Choosing a Tent Based on Your Needs
When choosing the camping tent that suits you best, think about the conditions you may encounter, the number of people that need to fit inside, plus the weight that you are able to carry.
Seasons and Conditions
Three-season tents are meant to be used during spring, summer or fall. They provide sufficient ventilation and strong shelter from all kinds of weather, except for gusty winds and heavy snowfalls. Most of them contain inner mesh bodies that can reduce condensation. They can be used with no fly to provide cool, pest-proof protection on hot nights. Generally, three-season tents are more spacious, ventilated, lighter and less expensive than four-season tents. Their versatility lets them be more suitable for cyclists, paddlers and backpackers.
Four-season tents, with their low curved shape and several poles, are designed to provide protection against high winds and snow build-up during heavy weather. You get extra risk options with the additional guy-points and lines. They have heavier fabrics and thicker waterproof covering to let them be more weatherproof, less ventilated and more prone to internal condensation. This extra protection gives them more weight and compact size, and makes them more suitable for mountaineering, winter camping or ski touring.
Single wall tents are best for four-season use and expedition. They have a no fly design, wherein a person’s weight is equivalent to a sack. They do not come with an internal canopy, so there is more headroom and floor area for whatever size of exterior. They are made with waterproof, yet breathable fabrics, making them suitable for drier, cooler environments beyond the snowline, and not best during summer or for sea-level places with their high humidity.
Sizes and Shapes
If you only intend to sleep in your tent, a two-person tent can accommodate two people. However, if you have to spend some time inside because of the bad weather conditions, you have to choose a tent that is more (+1 or 2) than the number of people who will stay inside.
Free-standing tents that are usually dome-like retain their basic shape when you add their poles. Their design enables you to pull them up to move to another location and to easily shake out the dirt. They usually have more usable space on the floor and above your head than tunnel tents. They come with more poles to support them, making them sound proof and less prone to movement during windy days. To allow proper ventilation and keep them from being carried away, these tents have to be pegged out.
Tunnel tents suspend from arch-shaped poles, and when their ends are pegged out, their shape is formed. As compared to free-standing tents with the same size, they are lighter in weight and not as bulky. They need only 3 pegs during mild weather, but they should be fastened with more anchors during rough weather conditions.
Two tents that have the same area can feel different because of their lay-out. Tunnel tents are characterized by their elongated floor shapes. Dome-shaped tents, with their spacious design, can accommodate more people to sit and socialize. Steep walls offer more floor space to use. They capture the wind and protect from rain.