You’re about to buy a tent, but what do you look for? Tents come in all shapes and sizes, and for every outdoor activity you can find a tent that fits. To make an informed decision, there are a number of features to look out for. Don’t worry, we’ll help you. Below we give you 10 tips on buying the perfect tent for you!
First of all, it’s important to consider the type of tent you want to buy. Each type of tent has different features, advantages and disadvantages. For example, there are bungalow tents, dome tents, tunnel tents, throw-away tents, lightweight tents, safari tents and many more. With your family you will probably be looking for more space and comfort, when travelling you will go for a compact tent that can be set up quickly. And for the real outdoor heroes: crawl under a tarp with an extra warm sleeping bag!
In general, 60 centimeters per person in terms of width is counted for sleeping space in a tent. But there are more factors at play here; how wide is your mat for example, do you want to be able to store luggage and do you perhaps just like to have some extra living space? In this case you might consider buying a tent for one more person than the party you are traveling with. Also keep in mind that the sun may not always shine during your trip and you also want to be able to sit inside on a rainy day.
Do you have a chance to admire your potential choice of tent before you buy it? If so, crawl into it, sleeping pad and all. This will give you a good idea of the space the tent offers.
Handy: with an awning or tent extension you can create extra (sleeping) space. Do you prefer to keep it compact? Then an awning can be a solution. This way your tent doesn’t necessarily have to be big, but you can still sit outside under a roof.
The size of your tent is not only important once it’s up, but also when you need to take it along on the road. So always consider how compact the tent can be stored. If you are traveling by bike or backpack, you want your tent to take up as little space as possible. In this case, it is best to go for a compact tent made of polyester or nylon, for example. If you travel by car, the size of your tent is usually less important.
To elaborate further, if you have to “carry” the tent yourself in a backpack, canoe, motorcycle or bicycle, it is important that the package is not too long. A tent pole consists of several pole sections. Therefore, the pole sections should not be too long for a compact tent. We always keep this in mind when developing our NOMAD tent frames and choosing the type of aluminum.
The size and compactness of your tent naturally coincide with its weight. For a multi-day hike in the mountains or a backpacking trip, chances are you’ll weigh every gram in your backpack carefully. When choosing a tent, you then go for the lightest option, like our NOMAD Jade 2 Tent that weighs only 1.59 kilograms. If you go camping, travel by car and stay longer in one place, the weight of your tent will matter less.
It is recommended to pay attention to the material of the tent cloth but also the material of the tent poles. If you want to go ultra lightweight, then nylon tent cloth and aluminum poles are a golden combination for you.
5. Tent poles
Speaking of tent poles, what should you look for? Again, there is a lot of choice. In general, there are poles made of steel, fiberglass, aluminum and even inflatable versions (airbeams). Below is a brief overview of the properties of each material:
- Steel tent poles: steel poles are used less and less because they are rather stiff and heavy. However, they are very strong and are therefore mainly used for large tunnel tents.
- Fiberglass poles: These are the most common pole and are easy and inexpensive to repair. The disadvantage of fiberglass poles is that if they break, they can also cause damage to your tent. Many polyester tents have fiberglass poles. In terms of weight, fiberglass poles are halfway between steel and aluminum poles.
- Aluminum poles: The better nylon, cotton and poly-cotton tents will use aluminum poles. The poles are very light and strong and can be pre-bent. This allows for much more in terms of tent architecture, for example steeper walls and thus more interior space. The very lightest tents usually also have aluminum tent poles.
- Airbeams: A relatively recent development in the tent world are inflatable “tent poles” made of TPU with a cover over them. The main advantage of this variant is the ease of set-up. You don’t need any tent poles at all anymore! The airbeams are often easy to glue or replace, just like your bicycle tire. With our NOMAD tents we choose not to use this variant because of the fact that the airbeams can easily leak and are less sturdy. It also makes the tent very heavy and you should always carry a pump with you.
