The Best Tent Buying Guide

As an up and coming camper, a tent is one of the biggest purchases you can make. Your new tent will protect you from the elements, offer you warmth, and give you a cosy place to sleep in. Needless to say, a tent can make or break a camping trip.

Tents come in all shapes and sizes. But finding the perfect tent is easier when you know how you will be using it.

Are you planning a big family getaway in the mountains? Or perhaps you need shelter for your solo backpacking trip? (Read how to choose a backpack for camping) No matter what kind of outdoor pursuits you like, we’ve got you covered. Our tent buying guide will teach you how to pick the right tent for any camping adventure.

How To Buy a Family Tent

Camping brings a wonderful opportunity for a family to spend time together. Here are a few considerations for choosing an appropriate tent for a great family outing. 

Style

When it comes to family camping tents, there are two main styles.

If you plan to spend a lot of time in the tent, or if maximising headrooms is important to you, you may want to go with a cabin-style tent. To provide more interior space, cabin-style tents feature vertical walls. Taller campers may find cabin-style tents to be a better option, as they are comfortable for standing up in.

However, cabin-style tents don’t stand up to high winds as well as most other types of tents. When gusts start blowing, flat, vertical walls do a poor job of deflecting wind. If you get a cabin style tent, you’ll mostly be relying on its stakes to keep it from flying off during a storm.

However, some high-quality tent manufacturers, such as yours truly, have come up with innovative solutions to this problem. So, there are a few cabin-style models out there that can withstand stronger winds.

Alternatively, you can get a dome-style tent. A dome-tent features sloped walls, and it is mostly self-supporting. Some models can stand on their own, even without guy rope.

Due to their shape, dome-style tents are stronger in inclement weather. Generally, dome tents are easy to assemble. They are also lighter than cabin-style tents, as they contain less material. So, naturally, they are easier to transport.

A dome-style tent is ideal if you plan to use it primarily as a place to sleep. And while most dome tents don’t really allow you to stand up when you’re inside, they can still be comfortable and spacious.

Size

4 to 6-person tents are quite popular with families. Generally, a 4-person has a footprint between 60 and 70 ft² (5.5 and 6.5 m²). The average 6-person tent, on the other hand, has a footprint between 80 and 100 ft² (8.4 and 9.2 m²).

A family tent should offer at least 20 ft² (1.8 m²) of space per family member. However, you also need to factor in the sleeping bags, air mattresses, and other gear you plan on storing inside your tent. So, ideally, you want a tent that offers between 30 ft² and 40 ft² (2.8 m² and 3.7 m²) per person.

As your kids grow, so will their love for camping. You might want to plan ahead and get a multi-room tent with removable partitions.

Doors and Vestibules

Having two or more doors in your tent can make all the difference. This allows family members to get in and out of the tent without disturbing each other.

But, if you have small children, a single-door tent may be a better solution. When there’s only one entrance, it’s easier to keep track of who is coming and going.

Many family tents include vestibules—semi-enclosed areas that you can use to store dirty gear. If you don’t want your kids to track mud and water inside your tent, this is a must-have feature. Larger vestibules may also offer shade during a hot day. 

Other Features

You will appreciate a tent with large mesh windows when the temperatures get a bit warmer. Mesh windows offer much-needed cross ventilation.

If you are mostly into summer camping, consider getting a tent that has a mesh roof and a rainfly that goes over it. In addition to providing excellent airflow, a mesh roof can greatly reduce condensation that accumulates inside the tent on cooler nights.

Ease of Setup

If you are the only adult on a family camping excursion, but it takes two full-grown adults to set up your tent, you will end up with a huge headache.

When considering a model, take into account the setup and breakdown needs. If you prioritise ease of assembly, you may want to get an inflatable tent (more on this later). You can also consider getting two smaller tents instead of one big family tent.

But, Getting a modular system such as the Crua Clan is likely the best way to go.

The Crua Clan is a modular system of tents that is suitable for almost any kind of outdoor activity. It is made up of one Crua Core, three Crua Duo’s, and three Crua Cocoons.

You can combine them to create a super versatile and comfortable shelter or you can use each one individually. So, the Crua Clan can actually become 7 separate tents.

If you and your significant other would like to go on a camping trip without the little ones, you could simply take one Crua Duo and one Crua Cocoon with you.

Even though it’s a big system, the Crua Clan is still a simple airframe. It only takes minutes to set it up, so it’s great for first-time campers.

How to Buy a 4-Season Tent

If you have a wide range of outdoor pursuits in mind, it may be best to get a 4-season tent. As the name suggests, four-season tents are adequate for all seasons, but they really prove their worth in mixed weather conditions at higher elevations or during snowfall.

Types of 4-Season Tents

Any tent that is made to withstand harsh weather is essentially a 4-season tent, so there is a fair amount of variation within the category.

  • Mountaineering: These tents are generally lightweight and waterproof as they are designed for high-alpine environments. Most mountaineering tents offer limited square footage and have a single wall construction.
  • Basecamp: Compared to mountaineering tents, basecamp-style tents are heavier but also more comfortable. If you think you’ll end up spending a lot of time in your tent, a basecamp-style tent is a better choice.
  • Four-season tents of the basecamp variety are designed for a variety of conditions and circumstances. Most basecamp-style tents feature a double-wall construction.

