If you plan on going out camping, then a camping tent is always a very good idea. Sleeping in your camper or RV can be very tiresome and boring. And the idea of sleeping under the stars may not always be practical. There are rain showers and snow, or the sun may be too hot for an afternoon nap. You also have insects to worry about too. And you may also want a bit of privacy, especially when you’re with a romantic partner.
So how do you buy one? Here are some expert recommendations to guide you:
If you’re camping with someone else, obviously a 1-person tent isn’t going to cut it. But you may find to your surprise that even a 2-person tent isn’t quite suitable either. While a 3-person tent may suffice in a pinch, you’ll find that a 4-person tent is actually the most suitable for 2 people.
This is the first rule of camping tents: you should always go for a tent designed for more people than in your party. When a tent is marketed as suitable for 4 people, the manufacturer isn’t accounting for the extra space you invariably need for bedding, clothes, and other paraphernalia. Fitting in 4 people in a tent made for 4 people can be very uncomfortable when it’s daytime and the weather has turned bad.
Lots of people these days are large, and often manufacturers underestimate the size of the average adult. People may toss and turn while sleeping or they may feel claustrophobic. But with enough elbow room, your sleep can be a whole lot better.
In addition, think about whether you want to be able to stand up inside a tent. If you’re going to spend a lot of time under cover, whether from the rain or the sun, then it can get annoying if you’re unable to stand up inside your shelters.
Different seasons and environments require different types of tents. In very warm weather, a summer tent can be ideal as it will be lightweight and provide lots of ventilation. But it may not be good if it rains, so this is only a good idea if you’re camping in your backyard or if you have an RV or camper to shelter in if the weather turns bad.
Without a camper as backup, then a 3-season tent may be more suitable. They have lots of mesh panels for air flow, but you keep the insects out. With some backup tarps, you can even sleep through rain.
There are other tougher tents for harsher conditions. A 3+ season tent is warmer and steadier. A 4-season tent can even withstand strong winds, although a winter tent may be best for winter camping.
Regardless of the season, just make sure that you have enough ventilation. Not only can it get uncomfortably warm without adequate ventilation, but condensation is a problem as well. You may wake up in the morning and everything is damp.
Ease of Assembly
You’re tired after a long hike, or the kids are excited about arriving at the campsite. But you have to put your tent up first. This can be rather annoying, so you want to do this simply and quickly.
Of course, that’s not always going to be possible, especially with the bigger tents. Still, a tent you can’t put up is useless regardless of how “great” a tent is when it’s assembled. So, unless you can find a group of experts in your camping site whom you can pay or cajole to put your tent up for you, you will need to do this on your own.
So here’s an important tip. Check out the YouTube videos of how a tent is put up. Don’t just trust the manufacturer’s videos. Instead, watch the videos made by regular people. See how well they manage, and decide if you can do that too.
They’re not all the same. With polyester or nylon tents, you may get the waterproofing you need as long as you check that the seams are sealed. But constant exposure to sunlight will deteriorate the material over time. The sun isn’t as much of a problem with cotton or canvas tents, and they’re waterproof too. When they absorb water, they can become very heavy.
You should also check the quality of the zipper too. A failed zip can make things more uncomfortable especially if the weather turns bad. It should move smoothly and easily, it should be resistant to rust, and it shouldn’t catch on fabric.
For tent poles, aluminum is stronger and more durable than fiberglass. The fewer the poles you have, the faster it is to set up your tent. Check out the ones that don’t need stakes to set up, as that would be easier for you.
For tent floors, you need a tough and waterproof material. There shouldn’t any seams, so there’s no chance of water seeping in. It should also come up a few inches up before it is attached to the wall.
To really maximize your comfort and enjoyment, you should get a few important tent accessories too.
- Footprint. This is the first accessory you need to get. It goes under your tent floor to protect against dirt, rocks, and twigs. All these things can eventually ruin your tent floor, and that may require you to buy a brand new tent. At least with a footprint, you can just replace it at a far lesser price.
- Tent repair kit. Take heed of Murphy’s Law, and have it ready just in case. It’s like a first aid kit for your tent. It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.
- Rainfly. This is like the roof for your tent roof. Your tent roof and walls are usually water-repellant. But a rainfly is waterproof. It should be big enough to come down the sides of your tent.
- Guyout loops. These are for attaching guy lines, which tie down any flapping fabrics.
- Lantern loop. So you can hang a lantern up high.
- Interior pockets. These can function like storage cabinets so you can have your things organized.
Packing Size and Weight
The weight matters if you’re going backpacking. But if you’re mainly using a car straight to the camp site, then you better make sure that the tent can fit inside.
Good luck on your choice of tent, and have a good time! With a great camping tent, you stand a much better chance of enjoying yourself.