As there are so many different models of camping tents available and each of them offering different features, it can get very confusing after a while. Hence, to help you out here is a buying guide with all the important factors.
Before selecting a model, you should first decide that how many people are going to sleep in the camping tent.
It is measured as a one-person tent or five-person tent, and so on. There is no specific or industry standard to determine the capacity of the tent. However, a few manufacturers allow 20 to 25 sq. ft. for one person.
Whenever you see that a manufacturer is describing that a tent is for 3 or 5 persons, you must not take it as a final call. A 4-person camping tent might be comfortable enough for 3 persons to stay comfortably. Thus, if there are 6 people who are going to stay in a tent, you must consider buying a tent with an 8-person capacity. This way, you will get some extra space for storing your camping gear or other luggage.
However, if you are going on a solo trip with a single backpack, you can buy a compact and lightweight tent with a capacity of 1 person only.
2. Tent Materials:
Camping tents are made using different types of fabrics. To choose the best one for you, you will have to understand the difference between the tents made using each of these fabrics.
One thing that you must remember is both higher-denier (usually mentioned in D)tentsand rainfly are more durable and tougher than the ones made using lower-denier fabric. High-denier fabrics along with seam tape are also helpful in reducing the chances of leakage inside the tent.
Most of the cheaper tents are made using nylon. The reason behind this is nylon is a thinner fabric that does not absorb water. To make it waterproof, nylon is usually coated using acrylic, silicon, or polyurethane. This coating also offers a few UV protection benefits to the tent.
Lighter nylon camping tents can be a great option for backpackers. However, nylon fabric does not work well when exposed to the sun for a very long time. Thus, if you are planning to camp in a hot or sunny environment, it is suggested to invest in those options that offer better durability and longevity. This will ensure a comfortable stay.
Polyester is used generally in manufacturing rain flies. Polyester fabric is well-known for resisting water, UV rays, and wrinkles. Thus, it is highly durable. You can even use tents made using polyester even on sunny days for a long period of time.
Polyester is a bit thicker and durable than nylon. You can check for polyester tents that feature a breathable coating. This will help in keeping the water out of the tent and at the same time, it will not interrupt the airflow. It is essential as due to improper air flow, people might notice the build-up of condensation, and the environment inside becomes stuffy.
Canvas tents are often made using cotton or a blend of cotton-poly. These tents are heavy as well as strong. Cotton can retain heat in colder temperatures and the tent is cool in warm temperatures too.
To make the tents completely waterproof, traditional canvas tents should go through the initial weathering period. Hence, to make it easier and convenient for users, some manufacturers combine the benefits of cotton and polyester and term it as polycotton.
Polycotton is considered as a stronger yet lighter alternative. It is usually coated to provide waterproofing properties.
Mesh is made using either polyester or nylon. It is used to circulate air and promote ventilation inside the tent.
The no-See-Um mesh is generally used in most of the tents. This mesh is even finer than the screens that are generally used at home to keep tiny insects away.
The ripstop weave pattern is very helpful in resisting wear and tears.
The taffeta weave pattern is used to resist abrasion. However, it does not handle tears properly.
d. Tents Seasonality:
Depending on different seasons, there are three major types of tents. They are as follows:
- 3-Season Tents:
3-season tents are one of the most popular choices of the users. These tents are very light in weight and are designed specially to be used in different temperatures and seasons including summer, spring, and fall.
The 3-season tents have many mesh panels to promote airflow. These panels are also helpful in keeping the insects away. However, powdery or blowing sand might enter inside the tent via mesh panels.
These tents are pitched properly using a taut rainfly. Hence, it can even be used if it is pouring outside. They might not withstand heavy snow, storm, or harsh winds though.
The basic features offered by 3-season tents are as follows:
a. Keeps the bugs and insects away.
b. Maintains dry conditions inside the tent even if it is raining or snowing outside.
c. Gives you privacy.
