Chapter 3: Choosing the Right Camping Tent
Shopping for camping tents is probably one of the most enjoyable experiences you’ll have when planning for an outdoor trip. It’s almost like buying a new house – you get this giddy feeling as you try to imagine yourself living in it and the things you can do to decorate it and make it your second home.
Before we discuss the various features that camping tents offer, let’s focus on the factors that you must absolutely consider.
Size or Space
This can be summed up with one question: how many of you are planning to sleep inside the tent? Do you plan on sleeping in the tent as one whole family or do you wish to give your little kids their own tent? Moreover, how much space do you want or need? The average tent-for-two may be good for many but it might not be enough for your needs if you tend to pack heavily for outdoor trips. And so yes, if you want your luggage inside your tent as well then you need to consider how much space to allocate to your stuff.
This is critical because camping trips tend to be a lot more fun when you know you can look forward to a wonderful night’s sleep after a fun but exhausting day under the sun, hiking or rock climbing.
Safety or Durability
There are basically two types of risks or dangers that you need to keep in mind when choosing a camping tent. First, you need to consider your personal safety and security. You need a tent that will provide you sufficient protection from wild animals and the weather. The latter means usually means waterproof protection. You also need a tent that won’t end up like the first two homes built by the three little pigs in the fairy tale. Even the strongest winds shouldn’t be able to blow your “house” down.
Second, consider the security of your belongings. Does the tent come with any safety design that allows you to keep your belongings under lock and key while you’re out for the day? Can you leave food inside and rest assured that it will stay untouched and unspoiled when you come back?
Tents can be really stuffy in all seasons when you need to keep all the doors and “windows” closed. That’s why it’s critical that your tent has a sufficient number or vents – these are usually screened doors or windows that keep the insects out but allow the air in to circulate.
Ease of Assembly
A lot of people forget this all-important factor when shopping for camping tents. Most of the time, you get to see camping tents displayed in stores already fully assembled. You get to see all their coolest features and because you’re seeing the end product, it’s easy to forget that it won’t come out of the box like that. There’s also no tent that can assemble itself at the push of a button.
A quick assembly time for tents is necessary because if you’re caught in a sudden downpour, you won’t have to wait as long to set up your tent and have shelter from the rain. Likewise, if you need to suddenly leave your camp, you won’t have to waste as much time disassembling and packing your tent away.
All these reasons make it very important that you don’t take the salesperson’s word for granted when he tells you the particular camping tent you’re interested in is indeed quick and simple to install. It’s not even enough that you have to see it being installed in front you. You have to give it a try yourself. If it appears too difficult and time-consuming then another question you should ask yourself is whether you believe you’ll get better – and quicker – with practice.
If the answer is still no then take that as a cue to move on to the next tent on your list.
Other Types of Camping Shelters and Accommodations
Be aware that a camping tent is not always the answer to your needs. There are many types of camping shelters and tents available on the market and it’s important that you’re fully aware of your options as they will help you make the best possible choice.
A camping tent may, in certain cases, be more synonymous with the term ‘camping shelter’ in the sense that it really only provides you shelter from the sun. It has no doors and is not intended to give you a sleeping area. It is more suitable for extending campers a shaded workplace, picnic or lounging area.
Camping shelters may also be referred to as gazebos, canopies, and pavilions.
While it resembles a standard tent in many ways, the main difference between a camping tent and a screen house is that the latter’s walls are made completely of screen. Obviously, it won’t protect you from the rain or even give you a semblance of privacy. But that’s okay because screen houses are designed to provide you with a shaded or pest and insect-free venue for outdoor events or activities.
Screen houses may also be referred to as screen shelters, bug tents, and screening rooms.
One more thing: if you are thinking of a RV camping trip then you obviously have no need for a camping tent. But what you may need is the type of awning, tent, or shelter that is designed for use as an attachment to your RV or trailer, which will provide for a shaded area or an extension of your RV.
Also, are you sure that you only need shelter for yourself? There are also many tents and shelters on the market that are designed to give shade or shelter for your car, motorcycle, and even your pets.
