When you’re camping, your tent is the most important piece of equipment. Without a tent, you are nothing! You need one that will keep you dry and warm (but not too warm). There are a huge huge range ot there on the market and it can be difficult deciding what to buy but here are a few tips to help you on your way.
There are so many different tents oit there on the market that it may be difficult to know where to start. from a simple one person tent which will fit easily into your rucksack, right up to an eight berth monster, with all mod cons including spa pool and massage table ok, perhaps that’s a bit far but you get the idea!). As with everything camping related, your tent needs to fit the purpose that you’ll be using it for. If you will be carrying the tent in a rucksack, then the weight and dimensions when packed are very important. If you are camping with the family, you may want something with separate bedroom areas for privacy. All of these details can be found within the information of the packaging or from the shop when you buy your tent.
Tents will be labelled ‘one person’, ‘two person’ etc, but you should always check the actual dimensions as classifications can differ between manufacturers. You should also pay attention to how much space there is in the living area and what the height of the tent is (ie, can you stand up). Below is a summary of the different types of tents you might choose.
Frame Tents: These have the best headroom and are useful for families, and those who plan to cook inside the tent. The disadvantage of frame tents is that they are heavy and difficult to carry, so only suitable if you are travelling by car (and have a few people to hep you put it up). Frame tents are becoming less popular in favour of the more fashionable and lightweight Dome Tents.
Ridge Tent: This is a triangular shaped tent, the more traditional one that you are used to seeing. You rarely see this around nowadays, and again have given way to the more modern dome tents.
Dome Tents: A dome shaped tent, very simple to erect and very lightweight. The flexible poles thread through the tent fabric criss crossing in the middle. The poles are normally made of reinforced plastic or a metal alloy. Dome tents can range from a very compact one or two man right up to a family sized tent with room to stand. They are relatively inexpensive and due to the compact size when packed they are very easy to transport. higher dome tents are more vulnerable in high winds than a frame tent so care should be taken in poor weather.
Hoop Tents: These are a cross between a ridge and dome tent. They are strong with room inside, they can be multiple hoop, also known as a tunnel tent, or single hoop which is lighter weight and easier to carry. Hoop tents are often favoured by mountain climbers because of their strngth in high winds and extreme conditions.
Geodesic Tents: A geodesic tent is similar to a Dome tent, but with a slightly different structure which gives them greater strength in high winds. Often slightly more expensive than a standard dome tent.
Vis-a-vis: Tents with sleeping areas on either side of the main central area. These are generally dome style nowadays but you do occasionally see a ridge style vis-a-vis tent.
Touring Tents: Touring tents can be extended ridge tents or extended dome tents. They normally have a porch area, which is very useful for cooking, (although going in tents should only be done if it is safe to do so, and you should consult the manufacturer if you aren’t sure). Touring tents often have windows and are the tent of choice for people who spend long periods camping.
Most tents have 2 layers. The first a breathable ‘inner’ providing warmth and keeping the insects off, while the ‘outer’ fysheet or ’skin’ is the waterproof layer that goes on the outside. Having a two layer structure also prevents moisture and condensation building up. These layers can be made from a wide range of materials, the higher end of the price range tends to be the best insulated, most breathable and best quality and would be advised for extreme weather conditions. The higher price ranges will also be home to tents with the best quality seams and zips as these are often the first things to go.
The strength of the poles is an important factor if you want your tent to last. Modern tents are extremely lightweight but you can often tell the difference between poor quality and good quality poles. As a rule, you generally get what you pay for. If you are using your tent to go to a festival and don’t tend to do much else with it, then you can pick up a 2 man tent from about £25. If you are looking for something that you can use a few times of year in all conditions, then prices can go up to about £500 for the top quality tents.
Whatever your choice, remember to allow enough space for your stuff. A 2 man tent is often big enough for 2 people but if you both have big rucksacks or equipment, you might be better thinking about a larger tent to allow for this.