What makes a tent right for your family and its camping needs? Let me show you how to pick the correct tent that fits your budget and how to take care of it so it will last for many happy camping seasons.
As a first-time camper you will rely on a tent for shelter for you and your family. Not only shelter from the wind, rain and morning dew, but also from pesky bugs. No, not your kids, those bugs that fly. There are a great variety of tents available for your camping adventure. For your purposes you will want a tent that is light and portable. Most of the tents in the market today have double-thick nylon or polyester walls, dual-zippered doors, screening, a rain fly and shock-cord poles that fold up neatly into a small package. The four most important factors to consider when choosing a tent are:
1. Season - there are typically three- and four-season tents available. Three-season tents are for spring, summer and fall. They typically have mosquito or “No-see-um” netting panels that zip-in and allow plenty of warm weather ventilation. The one I have has bug panels and a nylon panel. I can roll up the interior nylon panel out of the way giving the tent a screen door effect. When I roll up the panel in the rear of the tent I can get a nice cross breeze during summer camping and keep the bugs out. In the fall the panel stays zipped-up to break the wind.
Four-season tents are built for winter camping and may have extra poles for stability and thicker panels and outer shell. Since I don’t imagine any of you doing this right away, just tuck this information away for when you need it.
2. Size - tents are marked as 2-person, 3-person, etc. Regardless of how they are “rated” you need to pick a tent that suits your space requirements for all your campers and your gear. I have found that a 2-person tent will barely fit two campers and have no room for your gear. A 4-person tent gives two campers lots of elbowroom and space to stow your gear. As a “rule of thumb” add 2 to the number of campers you want in the tent and you will have enough room. So, for a family of 4, pick a 6-person tent.
If you can, borrow or rent different tents and take them on overnight campouts to see what they are like. I’ve also found that some sporting goods stores have tents set-up in their showrooms. Find one you think will fit your needs and crawl around in it. Check out the size, comfort, quality of construction and most importantly, the ease of setting up and taking down.
I can remember taking my kids with me to the local sporting goods store and having them get in the tents with me, zipping up the tent and laying down inside to see how it felt to them. I also wanted to see if they could work the zippers without any trouble.
I will cover the next two sections in my next post.
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