To go camping is to flee civilization to spend a night (or more) in the wilderness to sleep under the stars, accompanied by your tent and the bare minimum; a moment to relax and recharge your batteries.
It is a popular pastime that is much appreciated by many and has been for centuries. Today, camping continues to grow year after year, and many technologies are being developed to improve the equipment continually.
In the 1800s, camping equipment was cumbersome and was often transported by ship, which was not such a bad thing considering boats’ craze. Since then, however, things have greatly improved, and the lighter equipment makes camping a much more accessible and, more importantly, much more mobile activity.
In addition to becoming lighter, camping equipment has become more technical, generating new categories, new limits, and new expectations.
Every adventurer has his or her preferences and has to go through a small trial and error process before discovering which products are best suited to him or her. That’s why we created this guide to make the selection process easier for those who store for a tent before going camping under the stars.
- What size tent should I choose?
- Which tent is right for your outdoor activities?
- Which tent to choose according to the season?
- What features are required?
- Is a groundsheet required?
What Size Tent Should I Choose?
One of the first questions to ask yourself when buying a tent is how many people will sleep under its roof. Are you planning a solo expedition? For a few nights getaway with your dog and your best friend? Or are you looking for a second home, just as comfortable as your own, to host you and all your friends on a fishing weekend? No matter what adventure awaits you, you’ll need a tent adapted to the number of guests who will lie down for the night.
When deciding on the tent’s size, keep in mind that there is no standard size in the industry, especially when it comes to calculating “per person.” The size and capacity of two 4-person tents, for example, will vary significantly from company to company, and generally speaking, if you rely on the number of people suggested, you will probably be a little cramped.
If your camping group comprises people who tend to move around a lot and take up space overnight, or traveling with a lot of luggage and equipment, you will probably want to opt for a slightly larger tent than recommended. For example, three people will probably be more comfortable in a 4-person tent. That little extra space can sometimes play a significant role in the overall mood of the group.
Tent sizes usually range from 1 to 12 people. In most cases, a larger tent will also be heavier. Fortunately, with new technologies in equipment, you are now able to find a good tent that will comfortably accommodate your equipment without slowing you down on your next wilderness camping trip. Looking for a tent that is large enough for you and your group of friends? Take a look at the Tranquility 6 from Therm-a-rest.
Which Tent Is Right for Your Outdoor Activities?
Would you like to find a spacious and cozy shelter where you can rest after a day of fishing and boating on the lake? Or perhaps you are planning a long hike to pitch your tent on the shores of Lake Garibaldi before going to watch the Black Tusk after a good night’s sleep? It’s essential to find a tent that will suit your activities, whether you’re going on wilderness and backcountry trips or taking only a few steps from your car to the campsite.
If Weight and Height Don’t Need to Be Taken Into Account
For camping adventures where your car is close by, your equipment’s weight and size are not necessary. So you have many options when it comes to choosing a tent. You can choose a model that offers plenty of space and is high enough to stand upright inside.
When Height and Weight Matter
If you plan to go on a trek for one or more days, your tent’s weight and size become crucial. Going on a long trek where you will have to walk for several hours with all your gear on your back necessarily requires you to choose a lighter tent like the MSR Flylite. This model weighs less than 5 lbs and will provide you with a comfortable shelter where you can rest after a day in the great outdoors.
When you look at the features offered by a tent, be sure to check its weight, especially the weight once the product is stored or “packed,” since this weight also includes all related material (poles, clips, etc.). You can therefore rely on this figure, assuming it is the heaviest you will have to carry.
Which Tent Should I Choose Depending on The Season?
Now that you have identified your needs in terms of your tent’s weight and size, you are at the next step: choosing whether you need a 3- or 4-season tent. What’s the difference? Are there tents for 1 or 2 seasons only?
When it comes to camping, 3- or 4-season tents are the most common in seasons. There are indeed formats that are only suitable for 1 or 2 seasons, which means that they can only be used on a limited schedule. Unless you only camp in mild temperatures, where the sun is shining, you’d better choose a 3 or 4 season tent.
One Season Tents
The 1 season tents are designed to protect you from pine cones falling from the trees above you and the hungry mosquitoes waiting impatiently outside. These tents are generally only used in the summer months as they are primarily constructed of mosquito netting to maximize ventilation. They do not offer protection from wind or rain and should not be used in cool or humid temperatures.
Two Seasons Tents
This category contains tents for use from early spring to late summer when the weather includes a few showers and a cold breeze. Two-season tents usually have only one wall but are water-resistant (DWR) to keep the rain out. In the case of heavy showers, however, water can seep in. Due to the lack of ventilation, condensation can also occur at night, and equipment stored near the walls can get wet.
