Tent Selection - The Right Fit.
Over the years we’ve slept in a bunch of different tents. Some that we’ve loved and others that leave a lot to be desired. This has ranged from some serious old-school canvas tents to modern ultralights and tents that are great for some outdoor activities and downright awful for others.
If you’re buying your first tent or maybe updating from a standard “run in a grab one” at Canadian Tire here are some insights we’ve gleaned over the years that we encourage you to consider.
How many people are sleeping in the tent?
What season(s) will you be using it?
How portable does it need to be?
Once you know the answer to these questions you’ll be off to a good start. When looking at tents in-store or online, allow these 3 questions to stay in the forefront of your mind, because the first time you go camping you’ll be glad you did!
1. Full Cover Fly
At the top of the list, nothing is more important to us than a full covering “fly.” For the newbies, this is the tent cover that adds waterproofing to your setup. You can always buy and separate fly to accomplish the weatherproofing, but we suggest and have always appreciated a full-covering fly that is designed to match the tent. One of our better tents has this type with one side that reflects heat - so when you face it outward, it reflects the sun to cool the tent, and when you face it inward, it helps maintain heat inside the tent for added warmth.
2. Single Door
You can find a tent with multiple doors (entrances) but our experience shows this only added weight and areas for potential problems with seals and zippers. We like the one-way in/out option. Simplicity is the idea here.
Camping tends to put you in a scenario where things (including you) are some combination of being: wet, sweaty, and/or smelly. Being inside a tent in any one of these states, all whiles trying to avoid pesky mosquitoes can make the inside of the tent get more than stagnant. This is where good ventilation options come in handy.
We’ve listed this second, but it’s more of a 1a in our priority list. One of my favourite tents has a longer rectangle footprint that accommodates two very tight sleeping pods with a centre common area for gear etc. Sounds like a huge tent, but is much smaller than you might think. I love it for so many reasons (warmth, separation, simple setup), but the longer rectangle has proven to be harder to properly layout when in the field. When you look at the tents footprint/shape, try to envision the place outside where it will go. This is the space you need to find that is free of tree roots and rocks all while hoping it’s somewhat level ground. No easy task!
Here’s the truth. On more than one occasion we’ve arrived at our campsite late. This has resulted in arriving in the dark, in the rain, or at a point where our party is tired and ready to sleep. It’s in this moment that simplicity in setup stands out. This goes hand-in-hand with knowing your setup like the back of your hand. When you’re out there looking at some tent that has all kinds of features, pockets, and angled spaces... take a moment and look at how many poles, how many anchor points, and if there is some crazy hub that holds it all together. Look at that tent and imagine what it might be like to set that baby up in the rain or dark. This should help you find something you’ll be happy with on your next adventure.
One of our favourite adventure stores is MEC. We’ve been members for a long time and have always appreciated how they provide quality gear for the outdoor enthusiast. Check out this link for more information on tent selection that will help you set your sights on the right product for your excursions. Maybe it's an MSR ultralight for a hike or it might just be a big cabin-style tent for car camping with the family. The point is, get the one that helps you enjoy the experience of camping so you want to do more and not less.
MEC TENT SELECTION GUIDE: https://www.mec.ca/en/explore/how-to-choose-a-tent