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Gear Guide Tent Buying Guide, OutdoorPlaces.Com



OutdoorPlaces.Com Tent Buying Gear Guide


Picking The Right Tent

A tent is an interesting piece of equipment.  The most obvious use for a tent is a home away from home when youíre out on the trail.  But if the weather turns sour your tent becomes a critical piece of equipment to offer you protection.

This guide has been designed as a Tent 101 primarily to help you select the right tent for car camping, camping, backcountry, or mountain climbing.  This guide will not be reviewing larger ďfamilyĒ tents which hold eight or more people and stand over ten feet in height.  OutdoorPlaces.Com makes a strong attempt at having an agnostic approach to our gear guides, and we do not endorse or recommend one particular brand or style.  OutdoorPlaces.Com does sell quality tents at our Outdoor eStore which you can visit.

Tents range from department store no-name brand pup tents to specialized single wall construction made of specialized material for assaults into the death zones of the world.  There are a number of variables to consider when selecting your tent.  You donít have to have a large budget to get a quality tent, but you do need to do some research and understand what you are looking for.

Before buying your tent ask yourself a series of questions:

  • What is my budget?  A reasonable amount of money to spend on a quality tent for two people ranges from $150 to $300.  You can find bargains for less, and of course you can spend a lot more.

  • What kind of camping will I be doing?  Will you be car camping, camping at a primitive site, or hiking in the backcountry?  If you plan to do car camping the ability to set up a tent in the dark isnít as critical as say a tent used for camping or in the backcountry.  Further, if your car camping and the weather turns sour, you can always head to your car if things get really soggy, you donít have that luxury in the backcountry.

  • What is the weather like where I will be camping?  The needs of a tent if you are desert camping is very different from your needs if you will be camping in Olympic National Park in Washington state.  Your needs will also be different if you will be camping in the plains of the mid-west, or in the unpredictable weather of the Presidentials in New Hampshire.

  • How much space do you need?  This is a personal decision.  If you plan to hike in the backcountry with a friend do you really want to hear them snoring?  Do you tend to move around?  Remember the larger the tent you carry the heavier it gets.


Tents come in two basic styles for use, but some can serve double duty.  You will hear tents called three-season and four-season.  A three-season tent is generally used in spring, summer and fall conditions in a temperate climate.  A four-season tent can be used in spring, summer and fall, but also has features like full-cover rainflies, vestibules and window panels that can be zipped closed.  They also tend to be heavier with more poles to withstand both wind and the weight of snow that can accumulate on a tent.  Four-season tents can also be called mountaineering or high-altitude tents.

You may also hear tents called summer tents or screen tents.  Summer tents are made of light mesh and have a basic rainfly.  Designed for the warmest of climates they are good in southern and desert regions, as long as it doesnít get too cool when the sun goes down.

Finally in looking for a new tent you might here a tent called all-season or convertible.  Convertible tents are designed with a number of options that make them good for a variety of conditions.  They may have an optional vestibule to use in bad weather, or extra poles for use in the winter months.  They also may have large mesh windows that can be zippered open or closed depending on the season and whether you want a breeze to flow through, or the heat to stay in.