There are three different points to look for when choosing a tent - capacity, seasonality, weight.
Tent sizes range from single person tents like bivy sacks to 5-person tents and family tents. Consider whom you plan to go camping with and whether you want to be in the same tent. It's that simple. If you are looking to have a lot of room between people, then you want to think about purchasing a tent one size up.
3-season tents – Lightweight and designed for temperatures during spring, summer, and fall, the 3-season tents are the most common type. They're built for a good amount of airflow to avoid the tent getting too hot with panels made of a mesh material to keep out insects. The primary functions of the 3-season tent are to constantly keep you dry during storms, protect you from insects, and provide privacy. You can’t go wrong with a 3-season tent.
3-4 Season Tents – These 3+ season tents are a bit hardier than 3-season and can take a little bit of snow, which makes it last longer throughout the year. These tents are good for trips to higher elevation too, where the elements aren't as predictable. They're also built sturdier with added tent poles and less mesh to keep in the warmth.
4-Season Tents – The 4-season tents are designed for hard winds and heavy snow. Although they can be used any season, their chief function is to stand up against unruly weather. These tents use more poles than any of the other tents previously mentioned. The mesh material stretches all the way down the tent, which slows ventilation. This is great in the winter because it will keep the tent nice and warm, but in the summer it can get hot and stuffy.
Obviously, the capacity of the tent along with the seasonality is going to determine the range of tent weight. If you're doing a lot of car camping, it's not going to be an issue. But if you're heading on a 5-day hike into the outback, you might want to consider some trade-offs to keep the weight down.
Once you have chosen the type of tent that is best for you, the next step is deciding what material is best for your adventures. Some tents are a blend of fabrics with nylon walls and polyester floors and rain fly.
Nylon – For tents intended to be carried in a backpack, nylon is the material of choice. It’s lightweight, durable and naturally sheds water. It’s also very breathable making for comfortable slumbers.
Polyester – Choose a polyester tent fabric if you’re setting up in a campground where you’re planning to stay for days or weeks. While polyester is not as strong as nylon, it is more resistant to degradation from ultraviolet light.
If you know where you plan to use your tent most frequently, choosing a style is the easy part!
Dome– A dome tent is useful if you expect to encounter high winds or precipitation, as its shape will allow it to hold up better in these conditions.
Cabin – A cabin tent is best if you normally camp in established campgrounds with some protection from the elements. These offer more vertical space than other designs, allowing them to hold more items and be more comfortable to move around in.
Hoop – Lastly, a hoop or tunnel tent are the best choice for hikers or anyone else that needs a very small, lightweight tent with room for only one person.
Peak Height. If you want to be able to stand up in your tent then you should look at the peak height. Many tents are not tall enough to stand up in so you should take that into consideration.
Tent Floor Length. If you are a tall person or just like to have space available than you would be interested in getting a bigger floor length. The typical floor length is 84-88 inches.
Tent Poles. The poles hold everything up, so they are a pretty crucial part of the tent. Choosing a tent with fewer poles will be lighter and take a very short time to set up, but tents with more heavier poles and a bigger quantity of them will be sturdier. Another fact that should be taken into consideration is that aluminum poles are stronger and more durable than fiberglass poles.
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