CAMPING | Tent FAQs – We Answer 10 Frequently Asked Questions About Tents

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We’re here to help, and with 35 years of camping experience and over a decade of running the Camping with Style blog, we’ve been asked some of the same questions about tents, time and time again.

Questions and answers about tents and how to choose a tent

In this blog, we answer 10 frequently asked questions about tents, including choosing a tent and caring for your tent, so we hope you’ll find the information useful! Don’t forget, you can reach out to us on our social channels if you have any other questions too.

1. What size tent do I need for my camping trip?

This is a tough question to answer as the size of tent you need for camping depends on various factors. To help you figure out what size tent you need, start by considering how many people will be using it regularly, where you’ll store it and so on.

In determining the right size of tent, you’ll need to ask yourself the following questions;

  • How many people will be using the tent?
  • How will you be transporting the tent?
  • Where will you store your tent when it’s not in use?
  • How much camp furniture or gear do you have?

A family of 4 driving to a campsite for a week-long camping holiday will want to opt for a large tunnel tent with multiple rooms. Add in 4 camp beds, camp chairs, a camp table and perhaps a kitchen or storage unit, and we’d recommend choosing a tunnel tent that sleeps at least 6 people to provide adequate space.

By contrast, a single person travelling by public transport will want to keep bulk and weight to a minimum, in which case, a simple 2-person backpacking style tent would be a better option.

2. What are the main different styles of tents available?

There are several main styles of tent available, each designed to cater to different needs and camping preferences, but here are the most popular styles of tent that you’ll encounter at campsites.

FAQs on choosing a tent

Dome Tents

Dome tents are characterised by their rounded shape, which offers good stability and wind resistance. They are typically easy to set up and provide decent headroom at the centre. Dome tents are popular for camping trips with small groups or families and are available across every price point and suit different camping needs.

Tunnel Tents

Tunnel tents are a family camping favourite and have a long, tunnel-like shape, with flexible poles or inflatable beams, creating a sturdy frame. They offer generous living space, multiple different ‘rooms’ or zones and they are relatively straightforward to pitch.

Backpacking Tents

Backpacking tents are designed for lightweight travel and compact storage, making them ideal for backpackers and wild campers. They are typically small in size and feature streamlined designs to minimise weight.

Bell Tents

The classic bell tent enjoyed a revival a few years ago, gaining popularity with many different campers, primarily couples and those with young children.

Bell tents provide the bonus of (usually) being made from canvas, which provides great breathability and temperature regulation, as well as bell tents being large and spacious with lots of headroom.

Popup Tents

Most of us have encountered popup tents at some point as they are typically cheap to buy and easy to pitch. They are usually packed in a round, flat bag and once these tents are taken out of the bag, they will instantly pop up into shape.

All you need to do is peg down the base and guy ropes and you can be pitched in about a minute. This kind of tent is often only single-skinned and limited in size to sleeping 1 or 2 people.

Instant Tents

Instant tents are a relatively new concept based around a jointed frame, with the flysheet already attached. The frame simply needs lifting up and the joints locking in place, leading to a tent that is sometimes larger than a popup and also offers a little more stability.

3. How quickly should I be able to set up a tent?

How quickly you can set up a tent depends on many different things, but primarily the type and size of tent you have, and how many people you’ve got lending a hand, will all play a part.

The ability to set up a tent quickly is beneficial for changeable weather in particular. When you see the clouds rolling in, the threat of rain can mean added stress, but these days even the largest of family tents can often be pitched in 10-20 minutes.

How quickly should I be able to set up a tent?

Tents that do away with traditional poles are far faster to pitch, making an AirBeam tent a personal favourite of ours, whilst bell tents with their single centre pole are also extremely fast to put up.

For a small backpacking tent, you should be able to get this up on your own in 5-10 minutes as a general rule, whilst for a large, poled family tent, you might need 2 adults and may need to allow 20 minutes or even longer to get pitched.

4. Are all tents suitable for camping in different weather conditions, like rain and snow?

A tent that isn’t suitable for rain is as helpful as a chocolate teapot, so yes, all tents technically should be suitable for different weather conditions, however, how well they cope with said weather conditions is another thing entirely. That’s where the materials and HH (See point 7 below for more information) come into play.

A cheap single-skin popup tent might have a 1000 or 2000HH. HH stands for Hydrostatic Head, a measurement used to indicate the waterproofness of a tent’s fabric and It represents the pressure at which water will begin to penetrate the fabric.

Most tents start at a minimum of 2000mm meaning they will stay dry in drizzle and light rain. Anything more and you’re likely to wish you’d invested in something better!

