Look around your local camping retailer or online and you will find hundreds of different tents on the market and the choice can seem overwhelming. In practice, experienced campers often end up with more than one tent for different types of camping trips, but how do you choose?
This Data Sheet offers some suggestions. You will find more detail on the choice of materials for your tent fabric, poles, groundsheet and pegs in another Data Sheet – Choosing your tent materials.
Before you start looking, it is worth taking time to decide how you will use your tent.
Many factors might come into play, such as:
How many people will be sleeping inside?
It is commonly held that you should buy a tent with more ‘berths’ than people who will use it. It is certainly worth looking at the sleeping space available for each person.
In some tents, for example, you cannot fit a double airbed into a sleeping cabin for two.
However, if you are planning to carry your tent up a mountain or squeeze it into a canoe, you will probably happily sacrifice some space in favour of a smaller unit.
How long will you stay at one site?
There are exceptions, but generally the smaller the tent, the easier it is to pitch. If you are planning a fortnight’s family holiday you may be prepared to spend time hanging wardrobes or adding canopies and enjoy the benefits of extra space, but you may prefer a more basic tent for weekend stops.
What is the weather likely to be?
If you have the option of only camping in fine weather, you can probably get away with a small, cheap tent just to sleep in, with a few guy ropes to hold it down.
Unfortunately, in the UK even summer campers can need rain protection, somewhere to shelter inside during the day and enough guying points to keep it down in the wind. If you are looking to camp in winter or in more extreme conditions you will need to take this into account when choosing your tent.
This is where your choice of tent fabric and pole material is also important.
How much do you want to spend?
Remember the tent is only the start of your camping expenditure. You will need to budget for something to sleep on and in; cooking and eating facilities; and lighting as a minimum. The list of items to tempt you to part with your cash is almost endless, so it is worth clarifying what you want to spend before you start.
On the other hand, a cheap tent may not have the quality and facilities you need for an enjoyable holiday – and this could be enough to spoil the whole camping experience.