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Published on June 15, 2018

Choosing one’s tent: the complete guide

By Salut Ciao Bye

Camping is an economical way to enjoy one’s vacation especially when we bring the whole family. A minimum of preparation and good equipment will allow one to fully enjoy the experience. Since camping is often synonymous with adventure, nature and relaxation, it is important to choose wisely when it’s time to buy a tent. It is the starting point for a great vacation and enjoying the great outdoors.


There are a variety of tent models, numerous things to take into consideration and the prices vary considerably. To help you make an informed decision, here are the 15 main characteristics to consider in order to choose the tent that will suit your camping style the best.

What type of camping?

The type of camping that you intend to do will determine which tent is best suited to your needs. If your camping site is accessible by car, the tent’s weight and volume do not need to be taken into consideration because you will not have to transport your equipment on a long distance. However, if you plan to go canoe-camping, cycling or hiking solo in the wilderness, weight and size become some of the important things to care about.

What size and for how many people?

The capacity of a tent generally corresponds to the recommended number of occupants that can fit in. This doesn’t take into account the equipment, things to store and pets. Since comfort is a very subjective concept, it is important to consider the space that everyone needs to feel at ease.

In summer at 30° or in winter at -15°?

The time of the year when you plan to go camping and the meteorological condition are other important factors to consider when choosing a tent. Most are made for three seasons (spring, winter and fall). These tents are light because of the fabric as well as the poles and they are resistant to rain and wind. It is certainly the most versatile choice.

Four season tents are stronger and warmer. They have more poles which are more robust and are reinforced in many places in order to sustain the accumulation of heavy snow on the roof. These tents also have many anchor points. They are resistant to violent winds and ventilation is reduced to a minimum in order to keep the heat indoors.

The 15 main characteristics to consider

1. Weight and volume
Depending on what type of camping that you intend to do, the weight and volume of the tent may be more or less important factors to consider. If you are hiking, the tent must be easy to carry. A light and compact tent is then preferable. For family vacations in a car, comfort and necessary space will take priority. Weight and volume have less influence on the choice of a tent.

2.Materials
The inside walls of the tent in the majority of cases, are made of nylon, an inexpensive and solid material that is resistant to abrasion and doesn’t absorb humidity.

Double roofs are normally made out of polyester. This material is impervious to ultraviolet light and to humidity. The floor must be both robust and waterproof. Since nylon is very resistant to abrasion and tears, manufacturers use it most frequently. The floor rims must lifted on the sides to avoid water infiltrating the bottom.

3.Waterproofness
Being wet for just one day could be enough to spoil your vacation. That is why the tent’s waterproofness is an important characteristic. In order to prevent water infiltration, the tent’s double roof must go all the way to the ground, therefore protecting the whole interior. For additional protection, the floor’s stitching must be thermally bonded on the walls in order to eliminate needle holes and the tarp must go up the walls of the tent to avoid all risk of water infiltration. For a tent to resist even torrential rains, stitching must absolutely be sealed. Which means that a transparent sealing tape is applied on the stitching. Ideally, the sealed stitching should also have an additional waterproof coating.

4. Ventilation
For greater comfort, especially when used in warm weather, the tent must be well ventilated. In order for the air to circulate well, the vent holes must be at the right place and there must be air vents on the double roof. A model with numerous mesh panels will allow for an optimal ventilation. The idea is simple: the more there are mosquito nets, the more the tent will be ventilated. It is essential that windows and air vents have mosquito / no-see-ums/ gnat (anti-brûlot) nets to protect against insects. In order to allow for a superior ventilation, there must be space between the double roof and the inner tent. Lastly, good ventilation will keep condensation caused by the breathing of the occupants from forming on the walls of the tent. The dimension of the tent also has its influence…The tent’s size also matters: the bigger the tent, the more air there is. To summarize, the bigger the tent and the more windows there are, the less there is condensation and ventilation is better.

5. Double roof
The tent that you will buy must absolutely have a double roof! Quality three-season tents have two walls. One inside that breathes (the tent itself), and an exterior one that is waterproof. This double roof allows for an optimal comfort by reducing the infiltration of humidity. There is a layer of air between those two walls . This double roof allows for an optimal comfort by reducing the infiltration of humidity. These two walls are separated by a layer of air isolating the inside of the tent, while evacuating the humidity. Most double roofs touch the ground, making a vestibule. Humid material and shoes can be stored there.

