Depending on the seasonal conditions of where you want to use your tent and your preferences, there are lots of different tents you can find in the market. The idea of “Let me buy a cheap one. After all it’s just a tent.” is as wrong as the idea of “Now that I need one, let me buy the best one.” If you’re planning to buy a tent, first thing you should determine is your needs and area of usage. Where are you gonna use this tent? In what seasons are you going to use it? Such questions are primary to be answered. Otherwise, while hoping the best you may end up with a tent you don’t even need. Or you may have to use a tent that doesn’t even meet your minimal needs. Having answered these questions, some other things you must consider are quality, practicality, and price. Here are tips to buy a camping tent in order to help you by choosing your tent.
When talking about tents, some of the things I’ll emphasize on are awning, poles, baggage, door, mosquito net, ventilation windows, storage pockets, and tent pegs. That’s why I like to start with a general introduction before tips to buy a camping tent
Outher tent / rain fly: Outher tent
Pole: The bars that make the tent stand
Porch: The storage space located on the doors of the tent which created by stretching the other tent.
Vestibule: The zippered part through which you enter and exit the tent. (Tent door)
Ventilation windows: The vents located next to the tents’ doors or on the ceiling.
Tent pegs: Sticks used to secure the tent to the ground.
Inner tent: Part which is underneath a rain fly and clipped to the poles
Storage pockets: Small compartments inside tents, usually on walls and at the top.
Mesh doors: The extra zippered part of the doors of the tent.
Groundsheet: This is the section that you lie on.
Things to Consider and Tips to Buy a Camping Tent
Types of Camping Tent
When choosing your tent, you’ll see options like 3-season 4-season and 5-season. The distinction is made to express the seasonal conditions in which you can use the tents. Another classification of the tents are based on their shapes. These can be classified as triangle, dome, tunnel, and geodesic.
Triangle and dome tents are the ones we often see around. Usually, the inside area is large and the entrance and setup is quite easy. Especially triangle tents are not so resistant to wind as they are tall. Dome type tents are a bit more resistant to wind compared to these. Tunnel tents resemble a tunnel when looking from outside. Inside area is large. They are as high as a person of average height can sit in cross-legged position. Due to this feature, they are more adventageous in terms of resistance to wind compared to the others. Finally, geodesic tents are high altitude tents which are produced for harsh weather conditions and strong winds. Ceilings of these ones are low, too.
Beside these, there is another type called family tent which is larger and heavier than other camping tents. This kind of tents are suitable for large groups and they have quite large space inside. Because of the heaviness and largeness, it’s not possible to carry in your luggage or on your bike.
Seasonal features of tents
3-season tents, 4-season tents, 5-season tents (expedition tents) and Pop-up tents
3-season tents answer the purpose in summer. 4-season tents are suitable both summer and winter. Expedition tents called 5-season are produced to serve you in extreme conditions. On top of the most significant differences between these tents, there are shape and heaviness. 3-season tents and some of the 4-season tents are usually tall since they don’t have a purpose to be resistant to heavy weather conditions. Comfort and simplicity are more important for this types. On the other hand, 4-season tents produced for heavy weather conditions and expedition tents are not so tall and they have more poles because they are designed to protect you from wind and weather conditions.
Their poles and rain fly are resistant to extreme weather conditions and icing. As a result, 3-season tents are lighter than the other two types. And 4-season tents are lighter than expedition tents.
I’m not sure if I should mention Pop-up tents in this part or in tent types but I’ll evaluate it in both aspects. Pop-up tents are tents which can be installed by itself when they’re untied and which can be folded circularly thanks to their elastic poles. Despite being light, these tents occupy large spaces and it’s not possible to carry them in a backpack or on a bike. They are not involved in any seasonal classification. They’re suitable for using in summer. Depending on their properties, some of them can be used in showered weather conditions.
Things to consider about outher and inner tent
There are usually two parts in tents depending on the model and seasonal conditions. One is inner and the other one is outer. Some summer tents have only one awning without an extra rain fly.
In some models that have two awnings, the outer tent is attached to the inner tent. When installing the tent, you need to install the both at the same time. In some tents, inner and outer tents are unattached. Some of the inner tent might be fully or partially a mosquito net. Depending on the season, it’s up to the user whether to install the outer tent.
The thing about the outer tent is that it creates a space between the inner tent and itself. Thus, an extra waterproof layer is created. And, thanks to the space in between, sweating is minimized. In addition, as the air insinde is covered with an additional wall, a more efficient isolation is guaranteed. Also, the chance of being exposed to external effects are minimized thanks to the outer tent.
Waterproofing, sweating, and wind resistance properties of tents
Most of the tents are made of materials which don’t have waterproofing such as nylon or polyester. They, are then have waterproofing after being coated with polyurethane or silicone. Polyurethane coating on polyester is cheaper and more common than silicone coating on nylon. The resistance to the sun and external factors of polyurethane coating is weaker compared to silnylon coating. Silicone coating is ultraviolet. It is affected less by the temperature and it is more resistant and lighter. Another coating known as NWD coating is lighter than a half of silnylon coating and it is extremely expensive.
Most preffered materials for tents are polyester and nylon. Because these two materials are cheap, light, quick-dry, and enduring. Polyethylene fabric, which is difficult to fold, is usually used for the basement of tents. Polyethylene is enduring and it is easy to clean.
Beside these, although we barely see in camping tents, cotton and canvas fabrics are also used in tents. However, these tents are extremely heavy and expensive. Furthermore, they are not easy to install, they retain water, and they don’t dry quickly.