  • Treeline: If you are looking for a trimmed down version of a 4-season tent, consider getting a treeline model. While they are not designed for heavy exposure in the high mountains, they are still great for other winter adventures.
  • The average treeline tent is not as tough and durable as a mountaineering or basecamp-style tent, but it still features heavier canopy and rainfly fabrics.

    Weight and Packed Size

    Due to beefier zippers, stronger poles, and more durable fabrics, 4-season tents are heavier than their 3-season counterparts. When shopping for a 4-season tent, be sure to look at the packed weight as well as the trail weight. The packed weight of a tent factors in guylines, stakes, stuff sacks, etc.

    When it comes to tents, going up in weight usually has its advantages. Heavier 4-season tents are generally more durable, have more features, ventilate better, and offer better weather resistance.

    Single-Wall vs. Double Wall Tents

    A single-wall tent has only one layer of fabric that offers protection from the outside elements. A double-wall tent has two parts: an inner canopy and an outer rainfly. If you want a 4-season tent, a double-wall construction is almost always a better choice.

    Generally, double-wall tents offer better insulation and have larger vestibules. However, they are also heavier.

    Tent Pole Quality

    In cold weather, plastics get brittle. To be able to withstand big gusts of wind, a 4-season tent should employ stout metal poles.

    Most quality 4-season tents come with aluminium poles. Aluminium offers the best strength to weight ratio. Steel poles are also great, but they are heavy. Because of this, they are generally reserved for larger, cabin-style tents, such as the Crua Loj.

    Waterproofing and Materials

    Most tents are made from nylon or polyester. But these materials are only water-resistant. So, manufacturers, in general, use thick layers of silicone or polyurethane for waterproofing.

    Still, it’s important to note that many manufacturers forgo this process. They figure that campers use 4-season tents mostly in truly wintery conditions—when the snow is unlikely to melt and seep through the walls of a tent. So, their tents only feature DWR (durable water repellent) coating; they are not truly waterproof.

    There are a few benefits to foregoing waterproofing. For instance, tents that are not waterproof generally offer better breathability. Many waterproof tents, on the other hand, tend to trap heat and condensation.

    But, this doesn’t mean you have to choose between waterproofing and ventilation. At least not with our 4-season tents.

    For a tent to be considered waterproof it must have a hydrostatic head rating of at latest 1,000 mm. The Crua Tri has a hydrostatic rating of 5,000 mm and offers impressive breathability at the same time.

    The secret lies in its one-of-a-kind flysheet. It uses poly-cotton on the outside and a TPU-laminate on the inside. That’s it; there’s no chemical coating that interferes with breathability.

    While the TPU-laminate is a bit on the heavy side, it also adds to the overall durability of the tent.

    Like most Crua tents, the Tri features patent-protected insulation. Thanks to the TTInsulate™ design, the interior is warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It also does a great job of blocking out noise and light.

    For even better weather protection and insulation, you can pair it with the Crua Tri reflective sheet. If you want to try it out before you buy it, the Crua Tri is available to rent.

    How to Choose a 2-Person Tent

    Two-person tents are not just for couples. Many solo campers use 2-person tents because they offer more comfort. Is this overkill? Not if you carefully weigh the pros and cons. When considering a 2-person model, it’s important to pay attention to the following specifications and features:

    Space

    For the same reasons solo campers buy 2-person tents, many couples buy 3-person or family tents. Often, 2-person tents are too tight for two people.

    If you plan on sharing your 2-person tent with someone, take a look at the floor dimensions and peak height of the model you are considering buying in order to make sure it will be big enough for both of you.

    Generally, tents that have a higher peak height have a roomier interior. Compare the peak height with your own height. This way, you’ll see whether or not you’ll be able to crouch, sit up, or stand inside your tent.

    When it comes to the floor plan, do know that most brands list only the tent’s widest measurement.

    For length, 2-person tents measure around 7 ft (210 cm). If you are over 6 ft (180 cm) tall, you may feel a bit crunched inside.

    For width, the average 2-person tent measures about 55 inches (140 cm). A standard sleeping pad is about 20 inches (50 cm) wide. If you want to have more hip-top-hip wiggle room, you’ll definitely want a bigger model.

    Weight

    If you are buying a 2-person tent, chances are that you are looking to lighten your load. This brings us back to the subject of single vs double-wall construction.

    As mentioned, single-wall tents are lighter because they use less material. But, even if you prioritise weight and packed size, a double-wall tent still may be a better option for you.

    When carrying a double-walled tent, you and your camping partner can easily split up the components between each other. You can’t really do this with a single-wall tent, as the tent body makes up most of the bulk and weight.

    Freestanding vs. Non-Freestanding

    If you are a solo camper that’s buying a 2-person tent, keeping the weight low is probably even more important to you. Your best bet is to choose a non-freestanding tent over a free-standing tent.

