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How to choose a tent you'll love!

How to choose a tent you'll love!Let's face it, as your only protection from the forces of nature, your choice of tent really can make or break a camping trip! It's also a shopping minefield out there with so many styles to choose from and every company telling you that theirs is the best - even friends and family will no doubt jump at the chance to help advise you which tent you want, but how do they really know what's best for you? Do YOU even know what's best for you?

To help you get started with your search and to smooth out the selection process, grab yourself a notepad and check out our 3 most important aspects to consider when tent shopping:


1. How many people will be using the tent at any one time? Kind of obvious I know, but be sure to include the living aspect as well as the sleeping and don't believe the listed 'person number'! The weather isn't always on your side so you may all need to hide inside for the day, and perhaps even to be able to cook safely inside as well. Generally speaking, a tent labelled as sleeping 2-3 persons is really only comfortable for 1-2 and so on, partly because real people come in a range of sizes ,and partly because we like to do crazy things like move our elbows, and may even want to keep some of our belongings inside the sleeping space with us! Is the headroom to be able to sit or stand, upright important to you if you can't go outside or are you happy to lounge? 

2. Does weight matter? How will you be travelling to your chosen camp site? Will you be using the car, a motorbike, or will you be carrying everything on your own back and hiking it? If you have the luxury of a car then it's likely the size and weight of your stuff isn't as important so you can afford the space to splurge on a larger model, but if you'll be hiking with it all you will notice every gram!

On the same topic consider carefully what else you need to bring with you, stuff soon adds up! We find it a useful practice to gather together all of your kit and lay it out on the ground in front of you! This allows you to see in real terms just how much equipment you're dealing with overall. See our guide to packing light if you're hiking or biking>

Even if the weight aspect of the tent is not important to you, it's still useful to know the additional space you will need to keep your things dry and secure whilst sleeping etc. which will dictate the style of tent YOU need for YOUR stuff.

3. What's the weather like? Single skin tents are certainly cheap and OK in a light shower, but tend to leak in heavier downpours, suffer condensation and don't insulate as much from extreme heat or cold like their double-layered counterparts. If you will be camping in minus temperatures you may also benefit from a heavier weight fabric than those designed for summer etc. Again the usual weather patterns for the area you'll be camping in (strong winds/heavy snow fall?) will dictate what style you will be better off with. 


Additional advice:

Don't know what to spend? There are brilliant budget tents and there are rubbish expensive ones, and vice versa, so it's up to you to decide in the end. All we can agree on is to buy the very best you can afford on your budget!

Have a good hard think about what you really want from your tent and make a list of features that are important to you personally. Your perfect tent exists out there somewhere, you just need to know how to recognise it! 

As much as we love the convenience of buying things online, it's worth a visit to a few local outdoor stores to try out some of the tents in person so get out there. Photos can be very deceiving in regards to the actual size of tent, and you really can't beat physically laying inside of one to gauge if you and all of your stuff will fit! Make a note of the models you liked and use your shopping trip as a guide when researching others at home. 


Tip! If you can't get to a store or if you've found a model you like online but can't find it in store (or if you simply dislike crowded places like us...) then get yourself a roll of tape or a stick of chalk and mark out the dimensions of the tent on the floor. Crawl inside your 'drawing' and see how you fit... ;)

See also: our guide to tent styles for more help in choosing the right one for you and to find out what we sleep in when we're away from Waki.


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Sarah is an artist and writer with a lifetime interest in camping and survival techniques.

Living the #vanlife since before it was a hashtag and touring on two wheels with her husband Ryan, they have a wealth of camping and motorcycling knowledge to share, and know a thing or two about packing light! read more

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