Camping Tents

Camping TentCamping tents are one of the most important parts of any overnight adventure in the outdoors. Unfortunately, choosing a tent can be a difficult process. There are so many different types, fabrics, and features that trying to figure out what you need can quickly become overwhelming.

In this series of guides, we will teach you everything need to know about camping tents. We’ll show you how to choose the perfect tent for you. Then, we’ll teach you how to properly set it up and use it. We’ll even give you a few camping tent tips and tricks along the way.

Camping Tent Guides

In this first guide, we’ll cover all of the basics of camping tents. Use the table of contents below to navigate, or simply keep scrolling.

What is a camping tent?

A camping tent is a portable, collapsible shelter. It is made of fabric or cloth that is stretched tightly and draped over. The structure of a tent is supported by poles that are often staked into the ground. The purpose of tents is to provide humans with shelter in the outdoors.

Usually, tents will have a roof and sides, and will sometimes have a floor. Many modern tents also have doors and windows, as well as mosquito nets and other amenities.

Why do you need a tent to go camping?

The main purpose of a camping tent is to provide you with shelter. When sleeping in the outdoors, shelter is an important thing to consider. There are a few different reasons why it is so crucial: protection from the elements, temperature, protection from insects, and privacy.

Protection from the elements.

Most importantly, a tent will protect you from harsh elements and bad weather. Being exposed to cold rain, winds, or the hot sun for too long can have health implications. A tent provides you with a cool, dry place to stay.

Temperature control.

Tents help you to maintain a comfortable temperature. This is especially true in cold weather. The tent walls will block the wind and trap in the heat, allowing you to keep warm and maintain a safe body temperature.

Protection from animals and insects.

You don’t want to sleep with the mosquitoes, right? Then get in the tent!

Also, while a tent won’t do much to protect you from a giant bear, it will certainly stop small critters and rodents from keeping you company while you sleep.

Privacy.

Most people go camping with their family and friends. When you need to change clothes or slip into a bathing suit, tents provide you with a great source of privacy.

Believe it or not, not all campers and backpackers use tents. Hammock camping is an alternative that has been gaining some popularity lately. Enthusiasts of hammock camping argue that sleeping in a hammock is significantly more comfortable than sleeping inside of a tent. While this is arguably correct, a hammock won’t protect you from rain, snow, and wind.

Types of Camping Tents

Over the years, the design and style of camping tents has evolved. There are so many choices available today, that the perfect tent for you is definitely out there. Here are some of the most common types of camping tents currently available.

Dome Tent

Dome TentDome tents are the most common type of camping tent. They are shaped like domes, with two poles that cross each other in the center and then bend down towards the corners.  Dome tents are easy to pitch, have a high center point, and are ultralight. Dome tents are a great choice for camping or backpacking.

Backpacking Tent

If you plan to go backpacking or hiking, it is very important that your tent be small and ultralight so it’s easy to carry over long distances. Another important factor is your tent’s ability to withstand tough weather conditions.

Luckily, backpacking tents are built just for this. They are smaller and more lightweight than other types of camping tents. Backpacking tents are also extremely durable and able to stand strong through tough weather. Because of their small size, backpacking tents are not very spacious inside and are usually designed for 1 or 2 people.

Cabin Tent

Cabin tents are ideal for family camping. With walls that are almost vertical, you are able to stand up and move around inside of the tent. Cabin tents are very spacious and comfortable inside. Due to the larger size, however, cabin tents are heavier, bulkier, and more difficult to transport.

Geodesic Tents

Geodesic TentOver time, geodesic tents have evolved from the more common dome tent. This type of tent is similar to the dome tent, but offers more stability and support. The poles cross over each other and intersect multiple times, which significantly increases the tent’s stability and wind resistance. As the poles criss-cross each other, they form visible triangles.

