Choosing a Good Camping Tent

Choosing a good camping tent can be crucial for having a great time away from home.  A poor tent will make you wet and uncomfortable.  A good one will keep you dry and let you sleep and move about with ease.  Here are some things to remember about choosing one that will suit you and your family.

camping tents
camping tents are far different from hiking tents.

The first thing to remember is that a camping tent is very, very different from a hiking tent.  Hikers need one that is lighter and easier to pack. Therefore it is often too confined a space for comfortable camp living. Besides the type and brand, you need check out several other different factors before deciding on one to purchase.

  • Style

The main styles for camping are cabin tents, which are generally larger and have straight sides, and dome tents. These are (duh) dome-shaped and lower to the ground, and often cheaper in price. There are also screen tents, but they are used primarily for shade. They also make a great enclosed space to set your camp kitchen up in.

 

  • Price

Screen tent
Screen tents are great for setting up camp kitchens in

You will find the price varies widely when choosing your camping tent. Discount stores,retail stores and even big-box grocery stores now stock tents at remarkably low prices. If you are planning ahead, check out the tents in early spring.  Many times stores are trying to clear out old stock to make way for newer models.

 

  • Size–

This is a tricky one. How many people a tent is listed as being able to sleep is the amount you are able to have lying down side-by-side with no room for anything else. If it’s a measure of comfort you want, and you will, then consider the number of people who want to sleep in that tent. Then double the amount it says in the information panel on the box. That means if you are going to want four people in the tent, choose one that says “eight man”. You’ll be able to fit your gear and still have room for moving around without stepping on Uncle Fred.  Another thing to consider is center height. People sometimes forget this, only to curse its height out when lying on their sleeping bag trying to pull jeans on over long underwear. If you like standing up when you dress, choose a center height that is taller than you are.

  • Season–

This is closely connected with quality. The more seasons of the year  your tent is able to withstand, generally the higher the quality. Most campers will want a three-season tent; they offer good ventilation and weather protection in everything but heavy snowfalls and high winds. They are generally lighter, airier and offer more room than winter tents, which have low, curved shapes to reduce wind resistance and shed snow.

  • Quality–

    Misshapen dome tent after fiberglass rod snapped
    Yes, this was a dome-shaped tent before one of the fiberglass rods snapped.

A cheap tent is fine for the occasional outing and is great when the budget is tight,but if you are going to be camping regularly invest in higher quality as soon as possible. The poles are generally made of more durable aluminum as opposed to fiberglass( which can on occasion break and change the shape of your beautiful dome tent into something resembling Quasimodo), they generally have full-coverage rain flies which help prevent snuggling up to wet walls at night if it rains, and the zippers and floors are made of sturdier stuff which prevents holes and their resultant leaking.

Stuff to look for when choosing your tent:

It is the little details that make all the difference when choosing your home-away-from home. Remember how the size of your tent is going to affect what you can pack into the car. The larger the tent, the more space it’s going to take up. See if it comes with a vestibule, a lovely little extra that enables you to park your boots and backpack outside the tent but still keeps them sheltered. It’s kind of like a little extra room attached to your tent entrance and can help reduce the amount of mud and leaves tracked into the tent itself.

See if there are things inside the tent like lantern loops (generally located at the center of your inside ceiling for hanging your lantern on) and mesh pockets or extra loops for clipping mesh pockets. These are extremely handy for keeping crucial things accessible and safe, like a night flashlight or your glasses.

Higher-quality tents will often have the seams double-stitched for extra durability, and the floor will generally be a sturdier, thicker version of the cheaper ones. They will also have outside guy lines and stakes, so that you have the option of staking-down if it gets really, really windy.

Tent Accessories: 

Finally, don’t forget those little accessories that don’t actually come with the tent but make living so much easier when you set it up. A mat outside (and maybe one inside) can reduce the amount of mess tracked in and out. Super-important when the area is wet. Take along a little whisk and dustpan for sweeping out during your stay and before you take it down, after all the gear has been removed. You will be amazed at how much still manages to get in despite your best efforts, and you don’t want to be packing all that mess away with your tent once you fold it up for storage. Take along two tarps–the first one needs to be for over top. This offers which even more coverage and protection from the rain. The second tarp can be used as a  groundsheet (if you don’t already have one) underneath your tent. Your second one helps keep sharp rocks and sticks from poking a hole in the floor. Even when you’re careful when clearing the ground for set-up there always seems to be a couple that you miss.

Keeping these ideas in mind will help you choose a camping tent that not only keeps you comfortable when camping, but will last you many years.

Any questions? Want further info on anything? Leave it in the comments section below, and I will get back to you!


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