How To Buy A Tent
Buying a tent is similar to most outdoor gear purchases. Some thought needs to go into the intended purpose for your tent. It can be overwhelming to figure out what type of tent to buy. Here are the basics to help you figure out what tent is right for you.
Tents come in a variety of different sizes and their size is usually measured by how many people can sleep in a given tent. (For example 1-person, 2-person, family, etc.) Now, in my experience, tent capacities advertise the most amount of people that would ever want to fit into a ten. A 3-person tent is more like a comfortable 2-person tent. When you are picking the size of your tent also keep in mind that in inclement weather, you will have gear that also needs to fit in your tent or under your vestibule. In a nutshell, buy a tent that is meant for more people than you need.
Consider the weight of any tents you are thinking about purchasing. If you are buying a tent for a backpacking or travel trip, weight is an issue. If you are planning on using it car camping or on a river trip, weight is not much of an issue. Think about the intended use and then decide how much weight is an issue.
Tents typically come with both fabric and poles. Tent poles typically come in three materials. Poles made out of carbon fiber are light, strong and flexible, which is the best of three worlds. Most tent poles these days are made out of aluminum. Aluminum poles are not as strong as carbon fiber, but are less expensive and just as light. Some poles are still made out of fiberglass. Fiberglass poles are heavier and not as strong as the previous two materials. Avoid these if possible.
Tent fabrics should be durable (especially the floor), breathable and have a waterproof component. Most tents are made out of nylon or polyurethane mix. Check out the stitching and make sure it looks durable. You should also be able to see that the seams are taped well to ensure the tent is truly waterproof.
Tents offer different levels of protection from elements you might encounter while you are camping. Most tents come with season ratings. The lightest duty tents, summer tents, are made for sunny weather, light wind and rain. A breathable and light colored tent is also good for hot summer weather. The heaviest duty and most durable tents are classified as 4-season tents. These tents are designed to be wind-resistant, shed snow and have double layer waterproofing and a bathtub floor to survive the most torrential rain and retain heat.
Freestanding vs. Non-Freestanding
Freestanding tents are tents that support themselves without the use of stakes or guy lines. These tents can be put up on a variety of different surfaces. They tend to be heavier than non-freestanding tents. Non-freestanding tents require pegs for set-up. If you don’t know which one to go with, go with a non-freestanding tent to save weight.
Those are the basics. Don’t forget to actually take off your shoes and get in the tent that you want to purchase. Feel it out and see if you can consider it home.