Pop Up Tent

Over the last few years, pop up tents have emerged and quickly grown in popularity. They are an exceptional feat of engineering. With spring loaded poles, the tent “pops up” into shape almost immediately, requiring no manual set up. Setting up a pop up tent takes only a few seconds.

In addition to being the easiest type of tent to set up, pop up tents are very lightweight and easy to carry. While they are great for short camping trips and one-night adventures, they are not built to withstand rain and wind.

Multiple Rooms Tent

Multi room tents are large, spacious tents that are intended for groups. They are perfect as family camping tents. Inside can be separated by removable dividers, creating multiple rooms within the tent. Multiple rooms provide privacy, peace, and can make it easier to fall asleep. Tents with multiple rooms vary greatly in size, ranging anywhere from 2 rooms to upwards of 5.

While multi room tents are an awesome concept, they are much larger than the other common types of camping tents. Their large size makes them heavy, difficult to carry, and sometimes difficult to pitch and set up.

Tunnel Tent

Tunnel TentAnother popular style of camping tent is the tunnel tent. This type of tent is similar in shape to the dome tent, but with the middle section extended in length. Because these tents are larger, they are a bit heavier and more difficult to carry. However, the interior of a tunnel tent is much more spacious than other common tent types like the dome, geodesic, and pop up tents.

Tent Material

Popular camping tents are generally made out of canvas, nylon, or polyester. In most modern tents, the fabric will either be nylon or polyester. Let’s take a look at all three materials and see which is best for your purposes.

Canvas

Canvas is typically used to create long-term tents that are going to be set up outside for a long time. Since these tents are going to have to stand the test of time, canvas is the optimal material. It’s heavy, strong, and dependable in all types of weather. Interestingly, boy scout camps throughout America use canvas tents for their summer camps because they are solid, dependable, and will withstand a lot of abuse.

Compared to more modern materials, canvas is heavy and expensive. Because of this, the popularity of canvas tents has decreased over time. You are not going to find the average weekend camper using canvas tents these days.

We don’t recommend choosing a canvas tent unless you are planning to have it remain set up for a long period of time.

Nylon

The majority of camping tents on the market use nylon as the primary material. If you have ever spent the night in a tent, it was likely made of nylon. Nylon tents are a bit more expensive than polyester tents, but are stronger and lighter. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of nylon tents and see how they hold up in terms of strength, UV resistance, and water resistance.

Strength

Nylon is very strong and very lightweight. The strength-to-weight ratio of nylon is very good, which makes it the fabric of choice for most tent manufacturers. Nylon is very stretchy, which allows it to distribute stress over a large area, preventing tears or rips.

UV Resistance

Unfortunately, that strong and stretchy nylon does have a few weaknesses. Over time, nylon can degrade from UV exposure. Campers and hikers who take trips often may find their nylon camping tents degrading after a few years of use. In the last few years, some nylon tents have been manufactured with a coating to prevent UV damage.

Water Resistance

Another issue with nylon is that it absorbs water. In rainy weather, nylon tents will tend to stretch and sag. This is not a huge issue, but it can be inconvenient at times. This issue can be avoided by purchasing a nylon camping tent that is coated with silicone.

Polyester

Polyester is another very common type of tent material. It’s not quite as popular as nylon, but there are definitely a lot of polyester tents on the market. The main advantages of polyester tents are UV resistance and water resistance. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of polyester tents and see how they compare to nylon tents in terms of strength, UV resistance, and water resistance.

Strength

Polyester camping tents are less expensive than nylon tents, but are not as strong or as light. Because polyester is not as strong or tear resistant as nylon, it must be manufactured in a heavier, thicker fabric. In other words, to match the strength and durability of a nylon tent, a polyester tent will be much heavier and more difficult to carry.

UV Resistance

Compared to nylon, polyester camping tents are much more UV-resistant. Additionally, fabric thickness also plays a role in UV resistance, so thick polyester tents should hold up under UV exposure.

