How To Choose a Tent in 7 Easy Steps

Tents are used around the world for various purposes. Be it a circus tent or a camping tent, they are almost inescapable. Then there are nomadic people who use them for everyday shelter. Although they are most often used by outdoor people who frequently spend their nights out in the open, investing in a great tent can come handy for just anyone. One can never know when he will be ready for a backpacking trip. A good tent can give quite a good lasting hence cutting down the need to buy one more frequently. There are a number of things that should be considered before buying a tent. After all, it is better to be safe than sorry.

If you are planning a family vacation or camping with friends, a great tent can really make your time worthwhile. Although the most commonly used are small dome tents, providing room for two or three people, there are also big cabin tents that can hold up to 10 people at a time. When choosing an outdoor tent, one should consider all the factors like the season you will be using it, weight of the tent, canvas used and the ease of pitching it up. Although bigger tents can be convenient for use, it can be quite difficult to carry them around for long distance when backpacking. When making a decision keep in mind the purpose of the tent (camping, backpacking, event, party, sports or other). Also you should choose from a variety of well-established tent brands on the market, like Coleman, Eureka, or Cabela. Given below are 7 steps to help you choose the right tent.

Size of the tent

Camping tents come in different sizes and are advertised as two people, four people or six people tents and so on. This means that these tents will provide room for the indicated number of adults to sleep in closely without leaving any room for gear or other goods. However, children can fit in more comfortably. So if you are looking for a two person camping tent, it would be more practical to go for a three person tent instead. This will provide you with enough space for the gear and pets if you have any, thus making the space more livable.


The height and weight of the person to be sleeping inside the tent should also be considered. A person with average height would require a minimum of 25 square feet area to sleep in comfortably. Taller people would require more space to stretch out comfortably. If you are going to be using it for quite a while, it is better to get a comfortable outdoor tent so that you don’t have to cram up inside it every night.

A camping or a backpacking tent should provide enough room for not only sleeping but also for sitting up and changing clothes so that you or your family members don’t need to crawl over the other person all the time. Many one man outdoor tents are only meant for sleeping in so sitting up is not an option. However, these can be quite convenient to carry around and use it only as a shelter for the night. If tent is intended to be used for a longer span time, it is ideal to settle for 36 square feet per person.

Larger family camping tents are more comfortable. They provide enough space for basic furniture like chairs and cots. They also have removable flaps that can be hoisted down to make room or compartments hence allowing more privacy. These tents are designed complete with strategically placed windows for ventilation and sometimes even small porches (family style). However, the downside is that they are usually very heavy and difficult to carry while backpacking. Therefore, smaller tents are ideal if you are not using a car during the trip.

A larger camping tent also needs more space and time to be hoisted up. These tents are also difficult to keep warm in chilly weather and are not very stable in case of strong winds. Pitching up a bigger outdoor tent requires more expertise while a smaller one can be easily put up by one or two persons in a very short time.

Shape of the tent

The most common tents are the regular A-shaped tents. Then there are others like the dome tents, geodesic dome tents, tunnel or cabin. A-shaped tents are widely used mainly because of the ease with which it can be put up and the stability it can provide during strong winds. However, these tents are sloped towards the sides so they may not provide enough space for standing up. The person inside the tent may be able to sit up comfortably only if he is at the center of the tent.


The dome camping tents are most convenient for family use. These tents can provide enough space and an even tent height. The dome tent mates can walk around more freely, especially while entering and leaving the tent. These dome tents are also designed with meshed windows so that the tent remains properly ventilated. The windows are fitted with flaps that can be attached or detached using zippers or drawstrings. Ventilation is an important concern, especially if the climate is hot or humid. So even if you are buying a comparatively smaller dome tent, make sure that it has ventilation.

A geodesic is a dome shaped tent and uses smaller triangular portions to form the complete dome. These tents also provide a good space with enough height. If you can have enough helping hands while putting it up, these can be more usable as compared to the A-shaped tents. The final category is that of the cabin tents. These outdoor tents are exactly like the A-shaped camping tents except for the fact that they have vertical walls at the sides. The cabin tents are generally designed as a small house, complete with windows and compartments. Cabin tents are used for temporary settlements and are often given out post calamities and during emergencies.

The camping tent shape that you choose can also determine the area and shape of the floor inside the tent. A square floor ensures that the entire area can be used for sleeping, thus making efficient utilization of the available space. A dome tent has a somewhat circular floor. In this case, the corners can be used to store gear and other goods and the center for laying beds.

