5 Common Mistakes When Buying a TentPublished on 04/10/2023 · 11 min readHaving the right tent can ensure you get a good night's sleep and stay sheltered from the elements! Check out these 5 mistakes to avoid when buying a tent!
Photo by Hunter Reed
Camping is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and get back to nature. But if you're not properly prepared, a camping trip can quickly become a nightmare! One of the most important pieces of gear for any camping trip is a good tent. It provides shelter from the elements, a place to sleep, and a home base for all your outdoor adventures. However, choosing the wrong tent can lead to various problems, from cramped quarters to leaky roofs.
In this article, we'll take a look at five common mistakes people make when buying a tent, so you can avoid them and enjoy your camping trip to the fullest!
Avoid These 5 Common Mistakes
1. Purchasing the Wrong Type of Tent
As a Curated Camping and Hiking expert, the first question I will ask someone when they ask for help finding the perfect tent is what type of camping they are doing. There are many different types of tents, each better for a different type of camping. If you want to go backpacking and purchase a non-backpacking specific tent, you will carry a lot of extra weight! If you are looking to camp in the winter and get a tent intended for summer use only, not only will you be freezing, but your tent wall will likely collapse under the weight of any snow since that’s not its intended use.
Here are a few subcategories to think about within types of tents:
Tent season ratings are a way of categorizing tents based on their suitability for use during different times of the year. Most tents are rated as either 3-season or 4-season, although some may fall between or outside these categories.
Here is a breakdown of what each season rating means:
- 3-season tents: Designed for use during the spring, summer, and fall, and are suitable for moderate weather conditions. They typically have a lightweight design and good ventilation, using mesh on the windows and doors to keep you cool in warm weather. However, they may also have some additional features like a rainfly and reinforced seams to help protect you from occasional rain or wind. The 3-season tents are not designed for harsh winter conditions and may not provide adequate insulation or protection from heavy snow or high winds.
- 4-season tents: These are designed for use in all seasons, including winter, and are suitable for more extreme weather conditions. They are more durable and rugged than 3-season tents, with features like reinforced poles, heavy-duty fabrics, and a strong, stable frame that can withstand high winds and heavy snow. The 4-season tents may also have additional features like a full-coverage rainfly, snow flaps, and extra insulation to keep you warm in cold weather.
- Ultralight or summer tents: Some tents are specifically designed for use in warm weather or for backpacking and may not be rated for a specific season. These tents are typically very lightweight and easy to pack but may not provide as much protection from the elements as a more heavy-duty 3-season or 4-season tent.
The next thing to consider is the different types of tents. For more in-depth information on types of tents, check out this article, but here are some basics:
- Dome tents: Dome tents are the most popular type of tent, characterized by their curved, dome-shaped design. They are typically easy to set up and offer good ventilation, making them a popular choice for camping in mild to moderate weather.
- Intended Use: Car camping, backpacking
- Pros: Easy to set up and take down, good balance of weather resistance and ventilation
- Cons: Not as much room as some larger tents, heavier and bulkier than backpacking tents, not stable in high winds or snow
- Backpacking tents: Backpacking tents are designed to be lightweight and easy to pack, making them a good choice for backpackers and hikers. They are typically smaller and more compact than other types of tents, with features like a single pole design and minimalistic rainfly.
- Intended Use: Backpacking, mountaineering
- Pros: Lightweight and compact and can be set up quickly and easily
- Cons: Limited interior space, not as durable as some other tents due to their lighter materials, typically more expensive
- Geodesic tents: Geodesic tents are similar to dome tents but are designed with multiple crisscrossing poles that create a stable and stronger structure. They are a good choice for camping in harsh weather conditions or high winds, as they are less likely to collapse or be damaged.
- Intended Use: Mountaineering, winter camping, backpacking in extreme weather
- Pros: Very stable and resistant to extreme weather, typically a spacious interior
- Cons: Can be more complex to set up than other types of tents, usually pricier than backpacking or dome tents, heavier and bulkier than other types of tents
- Pop-up tents: Pop-up tents are designed to be incredibly easy to set up, with a pre-assembled frame that pops into shape when you unfold the tent. They are a good choice for camping trips where you need to set up and take down your tent quickly, such as music festivals or car camping trips. Sometimes these are made out of canvas, the most durable material for pop-up tents and the most insulating and heaviest!
- Intended Use: Car camping, music festivals
- Pros: Very easy to setup and takedown, usually the cheapest option
- Cons: Heavier and bulkier thanks to the pre-assembled frame, less durable than other types of tents
- Rooftop tents: Rooftop tents are designed to be mounted on top of a vehicle, such as a car or a truck. They are a good choice for people who want a more elevated camping experience. They are also great for camping when you expect to get a lot of rain because they are both durable and allow you to get off the ground, so there isn’t any chance of water running under your tent floors and soaking your gear.
