Get Started With Tents

Experienced campers know that the quality of your tent is crucial to the quality of your camping experience. Tents have come a long way from cotton canvas and leather and now come in a mind boggling array of fabrics, materials, and specifications. Knowing what type of tent will work for your needs will help you make the right purchase. Here are a few guidelines to get you started shopping for tents.

1. Figure out what type of camping you will be doing most frequently. Will you be camping alone or with your family? Will you be backpacking or car camping? Asking yourself how you will use your tent provides a good starting point to determine what type of tent you will need. When considering the size of your tent, make sure you purchase one with enough living/sleeping space for you and any other sleepers. Don’t forget about room for gear. At Lakeland Gear, our tents our organized by what function they will serve you.

  • Family camping tents. Family camping tents are larger, heavier tents built to accommodate you and your family in comfort. Pick one of these tents for car camping or base camping.
  • Backpacking tents. Backpacking tents are made of lightweight materials and constructed to take up little space in your pack. Select a backpacking tent if you’ll be carrying your tent in your pack over many miles to your campsite.
  • Canopy tents. A style of tent that usually just provides shelter for day trips to the beach, park, or tailgating. However, these may be used as sleeping shelters in warm conditions.
  • Kids play tents. Not suited for trail use, these tents feature imaginative shapes and design for kids’ play.
  • Shower and privacy tents. These enclosure style tents add private spaces to your base camp. Use these tents as a toilet tent, shower tent, or privacy tent while camping.

2. Research design features and tent materials. Your tent will provide you protection from weather, but some tents perform better than others. Get a tent that will be sturdy enough for the violent storms you could encounter. A leaking tent can be an absolute nightmare. Design features that prevent leaks and add weather resistance include securely fastened grommets, double sewn seams and heavy duty zippers. Look for tents with sturdy poles made of a durable material such as aluminum. Your rain fly is essential for weather protection. Select a tent with a rain fly that has tension adjustments and goes all the way to the ground for full weather protection.

3. Determine which conditions you’ll be camping in most often. Then, pick a tent equipped to deal with the worst conditions you could possibly encounter. If you’ll be camping in the wintertime or in places susceptible to high winds, you should invest in a more expensive extended season tent. These tents come fully loaded to withstand the most extreme conditions. However, most campers never encounter these extreme conditions. If you plan to do most of your camping in moderate conditions, choose a three season tent equipped for spring, summer, and fall climates. These tents often have mesh panels that ventilate well in warmer temperatures and can often be zipped to prevent wind and rain from entering your tent.

The material of your poles, tent, and rainfly is important to determine how durable it will be and how it will perform under the conditions you encounter.

  • Tent poles. Your tent poles will serve as the backbone for your shelter and provide your tent with a stable frame. The most expensive tents have poles made out of carbon fiber. These poles are strong and flexible but will cost you a pretty penny. Your next best option is aluminum alloy tubing, which is lightweight and strong. Look for anodized aluminum poles that resist corrosion. Fiberglass is another option for tent pole material, but it’s much heavier than and not as strong as aluminum.
  • Tent material. In the old days, tents were made out of leather and cotton. Significant improvements have been made to tent materials and now most tents are made out of either lightweight nylon or polyester taffeta. A polyurethane coating on your tent provides additional water proofing and protects against UV damage. Rip stop tent material is woven at regular intervals to prevent small tears getting worse.
  • Tent fly material. This is your primary defense layer from the elements. A good tent fly will be one hundred percent waterproof and UV resistant to keep water from entering your tent during rainstorms.

4. Figure out your personal preferences. Tents have a variety of features that accommodate some more personal preferences. After determining the type of use you will put your tent through, you can fine tune your tent selection to fit your individual needs.

  • Number of doors. Multiple doors provide easy exit and entry and eliminate much of the hassle that comes from getting in and out of your tent. Having multiple points of entry is especially helpful when you have multiple sleepers. Often doors can be zipped from both the inside and the outside as well, providing you both internal and external access to the tent.
  • Tent vestibules. A vestibule is a useful feature that provides additional storage for your gear. Your rainfly extends over this portion of the tent to provide shelter for soiled items such as boots.
  • Setup. Your tent will come with detailed instructions for assembly. Make sure you can visualize how to set up your tent while reading these instructions. If the directions are too vague or too long, consider another tent for camping. When you pitch a tent, the poles of your tent will either be threaded through continuous pole sleeves or attached with clips. It’s far quicker and easier to thread your tent through continuous pole sleeves than it is to clip them. Be sure to practice setting up your tent before you head off to the campsite in order to solve any glitches you might encounter.
  • Packed size. These dimensions refer to the space your tent will take up when it’s fully disassembled and ready for storage. Pay close attention to the packed size of your tent if you plan to do a lot of backpacking.
  • Center height. Think about the activities you would like to use your tent for. Some family camping tents are large enough to accommodate a table and chairs for a bug free living space. Cabin style family camping tents provide the most expansive amount of headroom because of their vertical-walled construction. Conversely, backpacking tents offer limited headroom to save weight in your pack.

5. Learn the lingo. To help you make a better informed decision, here’s some tent lingo that might be unfamiliar to a first time camper.

  • Bathtub floors. Most tents come equipped with bathtub floors, a special feature that prevents water from seeping through the seams in your tent floor. In bathtub floor construction, the waterproof fabric in the floor extends up the side of the tent. With the seams raised above the floor, any water on the ground will be sealed off from the inside of your tent.
  • Guy lines. These are ropes used to secure tents and prevent them from blowing away. They also place additional tension on the rainfly so that it does not sag into the tent body and cause leaks.
  • Free standing tent. This tent requires no ropes or stakes to support the tent. These tents are easy to move from one area of your campsite to the other if it turns out you’ve picked a bad spot to camp.
  • Shock corded poles. This type of tent pole makes setting up your tent easy. These tent poles come in sections and are held together by an elastic cord that runs through the length of the pole.

6. Accessorize. There are many added features that will enhance your camping experience. Here are a few that you might want to consider.

  • Footprints. These are custom fitted for your tent and provide an additional layer of protection from the ground. A footprint will maintain your tent floor and provide additional protection from anything that could poke through and damage your tent floor.
  • Gear lofts. These are mesh shelves that you can add to your tent to store and organize gear. Many tents such as Big Agnes tents feature loops to accommodate a matching gear loft. A gear loft will help your tent stay clutter free.
  • Interior loops and pockets. These built in organizational features help keep your tent floor free of clutter. Some tents even include an overhead loop to hang a lantern. If you want to stay super organized on your camping trips, make sure your tent comes outfitted with some of these handy features.

Investing in a quality tent will ensure great camping trips for years to come. When you’re ready to shop, check out our wide selection of tents. Finally, we wish you happy trails and the best of luck!

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