Camping 101: choosing a tent

What camping means to you?

Tour takes us out of our coziness and inspires us to touch, taste and try new things. It constantly challenges us, not only to adapt to and explore new surroundings, but also to engage with different persons, to embrace new things as they come and to share new and relevant experiences with friends and daughter.


Family camping tents come in many shapes and sizes. The one that fits your needs may not be the right one for someone else. That is why such a wide variety is produced for the outdoor enthusiast market.

    Shaping your tent choices

Tents come in four basic shapes: A-frame, umbrella, geodesic or “dome”, and wall. The A-frame is the old-fashioned, traditional “pup” tent shape, but can also be quite large. The umbrella is a commonly used family tent, with plenty of standing space, including large windows and a rain fly. The geodesic dome has many variations, with varying combinations of connected triangles. The wall tent is like an A-frame tent, but is generally much larger and has vertical side walls, and is most commonly used in military applications and scout camps (these are usually set up on fixed decks).

Tents with square floor shapes are more efficient in making sleeping and equipment arrangements. If you decide to purchase a tent with a round or oval floor, plan for some extra floor space to make up for the less efficient layout.

    Size does matter

Tents are marketed as double, quadruple, six-person, etc. At best, this describes most people you can cram into the tent to sleep, with no storage for all your personal items. This sizing is okay for backpackers who pack light, but doesn’t make sense for the average camper.

Why sit in your tent with a shoehorn? Think of using the tent at half its rated capacity and you should have enough room for two adults and most of their gear. Each person must have a minimum of 24 square feet of floor space; plenty of room for your pad, sleeping bag and gear. If you’re packing for a long trip, you may want to increase the square footage depending on how much gear you’ll be taking with you.

Don’t forget to buy a tent that is wide/long enough to stretch out when you sleep… a 6′ long sleeper will be very cramped in a 6′ wide tent; leave yourself at least 1 foot of foot space. You will need a minimum of 30″ of space in the tent for each sleeping bag, just for sleeping.

Adding ‘dry’ storage for your gear and plenty of room to get out of your tent without trampling on your tent mate will result in a more enjoyable outdoor experience. With this in mind, an 8′ x 8′ tent would work well as a 2 person family tent. This gives each camper 32 square feet to spread out their gear and sleeping area. BUT, a 10′ x 10′ tent is much more suitable for two adults (seems excessive, huh?). This tent has plenty of room for air mattresses, cots or pillows AND still has plenty of room to stand up when changing.

Be careful buying a tent larger than 10′ x 10′. First, it will be a challenge to find a suitable place to put such a large item. You need as flat a spot as possible. Second, large tents are extremely heavy and bulky to carry. Finally, it might be better to have several smaller tents so that not everyone shares the same sleeping, dressing and living area.

The peak height is very important for your comfort. For most trips, try to have a tent high enough to stand in. Keep in mind the larger people in your group. A peak height of six or seven feet is necessary for adults, and a peak of four feet is about right for children. Keep in mind that the tent slopes down at a sharp angle, so the actual place you can stand will be small. Larger spaces are provided in tents with higher peaks.

Children fit comfortably in smaller tents. If they are old enough, about seven or eight, they probably want to sleep in a separate tent. Parents also appreciate the privacy that this arrangement offers. A five-by-seven-foot tent is sufficient for young species. Teens should be considered adults when pitching a tent.

    Support your local tent – poles

The poles that come with most tents today are made of aluminum or fiberglass. The better quality tents usually come with specially made aluminum poles, with a high degree of flexibility. Fiberglass poles are included in most ‘everyday camping’ tents. The posts are usually linked together with an elastic shock cord. This speeds up setting up (important if you’re doing it in the rain!). Poles, when used incorrectly, can bend or break, so many tent manufacturers offer repair kits for you to take with you on your travels.

    Seams for me It’s important

Seams should be reinforced with nylon tape and double stitched. The tape is stitched into every seam, which reinforces the seam and contributes to the weather resistance. All watertight seams in flight and on the floor (or fairing), are usually factory sealed with a seam sealer. Set up the tent in your yard before using the tent for the first time to test set up. You can also take this opportunity to go to your local sporting goods store to buy some seam sealant and waterproofing spray. It is always a good idea to do this to ensure a dry trip. Be sure to let the tent dry before packing it back up.

    Clothing fabric

Almost all modern tents today are made of nylon. Coated nylon is used for waterproofing. Nylon mesh is used for interior walls and equipment bags. No-see-um mesh is used for the window screens. Better tents use thicker fabric and ripstop fabric.

    Hi!!! Zip it up!!

Before buying your tent, make sure to test the zippers. They should open and close easily and should not snag on the canvas. The zippers must be rust resistant.

    Flashes of hot and cold and “Why is my tent shaking?”

Weather conditions place many demands on your tent.

Windy conditions call for strong poles, stakes and anchor ropes. Dome tents perform extremely well in windy conditions. Their round design reduces the effect of the wind and their arrangement of the poles provides great strength.

Rain brings two problems to the surface. Keeping yourself and your gear dry is first and foremost. Second, you need enough space for all tent dwellers to feel comfortable when “weathering the storm” becomes necessary.

The floor should be made of waterproof coated nylon covering the floor and turning the sides up about 6 inches (15 cm) creating the tub. There should be a minimal amount of seaming (the more you have, the more likely to leak). It keeps out water from running down and under the tent.

Make sure your tent has a waterproof rain cover made of coated nylon. The fly should wrap around the tent and reach down the sides, leaving only a few inches of space between the tent and the ground. This should shut out the rain even in windy conditions. The fly should protrude far enough over the door that it keeps the rain out when you open the door to enter or leave. Some tents even have a vestibule that makes this possible.

Sunlight and the accompanying heat create a great need for shade and airflow. The rainfly provides shade. Screen windows on either side of the tent, or a screened window opposite a screened door, allow air to flow through the tent.

Long cold-weather excursions call for a special, heavy-duty 4-season tent. Unless you plan on camping in the winter, you can use a “three-season tent” that has the above features. Key features include a rainfly that completely covers the top and sides to keep snow and other precipitation at bay, and an inner layer made of an open mesh fabric to allow water vapor to breathe from the tent. In cooler weather, water vapor in the tent condenses from moist outside air and exhaled air from the occupants on the inner surface of the tent. You can prevent this by letting air flow through your tent or through the mesh fabric.

Tent size is also a consideration when camping in cold weather. A smaller tent stays much warmer with your body heat than a larger tent.

    You get what you pay for

Usually the more expensive tents are made with stronger fabric, poles and stitching. They are built to withstand stronger winds and more violent rain. A good tent, which is well cared for, can last for many years.

Keep in mind that not everyone needs this amount of durability. The milder the weather is in which you camp and the closer to home you camp, the better it is to buy a cheaper tent.

If you’re just starting your camping trip and don’t know if you’ll like it, you may want to start with a cheaper setup. Your first outings will likely be when the weather is warmer, and you probably won’t go deep into the wilderness until you gain some experience and decide whether you like camping or not. Remember you can always upgrade your equipment later.

For more information, visit us at Birdseye Outdoor Supply where you can find more tips to help you with your camping needs.


Why is camping good for you?

Travel relieves stress and boosts happy hormone

Trip has the ability to take you out of stress and into new circumstances and experiences and this can reset your body and mind. Even planning a trave can have an amazing effect on the body & mind – it boosts happiness and feels rewarding.

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