Tent poles

Tents either use aluminum or a fiberglass frame. These are attached to the tent canvas by means of stretchable elastic bands. Using elastic bands ensures that the material does not cause tearing of the camping tent fabric. The outdoor tents manufacturers also provide joint links and tubing in the case of a breakage. The maximum length of the tent pole will determine its size when undone and packed. Many poles are detachable thus allowing for a more compact packing, thus increasing the convenience of carrying it around. When buying a tent, it is important to consider its packed size as partially foldable tents may not be very convenient to carry around.


Sometimes, frame is inbuilt into the tent and covered with casings. This protects the poles from weather damage and provides more stability during winds. However, this can reduce the foldability of the tent. Other tents require the poles to be attached while pitching up. These poles should be placed on the inside of the camping tent and can be fitted from within. These tents are complex to put up and require expertise. Many manufacturers use a slightly complicated mechanism for the supporting framework. The frame used have pivoted joints or bent sections. Applying pressure on the joints in the wrong manner can cause breakages and bends. Therefore, retailers selling such outdoor tents generally have trained salesmen to demonstrate the right way to use them. If put up correctly, these tents can provide a sturdy built and more safety.

Some tents also use inflatable tubes replacing the frame. This can result in a very compact packing and reduced work while pitching up. Such tents are also very lightweight and convenient to carry while backpacking. All season tents are made with enclosed channels through which the pole is to be passed. This makes the tents more leak proof and gives a smoother finish. Many alpine camping or backpacking tents can also be set up from the inside, thus making them more usable for all types of weather conditions. Plastic clips are also used to attach the poles to the tent. This makes the setup and teardown much easier. After buying a tent, make sure that you first try it out at home. This way, you will be able to spot if there are any defects with the tent. You can also consult the retailer if you don’t feel confident about how to pitch it up the right way. This should ensure that you go smoothly when you are out in the open.


The choice of fabric can go a long way in determining the durability of the tent. Not only rain, but the fabric should also provide protection from other elements like wind and sun. Nylon is the most prevalently used tent fabrics because of its quality. The main body uses breathable nylon while the fly and floors use waterproof nylon. There are also other thicker fabrics that can provide maximum resistance against wind and water (four season tents). Thicker fabrics are also more tear resistant as compared to the thinner ones and can give a good lasting. However, thicker and denser fabrics can greatly increase the overall weight of the tent, thus making it inconvenient to carry them around while backpacking or bike camping.


Waterproofing your camping tent is also very important. You know how frustrating it would be if you are finally done pitching up your tent and just when you lay down to catch up some sleep, the first drops of rain start falling down. Although you cannot expect your outdoor tent to be completely waterproof, you can, however, choose the right fabric and check the material used for zippers and flaps. You can also go an extra mile and apply water sealant to the camping or backpacking tent fabric to make them waterproof. This can mean added expenses, but you will at least be able to sleep peacefully when it is raining cats and dogs outside. Texsport Waterproof Seam Sealer is great quality water sealant. It comes in a spray form and is easy to apply. The sealer is colorless, odorless, and flexible and also protects the fabric from fading under the sun.

The other way to waterproof your tent is by using a rainfly (if you have one). Otherwise, you can use a waterproof fabric or plastic sheets over your tent to protect it from rain and dew. It is almost like using a raincoat for your tent. You would also like to check the zippers used in the tent. Using steel or aluminum zippers corrodes the tent fabric in the long run. Therefore, it is better to go for quality plastic zippers. Coating the zipper with silicone will allow for smooth functioning. When pitching up a tent, the zippers should be closed so that can be operated smoothly later on. Always make sure that the fabric is dry before you fold and store it away. This will prevent damage from mold.


Seams are the most delicate part of the tent. Definition of it would be a place where two pieces of fabric are attached or stitched together. Normally, when a camping tent wears out, the first thing that gets affected are the seams. When putting up a tent, one should make sure that the fabric doesn’t get too much stretched. This can eventually take its toll, leading to the fabric getting torn at the seams and the zippers. This can be prevented by closing all the zippers prior to setting up the tent and making proper adjustments.


Seams are also the loose points from where water tends to seep into the tent. Even if the fabric used is waterproof, the tiny holes present at the seams tend to give in, leaving you with a watery mess. Also, when the outside is rough, chilly winds get in, making it difficult to warm up the tent. So it is extremely important to thoroughly check the seam stitches before buying a tent. Many manufacturers use nylon tapes, which are stitched into the seams. This gives a stronger finish to the seams and makes them waterproof. Thickly folded fabric at the seams also increases the strength of the stitches. Heat sealing is also a very reliable option. This binds the two pieces of fabric together and makes them more durable in the long run.

