Decide what you want to do with your tent. For simplicity, we break this decision down into quite broad categories:
Conventional 3/4 season backpacking. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes (more on that to come), and suit a wide spectrum of conditions. As such, expect a wide range of pack weights and sizes. They will be waterproof and breathable, but will struggle in more extreme conditions such as high winds, snow or freezing temperatures.
Designed to shelter their inhabitants from some of the most extreme conditions, in the most extreme environments on the planet. Typically of geodesic or tunnel configuration, they are tough enough to withstand high wind, strong enough to not be crushed by build-up of snowfall, warm enough to allow its inhabitants some respite from the environment, whilst light enough to carry for long periods over unforgiving terrain.
A more traditional style of tent, from when the world was simpler. Compared to modern materials, cotton is far heavier and bulkier. However, cotton breathes better than man-made materials, and is an inherently good thermoregulatory (keeps you warmer when it’s cold, and cooler when its warm). Performance aside, cotton tents have a very classic aesthetic, which can be reason enough to chose one given the correct circumstances.
Modern technology has allowed materials to get thinner, lighter and tougher. Not always all 3 at the same time, but this allows for new shapes of tents that were previously impossible. Each shape has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it is useful to get an idea on these to make an informed decision:
One of the more traditional tent shapes, for example the Force10 Classic. They typically have decent head room and can have good porch space. Their strong shape makes them good at withstanding bad weather if pitched well, but their shape also restricts them to being quite small. A more unusual iteration of this design would be the Vango Blade 200.
Tunnel tents, when pitched properly, are incredibly stable in wind, and provide a very useable space inside. A good all-round example of this style would be the Force10 Meso 3. Prices can vary greatly, depending on the type of materials used and amenities provided. For example, the ginormous Nordisk Oppland 3 LW and Vango Pulsar 300 achieve a similar shape, with vastly different materials and performance levels, but for their price points both are significant contenders! They can be a bit fiddly to pitch until you get used to them.
Family camping has its own set of requirements that differ greatly from anything else featured so far. Family tents tend to put more emphasis on interior space than more utilitarian aspects such as packability and robustness. A good example of this would be the Vango Galaxy 300
Now you have found a shape that best suits what you want to do in and with your tent, you need to think how many people/what you expect to share it with! Tents sizes are typically broken down into ‘number of berths’ (i.e. 1 person, 2 person, etc). However, a few things to bear in mind here would be:
Some tents have porches, or areas outside the inner lining still covered by the outer, in which bags, boots and kit can be stored. Others still have the option of detachable porches such as the MSR Elixir Gear Shed (suitable only for the Elixir, but others are available!). This decision is a personal one; some like the security of having all their kit inside with them, others prefer keeping wet/grubby kit away from the confines of a tent interior, so choose wisely!
The storage requirements of a cycle-touring expedition are different to a weekends’ munro-bag-ing. Think about how much versatility you want.
The effect this has on your tent size is obvious; for solo expeditions, you may prefer having all your kit inside with you, in which case a 2-man may be better such as the Nordisk Telemark 2 ULW. Failing that a 1 man with porch space such as the MSR Access 1 would work. If these are not problems, you will get by with a normal 1-man tent such as the Vango Helium 1.
The size and weight of the packed down tent. Depending on the use, this could also be re-labelled as ‘carryability’. Nowadays, ‘packability’ often commands a premium price tag, for trekking and expedition tents, soboth these factors should be considered.
Only really a concern if you are limited on space, for example; by the size of a pulk during an Arctic Crossing, or no means of strapping to the outside of a pack for a weekend in the hills. Some airlines do not like transporting packs with tents strapped to the outside of them, so it is worth checking if it can be fitted inside for the duration, or exploring other options.
Much more of a consideration if you plan on carrying your tent a meaningful distance. As previously mentioned, technology has greatly reduced the weight of many materials used in tents, but this is no guarantee of lightness; a robust tent will typically weigh more than one designed to be light.
There are scenarios when this will be less of a factor; such as Family Tents, or camp-site camping, when there is typically a lot less trekking involved.
Some features come at a premium across the board, such as weight-saving or extra strong or robust materials. Similarly, aspects such as ease of pitching may affect the price. However, our range has been curated as such to allow for multiple price entries for tents to serve almost every activity.
Regardless of how modest or remarkable your camping aspirations, we appreciate there is a lot to think about. If you are in any doubt or need more info, email, call in or ring us and ask!