Buying the Best Tent

By: Bud Sayce

Shelter is not a luxury; it's a basic necessity of life. So it makes no sense to leave for an overnight camping trip without providing yourself with a dependable source of shelter.

Camping in the wilderness requires the use of a good tent. There is nothing worse than deciding to "rough it", only to find you are exposed to rain and wind.

Tents come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There are compact, easy-to-carry two-person tents that assemble in moments, and there are massive family-size models with separate bedrooms and even lighting. What matter most is that the tent you choose is durable enough to keep you safe in the outdoors and sheltered in all types of weather.

When shopping for a tent, there are several details to look for. First and foremost, determine what you need from your tent. Look at the size and shape of the tent, and consider the weight, setup time and the types of poles. The tent that you choose should be easy to set up, particularly if you'll be camping alone. Ask the sporting goods store associate if you're not sure.

It's also important to make sure that the tent is easy to transport. Don't forget, you'll need to pack the tent in your car and leave room for all of your gear.

Size Matters

Your tent will be your 'home away from home', so size is a very important issue. Make sure that you, and your fellow campers, will all have ample room. Everyone needs to have enough space to sleep, stretch and move around. If using air mattresses, factor in the area they cover. Make sure that you can stand, or at least sit up. You can easily fit four full-grown adults into a four-person tent, but they'll be much more comfortable in a six-person model. By the same token, you and your partner can sleep in a small two-man tent, but you'll need to find somewhere else to stow your clothes and food.

Weigh Your Options

If you are hiking or portaging to your destination, you'll have to give serious thought to the weight of your tent. Big canvas tents and ten-kilometer hikes just don't mix. You'll be carrying all of your gear and necessities, so you don't want to be weighed down even more by a heavy tent. Choose a secure but lightweight model. On the other hand, if you're driving to the campsite in a heavy-duty vehicle with lots of cargo room, then go crazy and bring a big tent.

Material Matters

Lightweight nylon and taffeta and popular materials used by today's tent manufacturers. These fabrics are strong and durable, and able to withstand all types of weather. The most important thing to look for in your tent material is a waterproof certification. Paying a little extra is worth every penny when you're caught in a downpour.

Assembly Required

Before you buy the tent, ask to see the assembly instructions. It's also important to try assembling the tent in your backyard before you leave home. Your tent must be easy to assemble using just a few (or no) tools. You're going camping to relax, and there's no point in stressing out with a tent that's hard to assemble.

Tents are not luxuries for the faint-hearted, or copouts for rookie campers. They are necessary tools that satisfy the basic human need for shelter. Even the most experienced outdoor enthusiasts will agree, there is no thrill in coming face to face with a forest critter at four a.m.

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Writer Bud Sayce contributes regularly to a variety of online magazines, on internet hobby and sports recreation topics, among others.
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