How to select a tent that meets your camping needs
A tent is one of the most important items to include in your packing list when planning a camping trip. Whether you're a camping enthusiast looking for an inexpensive way to get away or you simply want to relive lost childhood memories, camping is a great way to spend the outdoors and enjoy time with family and friends.
Your choice of tent can make or break your chance of having a good camping experience. An inappropriate tent will let in mosquitoes or rain, or even fall apart. You also need to take into account your chosen activity, especially if you plan to venture off areas where any glitches can have serious ramifications.
With a wide range of options available on the market, selecting the perfect tent can be a daunting task. Luckily, we have created an easy guide to help you identify the best tents that meet your needs.
The different tent types
There are two main types of tents. They include backpacking tents and campsite tents. Below, we take a deeper look at the two tent types.
A great choice for self-supported adventures and those looking for a cheap tent, backpacking tents come with lightweight poles and fabrics. They are also available in different designs, from compact to roomier models. Even though backpacking tents are lighter and smaller, they are strong enough to withstand harsh conditions.
Essentially designed for large groups and families, campsite tents provide more living space and come with additional features. They are also more comfortable and practical. In addition, these tents are easy to pitch and provide a dry and reliable shelter during harsh weather conditions.
What camping tent design should you choose?
Tents come in a range of shapes and sizes. The most common tent designs include A-frame, dome, tunnel, and cabin. However, there has been a resurgence of new designs, such as an instant tent, which use very few components and are easy to install. Let's take a deeper look at the various tent designs.
Spacious and easy to pitch, dome tents are one of the most popular tent designs. They have a stable, lightweight construction featuring two poles crossing each other at the highest point of the tent. This makes them taller at the center, giving you more space to sit. They may not be the strongest tents on the market, but make a good option for camping in non-extreme conditions. Dome tents often come in 2 to 3-person designs.
If you’re looking for a tent that is large enough to stand up, then the cabinet tent is the best choice. These tents have near-vertical walls that maximize their overall peak height. They have a lot of space to move around, making them ideal for families or groups of at least four people. Cabin tents are also heavier and can be a good choice for car camping.
Easy to set up and take down, tunnel tents are ideal for people who want to carry and pitch their tents every day. They are similar to dome tents except for their longer, cylindrical shape. Tunnel tents often come with separate storage space for your luggage, providing you with plenty of room inside the tent. They have enough headroom and livable space, making them the best option for families and larger groups of people. However, they are non-freestanding, meaning they rely on careful pitching with several guy roles and tent pegs for stability.
Geodesic tents offer all the advantages of a dome tent but with improved stability, support and durability. They feature more poles crossing each other, forming a shell of triangles that boost the overall structure of the tent. Their strength and stability make them an excellent choice for camping in extreme weather conditions. These tents can comfortably accommodate four people.
When pitched, these tents look like a capital A. These tents were very popular with campers due to their simple design. Previously models were made with canvas and often came with metal or wooden poles. Modern versions have lightweight fabrics and aluminum poles. A-frame tents are easy to pitch and stable. However, they lack headroom.
Pop up tents
Also known as instant tents, pop-up tents are quick and easy to set up. They come with a spring mechanism that helps to install the tent in seconds. However, they are not the best option for camping in an area with extreme weather conditions. The main advantage of these tents is the ease of use.
What is the right tent size to choose?
Tent sizes are classified as 1-person tents, 2-person tents, 3-person tents, and so on. This sizing indicates the number of people who can fit in the tent while lying next to each other. For those who want to use an inflatable mattress instead of sleeping bags, you’ll need to keep this in mind when selecting a tent size. Here are a few pointers to take into account when looking for the best tent size for your next adventure.
A one-person tent is the best choice for a solo camper or backpacker. Being the smallest tent size, one-person camping tents don’t have a lot of space to fit more than one person or luggage. They have a floor area of 15 – 20 square feet (ft²). You can attach this tent to a sturdy backpack, giving you a comfortable place to sleep when needed.
A two-person tent is spacious and can comfortably fit two people of average height. The average floor area of this tent is 30 – 35 ft². Your height and frame are crucial in selecting a 2-person tent that fits well. You also need to take into account the campground, where you’ll be pitching the tent. Other key features that influence your choice of a 2-man tent are easy transportation and quick setup.
This tent size has enough space to accommodate a small family. It has an average floor area of 40 – 45 ft² and can fit a couple and a small child/family dog. You can use it as a backpacking tent, but one person may have to carry the tent while the other carries the poles and other tent accessories. Three-man tents are also easy to install. You should be able to set them up on your own within a short time.
For most families, four-person tent sizes have plenty of space. They also make great choices for people going on longer trips. The average floor area of these tents is 60 – 70 ft². These tents would comfortably fit three adults and a small child or dog. Depending on your needs, you can choose a heavier or lighter model of these tents. For example, if you'll be hiking during the day before setting up the tent, go for a lighter model.
The five-person tent is best for a family of four or five. If you plan to spend more days outdoors, you’ll appreciate the extra space they provide. They have an average floor area of 75 – 80 ft². This tent size and other larger options have more headroom. Adults with a height of 6 – 7 ft² can stand inside this tent.
The most popular size among families, the six-person tent has an average floor area of 90 – 100 ft². Note that there is a difference between comfort rating and sleeping area capacity. While some models have a rating of six people, they have a comfort rating of four. Six-man tents have enough room for two adults and two children to sleep and move around. It can also accommodate your gear. To accommodate more people in these family tents, choose one with better ventilation.
The eight-person tent has plenty of space to fit four and can provide comfortable space for six if children or dogs are included. These tents have a floor area of 120 – 130 ft², which is large enough to fit a whole family. Remember to take these dimensions into account when looking for the perfect place to mount this tent.
What’s the importance of weight in selecting camping tents?
Weight is one of the most important factors when picking a tent. To determine how important the weight of a tent is, work out the distance you'll have to cover to the spot you want to pitch the tent. This could be a small distance or a 4-hour walk from your current campsite. There are two weight classifications of tents you should know when looking for tents for sale online.
Trail weight: This includes all the essential parts of the tent, such as the tent body, rainfly, and piles. It’s the lightest weight, ideal for people who want to carry as little weight as possible.
Packaged weight: This is the heaviest weight. It includes all the gear that comes with the tent, from tent body, pole sack, stuff sack, and stakes to packaging and manuals.
What material should you pick for your camping tent?
Surprisingly, many campers tend to overlook material when buying a tent. However, the material has a huge influence on the tent you pick. Your choice of material will affect water resistance, ventilation, and insulation. Here are the most commonly used fabrics.
Lightweight and breathable, nylon is an expensive material for tents. When coated with a waterproof material, nylon repels water, keeping you dry all night. The only downside is that it wears off over time.
Like nylon, polyester is breathable and repels water. Its advantage over nylon is that it lasts longer and can withstand sunlight much better. You don't have to worry about fading when using a polyester tent.
If weight is not an issue, you can go for the traditional canvas material. This material is known for its excellent breathability and durability. Canvas tents will keep you warm in cold weather and cool in summer. They are also waterproof, but make a great choice for car campers, not backpackers.
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