Choosing a tent can be one
of the most fun ways you prepare for camping. We've done it all, from
family tents to small - in the rain, cold or sweltering heat. With friends
along and bevy of children - it's all good if you have a good tent!
When you are ready to buy a tent,
plan for it to last a long time. Then think about how many people you
may be camping with at one time. Follow that with a picture of how much
gear each person will be taking. THEN imagine it raining in the middle
of the day. That is the time to choose which tent size is best for you.
You can purchase 2-man tents on up to ten or more. If you purchase a 2-man
tent, consider how close you plan to sleep next to the "other man,"
and how much you plan to store in the tent with you. Do you want an air
mattress? Will gear fit along with the air mattress? Will your camp mat
fit, and can you store your cooler in the tent?
Our family has a 10 man tent for
big scout outings that always include a parade of children in and out
of the tent. We can easily sleep 2 adults and four children in the tent,
along with two large air mattresses and lots of room for gear and toys.
For the camping outings when Grandma doesn't come and fewer friends are
there, we use a three man tent and a two man tent - sleeping on mats and
placing the food in the bigger tent. This allows for lighter camping and
less to store.
In shopping for tents, you can
certainly find a very reasonable priced tent. But is it the quality you
need for camping? Your tent should have aluminum poles, should be equipped
with a footprint (tarp that is placed under the tent), rain fly and possibly
some storage nets that can hang equipment above you. Check the stitching
as well. If the stitches are far apart, there is great chance for ripping
and leaking. Better to spend more money for a tent that will last a lifetime.
Look for a tent that is made of polyester, which breathes and can withstand
the sun's rays. Do not purchase a nylon tent, which will be hot and may
not last a season. Never purchase a tent that does not come with a rain
fly. And if your tent does not come with seam sealer, be sure to purchase
some before you camp.
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There are several types of tents
- from domes to cabin-style with many in-between. They are rated for three
or four season camping. If you only camp in the spring, summer and fall,
a three season tent is a good choice. Four season tents are a must for
those who camp in the winter. They will withstand snow, wind and cold
- they can also be converted to a three season tent with fewer poles and
less weight. Never camp in the winter with a three season tent.
Dome tents provide good head room,
can withstand wind and don't pool rain water on the top. Cabin styles
are excellent family tents, allow for more gear, head room and with a
good rain fly, can also withstand rain. Your tent should have a footprint,
which will protect the tent from rocks and moisture. Never use a tarp
or footprint that extends outside of the tent - this will serve as a funnel
for water to flow under your tent during rainstorms. If your tent has
a vestibule, consider this a bonus. You can place a doormat inside the
vestibule to catch dirt, and can store gear just within your reach. The
vestibules in cabin style tents are wonderful areas to sit and enjoy the
outdoors with fewer mosquitoes and flies to bother you. They are also
nice areas to sit during the rain.
Your tent should have mesh windows
on at least two sides, and preferably on top as well. These can be closed
as it gets cooler, and a rain fly can be placed over these in wet conditions.
Windows will allow for cross-ventilation, and will be much appreciated
on hot, muggy days.
Obviously, the bigger the tent, the more weight you carry.
If you are family camping and can drive to your site, a cabin style may
be heavier, but is still a nice thing to have. If you are backpacking,
purchase a light tent specifically made for that style of camping. Scouts
do well with two man tents that have aluminum poles and can be strapped
to a backpack when bagged.
Your tent can make or break
a camping trip, so choose and spend wisely - then go enjoy the great outdoors.