If you are an outdoor enthusiast, you may already know how to choose the best camping tents. But not everyone wants a tent for every camping vacation, as you will see on many outdoor forums. If you are a hardened outdoor Billy Joe, you may not see the need of carrying a tent all the time, but at one time or another, you will definitely have to carry a tent. And … if you can find a spot of sun and sand, you may just live like an oil sheikh in the UAE.
Among some of the benefits that a tent will give you include:
- Keeping you safe from the rain
- Keeps you out of the wind
- Keeps you safe from vermin that crawls on the ground
- Used with the footprint, it will be a good insulation between your sleeping bag and the cold ground
- Tents keep bugs away. You can zip the door closed and you will be safe
- You enjoy privacy when you are in your tent
- You can stay more organized. Hang your boots on the vestibule, and keep personal stuff in the interior pockets.
So, beginner or advanced outdoor enthusiast, here are a few tips to help you in choosing the best camping tent. But first, are all tents the same? Not really, as you will see below:
- 1 Types of tents
- 2 12 Questions to ask before buying a tent
- 2.1 Is it the right size?
- 2.2 Do you like the tent shape?
- 2.3 What is the fabric used? And the zips?
- 2.4 What is the season-rating for the tent?
- 2.5 Will the tent floor stand abuse?
- 2.6 What material is the tent poles?
- 2.7 In what weather will you use the camping tent?
- 2.8 Do you really need the tent this time?
- 2.9 How much does the tent weigh?
- 2.10 Are the seams insulated?
- 2.11 How much does the tent cost?
- 2.12 Does it have interior loops and pockets?
- 3 Conclusion
Types of tents
There are so many tents out there and all of them are made for different types of uses and for different types of outdoor lovers. Here is a sneak peek into the tents that anyone is most likely to buy from time to time:
Family tents – Camping is increasingly becoming popular for families in the United States of America and elsewhere. Every weekend, it is not a wonder to see family wagons and SUVs packed high with camping gear for the whole family, including the dog. Thus, these family tents are large in size, enduring and worth every dime you pay for them. Some of the family tents can house even up to 14 people! That is quite large! The bigger the tent is, the more of a hassle it will be to bring it with you, set it up and when done, pack it away.
A good family tent is not only large, but it also comes with removable interior walls that can be used to partition space for privacy.
Is it worth it? You ask. Well, the answer is, a family that camps and sleeps together stays together.
Backpacking tents – This one must be small, light weight and able to protect you from the harsh elements in the Smoky Mountains, Shasta & Trinity wildernesses or wherever you are going camping.
Do you need a tent when you are backpacking across Europe for example? You definitely do and it will save you the money that you would have used for hostel or motel accommodation. Usually, the backpacking tents come in sizes that can fit one or two people since they are small to cut the weight. If you are doing overnight hiking, you can carry along your back packing tent and use it for trailside camping. Read a few backpacking tent reviews before you can order one online.
Mountaineering Tents- These types of tents are good for mountain climbing and camping. They are made specifically for the mountainous conditions. The conditions on the top of the mountains are usually cold and the tent is made with that in mind, plus a lot of humidity in the air. Although the mountaineering tent is built for camping in wintry conditions, it is also great for summer camping.
Weekend tents – These are simple to erect, pack, carry and use. If you are the kind of outdoor lover who can go camping on a whim, this kind of camping tent is good for you. You can buy a big one that can fit your whole family so that you can have great bonding times in the weekend. There are many camping sites in the USA, and if you look around in your area, I am sure you will find a few. Make use of great weather by taking impromptu weekend camping vacations. In life, the little things matter most.
Pop Up Tents – Just as their name suggests, setting up this kind of tent is pure bliss. There is no pitching involved. If you are a lazy camper, this is the kind of tent to go for. Most of them come in 2-man size but you can forage around for bigger sizes.
If you would like to introduce your kids to camping the easy way, these are the tents for you to buy. The bottom is made of a thick waterproof material. It serves you just as well as the other tents. However, it can be a bit of a hassle to pack it up as you begin using it. With time, you will do a perfect job of putting it away. As a self-pitching tent, you will love everything about it.
Beach shelters – Getting that much desired tan is good, but it is not worth getting a sunburn for. So bring a beach shelter/tent with you and pitch it up, enjoy the great sunny weather in style.
Beach shelters are not only made for the beach because you can also pitch them on grass, dirt and other ground. Make sure it has sandbags that once weighted, they will keep the shelter stable on the beach. Some beaches ban the use of enclosed tents, so before you buy one, you should find out or just buy an open front tent.
