This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we may earn a commission on qualifying sales at no extra cost to you.
One of the first, and possibly the most important piece of camping equipment you will need is a tent. But with so many choices out there, how do you know which tent is right for you? Whether you’re a beginner looking for your first tent or looking to upgrade your existing tent, we’ve got you covered. This tent buying guide will cover everything you need to know before making such an important purchase. However, before we dive in, there are a few key questions that you should consider.
What is your budget? How many people will be sleeping in the tent? What type of camping will you be doing? Plus a few more questions that we will go over. When you reach the end of this tent buying guide, you will have a better understanding of the types of tents available, choosing the right size tent, as well as a few options to consider. Our goal is to help you make a more informed decision on your next tent purchase. Let’s get to it…
Consider Your Budget
Tent prices can range from around $50 to over $500. If you are a beginner, I would suggest starting off with a tent that falls in the middle to lower end of the price range. Of course, you can go all the way to the top and buy the most expensive tent you can find. But you wouldn’t want to spend that kind of money on something that you may or may not use very often.
As with most everything, the higher quality products tend to cost more. Tent camping isn’t for everyone. However, if you are reading this article, chances are you are already interested.
What Kind Of Camping Will You Be Doing?
Will you be camping in a primitive camping site at a local campground or State Park? If so, weight and size aren’t as big a factor as it is if you are backpacking into the woods. If you will be hiking for miles at a time, you will want to choose a smaller, more lightweight tent.
How Many People Will Be Sleeping In The Tent?
The size of tent you should consider will depend on the number of people who will be sleeping in it. Unless you just like the extra space, two people camping wouldn’t necessarily need a huge 10-person family tent with separate rooms. Plus, larger tents can be much harder and more time consuming to set up.
Choosing The Right Size Tent
When you see the total sleeping capacity of a tent, for example 2-person, 4-person, etc., they are referring to people sleeping side by side. If you will be using large sleeping bags or air mattresses, these things will take up more space. As a result, the total number of “advertised” people will be lower. For instance, if you are camping in a 4-person tent and set up cots or sleeping bags, it may turn in to a 2 or 3-person tent.
Consider any gear that you might want to keep inside the tent in case of inclement weather or pets that might stay inside as well. Pay special attention to the overall dimensions of the tent to make sure the tallest person will be able to sleep comfortably, not diagonally.
Another important part of tent size is the internal height. If you don’t mind bending over while you’re inside, then a shorter tent will be fine. If not, you might consider a taller tent.
What Time Of Year Will You Be Camping?
Most campers will go camping in the summer, spring, and fall. To ensure your 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. What this does is allow for ventilation and air circulation through 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 tent is your best option. These types of 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 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. Many 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 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 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.
Tent Accessories To Consider
Vestibules Or Awnings
Vestibules and tent awnings can increase the living area of a tent. In addition, they also provide a space outside of the tent to take off muddy shoes or wet clothes before climbing into a sleeping bag.
When buying a tent, the new tent will come with tent stakes. However, many of these stakes are extremely thin and flimsy and will bend over if you encounter harder ground. Trust me, it doesn’t take much to end up with a stake that looks like the number 7. Purchasing a higher quality tent stake is recommended, or you can wait until you need replacements.
If you want to have an easier time installing the tent stakes, a hammer makes a great option to add to your camping gear checklist.
What is a tent footprint? A tent footprint is essentially a ground cover that you place under your tent. A tent footprint helps keep moisture out while also adding years to the life of your tent. A basic tarp can also be used for protection.
Always make sure the tent footprint you choose is made to fit the floor of your tent. If not, water will run between your tent and the footprint making for a wet and miserable camping trip.
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 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.
What are your thoughts? Do you have anything to add? If so, please leave us a comment below and let us know.
Subscribe To Our Monthly Newsletter
Join our Facebook Group for even more interaction with fellow RVers. Feel free to ask questions, post your camping photos, and more.