When you’re out on the trail, a tent is one of your most valuable pieces of gear. It gives you shelter from the elements and a safe, comfortable spot to sleep. Whether you’re planning on serious backpacking or just car camping, the number of new tents on the market can be a little overwhelming. Never fear: Gear Guy is here with some valuable tent buying tips, plus a look at a few of his favorite new tents.
THE PRICE IS RIGHT
Sure, you can spend $500 on a new tent, but one that costs less than $200 might be perfect for your needs and likely will last many years. Generally, the more you spend, the lighter-weight and more durable the tent will be. So find the happy medium among light, durable and affordable.
If you’re looking for a solo tent, you’ll need at least 15 to 25 square feet of living/sleeping space. Want a two- or three-person tent or larger? Tack on an additional 10 to 15 square feet per person. And it’s not just people you need space for. Think about parking spots for your backpack and boots. Attached vestibules created by the rain fly usually take care of this stuff.
THREE-SEASON OR FOUR?
On the tags, you’ll read something like: “designed for three-season use.” What that means is it’ll handle everything except gnarly winter conditions. Odds are, a three-season tent is all you’ll ever need. Plus, four-season tents are often heavier and single-walled, making them generally less breathable — which is a bad thing for camping in warm climates.
EASY DOES IT
Keep in mind: Tents that have color-coded quick clips and slip-in sleeves will be easier — and faster — to pitch. Don’t underestimate how important “easy” is after a long day on the trail.
WEIGHT A MINUTE
If all you’re doing is car camping, weight doesn’t matter. But backpacking? That’s a different story. Gear Guy’s advice: Go with a two-man tent and share the sleep space — and the load — with your buddy. For instance, you carry the tent body while your friend carries the poles and rain fly. Just try not to go over 4 to 5 pounds per person.
FREESTANDING OR NOT
A freestanding tent is one that doesn’t require tent stakes to pitch it. That said, you should still always count on staking out your tent (and rain fly) to keep it in place and to maximize airflow and avoid excess condensation within your tent.
For summer camping, consider buying a tent with lots of breathable mesh. Mesh equals lots of airflow and a cooler, easier sleep for you!
SO HOW MUCH DOES IT REALLY WEIGH?
Tent makers are always competing for who can sell a lighter-weight tent. And on their tags you’ll see info for “minimum trail weight” and “packaged weight.” “Minimum trail weight” usually means just the tent body, rain fly and poles — no stakes or stuff sacks. “Packaged weight” means everything your tent came with. Use the advertised weight only as a general guideline when shopping for a tent.
JUST FOR FUN
Here’s a tent that totally breaks all the rules, but still, it’s really awesome.