6 Questions to Ask Yourself When Buying a Tent

Photo credit: Gideon Haden ChomphosyThere aren’t many activities that are enjoyable solo, with a large group of friends, and also with the entire family. Camping, however, checks all of those boxes. Of course, a solo backpacking trip along the Ozark Highlands Trail, a group camping trip along the Buffalo National River, and a family camping trip at Devil’s Den all call for different types of tents. Different tents are suitable for different occasions, and while there’s certainly some overlap, it’s best to buy a tent that best suits your needs. Of course, not everyone knows how to buy a tent. Here are a few questions to ask yourself that can help you buy a tent that’s right for you.

How big of a tent do I need?

Most tent manufacturers include the maximum recommended number of people that a tent accommodates in the name of a tent. For example the Limelight 2p from Marmot is a 2-person tent, and the Limelight 3P from Marmot is a 3-person tent. This is a good place to start when choosing a tent, but there are other things to keep in mind as well. If you are larger than average, if you plan on sharing your tent with a pet, storing gear in your tent, or you prefer more space when you sleep, you might need a larger tent. Also keep in mind maximum height and volume which determine the livable space in a tent.

In what types of weather will I use my tent?

Do you camp in hot weather? Do you camp in cold weather? Do you camp in the rain or the snow? Your tent is supposed to keep you safe from the elements, but only if you have the right tent for the job. A tall cabin style tent made for summer camping trips with the family won’t provide adequate protection in a blizzard.

Determine the types of weather you’re most likely to camp in and then choose a 3-season, 3/4-season, or 4-season tent. 3 season tents tend to have more mesh and are cooler than 4-season tents. This is great for summer camping, but makes it difficult to stay warm in the winter.

Keep in mind that not all rainflies are the same. There are partial and full coverage rainflies which affect protection from wind and water as well as insulation and breathability of a tent. Also consider that low profile dome tents, while less spacious, provide more stability in high winds.

How heavy should my tent be?

The weight of your tent only really matters if you plan on hiking with your tent. Car camping tents can be heavy since you won’t be carrying your tent more than a few feet. Backpacking tents must be light, however. Weight shouldn’t necessarily be a deciding factor if you plan on mostly car camping, but the weight of your tent is one of the most important factors for backpacking.

How often will I use my tent?

This is an important question that many people don’t consider. The amount you’re willing to spend on a tent should increase directly with how often you plan on using that tent. Well-designed tents made of high quality materials last longer, but they tend to be more expensive. If you camp every weekend, or want your tent to last a decade or more, invest in a high quality tent. If you camp once a year, save the money and get a more affordable tent.

Do I need a footprint for my tent?

Tent footprints are great, but you don’t always need one. Drive up camp sites and campgrounds are pretty well groomed, and won’t do much damage to your tent. Backcountry camping and rough, rocky terrain, however, can rip your tent apart. A footprint protects your tent from rips, tears, and abrasions. It also provides an extra barrier from moisture.

What features are important to you?

Do you want gear storage? Look for a tent with a gear loft, pockets, and vestibules. Do you want access from both sides of your tent? Get a tent with two doors. How important is easy set up? Tents with pole clips are much easier to set up than tents with sleeves. What about headroom? Think about all the features that you want in a tent, and find the tent that meets your needs.


It’s much easier to buy a tent when you can actually try it out. Shopping online is convenient, but shopping in a store allows you to see, feel, and sit in a tent before buying it. We would love to help you find the tent that’s right for you. Stop by and us in Fayetteville, Arkansas!

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