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How to Choose the Best Travel Tent

By Amiee Maxwell | Permalink | 1 comment | May 24th, 2010

Looking for a new tent? This guide will help you determine what you need to look for in a tent and recommend some of the best tents available for a variety of needs and preferences.

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There are many items to consider when choosing a tent for your travels:

Type – Will you be primarily car camping or backpacking?
Weight – Does tent weight matter to you?
Size – How much room do you need for people and gear?
Climate – Do you plan on camping in rainy, windy climates?
Cost – What is your price range?
Design – Do you want features like gear lofts, vestibules, and extra ventilation?

Type – Consider what type of camping you would like to do. A car camping tent offers much more floor space and headroom than a backpacking tent but are heavier and typically more difficult to setup than backpacking tents. A backpacking tent can double as a car camping tent but a car camping tent is too heavy and cumbersome to be used as a backpacking tent.

Weight – Lighter is usually better when it comes to a backpacking tent, but typically the lighter then tent the more expensive it is. In general you don’t want to be carrying a tent that weighs over 5 pounds and the lighter then tent the more comfortable your back will be.

Size – Tents are sized by their per-person capacity and are designed to fit snugly. That being said, a two-person tent will fit two people snugly so if you would like a roomier tent go up a person size.

Climate – All tents do not repel water and protect against the wind equally. Most campers choose a three-season tent, which means the tent is suitable for spring, summer, and fall conditions. If you will be camping in humid, rainy conditions choose a tent with plenty of ventilation and rain coverage and if you plan on being in windy conditions look for a tent with good stability and extra guylines.

Cost – Tents can range anywhere from $100 to well over $500. If you are just getting started camping or backpack infrequently choose a tent in the lower range. Higher priced tents usually just buy you extra features and a lighter weight.

Design – Tents come with a variety of design features. Tents vary in the number of doors, windows, storage elements, design of rainfly, presence of vestibules, and ventilation features.

Here are some of the best backpacking and car camping tents for a variety of budgets:

Affordable 2-Person Backpacking Tent

REI Half DomeThe REI Half Dome 2 Tent makes a great first backpacking tent. The tent is affordable, costing nearly $100 less than other tents of similar design. The tent is easy to setup and will keep you dry with its well-constructed UV-resistant rainfly. The Half Dome features 2 side doors and vestibules and plenty of mesh pockets for interior storage.

The average pack weight of the Half Dome is 5 pounds so backpackers looking for a lighter weight tent may want to consider MSR’s Hubba Hubba or the Big Agnes Fly Creek listed below.

Type: Backpacking
Average Pack Weight: 5 lbs
Size: 2-person, 31.8 square feet
Climate: Performs well in wind and rain, good ventilation, guylines provide extra stability in windy conditions
Cost: $179 at REI
Design: 2 doors and 2 vestibules, plenty of interior storage

>> Buy REI: $179

Lightweight, Durable 2-Person Backpacking Tent

235074_0_44The MSR Hubba Hubba is one of the lightest backpacking tents on the market. This bestselling 2-person, 3-season tent is great choice for backpackers wanting a lighter weight tent without sacrificing space.

The Hubba Hubba’s latest design features an all-new pole-hub system that makes the tent stronger than ever.  The tents unique dry-entry vestibule design keeps water out of the tent even when the doors are open and provides plenty of gear storage and a covered food-prep area as well.

Type: Backpacking
Average Minimum Weight: 4 lbs. 3 oz.
Size: 2-person, 29 square feet
Climate: Dry-entry design keeps water out and provides excellent ventilation, guy cords provide extra stability in windy weather
Cost: $330 at REI
Design: 2 door, 2 vestibule design, all mesh ceiling provides perfect views of the start without the rainfly on

>> Buy REI: $329

Ultralight 2-Person Backpacking Tent

picture-22The Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 is so light you will barely notice it in your pack. The tent weight (or lack of it) at just over 2 pounds is phenomenal for a freestanding tent . This ultralight 2-person, 3-season tent is great for backpacking and is also awesome for budget travelers who want to carry a tent for occasional beach camping without having to deal with the tent taking up too much pack space.

With 28 square feet of floor space the Fly Creek is snug but it is large enough for two people. The tent may be a bit to snug for occupants over 6-feet tall.

Type: Backpacking
Average Minimum Weight: 2 lbs. 2 oz.
Size: 2-person, 28 square feet
Climate: Tapes seams and rainfly are waterproof, guylines offer extra stability in windy weather
Cost: $349 at REI
Design: 1 door, 3 pockets, and gear loft for storage

>> Buy REI: $349

Spacious, 4-person Car Camping Tent

REI HobitatThe REI Hobitat 4 Tent is fabulous for car camping. With 60 square feet of floor space, the tent has plenty of room for small families and generous space for a couple with pets and tons of gear. The rectangular design maximizes space so four can sleep comfortably, but again the tent may be too snug for four people of above average size.

The UV-resistant rainfly extends out past the door protecting the entry from wind and rain yet does not adequately cover the back of the tent – so it might not be the best choice for extremely rainy climates.

Type: Car Camping
Average Minimum Weight: 14 lbs. 9 oz.
Size: 4-person, 60 square feet
Climate: Not ideal for very rainy climates
Cost: $269 at REI
Design: 1 door, 3 windows and tons of pockets and gear loops for storage

>>Buy REI: $269

Affordable, 4-person Family Camping Tent

picture-1The Kelty Yellowstone is a simple, affordable 4-person car camping tent. The Yellowstone does not come with a fancy vestibule or design elements (although a gear loft can be purchased separately), but it does offer a reliable, waterproof design at an affordable price. With 64 square feet of floor space, the tent has plenty of room for a family of four or a couple with dogs.

Type: Car Camping
Average Minimum Weight: 10 lbs. 2 oz.
Size: 4-person, 64 square feet
Climate: Waterproof fly and tapes seams keep you dry, external guyouts add extra stability in windy conditions
Cost: $128 at Amazon
Design: 1 door, mesh ceilings and sidewalls

>> Buy Amazon: $128

[Header Photo Courtesy boltron-]

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Comments

  • alex Says:
     

    does anyone have any ideas for backpacking tent design? for example, some of them funnel water into the tent when you open them up during a rain storm. Thanks