How to Buy a Tent – Official Guide to Camping Comfort

 

New to camping or looking to replace your tent that is no longer working?   To get the best experience during your camping trip,  you should be picky and buy a tent based on criteria specific to your lifestyle.

In this  complete guide to how to buy a tent, you will learn what to look for and what you should consider before purchasing.  These include your budget, needs, and preferences.  The tent  capacity, seasonality,  interior design, functionality, and tent accessories are all factors that will impact your buying decision.

{Disclosure- This article contains affiliate links. I make a small commission from the items purchased from Etsy or Amazon. This helps me to keep AZ Camping Experience up and running; your purchases through Amazon or Etsy are greatly appreciated!}

 

Evaluate your Budget

You should buy the most quality tent that you can possibly afford.  This will save you money in the long run.

A cheap tent might work well when the conditions are pristine, but as soon as the rain or wind starts, you’ll be miserable.  A quality tent  will stand up to harsh weather leaving you nice & toasty inside.

Tents can be anywhere from $40 to over $1,000.  With AOA, we use our tents for 5 months straight so we have to buy the most quality tents to stand up to the weather and the wear and tear from our campers.  Your final cost for the tent is also based on the size, what type of weather you’ll be camping in, and how often you use it.  If you will be tent camping every weekend, then you really should spend the extra money on a quality tent so it will last a long time.

 

Check out Amazon’s Highest Rated Camping Tent.

Camping Tent Capacity

Starting your search with tent size will be the most efficient way to go initially.   How many people will be using the tent?    Do you have dogs to include?  Will you store gear inside the tent?  The average tent capacity ratings make for a snug fit. So if you buy a two person tent, it is likely you will be sleeping right next to one another.

Also, tent capacity ratings are not standardized.  Kind of like trying on the same size of jeans and both fitting differently, tents can vary too.  A four person camping tent by one brand can be vastly different in size from another brand selling a four person camping tent.

Additional things to consider include the size of the campers.  Of course kids are going to take up less space than an adult.   Larger adults will need more space than an average adult and so on.

Finally, you should consider sleeping habits.  There are some people who do not like small spaces, some who toss and turn, and others who need the room to spread out.

Camping Tent Seasonality

Tent seasonality  is more of a rating system for tent manufacturers and not always necessarily the number of seasons the tent can be used.

The 4 most common tent ratings  include: 1-Season, 2-season, 3-season, and 4 season tents.

1-Season Tent–  In this case, #1 does not stand for the best.  This rating is the lowest for a reason.  It is by far the least quality tent which is fine for folks who camp when it is nice and warm outside. The 1- season tent may keep the mosquitos out but this is about it.

2-Season Tent –Like a 1-season tent, the 2-season is extremely basic.  This tent comes with our without a rain fly.  Even with a rain fly though, it won’t hold up under a heavy storm or winter conditions.

3-Season Tent – These are the most versatile tents and the ones that are purchased the most often.  A 3-season tent is the best way to go if you want to get the most bang for your buck.  In this case, the 3-season tent will work well for summer, spring and fall. You’ll stay dry in a harsh rain storm, yet stay comfortable enough during the summer in the well ventilated tent.  This tent is not ideal for cold winter conditions, but if you bundle up you could make it work.  Finally, these tents typically come supplied with a rain fly so if there is a brand that doesn’t have one, don’t buy it.

4-Season Tent – The 4 season rating on this tent means the fabric is durable and can stand up to harsh winter conditions. Typically with a 4- season tent, it is double layered making it extremely weatherproof and waterproof.  Extreme weather conditions like snow storms don’t affect these all-weather camping tents. The downside to the 4-Season tent is that they are heavier and are more expensive though the 1,2,and 3 season tents.

 

Camping Tent Interior Design

The interior design of the tent is also important to consider since it will affect how comfortable you are in general and not only when you’re sleeping.  If you’re a backpacker, then having a nice warm place to sleep may be your only concern. Families however will want to dress, stand, play games, and store extra gear, etc. in their tent.

Tents can have very different interior layouts even with the same capacity ratings. On average a single adult will be comfortable with 20-25 square feet of living space. This is based on them lying flat and not on their side.

Volume – This is the amount of space inside of a tent.  You will have less room with walls that are steeply angled (and less weight).

Floor Dimensions – The square footage of floor space. For example,  a 4-person tent on average has a floor space ranging from 55 square feet to 65 square feet.  A handy tip to keep in mind is to  take  the number of people staying in the tent and add one or two spots to make sure you have plenty of room.

Peak Height – This is the highest point of a tent.  Depending on the type of tent you get, the peak height may not always be in the middle.  If you have a tall person in the group, this is a factor that should definitely be considered.

Wall Shape – As noted earlier with volume, the wall shape affects the livability. The more vertical the walls are in the tent, the more space there is to move around, etc. Steeply angled tents like an A frame will limit the volume you have inside the tent.

Room Layout – This is how the interior space is divided. On some of the large family tents, there are  room dividers to create separate living/sleeping areas.

Doors – Small families are usually fine with one door; those camping in larger groups might benefit from a tent with two or more.

Windows –Do you want a view of the great outdoors while in the tent?  I prefer tents with windows since it allows in more light and improves ventilation.  The extra light can also make a tent seem larger.

Ventilation – This relates to how much air is coming in and distributed throughout your tent. Many tents come with mesh windows, ceilings, and doors to allow for cross ventilation.  While you are sleeping, it is important to keep a mesh window open so your tent stays well ventilated.

 

Additional Camping Tent Factors

This is the tent I stay in during the AOA camping season. Nice and roomy!

 

Here are a few other considerations you should make when buying a tent.

