How to Choose a Tent for Camping


All tents are not created equal. Even among excellent quality, well designed tents, it’s all about how you plan to use them. Car camping tents are different from tents intended for backpacking.

Backpacking tents offer a lot of specialized features to make carrying the tent easier. Camping tents, on the other hand, offer a different set of features because they often go from car to campsite with very little hiking in between.

Cabin and dome styles are the most popular types of tents for camping because their size and shape make them comfortable for camping.

Cabin style tents have walls that are pretty much vertical so they provide the most headroom. If you like standing up to get dressed or you want room overhead while you’re sleeping, a cabin style tent is probably your best bet. Dome styles have walls that are slightly less than vertical so they’re more compact but sacrifice some room. Dome tents are popular with motorcycle riders who want to keep things lighter but don’t want to sacrifice too much room.

Tents really range in price in both styles, starting at quite low prices and going easily up to the $1,000 range. Whether you’re in the market for the Rolls Royce of tents or looking for a bargain, knowing how to buy a quality tent will get you the most bang for your buck.

Look at the poles first—are they made of aluminum or fiberglass? Aluminum is much stronger but also much heavier and more expensive. If you plan on using your tent a lot and in windy conditions, aluminum is the best bet if you don’t care about weight. Clips to attach poles are more convenient but sleeves are more supportive and can make your tent’s interior space larger. Sleeve also can take more time to set up. A combination of the two is a popular choice. Most tents stand on their own after assembly, which means they require no stakes unless strong winds are an issue. We recommend tents that stand on their own to the car-camping crowd because they’re easy to clean too—simply open the doors and shake it out!

Speaking of doors, look for strong zippers that easily function without catching. Getting stuck inside your tent is not a fun way to start the morning, and neither is ripping a hole in your tent. YKK zippers are well-known as being the best zippers around, produced in a 100% vertically integrated company, down to the boxes they use to deliver their zippers to manufacturers. Zippers shouldn’t have puckering along the teeth but should lie flat and function effortlessly. Starting off on the wrong foot isn’t worth it with a zipper!

The tent floor is one of the most important parts of your tent. Without a strong tent floor, you’ll quickly find tears, rips, and holes punctured through and your tent will be useless. Check for durability of the floor fabric and seams for strong, waterproof stitching.

The last thing you absolutely need to look for is a rainfly. Getting soaking wet on a camping trip is a miserable way to spend a weekend so make sure the rain fly sufficiently covers the tent. More expensive tents have a full-coverage rainfly whereas cheaper tents might skimp. Make sure that your rainfly has a protective waterproof coating and that the tent does too if it’s not a full-coverage fly.

After those basics, you can consider add-ons like guyout loops, storage pockets, awnings, and interior room dividers. These may not be make-or-break items for most campers, but if you want or need them, be sure to take time to check them out throughly.

The best way to check out a tent is in person—no amount of reviews from online sellers can tell you what a floor fabric feels like the way holding it in your hands does. We have a wide selection of tents at Uncle Sam’s so come check ours out! Our knowledgable staff can help you make the best choice.

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  1. […] are hundreds of kinds of tents with thousands of different combinations of features. Choosing a tent for someone else can be difficult unless you know what type of tent and features they really want. […]

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