Backpacking tents come in many sizes and shapes. Here are some tips for choosing a tent that will keep your backcountry nights comfortable.
HOW IMPORTANT IS WEIGHT WHEN CHOOSING A TENT?
Considering all the hours and trail miles you’ll spend carrying your tent, you should pay careful attention to its weight. Look for the lightest gear that performs the way you want it to — and that you can afford.
For example, an ultralight tent is a great pick to keep weight down, but it might not be as spacious or as strong in wind as you need. Be sure you understand the tradeoffs of each kind of tent and get what you need.
Consider questions like:
Will you typically spend most of each day on the trail? Consider opting for a lightweight tent over one with luxurious extras.
Will you be spending most of your day in camp? Think about comfort and convenience features like gear pockets, extra doors or a cool design.
Will there be severe weather? Go for a tent that will keep you dry in rain and stand up to extreme wind.
LOOK AT THE TENT’S DETAILS
The first step in gear shopping is reading reviews and looking at products online. Tent specs can tell you a lot when you know what they mean. Here are some frequently used keywords.
Capacity: Backpacking tents usually range from one- to four-person models. Be careful; sizes aren’t universal. You and your buddy might not sleep comfortably in a two-person tent.
Square footage: This number will tell you how much interior space you’ll have. For instance, less than 28 square feet might feel snug in a two-person tent, while more than 30 should offer some elbow room.
Peak height: Less than 40 inches might mean taller people will brush their head against the ceiling.
Vestibules: Not only will these porch-like sheltered areas double as storage space for wet gear and packs, but they also provide the best design feature for preventing condensation inside: cross-ventilation.
Freestanding: This makes it easier to pitch (and shake out dirt), but can also add weight. Remember that many non-freestanding tents are just as sturdy when properly staked and guyed out.
GET INSIDE THE TENT
Just like you shouldn’t buy boots or a backpack without trying them on first, be sure to get inside a tent before buying it. After doing some research and creating a short list of your preferred tent models, visit stores that carry them. Pitch each tent. Sit and lie down inside them — ideally with your tentmate(s) — to test it.
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