Some brands also give out a bottle of seam sealer together with the tent. Before you start out for hiking, you can have the seams properly checked so that you will not be faced with inconveniences later on. Applying the seam sealer evenly is a great way to strengthen the stitches and prevent rupture. In fact, this should be done from time to time, as constant exposure to the elements like sun, wind and rain tend to wear out the coating of seam sealers leaving the seams more vulnerable. You can also take a toothbrush and clean the fabric at the seams before rearing down the camping tent and packing. Dirt easily tends to get accumulated at the seams leading to the wearing out of the fabric.

Weather protection

A tent should also be able to protect you during rough weather conditions.

  • Wind - The shape of a tent can play a huge role in staying put during strong winds. Dome tents can provide maximum resistance against the wind due to their shape. They can effectively divert the direction of the wind around the tent. Their framework is also quite sturdy and does not easily break down during strong winds. Apart from the shape and size of the tent, the way a tent is put up can also play a huge role in minimizing the effects of wind. The opening of the tent should face away from the direction of the wind so that the tent does not get blown up, the vestibule should face away from the wind. Apart from that, a tent should come with strong quality frame, stakes, and binding ropes so that the tent stays intact.
  • Rain - You can opt for waterproof fabrics for the outdoor tent or have the fabric coated with water sealants. See if you can get hold of a tent with a rainfly. This will go a long way in preventing water from entering the camping tent. In order to keep the interiors of a tent snug and dry, the flooring too should be waterproof. The fabric used for the floor should be coated with nylon to keep water from seeping in. Make it a point to also check the strength of the seams so that they don’t give way during rough weather. You can apply waterproof seam sealers from time to time to protect the seams from tearing and wearing.
  • Sun and heat - A tent should provide shade and should be properly ventilated for proper airflow. This is important, especially in hot and humid conditions where lack of ventilation can lead to condensation inside the tent, making the insides stuffy and damp.
  • Cold weather - There are a variety of four season camping tents. If you are pitching up a tent in a cold weather, you would definitely like the inside to be warm. Small tents can be kept cozy but bigger tents provide more space for airflow and are difficult to heat up. You can use a heater while keeping in mind that it does not get too close to the tent walls. Using a catalytic heater uses up the oxygen inside the tent which can lead to suffocation. So while using one, a small opening should be left for air to circulate inside the tent.

Cost of the tent

The cost of a tent greatly depends on the brands and purpose of the tent. Expensive tents have a sturdier built and can withstand various challenges out in the open. They are also lighter in weight as compared to the cheaper ones and can be easily carried while backpacking by serious trekkers. They have stronger poles, better fabric, and tougher stitches. They can shield wind and rain effectively. Such tents are usually meant for camping outdoor in rough conditions and are better suited for frequent trekkers. If handled with proper care, such tents can provide quite a lasting. Investing on these tents is quite the worth, given their durability.


However, if you are out in backcountry with family in pleasant weather conditions or not very far from home, you may not need such high notch features. You may just settle for a simple, livable tent with just the basic requirements. This will also save you from burning a hole in your pocket.

So choosing the right tent is essential if you want to make the most out of your outdoor adventures. It is more important than any other camping equipment. Consider all your needs prior to making the move. This will help you get clearer on the type of tent to choose. To make the process less complicated, you can also write down the requirements and the challenges you may encounter when out camping. Think about conditions your shelter will need to endure.

  • How many people are going to be living in the tent? Is a small dome tent enough or maybe you should consider a cabin tent?
  • How many people will be required to setup the tent?
  • How much time will be required to pitch the tent? Maybe it is better to buy an instant tent?
  • Will the tent provide enough room for standing and sitting?
  • Should there be compartments inside the tent?
  • What should be the weight of the tent and how you are going to carry it? Will you go backpacking with it or car camping?
  • How often the tent will be used?
  • For what purpose the tent will be used? Party, event, sporting? Hitting the trail? Motorcycle camping?
  • How long is the tent going to be used?
  • Will the tent be used under harsh conditions? Three of four season?

If you have the budget, you can opt for an expensive tent with tough features. This will ensure safety and durability. They provide usability in any season, proving to be convenient for everyone, be it mountaineers, trekkers or fair weather campers. So, if you are planning for outdoors trip any time soon, do not hesitate to buy one for yourself!