Choosing the Right Tent
There are two primary considerations when selecting a tent -- how many people it needs to hold and the season in which it will be used the most.
If your tent needs to hold more than four people, you'll probably be looking mostly at cabin-style tents, which are large, steep-walled enclosures. If you have four people or less in your group, you may be able to fit into a dome-style tent, which tend to be easier to set up but less roomy than cabin tents. There are lots of other kinds of tent, but cabin-and dome-style provide the greatest amount of space and mobility while inside.
Consider the season of your intended trip. Unless you're going camping in the winter, a 3-season tent will probably suit all the climate needs you'll ever have. 3-season tents are generally versatile in terms of their ventilation - if it's cold, you can add a rain cover and zip up your doors and windows. If it's hot, you simply do the opposite! If you are going camping in the winter, look for a 4-season tent capable of handling the harsher climate and providing more warmth
No matter the style or the number of seasons for which your tent is rated, there are certain things to look for which will make your life much easier and more comfortable. These features include:
- Collapsible tent poles, made of lightweight aluminum, fiberglass, or composite materials. The poles should all be the same length, or should be color-coded according to their different spans.
- A pale-colored polyester or nylon fabric - polyester is more durable, while nylon is lighter. The pale-colored fabric allows more light into the tent and keeps it cooler during the day.
- Mesh windows and doors with zip closures improve visibility and ventilation.
- Interior storage pockets.
- Gear loops on the inside, for hanging flashlights and other items.
- A waterproof rainfly that easily attaches to the tent's body.
- A tent "footprint", a tarp-like material slightly smaller than the bottom of the tent. This can be bought from the manufacturer or can be made from clear polyethylene sheeting, available at most lumberyards. Standard tarps can also be used.
Choosing a Camp Tent Site
Choosing a tent site at your campground is mostly a matter of common sense - we all know that water rolls downhill. Correspondingly, try to avoid low-lying areas. If you have the option, put your tent on loose, gravely soil, as it will allow better drainage, better ventilation, and an easier time for you when you're staking in. When positioning your tent, always put your head above your feet - it's better for your body's circulation and will help to ensure that your head stays dry through the night. Make sure your tent floor is free of wrinkles for best drainage.
***NOTE: Practice setting up your tent at least once before your trip! There's nothing worse than trying to set up an unfamiliar tent for the first time when you're tired, hungry, and in the dark.
***NOTE: Try not to set your tent up in direct sun, as this can affect the waterproofing.
***NOTE: Be sure to set your tent up well away from any fire or flame, and never have open flame in your tent. The waterproofing substances used by equipment companies are extremely flammable.
Caring for Your Tent
A few simple rules will help ensure that your tent remains useful for a long time Ã‚Â– keep it dry, and keep it clean. Never store your tent wet (if you have to for any reason, air it out at the earliest possible time); you can use your footprint and repellant-type products on the outer layers to help reduce condensation. Sweep out the floor each time you get ready to break it down to help your tent from becoming filthy, smelly, and ultimately unusable.
Additionally, don't repack your tent the same way each time, as this will lead to wear and tear. Instead, put the poles and stakes into your tent bag first, and then carefully stuff in the tent to help the fabric and waterproofing better last.