No matter where your camping bug takes you, a tent is essential to your outdoor adventure. It will keep you warm and dry and safe from insects and other pests. It will also give you a place to hide while bears ransack your cooler. But not all tents are the same. Each tent has features specific to certain conditions. When making your purchasing decision, you should first determine the type of camping you will most be doing and the time of year you will likely be doing it in.
'''Tent Construction Types'''
'''Tents by Season'''
Besides stakes and a bag to transport the tent, there are three basic components of a tent: the poles, body, and rain fly.
** These form the support structure and hold the tent up.
** They can be made out of aluminum, fiberglass, or carbon fiber.
** Avoid poles made of solid fiberglass. These are found in cheap tents and can break easily.
** Instead, opt for collapsible tent poles of aluminum, high strength aluminum, carbon fiber or tubular fiberglass, as these materials are more resistant to breakage.
** The body is typically made of nylon and forms the tent itself.
** Tents come in a variety of materials. Your choice also should depend on how you plan to use the tent.
*** '''Polyester fabrics'''
**** Withstand UV exposure better than nylon.
**** These are the best choice for long-term campsites.
**** These tents are generally lighter than polyester tents.
**** Most tents are made of nylon.
*** Breathable sidewalls and roofs minimize condensation.
*** Mesh windows, doors and panels allow air in, while keeping out pests.
* '''Rain Fly'''
** This is like an umbrella for your tent.
** It protects the tent's body from the elements, including sun, rain, and snow.
** Occasionally can be used as a tarp or as a very basic ultra-light shelter.
** A tent's weight includes tent body, rain fly, poles and carry-sack.
** Hikers appreciate a lightweight and compact tent that is easier to carry.
** Small, ultra-light tents for one or two people can weigh as little as two pounds.
** A three-season tent that can accommodate two or three people will generally weigh between 4-9 pounds.
** A large mountaineering tent might weigh as much as 15 pounds.
** Larger tents, such as dome or cabin styles, are better for families, but can add as much as 20 pounds to your equipment.
** The size and weight of your tent should be relative to the planned activity, number of people using the tent, and amount of gear you'll be bringing along.
** Keep in mind that the highest number of people that can fit in a tent is an estimate. It is important to try out your tent before you leave on your trip.
** Also remember that those maximums are for people packed in pretty tight. If you want a little more personal space, only put two people in your three-person tent, and so on.
** If you are of above-average dimensions, make sure to get a tent that will accommodate you.
** Finally, don't forget about your gear! A tent with a vestibule is a great solution — you'll want to keep it somewhere close by in case you get a craving for granola in the middle of the night.
** Cost is one of the last things you should consider when buying a tent.
** You don't necessarily have to spend hundreds of dollars on your tent, but don't go for the cheapest you can find either.
** Discount tents are that way for a reason — you won't get great performance out of them.
** In addition, some of their components may break easily.
* '''Internal storage pockets '''inside the tent.
* '''Steep walls''' to increase usable interior room, shed precipitation better, and help vent out humidity
* '''Gear loops''' inside the tent
* Stake loops made from strong nylon webbing
* Partitions for improved privacy
* One-piece floors to improve the tent's waterproof qualities
** Some camping enthusiasts feel that the best colors for a tent are natural colors that will blend in, like dark greens and browns.
** Others, along with safety patrols, say that the best color for a tent is a bright color — orange, red, or yellow — that will make you easy to find in case of an emergency.
** In either case, realize that the color of your tent will affect how warm and light it gets inside.
*** Dark colors will absorb more light and get warmer, but are darker inside.
*** Light colors will allow more light in, but will not warm up in the sun the way a dark color would.
** Many tents come in only one color. Although color is a factor, it should not be the deciding factor — you can always open a vent or put on a sweater.