Tent buying Guide

Don’t think all tents are the same. They come in a multitude of a variety of shapes and sizes, along with different patents and features. This guide help gives you a better understanding of how to buy your text tent for your camping excursion.

How To Choose a Tent

When choosing your tent, it’s important to keep in mind the comfort level you’re looking for, as well as how long it takes to set up.

The last thing you want is a tight and uncomfortable space to sleep that takes hours to get ready.

Your tent should keep you and your gear dry, take minutes to completely set up, and have plenty of space for everyone in addition to everything you bring.

What Kind of Space Does Your Tent Need?

Before you start looking for tents, first determine how many people are in your group and decide how much space you need for your gear and extra hikers (dog). Keep in mind which members of your group are:

Different Types of Tents

  • Backpacking Tents

Backpacking tents are one of the lightest and most portable tents you can buy. Most commonly used by hikers, the majority of these tents are also wind resistant and weatherproof to help provide stability

  • Family Tents

Family tents are perfect for those who have a large group and need more space. These tents often have wall dividers and more area space to provide an excess of room for gear and people you bring.

  • Pop Up Tents

Pop up tents got their name with their simple ‘pop-up’ set up. These tents are more commonly among hikers who need to set up camp in a pitch or new campers who are unfamiliar with more complex tents. Usually, all you need to do is fit the tent frame together, snap on the tent fabric, and you’re done!

  • Festival Tents

Festival tents are, of course, designed for people who are looking to spend the night at a festival. These types of tents are more lightweight and compact for easier portability, while still being incredibly easy to set up.

  • Inflatable Tents

One of the more modern and increasingly popular tents on the market is the inflatable tent. These blow-up tents can be pitched in minutes and are easy to carry throughout your camping trip.

More suitable for shorter weekend camping trips, these tents offer fewer features and are consist of a simpler build.

Tent Seasons

  • 3-Season Tents

The most popular tents to buy are 3-season tents and are perfect for fall, summer, or spring. They are usually lightweight with additional features such as mosquito meshing and rain flys. Not to mention, they are primarily easy to set up with a less complex construction.

  • 3+ Season Tents

These extended season tents can be used from summer to late fall when light snow might fall. They are sturdier and warmer than three season tents. They also come with more poles and have fewer mesh panels.

  • 4-Season Tents

These tents can be used all year long. They can withstand strong winds, heavy snowfall, and other harsh weather conditions. Four season tents are made with heavier fabrics and more poles to give a sturdier and more weather resistant design.

Shapes of Tents

Along with the different types of tents, there are also different shapes of tents.

  • Wedge

These tents have a higher ceiling at the head end and a lower ceiling at the foot end. What these tents lack in interior space they make up for in aerodynamics. They are also lightweight.

  • A-frame

These tents are best for moderate outdoor conditions. They are simplistic, lightweight, and basic.

  • Modified A-frame

They are very similar to A-frame tents, but have added structural elements that increase stability and interior space.

  • Tunnel

Also called hoop or tube tents, these tents are usually weather resistant and lightweight. However, they need to be staked in order to stand.

  • Dome

These tents have arched ceilings and provide a lot of stability and space.

  • Pyramid

They are floorless tents that are supported by a vertical pole in the center.

Tent Features to Look For

  • Optimal Height

Do you want to be able to stand in your tent? Check out the peak heights to determine the best tent for you? Usually, larger family style tents have higher ceilings. For a good combination of ceiling height and wind resistant, opt for a dome-shaped tent.

  • Floor Length

If you are tall, this is an important factor to consider. When camping with someone over six feet tall, try to find a tent that has a floor length of at least 90 inches.

  • Doors

In general, tents either have one or two doors. This is a matter of personal preference. If you are camping with a large group, two doors can be nice so you are not all walking over each other to get in and out. It is also worth noting how easy doors are to open, how noisy they are, and how likely they are to snag.

Tent Poles

There are three main types of tent poles.

  • Fiberglass

These poles are typically used with inexpensive tents. These poles are heavier, cheaper, and less durable.

  • Aluminum

This is the most common tent pole material. They are lightweight, durable, and strong.

  • Carbon Fiber

These poles are only used in the very high-end tents. They are ultra lightweight, ultra strong, and more expensive.


This is a waterproof covering that fits directly on top of your tent and protects it from any rainfall. It can also provide additional heat retention. There are two main types of rainflys: roof-only (only cover the roof) and full-coverage (cover the whole tent). Full-coverage rainflys provide more protection against wind and rain.


Some larger tents include vestibules. This is a section of the tent that is usually used for storing boots and gear inside your tent, but out of your way.


Ventilation often comes in the form of mesh panels in the windows, doors, and ceilings of the tent. This allows for airflow and helps to limit condensation.

Interior Loops

A lot of tents have loops inside to hold lanterns and other pieces of gear.

Guyout Loops

This is a common feature of high-end tents. These are loops on the exterior of the tent that can be used to attach guylines. During instances of high wind, guy lines let you keep the fabric from flapping around.

Optional Accessories

These are accessories that may be nice to have, depending on your personal preference.

  • Tent repair kit
  • Footprint: a ground cloth that fits directly under your tent to protect your tent floor from dirt, rocks, and twigs that can tear and damage it
  • Stakes and anchors
  • Seam sealer
  • Battery operated ventilation fan
  • Gear loft: interior pockets to hold personal belongings and other gear
  • Utility cord
  • Dustpan and broom

Chief editor here at Sky-Liners, Breana is a former expat and outdoor enthusiast who grew up on camping, hunting, and hiking. If she could live anywhere, it would be a tree fort in the woods. For now, she's surviving on weekly hiking trips and monthly mountain breaks. You can read more about Breana's adventures on her blog at 3rdCultureWife.

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