- 3-4-Season Tents:
These tents are also called as extended-season tents. They can be used for prolonged 3-seasons and are suitable to be used in the summer season. Along with this, you can use them even during early spring and late fall where the chances of snow are pretty high. Extended season tents aim to provide balanced ventilation inside the tent. It features warmth retention property and is strong too.
These tents come with 1 or more poles than 3-season models. Also, it has fewer panels than a 3-season tent. Hence, it is more sturdy and warm comparatively.
If you go on trips frequently to high-elevation places, it will be better for you to buy an extended season tent. Even though they are very sturdy, the tents can’t completely fight against harsh winter temperatures when compared to 4-season tents.
- 4-Season Tents:
4-season tents are designed specially to withstand chilly and windy temperatures and can manage a substantial snow load too. These mountaineering tents are suitable to be used in any season of the year. However, their most function is to stay firm and strong in extreme weather conditions, especially in the winter season.
These types of tents have multiple poles and the fabric is heavier than the ones used in 3-season tents. They feature a rounded dome design that prevents the collection of snow on the roof space.
There are a few mesh panels and rain flies that are extended closer to the ground. This hampers the ventilation but you can feel warm inside. However, in mild weather, it might be a bit stuffy. But, when the temperature or winds outside become uncontrollable, there is no safer place than these tents to stay comfortably.
3. Tent Shape:
The shape of the tent has a major impact on its overall space and square footage. Some of the most common tent shapes are as follows:
- A-Frame/Ridge Tent:
The A-frame tents that were used earlier were light in weight and were easy to set up too. The tents were available at a cheaper price. These tents had a rectangular flooring along with ridgepoles and sloping sides. However, the headroom was low. Because of the sloping sides, the elbow room was also less.
This design was improvised to make modified A-frame tents. In the improvised version, there is either a center hoop pole or has diagonal center poles. Due to this, the shape of the sidewalls is curved in an outwards direction. It helps in increasing the space. The lateral stability of the tent is also increased due to which it can withstand windy conditions too.
- Dome/Geodesic Tents:
Dome-shaped tents offer almost 50% more space than the A-frame tents. These tents have curved sidewalls that prevent rainwater or snow from accumulating on the roof. The tents stand still in windy or harsh weather conditions. Even though dome-shaped tents offer good height for the headroom, the sloped walls reduce the interior space.
- Cabin/Outfitter Tents:
The walls of the cabin-shaped tents are almost vertical. Hence, there is plenty of free space to keep cots, air beds, or other stuff. Even after this, you might find some extra space.
Some models of cabin-shaped tents even have room dividers or additional space to keep a wood-burning stove. The only disadvantage of these tents is they are a bit bulky and might not be a great option for those campers who are always on the go. Also, to maintain its shape, you will have to rely on the stakes and guy lines.
4. Tent Poles:
Poles are the main foundation and frame that holds your camping tent. While selecting a tent pole, there are 3 major points that you should check for: strength, weight, and durability.
Different materials used to make tent poles are as follows:
- Fiberglass Poles:
Fiberglass poles are available at an affordable price range. Hence, tents with fiberglass poles are also cheaper and can be used in all the seasons. These poles are resistant to corrosion. However, fiberglass poles are weaker and heavier than aluminum poles.
- Aluminum Poles:
Aluminum poles are light in weight yet they are strong and durable. However, aluminum poles are prone to corrosion. Thus, if you are buying a tent with aluminum poles, make sure it is anodized aluminum. The anodized aluminum is corrosion resistant.
- Carbon Fiber:
You will find carbon fiber poles mostly in the premium or high-end tents. These poles are very strong and super-light. However, they are not as durable as aluminum poles. Carbon fiber poles are expensive too.
5. Free-Standing vs. Non-Free Standing:
The pole structure of a tent is helpful in deciding whether it is easy or difficult to pitch the tent.
Free-standing tents can stand firmly on the ground without the support of stakes or guy lines. Hence, you can move the tents easily even after setting them up at a place. To add stability to the tent, you can stake them too. The most common examples of free-standing tents are dome-shaped tents.
