Choosing a Camping Tent

Things to Consider

I've listed here some important tent features to think about before you buy a new camping tent. You should first determine what your needs are. Then consider the cost and decide how much you really intend to spend.

Other things to think about are the important features that every camping tent should have and you should check to be sure it will fulfill your requirements. Analyzing the size, weight and color is another important step to making the decision. These are all important factors that are discussed in more detail on this page.

Determine Your Needs

As a new camper you’re in for a big surprise when you start looking for a new tent! Camping tents come in so many shapes and sizes and styles, and a wide range of prices also, from high dollar, to quite cheap.

 However, to get an affordable camping tent, you don’t have to sacrifice quality and extra features. You’ll want the most durable and weatherproof camping tent you can find, no matter what the weather. No matter how extravagant your tent and its accessories are, you want it to do the most important thing, provide your shelter.

camping tent Photo by Natalia Bratslavsky

Before you purchase a new camping tent, there are some important factors to consider:

  • You should determine the number of people who will be using it and how much sleeping space desired for each person. (most campers like some elbow room)
  • Also consider how much headroom you will want. Will you be spending much time inside?
  • What kind of sleeping gear will you have inside? Will you have air mattresses, sleeping bags, mats or cots? Then contemplate the numbers and sizes of each and what other equipment will be stored inside.
  • How far will you be taking it? Will you travel by vehicle, or are you packing it in? Analyze how far the camping tent will have to be carried.
  • Then, determine what time of year you will be camping. Do you expect sun, rain, or snow? Ventilation is very important for summer camping, while if you are camping in the winter, you will need a weather-proof four-season camping tent.
  • Consider the Cost

    Choosing a camping tent depends a lot upon how and where you will use it. If you choose a dependable brand, it can last you for many years. Usually, more expensive tents have stronger fabric, poles, and stitching. This means they can withstand higher winds and heavier rain. And they will last longer.

    But not all campers need a shelter that is that strong and durable. If you camp in a mild and dry climate, and if you camp close to home, it is likely that a less expensive one will serve you just as well.

    For those just starting out with their camping adventures, and may not do a lot of camping, it may be best to try out the least expensive tents. You can always get a better one later, and still keep the original tent for many uses. You shouldn’t purchase an expensive one when you may only use it a few times a year and it will possibly end up dirty, torn and broken. This happens just as easily with cheaper ones.

    It’s impracticable to buy top-notch, overpriced equipment if you don’t really need it. Unless you are getting ready for some rough and tough mountaineering or severe weather conditions, the more moderate priced sporting gear will get you by just fine.

    Be careful though. You can also be sure that a very cheap tent won’t last you very long if you use it regularly. A low-priced, poor quality item will wear out very quickly. Merchandise that is regularly priced much lower than others is very likely to be poorly made and you will easily end up with broken zippers and split seams.

    If you check the end-of-summer clearance sales you might find a good deal on a quality tent. You also may be able to get a good tent that has been discounted because it is old stock.

    You've probably heard the saying, “You get what you pay for”. But you can also find good quality at good prices.

    Analyze Tent Sizes

    Tents are classified, as two-person, four-person, six-person, and so on. However, this size rating is really the maximum number of persons you can cram inside, sleeping in close company, and also with no room for personal gear.

    This may work fine for backpackers who want to travel light, but is unacceptable for other campers. You never want to be that crowded on a family camping trip! You may want to buy one that is rated two or more people bigger than your family size.

    The sizes given by manufacturers may also vary greatly. The size they give may be affected by the use designed. Example: A two-person general purpose tent may be the same size as a three-person tent designed for lightweight use. The best way to gauge the size is to get inside and try it out. You may be able to visit a sporting goods showroom and inspect various sizes.

    How much space you will need is a personal decision. You should take into consideration how tall you are, how wide you are, how much elbow room you need at night, and how much sitting up room you would like. Also consider how much gear you will be storing inside.

    Get the roomiest one that you can reasonably afford. You won’t regret it. The extra room will come in handy, especially when you are hit with a spell of rainy weather.

    One more thing on tent size...

    While having a large, roomy tent is nice, you've got to also be aware of the actual space available at the place you're planning to camp. Quite a few family campgrounds have small spaces, and extra-large tents may not fit. This is a noteworthy consideration. It would be no fun arriving at the campground with a new tent that doesn't fit!

    (Thanks to Joe from SC for sending us this tip!)


    Consider Tent Weight

    The farther you will be carrying your tent, the more important the weight will become. If you are just driving to a campsite, a big and heavy model won’t be much of a concern. However, if you will be carrying it all day on a backpacking trip, you will definitely need a lighter shelter. Our two man hiking tent pictured here weighs in at 4.2 pounds (1.9kg).

    camping tent Photo by Luke


    Tent Color Factors

    Another factor that plays a role in the durability of your tent is its color. Certain colors don’t hold up well under ultra-violet rays, then the fabric will break down faster and disintegrate. You should try to keep it out of the mid-day sun. If mistreated, the colors will fade and the fabric will become frail and brittle. If necessary, use the fly or a tarp to cover the more venerable and lighter canopy top. It is less expensive to replace the fly than the whole tent.

    The color affects how much light is allowed in and also impacts how warm it is inside. A tent that is a light color such as beige, white, or yellow will make it brighter inside and will also tend to reflect away the heat. A darker color such as blue, green, black, or red will absorb more heat during daylight hours and also let in less light to the interior.

    There are other issues to consider. Some camping purists recommend camping tents that will blend in with the environment, such as green or brown. On the other hand, search and rescue organizations suggest a bright red or yellow for the opposite reason; it will be easily seen.

    However, be sure to choose the color that will best suit your purpose. Don't get a color that you absolutely abhor, just because someone else recommends it or because it's a good deal. You'll have to live with it for awhile, so choose carefully!

    Each of these aspects we have discussed are important to
    know about in your quest for the perfect tent.


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