Regardless of whether you’re a wilderness expert or a camping novice, the tent is easily one of the most essential items on your packing list. But finding the right tent for your upcoming trips can be much more difficult than you might imagine. With so many different types and sizes of tents to choose from, where do you start your search? Sure, a $20 pop up tent from your local store might seem like a decent idea, and while it will probably hold up okay, as soon as it starts raining you’ll be in trouble. Fast forward, you are completely soaked and miserable. With that said, a quality tent is worth every penny, and you should take my word for it, or learn it the hard way.
The top factor that most people consider when buying an outdoor tent is their budget. You don’t need to go for the most expensive tent, but it’s important to think about the one you do get as a long-term investment. A rule you should follow is “always get the best you can afford”. Think about it this way, a cheap tent will be good enough when the conditions are ideal, but as soon as it starts going south, so will the tent. Buying a quality outdoor tent, on the other hand, will give you peace of mind. It will stand up to harsh weather conditions and take all of the abuse of the outdoors while you sit comfortably inside. Something that can help you decide on a budget is how often you’ll use it, and how you’ll use it.
Tents can be different depending on what their purpose is. If you’re looking to camp at a conventional campground, a camping tent is right for you. If you’re doing some two-day hiking, on the other hand, then you’ll need something more compact like a hiking pop up tent. Regardless of what your intentions are, you need to consider the tent’s capacity. How many people is the tent going to accommodate on a frequent basis? Will you ever have extra people with you? Will you store and equipment inside of it? Giving yourself answers to these questions is important, simply because most tent capacity ratings are for a snug fit. So if a tent is listed as a 4 people tent, you’ll be 4 people sleeping very close together. Furthermore, there’s no standardised tent capacity rating, so a 4 people tent from one brand will be different in size than a 4 people tent from another brand.
Next, you have to consider the seasonality of the tent. An outdoor tent can be either one-, two-, three- or four-season. One-season tents are oftentimes completely ignored, as most campers consider them a mere upgrade to a mosquito net. These tents are what you should get if you’re only camping in ideal weather with no chance of rain or wind. Two-season tents are similar, except they can hold up a little bit more than one-season tents, and can withstand some light rain and wind. Three-season tents are designed for use from spring to autumn, and they’re capable of withstanding heavy rain and strong winds. Lastly, four-season tents are the most heavy-duty option, and they’re designed for use in all weather. Snowstorms, heavy rain and wind won’t affect four-season tents, making them ideal for mountaineers.
While these factors are on top of the list, some other important factors you’ll need to pay attention to when shopping for an outdoor tent are its shape, which can be either cabin or dome. Cabin-shaped tents are designed with vertical walls in order to maximise vertical living space and height. Domes, on the other hand, have less vertical living space but are usually more durable and stronger. The materials the tent is made of also matters. Look for high-denier materials that improve the tent’s durability and weather-proofing capabilities. Further, the pole structure of your tent will dictate how easy setting it up and tearing it down is going to be. Most family tents are freestanding, meaning they don’t require any stakes to pitch. Make sure the tent you buy has a rainfly for better visibility and weather protection. And lastly, consider whether you want a tent vestibule, which is basically an overhang located outside your tent’s door where you can store dirty shoes, clothes and equipment so you don’t mess up the insides of the actual tent.
And lastly, you need to consider the tent’s livability, which refers to the interior design. Things like volume, floor dimensions, peak height, room layout, wall shape, doors, windows and ventilation can all make or break your choice. You want a spacious tent that will comfortably accommodate as many people as you need it to while giving every person a bit of privacy and personal space. Further, you want it to be well-ventilated, especially if you’re camping in warm, humid weather.