What to Look For When Buying a Tent (10 Most Important Features)

When you’re looking for a tent to buy, there are many factors to consider.

But, with so many types of tents, features, price points, and more, it can be difficult to find the perfect tent for you.

To make that process as simple as possible, we’ve detailed the 10 most important features to look for when buying a tent.

Let’s jump right in!

What Should I Look For When Buying a Tent?

To help you choose a camping tent that fits your unique camping style and needs, we’ll start with arguably the biggest driving factor of any purchase… price!

Price

Like many products on the market today, with tents, you typically get what you pay for.

It might seem like a great deal to buy that cheap tent now, but when you’re forking over more money later for another tent because the tent poles broke right away or the tent shell easily tore, you’ll essentially be spending more money in the long run.

If you find a great deal on a tent, ask yourself, “why is this tent cheaper than the others?”. Take a look at the features and the quality of the materials. Will it handle the elements you plan to camp in?

That isn’t to say you can’t find a good quality, cheap tent. In fact, by simply buying a tent at a certain time, you can save around 70%! Check out our guide on the best time to buy a tent for more information.

And remember, the cost of camping gear can vary wildly from store to store, so don’t forget to shop around and compare prices. REI, Walmart, and Amazon are some of the best places to buy a tent at competitive prices.

Size of Tent

The next important consideration is the size of the tent. You’ll want to make sure you have enough room for all your family or people you plan to have sleeping in the tent and, which is often overlooked, all of their gear.

For example, a lightweight 2-person tent will fit two people nicely… and not much else. So, we always recommend going up a size when buying a camping tent.

Related: Best Lightweight 2-Person Tent Under $200

In other words, if you plan on two people sleeping in a tent, choose at least a 3-person tent to allow for plenty of space for the campers and all of their gear (backpacks, sleeping bags, coolers, etc.). Some tents even offer separate rooms for added space and privacy.

Another tent size consideration, apart from tent capacity, is headroom. Cabin-style tents have almost straight up and down walls, offering more headroom than the more popular dome tents. However, they don’t stand up as well as dome tents in high winds. So, you simply need to consider comfort versus durability in this case.

Seasonal Rating

Different types of camping tents exist, each better suited to certain climates and weather conditions.

A summer tent will typically be made of a lightweight fabric and have a lot of ventilation, however, may not handle severe weather as well as others. On the other hand, a three-season tent is more capable of handling heavy rain and winds and will keep you warmer on cold nights.

Tip: A good waterproof rating for a tent is at least 3000hh or higher.

If winter camping in snow is more your thing, you’ll want a 4-season or winter tent model.

Essentially, you want to find the right type of tent to match the weather and conditions you plan to camp in. Just keep in mind, even the most ideal weather can quickly turn bad, so think about how your tent would perform in the event of an unexpected storm.

Ease of Use

How easy is the tent to set up? Does it take a group of people? And how easy is it to take down and pack up?

These are easily overlooked questions when buying a tent but can really make or break your camping experience.

Some tents, like instant tents or pop-up tents, can be set up in 10 seconds or less (seriously), while others may take at least two people and 30 minutes to set up properly.

Set up the tent in the store if possible. Otherwise, there are a lot of YouTube videos on how to pitch different tents. Find a video of the tent you want to purchase or one comparable to understand the setup and takedown process before purchasing.

Tent Portability

Will you be carrying your tent on backpacking trips or long hiking excursions? Or will you be driving your vehicle right up to your campsite?

Related: 7 Best Backpacking Tents

Even from the car to the campsite, some of the larger tents are extremely difficult to transport. Can you handle this on your own?

So, consider portability when choosing a tent to buy. And keep in mind, portability is more than just weight. If you are backpacking or hiking, you’ll need to be able to strap the tent to you or your backpack, so a tent that is awkward to carry or doesn’t fold down nicely, even if lightweight, might not be the best option.

Tent Ventilation

Bad ventilation can lead to waking up in a hot, stuffy, and moisture-filled tent. Nobody wants that!

To combat bad ventilation, look for tents that feature mesh ventilation that can be covered with a rain fly in case of bad weather.

Tent Material

Tents can be made of a variety of materials (just to complicate the buying process further).

Cotton, also known as canvas, has been one of the most popular tent materials throughout history. Despite their durability, however, they are heavy and prone to mold and mildew problems.

Most modern-day tents are constructed of lighter, man-made fibers such as polyester and nylon. These materials are then waterproofed by adding a polyurethane coating or a silicone treatment, making them suitable for harsh weather conditions.

There are pros and cons to each type of tent material. Check out our guide titled What Material Are Tents Made of? (Guide to Tent Fabrics) for a complete breakdown of tent material types and their advantages/disadvantages.

Tent Durability

Tent durability is really a broad term and can mean a lot of different things. But, in this context, we want to make sure your tent can stand up to whatever treatment or elements you subject it to.

Essentially, you want a tent made of durable materials, especially the tent poles and fabric, and will be able to withstand the type of camping you do – whether that be nice weather camping, heavy snow, rain and/or wind camping, etc.

We covered each of these above, but it’s always a good idea to look at the big picture when buying a tent to make sure it will perform for many years to come with your type of camping.

Warranty

When making any major purchase, you should familiarize yourself with the manufacturer’s warranty. Not just the length of the warranty, but understand exactly what the warranty covers.

Typically, when a manufacturer has a lot of confidence in its product, the longer and more thorough the warranty will be. Look for a multi-year or lifetime warranty that covers as much of the product as possible.

Tip: Read reviews on shopping websites, blogs, and forums to get a good sense of how the manufacturer treats its customers, especially in regards to their warranty coverage.

Additional Tent Features

We just covered the most important tent buying tips and features you need to look for when shopping for a new tent. But what about additional features that can help improve your tent camping experience?

While every camper has a different idea of what’s important to them and their ideal camping tent, here are a few popular features you may want to consider:

  • Multiple tent doors can make entering and exiting the tent more convenient.
  • The number of windows can directly affect the amount of airflow and ventilation in the tent.
  • Built-in storage can help organize and de-clutter your tent.
  • A tent with a vestibule is a great feature that allows you to store wet and muddy gear outside the tent, keeping the inside clean and dry.
  • A rainfly will help protect your tent from heavy rain and snow while allowing for proper air ventilation.
  • A tent footprint or groundsheet can help protect the underside of your tent (and its floor) from sharp objects on the ground.

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