Tent camping is a fun and adventurous way to enjoy the natural splendor of the landscape. A tent lets you get back to nature, but it’s important to choose a tent that won’t let nature get to you. With a huge variety of tent choices available, finding the right tent depends on how, and when, you’ll use it. Use Pronto’s Tent Buying Guide to answer those questions and purchase the tent that’s best for you.
Choosing a tent begins with knowing how you’ll move it. Car campers can choose larger, heavier tents. Hikers and mountaineers should balance a tent’s weight against their needs and strive for a tent weight of three pounds for each person the tent can sleep.
Choose a tent that can sleep two more people than needed for the greatest elbow room. Camping families should consider a multi-room tent with separate entrances for each tent section.
Summer tents are too ventilated for comfort in colder conditions. Three-season or four-season tents offer the most flexibility but add weight and may be too hot in summer. Winter campers and mountaineers should choose insulated cold-weather tents.
Look for a tent with a seamless floor stitched a few inches up the side of the tent’s walls. An adjustable rainfly gives a tent the greatest flexibility in varying weather conditions.
For maximum durability, choose a tent with aluminum poles and metal grommets that are less likely to break than plastic and fiberglass.
A traditional tent design in which a center pole is supported by two poles on either end, resembling a triangle pointing toward the sky. A-frame tents are better at shedding rain and snow.
A tent floor made from waterproof material that prevents moisture from seeping through the floor. For the best performance, look for a tent with a seamless bathtub floor.
A tent design that uses two poles that bend over each other to form a convex X shape. Dome tents offer more usable space inside and can be quicker to set up.
A metal or plastic ring used to reinforce the guyholes in a tent or a rainfly.
A prepunched, grommeted opening in a tent used to to tie off the sides or to tie the tent down to stakes.
A waterproof cover that extends down the sides of a tent to keep rain and snow out. A full-coverage rainfly provides the best protection from water.
A floorless, mesh structure that attaches to the front or side of a tent, providing a place to store gear or seek shelter from insects.
A tent is a temporary shelter that uses fabric, typically nylon, stretched over a mounting frame to repel insects, rain, wind, and snow. The two basic styles of tent are the A-frame, in which two poles on either end support a central pole, and the dome, where two poles cross to form a convex x shape.
The simplest A-frame tents stretch fabric, staked to the ground with grommets, over the frame. These tents are the lightest but can take a little experience to set up. At the opposite end are deluxe cabin tents and domes that provide a sealed and ventilated bubble for sleeping.
Your first tent decision is to balance size and weight against transportation. If you’re carrying the tent to a campground in your car, you only need worry about making sure the tent fits in the trunk or backseat. If you’re canoeing or kayaking, you’ll need a more compact tent that can store easily in the boat.
For hikers, weight is the primary consideration. A tent should weigh about three pounds for each person it can sleep. A floorless tent might seem like a good choice, as most of these tents weigh around two pounds, but don’t forget that you’ll need to pack a tarp or mat in wet conditions.
A tent can be a cozy, romantic retreat or a shoebox that puts everyone too close for comfort. The general rule of thumb is to choose a tent that will sleep two more people than needed, so a tent that sleeps four is a good size for two people and offers plenty of legroom and some storage space for camping gear.
As tents get larger, their size and weight increases, so hikers and boaters will need to balance a tent’s sleeping capacity against pack size and weight.
For families and groups traveling by car, consider a multi-room tent that has zippered dividers between the different sections of the tent. This will provide a little privacy, and these tents are an excellent choice for families. Hikers traveling in cold or mountainous environments should choose a two-person tent for its lighter weight and heat efficiency. Any type of tent benefits from a screened vestibule, which offers a private spot to change clothes or a place to eat if insects start to swarm.
Note the number of entrances on a tent if more than one person will be using it. A tent with two or more entrances will make it easier to come and go. For multi-room tents, look for a separate entrance for each section of the tent in case people need to get out quickly.
Most consumers think of repelling insects when shopping for a tent, but stopping water or even snow is equally important. When you’re comparing tents, remember that any opening big enough for an insect is more than big enough for rain. Look for a tent with fine mesh openings that will keep out the tiniest gnats and zippered flaps to stop blowing rain. The sides of most tents are water repellent, which means that rain can soak through. Waterproof materials will prevent soaking, but a waterproof tent offers little ventilation.
Most tents are equipped with a rainfly, a waterproof roof that extends down the sides of the tent to keep rain out. A tent with an adjustable rainfly offers the greatest flexibility in variable weather conditions. Look for seamless tent floors that are stitched a few inches up the side of the tent walls. This will prevent water from seeping through the floor of the tent and offer some protection from runoff in heavy rainstorms.
Tents are rated for different seasons, and some tents are specialized for hot or cold weather conditions. Summer backcountry tents are the lightest and most are well-ventilated. Some of these tents have mesh sides that can be a problem in the rain and are unsuited to cold-weather use, but they’re also the lightest tents available.
Three-season tents are the best choice for spring and autumn camping. These tents combine mesh “windows” with zippered flaps and large rainflys to keep out some cold and a lot of rain. In hot summer conditions however, a three-season tent may not offer enough ventilation for comfortable sleeping.
Four-season tents can do it all. They include insulated interior flaps that zipper into place for the greatest flexibility in different climates. Casual year-round campers and car campers will enjoy these tents, but mountaineers and winter hikers should choose specialized winter tents made from lightweight, insulated materials. Winter tents weigh much less than four-season tents and many tent models offer specialized ventilation that lets condensation escape while keeping heat in.
If you’re camping in wintertime or at high altitude, make sure your tent can shed any snow that falls during the night. A-frame tents are best at shedding snow. For dome tents, look for sturdy roof supports and a taut center that won’t give easily under weight.
Tents need to take a lot of rough handling and cope with unpredictable ground conditions. Start with the floor of the tent and make sure it’s strong enough to prevent penetration by sticks or sharp stones.
Next, examine the tent’s seams, giving them a good tug to ensure they won’t come apart. If a tent has mesh walls or windows, poke at them to see if they’ll yield to branches or persistent insects.
Look for a tent with large, heavy plastic zippers that are easy to operate. Tent poles made from aluminum weigh more than fiberglass tent poles, but aluminum poles are more flexible and last longer. A tent’s grommets should be metal rather than plastic, as metal grommets won’t break if they’re struck with a hammer.
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