    The average 2-person tent has a freestanding frame (meaning: you don’t need to stake it out, it can stand on its own). Freestanding tents are easier to set up, but they are heavier.

    Non-freestanding tents rely on stakes and trekking poles for support. They prioritise low weight and packed size over convenience and comfort.

    Price and Other Considerations

    Two-person tents range from $100 to $500. Generally, you have to aim for the higher end of that range if you want to get a 2-person tent that is both lightweight and comes with extra refinements.

    If you want to get the most bang for your buck, check out the Crua Duo. The trail weight of the tent is only 5 lb (2.2 kg). But, it doesn’t make any compromises.

    Not only is it well insulated and easy to transport, but it also offers more than enough room for two campers (48 ft²; 4.5 m²). If you want to increase the overall comfort, you can pair it with the Crua Cocoon as well as the Crua reflective sheet.

    How to Choose an Inflatable Tent

    If you want to spend less time setting up your tent and more time enjoying your camping trip, an inflatable tent may be the best choice for you. Inflatable tents are very straightforward, but there are still a few things you need to consider if you want to get one.

    Inflation Point

    How easy it is to set up an inflatable depends on how many inflation points it has, among other things. You can reduce the amount of time and effort it takes to set up your tent by choosing a model that has a single inflation point.

    Air Beams

    An inflatable tent won’t puncture easily. But, what happens if it does? It depends on its design. If your tent has one continuous air beam, the whole structure will most likely deflate.

    Because of this, some inflatable tents have isolation valves. They allow you to section off the puncture, ensuring that the tent will continue to stand.

    Material

    When shopping for an inflatable tent, pay close attention to the fabric of the air beam. Many inflatable tents are made of nylon because it is water-resistant, lightweight, and cheap.

    But, if it doesn’t have a good coating, nylon can easily be damaged by the sun. This type of damage is undoubtedly more noticeable in inflatable tents than in traditional ones. Moreover, some nylon tents tend to snag in heavy rain.

    It’s best to go for a model that is made of tough, heavy-duty fabric such as polyurethane or extra-thick polyester. For added protection, many high-quality inflatable tents feature an extra layer of fabric.

    Ventilation and Other Considerations

    Due to their very nature, air beams are not breathable. Because of this, many inflatable tents have a problem with humidity and condensation.

    However, this is not an issue with the Crua Core. The Crua Core features built-in vents for improved circulation. Featuring fire-retardant polyester material with a waterproof flysheet, the Crua Core is as tough as they get.

    It comes with a multi-valve air pump and a groundsheet. As mentioned, the Crua Core is a modular tent. You can connect up to three Crua Duo’s or Duo Maxx’s to the Crua Core.

    How to Buy a Hammock Tent

    Combining the best features of a tent and a hammock, the hammock tent is the perfect alternate shelter. This hybrid camping system is great for those who are looking for something that is super practical, lightweight, and comfortable.

    Suspension

    You want to make sure that the suspension system of the hammock can support your weight without damaging the hammock or the trees.

    Most hammock tents feature standard webbing straps. To hang such a hammock, first you need to wrap the webbing straps around a tree. Then, you hook the hammock to the webbing straps with a metal or carabiner hook.

    For simplicity’s sake, you may want to go with a model that has a daisy chain style suspension. Daisy chain webbing is usually very easy to set up, so this type of suspension is recommended for beginners.

    Some hammock tents use a knotless tensioning system that, sort of, works like a Chinese finger trap. It’s known as the Whoopie sling. Hammock tents that use this system are generally the lightest.

    Extra Features

    Some hammock tents come with a removable or sewn-in mosquito mesh. Even if bugs are not a threat, this feature still comes in handy because it promotes air circulation. However, do know that you can always buy an anti-bug mesh separately.

    A hammock tent may come with internal gear storage or even a gear sling. These features are always convenient, but keep in mind that they usually add to the weight of the hammock tent.

    Single or Double Layer Hammock Tents

    If it’s less than 70°F (21°C), you will want to have an insulation layer underneath you. A single-layer hammock tent allows you to suspend an underquilt underneath the hammock body or to sleep on top of a foam pad. A double layer hammock has an internal sleeve that allows you to tuck an inflatable sleeping pad into it.

    The Crua Hybrid comes with a built-in thermal pad that doubles as an air mattress. Moreover, you can pair the Crua Hybrid with the Crua Sleeping Bag. The sleeping bag doesn’t move at all when zipped into the base of the hammock tent.

    The Crua Hybrid boasts all the features of a proper Crua Tent—it is waterproof (HH 5000 mm) and comes with an aluminium-lined, reflective flysheet. It’s ideal for colder days as the flysheet radiates the heat back in.

    When using the Crua Hybrid as a bivvy tent, you can zip it together to another Hybrid. And if you are looking for a 2-person suspended tent, there’s also the Crua Twin Hybrid.

    Takeaway

    Now that you know what to consider when buying a tent, it’s recommended to take some time to research what the market has to offer. But, if you are looking for an innovative, feature-heavy tent that will serve you for years to come, something tells us we’ll be in touch soon. 

    Bethany Garretson - Crua's latest Brand Ambassador
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