Hi and thanks for visiting me today. I’m going to talk you some things you need to look at when you’re buying a tent for the first time. It can be a tent for wild camping or your backpacking adventures. The world of tents can be a little bit confusing the first time you start looking at them. There are so many different shapes and designs and features and specifications and how do you judge whether one is better than another or more suited to you or not. So Let me tell you how to choose a tent
The first thing we find out that’s comparable between tents it’s the hydrostatic rating, which is the snow trekking pole waterproof amount. It means how waterproof the tent is. Manufacturers use something called the hydrostatic rating and it doesn’t matter what it is. As higher is the number as more waterproof a tent is, but tent manufacturers often use that in order to sell the tent. But you should know one rule concerning a hydrostatic rating – a tent is either waterproof or it isn’t. There are no tents which let in half the rain and don’t let in the other half. It doesn’t make any sense, right?
What I’ll tell you is that you can ignore the hydrostatic rating on tents, because they really are either waterproof or they’re not. So after we learned that the hydrostatic rating is not the most important thing when choosing, we will move on next part.
The first one to look at is the overall shape of a tent. I’m going to use three categories for this. I think you could sub classify other types of tent shapes, but I don’t think it really means very much. So let’s start.
First of all, I shoul mention that a trekking pole tent is a tent where you use walking poles to put it up. If that’s something that makes you think that trekking poles are not for you, they are only for those who has a knee injury, or who finds walking difficult, it is not a fact. Those poles are designed for everybody to use and they make walking much easier, especially uphill and downhill, because it takes some of the strain of your legs, it improves your balance and you can walk further and faster with them. Trekking tents tend to be lightweight, and they’re also often not too expensive.
You can get a tent that only needs one pole. Some people like to walk with only one pole, but that doesn’t mean, if you have two poles, you can’t get a one pole tent. You only should know, that one pole tents are usually smaller, they’re usually just one man tents. The two pole tents need two trekking poles, and they are usually two man versions. Trekking pole tents are lightweight and relatively affordable. Probably they can be a little bit fiddlier than some other tents to set up, but that’s not always the case.
Now the next type of tent shape that you’ll come across often is a tunnel tent. Tunnel tents have poles at intervals that stand alone, they don’t cross over. The advantage with them is that they are simple. It’s just one pole, then another pole and another pole. Sometimes they only have one pole, they’re quick. You just stick the pole in, peg and it’s almost done.
The other advantage with the tunnel tents is that they tend to have quite good headroom and as you add more poles, if you get a tunnel tent let’s say with three poles, it usually has an enormous vestibule and a large sleeping area. A three-pole tunnel tent would be really good for two people that carry quite a lot of gear and a one pole tunnel tent could be really lightweight and a two pole tunnel tent might give you a little bit more space. It’s a good tent design.
But i guess there are some disadvantages. They are quick to pitch, but they could be a little bit fiddly, as you have to peg them whilst you’re pitching. The other thing is that they’re more susceptible to side winds. Normally you pitch the tent into the wind. If the wind moves around the tunnel tent poles stand alone, because there’s no cross over points, they don’t even support each other. So you could get a pole breakage, be careful with that.
Such tents are very easy to use. When it comes onto freestanding tents the advantages are obviously. If it’s a freestanding tent you can pitch it, pick it up and move it to where you want. It is quite nice , but generally speaking freestanding tents are stronger. They have more crossover points on the poles which make them reinforce each other and that helps.
The disadvantages with freestanding tents is that they tend to have smaller vestibule areas, so the porches can be just enough for a bag and somewhere to cook in, but on the upside a lot of them will have two porches. So if there’s two of you in the tent you’ll get one each and if it’s just you, then you could use one porch to put your gear, and the another one to cook in. So it can be even turned to an advantage.
Conclusion about the type of tents
- If I summarize the shapes up for you, I would say, that the trekking pole tents are really good for lightweight, if you want to do longer distances, or you just fancy the idea of having a much lighter backpack on.
- Tunnel tents are generally better, if you want more headroom, and if you think about having a much larger vestibule, kind of porch area on your tent.
- Freestanding tents are really good, if you want to pitch in more awkward places, and if you want to go for maximum strength.
4 person tent or more
The next thing you need to look at is the number of people the tent is rated for. There is such a weird situation with tent manufacturers. When someone says, it’s a one-man tent, it’s usually really small, so it’s a squeeze. The majority of two man tents are tight for two people and really comfortable for one person.
So if you’re looking at a one-man tent the chances are, that it’s going to be small for one person. You’re going to feel like there’s not much space. It’s going to be quite cramped. And if you value having more space for yourself, I suggest you look at a two-man tent.
The two-man tents are really one-man tents, and three-man are two-man. I’d say most people are probably going to be happier with the two-man tent if they’re on their own. They might be okay with the two-man if there are two of them. But sometimes your partner’s going to come along just occasionally, then a two-man tent would be a good idea, and you don’t need to buy an additional tent.
It would be really beneficial, if you can go to a camping shop and actually have a look at the tent you want to buy. You have to understand, how many people are supposed to go camping. Probably you will choose a 4 man tent or even an 8 man tent.
