One of the great pleasures of a day spent outdoors is to extend it into the next day by spending the night in the comfort and protection of your tent. For some people, this small accommodation deserves more stars than the most lavish of hotels.
However, the vast choice of tent models available is disarmingly embarrassing for anyone who wants to buy one! Here are some tips on how to choose the right tent.
The three most important criteria to consider when making a wise selection of a tent are weight, living area, and price (of course).
WEIGHT AND AREA
First, you need to determine whether you will be transporting your tent in a backpack or in the trunk of your car.
You don’t want to carry a 6 kg tent with steel poles on your shoulders! On the other hand, if you drive to your campsite, weight is not a factor and you can afford to think big in terms of cabin space.
Next, you need to know how many people you will be sharing your little “mobile home” with. There are tents for one, two, three or four people, or even more, which usually represents the number of people who can sleep in it, roped up on the ground. It is important to understand that in some cases there is very little space left for equipment.
To maximize comfort, choosing a larger tent (with a capacity for at least one more person) may be a wise choice.
For example, two people might benefit from choosing a three-person tent. The extra space provides a little more personal comfort, as well as keeping gear safe. A larger tent also helps keep morale up, especially on longer trips or when bad weather forces us to spend more time indoors.
In addition, for the same model, the difference in weight between the two-person and three-person versions is often minimal. For example, the Zoic 2P and Zoic 3P tents from MSR weigh 2.19 kg and 2.67 kg respectively, which is half a kilogram that could save a marriage! So, to make your selection, don’t hesitate to consult the technical data sheets of various tents and compare them to each other, paying particular attention to the floor area (expressed in square meters) and weight.
DOORS AND VESTIBULES
The number of doors and the size of vestibules are two other factors that contribute to a tent’s comfort level.
A single-door tent encourages congestion and can lead to disagreements about who sits next to it and who sits in the back…
A two-door model avoids these problems and allows two people to sit at the same time, which is not a luxury in bad weather.
As for the vestibules, when they are spacious, they can accommodate and protect backpacks, shoes and other equipment, which enhances the experience under the tent. So don’t underestimate their importance!
A secondary selection criterion is ease of assembly. Most tents are now self-supporting, meaning that once set up they do not have to be stretched and secured to the ground to stand up.
Tents that are not freestanding are usually very large or very small, even minimalist. Of course, these must be set up on land where stakes can be anchored securely and ropes stretched. Very rocky, sandy or snowy grounds can therefore be problematic.
Some tents may also be difficult to set up by one person, so make sure they are not used for solo use. In fact, before going camping, it is wise to set up your tent at least once, whether in your basement or in your backyard.
Finding yourself in front of a tent you don’t know how to assemble in the middle of a forest, at dusk or in the rain is not as pleasant as putting it up on a sunny Sunday afternoon in a nice clearing.
In the category of easy to set up tents, some models even set themselves up using a system of poles that unfold as soon as they are released from their ties, as is the case with the 2-Seconds. However, the latter is neither light nor compact, and it cannot be carried in a backpack.
SUMMER, FALL, OR WINTER CAMPING?
The choice of a tent should also be based on the time of year it will be used. There are three categories: summer tents, three-season tents and winter tents (often called expedition tents).
A summer tent is composed of two layers: an inner one – mostly made of mosquito netting and with large doors – and an outer one – made of a waterproof rain fly. The purpose of this double layer is to allow for proper ventilation of the tent so that the tent will let out as much heat and moisture as possible while keeping its occupants dry.
Three-season models are similar in construction, but with less screen area and more durable materials.
The winter tents have even less screen area and a very strong rain fly that comes down very close to the ground to retain as much of the heat as possible from the campers. Their frame is also much stronger to support the weight of the snow.
There are also single-layer models (without a double roof), but these are used for very specialized purposes and in extreme conditions, where lightness, strength and speed of assembly are crucial factors. Their price is almost prohibitive!
SPEAKING OF PRICE…
Why pay more when you can spend less? Of course, you should expect to pay more for a tent that is known for its quality materials, attention to detail, light weight, ease of setup, efficiency and durability. But each of these factors only really comes into play when the frequency of use is significant.
When you only sleep in a tent for one or two nights a year, you don’t need to pay a lot of money, and there are perfectly adequate tents for less than $100, like the Coleman Sundome 3-P at Canadian Tire.
But when the tent becomes a second home, the best is the best. If you spend 30 nights a year in a tent, even a $700+ model is only a few dollars a night. You have to know how to gauge your needs and determine what factors you want to prioritize: lightness, sturdiness, comfort, durability, ease of setup, etc.