My face lit up after I pitched my first tent. No, it was not a solo trip and yes, there were professional guides with us. But the feeling was amazing nonetheless. Camping under the stars is always a great idea. It might be a vacation for few, or just a way to connect with nature. It might be a break from the daily grind or some time off to introspect. It can be on a mountain top only reachable through a difficult trek or it can be by a riverside easily accessible by road. Whatever the scenario be, the first thing you will need to camp is a tent.
There are a lot of options out there and sometimes the choices can be overwhelming. A lot of factors will determine what kind of tent you should buy. Let’s delve into the details.
Size of the tent
While choosing a tent, size does matter! Every tent specifies the maximum capacity it will fit, but remember it is always the upper limit mentioned there. Meaning a 4 person tent will be a tight fit for 4 people. There will be enough space for 4 sleeping bags but no space for baggage etc. So always prefer a tent with additional space. For example, you can buy a 4 person tent to accommodate 3 people.
This reminds me of a story. I was leading a trek to Bunbuni, and it started raining the moment we reached our campsite. A couple of people slept as they were really tired after the trek. Few of us sat in a tent and started playing some games. In no time, 14 people were sitting inside the tent, huddled together in that closed space, sharing stories and laughing with each other. It was a 3 person tent. YES! I don’t know how all of us managed to fit inside that small tent but we did. Of course we eventually came out and slept in our own tents. Remembering that evening with those crazies still brings a smile on my face.
After you have narrowed down your options according to the number of people, you need to look at 1 more tent specification – peak height. The peak height is the amount of height that the tent has between the floor and its highest point. The height will determine if you will be able to sit up or stand (in some cases) inside the tent.
Weight of the tent
Do you dream about waking up to a view of Himalayas and watching the sunrise with a cup of chai in your hand? Many people associate camping with trekking and let me tell you this is my favourite kind of vacation. The weight of your tent will determine how much you enjoy the experience. For a trekking expedition, always carry a backpacking tent. Backpacking tents are light and compact and are easily fit inside a pack.
On the other hand, if you are planning to drive down to the campsite then you can get a camping tent. Camping tents are large and spacious with tons of headroom. The main emphasis is on space and comfort as weight is not an issue here.
Season of Camping
The season in which you want to camp directly affects the type of tent you should choose.
3-season tent: These tents are designed for all seasons except winter. They are made from a lightweight material and are equipped with ample mesh panels to provide ventilation when the weather is hot. They are also designed in a way to keep out rain and wind. Theses tents are more commonly used.
4-season tent: Don’t go by the name. They are not made for all seasons. Rather theses tents are specifically designed to be used for harsh cold weather during winters. They don’t provide a lot of ventilation as the air is usually trapped inside for warmth. They are designed to shed heavy snow and stay standing in brutal winds. You should be buying this tent only if you go for regular snow/ski expeditions.
Other important features to look in a tent
Floor area: If you are tall, you should check out the floor area before buying a tent. You will need some space for your feet as they should not be dangling outside the tent when you sleep.
Tent poles: Tent poles determine how easy and hard it can be to pitch a tent. These days most of the tents are freestanding, which means that they don’t require stakes to set up. They are more convenient as they are easy to pitch and can be moved around easily. However, non-freestanding tents are lighter in weight and are used by ultralight backpackers.
When you talk about the material of tent poles, you should go for aluminum as they are stronger and more durable. Fiberglass on the other hand is cheaper but break easily.
Rainfly: Rainfly is used to keep the rain and moisture out, or also when you want to retain some extra warmth.
Vestibules: This is an area outside the tent that is covered by tent fly mainly used to keep your muddy shoes dry (without bringing them inside the tent).
Hope this article helps you in choosing your kind of tent.