As a fun, fairly inexpensive activity, camping is one of most popular pastimes for the whole family. Spending a few days away from home in relative solitude getting back to nature can be a rich, rewarding experience for both kids and adults. However, in order to spend a few days in nature, you will need a shelter at night and protection from the elements, and that usually comes in the form of a tent. Tents that house the whole family will keep you out of the rain and provide a sort of home away from home. It is one of the first pieces of equipment you will want to invest in to go camping or hiking.
On the other hand, shopping for and buying a tent can be confusing and overwhelming for new campers. Tents for camping and hiking have a variety of features, and you want to make sure to buy the right tent for your family. You will need to consider which features you want in a tent and what monetary value you are willing to invest in it.
Types of Tents
Tents that are made for four people or less come in a couple of different of types. First of all, there are dome-style tents, which are probably one of the most common types. Dome tents have sloped walls with the tallest point in the center of a tent, and this tends to reduce the amount of space inside. However, dome tents are structurally strong and stand up to wind and rain well. Another common type of tent is the cabin-style tent with near vertical walls. The walls provide plenty of living space inside and easy access getting in and out. Some of the larger cabin tents even have room dividers.
Another type of tent is the tunnel tent, which looks like a nylon igloo. Tunnel tents usually have entrances at both ends and three hoops. They might not be sturdy enough to handle extreme weather but they are usually light and easy to set up. Tunnel tents might also be harder to find. Ridge tents are another alternative, and these look just like a large triangle. The tents are sturdy with not a whole lot of living space but plenty of head space in the middle. One last type of tent you might consider for a camping or hiking trip is a terrain tent. Terrain tents attach to your vehicle act as a substitute for a camper.
Here are some of the most common features you will encounter when picking out a tent:
- Season Rating – Be sure to check the season rating of your tent. Tents that have a three-season rating are best used for warmer temperatures in the spring, summer, and fall. You can purchase just a summer tent but many of these do not stand up well to wind or storms. There is the option of four-season tents for winter camping, but unless you need a tent to withstand extreme cold temperatures, three-season tents will serve your purpose just fine.
- Livability and Headroom – One factor you need to consider is how much room the tent has. The more space for you to get around in your tent and stand up, the more comfortable your camping trip will be. Some types of tents are roomier than others, and it depends on what you want. Keep in mind, though, that manufacturers of tents rate their tents to have more space than they actually do. For example, a tent that says it is made for three people usually fits two people and their gear comfortably. A tent that says it is made for four people typically fits three people comfortably and so on.
- Ease of Access and Setup – Most tents are freestanding tents, meaning that they are self-supporting and are easy to setup. Some tents are easy for one person to put together, some take two people or more. You will want to consider how difficult a tent is to set up. Also, most tents come with a door that zips to get in and out. However, some tents are easier to get in and out of than others.
- Rainfly and Ventilation – The rainfly is a waterproof cover, usually made of nylon that covers the mesh part of the tent on the top. The rainfly keeps unwanted moisture out of the tent and insulates it. However, the tent also needs to have good ventilation with meshed doors, windows, and ceilings to reduce condensation from forming on the tent.
- Vestibules and Footprints – A vestibule on a tent acts as an extra space in which to store gear and other accessories. It comes in handy when you need to store dirty or wet gear or even family pets. Footprints are also convenient because they are act like a ground cloth that covers the tent floor. They keep water from getting underneath the tent and extend the life of the floor.
- Pack Weight – The weight of your tent when it is stored probably is not a concern when you are car camping but it is the most important consideration when backpacking. Since backpackers carry tents on their backs, the weight of the tent is crucial. Backpackers must weigh tent features with how heavy it is. Backpacking tents are usually made of the lightest materials possible and forego some of the comfort of bigger tents.
- Tent Structure – When you setup a tent, you will want to check out what materials the tent is made out of. Most tents are nylon with aluminum poles. The poles, or guy lines, run through the outside material of the tent and attach to the ground through guy out loops and stakes. Some of the materials like zippers and seam taping need to be high-quality in order to last a while.
- Terrain – Tents are commonly made for all types of terrain. However, when you choose a spot to set up your tent on, you want to look for a spot that is fairly level. Make sure the spot is most free from rocks and debris.