A tent is your home away from home on your camping trip, so choosing the right one is essential.
Most tents are made with polyester, which is lightweight and can be made water-resistant with a polyurethane coating while remaining breathable. Tents can also be made with nylon, which is lighter than polyester but may fade more with extended UV exposure. There are some tents that are made with cotton, but since it absorbs water and is heavy it is not an ideal fabric for family camping trips.
Tents have many seams and stitching holes. You want your tent to have seams that are taped or coated in additional waterproof material to ensure that water will not leak through these seams. The stitching should also appear durable. If your tent does not have taped seams, you can purchase seam sealer to help protect your tent from leakage and water damage.
A rain fly is a waterproof cover for your tent. It helps protect the tent from rain and UV rays. You want a fly that closes completely to keep the tent dry in inclement weather. Higher quality tents come with a custom fit rain fly with a vestibule at the front to place boots and other gear. They can reduce ventilation, so in warmer weather you can remove the rain fly and let more sun and air into your tent.
Vestibules can make your tent seem more like home. They are useful for storing gear or, if large enough, to take off wet clothing or put on your boots. A pole-supported vestibule will be heavier to transport, but will be larger and more storm-proof.
A ground sheet, or ‘footprint’, is a necessity to keep your tent clean and dry. Your ground sheet should be smaller than your tent’s footprint, because if it is larger it can catch water and actually flood your tent. Better quality tents have their own custom made footprints. Always pitch your tent on higher ground to avoid water runoff.
Tent poles are a key factor in how easy it will be to pitch. Fewer poles mean a quicker setup. When you are looking at materials, aluminum is stronger and can be more durable than fibreglass. It can be easer to clip poles than to thread them through continuous pole sleeves. It’s good to have a combination of clips and sleeves to make setup easier. Many tents do not require being pegged into the ground anymore, but if yours does, be sure to bring a mallet to hammer the pegs firmly into the ground.
Ensure your tent has enough room to store all your gear, sleeping bags, air beds and has room for everyone, including the family dog. Some tents come with hanging storage bags on the sides of tent to free up valuable floor space. Interior pockets can help keep your tent organized.
Interior Loops and Pockets
Look for a lantern loop located at the top-center of the ceiling to allow you a place to hang your lantern and light up your tent. Gear loft loops on tent walls can be used to attach shelves to keep small items such as keys or lamps off of the tent floor, or to a attach a clothesline to dry items.