- Intended Use: Car camping, road trips
- Pros: Elevated sleeping space for rain, easy to set up, usually has a large interior space, and doesn’t require you to find a flat area of ground to sleep on
- Cons: Heavy, expensive, requires you to take down every day if you plan on using your vehicle for getting to trailheads or going to town
- Multi-room tents: Multi-room tents are designed with multiple compartments or "rooms" inside, which can be separated by a divider or curtain. They are a good choice for families or groups who want some privacy or separation while camping or want to create different sleeping areas for different people.
- Intended Use: Family camping, group camping
- Pros: A ton of space, really comfortable for long camping trips
- Cons: Heavy, bulky, hard to set up, and doesn’t trap as much insulation on cold nights due to the extra space
- Bivy tents: Bivy tents (short for "bivouac") are small, lightweight shelters designed for minimalist camping or mountaineering. They typically consist of a waterproof, breathable cover that goes over the sleeping bag, with a small pole or hoop at the head end to provide some extra space. Bivy tents are a good choice for solo campers or hikers who want to travel light and don’t care as much about comfort.
- Intended Use: Solo camping, ultralight backpacking
- Pros: Really lightweight, easy to setup and take down
- Cons: Limited interior space for you and your gear, not as comfortable
Choosing the Wrong Size Tent
Another common mistake people make when choosing a tent is picking the wrong size. I camp by myself with my dog a good amount but always opt for a two-person tent. It gives me enough room to be comfortable and offers space for my dog and gear. Two-person tents also allow me to have another person in my tent if need be, but if I were to get a larger tent, it would be bulkier and heavier than I want.
Usually, if you are camping with two people in the tent all the time, I recommend a three-person tent since you will have enough room for your gear and not feel cramped.
Here are a few issues you’ll have if you choose the wrong size tent:
- Insufficient space: This is the most obvious, but if you choose a tent that is too small for the number of people who will be using it, you may find that there is not enough space for everyone to sleep comfortably. Insufficient space can be especially problematic if you are camping for an extended period and need space to store your gear and move around.
- Difficulty in setup: A tent that is too small may be more difficult to set up, as you may need to cram people and gear into a smaller area. This can make it challenging to properly stake out the tent and attach the rainfly, compromising your tent’s stability and weather resistance. If you get something too large, it will also be harder to set up since it will have more stakes and tent poles for the extra room.
- Ventilation issues: A tent that is too small may not have adequate vents or airflow, which can cause condensation to build up inside the tent. Unfortunately, this can make the interior damp and uncomfortable and lead to mildew or mold growth.
Not Testing the Setup
Many people make the mistake of not testing the setup of their tent before they go camping. Ensuring you understand how to set up the tent and have all the necessary components is important. Doing so can save you a lot of frustration when you're trying to set up the tent at your campsite. Most tent manufacturers have videos online detailing how to set the tent up.
The best tent is the one that fits your needs and is easy to set up and take down. I recommend watching videos on how to set up/take down a tent before purchasing it!
4. Ignoring the Features
Another mistake people make when purchasing a tent is ignoring the features. Some important features to consider include ventilation, storage pockets, rainfly, number of doors, option for attaching an awning, windows, and ease of setup. By ignoring these features, you may end up with a tent that doesn't meet your needs!
5. Sacrificing Quality for Price
While it's understandable to want to save money, focusing too much on the price can lead to purchasing a low-quality tent. It's important to find a balance between affordability and quality.
Several factors can affect the price of a tent. Here are some of the most common ones:
- Quality of materials: Tents made from higher-quality materials, such as durable ripstop nylon and lightweight fiberglass poles, tend to be more expensive.
- Brand reputation: Tents from well-known and respected outdoor brands tend to command higher prices.
- Size and capacity: Larger tents with higher capacity tend to be more expensive than smaller, single-person tents.
- Season rating: Tents designed for use in harsher weather conditions, such as winter camping, tend to be more expensive than those designed for use in milder weather.
- Additional features: Tents with additional features, such as gear lofts, loops or clips for your lantern or headlamp, vestibules, or built-in lighting, tend to be more expensive than basic models.
- Weight: Ultralight tents designed for backpacking tend to be more expensive than heavier models designed for car camping.
- Construction: Tents that are more complex to construct, such as those with multiple poles and vestibules, tend to be more expensive than simpler models.
Overall, you can expect to pay more for a tent made from high-quality materials, with a larger capacity, or designed for use in harsh weather conditions. However, it's important to remember that the most expensive tent isn't always the best option for your needs. Consider your budget, the type of camping you'll be doing, and the features that are most important to you when selecting a tent. A tent is an investment that should hopefully last you quite a few years, so it’s worth spending some extra money to have something that fits your needs and lasts a long time!
Choosing the right tent is key to a successful and enjoyable camping trip. By avoiding these common mistakes, you can ensure that you're getting a tent that's the right size, weight, and style for your needs. Whether you're embarking on a solo backpacking trip or a family camping adventure, the right tent can make all the difference! So, next time you're in the market for a new tent, keep these tips in mind, and you'll be sure to find the perfect one for you. And if you have any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to reach out to a Camping and Hiking Expert here at Curated! Happy camping!