In your quest to know how to choose the best camping tents, you now know what you want, it could be a family tent, a beach shelter or whatever. But knowing the kind of tent that you want is just half the journey. The other half is to know how to buy the best one, a tent that will meet your needs perfectly and probably serve your for many years to come.
12 Questions to ask before buying a tent
Is it the right size?
How many people will be camping with you? Perhaps you are taking the whole family? Buy one, family tent because that will make the pitching job easier, rather than having everyone carry their own tent. If the kids must carry their tent, then a pop up one will do as it is self-pitching and easy to pack.
If you are two large-sized people, buy a big enough tent. When reading camping tent reviews, you will see the tents touted as 2 man, 3 man, 6 people tent and so on. Some family tents can even be big enough to house 14 people. Remember, this space will not only sleep the entire family, but it will also fit all of their stuff.
Buying tip for comfort – Make sure every person using the tent will have 25 square feet of space just for sleeping, and then you have to add the space they will need for their stuff.
Do you like the tent shape?
If shapes wow you, you will be spoilt for choice as you can just choose what catches your fancy. The most popular tent shapes are the umbrella and the dome, but there are more.
Umbrella shaped tent – This one looks like an umbrella, with the pitching ropes looking like the umbrella spikes. It offers a lot of standing room, perfect for ‘people over 6 feet tall or for families. It also has large windows meaning more natural light.
A-Frame tent – When looked at width-wise, it looks like the letter A. It is one of the most popular shapes around.
The dome tent is also referred to as geodesic tent and it looks like a series of interconnected triangles. It is great for family camping vacation, but the hexagonal floor might cause some confusion when arranging how to stow stuff and sleep.
Cabin style tents have almost vertical shapes, and they do indeed look like cabins. Thus, they have more standing room. They are mostly used as family tents and like the domed tents, they can also be partitioned to create some privacy among the users.
What is the fabric used? And the zips?
Your tent will most likely be made of nylon. The walls will be made of breathable nylon while the walls and the floors are made of coated nylon to make them waterproof. The windows of the tent will be made of no-see-um mesh.
There are mainly three things to look for when considering the fabric of your tent:
- Is it rip-stop? That is very important as such a fabric is made to resist tears, grazes and other injuries when it is dragged against rocks, branches and sticks.
- Is it 100% waterproof? If you will get wet from the rain when you are inside the tent, then it is better not to have the tent at all. Polyester and nylon tents are good as they are waterproof, but then the seams may let in water if they are not sealed tight. When buying, be sure to check the seals.
- A canvas tent will absorb water and become too heavy. You do not want to carry a heavy tent around with you. One good thing about the canvas camping tents is that they last a long time and they can withstand a lot of abuse.
Other material things to consider in a tent
It must have good zips that do their job without snagging. The zip is also one of the protection details for your tent because if it fails, you could have vermin crawling into your tent and you really do not want that.
Look at the window fly. It should be waterproof as well so that it does not let rain in. If it is made of polyurethane-treated with silicone it would be better. The windows should only let in light, not light and rain. It is fortified against snow.
What is the season-rating for the tent?
The season rating for the best camping tents is just as that of the best sleeping bags. The 4-season tents are made for areas that experience a big chill, are windy and will experience other inhospitable elements. They are made with a heavier fabric, they have more poles to hold them steady in the wind and their rain fly stretches to the ground.
3 to 4 season rated tents are made for use in three seasons – summer, fall and spring. One thing that you will notice about them is the fewer windows and ventilation. It is also a bit fortified for the light snow experienced in late fall.
The 3-season tents are made with spring, summer and early fall in mind. They are light in weight, are breathable and have been proofed against rain. They are best used in better weather conditions like summer and spring. They are no good for winter or heavy winds.
Will the tent floor stand abuse?
This is as important as the walls and the roof of the tent. It will take much of the abuse and all of the foot traffic. The good thing is that many tents are made with heavy-duty material. Look for a material made of 500D polyester PU. That should be able to withstand many years of use and abuse.
When you buy your camping tent, you can buy a footprint to go with the tent floor. This tough tarp is placed beneath the floor of your tent to protect it from wear and tear and from abrasions that may be caused by sticks and pebbles.
What material is the tent poles?
The tent poles are made with fiberglass or aluminum and to make carrying them easier and they are linked with cords to keep them safe. You may also find inflatable tubes for poles. Other tents, for example, those made for mountaineering may be sold with poles that you can set up on the inside. This makes the tent safer even in bad weather.