With this in mind then, no, not all tents suit all weather conditions. If you’re camping in a country where rain is a frequent visitor, we recommend choosing a double-skinned tent (i.e. has a fly sheet and an inner), with an attached, sewn-in groundsheet that offers a HH of no less than 3000HH.

5. How much should a tent weigh for backpacking purposes?

The ideal weight of a backpacking tent depends on various factors, like the duration of your trip, the number of people in your group, the terrain you’ll be covering, and your personal preferences for comfort and convenience.

However, as a general guideline, backpacking tents typically weigh between 2 to 4 pounds (0.9 to 1.8 kilograms) per person.

6. Do I really need to be able to stand up inside a tent?

No, you don’t need the ability to stand up inside a tent, but for those with mobility issues, older people and particularly for families using a tent to holiday in, the ability to stand up inside a tent is a true comfort game changer!

If you’re backpacking, of course, a standing-height tent will be a luxury that just isn’t practical to have, but for couples on weekend camping trips and all family campers, then we think having a tent you can stand up in is a must, but hey, that’s just us.

Rain beading on a tent flysheet

7. What does the HH number mean and does it matter?

Hydrostatic Head is measured in millimetres (mm) and is typically indicated in tent specifications and will always be present for most well-known and regarded camping brands like Vango, Outwell, Kelty, Coleman etc.

For example, a tent with a HH of 2000mm means that the fabric can withstand a water column of 2000mm (or 2 meters) before water begins to leak through.

Generally, the higher the HH rating, the more waterproof the tent fabric is. However, the appropriate HH rating depends on factors such as the climate conditions you’ll be camping in and the level of waterproofing you require.

Here’s a rough guide to understanding HH ratings;

  • 1000mm – 2000mm Suitable for light showers and occasional rain.
  • 2000mm – 3000mm Good for moderate rainfall and extended use.
  • 3000mm – 4000mm Ideal for heavy rain and more challenging weather.
  • 4000mm + Excellent waterproofing for extreme weather conditions, like prolonged heavy rain or snowfall.

8. How much should I pay for a tent?

How much you should pay for a tent is, unfortunately, an impossible question to answer. Sounds like a cop out right? The cost of a tent however, depends on so many factors it would be impossible to give you a figure.

Instead, when considering the price of a tent, you may want to think about the following;

  • Brand of the tent you’re considering
  • Time of year you are buying
  • Size of the tent that you want
  • Quality of the particular model of tent you’re looking at
  • Your budget and how much you’re willing to invest

9. When is the best time of year to buy a tent?

We’ve always maintained that buying last years’ model of tent out of season provides the best chances of bagging a tent bargain. However, as well as buying camping gear during the winter months when demand is generally low and retailers want to shift their stock to make way for the new season, even buying in the height of camping season means you can find bargains.

Summer sales tend to happen towards the end of August, whilst of course, Black Friday in November means you’re likely to get more deals too. There will also be flash sales to look out for, and sign up to tent retailer mailing lists to ensure you’re in the know whenever any deals pop up.

10. How should I store my tent when it’s not being used?

Proper storage of your tent is essential for maintaining its condition and longevity. Follow these steps to ensure your tent stays in top shape when not being used.

Clean and dry your tent

Before storing your tent, make sure it’s clean and completely dry. Set it up in a well-ventilated area or hang it outside to air out. Remove any dirt, debris or stains. Allow the tent to air dry completely, both inside and out, to prevent mould, mildew, and odours.

Pack with care

Once your tent is clean and dry, fold or roll it carefully and pack it away ensuring nothing is accidentally left inside the tent, like a head torch tucked away in an inside pocket and forgotten, or accidentally rolled up with the tent, like an errant tent peg. Ensure it is kept inside something breathable to help prevent any moisture build-up.

Store in a cool, dry place

Choose a cool, dry storage location for your tent to prevent damage from moisture, heat, or sunlight. Avoid storing your tent in direct sunlight or exposing it to extreme temperatures if you can. A spare room, utility room, attic or garage with consistent temperature and humidity levels is ideal for tent storage.

Keep it elevated

Store your tent off the ground to prevent damage from pests, moisture, and dirt. Use a shelf, rack, or hooks to keep the tent elevated and away from potential hazards.

Check Periodically

Periodically check on your stored tent to ensure it remains dry and in good condition. Air it out and inspect for any signs of damage, mould, or mildew and address any issues promptly to prevent further damage and extend the life of your tent.

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Shell Robshaw-Bryan
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