How to Choose Camping Tents

Read on for our expert advice on how to buy camping tents, specifically how to choose the best tent for your needs!

Determine your space needs

Okay, there are a lot of camping tents available. Before starting, decide how many people will sleep in the tent? Will backpacks and gear stay inside or out? And what about the dog? Determining all this will help as you choose the proper floor area and vestibules (see below).

Consider tent weight

Everyone wants a camping tents that are light and spacious. The challenge for you as a buyer (and us as tent makers) is that weight and space fight against each other. The roomier the camping tent, the heavier it is. If you need a two-person tent for backpacking or bike-camping, choose one that is four pounds or less. Your back will thank you later. Camping tents carried by kayak can be a little heavier. And if you are car camping, don't worry about the weight at all.

Most camping tents list two weights

The "maximum weight" includes the tent canopy, poles, rainfly, stakes, stuff sack, and guy lines, everything you would normally carry. "Minimum weight" is everything except the stakes, guy lines, and stuff sack.

3-season or 4-season camping tents

3 season camping tents (spring, summer, fall) are lightweight and tend to be cooler in hot weather. 4 season camping tents (winter) can withstand snow and high winds. They are also heavier and more expensive (usually). Many people who camp year round have one tent for winter and another for the rest of the year.

Pick the proper camping tent floor size

Floor area (measured in square feet) tells you the size of the camping tent. If you need extra elbow room that includes space to store gear inside, choose a camping tent that has a floor area of at least 20 square feet (give or take) per person. For those looking to shave ounces (backpackers, bike campers) a camping tent that offers about 15 square feet per sleeper will work nicely, though it will be a tight fit.

Know about vestibules

A vestibule is a floorless storage space that is created by staking the rain fly out from the camping tent. Just 5 square feet of vestibule space will allow a camper to keep a full-size pack out of the rain. If you are forced to pick a small tent to save weight, a vestibule will come in useful.

Consider tent height

Camping tent height is measured from the ground up to the top of the tent's exterior. To calculate interior height, subtract 2 or 3 inches from the stated "peak height." 3 ft. 6 in. is usually enough to sit up in.

Double-wall or single-wall design

Unlike the common double wall tents that feature a main section and rain-fly, single wall designs do away with the rain-fly. Single wall CAMPING TENTS are extremely light but tend to allow more condensation, meaning the walls may dampen with your own body vapor. If you choose a single-wall camping tent, make sure that it has good venting.

Choose clips or sleeves

This refers to the method in which the canopy (main section of the tent) is attached to the poles. The clip method allows maximum air circulation between the two walls and is extremely easy to set up. Sleeves on the other hand are slightly stronger.

Consider the doors

While one door is of course enough, two might minimize nighttime jostling when you or your friend crawl outside to respond to the call of nature. An extra door does, however, add extra weight and cost to the camping tent.

Avoid fiberglass tent poles

Though more expensive, aluminum poles are lighter and have a much longer lifespan.

About wind strength

Make sure that the rain-fly reaches the ground if you will be camping in strong winds. Also ensure that the rain-fly has plenty of tie-down points to attach stabilizing guy lines.

About freestanding camping tents

CAMPING TENTS that can stand up on their own without the aid of stakes, are "freestanding." This enables you to set it up on hard ground when necessary.

Vents are cool!

And so are mesh walls, windows and doors. These features promote air flow, minimize condensation, and keep you cooler on hot nights.


Always bring along a sheet of plastic or nylon to place under the tent. This will save the floor from extra wear and tear. Floorguards (also called FOOTPRINTS) are available and specifically sized for most models.