Spending a day in nature, admiring those breathtaking views and getting lost amongst the wooded paths is a very inviting prospect for all outdoor enthusiasts. Outdoor activities take on many shapes and forms; casual hikers who enjoy the workout, nature-lovers who love spending time under the open sky, or avid hunters who enjoy the thrill of the chase – whatever the group you fall into, there is a lowest common denominator here. Enjoying the nature to its fullest is very difficult without a tent! CampingReviewed focuses on providing tent reviews and features or top picks for every category.
No matter how much you love roughing it eventually you’re going to have to rest. This is where tents come into play. There are a lot of types of tents on the market and your choice is going to depend on your group size, terrain, weather conditions, and more.
Types of Tents
As mentioned, tents come in a lot of different shapes and sizes. Here’s an overview of the most basic ones we will be covering in our tent reviews.
When you conjure up an image of a tent in your mind it’s usually very pointy and, well, tent-shaped. You’re most likely thinking about the basic ridge tent. They have a pole at each end which holds up the fabric giving it that distinctly tent-y look. Ridge tents are extremely durable and versatile. They can be small one-person tents or large marquees. However, they have a very annoying disadvantage – head height is always an issue with them. If you’re using them exclusively for sleeping than that isn’t too bad. On the other hand, they don’t make an ideal shelter if you’re going on a camping trip with family and friends and want to stay comfortable.
Flexible tent poles gave birth to dome tents. The name says it – they are shaped like a dome. The sides of dome tents are more vertical which allows for more headroom and are more comfortable if you use your tent for more than sleeping. They are stable but not as stable as ridge tents. Stability becomes more of an issue as dome tents grow in size.
Although a lot of manufacturers boast of a two-minute tent set up, the only tents that actually deliver are quick-pitch tents. They have a coiled sprung frame that is fused with the fabric of the tent. Twisting the frame allows you to pack it up in a neat little circular package. Releasing the spring (and don’t be afraid to do it dramatically) uncoils it and it turns into a nifty little shelter you can use straight away. Quick-pitch tents are a new addition to the market but are incredibly sturdy thanks to recent industry development. Some can comfortably provide shelter to up to five people and under very rough weather conditions.
Tunnel system is ideal for making larger family tents as it gives you plenty of headroom and a lot of usable space, unlike dome or ridge tents. The flexible poles are used to bind the fabric into semi-circles which are then lined up to create a tunnel tent.
There are other tents on the market such as pod tents, geodesic tents, vis-à-vis tents, inflatable tents and others but they are mostly variations on the tent styles we’ve already mentioned here.
What to Look for In a Good Tent
Again, this is going to depend on the use of the tent, weather conditions, and how many people you want sleeping in it. However, there are some general things that you should keep in mind if you want your tent to last for more than just one season.
Season designation – tents are mostly marked 2-season, 3-season, 4-season, and 5-season. Two season tents are intended for use in good weather conditions during the sunny parts of the year – summer and early fall. Three season tents are more rugged and will withstand rainfall and winds. Four and five season tents are designed for use during winter with 5 season tents being especially design for Arctic-like conditions. Even if you’re just a casual camper always aim to buy at least a 3-season tent so you can be protected from rain and wind in summer-shower situations.
Groundsheet – groundsheet is the fabric that comes into direct contact with the outside surface. Groundsheets are usually made from polythene and it’s great for keeping bugs and water out of your tent. Tents can be pre-fitted with a groundsheet or require you to carry one. Our recommendation is to buy tents with pre-fitted groundsheets – they are usually slightly heavier but at least you don’t have to lug around extra equipment with you.
Type of fabric – whatever else you want, you need your tent to be waterproof. Most tents today are coated with a waterproof coating, except 100% cotton tents that need to go through a process called weathering – they need to get soaking wet a few times so that fibers can swell up and prevent leakage. PVC coated tents tend to be heavy but they also keep you dry. Polyester and nylon tents are probably most popular but the quality will depend on coatings and the amount of money you’re willing to part with. Poly-cotton tents are a good compromise because they are both durable and strong and lighter than cotton tents.
Ventilation – ventilation is extremely important because you don’t want your tent to be stuffy and un-breathable. Large doors are a must and they should feature a double zipper so you can open them from both top and the bottom. The windows should provide you with enough air and light but also need to have a mosquito net so you’re protected while they’re open.
Pegs – make sure that the pegs that come with the tent are sturdy and reliable – they are all that is keeping your tent from flying away in case of heavy winds. Always pack pegs for different ground and wind conditions and have a few spares close at hand.
Judging Tent Quality
- Examine the fabric – is the feel right? Are there irregularities that might cause the fabric to thread or tear?
- Look at the seams – is the stitching even and firm? Are the seams waterproofed?
- Windows and doors – Does the stitching on the openings look firm? Is there a double zipper on the doors and are windows protected with a net?
- Is there a repair kit – most manufacturers will throw in a repair kit with the purchase so you can patch up the fabric if something goes wrong.