When you're planning a camping trip, there are few pieces of equipment more important than your tent. The right one can mean the difference between shivering all night and feeling warm and cozy. While a tent can be as simple as a couple of poles holding up a piece of tarp, technology has come a long way, and there are some products on the market that are fancier than a lot of houses. Whether you are looking for something simplistic or luxurious, here is a guide to picking out the perfect tent for your camping trip:
One of the first decisions you'll have to make is determining what size your tent needs to be. This will depend on a few factors. First of all, how many people do you plan on fitting in your tent? Will you be doing most of your camping solo or do you tend to go with a partner or in large groups? Generally, tent manufacturers will mark their products by how many people will fit, though it's worth noting that these measurements tend to be a bit snug – a tent that says it sleeps one to two people is likely to fit two people and little else, which can be a problem when you consider the gear you may want to keep in the tent with you at night.
Another consideration to make when picking your tent is how much you want it to weigh. This is mainly a concern if you are planning on hiking a long way with your tent. On the other hand, if you are just going to drive up to the camp site, weight isn't a terribly pressing issue.
There are a few basic styles of tents, all with their own benefits and drawbacks:
- Dome tent: This shape is most common, especially for backpackers who need to tote their gear from site to site throughout the course of the trip. One of their best features is that they are aerodynamic. While inexperienced campers may not think to look for this benefit, once you've spent the night in a tent during a storm, you'll be grateful for the feature. Dome tents are also reasonably simple to set up. When picking one out, the listed height indicates the highest point in the tent, and the walls slope sharply from there.
- Cabin tent: Though a cabin tent is somewhat less aerodynamic than a dome tent, you'll get a lot more head room. The walls are nearly vertical which, coupled with the high ceilings, makes the tent feel quite roomy on the inside. These types of tents are best for established camp grounds or base camps where you will be leaving it set up for a few days at a time.
- Hoop tent: Blending the benefits of the dome and cabin styles, the hoop tent's shape is both easy to set up, aerodynamic and maximizes interior space. They also tend to be quite compact and easy-to-pack.
Even after you've settled on a general size and shape, there are plenty of other considerations to make. Here are a few factors you'll need to look into when buying your tent:
- Security: Whether you're camping in the backwoods or a heavily populated campground, security should always be a concern. Make sure you pick a tent that can fit a mini safe or small lockbox where you can keep valuables like cash or your firearm.
- Doors: If you're going to be in and out of your tent all day, it's important to have doors that are user-friendly. Generally, cabin tents are your best bet, as they often have multiple doors.
- Ventilation: If you're planning on doing most of your camping in the summer or in a place that tends to get humid and muggy, ventilation is a major concern. Mesh panels come with most warm-weather tents. Look for larger ones to allow for cross-ventilation, which will help prevent condensation from building up. They will also offer more light to get into your tent and for you to see out more easily.
- Rainflies: A rainfly is an additional tarp that is fitted over your tent to offer protection from the elements. A full-length rainfly will cover your tent almost completely and will offer almost total protection from the wind and rain. A partial rainfly, on the other hand, just covers the mesh panels at the top of your tent, which still allows some light and air through. Generally, partial rainflies are better for campground camping tents, while wilderness campers may want to invest in the full-length option.
- Headroom: While all tents will have a "peak height" listed, not all tents are made the same. Though cabin-style tents have a relatively flat ceiling, domed tents slope down sharply. If you are tall or just prefer not to have to stoop over in your tent, consider getting a taller tent or one with a wide ceiling.