Non-free-standing tents use stakes to give structure to the tent. You might have to pitch the tent in sand or snow. The non-free-standing tents are lighter than free-standing tents and can fit easily in even tight spots. Cabin-shaped tents with almost-vertical walls are a common example of non-free-standing tents.
6. Double-wall or Single-wall Tent:
In a traditional double-wall tent, there is an inner canopy (where you can sleep) and a rainfly (to keep water out of the tent). These tents are less expensive and keep the tent dry even in wet conditions. Also, they offer good ventilation.
Single wall tent, on the other side, features a single layer of breathable and waterproof fabric. Hence, these tents are light in weight and are easy to set up. However, condensation can be an issue in these tents. Thus, you should check for tents with either vents or with a hybrid design that has a partial rainfly above the front door. They are helpful in reducing condensation.
7. Perimeter Floor vs. Bathtub Floor:
In the tents with a perimeter floor, the sidewalls and the floor (waterproof) are stitched at the perimeter. Due to this, the edges along the borders of the tent are straight and taut. This is helpful in maximizing the floor space.
In the tents with a bathtub style (seamless) floor, there are rounded perimeter edges. To prevent leakage, there are no stitch marks. However, the disadvantage of this type of floor is it can easily curl up on the sides and reduce the floor space.
8. Pole Connection: Sleeves vs. Clips:
To set up the tents, either clips or sleeves are used.
The advantage of using pole sleeves is they distribute the tension across a large area. Hence, it results in a strong pitch without stressing much. However, you might find it difficult to thread the poles through these sleeves in low-light and wet conditions.
Pole clips are very easy to attach. They create a large gap between the body of the tent and the rainfly. This helps in improving the ventilation and also minimizes the chances of condensation. Hence, if you want to buy a tent that can be easily set up by a single person, you should check for tents with pole clips.
The fabric of the tent is often waterproofed using silicon or polyurethane coating. Silicon is usually used on low-denier fabrics. It helps in boosting the tear resistance of the fabric.
Polyurethane coating is a bit cheap and works better than silicon coating.
Other Tent Features:
Apart from these important features, there are some additional features that will help make your investment worth it. They are as follows:
1. Peak Height:
If you want to buy a tent where you can stand comfortably while changing your clothes or doing other tasks, check for a camping tent that offers a tall peak height. You can find the height in the specifications chart.
2. Tent Floor Length:
Checking this factor is especially important for taller people above 6 feet. You can check for tents offering a floor-length of 90 inches rather than going for traditional 84-88 inches floor length. This will give you some free space.
3. Tent Doors:
While selecting a tent, make sure that you check the number of doors along with the shape and orientation.
Tents that have only one door are lighter than the ones with a double door. However, unless the door is located at one of the ends, one person will have to crawl over the other to get in and out of the door.
If you have gone for camping with your family, buying a tent with multiple doors can be a good option. If you want to go out for the bathroom in the middle of the night, you can easily get out of the camp without climbing over each other.
Cabin-style tents are the most suitable choice in this condition.
Another pointer that you should check whether the door is easy to open or not. Also, check how noisy it is. YKK zippers used on the doors can be helpful in resisting breaking or snagging when compared to other types of zippers.
4. Loops and Pockets:
While you are inside the tent, some additional pockets and loops can be helpful and handy to organize your stuff.
Loops at the top are the best options as you can hang your lantern or torch there. You can even keep some essential stuff like tent bags or sacks in the pocket so that it is easier to find them while packing the tent back.
Camping tents have mesh panels either on the doors, windows, or the ceiling. It lets you see outside the tent and also promotes ventilation to manage condensation. If you are going for camping in hot or humid temperature, buy a tent with large mesh panels.
However, if you are camping in a colder climate, you can buy a 4-season tent as it has fewer panels. Due to this, it enhances the insulation and prevents the heat from going out.
