What to consider before buying a tent for camping

The growing popularity of camping in tents means that there is a bewildering range of camping equipment around - some of it good - some of it not so good.

Tents are a good example of this - these days it's possible to pay anything from £15 to £1,500 for one.

So - just how do you avoid wasting money on either a tent that is inadequate or one too over specified for your particular camping needs?

Before you start, the most important questions to ask yourself are:

1. When and where do you plan to go camping?

Camping on warm summer nights can be very different from camping at higher elevations in spring and autumn. However, since a UK summer can include cold nights and torrential downpours, it's probably best to focus on the worst conditions in which you plan to use your tent.

Even just part of one night in a tent that's on the point of collapse is to be avoided!

Designated campsites with a shop, facilities and a local pub doing food might mean you will spend little time in your tent. This means your tent can be a lot smaller as it needs to serve only as a night shelter and somewhere to store your walking gear.

However, since one of the joys of camping is cooking outside, with a glass of wine 'on the go', surrounded by some of the finest scenery and sounds this country has to offer - a larger tent may allow you get to more out of your camping trip.

If on the other hand you are wild camping then you need to balance the weight of the tent and all your gear/food against the task of getting to your remote wild camping spot - which by definition will be a long way from a road.

2. Who are you camping with?

At first glance it might seem obvious that if you are going camping with two other people you'll need a three man tent (or three singles or a single and a double).

However, you may also want extra room to store backpacks, muddy boots, wet waterproofs, spare dry clothes and/or other accessories under cover.

You may also need room to cook during rain or high winds (see porches). So consider adding 1 or 2 persons to the capacity if that is possible.

3. How will you be travelling? and

4. What will you be doing when you get there?

If you are planning to drive to a designated campsite, set up camp for a week or more and do all your walking from the campsite then you should invest in the largest, most comfortable tent you budget will allow. Perferrably one with separate 'rooms' and one that is high enough to permit you to stand upright. These tents are more expensive and take longer to put up, but by day 4 you'll be pleased you've got one - particularly if the weather is poor and/or you have wet gear.

If you plan to camp for just one or two nights (say over the weekend), then a smaller tunnel or dome tent that is quick to put up will be perfectly adequate. If the weather gets too bad - you can always pack up and go home.

If you are cycling or backpacking - then packsize and particularly weight become far more important and you should buy the lightest possible tent within your budget.

Mountaineering trips present another set of requirements - small size, light weight, bright colour, high level of robustness. Whilst this guide will touch on Mountaineering tents they are a specialist area and beyond its scope.



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