Tent Buying Guide
The information on these pages will help you answer some basic questions you need to consider before you buy a tent. It also will help you understand the different tent styles, and includes information on tent features that can help you stay dry and comfortable.
There are a few simple questions you need to consider before looking at tents. Knowing the answers will help you quickly narrow the field, so you can spend more time looking at the styles and features that will make a real difference in your camping adventure.
How Many Campers Will Sleep in the Tent?
As a general rule, it's wise to buy a tent rated for 2 people more than will actually sleep in it. A 2-person tent will sleep 2 adults, but it won't include much room to move around or store gear—a 4-person tent would be better suited to give you room for yourselves and your gear.
If you'll have a bigger group, you'll need more space, so look for tents with vestibules and screen houses. For extra privacy, look at 2-room tents that divide the sleeping area. Most tents will show the tent floor plan and maximum sleeping configuration right on the packaging.
- See all 1 and 3 Person Tents
- See all 3 and 4 Person Tents
- See all 4 to 5 Person Tents
- See all 6 to 7 Person Tents
- See all 8 or More Person Tents
How Will You Transport the Tent?
If you're driving right to your campsite, the bulk and weight of your tent may not be a concern. However, if you're backpacking, biking or canoeing, you'll want to travel light and should consider a smaller, compact tent with lightweight aluminium poles. Most tents state their weight on the packaging.
What is Your Budget?
Like many things, you get what you pay for in a tent. A more expensive tent will incorporate better materials, waterproofing, fly coverage and other features that can make camping comfortable and convenient.
There are two elements that can be used to describe a tent's style: its shape and how it is set up. While the two are related, don't expect one shape of tent to always set up the same way.
Cabin vs. Dome tents: Most tents are either of these two traditional styles.
- Dome tents can often be easier to set up but are generally lower profile. While they have less headroom than Cabin tents, a low profile makes Dome tents sturdy and stronger in high winds.
- Cabin tents generally have walls that are vertical rather than sloped, providing more headroom—often enough to stand up. This also makes them easier to get in and out of. Family cabin-style tents may also have built-in vestibules, screenrooms or storage space.
Setting up Your Tent
While most tents are pretty straightforward to set up, some may require more than one person. Always be sure to read the Owner's Manual before setting up the tent to ensure a smooth setup and to avoid damaging the tent.
It's a good idea to do a practice run at home before taking your tent out for the first time. Not only will this help familiarize you with the process, but it will allow you to inspect your tent for any issues or missing parts before your trip.
Look for these additional features that can make tent setup even easier:
- Colour-coded poles and sleeves - This colour coding takes the guesswork out of tent assembly, helping you easily match which pole goes into which sleeve.
- Hub and pole system - Some tents, such as the Broadstone Easy-Up system, use an integrated pole design which doesn't require any pole assembly. The poles are pre-assembled inside the sleeves with locking joints and use a central hub system. You just lay out the tent, pull up the frame and lock into place.
- Pop-up tents - These tents set up in literally seconds. Pop-up tents are spring-loaded, and feature a tension-based fibreglass rod frame sewn into the tent. The tent is packed with the frame coiled into a hoop. Just take off the security band and toss the tent in the air. The tent will pop right open. Stake it down, and you're done.
TIP: Bring a small mallet with you camping to help tap tent pegs into hard ground.
Tents can include several features in how it is assembled and finished. Many of these features affect how well you'll be protected from the elements. Other thoughtful features can add a little more civilization to your camping trip.
- Water-resistant coating - Tent fabrics are generally a polyester material coated with a polyurethane coating (PU) to allow for water resistance while allowing breathability. You may see numbers on some tents such as 600mm PU coating or 800mm coating. Basically, the higher the number, the greater the water resistance and rain protection.
- Taped seams - In theory, anywhere there is a seam or a stitch hole, there is the possibility for water to seep through. A taped seam is coated or "taped" with additional waterproof material to prevent water from leaking through the seams. For tents that do not have taped seams, you can purchase and apply a Seam Sealer to interior seams for extra protection.
- Welded floors - A woven tarpaulin style floor (polyethylene) stitched to a tent faces the same challenge as other seams—where there is a seam or stitch holes, water could potentially leak in. Tents with welded floors have seams that have been "heat welded" together instead, eliminating stitch holes and possible leak points. Some premium tents may have nylon floors which are water resistant, softer to the touch, lightweight and easily compactable.
In any case, it's always a good idea to put a ground sheet under your tent and make sure your tent is setup on level higher ground. Ground sheets also keep your tent clean and protect your floor from twigs and stones, extending the life of your tent.
TIP: Ensure that your ground sheet is slightly smaller than the footprint of your tent. If it sticks out from under your tent, it could actually channel water under your tent in a rainstorm, defeating its purpose. Some premium tents come with their own custom-fitted ground sheet or "footprint".
- Rainflies - Rainflies provide additional water protection in rainy weather. These roof coverings fit on the top of the tent and act as an umbrella while still allowing for airflow. Even though tents have waterproof walls, the larger the fly, the more rain protection it offers. Tents will sometimes be categorized as a "cap" or roof-only fly, 1/2 fly, 3/4 fly or full fly. This refers to how far the fly reaches down the side of the tent. Full fly tents offer the best protection and are great for spring, summer, fall and even winter camping.
- Aluminized rainflies - Aluminized rainflies provide additional protection from the elements. They have a silver look on one side and help to reflect the sun's rays, providing UV protection and deflecting heat. This helps to keep the inside of the tent cooler during the day and keeps the heat in at night.
- Temperature Regulation & Ventilation - For maximum comfort, look for tents with options for controlling temperature and airflow through windows and vents. The more mesh, the better your airflow but you also want to make sure you can zip up the windows and vents and roll down the fly on cooler nights.
TIP: Warm air rises. On humid nights, open both an upper vent or window and a lower vent to allow cooler air to flow in the tent at the bottom while allowing the warmer air to escape through the top.
Other Tent Features
- Combo packages generally include a tent, 2 chairs and 2 sleeping bags. These are great value starter kits that simplify your purchase decision.
- Mudmats provide a place to take off muddy footwear outside the tent.
- Vestibules allow for additional storage for your gear. Tents with large vestibules can even provide a place for sitting in the shade.
- Screenrooms provide an open-air sitting area with bug protection.
- Lighting systems are convenient to provide area lighting or night lighting in your tent while freeing up valuable floor space.
- Electrical cord ports allow for convenient, dry and bug-free access for an extension cord to run electrical appliances in your tent. Always use an outdoor rated electrical cord.
- Integrated guy line stuff sacks with trip flags are featured on most Broadstone tents. These stuff sacks allow for neat and tidy storage of the guy lines when not in use and provide high-visibility flags to alert you of tripping hazards when the guy lines are extended.
- Drink holders and organizer pockets are great for keeping your tent neat and organized.
- Gear lofts provide additional storage space on the tent ceiling to keep the floor of your tent clear and uncluttered.
- Storage closets also provide tidy tent organization.
- Multiple room dividers come with some larger tents to allow you to divide the space up into multiple rooms for privacy.
Warranty: most tent manufacturers require you to take your tent home and set it up within a period of time to inspect it for any defects prior to use. Once used, most tents have a repair-only warranty. Manufacturer's warranties will vary by brand and can be anywhere from 1 year to limited Lifetime warranties.