Best Tents for Camping – What to Look for When Buying a Tent
Buying a tent is like buying a home. There are many sizes, features, and materials needed for different reasons, and come with different price tags. Unfortunately you can’t just set up your tent and do a walk through. What you can do is learn how to buy a tent by narrowing down what you need, and do a little digging to determine how to buy a good quality tent. Best of all, you can read reviews of people just like you who own the same exact tent.
Listed below are the top things to consider when purchasing the best tents for camping. The Coleman Evanston 8 person tent is one of my favorite tents right now.
First thing to ask yourself is what will you be using this tent for. Will you be on the move and need something compact and light? Will you be camping with your family and need something larger to accommodate extra people and gear? Will you have help to set it up? How much room do you have in your vehicle or your pack to take it to your camping spot? What is your budget?
1 Person Tent vs 10 Person Tent
When the description says 2 person tent, that means the tent accommodates two standard size sleeping bags. That leaves little space to move around, or a spot to put your gear. A twin size mattress may not even fit in a one person tent, a full size mattress may take up the entire floor of a 3 person tent.
It’s a horrible feeling trying to sleep in a cramp space sticking to the walls of your tent with no elbow room. Rule of thumb is to double the size you need. Two people should get a four person tent, and a family of four should get a 6-8 person tent.
If size and weight is more of a priority than comfort and space, then stick with a smaller size tent. Again, it all boils down to what you need the tent for.
Summer, also called screen tents, are great for beaches, picnics and camping in your backyard. They have great ventilation, are light and usually are very cheap. Not recommended for any weather conditions such as rain or wind and they can get cold at night with the slightest drop in temperature.
3-season tents are the most common and what we recommend for novice everyday campers. 3-season tents are reliable in most weather, but not recommended for those who camp in snow or extreme rain or wind.
Convertible tents also known as 4-season tents are good for all seasons and weather including snow. 4-season tents are warm in winter and cool in summer. They are very durable tents, but are usually pricey, heavy, and bulky.
Tarp tents are basically just a tarp you strap to trees. They have no walls or floor. They are ultra light, cheap and take up little space. Great for the ultra light hiker on the go who is willing to sacrifice comfort. Not recommended for the novice, or families.
Polyester and Nylon are both man made materials vs the traditional Cotton/Canvas tents. Polyester and Nylon are more wrinkle, stretch, and shrink resistant then Cotton/Canvas tents. Polyester and Nylon are both cheaper, lighter, less bulky, quicker to dry, easier to set up, and require less maintenance than canvas tents. Nylon is stronger and more breathable than polyester, but polyester is faster drying and more tare resistant than nylon. Both nylon and polyester deteriorate faster under the sun, can be noisy, retain water from condensation, and are less breathable than canvas tents.
Canvas tents resist deterioration from the sun, absorb water better, and are excellent insulators. They tend to stay cool in hot weather, warm in cool temperatures, dry in wet, and quiet in windy.
Canvas tents require more maintenance, are heavier, bulkier, take longer to dry, are harder to set up, and have a larger price tag. Finding a poly cotton tent is a nice medium between man made and natural tent materials.
There are 4 types of poles used in tent structures. Rigid Steel, Fiberglass, Aluminum, and Carbon Fiber.
Rigid steel poles are not flexible, and are heavy, but they are the strongest and most durable. This is why they are mostly used in semi-permanent structures such as cabin tents and canopies and not so much in regular sleeping tents.
Fiberglass poles are the lightest and cheapest of the poles rendering them weak and unable to withstand much impact. Fiberglass poles are not recommended for a durable long-lasting quality tents.
Aluminum poles are ultra light, easy to set up, can withstand heavy impact but are prone to rust and bending over time, especially in humid and wet environments.
Carbon Fiber poles are flexible and strong but can be lighter and more expensive than aluminum. Having to chose between carbon fiber poles vs aluminum is not a deciding factor for me, as long as there are not made out of fiberglass.
Other Important Features
The tent floor should be made up of a one piece flush tough tarp like material that comes up a few inches up the sides. This is called a Bath Tub Floor and helps prevent water from seeping up through your tent. If keeping your tent clean and dry is important to you, then I highly recommend getting a tent with both a Vestibule and a Rain Fly.
Think of a Vestibule as a mini porch, it helps keep the rain out when your getting in and out of your tent, and you can keep any muddy shoes or equipment under your vestibule keeping the mess out of your tent, but close buy and out of the rain.
A Rain Fly is a cover over your tent and is a must have is your tent has windows and or roof vents. Ventilation is very important for your tent, it helps with circulation and keeps condensation out of your tent helping to keep it dry. Make sure the Rain Fly covers the entire tent all the way to the ground covering all entrances and windows, and has a gap between your tent to promote ventilation.
You want to make sure that the Seams of your tent are double stitched and have a tape around them. I always recommend using a seam sealer on your tent to make sure no water gets through.
Lastly your Zippers needs to be made of good quality material. Just think how often you go in and out of your tent. There is nothing more annoying than a tent that keeps getting caught or breaks. A broken Zipper can render your tent useless. Unfortunately the zipper is difficult to know if it is of a good quality before purchasing, this is why I recommend reading reviews on the tent you plan on purchasing.
Just remember, the more features you get on your tent, the heavier, bulkier, and more expensive it becomes. Again, it all boils down to what you want and need.
Care For Your Tent
After purchasing your tent there are a few things you can do to prolong its life. First, never eat in or around your tent! Not just to keep the little bugs out, but to keep raccoon, squirrels, and even larger animals from tearing a hole through your tent.
Use a tarp under your tent. This helps keep water from seeping up through the tent and also prevents your tent floor from getting scratched by rocks, twigs, and roots. Make sure the tarp is tucked in completely under your tent to prevent pools of water forming between your tarp and tent floor.
Try to let your tent air out before you pack it up. I know this can be difficult as we tend to be on the move early when camping, but when you get home or to your next destination take it out of its sack and let it dry to prevent mold and mildew from forming. Ideally you want to store your tent in a dry well ventilated area out of its pack. This may be impossible for most people which is why you must make sure your tent is fully dry before you store it away till your next camping trip.
If planing to scotch guard your tent for more water protection, be sure to read the instructions first as in some tents scotch guarding is not recommended and can compromise your tent waterproofing ability.
Lastly, I always recommend you to set up your new tent at home before heading out on your adventure.
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