Tents are a great invention! Over the years, many different tents have provided me with hours of simple but satisfying accommodation from which to enjoy the great outdoors. From family camping trips, to DofE Expeditions and Army Cadet Camps, through to cycle touring in the Lake District and sheltering from heavy snowfall and arctic winds in the Snowdonia National Park.
The following information and advice is built from my personal knowledge and experience of tents, and will hopefully empower you to make the correct decision when it comes to choosing which tent to purchase. If you have any further questions or are unsure about which tent will suit your needs, please don’t hesitate to leave your queries in the comments below or pop into a store for a chat!
Which type of tent should you choose?
There is a vast range of different tents on the market today but due to there being plenty of design and usage crossovers, they can be classified under three main headings:
Our Family and Festival category encompasses a variety of tents from budget tents that are perfect for festival goers or children’s garden camping adventures, through to our premium Family tents which offer a home-from-home experience by way of generous sleeping and living layouts along with luxurious features.
These tents are better suited to fairly sheltered environments or commercial campsites rather than at the top of an exposed mountain ridge. Family tents also tend to be much heavier and therefore suited to longer trips where the tent is transported by car and left static for the duration rather than being carried and moved every couple of days.
Shape/Design – Usually tunnel or dome shaped and double skinned with sewn-in groundsheet.
- Backpacking & Trekking Tents
Backpacking and Trekking tents are the perfect choice for users wishing to avoid the crowded summer holiday campsites and head off the beaten track and explore rugged terrains. Usually for use by two to four people allowing the tent to be carried for the duration of a trip; along with simpler designs, compact dimensions and lighter weights, the various parts can be divided up between the group or stowed away in different panniers on your bike.
A perfect choice for no-frills or short-stay campers embarking on longer hikes in the British National Parks, cycle touring or other outdoor activity based trips.
Shape/Design – Normally tunnel or semi-geodesic in shape and double skinned, with sewn-in groundsheet.
- Mountain & Expedition Tents
If you are planning on summiting a mountain or crossing a polar region, then definitely consider this type of tent. Mountain and expedition tents are designed to withstand and protect you from the most inhospitable conditions you may encounter. Low profiles, robust pole structures, and durable materials yield the maximum wind resistance, waterproofing, and rigidity that any respectable mountaineer or explorer could wish for.
Often more expensive than backpacking and trekking tents, these tents allow you to sit out fierce storms and will happily shrug off the harshest of conditions... Until a point where it is safe to venture outside and continue your journey across the glacial landscape or along the mountain ridge before the final summit attempt.
Shape/Design – Either tunnel or semi-geodesic in shape, and single skinned often without a sewn-in groundsheet.
What are the pro’s and con’s of the different tent designs?
- TUNNEL: Have separate poles which don’t cross making them the quickest design to pitch and very spacious inside. However, they are less stable than other designs so are required to be fully “guyed out” all of the time.
- DOME: Have poles which cross at one point giving the tent stability but limits internal space and headroom. Even though not as lightweight or quick to pitch as a tunnel tent, dome tents are much more stable.
- SEMI-GEODESIC: Much more stable in bad weather than dome or tunnel tents but due to having a number of different crossing poles, are harder to erect and heavier.
- FULLY GEODESIC: The most stable tent design which will always have more than five pole crossing points. They are heavier and harder to pitch, but this is overshadowed by the fact that they are specialist tents designed for a specific purpose; usually to protect the occupants from harsh weather conditions and not fall to pieces during a blizzard at the top of a mountain.
Hopefully this guide has given you a better idea about the range of tents that are out there and which style is right for you. Any questions? Leave them in the comments below.