Water Resistance

Polyester does not absorb water. In fact, it is actually very effective at resisting water. Unlike nylon tents, polyester camping tents will not stretch or sag when wet or outside in rainy weather. The tent fabric will remain tight and functional.

Which tent material is the best?

So which tent material is the best: canvas, nylon or polyester?

The vast majority of camping tents are made of nylon. Nylon is stronger, lighter, and easier to carry. While nylon tents are a bit more expensive than polyester tents, the price difference is not that significant.

While nylon does have a few weaknesses, casual campers won’t be effected by them. There are also coatings that increase the nylon’s UV and water resistance, which are the two main issues with nylon tents.

We recommend that for camping, you choose a nylon tent with a silicone coating. If you are backpacking, there is no question that a nylon camping tent is the correct choice for you.

Denier

When inspecting and evaluating tent fabrics, you will likely come across the term “Denier”. Denier is a unit of measurement for the weight and thickness of the threads used in the fabric. Fabrics that have a higher denier are stronger, thicker, and more durable. Alternatively, fabrics that have a lower denier are not as strong or durable.

Denier is usually noted as a “D” in the specifications of a tent. For instance, 50D nylon is going to be a lot heavier and stronger than 15D nylon.

It is important, however, to not compare two deniers unless the fabric is the same. Different fabrics have a different standard of strength, so you should not compare the denier of a nylon tent to the denier of a polyester tent. For instance, polyester camping tents usually have deniers of 68D and up, while nylon tents will be closer to 40D. You should not compare these two denier measurements.

Ultralight nylon tents that are designed for backpacking will often have a low denier. When backpacking, the weight of the tent is often a top priority. Fortunately, nylon is a great material and these tents are pretty durable, even with the lower denier.

Tent Capacity

When selecting a tent for camping, the capacity is an important aspect to consider. You need to think about how many people will be sleeping in the tent, and then choose a model with an appropriate capacity.

It’s important to remember that the listed capacity of a tent is the maximum. For instance, a tent that is advertised as a 4-person tent can fit 4 people, but it absolutely will not fit them comfortably. Realistically, a 4-person tent will likely only fit two people comfortably. Unless you are a romantic couple, a 2-person tent is more ideal for just one person.

Keep the capacity in mind when you are looking around for a new tent. Choose a camping tent that has a capacity significantly larger than the amount of people that are going to be sleeping in it.

Freestanding vs. Non-Freestanding Tents

Another big difference that you’ll find between tents is freestanding versus non-freestanding. that’s just exactly what it sounds like. now typically in bigger tents like the one over here you’re not going to find a free-standing. but a lot of times small chance won’t be freestanding either especially a little one-man backpacker tents the difference is I guess

A freestanding tent does not have to be staked down, and you can actually pick it up move it. A non-freestanding tent, on the other hand, must be staked into the ground. The stakes are necessary because the tension from the stakes provides the support to keep the walls of the tent up.

Freestanding Tents

A freestanding tent is a tent that is self-supporting. You can pick it up and set it back down and it will continue to maintain its shape.

One thing that we love about freestanding tents is if you get a little dirt inside, it’s easy to get out. You can just unzip the door, pick the tent up sideways, and shake the dirt right out of it. Essentially, you can move these tents around easily and quickly, which can be really convenient.

However, in the event of high winds, you will definitely have to stake down a free standing tent. They are no match for windy days and will blow around like a kite.

Non-Freestanding Tents

In appearance, non-freestanding tents are very similar to freestanding tents.  They do, however, require the corners to be staked down to provide tension on the poles. The tension on the poles keeps the tent walls standing upright and supports the entire structure of the tent. Because of this, you cannot pick up a non-freestanding tent.

Generally, larger tents are all going to be non-freestanding. If the tent sleeps more than just 2 people, it will very likely not be a freestanding tent.

While they do take a bit longer to set up, non-freestanding tents are much more effective at handling windy weather. If you plan to camp or backpack in an area with windy days or unpredictable weather, we recommend that you opt for a non-freestanding tent with stakes.

