Whether you plan on spending weeks in the wilderness, or just a few nights a summer on the weekends, having the right tent for your adventure is
an important part of having a safe and trip. Buying your first tent can be a daunting task, I remember spending hours scouring the internet for reviews and the best prices. Hopefully, when you finish reading this, you will be armed with the knowledge you need to buy the right tent for you.
Determine The Type of Camping You Will Do
When and where you will be camping will play a big part in your purchasing decision. There are a few questions you will need to ask yourself before you start shopping for your tent. Will you be camping in the Winter? Is a lightweight option important? or maybe you just want to do some car camping on the weekends. All of these scenarios and more have options and I’ll go into each of them. Winter/Mountaineering – Cold weather conditions create special challenges when camping. Backpacking – When you are spending days or even weeks on the trail, every ounce counts. With that in mind, weight and packed size are important factors to consider if backcountry camping is your goal. Car Camping – Many people will fall into this category. This is where you typically are staying close to your car, like in a campground, and therefore don’t need to be as concerned about tent size or weight.
Consider The Elements
Much like knowing the type of camping you plan to do is important, also knowing the time of year, and anticipated weather scenarios that you could get into is just as important. Not all tents are created equal in regard to their ability to battle the elements. Going into your tent shopping experience with a good idea of when and where you will be camping will help you narrow down your options, but keep in mind there is some flexibility with most tents in regard to where and when they can be used. Sun – The sun can be a gift and a curse depending on a few factors. On one hand, having a light colored tent can help keep the tent from absorbing too much heat and keep it somewhat cooler than a dark tent which will absorb more of the heat, but if you like to sleep in, you will find yourself rising with the sun in a lighter tent, which personally I count as a positive, but not everyone is on the same page as me in that regard, so keep that in mind. Rain – There isn’t much worse than waking up to three inches of water in your tent after a night of heavy rain, something I experienced first hand with a cheap tent. If you think you will find yourself in rainy environments, then you will want to pay extra attention to the material the rainfly is made of and it’s reputation for water repellence. Wind – A windy night in a tent can be no big deal if your tent is prepared. I find that lower profile, dome shaped tents fair the best in windy conditions, especially when rain fly come close to the ground and can be staked in multiple points. Snow – Most three season tents can handle a little snow, but if you are going to be venturing deep into the mountains, or braving blizzard-like conditions, having a four season tent won’t just make you more comfortable, It will keep you alive.
What Features Are Must Haves?
Vestibule – Vestibules are areas that are outside the tent, but within the confines of the rainfly. They are great for keeping backpacks and other items like shoes outside of the tent, but protected from the elements. Think of them as the porch of your tent. I am personally a fan of the duel vestibule. Not only does it allow you and your tent mate to separate your gear, but it has the added benefit of allowing each of you to exit the tent without crawling over the other one. This a great way to avoid waking your tent mate during that infamous midnight pee. Rain Fly – This is one place not to be skimped on. The rain fly is what keeps the elements out of your tent, and traps some heat on cooler nights. Make sure the tent you chose has a rainfly that is made of a ripstop nylon and is coated with a waterproof and water repellent coating, many brands have there own coatings with fancy names. Footprint – A footprint(or groundsheet) for a tent is a piece of nylon or similar fabric that is la Single-Piece Pole – There is nothing worse than loosing parts, especially when those parts keep your tent upright. With that in mind, having a tent with a single-piece or at most, two-piece pole system is important for your sanity.
Tent Terminology Explained
If you’ve done any shopping for tents, you’ve probably come across some terminology that you haven’t seen before. Knowing what these terms mean will go a long way in helping you understand what you are buying and if a particular tent will meet your needs. To help you guys familiarize yourself with this terminology, I’ve compiled a list of the words I think are important to know and what they mean. Denier – The unit used to measure the thickness of the nylon strands used to create the finished fabric. Guy Lines – Lines that can be attached to the fly of a tent to be staked out for added stability in adverse conditions. Line Locs – Plastic pieces attached to nylon cord to aid in quick adjustments. Seam Tape – Waterproof tape applied to seams in tent fabric where water entry must be avoided.
Get Acquainted With Your Tent
Getting to know the tent you purchased prior to heading out on your first trip will save you a lot of time and headache. follow these few guidelines for getting familiar with your new tent.
- Set it up at home: For me, this is mostly due to the excitement of a new purchase. I’ve gone as far as camping in my new tents in my basement when I first get them. Setting up your new tent at home will allow you to get used to the steps for setup and breakdown while making sure there are no problems with the tent from the factory.
- Set it up without the instructions: Instructions are great, but you may not always have them. Practice setting up that new tent until you can get it setup without instructions. Admittedly, most tents are pretty easy to setup, but there are some nuances that are important not to miss, so be sure you have the routine down. The quicker you set it up, the sooner you can drink a beer by the fire.