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How to choose a tent properly: The complete guide

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When camping or hiking, you need a tent where you can sleep after your day outdoors. The tent should provide us with the most comfortable shelter and protection against adverse weather conditions and in summer very good ventilation.

The tropic, resistant to damage and UV rays, and the waterproof floor are other important features of a good tent. When choosing a tent, the basic question is: “what size of tent will be optimal for us?” How many people will use it? Will it be transported on the back or transported in the trunk of the car.

But how do you know which tent is best suited to your camping style?
In this article, you will find the decisive elements which will help you how to choose a tent for your camping, hiking or expedition tent.

Before buying a tent, you have to ask yourself the right questions.

External conditions: what type of climate will I encounter (humid, windy, etc.)? How long is the trek or hike?
Capacity: how many people will fit in the tent?
Weight: am I able to leave with a heavy tent or do I have to opt for a lighter model (therefore generally more expensive)

What does the cost/benefit factor mean?

The answer is simple to this question: does the tent you are tempted to buy have the potential to leave you “in the lurch”?

For example: buying an inexpensive tent to use in a “Campus Party” is a great deal, without a doubt, however using the same assessment to camp in the mountain, surely your suffering will teach you.

A prudent camper is one who takes pride in what he has prevented himself from suffering by buying the tent, and not just for the price he has paid. The “cost/benefit” factor is simply the amount to pay for a tent to be fair so that the camper is prevented from bad weather such as wind, rain, logistics, thermal comfort and so on.

How to choose a tent?


The important technical elements for choosing a tent :

1. Purpose of using a tent

When buying a new tent, you should bounce back from the most basic division. From the imaginary category to which the product belongs. Right now, it pays to ask questions like where I will camp, how often, in what climatic conditions, and with whom? The answers to these questions will help you how to choose a tent from the following types.

1. Camping  tent
2. Bivouac hiking,
3. Ultra-light hiking,
4. Expedition/Mountain tent

Camping

Do you stay for several days in the same place?
Opt for a camping tent. It’s your home, so choose a comfortable model, especially if you are in a vehicle! Camping tents are heavier than hiking tents, but offer more comfort for the occupants and allow you to store all your equipment.

Hiking & roaming Hiking & roaming

Your program is roaming in hiking, trekking, cycle-hiking, canoe-camping? Your plan is to cross a massif, to explore the mountains? Are you planning to bivouac, that is, to sleep each night in a new place? Do you carry the tent in your backpack or carry your shelter in bicycle bags? Opt for a lightweight, easy-to-assemble and weather-resistant hiking tent. Use 3 seasons (spring, summer, autumn).

Ultra-light hike Ultra-light hike

Are you a fan of ultra-light walking (MUL), BUL mountain biking, Bikepacking? Are you planning to take part in an adventure raid? Choose an ultralight tent! The most efficient tents weigh less than a kilo per person. These tent fabrics are technical and made with innovative materials. They need to be careful because they are more fragile than other tent models. They resist bad weather (wind, rain), but are not designed to face harsh conditions. Uses 2/3 seasons.

Expedition & High Mountain Expedition / Base Camp

These are 4 season tents, that is to say capable of withstanding bad weather, all year round and in all climatic conditions. They face strong winds, support the weight of snow, frost and temperature differences. They accompany you and protect you in the most difficult conditions.

Grouped in the same category, they have various uses – Examples:

  • Base camp tent in the Himalayas,
  • Assault tent for climbing a summit in the Alps,
  • Expedition tent to explore Spitsbergen, crossing Greenland,
  • Around the world requiring a tent capable of withstanding heavy use.
  • These tents are designed to travel all over the world, at all latitudes and altitudes.

2. Construction and design

When buying a tent, you should also be sufficiently aware of the construction elements. We mainly mean the materials from which the individual parts are made. Each such accessory may have different properties.

Construction

First we start with the tent frame or folding rods.

Laminate rods – Cheaper variant. They weigh more and are more prone to breakage. However, the damaged part can be easily replaced.

Dural rods – Better workmanship combined with lower weight and higher strength. You will pay extra for the duralumin construction.

Coats

The second decisive element will be the type of tent design or the upper part. Polyamide and polyester materials clearly lead in this direction, so do synthetics. You may come across different models.

Single skin tents More storable and lighter materials. Pay attention to their quality breathability due to the accumulation of moisture in the tent. They are often used on expeditions and are associated with a higher purchase price.

Double-skinned tents – These are far more accessible. They consist of an inner atrium and an outer layer called the tropico. The hall must be breathable and at the same time protect from the wind blowing under the tropics.

It includes vents. When staying in colder weather, choose fabric atriums. Some tropics can withstand rupture and fire. In the case of winter camping, it pays to invest in an elongated tropic with a collar, due to the accumulation of snow inside. The base should also be taped or welded seams to prevent water leakage.

The floor

The last important structural element of the tent is the floor, for which it is necessary to pay attention to the appropriate water resistance and overall composition. You can choose from two categories of materials.

PVC floor – It is created by intertwining individual PVC strips with each other. It is more prone to damage in the form of cracking, which reduces water resistance.

