This year, you’ve decided to do something a little different with your vacation time. You’re tired of long lines at amusement parks and boring museums, and you’re still finding sand in strange places after last year’s trip to the beach.
This time, you’re packing up the kids and heading to the great outdoors and going camping. First things first – you’ll need a tent! Then you get to reading to get ready for the great outdoors. Then you see these terms. What’s a Guyout Loop? What’s all this about footprints… and how do you measure “peak height?” Tent shopping can be a little intimidating, but once you know what to look for, it’s simple! Here are a few pointers to help you pick the right tent for your family’s needs.
Always choose a tent with more room than you think you’ll need. If you’re a family of three with a small child, you should fit comfortably in a four or five-person tent. For a big family or one with older children, you’ll want to choose a larger tent to make sure no one’s personal space is being invaded. After several days together, any size tent is bound to start feeling small. You’ll want to be sure the tent has plenty of ventilation, so the tent doesn’t become too stuffy.
While you are looking for the best family tent, there are several basic types of tents available and each one has its strengths and weaknesses. Dome-style tents have sloped walls, which drastically reduces the headroom. However, dome tents are the strongest type and have the most wind-shearing capabilities, making them handy during bad weather. Cabin tents have vertical walls which provide more livable space. Some even come with room dividers and covered seating areas outside of the tent.
If you’re camping during the warm season or in an area with fair weather, screen rooms are another option. These sheer, portable spaces are generally used for day-trips or to cover picnic tables. They have excellent ventilation but offer no protection from wind or bad weather.
Ease of use is also something to think about. If you aren’t confident with your tent-pitching abilities, then choosing a fancy, the complicated tent will end in frustration. As a general rule, fewer poles equals easier setup. Also, choose a free-standing tent. Free-standing simply means that you don’t have to stake the tent into the ground to set it up. These are really handy because you can adjust the location of your tent without having to take it down and set it up at the new spot.
Once you’ve decided which type of tent will suit your needs, shop around. Be sure to consider the area you’ll be camping in. Is the ground rough? Is it likely to storm? Also, if you intend to use your tent more than once, investing in a higher-quality (and more expensive) tent is a good idea.
If your family plans on camping often or if you’re camping in an area with possible bad weather, skimping on quality is not something you want to do. You’ll want a tent with aluminum poles, which are more durable than the usual fiberglass. You’ll also want to make sure that your tent has sealed floor seams and comes with a footprint.
A footprint is a thick cloth that is custom-fitted to your tent. It is placed between the bottom of your tent and the ground to keep things like twigs and sharp rocks from tearing holes in your tent’s floor. It also provides a more cushioned floor surface.
If you’re camping in an area where bad weather is possible, be prepared. Some tents come with a guy out loops – small loops that attach to the outside of the tent and allow for extra lines to secure the tent to the ground during windy situations.
Also, be sure that your tent comes with a full rain shield so that water doesn’t enter through ventilation holes. Remember, as with most products; you get what you pay for.
If you’re still not sure what tent is best for you, take a trip to your local sporting goods store and speak with an associate there. Shopping online may be more convenient and provide more options, but the store has the added benefit of being able to see the products in person.