You can also buy a few repair links because tent poles sometimes break when you are far away from the stores. Never go on a camping vacation without these repair links as it could be disastrous for you.
Tent poles can be broken down to small pieces for easy carrying. Some also come with pivoted joints. Usually, the size of the tent poles will extend to the full length and height of the tent.
How does the tent get hitched to the poles? There are different methods for this but the most common include hooks, clips that are attached to the tent, usually plastic or enclosed channels, which are best for the 4-season tents.
Just as you break new hiking boots before going backpacking, break the tent too. Practice pitching it at home, packing and unpacking it. The more you go camping, the better you will become at pitching the rent in record time.
In what weather will you use the camping tent?
One of the first things that you should learn to do when going camping is keeping your eyes peeled for the weather. The weather of the area where you are going camping will determine the kind of tent you go with. For example, a dome tent is good in windy areas. Because they are shaped like igloos, the wind passes over them easily thus eliminating chances of toppling over. However, make sure the tent faces away from the wind.
If you will camp in places with high temperatures during the day, you need to buy a breathable tent, yet at the same time, it must be waterproofed in case it rains during the night. At the same time, the tent floor should be made of a tough material and should turn up for about 6 inches at the edges of the tent.
If you are going camping in an area that can experience rain with little or no notice, you need to consider the rain fly. It should be long enough, perhaps reaching to the ground to keep all the rain away. This means that it can also keep windy rain away. It should also cover the door such that even when you open the door of the tent the rain does not make its way in.
If you will camp in cold weather, get a tent with a inner mesh fabric that can allow the moist air that you exhale to escape. A rain fly covering the door and the windows of the tent should also be present to keep the cold away. If the temperature of the place where you will camp drops too low, it is better to buy a mountaineering tent, which will have special features to keep away the cold. You may also consider buying a smaller tent to keep warmer as opposed to a bigger tent, which will have too much cold air to warm up.
Do you really need the tent this time?
Consider seriously whether you need a tent. Do enough research about the area where you will be camping. If it is just an overnight hike, maybe you can just do with a sleeping bag and a sleeping pad. A tent is extra weight, which you can do without if it is possible. If you are going backpacking, you may need a tent, but you should make it a light weight one. If you are going in an RV or caravan, you can just sleep in your vehicle. There would be no need to make camp outside. As some people say, a tent is not all that important if you can do without one.
How much does the tent weigh?
Tents for sale come in different sizes. The bigger it is the heavier it will be. So whenever you can, buy a smaller tent so that you do not have extra weight to drag along.
If you are going bicycle or car camping, well, you do not have to worry about the weight too much. But still, there are those few hundred yards from the car park to the camping spot. And you will have to carry it. So you see, it is not only backpackers who would be most concerned about the weight of the tent.
Summer tents are made of a lighter material. Mountaineering tents could be heavier because they have an inner mesh lining to keep the cold air out as well as let water vapor out to prevent condensation.
Are the seams insulated?
The seams should be coated with nylon tape to prevent cold air getting into the tent at night. The tape is usually stitched into the seams. Today, many tents are not designed this way, but all the same, when you buy one, check out the seams carefully. You should also find out whether the tent you intend to buy comes with a bottle of sealer, which you should apply, to the seams before you leave for your camping vacation. Make sure the sealer dries up nicely to completely seal the seams.
How much does the tent cost?
Ok, you now know that you need a good, high quality tent, but that does not mean that you have to pay through the nose for the same. You have to find a balance since this will most likely be a one-off buy and then you will use the tent for a long time. So, be ready to pay a good amount but first, read the tent reviews to know the features and the price. Do not buy blindly. When buying online, look for things like warranty and return policy, just in case it does not fit your needs.
Some brand names are also very well established in the market. It is always safer to buy from an established brand name, but you can also try a new brand name if you see its features.
Does it have interior loops and pockets?
Stay more organized on your camping vacation, just as you stay at home. Keep your personal effects in the pockets sewn onto the interior of the tent. There should be a loop to hang your lantern at the center of the tent.
You have no doubt seen the importance of taking a camping tent with you. The outdoors is fun, but with the safety of the tent, the experience will be many times more enjoyable. There is a tent for everyone to meet different types of camping needs. Whether it is a backpacking, overnight, mountaineering or full-blown camping vacation, knowing how to choose the best camping tents is paramount.