Millimeter ratings of tents
When searching for a tent, you’ll see numerical values that represent waterproof rating. Ratings such as 1500 mm, 5000 mm, 3000 mm are used to show waterproof levels. Waterproof levels of awning fabrics are expressed in terms of millimeter. This value doesn’t mean the thickness of fabric or polyurethane coating. It means the resistance to the water pressure applied on the fabric. Standard waterproofing tests are performed by applying water pressure on the fabric until it permits water. In other words, 1500 mm waterproofing means that the fabric starts to leak water after 1500 mm of water pressure is applied on it.
Based on this explanation, it can be said that as mm value increases, waterproofing also increases. This means an increase in the price, too. But honestly, I’m not sure if you need a 10000 mm waterproof tent or not. Considering the fact that a high quality umbrella has a waterproofing rating of 450 mm, 1500 mm would be adequate under a usual rain. Under heavy rains, tents with at least 3000 mm should be preferred. In addition, even under a heavy rain, it is said that there is no significant difference between 5.000 mm and 10.000 mm.
Base of the tent must be extremely waterproof. To ensure this, they are usually made of non-breathing materials.
Breathing levels of tents are expressed in terms of g/m2 or just g. G value is determined by measuring how much air passes through the fabric in 24 hours. Standard value is around 5.000 g.
Quality of tent poles
Strength of tent poles become important especially in windy weathers. Poles are expected to be both quality and light. That’s why strong aluminum poles are preferable. Fiberglass poles can easily crack because they can’t stretch in cold weather conditions as they are not strong and durable.
Tent pegs are given to you when you buy the tent. There are tent pegs made of different materials and there are different types of tent pegs. Pegs might be made of plastic, metal, or wood. Plastic pegs are not recommended as they are not strong though they’re cheap. Metal ones are usually aluminum and steel. Since aluminum is a lighter material, they are often used in the tents which are light and with small package volumes. Steel tent pegs are not preferred much since they’re too heavy even though they are stronger than aluminum pegs.
Tent pegs also differ from each other in terms of shape. Usually, L-shaped pegs are used. L pegs can easily penetrate into the soil but they’re not very strong. Similarly, the type called screw peg, whose penetrating part looks like a screw, is not very strong either. Apart from these, there are various types of tent pegs such as corrugated pegs, delta type pegs, ground pegs, half U pegs, rock pegs, screwed rock pegs.
Tent doors, mesh doors and zippers
Camping tents usually have two doors but there are also tents with single door. Two-door camping tents are more practical in terms of ease of entrance. Especially if there are more than one person staying in the tent, two-door tent is quite useful when someone needs to go out in the night. Another thing that should be considered about tent doors is mesh doors. It’s important to have a mosquito net on the door. So that you can protect yourself from mosquitos and insects while sleeping in the summertime and let some fresh air into your tent at the same time.
Using double-sided zippers on the doors and mosquito nets is more handy than one-sided ones.
Importance of width of the tent
While choosing a tent, number of people to stay in the tent is important to decide on the width of the tent. Pup tents are usually designed in such a way that only two people can sleep and keep their sundries in the tent. Therefore, it’s not very possible for 3 people to sleep in a pup tent.
Porch compartments of the tents are designed for your stuff. You need to determine how much of a baggage space you need in your tent considering your stuff. According to this, you may want to choose a tent that has a porch on one door or that has porch on both doors.
In addition, height of the tent is also something that you should consider according to what kind of activities you’re planning and how much time you’re going to spend in the tent. If you’re going to spend a long time in the tent, you may want a wide space between your base and roof. For this purpose, you may prefer triangle or dome tents. If you’re buying a tent to use at a high altitude or in high wind, then it’s better to buy a low tent.
Weight and size of tent
Weight and size of a tent becomes important especially if you travel by your bicycle and with your backpack. You need to find the right tent which is in minimum weight and size and which isn’t over your budget. Similarly, on motorcycle travels, tents that fit in the motorcycle bags must be chosen. Number of people to stay in the tent, materials of the poles and pegs are among the factors that directly affect the weight of the tent. If you’re planning a two person activity but buying a tent for three people because there’s a small difference in terms of price, then that’s nothing but an extra weight. Despite being light, some tents might not fit in your bag due to the length of their poles and the way of folding them.
Tips to buy a camping tent : Tent selection for summer camps
For the camps which aren’t under cold and heavy weather conditions, you can prefer 3-season or lower season tents without hesitation. 3-season tents are quite suitable for summer camps in terms of both price and weight. If you’re going to buy a tent with single awning, make sure that it’s not completely made of net. If you’re going to buy a tent with double awning, the inner tent can be net. So that you can fall asleep while watching the sky on hot summer nights and you can also protect yourself from rain by installing the outer tent. Against the rain and similar conditions, it is better to choose a tent at least 1500 mm waterproof.
Tips to buy a camping tent : Tent selection for winter camps
For the winter camps, firstly, your tent must be waterproof and resistant to wind. For this purpose, I suggest you to choose at least 4-season tents. It’s better your tent to be at least 3000 mm waterproof. Some durable 3-season tents can also be used in winter. But you can do so only if you trust your tent. Otherwise you may encounter unpleasent surprises. For winter camps, your tent has to have double awning and you must install your tent together with the outer layer. Make sure that the basement of your tent is made of a durable material. It’s important the poles to be made of aluminum in terms of resistance to harsh weather conditions. You may use footprint when camping in winter.
Which tent do I use?
My tent is a Vapor model 4-season Marmot tent.
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Carla Simon4 October 2019, 11:51
I love outdoor camps, and I am going to buy a new car rooftop tent, but I want to know some tips on choosing a great one. These tips you mention will be really helpful. Thank you for sharing these.REPLY
Melke@Carla Simon11 October 2019, 09:05
Thanks for your comment Carla!REPLY