Top 5 Hints on Choosing the Best Tent Option for You

1. Know why you want to go camping: 

I read some great advice once. “If you want to find an answer to a problem, you need find the true cause and to find that cause, you will need to ask yourself the 5 why’s… deep.”  This has never failed me – ever! If you’re looking to buy a new tent and you’re totally unsure on which will suit you the best – without a doubt you need to start with this: “Know why you want go camping” and really dive deep into what you are trying to achieve in doing so.  

Now you’re probably asking yourself “What does knowing why you want to go camping, have to do with choosing a tent? It’s a good question and the answer is really quite simple! Knowing why you want to go camping, will give you the type of camping environment you wish to camp in and this is crucial to having an exceptional camping experience. Once you know this, the rest of it comes easily. 

To give you a couple of examples to get your mind going – you might want to go camping because:

  • You need some periodic down time from work and a good old mental reboot from mother nature for the weekend. 
    • In this case, you’re probably wanting a true back to nature experience and your own secluded piece of paradise. You probably want to immerse yourself in nature and whatever you are camping in… your tent has to put you in touch with mother nature in every way possible. • You’ve got a camping trip organised with friends and family for a week
      • In this case seclusion isn’t required – in fact… you’re probably going to be camping with a larger group and possibly in a more populated campground/park. It’s not so much nature you’re wanting to enjoy – but rather a fun time away with a group of friends and family. 

By the way if you’re wondering why I go camping, it’s to disconnect from my everyday busy life to reconnect with the mental and physical benefits of mother nature. And the tent that I use allows me to enjoy all of that.

2. Know the type of environment you wish to camp in

Once you know why you want to go camping, you then need to know what type of environment you wish to camp in. This has an enormous amount of impact on the type of tent for many reasons we totally miss. Here are a few examples to think about: 

    • Oxidisation: 
      • Will you be near the ocean and if so, oxidisation becomes a key issue – so when looking for a tent, you need to know you have oxidisation resistant metal fittings. Example: zip sliders and tent pegging points.
    • Noise:
      • Will you be in an environment that gets a tradition afternoon heavy wind. Many fabrics (especially those highly synthetic based) sound like plastic in windy weather. Trust me… you wont sleep a wink! 
    • Humidity:
      • Will you be in an environment that has high humidity? Finding a tent that has a highly breathable fabric is the call of the day. But be careful here – many canvas tents (canvas is meant to be manufactured from breathable cotton) are mismarketed and they can often be waterproofed with a non-breathable synthetic / plastic-style membrane, like polyurethane for example (in short… a plastic sweat box!).

Once again, not all of these things have a lot to do with the tent – but they all decide how good your camping experience is and what type of tent you are looking for.

3. How long you want to go camping for: 

This is a huge one when choosing a tent. The length of time you are camping realistically determines the type of tent you wish to use, based on comfort and the most relaxed camping experience possible. In short, the longer the tent takes to erect, the more comfortable the tent is to use once IT IS set up and vice versa. HOWEVER…. setting up a tent can be the least liked part of camping and this could be the determining factor between having a great camping experience versus a bad camping experience. Here are some things to think about:

    • Week long camping experience:
      • If you’re staying for a week or more, it is really irrelevant how long a tent takes to erect. In this case a tent that has all the bells and whistles (that usually takes an hour or more to erect) will give you a week long camping experience with the ultimate in comfort. The big flash tents, with separate rooms etc… would be a fair option. In most longer camping experiences a trailer comes in to play – when you go away for longer, you probably need more gear which gives us more comfort!. (the kids bikes, boat, BBQ, kitchen sink etc… bahahaha). So the size of the tent also becomes irrelevant, it can usually be bigger once folded down.
      • When it comes to comfort with longer stays, your outside undercover living area becomes very important also. A large undercover tarp does wonders for a great long camping experience – even moreso, these types of camping experiences are often with larger groups and someone always has the designated or communal kitchen / entertaining area. For those of you reading this and are unsure if you should use a tarp or a gazebo (and what might suit best), here is a short video I did on what is the best to use… enjoy! (Click here for video)
    • One or two night stays:
  • Are they really quick? : In a world that is flooded with quick set up – or – pop-up style tents… you can be bought undone in a heartbeat. Rarely do these quick erecting tents include the timing of pegging of the tent – the 2nd stage fly that goes over the top for waterproofing and/or the plethora of guy ropes required should the weather turn bad. Most quick set up tents can take upwards of 1/2 an hour to be totally weatherproof. Make sure you question these things when looking at a quick erecting tent. By the way, here’s a genuine short stay shelter system that I use. (Click Here)
  • What about packing away?: This is a shocker in the world of tents. I see so many quick set up tents, that are genuinely quick to erect – but they take forever to pack away. Not only that, they require an enormous amount of effort to force / fit back into the bag. This is the last thing you want to have to deal with at the end of a short camping experience (isn’t the idea to be relaxing and easy)?
  • This is all about quick set up, quick drop down and most often compactness. Because time is limited, we would all rather spend more time doing the things we love (relaxing, having fun, reading a book, fishing etc.. ), than spend all day erecting a tent – our time is precious! This is a great example on knowing “Why you want to go camping!”
  • Be warned!: In a world where we have some very clever marketers, you really do have to be on the ball when choosing the right tent – based on the length of camping experience. Do you research, check your forums and make sure you ask a professional!

