What Makes a Good Camping Tent Good
Camping tent features you should look for.
Picking a good camping tent depends mostly on your camping needs, and isn’t always an easy choice; that $100 Walmart tent looks as good as that $500 North Face tent, so which one is right for you?
Before you can even begin to consider tent choices, you need to determine what kind of tent would best suit you, your family, and your camping style.
Now, the question is … what features make a good camping tent?
Family and Multi-person Camping Tent Structural features:
Quality Construction and Materials.
- Tub Flooring – Tub flooring means the tent floor is one piece of material, with no seams, and it typically extends approx. 6″ up each side. This is a waterproofing feature. With no seams there is much less chance of water leaks or seepage from the ground, or from water run-off at the tent corners.
- Tent Poles – Aluminum tent poles are stronger and more durable than carbon composite or fiberglass poles. They are a little heavier, but since most family tent camping is at drive-up sites, this slight weight difference is more than compensated by the extra strength and durability of the aluminum tent poles.
- Tent Fabrics – High-denier ripstop-nylon fabric is the choice for most quality family tents. It means the fabric is very tightly woven, and cut or rip resistant. Cheaper, thinner “discount store” tent materials will feel thin and may not be true ripstop nylon – be sure to check the labels.
- Reinforced seams and stitching
Good Seam Stitching
| Poor Seam Stitching
Tent stitching and material reinforcement are very important. And easy to spot. All stress-points should be reinforced, and all seam stitching should at least be 4 layers thick. That would be each piece doubled over before it was stitched – as can be seen on the far left photo above.
If you see seam stitching and reinforcements like those in the photo on the far right – you are looking at a very cheaply made tent that will not be a bargain, no matter how cheaply you buy it.
- Loops, straps, and pockets – A good family camping tent will have straps and loops everywhere; hold-back straps for the door(s) and windows, loop straps for tent pole attachment and guy-lines. If can be opened or tied – if should have a hold-back or loop strap.
Accessory pockets are a nice touch too. They offer places to put small items, like; wallets and flashlights, and such.
- The Rainfly – A full-coverage fly offers better weather protection than roof-only styles. Smaller roof-only rainflys let water drip down onto the sides of the tent, or at the base perimeter – to be soaked up by corner seams.
- Vestibules – A good camping tent will have a front entrance vestibule – to allow tent traffic to go in and out without exposing the entrance directly to the weather. They are also handy for storing wet or excess gear, without cluttering the interior space of the tent.
- Zippers – This feature is as important as the tent fabric and seams. Check out the door zippers, (and window zippers if they have them), if they look like the ones on your trousers – than they will be more prone to breaking and binding. And double zippers that let you open a flap from either direction is a good indicator of quality.
Livability and Tent Set-up Features:
These are the features that are particular to your type of tent camping, and tent needs.
- Tent and Pack Size – The first consideration – tent size, is related to your family size and preferences. Such as; do you want one large “big room” tent, or do you want one with “rooms” or even add-on rooms. Pack size refers to how big the packed tent is. Small cars and other restricted transportation issues could make pack size a big deal.
- Head Room, or Peak-height – Obviously this refers to the stand-up room in the tent. Is the roof tall enough to stand up in most of the interior, or only at the center of the center room. Is this important to you, or only a bonus?
- Ease of Access – Does the tent have one door or two? What shape is the door, and how easy is it to zip open and shut? Cabin-style tents tend to shine in this area.
- Windows and Ventilation – Air flow inside the tent is a big deal, and not just in hot weather climates. Mesh panels are often used in the ceiling, doors and windows. This allows views and enhances cross-ventilation to help manage condensation.
- Ease of Set-Up – A tent’s pole structure usually determines how easy or hard it is to set-up. Fewer poles allow faster setups. It’s also easier to attach poles to clips than it is to thread them through “continuous” pole sleeves. Many tents offer a combination of both clips and short pole sleeves in an effort to balance strength, ventilation and setup ease.
When you are shopping for your family or other camping tent, make sure price isn’t the only thing you consider. A good tent is an investment both in future years of service and your camping enjoyment. When you have decided on a tent style, and your budget, then it’s time to check out the construction and features to make sure that good deal you found really is a good deal – not a cheap bargain tent you will regret. Probably sooner rather than later.
NOTE: The pictures below show three common tent styles, but they are also Amazon links you can use to see the specifics about each kind of tent, and most importantly, real customer reviews.
Sizes; 2 to 10-person
Wedge or Trail
Tents are light
1 or 2-man tents
Large and roomy
with multiple rooms
or one big one
Of course these are not the only tent styles available. They were just picked to give you an idea of general designs. You will find dozens of variations of these styles.
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Basic Tent Information:
- Camping Tent Styles – Cabin, Dome/Umbrella, Winged, A-tent, fair-weather, Extreme-Camping. See the basics
- How to pick a good camping tent - Features a good tent should have, and some that are specific to a camping style
- Kid’s Camping Tents - Kid’s love their independence, adding a kid’s tent might be a good idea.
- Camping Tent Care – How to take care of your camping tent
Notes and discussions:
Here are a few more pieces of camping gear you might be interested in for your new tent:
*Note – these are my own Amazon affiliate links – which I only use to recommend good quality camping gear.
Planning a Camping Trip Checklists
How to Pick The Right Camping Tent for You
Review The Best Kids Sleeping Bags
What is Geocaching – How to Do It Instructions
Rugged Pocket Video camera for Camping
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