Buying a New Tent? What To Look For

When buying a new tent for camping, make sure to look for features that will let you enjoy that tent for many years to come. Be sure to also plan your spending budget before you head to the store (or start online shopping). You don’t have to buy the most expensive tent in your price range, but it will help you narrow down your choices. When you have your cost nailed down, then it is time to start looking at the features included with tents in that price range.

The most important feature of your new tent is the size/space

tent size

If you aren’t backpacking, the size and weight of your tent probably doesn’t matter as long as it fits in your vehicle. You need to consider if you need room for the whole family.. or just for 2 people. You should also take into account the size of the individuals who will be using the tent and whether or not they you plan on storing gear in the tent.  Just because the label on the tent says it fits a number of people, (two-person, three-person, five-person) does not always mean there will be adequate room for that number of people. A three-person tent may work for three small or average-sized campers, but if one or more of the campers is tall or broad, or is someone who moves around lots while sleeping, you might want to consider choosing a four-person or five-person tent. Even larger if you plan on bringing other items into the tent with you at night.

A great option in this situation are 2-room tents, which have just one large sleeping area and an attached screen room. Tents with screen rooms attached are great for storing gear outside the sleeping area. These types of tents are also great if you are camping with kids, and want a little privacy at night.

Mattresses, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and other personal items can fill the tent up fast and leave very little room for comfortable sleeping. Make sure everyone has enough space to enjoy a good nights sleep under the stars.. Always go with a larger tent than you think you need.

If possible, it is a great idea to find a friend who has a tent close to the size that you’re considering. That way you can see it in person and so you can test it out and see if it will be adequate for the length of the trip and for the size of the group before making your purchase.


What other features should you look for in your new tent?


Weather Compatibility

Your tent should be compatible with the seasons that you plan on actually putting it to use. Tents can fall in to different categories: 1 season, 2-3 season, 4 season, and expedition (sometimes referred to as 5 season).

Always assume that the weather you are going to encounter in your tent is going to be more extreme than is predicted, so you are prepared for any scenario.

rain on tent

Water Resistance

You should always consider how your new tent handles moisture.. both inside and out. Even if rain isn’t in the forecast, it can be really unpleasant to have happen, especially if the tent is not designed for it.

Look for the following:

A tent with an adequate rainfly.
The rainfly is your tent’s umbrella. The bigger the better. Look for a fly that comes well down the sides of the tent rather than just across the top. Rainflies are waterproof. Tent walls are water-repellent.

A tent with folded seams and double stitching.
If you can pull the material on either side of a seam and see through the stitches, this tent will leak. Be sure to use seam sealer on all seams.

A tent with a one piece tub floor.
The floor should be made of waterproof material, and it should come a few inches up the sides before it is sown to the tent walls. No seam in the floor means there is no place for water to seep in.

A tent with a roof vent.
Opening this at night will help create some air circulation and eliminate condensation inside your tent.


Easy Transportation/Setup

Are you driving to your campsite, or are you bringing your gear into the wilderness on you back or a small motorized vehicle like an ATV? If you are having to carry your tent and all your other gear, you might want to consider a smaller, more lightweight tent – perhaps one that had just enough room for sleeping. If you plan on kayaking, mountain biking, or hiking to your campsite, chances are good you don’t want to be packing an enormous tent. It may be a good idea to divide parts of your tent setup (poles, rain fly, pegs, etc) among other group members to help share the weight, so one person alone isn’t carrying it the whole time.

Depending on the season rating on your tent, you may also be looking at additional weight. 4 season tents will be a bit heavier than 3 season, because of heavier duty fabrics and materials.

If you are wondering if the tent you are looking at is easy to set up, the internet can be a GREAT resource for this. Check out reviews online to see what others thought of that specific brand and style of tent. Often, these candid opinions could be what helps you make you final decision in choosing the right tent for you and your family.

tent poles

Good features to look for in your new tent:

  • A tent with aluminum poles.
    Tents may come with fiberglass poles, but they can be fragile and more likely to break. If you bend or break a pole, most camping stores sell replacements or repair kits. Aluminum poles will be light, and have more flexibility.
  • A tent with adequate guy lines.
    Tent walls, and sometimes the rain fly, will have loops sewn near the middle. These loops are used to attach guy lines that pull out the walls so that they are taught. It’s nearly impossible to sleep in a tent that’s flapping in the wind, so strong guy lines (and consider a line tightener) will allow you to sleep quietly, even if the wind turns up.
  • A tent with good-sized stake loops made of a good material.
    There should be strong loops at the base of your tent in every corner and at the center of each side. These loops have to be big enough to accommodate the large plastic or metal stakes sold in camping stores. Metal or composite stake loops are preferred as the plastic ones might break when you hammer in the stakes. If you do have plastic stakes, it is always a good idea to bring extras.
  • A tent that uses noseeum meshing.
    This is the best material for keeping those nasty little bugs out. Keep in mind that this fine mesh does not allow really quick airflow, still better than having the bugs in the tent though!
  • A tent with heavy-duty zippers.
    You’ll be in and out of your tent a lot so you want zippers that will hold up to frequent use.


Want to extend the life of your tent? Here are some tips!

It’s tempting, but don’t store food in or around your tent, and never eat in your tent. The smell of food alone will tempt wild animals and bugs to tear into your tent to get at it. Eat at the campsite picnic table, or bring along some folding chairs and a small folding table with you in the car. Store any food in the car, or in a bear bag up and off the ground. If your tent has an attached screen room, it’s okay to eat there, but be sure to clean up well after you’re done or you’ll soon find ants and other creepy crawlies have found their way in.

If your tent comes with a ground cloth/footprint, use it. These footprints are to help protect the tent floor from sticks, stones, and rough spots. They also help to keep ground water from seeping into the tent, much better than a tarp! You can use a regular tarp, but be sure to tuck the edges under the tent so that rain doesn’t run down the tent walls onto the tarp and then collects under the tent.

When you return from a camping trip. set your tent up in the yard and air it out. This will help prevent mold and mildew. Do not store your tent in a stuff sack. Store it loosely in a dry ventilated area. Use the stuff sack to pack your tent when going to and from the campground.


Do you have a great tip for keeping your tent looking great and performing well for years to come? We’d love to hear them! Please share your tips in the comments!

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.