Buying a camping tent is a big deal. In fact, it is one of the most important purchases you will make when shopping for camping gear.
But, with so many options on the market today, how do you know which camping tent is right for you?
Whether you’re new to camping looking for your very first tent or you are looking to upgrade your current situation, we’ve got you covered.
This ultimate camping tent buyer’s guide is going to cover everything you need to know before making such an important purchase.
We are going to cover the major features of camping tents so you can make the decision on which types of tent is right for you.
Let’s jump in…
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- How To Choose The Right Camping Tent
- What Time Of Year Will You Be Camping?
- Types Of Camping Tents
- What To Consider When Shopping For A Camping Tent
- Optional Camping Tent Accessories
- In Conclusion
How To Choose The Right Camping Tent
When choosing a camping tent, the first thing to consider is sleeping capacity. Most manufacturers will have a recommended maximum sleeping capacity for their tents.
However, there is no industry standard when it comes to sizing. What this means that a four- or six-person tent may fit that many people, but it will be an extremely tight fit. Always look at the overall dimensions of the tent to make sure it’s large enough for you and your group.
If anyone in your camping crew gets claustrophobic in tight spaces, consider a larger tent to allow for extra sleeping space.
The shape of your camping tent will also have an effect on interior space. For example, the walls in a cabin-style tent are more vertical which gives you more overall living space inside.
Dome-style camping tents have more rounded walls which can handle the elements better than cabin-style tents.
- PRO TIP: Size your camping tent for any pets or additional camping gear you will be keeping inside.
What Time Of Year Will You Be Camping?
Most campers will go camping in the summer, spring, and fall. To ensure your camping tent keeps you comfortable on any excursion, make sure to choose one that is right for the weather. Most tents are 3-season tents and usually have a two-part wall.
What I mean is these tents have a solid material on the lower portion of the wall and the upper portion is made of mesh. This allows for maximum ventilation and air circulation throughout the tent.
The second layer of material, or rainfly, covers the mesh portion of the wall and attaches with clips and guy lines.
For those who dare to brave the coldest of elements and enjoy camping in the winter, a 4-season camping tent is your best option. These tents are made for colder weather. They aren’t the best option for summer camping because they offer little, or no, ventilation. In other words, they have a one-part solid wall.
Types Of Camping Tents
That covers the basic questions you should answer before buying a tent. However, now you need to decide what type of tent best fits your needs. There are several different types of tents, each with their own purpose. Some tents are designed for the solo backpacker while others are designed for the family unit. Smaller tents don’t have very much space to “stretch out”, while larger tents will have enough room to walk about freely.
Pop-Up tents are our favorite type. Why? Because as the name implies, you simply unfold it and it “pops up”. Setting up one of these tents only takes a matter of minutes. They are a great option for those who don’t want to spend a ton of time setting up.
One major drawback of the Pop-Up, or instant tent, is they are typically cheaply made and don’t stand up to bad weather very well. If you are only planning to camp a few weekends a year, this is the best option.
You might have had an A-Frame, or Trekker tent as a kid camping in your backyard or at summer camp. These tents are a classic design from several decades ago. If you are looking for a traditional type of camping tent, or a tent for couples, the A-Frame tent is the way to go.
A-Frame, or ridge tents, use lightweight aluminum poles and outer polyester or nylon sheets. The stability of A-Frame tents largely relies on tie-outs and guy wires.
Are there several people in your camp squad? If so, the cabin tents are a great choice. These tents are much larger than the traditional Pop-Up or dome tents and can sleep as many as 12 people. Some cabin tents have multiple rooms that give them more of a homely feel. With the walls being more vertical, the interior height is taller, allowing you to stand up straight.
Cabin tents are made up of aluminum poles that fit together to create a frame that resembles a cabin. The walls and roof are made of waterproof nylon or polyester, in most cases.
