ArticlesHow to Choose

How to Choose a Tent

A tent is your home away from home. It needs to be waterproof, durable, but most of all it has to be easy to set up. There are many types of tents and which one is right for you depend on many factors. Will you be backpacking, bike touring, or family camping? How many people will be using it? Do you need to use it in winter or will you camp in windy and exposed conditions? By considering a few factors you pick select the perfect tent for your needs.

Tents and a tarp on the beach. Lake Nipigon, ON.
Tents and a tarp on the beach. Lake Nipigon, ON.

Tent Type

Tents come in many flavors. The trick is to figure out which tent is best for your needs. The first step is to figure out how you are going use the tent. The use of the tent determines the tents type.

Recreational Tents

These tents offer a good price option for campers who will use their tents only occasionally during summer months. These tents are made with fiberglass poles, and often have floors made from tarp materials.

Family Tents

Call it car camping or family camping or anything you want, but pulling up to a campsite with a car allows you to bring a bigger tent. These tents are designed to be big enough for the whole family or just for two and a picnic table. The biggest of these tents allow you to stand completely upright inside or store all you gear for the weekend. The newer modern designs are lighter than your typical family tent and make great canoeing tents also.

Three Season Backpacking Tents

Three season backpacking tents are designed to be lightweight and sturdy. They have good ventilation and easy to set up designs. Look for designs that are around 3 pounds per person or less. With the new Ultralight movement many tents are starting to weigh under 4 and a half pounds.

Convertible, Four-Season, and Mountaineering Tents

These tents are built with more poles than a typical tent and offer the camper a chance to use a tent all year long. Convertible tents are often more comfortable because they have panels that can be zipped open for ventilation. The penalty of the versatility of these tents is paid in extra weight.

Tarps, and Tarp Style Tents

The lightest class of tents, and used by Ultralight backpacker’s who are paring down the weight of their packs. A tarp is draped over a string line and staked out to become a triangle shaped peaked tent. Other styles of tarp tents use trekking poles as their main supports. If you are a backpack, these are worth looking into.


A tents capacity is an estimate of how many people will fit comfortably inside. Many campers like to have extra space and if you are one of them, consider buying a tent rated one person higher than you need. It will be heavier, but you may get a better nights rest. Backpackers should expect tight but comfortable quarter to save weight and car campers could buy the biggest tent available if they want all kinds of room.


Tent manufacturers often supply two weights: a minimum and packed weight. The minimum weight is only including the fly, canopy, and poles. The packed weight includes everything that comes with the tent. When comparing weights make sure you compare their minimum weight. You can always change stakes and stuff sacks after you buy for lighter ones if those that are included aren’t up to par.


If you plan on spending a lot of time in your tent, you may want a tall height, but remember a higher profile is more susceptible to wind. Tall people need to make sure that they will be able to lie down without hitting the walls, so check the dimensions. Set up any potential tents before you buy to make sure it will fit you.


Area is a good indication of the amount of space inside the tent, but if the tent lacks near vertical walls, the usability of the floor space will be reduced. Vertical wall are more susceptible to winds, so you have to make a compromise between these.

Caring for Your Tent

Unless your tent is factory taped you will need to seam-seal before you use it in rain. At each seam apply an even amount of seam-sealer. Let it dry for 24 hours before use. Most tents will be seam-sealed, but check before you leave the store.

After you finish a trip clean out the dirt from the floor, wipe off any mud, and let it dry out completely. This will help prevent mold on the tent’s fabric. Store you tent out of the sun in a dry cool place. We recommend storing the tent out of the supplied stuff sack and in a cotton bag the size of a pillowcase.

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