These tents are suitable for light excursions where the temperature is mild or provides shade for children during outdoor activities. If you are looking for a tent that offers more than essential rain protection with more elaborate technical features, you should look for a three-season tent-like Marmot’s Fortress Tent.
Three Seasons Tents
Ideal for camping from spring to fall, these tents are designed to protect you from the elements, whether it’s rain, wind, or cold. They are usually made of two layers and have sealed seams. To cope with the strong gusts of wind and other weather-related vagaries, 3-season tents have poles, straps, and more robust fasteners. They also have better ventilation than 2-season tents, allowing air to circulate on warmer days and prevent condensation. Generally speaking, they are also equipped with a vestibule at the front that can be used as additional storage space for your equipment.
For a beginner camper, 3-season tents, with all the features they offer, are a wise choice. You will not be strictly limited to summer outings and will be able to risk the adventure even when the weather is a little gloomy.
4 Season Tents
Perfect for those who want to camp year-round, regardless of location and temperature, these tents have concrete poles, and a structure made to withstand the strongest winds. The materials used in their design are incredibly durable, and their finish can protect you even in the worst weather conditions.
Even though they are presented as four seasons, it is preferable to use this type of tent in winter only since they can quickly become hot and stifling in the summer.
Because they are made of the best materials available on the market, 4-season tents are a little more expensive. However, if you are an adventurer eager to discover the most remote corners without setting limits, a 4-season tent is an investment you will not regret.
What Features and Additions Are Required?
If you can’t decide between the Triarch 2 from The North Face and the LimeLight 2 from Marmot, you can always compare each offer’s features to make a decision. Depending on the activities you plan to use your tent, different features may be useful to you.
The above tents are both 3-season 2-door tents that can and do accommodate two people. However, there is a difference of 110$ in their price. Why is there a difference of $110 in their price? It’s all a question of weight. The North Face tent is much lighter than this one from Marmot, a crucial element in backpacking where every gram counts. It’s just a detail, but for others, it makes all the difference when they’re looking to buy a new tent.
Most 3 or 4 season tents come equipped with a double roof, and this one acts as a waterproof cover to protect from rain or dew. A flysheet is installed above the tent and is usually available in two sizes:
The one covers only the tent’s ceiling and allows light to reach the inside on the sides. Even if the protection offered by this type of flysheet is not optimal, it will still keep you and your equipment dry.
The one that covers the entire tent for maximum protection from the elements. It will keep your tent completely dry, even when it rains ropes.
A vestibule is sometimes integrated into the double roof in some tents, as at the Tungsten UL in Marmot. This type of vestibule is ideal for storing your shoes and boots as well as your backpacks to keep them dry.
If some models do not include the rainfly, it is, fortunately, possible to purchase one separately. Keep in mind, however, that not all types of tents are compatible with additional vestibules. Most of them will, however, fit the tents of the brand they come from.
Other Useful Items
You should also consider the more technical elements: the material your tent is made of, the ventilation, and the inside pockets, among others. As with anything else, the more additions you add to the product, the better it will perform, but the price will also increase proportionally.
If your tent has many screen panels, it will be more ventilated. Air will circulate easily to keep you cool at night while reducing internal condensation and allowing you to enjoy the view of the starry sky.
When it comes to tent materials, those considered “all-around proof” will necessarily use high-denier materials that are lighter, stronger, and more durable. For those looking for a tent that will survive all temperatures and weather vagaries, be sure to select a tent with a high denier rating and waterproof seams.
When you’re out in the backcountry and the middle of the night, you’re surprised by a sudden urge. Groping around in the dark looking for your headlamp can be a bit of a problem, especially for your fellow travelers. The internal storage pockets are handy in these cases. You can store a host of small, useful items in them, from your cell phone to your pair of glasses. Most tents are equipped with one or two pockets, as well as a ring on the ceiling where you can hang a lamp.
Do I Need a Groundsheet?
Although tents are usually made of durable fabric, rough terrain and repeated use can cause irreparable damage. This is where the floor cloth comes in. This is a piece of fabric that is installed under the tent to protect the floor and extend its life.
Floor fabrics are sold separately and are often compatible with only one type of tent. Most brands sell ground sheeting for the models they distribute since they are handy – even indispensable – to protect your tent from holes and tears.
Now that you’ve found the perfect tent to suit your needs, nothing is holding you back! Pack your bags and go on an adventure! Or are you looking for the rest of your camping gear? Don’t forget to check our recommended tents in the link below.