When it comes to spending a night in the great outdoors, a tent is a fairly core piece of equipment unless the weather is good and you’re not concerned with insects. For most of us, however, shelter is a key aspect of a successful camping trip.
Before heading out and replacing your old tent or buying a tent for the first time, check out our rundown of features and options that you should be looking for when comparing camping tents:
Keep in mind that there isn’t an industry standard for per-person tent sizing, so company ratings may vary from brand to brand. Assume that a three-person tent will be a tight fit for three people. So consider upping the capacity by one, especially if you have dogs, lots of gear, if someone tosses and turns at night, or if you just like having a bit of extra room.
Do you need a 3-season, 3-4-season, or 4-season tent? Can’t decide?
For most people, a 3-season tent will normally be more than enough to get the job done, but if you’ll be camping in early spring or late fall when snow might strike, a 3-4-season is a good investment. If you’ll be toughing heavy snow and wind, however, a 4-season is essential as it is engineered to withstand abuse from strong winds and heavy snow on the canopy by featuring high-strength tent poles and thicker material.
This is one of the most overlooked aspects of choosing a new tent. Door size and location can make a huge difference in how comfortable and useable your tent will be.
If you’re camping alone, the number of doors won’t really matter. But once you have people packing in with you, it’s nice to have a second door so that it reduces the need to climb over people if someone has to get out for any reason.
When you’re browsing tents, it’s also good to give the door zippers a try. Some are a more prone to snagging than others, which can lead to tears. Look for zippers with heavy slider and a thick chain and teeth. The larger teeth are far less likely to bend and make removing the tent material, if it were to become snagged, much easier.
Rainfly and Vestibule
Rainflies come in different sizes and can be essential for keeping in warmth while keeping out dew or rain. A full-coverage rainfly is your best bet for all-weather protection. Along with a rainfly, see if your new tent comes with its own footprint. You can easily use a tarp that serves about the same purpose, but if you are buying a new tent it’s nice to have everything come in one package.
A vestibule is an awning that can be attached to your tent or rainfly for the purpose of sheltering gear or muddy boots you don’t want in the tent. Sometimes they come with the tent, or can be purchased separately. Pay attention to the size listed. Some are bigger than others and you want enough space to store gear that you don’t want to bring in your tent or even cook a meal under if it’s raining.
Interior Loops and Pockets
Many tents feature a loop on the ceiling for hanging a flashlight or accessories. Check the stitching and loop material for quality. You absolutely do not want a hole in the top of your tent where the stitching came loose. Sidewall pockets or an above-head gear loft can also be highly useful when it comes to keeping things organized. Some tents have them, others don’t.
Pro-Tip: Bring a Dustpan, Brush, and Outdoor Carpet
While it isn’t part of the tent, one of the most useful tools you can pack along to help maintain your tent is a brush and dustpan.
You will track in all sorts of dirt, twigs, and so forth, so the ability to tidy up will not only prevent your tent from getting soiled over time, but will make for a cleaner sleeping situation.
A small roll of outdoor carpeting, placed under the vestibule, will allow you to wipe your feet and help prevent unwanted grime in your new tent. Artificial grass also works well. Just make sure both are under the vestibule for protection from rain.