Our preference is always for lightweight aluminum poles. Strong, light and compact, in short: everything you are looking for in tent poles. In our Jade, Bedouin and Dogon tents we use aluminum DAC poles. These poles are strong, light and made using a more sustainable process.
In addition to the points above, it is also important to look at the material of the tent canvas when you want to buy a tent. Each type of tent cloth has its own advantages and disadvantages. Tent cloth can be divided into 2 types: they are either made of cotton or of a synthetic material such as polyamide (nylon) or polyester. There are also tent fabrics that are made of a combination of several materials, such as polycotton (also called technical cotton or TC). The latter material is a combination of cotton and polyester.
Below is a brief overview of tent fabric materials and their properties:
- Cotton: this is strong and breathable material (if dry). It regulates the moisture in the tent well so that less condensation occurs. On the other hand, the material is heavy, somewhat colder and dries slowly after a rain, which also makes it more susceptible to mold. Only recommended if you stay in one place for a long time.
- Polyester: This material is a bit lighter, does not become heavier when wet and does not stretch when exposed to UV light. However, it breathes much less well than (poly)cotton so it can get very warm inside.
- Polycotton (technical cotton or TC): With a polycotton tent fabric, you actually have the best of both worlds. You get the best properties of cotton (breathable, quiet, strong) and the best properties of polyester (dries quickly, lighter than cotton). The polyester layer on top of the cotton makes the tent lighter than cotton and waterproof. It is a strong fabric, which is more resistant to UV light and will last longer than polyester or nylon tent fabrics. A polycotton tent is less likely to get hot inside – especially nice in hot destinations – and it dries much faster than a 100% cotton tent.
A fun fact: on average, an adult loses 0.5L of moisture per night. This eventually turns into condensation and has to go outside somewhere. A polycotton tent breathes well, so this condensation can be discharged well.
- Polyamide (nylon): Strong and (ultra) light material, insensitive to mildew and does not become heavy after a shower. On the other hand, this fabric breathes less well, is more sensitive to UV rays and can shrink under the influence of sun and moisture.
Waterproofing a tent is always important, whether you are camping in the same place for two weeks or you only need the tent for one night. If you get a heavy shower on your roof, you better have a good waterproof tent. So it’s very important to consider this factor in your choice!
But when is a tent actually waterproof? Tent fabrics are tested according to the water column method. In general, a water column of 2000 mm or higher is a good starting point. Now that you know this, always check
8. Ease of use
Choosing your tent can also depend on how quickly you can set up and take down your tent and how convenient the tent is to use. Do you want your tent to have handy storage systems, you can hang a lamp, you can easily open a side door?
For short trips you can opt for a lightweight tent, these often consist of only 3 tent poles and can be set up in no time. Will you stay longer somewhere? Then you probably want to put some more effort into the proper and sturdy establishment of your tent.
9. Type of trip
Are you going hiking or biking? Choose a nylon or polyester tent, they are light and dry quickly, ideal if you have to change often.
Staying in one place? Go for a polycotton tent. These breathe well, are sturdy and strong, and are a good choice for longer stays.
If you’re headed for the sun, (poly)cotton stays cool in the heat, which is especially nice if you don’t have a shaded area. Polyester or nylon is less useful then, it gets stuffy inside and the tent fabric gets damaged faster by bright UV light.
10. Price range
After reading the previous 9 tips you hopefully already know what kind of tent you are looking for. One factor that will undoubtedly influence your decision is the price of the tent. Investing in a good tent is worth it! It may sound obvious, but the higher the quality of your tent, the longer it will last (if treated properly). This often comes at a price, but you will be able to enjoy your tent longer.
Ask yourself: how often will I travel with my tent and how often will I use it? Do you normally go camping or do you stay in a cottage more often? Do you often travel by plane (without a tent)? The answers to these questions will often give you a good idea of what kind of tent to buy.
Decide for yourself what you find important during your camping trip and choose your tent accordingly. Have fun on your next adventure!
Still in doubt? You can always contact us for more information or support on buying the right tent.