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What tent is right for you?

Choosing a tent can be a little intimidating, so we’re going to break it down for you.

Car Camping Tents

Car camping is the most common form of camping. Don’t be ashamed – who doesn’t love the luxuries of home in the backcountry? Car camping is the tops. You don’t have to worry about packing light, and if it fits in your car, it’s good to go.


Below are some of the things to look for when buying a tent.

3 Season Tents are the most popular choice as they are lightweight and designed for Spring, Summer, and Fall. They provide great air flow and equipped with a rain-fly which can handle most downpours.

4 Season tents are engineered to withstand larger storms as well as heavy snowfall, they provide less ventilation but maintain a warmer temperature inside.

Length – most tents are 84”-88”.  If you’re over 6’ you may want to look into tents with a floor length of 90” or more.

Dome Style – These tents can offer better protection against the wind and rain, but due to their shape they can reduce the livable space.

Cabin Style – These are the luxury style tents that look like small houses, and some even come with room dividers.  They are burly, but often heavy and don’t pack small.  If you have a small car, this might take up too much room.

Height –  If you like to be able to stand up and move around make sure you take into account the peak height, as well as if it’s Dome or Cabin style.



Tent Footprint – This is a custom gound-cloth that’s usually sold separately to protect your floor from damage and help keep your tent dry if the ground is soaked.  Check out our guide on how to create your own for much less.

Stakes – Most tents come with thin metal stakes that have a tendency to bend.  Look into picking up some thicker plastic stakes that are easier to get in and out.

Tent Repair Kit – Nobody has ever regretted being too prepared. You never know when your tent is going to get a small tear in it that if not repaired quickly can soon turn into a large hole.  If you don’t want to buy one, some super glue, nylon, mesh and a thread and needle will suffice.

You’re in the great outdoors, people are naturally going to track dirt, rocks, and twigs into the tent. To increase the lifespan of your tent make sure to empty out all of this before packing your tent up.  Simply unstake the tent and turn it upside down and give it a shake.  If your tent is too big, bring a small hand-broom.


Backpacking Tents

Backpacking tents are very similar to car camping tents, you’re still deciding between 3 or 4 season, length and similar accessories but your main focus is going to be weight and pack size.


Backpacking Tent Weight

Minimum Trail Weight – This is the bare bones tent, the basic items you need to make it work. Tent, poles, and rainfly. You will probably pack more such as stakes, footprint, and a repair kit. So take that into consideration.

Packaged Weight –  This is going to be the shipping weight that you see on most sites, your actual carry weight will be somewhere between this and the minimum trail weight.

Packed Size –  This is going to be measured by how much space the components of the tent take up in your pack.  If you’re sharing the tent, remember you can split the components between multiple people.  You can also compress stuff sacks to take up less space with a compression sack.


Minimalist Shelters

Here are some alternatives to carrying a full tent.  If you’re trying to save every possible ounce, these may be a better option for you.


Bivy Sacks- These are basically waterproof barriers for your sleeping bag to fit inside.  If you’re Closter phobic, this won’t work for you.

Tarp Shelters- using rope, minimal poles and a tarp this provides shelter from rain but nothing else.  If trees are not available for rigging, this is not your best option.  Remember, this also offers you no barrier from critters.

Hammock Tents – These are hammocks with a rain-fly and possibly bug netting.  These are great for staying light and keeping out the critters, but if you need back support, look elsewhere.

Bug Shelter – This is very similar to a bivy sack, but provides a bug shelter around you and your sleeping bag.  Great for dry summer camping when bugs may be an issue.