Guide To Buying A Camping Tent

If you click and purchase with one of our links, we earn a commission. Thanks.

The 2 most important elements in buying a tent are to know where you will use the tent and how many people will be sleeping in it. And to always buy a tent designed for one more person than you plan to take with you on the camping tent.

And if you want to skip ahead and see what tent we currently recommend, then you can check the availability of this tent on Amazon.

Where Will You Use The Tent

Tents are designed to be used in different types of weather. This is why it’s essential to know where you are planning to go camping. And the kind of weather you expect.

A summer-tent will have a lot of mesh openings and almost no breaks against the wind, rain, or snow.

But the mesh will allow for maximum ventilation. Which will keep it cooler by allowing the most airflow from whatever breeze is available. You will also get a chance to sleep under the stars without as many bugs because of the netting.

However, if you plan to camp in the spring or fall, then you will want a 3-season tent.

These tents will have sturdier walls and fewer openings. These tents are designed to withstand wind, rain, and small amounts of snow.

4-season tents will have sturdier poles and even less open mesh. They are designed to be used in winter camping as long as you are still setting up your camp in the treeline.

An expedition tent is for people who expect to camp high up in the mountains about the treeline. They are made to withstand heavy snow and strong winds.

For a 4-season or expedition tent, you will also want a vestibule. A vestibule will provide a space at the front of your tent to give you room to take off wet gear, store your pack, and, if needed, a place to cook in inclement weather.

Most people only camp in the spring and summer, and thus you most likely only need a three-season tent.

However, if you do want to go camping in the winter, then you might also want to invest in a 4-season tent. Or follow the advice of someone from our Facebook page and choose to stay in a cabin.

What Kind of Camping

You need to know what kind of camping you plan on doing as well.

If you are going to be backpacking, then you will want to focus on finding a tent that is smaller and lighter to carry.

However, if you are a car or canoe or kayak camper, you will not care as much about weight. And focus on having enough room for the people who will be sleeping in the tent.

What Size Of A Tent

If you are not backpacking, then get a tent that is designed for at least 1 more person than that will be on the camping trip.

For example, if you are taking 2 people, then you want to get a 3 person tent.

Even if you are the only one sleeping in the tent, you still might want to get a 3-person tent.

There are 3 reasons for this:

You have more room for your gear

You will have more personal space, in particular, if there are large people in the tent.

You can keep your distance from the walls of the tent, which will reduce condensation in the tent.

What Type Of Floor

Bathtub Floor - this is a waterproof floor made from heavy-duty material, and that extends up the walls of the tent. These floors are called bathtub floors because the floor rises 2-4 inches up the walls of the tent.

Nylon Floor - are <p style="font-weight: bold;">not</p> water repellent unless they are treated with poly-urethane. Check for the PU rating on the tent to determine how waterproof it is. The higher the number, the more waterproofing it has.

Polyweave Floor - Are the same material used to cover boats and trailers, thus are very waterproof. But can be prone to ripping when planted on sharp rocks. And are often more substantial than nylon floors.

When camping, you should make sure to put a tarp or drop cloth under the tent. More expensive tents may also come with their own footprint designed for the tent. The tarp or footprint will prevent moisture from seeping into the tent from the ground.

And can also protect the tent from rocks and twigs.

Make sure the tarp or footprint does not extend outside the tent to prevent water from creating a moat around the tent if it rains.

How To Evaluate The Rainfly

A rainfly is a covering that is designed to go over your tent to prevent rain from falling on the tent itself.

A good rainfly should cover an entire tent. One way a tent manufacturer might cut cost on cheaper tents is by limiting how much of the tent the rain fly covers.

You want the fly to cover the entire tent. That way water doesn’t splash on the walls and eventually leak into the tent itself.

The rainfly should also have guylines that enable it to be pulled taught. This way in a rainstorm the water doesn’t cause the rainfly to sag and form puddles that could eventually pour on top of your tent.

How To Evaluate The Seems

When you set up your tent, make sure the ends are “lap-felled.”

What this means is that the ends of the seams are folded into the fabric of the tent to prevent them from fraying.

Nylon seams should at least be taped up because nylon can fray.

And you should stretch your seems to make sure the weight is evenly distributed and not ripped or torn.

You may also consider spraying on waterproofing the seems as extra insurance before your next camping trip.

Look For Hooks And Pockets And Electric Outlets

You will want to make sure your tent has at least a hook or two to hang an LED lantern.

This way, you can see in your tent without needing to wear a headlamp or worse hold a flashlight.

Most tents should also come with pockets to store your wallet, keys, and phone.

Many will also have a port in the side of the tent designed for an extension cord to be snaked through. This way, you can have electricity inside your tent.