The door configuration
Another feature, which I think people probably won’t think about so much, is the door configuration. This really matters, and there are a few reasons why. When it comes to the doors, there’s the outer door and the inner door. What you have to think about, is the most important aspect. Do you want the doors to be at head and feet? Or do you want them to be at your sides?
Now I think, most people prefer the doors to be at the sides. I can explain to you why. When you are in your tent, if you roll over onto your side you can unzip the door, and grab all your stuff without having to get out of bed. And if you sit up and face the door, which is at the side of the tent, you don’t have to reach into it.
It’s generally easier with side doors to get things, also if you’re going to have somebody along with you. When you’ve got two side doors, you get your own door either side, and it’s really nice.
The height of the tent
I think one of the most important factors is the tent height. I mean standing height tent. You have to think about, when you’re in the tent, do you want to be able to sit up. Because if you want to get changed and move things around, if it’s winter, and it’s dark for 16 hours and you’re in the tent, or if it’s raining, and you don’t want to get out of the tent, and if you sit up your head goes against the top of it. If your head space is below 95 or 100 centimeters, it gets very cramped. There is a nice possibility to manage the tent height. You can use adjustable height tent poles, so you will be able to change tent sizes somehow.
The other thing you have to look at is, is that height just in the middle, or is it continuous across for an area. If it’s just in the middle, you can find out, that whilst you can sit up there’s not much space to move around, and it can be difficult in itself.
I recommend having a tent, which has not a harsh angle. There’s more space around, and it can make life a lot easier. It’s important also to notice with the foot end of the tent, where your feet will be. How sharp does that come down? Because sometimes it comes down so sharply, that your sleeping bag will push up against the wall of the inner tent. And as a result, you can get condensation leaking into your sleeping bag, and then the sleeping bag can get wet.
Aerodynamics of the tent
Another feature of the tents is its aerodynamics. A taller tent catches the wind more, and a lower tent is generally more aerodynamic and wind resistant. So whilst you feel like choosing the highest tent you can find, if you want a lot of space, that doesn’t always pay off that well. You can end up with something that’s a bit of a sail. You have to look at the height of the tent and the shape of the tent. It should look aerodynamic. You should start looking at the shape of what you’re buying. If there are any walls that are getting towards more vertical, that can be a problem in higher wind speeds.
Weight of the tent
Now the next thing you have to think about is the weight of the tent. Many people don’t initially look at the weight of things very much. Most people when they start out camping just buy things, that they can afford. And it is fine, they should do that. But they buy things without paying attention to what the weight is. You don’t necessarily have to spend a lot in order to get a lighter weight tent. Some tents that are really expensive are also really heavy, you don’t always get a good weight reduction as you spend more money.
As you spend more money is you get more strength. But the tent weight will matter. When you add on more and more gear, the backpack will get to a point, where it’s quite hard to carry.
Actually maybe a trekking pole tent isn’t so bad after all. Perhaps that does look like it’s an attractive option. A trekking pole tent might weigh around 800 grams, and a four season free standing tent could weigh four kilograms, which is significantly more.
You have to really think about, how you are going to carry all your gear, and how much is it all going to weigh. Don’t just think you’ll get the biggest rucksack you can, and you’ll just shove everything into it, and just carry it. That’s not going to get you very far.
A lot of people carrying far too much stuff, and it’s really heavy. As a result, it makes it very difficult for them to get to where they want to go to. That doesn’t mean you have to go into the ultra-light and trying to make everything super lightweight. But it is worth it when you’re looking at tents thinking well. If you’ve got three tents that you’re looking at seriously, compare the weights of them. It does make a difference. Every half a kilo or pound of weight that you can save starts to make a difference.
The weight on your back when you’re carrying it in a rucksack makes much more of a difference, than the weight on your body, because it’s off your center of gravity and that means that it’s going to pull on you. And as a result you’re going to feel it much more.
And now I would just leave you with one kind of final tip. Usually the tent pegs you get with a tent from the manufacturer aren’t particularly good. If you’re going to get into world camping more seriously, there’s kind of two types of tent pegs, that are really good.
The first one is just that ones that are like a nail. They’ll go into hard ground. And the second one is ones, which have three fins on it. They’re really good, because they hold well in soft ground, and it’s better to be able to take the right kind of peg for the job.
You’re going to really rely on the pegs to keep your tent upright. So don’t think that they’re not important.
So let’s summarize everything, what you need to do when you look at tents. You need to look at the shape of the inner tent. I highly recommend looking at the measurements at the ends and the middle. A tent doesn’t have to be the same height all the way across, but if it tapers off really strongly at the base, or if you’ve got a bit of height at the foot end, that makes a big difference. You can have tents that initially look similar, but when you look at the foot end one could be considerably higher, than the other. That makes a difference for your sleeping bag and your head height inside.
Kind of the same goes for the outer tent as well. Are you going to be able to easily access the porch area, it’s just the actual living space and usable space that you have. I’d really stress that for you it’s about usable space.
If you’re still in doubt about your choice read our hammock vs. tent comparison