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Your First Campout

Discover the Truth about First-time Camping

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Essential Camping Gear and Camping Checklist

Choosing the Right Tent

Sleeping Bag Facts

Staying Dry and Warm

Economical Camp Stoves

Easy Camping Recipes

Quick Course on Dutch Ovens

Camping Meals without Pots and Pans!

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How to Choose the Right Tent for Your Campout

What makes a tent right for your family and its camping needs?  Let me show you how to pick the correct camping 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 outdoor 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
  2. Size
  3. Strength
  4. Shape

1.    Season – there are typically three- and four-season camping 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 camping 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 – camping tents are marked as 2-person tent, 3-person tent, 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 has no room for your camping 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 and you'll have the perfect family tent.

If you can, borrow or rent different camping 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.

3.    Strength – while you are crawling around the inside of the tent checking it out, look for double-seamed stitching, heavy-duty zippers, sturdy poles and secure grommets.  Grommets are the metal “o” rings at the corners of the tents that you stick the end of the tent poles into.  Make sure you feel comfortable with how these are stitched to the floor of the tent. 

4.    Shape – In the last chapter we went into all the “popular” shapes of tents including “A” frame, Dome tents and Walled tents.  For a review you can quick link to: “Essential Camping Gear for Beginner Campers”.  From my experience I have chosen a dome tent for a number of reasons:
  • More spacious with lots of headroom. 
  • Some have multiple rooms and vestibules!  Separate rooms give you privacy or an area to store gear.
  • Dome shape offers good stability, even in strong winds.
  • Easy to clean and dry.  You can pull the stakes out of a dome tent and flip it upside down in the morning to dry the bottom of the tent floor!

In addition to the four important areas mentioned above, here’s a few more that will broaden your knowledge.  Remember: Knowledge is Power!

Tent with and without Rain FlyMost tents these days have a rain fly that fits over the top of the tent for rain protection.  If you notice the picture on the left without the rain fly, the top of the tent is screened to allow for proper ventilation while you are sleeping.  Hot air from sleeping bodies rises and goes out the top of the tent.  During inclement weather the rain fly protects the screened top from water while still allowing ventilation. 

Make sure the rain fly goes over the whole top of the tent and at least half way down the side of the tent and has guy lines to firmly attach it to the tent.  The one I have goes about halfway down the wall of the tent and has elastic cords with hooks on the end to attach it to a hook sewn into the seam of the tent walls.

Most modern camping tents have what’s called a tub floor.  This is a seamless, heavy-duty waterproof material that lines the floor of the tent and goes up the wall about 4-6 inches before it is sewn into the wall.  It gets its name because it looks like a bathtub.  But, its purpose is to keep any side seams away from the ground so that leaks can’t occur.  Make sure the tent you pick has a tub of heavy-duty polyurethane coated nylon to provide maximum water protection.  Protect this flooring by sweeping up any dirt and debris that gets on it and by using a ground cloth under it.  A simple throw rug or carpet remnant put inside the front door of the tent can serve as a doormat for everyone’s boots and shoes when they enter.  That way you keep the floor clean and free of debris.

Care for your tent and it will take care of you

Here are some TIPS on how to make your tent last many seasons:
  • Use a ground cloth under your tent.  This will protect the floor from rocks and twigs and keep moisture from seeping through.  HOT TIP: Always tuck the edges of your ground cloth beneath the floor of your tent so that rainwater will not collect on the ground cloth and run under the tent. ☹
  • Take off boots or shoes when entering the tent.
  • Keep the inside clean by sweeping or tipping it up and shaking out debris.
  • Never store a wet or damp tent.  This will cause mildew…yuck!  When you get home from a wet campout put the tent over a clothesline, fence or patio chairs to dry it out.  If the weather won’t permit this, hang the tent on a couple of nails in the garage.  But, make sure you dry it out.
  • Seal the seams of your tent.  When I buy a new camping tent I also purchase some sealer.  I setup the tent in the backyard and seal the seams.  This also allows me to become familiar with the setup and take down of my new tent!
  • NEVER store food in your tent.  Critters will tear a hole in your tent to get that food.  Store food in your car.

No Fires In Tents!

   

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