How to Pick The Best Camping Tent for You   Recently updated !

Camping tents under a tree and stormy sky
  Camping Tent choices
How to Pick a Camping Tent
Pick the best camping tent for your camping needs.

Picking a good tent for your camping needs isn’t always an easy choice, with the hundreds of styles available, – which one is right for you?

Buying a camping tent is not just an investment in your camping future, (a major one), it can also be the deciding factor in your camping enjoyment. A tent that doesn’t suit your needs will make for a miserable outing.

Tent Tip: If this is your first tent. Go slow! Don’t buy a big deluxe super-expensive one first. How can you be sure what you will like? You can always upgrade to a better one once you are more sure of what you want.

Remember: For comfortable family camping – always divide the tent’s capacity rating by 2. If it says – sleeps six, it really means a comfortable space for three!

First, determine your camping style.

  1. Where and when will you be using your tent? Campgrounds, primitive backwoods sites, or the backyard?
    • Camping at campgrounds means you may have to be concerned about tent size, – most campground sites are limited in size, and it may be that your tent could be too big to fit the site. You probably won’t have to worry about this often, but if it is a problem – it’s a big one.

      **If you need a big family tent you might consider the type that has rooms on each side so that one side could be left down if the site was too small.
    • Primitive campsites might not be as clear-cut, (brush and undergrowth-free), as a campground, – tent fabric and durability may be an important issue.
      • The tent material should be “rip-stop” nylon, not just coated nylon (like most discount store tents)
      • a waterproof “ tub” bottom provides a more durable floor material that will resist tears from prickly stuff on a forest floor – and they usually have a four to six-inch side-rise -providing more water protection
    • Backyard camping – not many restrictions here

    When you camp.

    • Tent ventilation and screened doors and windows are more important for hot weather camping than cold.
    • Tent color makes a difference. Light color tents let in more light, which can almost make them cheery, and they also reflect more of the sun’s rays, which will make them a little cooler in hot sunny weather, but you might want that reflected heat inside your tent in colder weather, and light colors are more susceptible to deterioration from UV rays that pass through with the sunlight.
      • A note about the “ tent color debate” – some natural-camping advocates say tent colors should be neutral and blend in with nature, but National parks and search & rescue organizations advocate bright color tents to help you be found if there are problems.
    • When you camp might also affect your choice of tent features; like a whole-tent rain-fly, or entrance vestibule.

    What size tent do you need?

    • How many people will be sleeping in it
    • Will it be just for sleeping or do you want a little extra sitting space
    • Do you want the room to store some of your gear in the tent

    Tent sizes are listed by how many people they will sleep, like; 2-person or 4-person, or so on … but, this is just telling you how many people you can cram in, with no elbow room or space for gear. It’s a side-by-side sleeping bag rating. For comfortable sleeping you should mentally see these ratings as at least one less person than they say, two if you want some room for your gear in the tent. For instance, a 4-person tent is really a comfortable tent for two people and some gear.

    Size is also related to the foot-print, (ground area of the tent floor), of a tent, a dome tent will have more interior room than an A-tent with the same size footprint

  2. Will you be car-camping or backpacking? (have to carry your gear on your back)
    • Tent weight is more important if you have to backpack your tent
  3. Do you have any special needs?
    • personal mobility issues, like needing a large entrance, or mixed genders that might require some separate privacy accommodations
  4. What style of tent do you think you prefer?
    • Dome, round, square, winged, (side rooms attached to larger central room)
    • single-room, multi-room, sleeping only, or headroom to stand up and move about

    Other than space requirements there are two main considerations; what will your camping environment be, – low-profile tents stand up to harsh elements like wind and rain better than taller tents, but don’t have as much headroom, and what style appeals to you, ie. do you like one big roomy tent, or does separate rooms appeal to you.

  5. What is your budget?

Features and design extras to consider:

  • Ease of set-up: – Some tents can be like an erector set with complicated tent pole configurations, while others almost qualify as “pop-ups” – be sure to consider how much effort you want to spend setting up. It is usually a strength vs. ease-of-use trade-off
  • Head room: –for family camping, being able to stand up in your tent is a good thing.
  • Doors: – Does the tent have doors or just zippered flaps? 1 or 2 doors? The larger the family the more important this is.
  • Ventilation: – You want plenty. Especially for warm and hot weather camping. But you also want rain protection, so all mesh openings should also have solid flaps, or be covered by the rain fly.
  • Vestibule: – This is usually a very desired feature for family tents. It gives you room to drop or gear or take off your boots, before entering the tent properly.
  • Interior loops and pockets: – Don’t underestimate the convenience of having pockets to stash your small gear, (phones, flashlights, etc.), or loops to tie down or secure other gear.

Once you can answer those questions you will be better prepared to judge your available choices.

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Tent Tip: If this is your first tent. Go slow! Don’t buy a big deluxe super-expensive one first. How can you be sure what you will like? Or even continue camping. It is smarter to buy a moderately priced tent that fits your needs now. You can always upgrade to a better one once you are more sure of what you want.

 ★ See how to tell a GOOD tent from a CHEAP tent.

 ★★ See the best-selling tents camping families are really buying!


Related Resources:

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.

*Note – all shopping links are my own Amazon affiliate links – which I only use to recommend good-quality camping gear – Gus

Dome/Umbrella Tents
Dome/Umbrella Tents

Sizes; 2 to 10-person, popular 3-season tent style
Trail Tents

Wedge or Trail Tents are light 1 or 2-man tents
Family Camping Tent
Family 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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Notes and discussions:

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