Thursday, 20 November 2014

Choosing a tent for camping

Family camping

Tents for family camping come in all shapes and sizes. The right one for you will not necessarily be the right one for someone else. Hence, the wide variety of tents being available for sale.

Enjoy camping in the great outdoors

What size of tent to choose?

Tents are sold as two man, four man, six man and so on. However, this is the maximum number of adults that you can fit into the tent for sleeping in close company with no personal gear. This rating is only useful to know the floor space of the tent and not really a true representation of the number of people that could comfortably use the tent for camping.

Don't be uncomfortably cramped in a tent. Divide the advertised rating by two, and you will have the real sleeping capacity of the tent. Therefore, most four man tents are really only comfortable for two adults, or perhaps two adults and two very small children.

For comfortable camping you should plan a minimum of 30 square feet of floor space per person. The floor space could be even higher for longer camping trips, unless reducing weight is important.

The actual length and width of the tent is also very important. If you are quite tall, you will need a space of at least seven feet in order to fit well and not be crammed against the sides of the tent. You will need at least two and one half feet in width just for sleeping. This equates to only 17.5 square feet. A two man tent might only measure five by seven feet.

By adding space for clothing, and space to stand up without climbing over your companion, this will make camping more comfortable and enjoying. For two people, consider at least 8 foot by 8 foot floor space as a minimum, divided by the 2 campers that is only 32 square feet per camper.

A ten by ten foot tent is ideal for two adults for camping. This will be enough space for a double air mattress, plus space for rucksacks and other camping gear.

Children can fit snugly in smaller tents. Older children will probably want to sleep in a separate tent. Parents can enjoy the privacy provided with children in their own tent. A five by seven foot tent is adequate for children.

Be careful with larger, more adventurous tents as there are some other considerations. It will be more difficult to find a level area which is large enough to set up the tent. You will need an area as level as possible. Larger tents can be quite heavy. This may not be a problem for transportation in a car, but consider the loading and unloading of the car. Lastly, do you really want everyone to sleep, and dress, in the same tent. Privacy can be an issue in larger tents, even with private compartments.

The maximum internal height is very important for your comfort. For most of your camping trips, they will be more enjoyable with a tent that is tall enough to stand up in. A six to seven foot peak height is necessary for adults, and a four foot peak is about right for children. Remember, the tent slopes downward at a sharp angle, so the actual area where you can stand up will be quite small. There will be greater spaces for standing in tents with taller peaks.
Shape of tent

Tents come in four basic shapes: A-frame, umbrella, geodesic (dome), and wall. The A-frame is the common pup tent shape, but can also be quite large. The umbrella is a very commonly used family camping tent, as it has lots of standing room, with large windows. The geodesic comes in many different shapes, but all of them look like combinations of connected triangles. The wall tent is like an A-frame tent, but will have many more poles to create a larger space with vertical side walls and a sloping roof.

Tents with square or rectangular floor shapes are more efficient when laying out camping gear and blowup beds. It is not always possible to have a square floor or rectangular. Geodesic dome tents may have a nearly round floor space which may be less efficient use of space.

Tent Poles

Tent poles are generally made from aluminium or fibreglass. Most tents have poles that are linked together with an elastic shock cord or springs which is of great assistance to making life simpler when setting up the tent. Be careful with tent poles as they can bend (some are supposed to) or break. Many manufacturers of tents provide emergency repair kits for mending poles and patching holes.

Tent Fabric

In the past tents were generally made of canvas and waterproofed with starch. Most tents these days are made of nylon. Coated nylon is used for waterproofing. Nylon mesh is used for inner walls. No-see-um mesh is used for the window screens. Better quality tents use thicker fabric and rip-stop fabric. The waterproof level is measured in hydrostatic head, 3000 will be much more waterproof than 1000.


The seams of a tent should be reinforced with nylon tape. The tape will usually be stitched onto each seam, this will make the seam much stronger and more waterproof. The seams on a nylon tent need to be waterproofed with a seam sealer. There should be a bottle of seam sealer supplied with your new tent. Before setting out on a camping trip it is advisable to put up your tent in your garden and apply the sealer. Let the sealer dry out completely before packing away the tent. This will also ensure that the tent is complete and you will be familiar with the setup for a less stress when putting up the tent on a camping trip.

Weather Considerations

The weather will have different demands on the tent. Windy areas will require sturdy poles, stakes and anchor ropes. The wind stress on the tent can be reduced by careful positioning of the tent and use of wind breakers. Geodesic tents give protection in the wind, their igloo like shape reduces the effect of the wind and the poles provide great strength and stability. A tent must be capable of keeping the rain out and provide enough room to be comfortable whilst being in shelter.

Your outer layer of the tent should be completely waterproof and reach down to the ground. This will keep out the rain even if it is quite windy. The outer part should protrude over the doorway to keep out the rain.

The floor area of the tent should be much heavier than the walls, completely waterproof and coated with nylon. This flooring should extend over the entire area of the tent and turn up to the sides for about six inches. This type of floor will keep out any water that comes in under the tent sides of the tent and stops water entering from under the flooring.

A special mountaineering tent is needed if camping in the snow. However, a three season tent with good features will suit most people. The most important features of a tent will be the rain cover that fully covers the top and sides. It will also have an interior layer made from an open mesh fabric to allow water vapour and air to pass through it.

The tent size may also be a consideration if you plan to camp in cool weather. Your body heat will keep a small tent much warmer that a larger count. Some campers will use a tent heater in their large tent. However, heaters are not safe in small tents due the the closeness of the tent walls. For safety, do not ever bring a barbecue into a tent for heat as this could result in carbon monoxide poisoning.

How much to pay for a tent

In general, the more expensive tents are made with more robust fabric, sturdier poles, and better stitching. These tents will be able to withstand stronger winds and heavier rainfall and will last much longer. Not everyone will need this strength and durability of a good tent. Some people will use cheap tents as something disposable, whilst others may opt for expensive tents which can be used for many years. For occasional camping in good weather, a cheap tent may in some circumstances be the better option.

Most people starting out camping are likely to opt for inexpensive camping gear, this is a good idea to see if you are suited to the camping lifestyle. It is best to try-out camping in good weather on a regular camp site and practice putting up the tent at home before your camp trip. You can upgrade your tent at a later date if camping is for you. Remember that you can recover some of the cost of new camping equipment by selling your old  gear on the Camping NI classifieds website.