Features to Look for in a Camping Tent
Review the list of features below and determine which ones you’d like your future camping tent to have. You might not need them all, but most of them are considered critical to your safety and comfort when vacationing outdoors.
In many cases, mesh flies serve two functions: they provide better ventilation for the tent’s interior and they also help keep the bugs away.
Zippers are one of the most underappreciated but also the most commonly used parts of a camping tent. It’s for this reason that you need to make sure that your tent comes with the best quality of zippers since you’ll be zipping in and out of your tent almost every minute.
Storage or Compartment Units
A number of camping tents nowadays offer built-in storage or compartment units for easier organization of your belongings. This will prove even handier when there is more than one person using the tent and you don’t want your belongings to mix.
The largest tents usually offer one or two adjustable partitions. This allows you to divide a single tent into several rooms if there is more than one couple using the tent and both couples desire privacy. Having a partition also allows you to create a changing room within your tent. This way, people can use the tent at the same time a person is changing inside.
Aluminum poles are hardier than fiberglass poles. The poles are the foundation of camping tents and it’s therefore critical that you purchase a camping tent that can provide you with the greatest and strongest foundation. Another reason why aluminum poles are such a popular choice is because of how lightweight they are compared to other types of tent poles.
Last, don’t forget to consider the ease in which you’ll find replacement or repair kits for broken or missing poles.
A rain fly generally serves as the umbrella for your camping tent. It is also referred to as a tent–fly, tent flap, or fly sheet and consists of a canvas flap or fabric which may either cover the top of your tent or serve as an entry point to your tent as well.
The general rule of the thumb for rain flies is that bigger is always better because it provides you with better protection from both the sun’s UV rays as well as the rain. Also, when browsing rain fly options, you should look for the one that can guarantee leak-proof protection. It’s easier to sleep when water isn’t dripping on your face and the ground or floor you’re sleeping on is dry.
Think of them as rain flies as well…but this time, they’re to protect your already wet belongings from getting wetter and preventing them at the same time from wetting the dry areas of your tent. The vestibule is where you place the boots you used while you were walking in the rain as well as all other wet gear.
This is also known as a footprint and basically provides floor or ground protection for your tent. While you can certainly make your own ground sheet, it would be nicer if the tent of your choice comes with its own ground sheet as this is more likely to have the ideal fit. Keep in mind that a ground sheet will make the floor of your tent more comfortable to sleep on and may even provide a more even floor for your tent. Last but certainly not the least, ground sheets will prevent wet grounds from affecting your camping tent’s flooring.
Don’t forget the warranty. Camping tents will be one of the most expensive pieces of outdoor gear you’ll need to purchase and they also happen to be the piece you’ll most often use. Be sure you’re getting your money’s worth by buying the item that gives you the best warranty service. Many tents on the market nowadays offer a lifetime warranty so if you’re going to buy something with less than that, it better be worth your money!
Recommended Camping Tents
To help you get started on your shopping list, here are a couple of camping tents that come highly recommended for most outdoor enthusiasts:
Product: Sierra Designs Lighting XT 1 – S10
This camping tent offers a total interior area of 19.25 sq. feet and a vestibule area of 9 sq. feet. It also comes with an ultra-light, three-season design with waterproof flooring that utilizes the patented SuperSeal system of the company. Please keep in mind that this tent is designed for single person use only.
Product: Mountain Hardwear Drifter 2 – F10
This good-for-two camping tent offers dual doors and vestibules for quick entry, ease of use, and better organization.
By the time you’re reading this guide, it could be that many other new and innovative features have been introduced to the market. For example, a new type of mountain lodge-styled camping tent was recently launched that includes a centralized camping stove! This allows you to enjoy campfire camaraderie and indoor cooking even when you’re living in the wilderness.
Few would have probably thought that possible twenty or so years ago but as you can see, products are constantly evolving because of innovation and technology. So, before making a purchasing choice, always make sure that you know every option available to you first.