Tent Poles

When it comes to the poles of the tent, there are generally two common types: steel poles and shock cords. Almost all modern camping tents use poles with shock cords because they make set up and disassembly much quicker and easier. Older tents however, use a steel pole configuration. If you’ve purchased or inherited an older, second-hand tent, it may very use steel poles.

Let’s take a look at the differences between steel poles and shock cords.

Steel Poles

Older, traditional style tents use a pole configuration that has steel poles. The poles come apart completely, which means that you essentially have to solve a puzzle each time you set up the tent. Remembering which piece goes where is a difficult task.

Fortunately, most older tents actually sew a small set of instructions to help you assemble the steel poles and pitch the tent. Each pole is also labeled to help you follow along with the instructions.

Shock Cords

Many modern tents use small, fiberglass poles. These fiberglass poles have what’s called a “shock cord” inside of them. The shock cord allows you to disassemble and fold up the poles, but still holds each piece loosely together. Shock cords are a fantastic feature, since they remove the need to remember the order that a lot of pieces must be connected in while pitching the tent.

Pole Clips vs. Pole Sleeves

The method used to connect the poles to the tent can vary from tent to tent. The two most common methods are pole clips and pole sleeves.

On a tent with pole clips, small pieces of plastic that are attached to the tent are clipped onto the pole to stretch out the tent fabric and hold the tent’s structure in place.

Alternatively, many other tents utilize pole sleeves. Just as the name describes, the tent will have small sleeves that the pole must be fed through. These work the same way as the pole clips, by stretching the fabric and forming the tent’s shape.

In my opinion, the pole clips are a better choice. This is simply because, in my experience, they are faster and more convenient. You just set the poles up and clip the tent right onto to them. On the other hand, I have found that sliding the poles through small sleeves can get a bit frustrating some times.

This is just a personal preference, both the sleeves and clips are easy and effective. We wouldn’t recommend factoring this feature too heavily into your tent selection.

 

More Tent Features To Consider

We covered most of the essential features of camping tents. However, there are a few more features that are pretty common in modern tents. A few of these features that are particularly common and notable are the rain fly, gear loft, and vestibule. Let’s take a look at each and see what they are and the benefits they provide.

Rain Fly

A rain fly is the part of a that extends over the windows to block the rain. Essentially, a rain fly is a tent awning.

Many tents, especially newer models, include a removable rain fly. Removable rain flies are great because you can attach or remove them according to the current weather situation. If the weather takes a turn for the worse, you can just pop on your rain fly and keep your tent nice and dry. In the warm summertime, you can remove the rain fly and enjoy a cool breeze and keep the air circulating.

Gear Loft

A gear loft is a small net that hangs from the top of the tent. They give you a place to store small personal items like cell phones, wallets, and keys. Although gear lofts are fairly common, not all tents come with them. They are very convenient and help to prevent you from losing important personal items.

Many tents will also have similar net pockets along the inside walls. These work in the same way and add even more convenience to the tent’s interior.

Vestibule

A vestibule is an extension of the tent that covers the front door. Some tents have side vestibules, but a front vestibule is more common. The purpose of a vestibule is to provide an area for you to store items that you want to stay dry, but you don’t want to bring inside of the tent.

For instance, you would leave your boots by the tent vestibule to keep them out of the rain. You wouldn’t want to bring the dirty boots inside the tent. Tent vestibules usually do not have a floor.

You can think of a vestibule as the mudroom or porch of your camping tent.

Screened Room and Porches

Some tents have screened porches, or screened rooms. These are rooms that are separate from the sleeping areas of the tent, but are still screened off from nature. If you are camping in an environment that has a lot of insects, this is a feature that you should definitely consider. They offer the best of both worlds, allowing you to enjoy the relaxing outdoor breeze while still keeping the mosquitoes and bugs away.

Happy Camping!

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