Have Tent, Will Travel

Your tent is the most important item you will bring with you on your camping expedition. If you’re new to camping, it can be confusing to decide which tent is right for you. Don’t go for the Taj Mahal of tents if you don’t need it. And on the flip side, don’t buy the smallest tent just because it’s the cheapest. Here is a short guide to the different types of tents available and the best uses for them. But first, let’s go over some key points when mulling your options.

Material: When shopping you’ll run across three types of tent fabric – nylon, which is very lightweight and great for leisure camping; canvas, which is very heavy and ideal for hunting or more rugged outdoor excursions; polyester, which is great for standing up to the sun.

Waterproof: Make sure your tent is waterproof and able to withstand any weather conditions you might face while on your camping excursion. I have seen tents cave in at some campsites during a heavy downpour. (Lucky for those guys, though, they had a camping car!)

Easy setup: You want to make sure that setting up your tent isn’t labor-intensive. This may cause you to avoid camping altogether. Today’s pop-up tents are easy to set up, and durable.

OK, on to tent styles.

A-frame tents: Just like it sounds, the A-frame tent forms a peak in the middle and is held up by two poles and stakes. These tents are good for overnight camping, particularly if you’re backpacking. They are lightweight and easy to set up. This is not an ideal tent for a family camping trip, unless you plan to use it for the kids. There is no headroom in this tent, so keep that in mind. Basically, the A-frame tent is for sleeping and not much more.

Dome tents: Probably the most popular tent in use today, the dome tent uses a system of geometric poles that overlap one another to form the shape of the tent. Dome tents come a myriad of shapes and sizes. The flexible poles create a curve in the structure, which opens up the tent’s interior space. The dome tent is ideal for recreational camping. It is able to withstand just about any weather condition given its number of corners (which also provide great storage space inside the tent), it’s roomy and can sleep up to six people depending on which size you purchase. Many dome tents come with a rain fly, which is basically added protection against the elements.

Pup tent: Ah, the pup tent. Probably reminds you of an episode of M*A*S*H. And it should as it’s a classic tent style. The pup tent accommodates, at most, two people and provides little to no headroom. It’s held up by two sets of poles in the front and back and a series of stakes. Pup tents have a window for ventilation, but we recommend you use a pup tent for an overnight car camping trip or backpacking trip, not a recreational family camping trip.

Tunnel or “hoop” tent: This style of tent is a favorite among backpackers. It’s extremely lightweight and easy to set up. It uses a series of flexible poles that create a tunnel-like structure. Depending on weather conditions and terrain, extra stakage may be necessary.

There are several tent manufacturers to choose from, including Timberland, Coleman, REI, Cabelas, Ozark Trail and Gander Mountain. Or you can always choose to sleep in your camping car, assuming you have one! Check their Web sites for pricing options.

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