4 Tips to Select the right tent
To find out which type of shelter you need, think about the following:
1. Where are you going?
2. How many people does it need to shelter?
3. How much weight are you willing to carry?
4. How comfortable do you want to be?
You will need a different type of shelter for different conditions on the trail. For example, are you hiking in winter or summer? Are you hiking in rainy conditions, or is it always sunny?
Depending on the conditions you are going to use the shelter in, you will need to decide between a 4-season or 3-season tent.
4-season tents can be used all year, and are designed to hold strong during a storm. They are also strong enough to hold some degree of snow on the top. Most importantly, this type of shelter will keep your warm.
Most hikers carry a 3-season tent. They will cope with a lot as well, but are not designed for freezing temperatures. 3-season tents are designed for mild and warmer temperatures. There is a wide range of choices when it comes to a 3-season type tent. This means you can make a trade-off between comfort and weight, and lots of other options. More on that later.
Tarps and hammocks
Another shelter option for hiking is a tarp or hammock. This is particularly good if you don’t want to carry any weight and if you are comfortable sleeping outside. You could add a mosquito net and other features such as an under-quilt to add comfort.
This article deals specifically with tents, so I will not discuss hammocks or tarps here. But it is definitely a good alternative if you are hiking in summer.
2. Tent Capacity and Size
Firstly, you need to think about how many people will be sleeping in the tent.
The amount of people a tent is advertised for, often won’t be enough for that many people. For example, a tent that is advertised as a 2 person tent, will usually only be big enough for 1 person and a backpack. The best way to find out is to double check the specs and calculate the room you will have inside.
The standard recommendation is to subtract 1 person from the advertised capacity. Unless of course you don’t mind sleeping head to toe with your fellow hikers. Then you might want to recruit a hiking buddy who doesn’t have smelly feet!
Next, ask yourself if you need space for gear inside the tent or if you want to store your gear in the vestibule?
In any case, you need to think about storing your gear somewhere. Many hikers will store their pack in the vestibule to save some weight on their shelter option. Most of the time you will have most of the stuff out of your backpack and into your tent anyway. Usually, only cooking gear, pack and boots will remain outside.
Also be careful if you leave food outside. Depending on where you are hiking, there are different types of rodents and other creatures that want to steal your food. Sometimes they will chew through your expensive gear just to eat a little crumb of your nut bar! More on that in a later blog post.
It is always good to know the measurements of the tent before you buy it. That way you can actually work out if it will be big enough for what you need it for.
Another thing to consider is that not all tents are made for tall people! So keep this in mind if you are tall. Not only does the tent need to be long enough, but you should also check if the tent is high enough for you to sit up comfortably. We will talk about that in the comfort section below.
An important factor to consider when buying a tent is the weight. How much are you willing to carry and how much comfort are you willing to give up to save on weight?
Most backpacking tents nowadays are fairly lightweight and most are under 2 kg. However, if weight is very important, you could get a tent as low as 0.6 kg. Keep in mind though, the lighter the tent, the higher the price usually is.
There are some really good lightweight tents on the market. Some of which are replicas from bigger and more expensive brands. I like to do my research to find the best quality for the lowest price. But if I need to, I would rather spend a little more on quality than to chooser the cheaper, less reliable option. From my experience, it always works out more expensive when you try to save money buying lower quality.
Of course, we all want the best quality for the cheapest price. For the best lightweight tents on the market right now, click here to go to my other blog post.
Lastly, you need to figure out how comfortable you want the tent to be inside.
For example, do you want to be able to sit comfortably to read a book? Or do you want to have a large vestibule that allows you to cook when its raining? What about pockets? Do you want to have some features that allow you to hang up your headlamp?
There are so many features available, and most tents have different features all together. This makes it particularly hard to pick the right tent. And to be honest, there is no one tent fits all!
It depends on what you want and what you are willing to trade off…but always remember: quality is priceless.
I have experienced all the do’s and don’ts of trying to save on gear, and it is one of the main motivators of this website. It is better to wait a bit longer to buy that perfect tent, than to impulse buy and spend your money on a tent you will rarely use because its not for you.
Also, more and more places are renting out hiking equipment, including tents. Why not test one of their tents on a trip before purchasing one? It could save you a lot of headache and money.
***Did I miss anything in this article or would you like to add something? Please use the comment section below or send me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org and I will see what I can do***