OK, so you’ve been on a few camp outs with the family and they seem to be going well and you think this camping thing just might become a regular event. So now you think you are ready to invest in a good tent for your future trips.
By this time you’ve learned a few things, written down the type of gear you need but don’t have. You know, the things that will make your experience a little easier and less like work. (My personal tip: while at the campsite, take the time to walk around and observe what other campers are using. It’s a great way to see new gear or hacks that will help you on your next trip) You may have even hit a rainy weekend or at least spent one night in a tent while its raining. Now, this could have gone a few different ways.
1) A complete disaster. The rain came in during the night dripping from the top and sides of the tent and you woke up in a soupy wet puddle; if you were even able to get any sleep at all.
2) Not a total loss, could have been better but you only got mildly wet or damp but you still may not have been able to sleep for fear of what could happen at any moment.
3) Everything went perfect. You and the kids slept like babies and woke up dry and refreshed. (Believe it or not this can happen)
Tents come in many sizes and shapes and there are many things to think about when choosing a tent. You will need to consider the type of camping you will be doing. Will you be going alone or with a significant other? Will you be camping with your family? Is your trip going to be car or base camping (packing your equipment in your car or truck and staying in one camp site) or will it be a hiking trip? For the purposes of this article we will focus on the family camping experience.
When thinking about a tent for the family you will first need to consider how many people will be sleeping inside. Most tent manufacturers will tell you how many people will fit inside on the outer package. It will usually show a number followed by a capital P. For example, 6P, or 8P or 10P etc… or it may actually say 8 Person. It has been my experience that you should take that number and halve it to get the accurate number of people that can comfortably fit in the tent. A 6P tent will comfortably fit 3 people. Why you ask? Because many tent manufacturers determine that number by fitting the sleepers in a head to toe fashion. When laying on the ground you will have the toes of the two people next to you on both sides of your head. This number usually will not account for the space taken up by your gear which could include packs, bags, air mattresses, kids toys to name a few.
After you’ve calculated the tent size based on the number of campers, you will want to choose the shape of tent that suits your needs. Tents come in different shapes. Dome, A-frame, or wall tents. When choosing also think about standing room. A large dome tent can offer a comfortable amount of standing room. It’s easier to move around, get dressed, and it’s easier on the back.
My personal Tip: I prefer the dome tent. A dome tent offers the best rain fly coverage. I look for a tent that has a rain fly that will cover the full top and sides of the tent down to the tent floor. You only have to suffer through one hard rain to understand the benefits of a full coverage rain fly for your tent. True, you will sacrifice windows when the fly is on but you will appreciate the nice dry protected sleep you will have when it rains.
After size and type, you may want to consider price. Like many things, you get what you pay for. I choose to spend a little more and get a higher quality tent. Consider it as your home while in the woods. A more expensive tent will provide better quality material and better technology in design. Pole strength is also a consideration. I would spend some time in researching the different options that are available, and read the reviews. Many campers are pretty honest about the equipment reviews and if you pick a tent, try to find the reviews from different sites and see how many are similar. Your tents may change over time as you see new types and styles that will better suit your needs.