Unless you’re made of money or planning only on camping in warm, dry and windless places, buying a tent can be a significant investment.
For car camping there are the multi-room palace though often a few smaller tents work just as well, and provide more flexibility for different camping trips and as circumstances change. Do you really want to put up a 4 bedroom mansion if you’re just staying one night somewhere?
Overnight hikers though want something that’s light and just big enough to fit everyone and their stuff. Most overnight backpacking tents are for two people, but there are many tents for one or more than two. Many larger groups or families use multiple 2 person tents but there are plenty of options.
If the tent’s occupants are tall, choose a tent that lets them stretch out. Also consider if you want to sit up, or stand up if it’s a tent for car camping. Low tents are more aerodynamic in the wind, and are lighter to carry, but if you are stuck for a day in the rain, being able to sit up under shelter is a bonus.
Make sure there is space under cover to store your stuff. When they say a tent is a 3 man tent – they mean that and nothing more. There should be an annex or somewhere to store your pack, boots and everything else when it rains.
Weight versus size is the biggest consideration for most backpack tent-shoppers. Consider the weight even for car camping as the tent still needs to be lugged around. Check you can carry the tent out of the shop before you commit to buying it.
There are cheap tents around, but go for the best quality you can justify. Check:
· The fabric and stitching. Is it light but sturdy and waterproof? Does the flyscreen material look like it will last and not rip?
· Flexibility. The tent should bend rather than snap in high winds.
· Zips. They are often the first thing to go on tents. They must be sturdy and unlikely to catch.
· Poles. They should be strong but light. They should be joined and snap together so you don’t have to waste time figuring out which bits go where.
All tents should allow for various levels of airflow to cater for different conditions. Condensation is a big issue in tents. Check air can flow through even if it’s raining. There should be fly screened areas under the canopy of tent awnings.
Is the tent quick to put up and pack away? Thanks to Youtube, we can see how other do it before buying. Beware the sales videos that have a vested interest in making it look simple.
You’re probably not making a fashion statement with your choice of tent, but there are some design considerations that can make tenting it that little bit more enjoyable.
· Multiple entrances make it easier for people to get in an out without having to clambour over others.
· Somewhere to easily tie a torch or lantern to the top of the tent is a bonus.
· Small pockets near people’s heads when they sleep are great for headtorches, glasses and other things you don’t want to fumble around in the dark for.
Suitable for the conditions
The type of tent to buy depends on what you need and where you intend to go. If you’re planning on camping in the snow, buy a sturdy tent that will keep you cosy. If you’re likely to use your tent in the desert or warm locations, make sure there is plenty of ventilation. Your tent should be able to withstand wind, especially if you’re planning to trek over mountains.
A decent all-rounder tent will be flexible enough to allow for most of these environments. It should be able to keep you dry in solid rain, with a place to put your stuff as well as yourself. Fly screens and the option for plenty of ventilation is a must. Lower tents with plenty of guy ropes provide shelter from even high winds.
Value for money
It pays to shop around, and watch out for specials. Who cares if it is last season’s model? If you choose the right tent, it should last for many seasons.