Choosing the right tent for your camping adventures can be a pretty daunting task. But don’t worry I am here to share with you my experience I gained in my years of camping.
I will go through all the important factors to help you make your decision. I am going to explain factors like tent design, weight & size, seasonality, waterproof ability, and many more in detail below.
To help you with orientation in this article, I split the factors that will help you decide how to choose a tent into these three main categories:
- The obvious factors to consider
- The not so obvious factors to consider
- The additional factors to consider
The obvious factors to consider
There are some obvious factors to consider when choosing a tent and in my book, those are your budget, the tent design, the tent size, and weight as well as the required seasonality.
Below I explain each of these factors in detail.
What’s your budget
Tents can range in price from around $50 to $500 or more. When deciding on a budget, consider how often you’ll be using the tent and what kind of camping you’ll be doing.
If you’re an occasional camper who only goes out a few times a year, you may not need to spend as much as someone who camps regularly or does a lot of backpacking.
However, as the saying goes “cheap is expensive,” you do get what you pay for when it comes to tents. A more expensive tent will often be made of higher quality materials and will last longer than a cheaper one.
However, do not be discouraged because at a moderate price you will still be able to find a decent quality tent.
Choose the right tent design
There are many different types of tents on the market, so it’s important to choose the one that best suits your needs.
An A-frame tent is a triangular structure that’s supported by two poles at either end. It’s a great option for those who want an easy-to-set-up tent that’s roomy enough for two people. If you want a traditional and legendary option, the A-frame is it.
This design is not ideal for inclement weather, as the A-frame can collapse if there’s too much wind or snow. Additionally, since the A-frame only has two support poles, it doesn’t provide as much stability in high winds as some other designs
A dome tent is a freestanding structure that’s supported by poles that crisscross in the middle. This design is very popular because it’s easy to set up and provides plenty of headroom.
Dome tents are also a good option for inclement weather, as the crossed poles provide more stability in high winds.
However, because of the way they’re designed, dome tents can be more difficult to pack than some other types of tents.
The common dome tent design is meant for 2 to 4 people, but larger family dome tents that can hold up to 6 people are also available.
A cabin tent is a freestanding structure with vertical walls and a single, large door. Cabin tents are a good option for those who want plenty of space and headroom.
They’re also a good choice for inclement weather, as the vertical walls provide more stability in high winds. The tents resemble an actual cabin, which is why they’re a popular choice for families. They are also big enough that you can stand up and move around inside the tent, which is a huge plus.
They can house up to 12 people and some models come with a screened-in porch area. However, because of their size and weight, cabin tents can be difficult to transport and set up.
A pop-up tent is a small, lightweight tent that’s easy to set up and takedown. They’re a good option for those who want a tent that’s easy to transport and set up.
Pop-up tents are also a good choice for fair weather, as they don’t provide as much stability in high winds.
However, because of their small size, pop-up tents can only accommodate two to four campers. These tents are perfect for impromptu camping trips or for those who want an easy-to-use option.
A tunnel tent is a long, rectangular structure that’s supported by poles at either end. They’re a good option for those who want a tent that’s easy to set up.
Tunnel tents are also a good choice for inclement weather, as the long shape provides more stability in high winds. These tents can accommodate four to six people and some models come with a screened-in porch area.
A free-standing tent is a structure that doesn’t require any stakes or guy lines to be set up. They’re a good option for those who want an easy-to-set-up tent that can be moved around easily.
Free-standing tents are also a good choice for inclement weather, as they’re less likely to be blown over in high winds.
However, because they don’t have any anchors, free-standing tents can be more difficult to keep in place in strong winds. These tents are perfect for car camping or for those who want an easy-to-use option.
A backpacking tent is a small, lightweight tent that’s easy to transport and set up. They’re a good option for those who want a tent that’s easy to carry and doesn’t take up much space. These tents are mostly used by solo campers because they don’t have a lot of room.
For backpacking campers, weight, size, and packable size are the most important features to consider, thus most backpacking tents use ultralight materials that sacrifice durability and comfort.