4. Communication – what does your partner want or need?

This could cause some controversy huh? All too often I see couples instore who are on total different ends of the spectrum when it comes to the type of tent they think they might need or want (be it for a couple or for a family). This so often ends in disaster long term (wrong tent for the type of camping experience required… Here’s yet another example of ‘knowing why you want to go camping in the first place!’)  9 times out of 10 it’s because of a communication breakdown and they never ask each other what they want in a tent and/or – why! I could not recommend highly enough, sitting down with each other, making a list of what you would like (and why) and talking this through – 

Handy hint: When you start to look at tents, features and benefits, and some great marketing hype can take over in your mindset and put focus towards ‘a dream of a great getaway. Almost all tents will deliver a great getaway… provided they suit and align with the type of camping experience you wish to partake in. Try to keep in mind all of the above I have listed and never lose focus on your why you want to go camping, and they type of camping experience you want to have to begin with.  

5. Quality – Waste and Landfill – your social responsibility

For my long time loyal readers, I am sorry to bang on about this – but it is very important to me! I have an unwavering desire for quality, for it nearly always delivers better value. In the case of camping… “that’s a better camping experience every single time!” Whether that is better storm protection, easier to erect or pack away, the fact it lasts longer….  whatever that may be, it’s just better all round!  However, external of a better camping experience is something else that’s close to my heat and that’s looking after our planet. Back a few moths ago I wrote a small blog on quality camping gear and our social responsibility towards it. I have supplied a section of that blog below and I would love you to take it into account when looking at purchasing a new tent. Enjoy the read!  

Originally written 03.02.2017 by Jarrod Michael:

I left a campground last year and saw 2 massive industrial dump bins full of cheap and broken gazebo’s – scissor folding chairs and airbeds – so much of it was barely a couple of years old. Then last night on the local news – up popped a story on the cheap camping rubbish that had broken, dumped and been left to rot at one of our favourite camping spots… Inskip Point (entry way to Fraser Island for the readers outside of the Sunshine Coast). This all stews me up inside to no end – after all my parents brought me up to understand the value of buying a quality product that last.

Unfortunately to maintain endless growth, too many companies in the camping industry (big and small) are starting to produce some disgustingly poor quality product. For the small manufactures / importers, it’s out of desperation to maintain some market share and the large corporates it’s because they understand to maintain their profits (endless growth), a short lifecycle has to be built into their product. 

The earth is heating up and disappointingly, we’re doing everything we can to make this worse by producing more cheap crap and burning fossil fuels like never seen before. It’s a game our natural world cannot win – it’s simply not sustainable. There’s too much strain between the corporate product manufacturers/retailers need for endless growth and the planets need for a breather.

So what is the point of sharing this story? We’re in a world where we cannot ovoid impacting our planet. At some stage we need to live, go camping and buy some new camping gear. But what we do each own is the power to make smarter decisions when doing so. 

Cheers,

Jarrod

To read the full blog “A Camping Guru Story’ – (Click Here)

Before I go.

There is also another side to quality… it is often dearer to purchase, and not all of us can afford the dearer product. Economically, when it comes to ‘pay per use’ comparison – high quality camping gear almost always comes out cheaper in the long run, in so many ways! I would rather people save and purchase better quality, rather than buy cheap and dump it in the bin after a few uses. Mother nature is telling us, and we can’t afford not to!

I’d love to know your thoughts, leave me a comment below!

One Comment

  • Bob Bean says:

    I have limited space. I travel alone. For overnight stays when travelling I use a 2 man dome tent and for longer stays I have a 2 room tent and set up camp so I have a base to which I can return after a day’s activities. It works for me.

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