One of the most popular tent designs is the dome tent. These are your traditional 2 to 4-person tents that you can find at most department stores. These tents are the best choice for beginners because they are easy to set up and are typically the most affordable option.
Dome tents typically consist of two flexible poles that cross at the top of the dome and bend over to be anchored at the four corners. There are many dome tents that feature a small porch area to make the “living” space feel larger.
Backpacking tents are designed for those campers that will be backpacking, or hiking, to their campsite. These tents are typically small and extremely lightweight allowing you to carry it easily to your campsite. Although these tents are small, they will normally accommodate one to two people, but you can find 3 or 4-person backpacking tents as well. With these tents, the lighter the tent, the higher the price in most cases.
What To Consider When Shopping For A Camping Tent
Here are a few key features to look for when shopping for the best camping tent for your camping needs.
Ease Of Use
How easy a camping tent is to set up will determine how often you use it. Let’s face it, nobody wants a tent that is difficult to get set up at the campsite.
Set-up of a camping tent isn’t the only factor to consider. How easy it is to tear down, pack, and carry also play a huge role in how often a tent gets used.
The peak height of a camping tent is especially important for taller people. If crouching down isn’t your idea of a great way to spend your time, choose a tent with comfortable interior height.
As with the peak height, the overall floorspace of a camping tent is important. The average floor length of a tent is typically around 85-inches. For those that are taller, consider a tent with a longer total floor length.
If you will camping with your family or a large group of people, choosing a camping tent with more than one door can be beneficial.
Coming in and out of the tent, especially at night, is much easier when you have multiple doors. This eliminates the need to step over others and risk waking the entire group.
The vestibule of a camping tent plays a huge role when it comes to overall comfort. A vestibule allows you to keep any wet or dirty camping gear, coolers, and any other camping gear away from the site table. Thing of a vestibule like you would a porch.
In the case of bad weather, a camping tent with a large vestibule will provide extra shelter for you and your camping crew without the need to cram inside the tent.
If you typically camp in the Spring and Summer months, having a camping tent with enough ventilation will make the difference between a comfortable night’s sleep or a miserable, sweaty one.
Tents with larger windows and doors offer the most cross-ventilation on those hot, steamy nights. The downside to having multiple mesh openings is weather resistance. But, if the weather is going to be rainy, you’ll likely reschedule your camping trip.
Interior Pockets/Lantern Hooks
Interior pockets offer a place for you to stow things like watches, phones, and other smaller off the tent floor.
Lantern hooks are typically located at the top of the camping tent and provide a convenient place to hang a light for after dark.
A rain-fly is a separate waterproof layer of fabric that is designed to fit over the top of a camping tent, either partially or fully. These are used to prevent rain or dew from entering the tent or to retain a little extra warmth on colder nights.
- Related: 6 Best Sleeping Bags For Couples
Optional Camping Tent Accessories
A footprint, or ground cloth, is designed to protect the floor of the tent. Tent floors are rugged but will wear down over time. It’s cheaper to replace a footprint than it is to buy another tent because a rock or stick punctured the floor of your tent.
If you find a footprint that is specially designed for your tent, it won’t trap water like a generic one will that sticks out pact the edge of the tent.
A gear loft is a mesh shelf that attaches to the interior of a camping tent and allows you more places to stow any gear that you want to keep off of the tent floor.
Tent Repair Kit
You will encounter many challenges if you go camping enough. However, these minor setbacks shouldn’t ruin the entire trip. A tent repair kit gives you the ability to make quick repairs should you rip a hole or tear a seam on your tent.
A typical tent repair kit will include patches, glue, extra fabric, and maybe a sewing kit. Tent repair kits are an inexpensive “insurance” to make sure your camping trip isn’t ruined by something small.
Buying a camping tent is a big deal. It’s an investment in your comfort and quality of your camping trip. If you’re tent is too small or doesn’t suit your needs, chances are good that you won’t have a good time. Hopefully we have provided you with some valuable information to help make buying your next tent easier.