Nowadays there's a vast array in tent choice with plenty to suit most purposes and pockets, so to help you narrow down the options, here's our list of what you should be looking for in your perfect home from home.
1. To carry or not to carry?
If you’re camping out of your car then you can quite happily blow caution to the wind when it comes to weight. But it’s obviously a different story if you’re backpacking: weight matters. When you’re looking around for lightweight tents, bear in mind that that the manufacturer's quoted useable weight is often much less than the actual weight of the tent as they’ll only use the minimum number of poles and will discard bags and guys etc. Around 2.5 kilos should be your ballpark figure for a two-man tent.
2. Tunnel or geodesic?
Geodesics, which use multiple crossing poles are generally stronger and are freestanding, but a well made tunnel with well anchored guys pitched end-on to the wind can be very strong too. Arguably with tunnel tents the degree of deformation possible in the poles actually makes them less likely to break in high winds and they are also generally lighter.
Here you’ve a choice between single and double layer tents. The problem with most single skin tents is that they’re not breathable enough, so you end up with condensation on the inside and a damp sleep. Most tents in the UK use the effective two-layer system of a flysheet and inner, with the flysheet keeping off the rain. Some tents pitch fly-first, some inner-first, some either fly or inner first and there’s also a few that pitch all in one big unit. If you’re looking for a tent for UK use, pitching the flysheet first is an advantage, as the less waterproof inner is less likely to get soaked.
4. Weight or water?
Some lighter tents compromise on the groundsheet fabric to save weight - so you may need to add an extra sheet under the tent for water protection. Good tents will have thick, durable fabric and a bathtub construction so they can sit in puddles without leaking.
Good vents are the best way of avoiding condensation. Air flow through the tent will move humid air away rather than allowing it to condense on the inside of the flysheet. Make sure you can operate vents from inside the tent for convenience.
6. Insect nets
Look for a door which has an insect net option. Some have the net inside the main door, some outside. If there's no netting, you're looking at midge city.
Porches, vestibules, call them what you like, but a big one is worth having for storing packs and gear and cooking in from the comfort of your sleeping bag... Doors should be adjustable to allow you to cope with changing wind directions and vent stoves safely when cooking. Look also for storage pockets inside the tent to keep your kit tidy and out of the way.
8. Head room
If you like sitting up inside your tent, then make sure it's tall enough, some don't care, some do. Only you will know.
Not so much how it looks from the outside, but there's nowt worse than being stuck inside a dark, gloomy tent. Look for bright, light colours that create a cheery ambience when you're trapped inside by endless rain...
Many tents are supplied with quite basic pegs so it may be worth supplementing the originals with tougher, aftermarket pegs used on key guying points. Besides, you can never have too many...