6. Guy out Loops:
Premium or high-quality models feature loops on the outside of the tent so that you can attach guy lines. These guy lines are helpful to batten down the hatches. Hence, during windy conditions, you won’t notice flapping fabric.
7. Tent Color:
The lighter the color of the tent is, the brighter the interior of the tent is going to be. It also promotes better visibility. Tents with dark colors absorb the heat from the sun. These tents are good to be used in colder temperatures.
Vestibules are present at the front or back porch of the tent. They are created by the extension due to the rainfly. Vestibules are helpful in providing additional storage space where you can keep your boots or other dirty or muddy items, that you don’t want to get inside the tent.
Some tents have elaborate vestibules with extra room. They have additional support poles too. These vestibules can be used as an extra storage room.
Vestibules promote ventilation. When it is raining outside, they offer extra coverage so that you can keep the door unzipped without letting water enter inside the camp.
A rainfly is an extra waterproof cover that is designed exactly to fit over the roof of the tent. You can use a rainfly whenever the chances of rain or dew are high. If you want extra warmth inside the tent, a rainfly can be helpful.
There are two types of rainfly that are commonly used.
Roof-only rain flies provide protection against rain. You can still get a light and amazing view from the outside of the camp.
Full-coverage rain flies are well-known for providing extra protection from rain as well as wind.
A footprint is a custom-fitted cloth that is used under the floor of the tent. It is usually sold separately. Even though tent floors are tough, elements like dirt, rocks, and twigs can turn out to be enemies of the tent floor. To prevent it from damaging, you can use a footprint as the replacing cost of a footprint is way lower than the entire tent.
This is especially important for tents where families are staying where there is a lot of in/out foot traffic. As the size of these footprints is exactly the same as the tent, they won’t catch water like that of a normal ground cloth. It sticks out beyond the edges of the floor. Water that is caught flows underneath the tent can easily seep through via the floor fabric.
If you are going to the destination in a car or if you have friends or family who can help you in setting up the tent, weight should not be a concerning factor for you.
However, if you are backpacking, you must be very careful with the weight of the tent and buy a lightweight one.
12. Ease of Setup:
For campers who are backpacking, choosing a tent that is easy to set up can be helpful in the long run. As you will have to do everything on your own, you must avoid taking the burden of setting up a complicated tent.
Car camping tents feature multiple moving pieces when compare to the normal backpacking tents. If you have more helping hands, it should not be difficult. However, check the process of setting it up thoroughly before taking the tent directly to the camp.
The price of the tent depends on the size and the material used to make it. The price of a camping tent varies from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 18,000. A camp that can accommodate 8 people might be available at a price range of Rs. 6,000 to Rs. 15,000.
Don’t forget to check the warranty offered by the manufacturer before buying and taking a tent for camping. It should come with a warranty of 1 to 3 years.
Frequently Asked Questions
Well, it depends on where will you be going out for camping as if you are visiting a place which doesn’t require much of the sturdy quality poles then an inflatable camping tent could be the best option. But, if you are going for a place where storms and heavy winds blow then going for the sturdy quality based poles could the best thing you could buy.
Yes, you can but we would recommend you to buy the one as you will not have to get tensed about its quality or do extra care to it. Also, you can buy a great deal at a very minimal and affordable price as well.
Yes, you can easily keep the sparkling lights over your camping tent and it will not harm your tent. Just make sure that you are buying a sturdy quality product otherwise it can prove to be harmful. Also, these sparkling lights can add charm to the tent and give you more lighting.
Well, the time duration varies from tent to tent but usually, you can find a tent which will take lesser than 15-30 minutes to get completely pitched on the ground. It will be very good if you would go to a tent which doesn’t take much time to get installed (in this way, you can save half of your time and pack-unpack the tent at the time of any emergency).
For washing the camping tent, you just need to soak the tent inside the mild soapy water so that the dirt on it goes away. Also, you can wash it by just sprinkling water on it through pressure so that the dust and dirt go away and the quality remains intact.