Pick The Right Tent for your camping Adventure
Updated: Apr 1
Create the ideal home from home.
When it comes to buying a tent there is a lot to take into consideration such as how many people will be sleeping in the tent, how much room is each person going to need and what are the conditions going to be like. Some campers have one tent their entire life where others upgrade constantly others like myself have a range of tents to meet every possible need. In this post I'm going to look at the various common styles of tent and how they fit into camping life. Although a tent tends to be graded by how many people can lie down in it to sleep, the needs of the camper or campers are very different.
1 man tents.
In recent years there has been an explosion in this sector of the market with more people taking up trekking, backpacking and bike trekking. This has opened up the need for small, light durable tents which can fit easily into backpacks or onto bike panniers. Prices of good one man tents range from as little as £50 right up to £750 for top end tents. It's worth considering however how many nights per year you intend to camp and if buying an expensive tent is worth the investment. At the bottom end of the price range it is also worth doing plenty of research. Many a bad decision is made in haste and a badly made tent would lead to cold damp nights, damaged poles or fabric. Gone are the days on aluminium poles with the higher end tents often coming with super light short section poles and extremely light yet strong fabric. It is easy to find a tent now which folds to little more than the size of a water bottle yet allows for a good night sleep. Couple that with a good quality lightweight sleeping bag and you are far more likely to have a good night sleep.
Check out our guide to one man tents here
2 man tents
I consider a two man tent to be a different animal altogether to a good tent for couples due to the lack of space generally afforded by them however some more spacious models exist. There are advantages to taking a 2 man tent on a trek as the load can often be split between the two campers.
Good tents for couples
If you are travelling as a couple either on a weekend away or a longer trip often a 2 man tent is not the ideal. Often referred to as weekend tents there is a huge range aimed at having the space to enjoy indoor dining, spacious sleeping quarters, internal storage, blackout blinds, power inlets, carpets and a myriad or other great features to make a slightly longer trip or relaxing get away more comfortable. These tents tend to range in price from around £300 to anything up to £2000 for the more luxurious polycotton tents. Being smaller than 4-6 man tents this option allows a couple with a smaller vehicle to be able to get away at a moment's notice when the sun shines and you just want to get away. Pitching times vary from a 3-pole tent which could take a realistic 20 minutes to modern air tent which can be pitched in less than 5 minutes. However you look at it its likely to take less time than booking into a hotel!
Small family tents.
For long weekends and short family holidays a small family tent is often the ideal solution. That said, I have spent 3 months in continental Europe with my wife and 3 children in a 6 person Vango tent which was adequately comfortable. Often listed as 4,5,or 6 person tents a good family tent gives several features making it ideal for a small family. Separate sleeping pods allow privacy for getting changed and blackout pods use dark fabric to help the kids to sleep longer when the sun rises at 4am. In addition other pods can usually be added allowing for extra private sleeping space or to place a porta potty to avoid those midnight forays by torchlight to the toilet block. The weather isn't always on our side either meaning indoor space might be required. Long porch areas in these bigger tents allow for picnic benches to be used (just remember to pack the monopoly!)
Large family tents
The next step up in tents is the large family tents, if you're looking for the ideal tent to spend a couple of weeks away on holiday then these tents are ideal for a family of three right up to a family of six. Many larger family tents offer side doors, porches and porch extensions for muddy boots, plenty of space for bikes, footballs and inflatables to be left safely. Often a good large family tent has opening side panels to give that inside outside feel. Thorough research is always advised when buying a large family tent as they are often heavy and bulky when packed. Measure your car's boot to check that you are going to fit the folded tent, furniture, cooking equipment and all of your other required kit insided. Preparing and researching your requirements can be the difference between a great holiday of a holiday nightmare. It's also worth speaking to the site or sites you intend to visit and check the maximum pitch size in order to ensure that they have the space to accommodate larger tents.
Read our guide to the best 6 man tents here
8 - 12 person tents
Right at the top of the scale are 8 to 12 person tents. Putting up such a mammoth tent single handedly would have been almost impossible in years gone by however with the advent of air tents this is potentially possible. The biggest tents are invariably heavy and bulky and quite often the price and availability of pitches can be prohibitive. Some 12 man tents can go for as much as £3000. That said if you go away camping with other families or have a very big family yourself this type of tent may just fit the bill.
Outside the box
Most tents come in either a dome or a tunnel style but if you're looking for something a little different there are other options available. For glamping yurt style tents have become popular as have wigwams and prospector tents. Whatever your camping needs you're sure to find a tent that suits you and whoever else you're taking with you.
Types of tent fabric
Nylon - by far the most popular fabric in modern tent building nylon is strong, light and waterproof making a good fit for most campers. As with everything it has its pros and cons. The amount of rain protection offered by a tent is called hydrostatic head. The hydrostatic head is measured in millimetres and refers to the amount of millimetres of rain a tent can endure before it fails. Although tents with a high hydrostatic head can occasionally be found at bargain prices as a general rule the higher the hydrostatic head or hh is the higher the price. 100% waterproof tents are available however they often sacrifice breathability to achieve this. In cold weather condensation is more likely to form inside the tent meaning delaying pack up time to allow it to dry or packing the tent up wet which is recommended.
Poly Cotton or Polyester cotton
If you're looking for a tent with longevity then look no further than polycotton. Although heavier than nylon, polycotton does not need to be coated to be waterproof. The fabric is stronger and stands up to the elements much better than nylon meaning that your tent could last many many years. When a polycotton tent is purchased it is often suggested that it is soaked with a hose and allowed to dry which allows the pores in the fabric to tighten and close up. If you're looking to extend your camping season there's good news there too. Polycotton tents are generally warmer in the colder months and cooler in the summer making long trips to the Mediterranean a real possibility. Some polycotton tents are rated as fire resistant and come ready prepared for the installation of a small wood burning stove for cosy autumn camping trips.