It is important that the double roof be treated against UV rays and be waterproofed.

6. Poles
The poles of the tent can be made in many materials, each one having its strengths and weaknesses. Steel (heavy and doesn’t take its shape back if it has been bent), fiber glass (cheap, rather heavy, tends to crumble and can break) aluminium (affordable, light, flexible and sturdy, an excellent choice) and carbon (very light and robust, cheap and sometimes breakable, perfect for hikers).

7. Stakes
It is important to choose quality tent stakes that won’t break or change shape when comes the time to set up your tent. To make sure that your tent is well anchored and doesn’t take off with the slightest wind, you must solidly sink the stakes in the ground at a 45 degree angle with a mallet.

8. Zippers
Very often, the first element to break on a tent is a zipper. Since they are most of the time outstretched and very often used, zippers are likely to break. Choose nylon coil zippers. They are very resistant, light also they don’t get stuck and are easy to manipulate.

9. Vestibule
A tent with a vestibule has the benefit of offering more space. Tents almost all have a vestibule. Most often, it is formed by the double roof otherwise the tent has at the very least an awning. Depending on the size of the tent, it might be possible to store the cooler and even to set up a table and chairs. For smaller tents, we can leave our shoes there before entering the tent, store the backpack and even take shelter from the rain. Some tent models allow to add a vestibule.

10. Doors
The number of doors, their shape and orientation are other elements to consider. Since adding doors increases the weight and volume of the tent, in the case where there is more than one occupant, a tent with two doors facilitate getting in and out of the tent. The advantage of having more than one door is that it keeps you from having to step over the others and wake them up to get out.


11. Ease of assembly
Most tents are made to be easily set up. Choose a tent that can be set up by a single person. Ideally, set-up instructions will contain pictograms and will be directly printed on the storage to reduce the risk of losing them. A model that has color coded poles and fastening points will reduce the set-up time even more. It goes without saying that the larger the tent and the number of poles, the more time it will take to set up.

12 Storage pockets
Storage pockets can be useful. It allows you to keep essentials handy and will help to keep the tent well organized. There are one or two small inside pockets in most tents and certain models can count lots more.

13 Inside strap loops
On top of storage pockets , one will find in most of the tent, inside strap loops. Many models also have loops on the ceiling. Many models also have loops on the walls. A loop on the ceiling allows to hang a battery-powered flashlight and loops on the walls can be used to hang a mesh shelf, for example.

14.Outlet for an electric extension
Some tents have an outlet for an electrical extension cord. It is an opening that allows an extension cord from the exterior, to inside the tent, away from the water. It then becomes possible to use electrical devices in your tent.

15.Accessories
Certain accessories can considerably improve the quality of your camping experience. A tarp is a piece of fabric with a waterproof coating, most of the time made of polyester or nylon that goes underneath the tent. Also called ground cover, it offers an additional protection against water, wear, tears and dirt. It must be cut to fit exactly the size of the tent. The tarp is fixed to the tent by using the ties or eyelets located in each corner.

Additional storage space can be a useful accessory if the tent doesn’t contain enough inside pockets, it is possible to add a hanging catch-all or a cloth or mesh shelf. Compatible with any tent that has loops on the ceiling or on the walls, these extra storage spaces are perfect to store light articles or a flashlight. Some have a zipper pocket and four strips with fasteners to hook them to the roof of the tent and better organize your material.

The list of ideal characteristics and options stated above are a very good starting point to shop for your ideal tent. If you have never been camping before and have difficulty identifying the characteristics that are the most important for you, know that a tent that is well maintained and regularly waterproofed can last a good fifteen years. So, while shopping for a tent, take your time and do not hesitate to ask advice from camping specialists.

On behalf of Salut Ciao Bye and Latulippe, happy camping!

About Salut Ciao Bye Travel, outdoors and camping enthusiasts

Shirley is a reporter, a communications specialist and a photography fanatic. Photographer, videographer and graphic artist, Vincent is an image creator. Travel, outdoors and camping enthusiasts, they live their passion on board their RV.

Articles from Salut Ciao Bye

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The opinions expressed in the articles are the sole responsibility of the authors of the texts and do not necessarily represent those of Magasin Latulippe.

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