While we want to camp to get away from the city, there are still reasons to have electricity while camping. Even if you are not communicating with work, most people use their phones to take photos.

And let’s face it, just because it’s nighttime in the woods, doesn’t mean it’s not fun to sit in your tent and watch a movie cuddled with your special someone.

Why You Want No-See-Um Mesh

No-See-Um are very tiny biting insects. And are the inspiration for a type of mosquito netting and mesh used on tents.

When you see no-see-um mesh then you know it will be tightly-woven and designed to prevent any insects from getting into the tent.

But thin enough that you can see through it. Perfect if the top of the tent is made from this type of mesh on a warm summer night. And this type of tent allows you to sleep under the stars without slapping mosquitos all night.

What Shape Should Your Tent Be

Tents come in a variety of shapes. Use these tips to determine which one is the best for your needs.

Dome

Dome tents are the most common modern tent. They have 2 or 3 poles that bend the tent into the shape of a dome.

The benefit of a dome tent is that they can have more head-room, easy to set up, and are typically lighter weight.

While they can withstand rain and wind, they are not your best option for harsh weather. If you plan to go camping in strong wind and snow, you will want a lower dome.

And of course, if you’re planning a mountain expedition you will skip the dome tent for something more sturdy such as the geodesic tent that we will describe below.

Tunnel

While dome tents are the most popular, another option for family tents are tunnel tents.

As the name implies, when you set this tent up, it looks like a tunnel.

Tunnel tents are popular in Europe because they are designed to handle the harsher weather climates that many European countries face.

However, beware that tunnel tents may need many guidelines. And this will affect where you can set up your campsite.

Geodesic

From a first-glance, they will look like a dome tent. But it will be shorter. And internally they use more poles which give the tent much more strength.

These are the tents you take to your serious mountain expeditions. And are unlikely to be found used for your family vacation.

What Color Should Your Tent Be

When buying a tent, it is tempting to go with a green or brown tent to blend in.

But in a camping forum I was hanging out in, the conversation of tent color came up.

And many long-time campers recommended making sure you chose a bright orange or red tent.

Most people are camping for recreation and not to evade an enemy army :).

And if you are coming back from a hike, having a tent that stands out in the brush will make it simpler to find.

Plus, if the worst happens and you need to be rescued, having a bright orange or red tent will make it easier for Search Air Rescue (SAR) to find you.

Why You Want High-Quality Zippers?

Tents have lots of zippers. You use zippers to open and close ventilation slits.

You use zippers to open and close windows.

And of course, you use zippers to open and close your doors.

Many low-cost tents will use inferior quality zippers. This results in zippers that can bend, come of their tracks, or otherwise wear out before the tent does.

Quality manufacturers use zippers from a company named YKK. You will never have heard of them. But these are the highest quality zippers in the world. And if you see a tent (or any product with a zipper for that matter) with YKK zippers, then you know these zippers will last a very long time.

Why Do You Need Stakes?

Even if you buy a free-standing tent, you will still need to stake it down. This will keep the tent from moving around on you. Either because the wind blows it around.

Or if you find yourself on a slope, staking your tent keeps it from sliding down the hill.

And tunnel tents require guidelines and those guidelines must be staked down.

You also can use stakes to keep a tarp on the ground or setup a makeshift shelter.

While most stakes are made from plastic, you should invest in quality metal stakes. Check out metal stakes availability on Amazon.

How To Pack A Tent

When you purchase a tent, it will come packed in a bag. And unless you grew up learning how to pack parachutes from the time you were old enough to walk, you are not going to get that tent back into that bag.

While you could try to figure out how to get the tent back into its original packing, don’t get frustrated with this.

Instead, buy a larger bag. One person said they used a 60-liter dry bag and stored everything, including the tent, their sleeping bag, and stakes in it.

Our Recommended Tent

MIER 3 Person Camping Tent Lightweight Outdoor Backpacking Tent with Footprint, Waterproof and Easy Setup (3 Season, 4 Season)

Our recommended camping tent

We like this tent for being lightweight, has no-see-um mesh and quality zippers. The reviews are mostly positive for this tent on Amazon.

However, several people have said, while MIER claims to have a 4-season model, they don’t believe it would hold up in a significant snow-storm.

While you might think this is an expensive tent, compared to the $30 models you might find at Walmart or elsewhere, remember that a quality tent can last you several years.

And that cheaper tents typically don’t have proper ventilation (meaning you will be much hotter in the summer). And their rain flys may not cover the entire tent.

Check the availability of this tent on Amazon.

Related Articles

Pinterest image for Guide To Buying A Camping Tent