stored inside of the tent. If you will have a lot of stuff to store, then look for gear lofts and vestibules that could offer additional storage.
- If you are walking a trail, pick the smallest and most lightweight tent that will hold your crew and your equipment. If you are going to a campground, then make your selection based on how comfortable you will be while taking Mother Nature into account.
Parts of a Tent
If you haven't spent any time around tents, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with them before you take one out on your first trip. There are certain components that are standard across all tents, and some that vary depending on the type of tent you choose. Here are the different parts of a tent:
Most modern tents have some form of tent poles. They are an essential element that provide much needed structure and support for your tent. The number and types of poles used depends on the type of tent you purchase. The number of tent poles can determine how easy it is to set up a tent.
This is the tent pole that is preferred by backpackers for its lightweight quality. They are also ideal for rough weather conditions as they won't shatter in extreme temperatures.
This is what is found in most tents. They are highly durable, yet less stable than aluminum.
These poles are obviously stronger than the others, but of course they are heavier as well. They should be kept out of wet weather conditions due to rust. They are best for wilderness tents as well as large campground tents.
Panels are what you think of when you picture a tent. It is the fabric section that creates the actual body. There are two main types of tent panels.
The most widely used fabric in Three-Season tents, it is best for ventilation. You can also get open-weave if you aren't worried about insects, or No-See-Um if you will be camping in a mosquito area.
This is the best fabric for wet climates. Polyester can stand up to UV rays without having to worry about dry rot, or sagging when it's wet.
This piece of cloth fastens over the top of a tent to keep the water, wind, and UV rays out. You can get full length ones that extend completely to the floor, or partial ones that cover the mesh panels at the top of your tent.
Your tent's floor is made out of the most durable fabric out of everything. It has to stand the weight of occupants, and the stress of rocks, water, sticks, and everything else on the wilderness floor. Polyethylene and vinyl floors are best for wilderness tents as they are very durable. Nylon is best for trail campers and those who will be in wet areas. Oxford is a must have if you plan to have a cot in your tent as it is very puncture resistant.
Tents have one or more doors for ease of entrance and exit.
This is standard in tents. The bigger the windows and the more there are, the better the ventilation and circulation in the tent. If you plan to camp during the muggy summer months, opt for tents with big windows.
This is an extension of the rain fly that provides extra coverage for your belongings while you are at camp.
Caring for your Tent
You will want to use seam sealant to waterproof around the seams of your tent. Some tents do not automatically have this done, so you may want to do it yourself. If your tent has any rips or tears, you can buy over the counter products to fix it. Tent sewing kits are a great way to repair the fabric if it breaches while you are on a trip.
Make sure you store your tent in a cool dry place, and don't pack it too tight. Don't pack away a dirty tent, and keep it clear of dirty or mildewed places as this can harm the material. When it comes to cleaning your tent, soak a sponge in warm water and spot clean the areas that need it. It is never a good idea to use cleansers, or to put your tent into the washing machine or dryer. Dry your tent by pitching it in the shade, or hanging it to dry.
Now you have everything you need to pick the best tent for your upcoming trip, and how to care for it to keep it in tip top shape. Happy camping!