Here are some important factors to think about when choosing a tent.
It needs to be big enough for sleeping comfortably and big enough to store camping gear and accessories. Head room depending on what you require. Tents are advertised as two-person, four-person, six-person and so on. This is the maximum number of people that can sleep in closely with no room for personal gear. Divide the advertised rating by two, and you will have a more realistic tent capacity. Therefore, most four man tents are only comfortable for two adults with gear or perhaps two adults, a small child and gear.
Some more general advice to remember about tent size:
- Large people
- Do anyone toss and turn
- Need elbow room
- People who are claustrophobic
Tents come in four basic shapes: A-frame, umbrella, geodesic or “dome”, and wall. The A-frame is the common “pup” tent shape, but can also be quite large. The umbrella is a commonly used family camping tent, as it has lots of standing room, with large windows and a rain fly over the top. The geodesic comes on many shapes, but all look like a combination of connected triangles. The wall tent is like an A-frame tent, but is generally much larger and has vertical sidewalls.
Most tents come with either aluminum or fiberglass poles and most are linked with an elastic shock cord. This helps prevent lost poles and makes the setup faster and easier. Poles can bend or break, so many tent manufacturers provide emergency repair links for you to carry along on the trip.
Season ratings for tents vary somewhat among manufacturers and among retailers. Some use the ratings to show how much weather (wind and rain) the tent can be expected to perform in. Others use season ratings to show mainly what seasons (warm or cold) the tent performs well in.
2-season tent will likely only be designed for camping in relatively good weather in the sunnier parts of the year. It’ll cope with mild rain and wind, but anything really heavy could push it beyond its design. It may have permanent ventilation flaps you can’t close to keep you cool that will let wind through but stop mild rain.
3-season tents are lightweight shelters designed for the relatively temperate conditions of spring, summer and fall. They are usually equipped with ample mesh panels to boost air flow. Mesh panels keep out insects (but can still let in powdery blowing sand). It’ll also probably have stronger guy ropes, and stronger material. Properly pitched with a taut rainfly, 3-season tents can withstand downpours but are not the best choice for sustained exposure to harsh storms, violent winds or heavy snow.
Designed to withstand fierce winds and substantial snow loads and can be used in any season. However the main purpose of the tent is to protect against harsh elements rather than provide features for warmer climates. 4 season tents stand firm in the face of seriously inhospitable weather, principally in winter or above the treeline. Ventilation flaps probably won’t be a feature – otherwise even when closed, fine snow could blow into the tent. This will often be replaced with a panel at the top of the inside tent that can be opened to provide some ventilation in warmer climates
Canvas is durable, it’s also very heavy. Nylon is much lighter, but it is designed for calm conditions. Polyester is good for long periods of time in sunny conditions, as the material withstands exposure to sunlight.
Whatever tent you end up buying, make sure it’s suited to the weather you might be up against. Waterproof with a rain fly for rainy areas or/and a tent porch for storing wet items that you don’t want inside the tent.