TENTS | How to Choose a Tent – Buyers Guide

Camping Blog Camping with Style | Travel, Outdoors & Glamping Blog

There are more tent options available than ever, so where should you start? In this guide we share the main things to consider before buying a tent.

Caravan Camping & Motorhome Show 2019
NEC annual camping and caravanning show

We’ve all got our favourite brands, and regular campers will be aware of some of the features that set aside the premium brands, but that doesn’t make choosing a new tent any easier, and it’s even harder if you’re new to camping.

If you’re purchasing your first tent, or looking to upgrade, we’ve outlined some of the things you’re going to need to factor into your decision making process.

1. How often will you be using the tent?

If you’re only going to be using your tent for a couple of weekends each summer, you really don’t need to spend a lot.

Coleman Batur 3 tent review
A backpacking or ‘weekend’ tent is smaller and quicker to put up

By settling for a lower waterproof rating and forgoing a sewn-in groundsheet, you’ll find a small budget (£150 or less) could be sufficient. For infrequent camping trips in good weather, you won’t really need better performance than this.

If you’ll be spending weeks at a time in your tent or you’re planning on camping multiple times a year though, you’re going to want to invest in something that’s up to the job, especially if you have a family.

You might also want to consider investing in a canvas or polycotton tent which can be better at regulating the internal temperature if you’re planning on using it as a family tent in the summer though.

Consider too that canvas Bell tents and Tipi tents can often be used with a wood-burning stove; making them great choices for winter camping.

2. Will the new tent be used in bad weather?

If you intend on using your tent in all seasons and will be going on multiple trips, you’re going to want to invest in something that bit sturdier.

For all-season camping, you’ll want to ensure you have a sewn-in groundsheet and as well as a high level of waterproofing.

Also consider whether the tent has a built-in porch, door canopies or a covered awning area – all of which really come into their own on wet camping trips!

Camping in Autumn
Camping year-round? You’ll need sewn-in groundsheets and good waterproofing

You may also want to consider choosing a tent that’s fast to put up, as pitching in bad weather can be an ordeal, so the quicker you can get set up the better. This could mean an inflatable tent could be a good solution in terms of speed of pitching.

3. How long do you want to spend on set up?

If you’ve got very young small humans with you, or if you’ll be making frequent short camping trips you won’t want to be spending hours getting the tent up, then something fast to set up is a must.

As a general rule, the more poles, porches or extensions your tent has, the longer it will take to get set up.

Vango AirBeam Tent
AirBeams and Bell Tents are extremely fast to set up

For speed, popup tents and ridge tents are best, but they are generally small and not suitable for family camping. Consider instead then, an inflatable tent or bell tent, both of which pitch more quickly than regular pole tents.

4. How many people will be sleeping in the tent?

We always advise that you choose a bigger tent than you really think you need if you’re going camping by car and are camping with the family.

Check out the internal configuration of the tents you’re considering as some will have one large sleeping compartment, others may provide the option of a dividing curtain, others have completely separate sleeping pods at either end of the tent, which is often better for families with teens who want a degree of privacy.

When family camping, more space means more comfort!

Some sleeping areas in tents might claim to sleep 3, but actually, if you’re using air mattresses or SIMs you’ll probably find you can only fit 2 in, so make sure you do your research and check dimensions and reviews so you can find out what the tent you’re considering really is like practically.

Consider head height of the tent too. A tent you can stand up in makes life SO much easier and will make the tent feel generally more spacious and nice to spend time inside.

5. How big is your budget?

Your tent budget will determine the brand, style and size of tent you can go for. Narrow your choice down by deciding on your budget first but set realistic expectations.

You’re not going to get a great quality family tent for under £200 that you’ll be using in all-weathers for the next decade, so sometimes, investing a little more can mean you get a tent that’s more robust and likely to last you for much longer.

Orla Kiely A Frame Tent Review
A small 2 man ridge tent is ideal for wild camping and shorter camping trips

Have a look at what’s available in your price range and you’ll quickly start seeing how brands like Decathlon, OLPRO, Mountain Warehouse, Vango and Outwell stack up in terms of costs.

Take a look too at some of the European tent brands available on Amazon. Brands like Skandika offer excellent value for money, but aren’t widely known in the UK.

Buying out of season and looking out for deals, for example around Black Friday can all mean you can pick up a tent for very little.

Decathlon camping

6. How will you transport your tent?

Car camping generally means you can choose a bigger tent, as weight and physical size isn’t so restrictive.

Do be careful when buying a tent online though. Pack sizes of some large family tents are enormous, so do check the pack size before you buy especially if you have a small car and no roof box or trailer!

How will you transport your tent?
Car camping means you won’t need to worry so much about tent weight

Consider the type of camping you’re going to be doing too. If you’re planning wild camping or multi-day hikes, you’ll need a small and easily carried tent and the carrying weight is probably going to be far more important than the space inside the tent

7. How much living space will be needed?

If you’re camping in the UK it’s a good idea to buy a tent that provides a decent-sized living area. This will give you somewhere to spend time when it’s raining (let’s face it, that’s inevitable!) as well as a separate area for adults to use once the kids are tucked up in bed.

Cooking under an awning
Generous living space can make family camping far more enjoyable!

A good-sized living area can help make up for smaller bedrooms too, giving you somewhere to store your bags, as well as given you somewhere protected and dry for your camp chairs and anything you don’t want to leave outside of the tent.

Tent Buying Tips

  • Buy a tent at the end of the season in the sales, or choose a model that’s a few seasons old if you’re on a tight budget.
  • Sign up to online newsletters from camping retailers, and you’ll often get special offers and even voucher codes sent to you.
  • Buy a tent that sleeps more than you need it to, the extra space ensures you won’t be living on top of each other.
  • Don’t rule out a tent brand on price alone. A new model tent will always command a premium, but find an older model from the same brand, or wait for a sale, and a brand or model you thought you couldn’t afford, may well fall into your price range.
  • Do you really need a polycotton or inflatable tent? If you’re on a tight budget, a traditional pole tent may be a  more realistic choice.
  • Go to a camping show where you’ll be able to see a large selection of tents all set up.

Where to next?

Shell Robshaw-Bryan
Follow Shell