 

Cabin/Dome – These two shapes are popular for large groups; they are designed to accommodate many people at once.  The Cabin style has vertical walls which maximizes height and the vertical living space.  The Dome is more durable than the Cabin, but has slightly less vertical living space.

  • Materials – Tents are made from a variety of materials including cotton (canvas), nylon, felt and polyester. The Higher denser materials have greater durability and weather-proofing.  Some of the waterproof materials  include polyester, nylon, and polyethylene to name a few.

Poles – The  materials of the poles and how they work can affect the weight, height, and strength of the tent.  The poles will also determine how easy the tent will be to set up and take down.  With many tents, the poles have sections that are linked by an elastic cord.  Poles that have heavier materials may be connected by steel wire or springs.   The pop up tents have the poles already inserted vs. more traditional tents where the poles are inserted through sleeves or hooks on the tent which clasp onto the poles.

Rainfly – It is always a good idea to buy a tent with a rainfly. There are two types- a roof-only rainfly for better visibility or an extended-rainfly for better weather protection.

Vestibules – A tent vestibule is an overhang outside your tent’s door so you can stash your gear out of the way and can also be a place to change out of wet muddy gear before getting into your tent.  The types include a front and side vestibule- both of which rely on the structure of your tent to hold them in place.

Interior Loops/Pockets – Most family tents come with a variety of interior loops and pockets. With ceiling loops you can hang a lantern and place your cellphone, keys, etc. in the side pockets.

Best Camping Tent for Couples

The Coleman Sundome 2 Person Tent is a very quality tent at an affordable price.  Just under $50, it is easy to set up, holds up well to rainy and windy weather, is waterproof and has excellent ventilation.  As you can see, those who have used the tent have very positive feedback.

Best Camping Tent for Families

Sticking with the dependable Coleman brand, the Coleman Sundome 6 Person tent is the #1 Best Seller on Amazon for camping tents.  You can set up this tent in minutes, it is spacious enough for 2 queen size air beds, has patented corner welds and inverted seams to keep rain out,  is waterproof and has a 6 foot peak height.

 

Best Camping Tent for Large Groups

 

The Ozark Trail 10-Person Family Cabin Tent is another quality tent at an affordable price.  This tent has plenty of space with dimensions It is 20 ft X 10 ft. X 78″ H. Peak height at the center is 78″ and is big enough to fit 3 queen size air mattresses inside.  There is one center door and two side doors that have separate entrances for additional privacy.  With six windows and two side doors, the tent will be well ventilated and you’ll have panoramic views.

 

Accessorize for Additional Comfort & Security

Tent Footprint

A tent footprint is a ground cover that you use under your tent to prevent wear and tear.  Using a footprint will protect the bottom of your tent from twigs, tiny rocks, and other debris.

You can buy a footprint that is custom to your tent. If you want to save some money you can use  a lightweight tarp or a sheet of Tyvek (which is also lightweight).

The OUTAD Waterproof Camping Tarp comes in 4 different colors, is inexpensive, and can also be used for picnics or as a sunshade.

Gear Loft

Eureka! Universal Dome Style Tent Gear Loft

If you need more storage in your tent, then a gear loft will give you more space to tuck your stuff away. With the Eureka! Dome style tent gear loft, you can organize and store your gear above your head.  Using a loft keeps those little items- like keys, cell phones, and headlamps from getting lost.

 

 

 

 

 

Stakes and Anchors

You may need to purchasing additional stakes and anchors to ensure your tent stays in place with high winds. Look for quality stakes like Eurmax that are heavy duty, are made of galvanized steel and have milled points that can go into the dirt easily.

Tent Repair Kit – A  rip in your tent ruin your trip so make sure you are prepared.  Make minor repairs with a kit like the Coghlan’s Nylon Tent Repair Kit . It  includes nylon & mesh patches, nylon thread, a sewing needle, seam seal, and more.

Floor Mat – Nothing is worse than mud and dirt in your tent. You can keep your tent clean with a floor mat like Coghlan’s Inside/Outside Tent MatUse this mat to take your shoes off before entering your tent or use it inside to set your muddy gear on.

Summary

Between researching and making decisions on the type of tent you want can be a bit daunting.  Our hope is that this guide in how to buy a tent has helped you considerably in your next purchase.  Here is a rundown of what was covered:

  • Budget – What is the most you can spend for a quality tent?
  • Size – How many people will be using your tent?
  • Seasonality – What will the weather and conditions be like the majority of time while your camping?
  • Livability – Do you prefer more room to move around or just enough space to sleep?
  • Additional Features – Do you want any additional features like extra doors, windows, interior pockets, vestibules, etc?

Answer each of these questions when you’re in the process of buying a tent to ensure you select the best tent for your needs.

 

Have thoughts or an experience you’d like share on buying a tent?  Please leave your comment below.

 

Happy Camping!

4 Responses

  1. Nick

    Thank you for this article! I was looking for a huge tent because I planned doing a trip with my friends. We have already camped at several places but oftentimes, the tent was too small for us. Usually, we are about 6-7 man travelling around. I will definitely have a look s the Ozark Trail tent for 10 persons. Maybe we should buy a new one! Thanks

    • Misty

      Hi Nick- thanks for your comment!  I’m sure with 6 or 7 of your buddies in a tent, the Ozark Trail for 10 would be more comfortable.  

  2. EdsonN

    I have learned that budget is very important, if you want to buy a quality tent.  I also need to be mindful of the size of the people who will be in Tent. I want to move about freely and have plenty of room.
    At first knew little about Camping Tents, but now I have more insight so I can advise my friends on what to look for, when buying Camping Tents.

    Thank you for the informative details about camping tents!

    • Misty

      Hello there- thanks for your comments!  I am glad you found this article helpful.  

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