While tent camping, the tent becomes your castle. It is the most important piece of camping equipment that you will buy. For this reason, a good amount of time should go into purchasing the right tent. To help simply this decision process, we have put together the following list:
1. Type of Camping Trip: Are you going to be backpacking, weekend camping, or doing some extended camping? A heavier tent can be used for longer term camping and tends to be better for larger groups. However, a lighter tent is better for short term camping and is ideal for backpacking.
2. Travel Distance: How far will you have to go to drop off your camping equipment? If it is a far distance, a lighter tent would be preferable because of its lighter weight. If you need a larger tent, it is a good idea to camp close to the drop-off point. Ideally, the drop off point should be within ½ mile if you have a large amount of camping equipment.
3. Season: What seasons will you be going camping? Most people tend to camp in the summer, spring or fall. Therefore, a 3 season or summer tent will be your best options. However, if you enjoy camping in the winter, you may want to purchase a 4 season tent or convertible tent. Each of these four types of tents has its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages.
a. Summer tents are best for the hot weather of the summer as they have a lot of mesh for ventilation and are very lightweight weighing about 4 to 8lbs. However, this lack of insulation will not be very helpful for fall or winter camping.
b. 3 season tents are designed for spring, summer, and fall and are the most commonly used tent and weigh roughly 5 to 10lbs.
c. 4 season tents are designed for all seasons with an emphasis on winter camping. They are very good for winter camping and high altitude camping.
d. Convertible tents are also designed for all four seasons. However, they do have a large number of “convertible” parts for the varying conditions which can be a benefit and a burden at the same time.
4. Head room: Do you need a lot of headroom while you are in your tent? Do you need to be able to standup in your tent to change? The answer to these questions are largely a matter of personal preference. However, we recommend that new tent campers and older tent campers start off with a tent that provides both these features as a roomy tent tends to be the most accommodating for all campers. This will ensure you have plenty of room for all the things that you will need to do.
5. Size of Party: How many people will be going? The size of the party will dictate how many tents are needed. However, as a rule of thumb it is a good idea to always allow for a little more space in each tent for additional gear and firewood.
6. Test the Tent: In the movie, “The Ghost & The Darkness”, Michael Douglas’s character lectures the main character on the importance of never bringing an untested rifle into battle or a hunt. The same advice goes for your tent.
a. You should test building your tent at home to make sure you have all the pieces and are at a point where you know how to build it from memory. You do not want to be in a rush putting the tent together for the first time in the dark or while it is raining, only to find out you are missing a piece or can’t seem to locate the directions.
b. If you do find that you have lost a piece or broken a piece beyond repair while camping, some live or solid dead wood can be used as a substitute for stakes or a crosspiece.
7. Optional Tent Features: It is also a good idea for the tent to meet these other criteria:
a. Easy to assemble: Does it take a long time to put the tent together? If it takes over 10 minutes to put together, we recommend getting an easier tent to assemble.
b. Limited parts: Does it have a large number of parts? The more parts it has the greater the chance something gets lost. For this reason, we recommend the fewer the parts the better.
By following these tips, you should be able to find a quality tent that will provide you value for many years. Now, go ahead and start your search, we think you will find that you will be glad you did.