A tent is an integral part of any overnight camping trip. A tent acts as a home away from home for campers, serving as the secure shelter where they can escape from the elements and enjoy a good night's sleep.
Tents come in array of shapes and sizes that will fit any budget. Today's tents are typically easy to set up and take down. Many also come with useful features such as advanced ventilation systems and weather-resistant covers.
The important factors in choosing the right tent involve personal preferences: how, where and when you like to camp. Cost considerations are also part of the equation.
Types of Tents
Camping tents run the gamut from expansive multiroom family cabins to compact dome-shaped backpacking tents that may weigh less than 5 lbs. but leave little room for creature comforts.
Large family tents that can sleep up to eight people are well-suited for campgrounds where you can drive directly to the campsite. Many of these tents include room dividers, covered entrance canopies and even hinged doors. These tents do tend to be heavy and somewhat unwieldy, a drawback to consider when planning multiday backpacking sojourns.
Backpacking or mountaineering tents are durable and lightweight. But they also can be rather cramped and often quite pricey.
Most tents fall into the three-season classification, which means they are intended for use during the spring, summer and fall. Tents in the four-season classification are more expensive because they are designed for cold, snowy winter conditions. Convertible tents can be adapted for three or four season use by adding or removing a few poles or panels. Warm-weather tents typically feature plenty of mesh to provide protection from insects and promote ventilation on sticky summer nights.
Some features to consider in selecting a tent include a sturdy frame built to withstand strong winds, waterproof flooring and leak-resistant seams and zippers. Size also matters, as there should be enough room to accommodate sleeping campers and their gear. A tent's inside height also is critical--do you want to be able to stand up without hunching over? Other extras that come with some tents include color-coded poles to make setup simpler and electrical access ports.
The price of tents varies widely based on their size, their weight and the quality of materials. Small tents available in department stores might sell for as little as $50, while well-made family tents and quality four-season mountaineering models may cost $500 or more.