Camping Tents - What Features Do You Really Need?
How To Select The Right Camping Tent For Any Wilderness Adventure
Tent camping continues to make a comeback in popularity. Truly, simple camping is better it seems in our world of electronics, giant RVs, and more. So let's take a look at all the great options when it comes to finding and buying or upgrading your camping, hiking or backpacking tent. With so many options and choices, our tent buying guide will walk you through step by step to help you find just the right tent.
So let's get started. In the following camping tents guide we will cover the following tent topics:
Your Tent's Purpose
Types of Tents
The Right Size Tent
Tent Features and Options
What Is Your Tent's Purpose?
The first step in selecting a tent is to determine the methodology of use. Simply put, what role does your tent need to serve? For example, are you looking for a tent for family camping, or one for a three day backpacking adventure? There will be substantial differences in the type of tent you buy, so think about the exact usage carefully. A family tent will not be good for manual transport due to weight constraints, whereas a lightweight backpacking tent will not have the space you are looking for with a family.
Now, it is common that you may actually utilize two tents for different purposes, or, different types of seasonality tents. From our experience, it is always good to have the tent serve the specific purpose you need it to, versus trying to buy one tent to fit all adventures you may have on the horizon. For example, we use our larger cabin tent for weekend outings or trips via the car. Conversely, we will typically carry a 2-person tent for overnight or multiple day backpacking trips.
Types of Camping Tents
Let's take a look at the most common and popular types/styles of tents available today. Doing so will help you get closer to finding the perfect tent.
Dome tents are one of the most functional and easy to deploy tents. Essentially dome tents feature flexible tent poles that secure the base of the tent while also forming the basic open structure of the tent. A typical dome tent might have two poles that cross at the top center line and secure into the four corners of the tent. Generally smaller and lighter in weight, dome tents are good options for hiking, backpacking or quick weekend trips. Dome tents typically are smaller in their footprint, and good for 2-person, 3-person or 4-person outings.
Cabin tents are great for large group outings, family camping or for extended camping in one spot, such as in a base camp for weeks at a time. Big on space and height, cabin tents allow for tons of room to set up essentially a home, with plenty of room to stand and walk around. Also, many cabin tents can have different rooms, allowing families or groups some privacy amongst each other.
Instant or Quick Deploy Tents
Instant tents are just that - a tent that you can have deployed in minutes, or seconds! Essentially instant tents erect themselves using a spring loaded frame system woven into the tent fabric.Simply take out of the bag and release the spring loaded system. Voila! Your home away from home is ready. Instant tents generally will fit the bill for short outings, for young campers or for temporary shelter at the beach, etc.
Ridge tents are the quintessential tent when you think tents. A classic A Frame shape with center mid-line and a low profile, with two poles at either end. The ridge tent design has stood the test of time. Easy to deploy, easy to pack, easy to carry. And today ridge tents range in size from 1-person capacity to eight or more people. Ridge tents are multi-purpose depending on the size, but in most cases you will see ridge tents with hikers and backpackers.
Selecting The Right Size Camping Tent
Now let's talk tent size and capacity. In theory, when you read descriptions of 2-person tent, 3-person tent, etc., you assume this is how many people can actually fit into the tent. But if you look closely at the diagrams of how people would need to lay in the tent to actually fit in it, you will see this isn't actually reality. So it's good to examine how much room you like to have in a tent, then select perhaps one size up from the actual capacity listed.
For example, we like to have extra room in our tent, so if we are traveling via car and camping, we know we can go with a larger size cabin or family tent, even though it might just be two of us camping. This allows for things like stowing your daypacks, air mattresses, food, even setting up chairs inside your tent. For smaller tent situations such as hiking, you might want to try a 3-person tent if there are just two people. It all comes down to what you feel comfortable with. Some people require less room in the actual tent, so they can go with the smallest option available. Others like to have room to spread out and go basecamp style inside the tent.
Now, for capacity, we want to consider not just the amount of people you will have in your tent, but the accompanying gear as well. This is where many people make the mistake of going too small on their tent. So, if you are looking a tent capacity of four people, you should also consider four sleeping bags, or air mattresses, along with four backpacks or other gear bags. Plus lighting, chairs or other camping accessories.
Remember that inclement weather, sudden rainstorms, snow, etc can force everyone inside your tent. So it's always better to go upsize on your capacity.
Tent setup or deployment is one of the more important point you need to explore and consider when finding the right tent for you. Nothing is worse than struggling to set up your tent as the sun is going down, or the rain is pouring, or the kids are waiting.
A good rule of thumb - easier is better! Some cabin tents and certain 1-2 man tents can actually be quite complicated on the set up. So key features to look for are corded poles, quick or instant set up designs and coded pole systems that allow you to easily match up poles, grommets, etc.