A teepee tent is a conical-shaped tent that’s supported by a single central pole. They’re easy to set up and takedown, which makes them a popular choice for campers who are always on the go.
Teepees are also very spacious, which makes them a good option for families or groups. However, they don’t have a lot of headroom, so you might have to crouch down when you’re inside.
What are your tent size requirements?
How many people will be sleeping inside the tent? Do you need extra space for your gear, or can it be stored outside? How much floor space do you need per person? What is the minimum height requirement for everyone to be comfortable inside the tent?
All of these factors will help you determine the size of tent you need to choose. Typically the ideal space for each person in the tent should be a minimum of 20 square feet.
If you are camping with your kids, you may want to consider a larger tent so that they have plenty of space to play.
What are your tent weight requirements?
When car camping, weight is not as big of an issue since you can pack heavier items. If you are hiking to your campsite, however, you will want to consider the weight of your tent.
The lighter the tent, the easier it will be to carry. The weight specifications are usually indicated in the product information.
When considering the packed weight of your tent, you will also want to consider the size. A larger tent will usually weigh more than and be larger when folded as well.
The table above shows recommended proportional total pack weight in relation to your body weight. If you are a 200-pound male with an average physique and stamina, the perfect pack weight for you would be in the 33.3-40 pounds range. Just another thing to consider when choosing a tent.
Tent seasonality is important to consider when choosing a tent. The most common types of tents are three-season and four-season tents. Check below for a few specifications for each seasonality:
3 season tent
Three-season tents are the most popular type of tent. They are designed for use in spring, summer, and fall. They are usually made with mesh panels to provide ventilation and keep insects out.
Moreover, they often have waterproof rainfly to protect you from the elements.
4 season tent
Four-season tents are designed for use in all four seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall.
They are typically made with thicker materials that can withstand heavy winds and snowfall. Besides, they often have more ventilation options to help you regulate the temperature inside the tent.
There is no major difference between four-season and three-plus season tents. The main distinction is that four-season tents can be used in more extreme conditions, while three-plus season tents are more versatile and can be used in a wider range of conditions.
The not so obvious factors to consider
Here I am going to point out some important factors, that are sometimes overlooked and are not as obvious as those mentioned above. The ones I consider important are explained below in detail.
The material the tent is made from
When choosing a tent, one of the most important factors to consider is the material it is made from. The most common materials used for tents are nylon, polyester, and DCF (Dyneema Composite Fabric).
- Nylon is the most popular choice for tents, as it is lightweight and durable.
- Polyester is also a popular choice, as it is cheaper than nylon and still quite durable. However, polyester is not as weather-resistant as nylon, so it is not the best choice for a tent that will be used in extreme conditions.
- When it comes to durability, weight, and weather resistance, DCF is the best choice. However, it is also the most expensive option.
- Cotton and canvas tents are also available, but they are not as popular as nylon and polyester tents. Cotton tents are not as durable as nylon or polyester tents, but they are much more affordable. Canvas tents are very durable, but they are also very heavy, so they are not the best choice for backpacking.
What tent waterproof rating do you need?
The waterproof rating of a tent is usually expressed in millimeters (mm), and it indicates how much downward pressure of the water column the fabric can withstand before water begins to seep through. The most common range for waterproof ratings is 800mm to 10000mm.
To give you some perspective, a rating of 800mm means that the fabric can withstand the pressure of about 28 inches of rain per hour before water begins to seep through. Similarly, a rating of 10000mm means that the fabric can withstand the pressure of about 390 inches of rain per hour before water begins to seep through.
Keep in mind that the waterproof rating is a measure of the fabric’s ability to resist water pressure, not its ability to resist actual water.
One final note: the waterproof rating of a tent is not a measure of the overall quality of the tent. A tent with a high waterproof rating can be just as flimsy and poorly made as a tent with a low waterproof rating. So, be sure to read reviews before you make your purchase.
Do you need a vestibule?
