For someone who enjoys camping outdoors in a tent or wants to start going camping more often, choosing the best tent for your specific wants, needs, and style is important. While this may seem like a straight-forward purchase, there is actually a lot more to know about tents than you may think. This item is especially important for the outdoor enthusiast in you, as it will protect you from the elements allow you to sleep safely outdoors. Let’s dive into all there is to know to help you get the best tent for you!
Table of Contents
Decide How the Tent Will Be Used
The first question to ask yourself is: how will I be using this tent? Are you going to use it for camping at a campground, in the middle of the wilderness, on a backpack expedition, or in harsh weather conditions? Who do you plan to go camping with? Will you be needing this tent only for yourself, or for your entire family? Perhaps sometimes you’ll be camping alone, but you’d like to have extra space for yourself or if a friend without camping gear wants to tag along on your outing.
Knowing where you plan to bring this tent, at what times of the year, and with who is the first step of important information to gather. This will help you to decide if you can find one tent to meet all of your needs, or if you may need a few options for your different use-cases.
The tent size that you choose depends on a few factors. How many people will be sleeping in the tent is, of course, important, but you may also choose to get a larger tent than necessary depending on the type of camping trips you’ll be using this tent for. Keep in mind how much gear you want to store in your tent, and who will be sleeping in the tent with you, including any pets. Below are the variables to think of when choosing the right size tent for you.
Getting approximate square footage of the floor in the tent is an easy way to tell if the tent will be big enough for your needs. Some one-person tents may be smaller than others, for example, and if you are a taller individual, this will be vital information! You also need to know the floor size if you plan on bringing any camping furniture with you. Tent stoves and camping cots can be bulky, so you need to ensure that your tent has enough froom for both you and your things.
As mentioned above, keep in mind the sleeping capacity that the tent shows it can fit, versus how much space you actually want to have in your tent. A one-person tent typically doesn’t give much wiggle room for storage within the tent, and may only be big enough just to sleep in. You may want a larger tent than the name suggests, even if you are only one or two people.
Think of how much space you have in the campgrounds or other places where you’ll be using the tent. If you have extra room for more space, then you can go ahead and choose larger! If you will be using this tent for a backpacking trip or hiking in small areas, you probably don’t want to carry around the extra weight or may not have space or a need for more room, since you may not have as many amenities with you.
Height and Floor Length
Similarly to the floor size, make sure to research the height and floor length of the tent, too. Some tents will not be tall enough to stand up in (especially depending on your height), so again, this is important information that you will want to know depending on if you care about being able to stand up and have space in your tent, or if you only need it to crawl in and sleep in your sleeping bag.
Cabin tents or tents with dome-style tops are best for those who want to be able to stand up and have more space in the tent. These types of tents, as well as tents with longer floor lengths than the typical 84-88 inches, are a better option for people of 6 feet height and taller or those who are bringing an air mattress along.
Where do you plan to camp with your tent, and what kind of weather do you expect to be outside while using your tent? Knowing the seasonality for the tent that you decide to purchase is vital information, as some will not be able to withstand the type of weather that others can.
Three season tents are just fine for people who will mostly be camping in “nice” weather, typically spring, summer, and fall. These tents are more lightweight and not typically made to withstand harsh weather conditions. Ultimately, this type of tent is made to provide you with privacy, space away from bugs, and a place to stay dry.
For those who want to be able to go camping in all types of weather, including both beautiful sunshine as well as being prepared for cold temperatures and inclement weather, a four-season tent is probably a better option. These tents are usually made of stronger, more durable material, and can help protect you and keep you warm against the outside in harsher weather conditions such as wind and snow. These tents will most likely include more poles, heavier fabric, and rounded dome tops so that snow cannot collect. They have less ventilation than a 3 season tent, so this may not be the best tent for you if you want more air and space in hot weather.
Not all tents are created the same! The material of the tent is also important to note to make sure it fits your needs. Many tents nowadays are made of synthetic nylon fabric, though you still may be able to find some canvas tents in the marketplace. For ultra-lightweight tents, they will most likely be made of specialty fabric to cut down on the weight of the tent.
Single-Wall and Double-Wall Tents
Most tents that you will come across will be double-wall tents, which offer a breathable inner tent with an outer rainfly. This helps give a more breathable space, as well as protection from wetness and condensation that may come during your trip. While a double-wall tent is most likely the route that you’ll want to go, a single-wall tent is a better option for those who plan to camp in colder temperatures, so that the outer wall doesn’t freeze to the inside from its condensation.
Other Tent Features
There are a variety of other tent features that you should pay attention to when choosing the best tent for you. Below are some of the most common features that you should keep in mind in your search.
The weight of your tent will be a bigger deciding factor in which one you choose and what else you bring camping with you. Keep in mind, there are always two weights for a tent. First, there is the weight of the tent and all its accessories (think poles, cords, stakes, etc.), as well as the trail weight, which is the minimum weight required to erect the tent.
The shape of your tent matters depending on where you want to camp as well as who you will be camping with. A taller shape is best for families or people who want space to stand up and walk around, while someone who is choosing a backpacking tent will want a tent that slopes lower to the ground, keeping both the camper and the tent itself safer against the elements.
The door of your tent is one of the most important features, as it is how you will get in and out of your outdoor home! Having a great, smooth zipper that will not get caught or break is important for a stress-free camping trip. Tent doors can also differ based on your wants and needs. Some tents only have one door, while others have more. If you are camping with more than one person in a tent without much extra space, another door can be a great addition to not have to crawl over one another to enter and exit the tent at your leisure.
Tent poles are vital to the structure of the tent, but not all are created equal! Most likely, the more poles in your tent, the more complicated it will be to pitch the tent. The structure of the poles are also another aspect to take into consideration, as some may have to be threaded through the roof, sides, and in longer spaces than others. Make sure that you also pay attention to the material that the tent poles are made out of, as some are much more strong than others. An aluminum pole will be a lot more structurally sound than a plastic tent pole, for example. This may or may not matter for you, depending on where you will be using your tent.
A separate waterproof cover to go over the roof of your tent, also called a rainfly, is an extra feature that not all tents come with. If you expect that you may experience rain or even just evening and morning dew on your camping trip, as well as if you’d like to retain more warmth, then getting a tent that has a rainfly is a better option for you. If you don’t have a rainfly, you can also waterproof your tent without one.
Having a vestibule for your tent which is an awning or shelter to attach to your tent, will give you space to remove dirty shoes before entering the tent, or even a space to relax and keep the extra gear that you don’t want to bring into the tent itself. A vestibule may be a part of your rainfly, or it can be a completely separate add-on item sold separately to attach to your tent.
Most tents come with at least one, if not more, vents to allow airflow and ventilation. These mesh panels may be on the roof, sides, or in the door of your tent. These are especially important when camping in hotter temperatures to allow a cross-breeze and to manage condensation.
A footprint is typically an optional add-on accessory that you may or may not choose to purchase to go along with your tent. This custom-fitted ground cloth is a great investment for family tents or tents that will have a lot of foot traffic going in and out, as it protects the integrity of the floor of the tent, safeguarding it from twigs, rocks, grass, and other elements that the tent floor will be placed on top of. It is a lot cheaper to get a great footprint and replace it as needed rather than having to buy an entirely new tent if the floor starts to get thin or have holes worn in it.
Choose Your Perfect Tent
Now that you understand all of the factors to look into when choosing the best tent for your needs, I hope that you feel confident to choose a great tent for all of your outdoor adventures. With so many options and features available, maybe you’ll want to get even more than one tent for all of your camping needs.