What to look for when buying a tent

Camping is officially cool. With the growth of outdoor festivals year on year, the number of people deciding to try camping and caravanning for inexpensive and portable accommodation is being more and more popular.

The numbers who decide to pack a tent and sleeping bag and head to a UK campsite is now edging close to 1.5 million every year. The combination of more outside events and looking for more cost effective holidays has increased the number over the last few years.

If you’re looking to take your first camping holiday, the most important item you’ll need to buy is your tent. It can mean the difference between a comfortable few nights away and a miserable cramped stay so really spend some time thinking about what is right for you and anyone else travelling with you.

The three most important tips to remember are:

  • Buy a tent which is aimed at more people than will be sleeping in it
  • Ensure you’ve seen the tent erected before you buy it
  • Put the tent up in the garden before heading off for your first trip so you know how it’s done before you get there

Size matters

Manufacturers will always state how many people the tent is designed to sleep. In theory this is always true but many find the reality very different.

The number of people a tent will sleep will usually be a very compact and cosy experience unless you buy something larger. The calculation is just for the number of people and doesn’t include any space for luggage so a tent for 2 people with a bag each will need at least a 3 berth tent and for guaranteed comfort, one designed for 4 is probably the best option.

Know what you’re buying

There’s lots of different tent shapes on the market and they may not be obvious from the name. It’s important then to see the tent erected in the store before you buy or if you choose one online, look for some videos which tour the inside and outside to see if it’s for you.

Some tent shapes you’ll see mentioned are:

  • A-frame; traditional triangular shape, low cost with not a great deal of headroom
  • Dome; has flexible poles and lightweight. Small ones are popular with backpackers
  • Frame; family tent which divides into different ‘rooms’
  • Geodesic; cross-pole design which gives excellent rigidity and less likely than other designs to fly away in the wind. There’s even inflatable geodesic tents which don’t require poles
  • Tunnel; Long and sizeable, often with a porch section at the front and easy to access doors
  • Yurt; wooden lattice frame covered with canvas or felt – popular at  ‘glamping’ sites
  • Tipi; growing in popularity and look towards the tents of the native North American tribes in their design

Practice makes perfect

Don’t make the mistake of buying your tent and then not unpacking until you reach your campsite. You’ll spend far too much time trying to follow the instructions for the first time and you need to know if extra pairs of hands are needed to hold poles or raise the tent with you. Even worse is that you could be trying to put a tent up in the rain whilst holding a piece of paper which shows how the poles go together and how to lay out the ground sheet – not a great start to a holiday if it ends up taking three times as long as it would have done for the sake of spending an hour getting it right before you packed everything into the car.

Buying a tent is a very personal decision; research the materials they are made from, the kind of poles used and the features such as the ground sheet and bedroom dividers before choosing and you’ll have many happy years camping ahead of you.

Written by Elena