A tent is like a home away from home. Knowing how to choose the best tent for your trip is crucial as many tent features can impact your decision. After all, when you go on holiday you want to rest and have a nice and relaxing time.
First, ask yourself a few questions before you commit to buying one.
What type of trip are you going?
Is it hiking, or camping? Are you planning to move your tent every day, or just go to your destination and stay there for a couple of weeks?
We like having a tent for each type of activity, others want one tent that can do it all.
What weather conditions to expect?
Is it going to be lots of rain, or hot and dry? What about wind or even snow? Regardless of the weather, the tent you select has to protect you from the outside world and make you comfortable.
Cheap tents tend to have a thin canvas that can tear off quickly, leak water or have weak zips that will break in your first trip. It is always better to invest a little more so the tent lasts longer. Read more about tent canvas types.
How many people will sleep inside?
Are you going on a solo trip, or maybe with the family? How big are you? Do you have kids or pets?
As you can see questions would be similar if you were buying a house.
Let’s start with the size of the tent.
Tent producers generally overestimate how many people can sleep comfortably in their tents. After doing a lot of research we created the below list to guide you about tent size
Tents size and its actual feel
|1P Tents||Generally comfortable for one person with gear stored in the vestibule. (Vestibules are covered areas meant for protecting and storing gear or shoes outside of your tent)|
|2P Tents||Comfortable for one person with plenty of gear storage space. A tight fit for two with gear stored in the vestibule.|
|3P Tents||Comfortable for two people with enough gear storage space. Ok for two people plus a small child or dog. 3P is not recommended for three average adults.|
|4P Tents||Comfortable for two to three people with interior gear storage space. Tight to fit three people and a child or dog. 4P is not recommended for four average adults.|
|6P Tents||Comfortable for four people plus gear.|
|8P Tents||Plenty of space for four people plus gear. Comfortable for six people if travelling with children or dogs.|
In summary, it is good to subtract two people from the tent size provided by the manufacturer. For example, if you plan a trip with a family of four, it is probably a good idea to choose a six-person tent size.
Because of this, it makes sense to size up and get a spacious and comfortable tent for the number of people sleeping in it.
Tent space and dimensions
It is important always to check dimensions, especially if you are tall. We bought once a 2P tent only to discover later on that my tall husband can’t fit inside because the tent was too short.
Tent height is also important if you want the ability to stand up inside. Tents with high peaks and vertical walls have the most usable space.
Some tents have a two-minute setup, another can take half an hour or longer to pitch. Ease of setup is crucial if you need to set your tent often, in the dark or during bad weather conditions.
For example, instant tents are very quick to set up, but and a bit longer to pack.
It is a good idea to watch a video on youtube to check how long it takes to set up a tent you are intending to buy.
After you buy a tent, practice setting it up for the first time at home to avoid confusion and frustration on your trip.
Tents can vary in weight. If you are planning a hiking trip it is a good idea to select a lightweight tent. After all, you will be carrying it all the time.
The tent weight is not very important for camping, but it could be challenging to take it from a roof rack without hurting your back.
A tent that does not have good ventilation will have a problem with water condensation during colder nights.
During cold nights, while you are breathing, the water may condensate on the roof tent. If the tent does not have good ventilation the water will drip on you making a very unpleasant feeling.
Look for tents designed with adequate roof vents that allow fresh air to circulate.
Otherwise, in extreme conditions, you can find yourself at 3 am looking for some container to collect droplets of water siping on your bed.
This happened to us on a winter trip to the Simpson Desert. When going on a cold-weather trip it is good to consider a double-wall tent This type of tent is very good to keep condensation problems away.
It is also important to have plenty of mesh windows in the hot Australian climate. Conversely, during hot nights, you can keep all windows open with only mesh protecting you against mosquitos and night creatures.
One of the good options to have is windows that you can close from inside. It is really handy especially if it starts to rain in the middle of the night and you don’t want to go outside to close the window covers.
With a small tent, there is no problem having only one door, but if you have a bigger tent and a whole family inside it is good to have multiple points of entry.
Most tents come with some kind of awning that is attached to the tent.
It is always good to have a covered space where you can leave chairs, towels, or muddy shoes.
The awning also provides shade. If we stay somewhere for longer we like to set separate shade cloth or gazebo that is not directly attached to our tent. This gives us sun protection and if we also attach a mesh net we also have protection against flies and mosquitos.
Internal and external floor mats are a great addition to your camping equipment.
The internal mat has foam and reflective aluminium on both sides that work well if you don’t sleep on raised beds.
The external mat is an under-tent protection layer and works excellent if you pitch your tent in wet or dusty conditions. Many campgrounds now require these to be used under your tent so the grass is not damaged.
Some tents have built-in lights, others have a dedicated entry point to insert a power cable.
What about a rooftop tent?
In our tent guide, we could not omit rooftop tents as they are really awesome.
Rooftop tents are great if you change your location often. They are very quick to set up and more convenient than traditional tents.
With a rooftop tent, you can camp anywhere – even in the middle of rocky terrain as long as your car can take you there and stay level.
The rooftop tent is elevated, so you don’t need to worry about inquisitive dingos or crocodiles.
We love our rooftop tent, but we don’t take it on every trip because it also has some downsides.
Firstly, it is designed for two people, so you can’t take your kids and a dog there. The tent is attached to the car roof rack, so if you want to drive away from your camp you need to pack it and unpack it after the return.
Also, you cannot stand inside, store too much equipment, or cook.
Rooftop tents are also heavy and fitting them on a roof rack can be a challenge.
How to choose the best tent – Summary
As you saw above there are a lot of tent options to choose from.
Choosing the right tent is a matter of personal choice. Often people have just one tent that does the job for any trip they do. However, if you look from a different perspective you notice that different tents serve different purposes.
As a rule of thumb, if you go for a trip where you stay longer and don’t move, buy a big tent with a proper awning so after setup, you feel comfortable.
However, if you move frequently, we recommend using a rooftop tent as you save a lot of time setting it up and folding it back. Alternatively, you can purchase an instant tent, but those are super easy to set up but a bit longer to fold back.
We hope that our tent guide helped you know how to choose the best tent for your future trips.
If you have any questions please leave a comment below.
Have you already downloaded our tent camping checklist? Read it here and download it from the bottom of the page.