The Ultimate Guide [Things to Consider in Choosing a Camping Tent]

Choosing a camping tent is a highly individualized activity. Your personal activity, the number of people who will be camping, the time of year you will be camping and the type of terrain you expect to encounter are all factors in selecting the perfect tent. Check out our best rated models and reviews below.

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Why Do You Need a Camping Tent?

The reasons for buying a camping tent are various, but they ultimately come down to three basic ones:

  • 1
    Roughing it in the open air is exciting until campers are impacted by precipitation, insects, or a need for shade where there isn’t any.
  • 2
    Cost can be a factor. When taking an extended vacation, whether backpacking, bicycling or motoring, campground facilities are usually less expensive than motels or hotels.
  • 3
    Availability of shelter. If you’re heading into relatively undeveloped areas, or areas that have few amenities, a tent is a way to protect you, your sleeping bag and your stuff from environmental conditions.

Understanding Types of Tents

  • Single Occupancy - Ideal for the cross-country backpacker or bicyclist who just needs a little shelter for the night
  • Double or Triple Occupancy - Great for that budget honeymoon, or beginning family weekend campout
  • Family Tents - This is more like a traveling pavilion. It’s unlikely to be convenient for backpacking or hiking but can serve very well for the weekend motoring trip or the backyard home expansion for those bursting-at-the-seams family gatherings. It’s also fantastic for outdoor conventions where you need to bring your own shelter
  • Summer Camping
  • Gray or Winter Camping

Tent Styles

  • Personal Tents - These are often a small tent with a bubble of sitting room near the front, and a long tail of covered space so you can stretch out in a sleeping bag. The Sierra Designs High Side is a good example and a good tent.
  • Dome Tents - Come in a variety of sizes, from personal to family. They are typically easy to set up, have a floor as well as a rain fly, and usually have mesh top and windows so you can let in the breeze or block it out. They are a good choice for solo camping for beginners.
  • Tunnel Tents - Like the dome tents, they come in a variety of sizes. Make sure when you set them up that the prevailing wind blows through it, not against the side. They have the advantage of having two exits, which is great for the family-sized tents.
  • Tipi - A time-honored traditional shape that comes in a variety of sizes. The double-wall structure of a properly configured teepee provides insulation from heat or from cold.
  • Yurt - A genuine yurt is made from hides, has an excellent floor and can hunker down in the landscape. It’s more like a moveable house than a tent. The Colorado Yurt Company makes some very nice ones. (They also make tipis and tents). 

What to Look for When Buying

Tents come in all sorts and types. They range from those fun indoor adventure tents for kids rooms to a sort of little house away from home for those hearty outdoors people who will go camping in the heart of winter. When and where you will camp, as well as how many people will occupy the tent does make a difference to the materials and type of tent that will make a good investment for you.

  • Ripstop Nylon with a Poly Coating - Super for backpacking or biking because it’s light and durable. The downside is that if not properly ventilated, you can have problems with ventilation.
  • Polyester - A little more durable than nylon, and has the happy property that it will not become heavier when exposed to water. Its initial weight is a little heavier, but after rainstorm it will be the same weight it was when it was set up
  • Polycotton - A compromise fabric that breaths better than plain polyester, but might not be quite as water resistant. Cotton tents need to be set up and allowed to “settle in” before the real camping event.
  • Cotton/Canvas tent - Incredibly durable, but very heavy and not ideal for backpacking or biking. It’s, however, the perfect material for pavilions or extended family camping.
  • Aluminum Poles - Look for tents with aluminum poles, as they tend to be more durable than fiberglass poles
  • Fiberglass Poles - Fiberglass poles are light to backpack but are prone to splintering in high winds or under the weight of snow. If you must buy fiberglass, try to purchase an extra set of poles when you buy your tent.

Look for tents that have a floor and water-proof lower sides to give you protection from water on the ground. Double layered tents will keep you drier, warmer and even cooler than single wall tents


Companies that Make Good Tents

Below are some well-known companies which manufacture good camping tents, well at least in our opinion. Their quality are of top-notch and assurance are well-guaranteed.

  • Ozark Trail provides a variety of camping gear, including tents. If you have a small budget, they make good gear at a modest price. Check out our ozark trail tents reviews to find out more about their products.
  • Coleman is often the go-to company for camp gear. Their tents are a good choice for summer campers.
  • Nemo is an excellent company for gray or winter camping gear. Their products are a little more rugged and professional than Coleman. Find out more in our Nemo tent reviews.
  • Core is a small company designing tents for real people. A nice range of tents at reasonable prices. Find out more about their models here.
  • Marmot provides designer tents for the serious camper. A little pricier, but perhaps a little more durable. Check out our marmot tent reviews for more insights.
  • Big Agnes focuses on “a sleeping bag and a pad” plus a little bit more. Their tents are designed for durability and are scaled to your needs, from singles to family sized and more. Check out this article for more information.
  • Colorado Yurt Company - Traditional tents, including Yurts and tipis that move more toward the summer or winter base camp for mobile operations than casual camping

Some Tips & Tricks for Campers

Below are some of our tips on how to stay safe and alert when you are camping.

  • 1
    Do not place your tent in a high wind position when you camp in the rain.
  • 2
    Tents are portable. Camp in an approved campsite where there’s security, or always keep someone in camp
  • 3
    If camping solo, make your camp look as if it were for two, and alert your campground security that you’re alone
  • 4
    The best way to shower when camping is to use a solar shower and a shower surround if the campground doesn’t have facilities
  • 5
    Make friends with your camping neighbors. They are your best security

If you are just about to start camping, it is important to read up this tips & tricks for beginners.