Polyester and polyamide flooring – Higher quality material with appropriate durability and higher purchase price.

3. Difficulty and speed of tent construction

When choosing a tent, be sure to also look at the instructions on how the model is composed. Focus on whether you can set up the tent yourself and how long it will take.

Nowadays, of course, tents with a simple attachment system can be purchased, so the time of setting up a tent is significantly reduced. There are also self-folding tents, which you just need to unpack from the package, and, thanks to special flexible construction, they stand up on their own.

4. Size and weight of the tent

It is a basic criterion to take into account depending on your mode of travel. When hiking, the notion of lightness is crucial, because it is you who carry your tent on your back. If you are roaming, choose a light tent! The more compact the tent, the less space it will take up in your backpack!

Weight gain is necessarily at the expense of habitability and resistance of materials. Depending on your program and your mode of travel, the weight criterion is not the only one to favor.

5. Protection

The tent is your home. It protects you from the elements. The materials used are essential criteria for the choice of your tent. They determine the solidity, the durability, the degree of protection of your shelter. They influence the final weight and volume, as well as the price.

A tent must be:
Solid: resistant to wind, tears, abrasive soils.
Waterproof: it protects from humidity and rain.
Protective: against flying and crawling insects.
A bulwark: against UV ultraviolet rays

5. Ventilation and breathability

If the places where you are going to camp are from mild to high temperatures (tropical climates), tent ventilation must be taken into account. There is no tent yet that does not face condensation. Therefore, pay attention to the method and quality of ventilation.

The ventilation system helps maintain the right temperature inside the tent, and above all removes the accumulated moisture that is created by our stay in the tent. For this reason, two-layer tents are certainly more practical, as the space between the outer and inner shell of the tent allows good air circulation.

6. Practical Accessories

You can buy a plethora of different tent models, basically equipped with practical accessories that contribute to more comfortable use. At the same time, you have the option to purchase a number of accessories. You can be inspired by these tips below.

  • Pins – Most tents also have a package of pins to attach to the ground. The ideal choice in this direction is pins in the shape of the letter “Y” or square. Long “U” shaped pegs are used in the snow.
  • Repair Kit – A kit consisting of several patches and tools used to repair a torn tent.
  • Outbuildings – Some models allow the purchase of outbuildings in the form of halls. Sometimes such accessories can look like ordinary pole tents.
  • Foodprints – Special tent pads that increase protection against cold and moisture.
  • Impregnating preparations – A variety of sprays that increase the water-resistance of the tent and protect the surface from pollution.

Other considerations : How to choose a tent

The seams: They are an elementary point to review since from them they can be torn, broken or be an entrance step for the water. See that they are double and / or heat-sealed to block water access.

The floor: Make it firm and dense enough not to let the water pass. It is recommended to protect it by placing the tent in a soft place or by putting some material underneath such as a tarp. Canvas or nylon can be used to give you additional protection from moisture, especially in rainy weather.

The rods or studs: There are several qualities but it is suggested and preferred that they be light and resistant. The firmness of the tent depends on them, especially against strong winds. They can be made of duralumin (light and resistant, especially in cold climates) or fiberglass (the most common on the market, cheaper but less resistant).

How to care for the tent:

Once you have acquired your tent, you only need to take care of it from the typical arch-enemies:

Humidity. Always keep your carp dry otherwise it can rot or fungus. After a rain shake it well before storing it and at your next stop let it dry a bit.
Wind. It always puts stress on the tent materials and can end up tearing it. Try to place yourself in a place where you can protect yourself from it.
Dirt. If you are not going to use it for a long time, try to remove organic materials, food remains, or any element that contributes to its deterioration. Never use a washing machine. Instead a sponge and mild soap will suffice to remove the dirt without spoiling its waterproof properties.

Extra emergency tips:

If a rod breaks you can always have this repair kit with you that will get you out of trouble or creatively seek a similar solution.
In the event of a tear, it is imperative to patch the hole immediately. Use duct tape (the silver one with cloth fiber) since it works excellent and does not allow water to enter.

To reinforce impermeability, there are many sprays on the market that can improve resistance against water. Consider it especially if your tent is cheap and not waterproof enough.

Features of how to choose a tent

How to choose a tent based on our experience, we believe that a good tent should meet the following criteria:

  • flysheet – waterproof (water resistance at a sufficient level is 3000 mm water column)
  • good ventilation
  • vestibule
  • entrance to the tent shielding from rain
  • dense mosquito nets
  • the right number of pockets
  • seams – laminated or glued (if the seams are not properly and permanently glued, the waterproof tropics will be useless)
  • easy tent unfolding (solutions based on an integrated bedroom with a tropic are optimal)
  • tailored to the needs number of entrances to the tent (two can be ventilated) and the number of vestibules
    service brand (the tent may be damaged, so it’s good when we have a place to fix it)

If you need more information, we recommend a very detailed guide on how to choose a camping tent and winter tent:

Related article:

Best camping tent: which one to choose?
How to choose the best hiking tent?
Best Winter Camping Tent For The Winter Season
How to choose your best mountain camping tent

 

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