One of the factors you might want to consider when deciding whether or not to get a vestibule is a climate you’ll be using your tent in.
If you primarily camp in hot, dry conditions, a vestibule can be a great way to store your gear without having to worry about it getting too hot or dusty. On the other hand, if you camp in wetter conditions, a vestibule can help keep your gear dry.
Another factor to consider is how much gear you need to store. If you have a lot of gear, or if you need to store gear that is particularly bulky or awkward, a vestibule can be a great option. It will save you a lot of space in the sleeping area of the tent and will help to keep it clean and dry.
Finally, you’ll want to consider how much you are willing to spend. Vestibules can add a significant amount of weight and cost to a tent, so if you are looking for a lightweight or budget-friendly option, a vestibule may not be the best choice.
Consider if you require a single or double-wall design
There are two basic types of tents on the market: single wall and double wall.
As the name suggests, single-wall tents have only one layer of fabric, while double-wall tents have two.
Double-wall tents are more popular because they offer better ventilation and protection from the elements. However, they are also heavier and more expensive than single-wall tents.
If you’re planning on doing a lot of backpacking, you might want to consider a single-wall tent to save weight. But if you’re car camping or base camping, a double-wall tent is a better option.
Tent doors, their number, and location
When it comes to choosing a tent, one of the main things you’ll want to consider is the door situation. How many doors does the tent have? Where are they located? And how many doors do you actually need or want?
If you’re planning on doing any backpacking, you’ll want a tent with as few doors as possible. The fewer doors, the lighter the tent will be.
On the other hand, if you’re car camping, weight isn’t as big of a concern and you might want a tent with more doors for convenience.
Another thing to consider is where the doors are located. If the doors are on opposite ends of the tent, it will be easier to get in and out without disturbing your sleeping partner. But if the doors are on the same side, you’ll have more privacy.
Additional factors to consider
These are some of the more in-depth factors, you may want to consider, or at least know about when you are making the decision of which tent to buy.
As in the two previous sections, I explain the most important factors in detail below.
The type of ventilation will largely depend on the climate you plan to camp in.
If you anticipate hot and humid weather, then mesh walls and windows will help keep your tent cool and comfortable.
However, if you’re camping in cold weather, then you’ll want to choose a tent with vents that can be opened and closed.
Clips or sleeves
There are two main types of tent connections: clips and sleeves.
Clips are fast and easy to use but they can come undone in high winds. Clips are more effective where the wind is not a major factor.
Sleeves are more secure and are less likely to come undone in high winds. They can be more difficult to set up, however. So choose the type of connection that is right for your needs here.
Which tent poles and stakes to choose
There are a variety of materials that tent poles and stakes can be made from. The most common are aluminum, steel, and fiberglass. Each has its advantages and disadvantages that you’ll want to consider before making your purchase.
- Aluminum is the most lightweight option, making it a good choice for backpacking and ultralight camping. However, it is also the least durable option and can be bent or broken more easily than the other materials.
- Steel is much more durable than aluminum, making it a better choice for car camping and family camping trips. However, it is also much heavier, which can make it more difficult to carry long distances.
- Fiberglass is a good middle ground between aluminum and steel. It is lightweight like aluminum but more durable than steel. However, it can be more difficult to find replacement parts if something breaks.
How much storage do you need?
Storage is important for keeping your things organized and out of the way. Pockets, clips, and other kinds of storage inside of the tent can help you keep your things organized and out of the way.
If you are planning on doing a lot of camping, you might want to consider a tent with more storage options.
What to do next
Now that we went through all of the decision factors, the next step is to get yourself a tent. If you’re still unsure, which tent is the right fit for you, make a shortlist of tents you like and try to rent them one by one for your camping trips. This way you can “test drive” them before you purchase one.
You could check out sites like outdoorsgeek.com, arriveoutdoors.com, or use the rei.com rental locator.
Once you’ve gotten yourself a tent, check out my guide on how to find free camping or camping tips for beginners.
Leave a comment below with the tent you chose based on my article and share it with your friends if I was able to help you.