Camping is a memorable experience, but sometimes its memorable for the wrong reasons – like being stuck in a rainstorm, completely soaked, because your cheaply made tent was destroyed. You realize that your tent’s poor quality was the reason for your camping disaster, but you only go camping a couple of times a year — why should you invest in quality camping gear?
Tents are not all created equal; the differences in quality, durability, and practicality between a poorly made tent and a tent made with quality materials, are monumental. Many tents are mass produced with cheap price tags and thin, flimsy material that rips even in the lightest wind. The poles that come with these tents, or even cheaper poles in general, are easily bent, too. Good, quality-made tents can be expensive but choosing the right camping tent requires considering factors that go beyond price, color, and sleeping capacity. So, here are seven tips for getting it right the first time:
1. Choose a tent that comes with a rain fly
Most tents aren’t fully waterproof. A rain fly is the waterproof outer layer of a double-walled tent that is designed to keep the rain out of your tent. A full-coverage rain fly extends around the top of the tent to prevent wind from blowing rain into your tent. Some decent to high-quality made tents will have vents built into the rain fly, reducing the amount of condensation in your tent.
In theory, you could use a tarp to create your own rain fly, but it’s much easier to set up a rain fly when it’s been designed specifically for your tent. Some tents come with a rain fly built in , and others are sold separately. High-quality tents will usually have a rain fly available as an accessory.
2. Choose a tent you can anchor to your chosen spot
Not all tents get staked to the ground. Most camping tents do, but some canopies and beach tents rely on their own foundation, your body weight, or sandbags, to hold the tent in place.
In good weather, it’s not uncommon for people to camp out in a variety of tents, including pop up tents, which are designed for light use as a beach tent, screen houses, or other tents designed for hosting parties. If it’s sunny out and you don’t want to buy new camping equipment, it’s better to use a pop up tent than using nothing.
If your backpacking tent stands on its own foundation, like a collapsible canopy, you’ll need to anchor it to something. Tying ropes tightly around the poles and staking them to the ground will help keep the canopy grounded , but if you expect light winds, you should tie your canopy to some trees to keep it from blowing away. You may, also, want to dig holes and place the canopy legs inside for more stability. If you’re camping in your backyard, this shouldn’t be a problem.
Remember, if you can’t anchor your tent to the ground, it’s not a good idea to sleep in it.
Related: Top Camping Tips for First Timers
3. Make sure your tent meets your destination’s regulations
Many people are unaware that tents are regulated by most campgrounds. For instance, camping at Mount Rainier in Washington state is restricted to two tents per campsite, and a total of six people. If you have six people, you’ll need to buy a large pop up tent to accommodate everyone or two medium-sized tents to accommodate three people each. It won’t work to have everyone bring their own personal backpacking tent.
4. Choose your tent style based on the weather
The weather where you camp should be the number one factor that goes into choosing a tent. If you plan on camping in an area with heavy winds, snow, and rain, then you probably should save up for a good camping tent that can withstand extreme conditions, it will be worth it.
For these situations, the smartest move would be to buy the most rugged, four-season tent you can afford on your budget. You’ll be covered in all weather conditions, provided you remember to seal the tent seams before use.
A backpacking tent that’s comfortable in the summer won’t be so comfy in the winter. For example, if you’re camping out in an 8-person cabin-style tent, you’ll have plenty of living space, but when harsh winds and heavy rain come, you’ll be miserable. On the other hand, high-quality dome tents don’t provide as much living area, but are designed to prevent snow buildup, withstand wind, and stand strong in extreme conditions.
5. Measure your camping equipment before purchasing a tent
Whether you’re pitching a tent in your backyard for fun or you’re heading out on a camping trip, make sure your equipment will fit inside. Take the time to measure everything you plan on putting inside the tent. Make sure your pop up tent is several inches bigger than your floor mats, mattresses, coolers, and cots. Don’t forget to account for the slope if you’re buying a dome tent.
6. Read all the bad reviews
No camping tent is perfect, and not everyone will experience the same problems. Read all the bad reviews for the tents you’re considering buying, to find out any common problems people experience. Once you find some common issues, you should consider which issues don’t apply to your situation, and which issues aren’t a big deal to you.
If you see the same manufacturing defect throughout the reviews, and it’s not fixable, you should probably cross that tent off your list. For example, if the bottom of a tent is made poorly, it won’t keep the rain out. The tent’s interior will flood when it rains.
7. Buy older versions of a tent when possible
Over the years, tent manufacturers gradually began using lower quality materials to offset rising costs and maintain profitable. Fabric and stakes get lighter and thinner, grommets are lightly reinforced, and poles become easily bent. Even the most reputable companies transition to cheaper materials for some of their low-end tents. Don’t throw away your old camping gear. Sometimes older tents are the best.
With that being said, if you’re going to buy a cheap tent anyway, then you probably don’t need to worry; cheap tents are easy to replace. If you’re investing a few hundred dollars in a tent you expect to last a while, do some investigating first. Call the manufacturer to find out which models are made with higher quality materials. Some tent models look the same, but the higher quality materials can be identified by color.
For instance, if you’ve seen obscure colors sell for a higher price than standard colors on Amazon, it’s likely because those colors are older models made with better materials and are in high demand.
Camping should be a fun and memorable experience for all involved. Don’t let a poorly constructed tent ruin your trip of fun and adventure and invest in a higher quality tent that is built to last. With these tips, you will be on your way to finding a high-quality tent that is a perfect fit for you and your group.