Clever tips for finding the perfect camping tent

July 29, 2015

Sleeping with a view of the heavens may have romantic appeal but when mosquitoes are biting or dark clouds threaten a downpour a tent becomes a welcome haven. Here are some clever tips to help you find a comfortable tent.

Clever tips for finding the perfect camping tent

A brief introduction to tents

  • Elaborate, weighty and costly shelters are usually unnecessary except in extraordinary circumstances.
  • The classic A-frame tent is still the most common sight in the woods, but it has been joined by a variety of alternative shapes and sizes.
  • Modern designs employ lightweight nylon fabrics and collapsible metal alloy poles to create comfortable shelters that are almost completely weatherproof and usually easier to pitch than old-style shelters made of heavy materials such as canvas.
  • When choosing a tent, it is worthwhile paying a little extra for a good-quality design made to last.

Types of tent design

  • A two person tent with a low profile is best for warmth and wind resistance.
  • A high ridgeline allows for reasonable headroom and ventilation.
  • The last word in simplicity is a rectangular fly sheet or tarpaulin strung between two tree trunks. Such shelters can be made at home using a lightweight canvas or weatherproofed nylon fabric.
  • For general camping and walking trips, a lightweight dome or tunnel tent is a good choice. Most of these accommodate two to three people. The canopy is usually supported by two or three poles, there are sewn-in floors, and ventilation is good with insect-proof mesh doors and windows. Dome tents are usually free-standing, while tunnel tents often require pegs front and back only. Although both styles are normally quite stable, in strong winds they should be pegged securely to the ground.

Match the tent to the trip

The tent you choose should suit the sort of camping you expect to do. Because a tent is the heaviest item in a backpack, if you plan to make many walking trips it is prudent to select a lightweight design.

  • Compact two person tents that take up only a small ground area are good for camping where there are no established sites because in even the most rugged terrain it is usually possible to find an area flat enough for such a modest shelter.
  • If you are going "car camping" — perhaps because you have a young family unable to undertake a rugged, long-distance hike — you will be able to carry more equipment. If you can park on or near the campsite, consider purchasing a family-sized dome tent; they are easier to handle than traditional, multi-roomed, canvas models.
  • For snow camping and expeditions to gale-prone areas you will need a sturdy structure able to withstand high wind and shed rain and snow. A true mountain tent will need ample stake-out points so that the fly sheet and poles can be braced in strong gusts or against a build-up of snow. A vestibule is invaluable, both as a sheltered space for cooking and a nook to stow wet or muddy gear.
  • Elaborate, weighty and costly shelters are usually unnecessary except in extraordinary circumstances.
  • Other options include the traditional sleeping bagor its modern counterpart, the bivouac bag, which is essentially an envelope of waterproof or breathable fabric into which you slide your sleeping bag. Lightweight and compact, 'bivvy' bags are ideal for use in perpetually damp locations such as alpine regions or rainforests.

Don't let the abundance of tent choices overwhelm you! Consider this guide before making a selection and find a tent that will fit you perfectly.

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