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Choosing a tent is not an easy task. The sheer number of details such as, size/capacity, shape, materials, features and weight to name but a few, can make the task a daunting one. 

Our advice cannot possibly be an exhaustive coverage of the subject - instead we have sought to give you a stuctured approach - guiding you through the miriad of decisions to be made.
Advice On Buying a Tent


On this site, tents are catagorised by both make/manufacturer and capacity eg. 1 person, 2 person, 3 person etc

However, with regard to tent capacity specifications, you need to be aware of the following

  • Tent capacity is based on the square footage and how many standard sleepings bags will fit in it.
  • No allowance is made by the manufacturer for anything else like elbow room or extra storage space.
As a general 'rule-of-thumb' buy a tent that has a capacity rated two people higher than the number that will actually be using it. This will go some way to providing the extra room you will need.
Tent Capacity
Choosing the size of your tent does of course also relate to your type of usage (see below). If you are going to be backpacking then a 4 person tent and all the room it would provide would be very desirable but hardly practicle on a weight carrying basis.


This may seem obvious, but it is often overlooked. The backpacker will have a completely different set of requirements from a tent to the family unloading the tent from a car on a prepared campsite.

THE BACKPACKER / HIKER - enjoying the freedom of the open air and being able to head off in one direction without the need to return means carrying your home with you.

  • Weight - Although modern materials have greatly improved the size to weight ratio, it is still a factor. It is important to find your personal balance between the room you require to feel comfortable and the weight you feel you can comfortably carry.
  • Pack Size - materials that keep the pack size down to a minimum can be invaluable, enabling other items to be carried instead.
  • Ease of Setup - A backpacker will regularly put the tent up and take the tent down. Ease of setup is therefore very important particularly when weather can be unpredictable.
Backpacker Tent Images
Ideal for the Backpacker - the Force 10 Carbon 200 Tent is just one example of a
modern lightweight 2 person tent that is easy to put up and weighs less than 1 kg.

FIXED PITCH CAMPING - The majority of people will be carrying their tents by car; be able to drive right up to where it will be pitched and leave it up untill it is time to leave.
  • Weight - generally, lighter is better, but of course for a family tent, weight is not such a significant issue as it is for the backpacker. Modern materials have help greatly in reducing the overall weight. Whilst opinions vary, we would suggest that there are more important overiding issues than weight for most choosing a family tent. Consider it but do not let it dominate your thinking.
  • Ease of Setup - once again it stands to reason that the easier the tent is to construct the better. However, by comparison to the backpacker this will almost certainly be an occasional requirement and of course it is in the interest of manufacturers to make their tents easy to put up.
  • Privacy - the importance you place on privacy varies with each individual. If you place a high importance on privacy then look for a tent with seperate room spaces. This is where floor plans can be very useful. Check also that the rooms have an inner tent wall with a zippered door.
Take a look at the Illusion 800 AirBeam tent from Vango,
main features include an inflateable frame system with three bedrooms, loads of living space as well as large front and smaller side entrance.

Family Tent Images


The list below is by no means exhaustive but represents the main features that need to be considered especially as you will find these quoted by most manufacturers in their specification/feature details.

FlySheet Fabrics (The Main Walls of the Tent) - many flysheets employ fire retarding treatments - but not all, so check the specifications if this high on your priorties.

  • Canvas - noted for its durability but very heavy by comparison to other modern materials. It would be reasonable to say that canvas tents are in the minority these days.
  • Polyester - durability is considered important in tent materials and polyester scores well in this area. It can be made to be extremely water resistant (Vango state the Hytex SPU-RP Polyester flysheet to be totally waterproof). Indeed, all the major manufacturers on this web site use polyester based fabrics to make their tents. Many also treat the polyester to improve its resistance against the affects of Ultra‑Violet light.
Ground Sheets - generally made from a slightly heavier fabric than the flysheet since increased abrasion resistance is required. It will be treated to make it waterproof. Quite often it will be a nylon based material, that is treated with a Polyurethane coating or it may be made using Polyethylene. On smaller tents, the groundsheet will usually be sewn-in. 

Seams - are potentially a high risk area for leaks to develope. Preventing leaks through the seams is therefore a priority. Look for manufacturers that tape the seams, giving them strength and weather protection. Alternatively seam sealant is used but this is more typically used for seam repairs. 

Poles - as the shape of tents has changed so has the type of pole used. For example, rigid aluminium poles do not have the flexability required by a modern Geodesic Tent but equally they are ideally suited for Frame Tents.
  • GRP / Fibreglass - Fibreglass poles dominate the market due to their flexibility, lightness and relative strength. Beware of cheap versions that can splinter and delaminate.
  • Aluminium - tends to be reserved for use on the larger tents - say 5 person and over ( see Khyam Tourer 600 ) - this gives the tent greater rigidity. The nice thing about aluminium is it lightness but of course this can mean in strong winds it can buckle and break.
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