Family Tent Buying Guide
What is a Family Tent?
Whether your family loves the outdoors and camps all the time, or if you’re new to camping and want to try it out, the most important tool you can have is a good tent. You want to feel comfortable during your camping experience, and this comes down to having a tent that is large enough for your family, easy to set up, and which can protect you from the elements. The best family tents are designed for maximum ventilation and bug protection, and will feature strong skeletal systems that can handle even the toughest summer thunderstorms.
In this Buyer’s Guide, we’re going to help you to find the perfect tent for you and your family. What it comes down to is knowing and understanding your preferences, and how you’re going to use your tent. If you plan to only use your tent during the summer months, then you’re going to be looking for a very different model than if you camp year-round. These kinds of considerations will help you to narrow down your search, andlets be honest, there are a lot of tents out there to choose from. Some models are more expensive than others, so be sure to ask yourself how much you’re willing to spend on a tent for your family. No matter what you choose, you’re going to find that owning a high quality tent is a great investment for your family.
A Three Season tent is designed to keep you dry and cozy in all weather conditions, from spring to fall. These tents are structured to handle even strong winds, and the walls are constructed of a combination of mesh and solid materials, which give you a balance between ventilation and protection. it should be noted that this is not a Four Season tent. That means that this style of tent is not made for use in the snow.
This type of tent is for campers who like to dabble in all types of weather conditions, and the hybrid design features pole, vestibule, and rainfly options so that you can adapt the tent to whatever type of weather conditions you’re in. That means that you can strip this tent down in the summer months, and then fortify it during the stormy trips. You’ll often get mesh windows on these tents with solid nylon panels that can be zipped over the windows during stormy conditions. These tents are incredibly versatile, but they’re also a little heavier than other models.
A Mountaineering tent is a winter tent, and it’s built from tough fabrics, has sturdy pole structures, and plentiful external guy-out points, which are loops affixed to key points on the tent’s fly. These tents are designed for the harshest weather conditions, and they feature low, boulder-like shapes that help the tent to shed wind. There are also large vestibules for easy storage of gear.
If you want the lightest tent possible, then you need a tarp tent. This is one solid sheet of nylon or polyester, and it’s important to have good knot tying skills if you want this kind of tent. It is to be rigged to trees, roots, or trekking poles, and there are no walls or floors with this kind of tent. Not recommended for families, this is still a great form of emergency shelter should all else fail. There is no bug protection, but at least you have some protection against the elements.
As we mentioned above, it’s best to know how you’re going to use your tent, as this will guide you in the right direction. Where do you like to camp? How many people will be inside the tent? How much gear will you have? These are all important questions that will guide your search. Take a look at the buying tips below to make your journey even easier.
- Floor Space: When it comes to floor space, be sure and check the dimensions, and not just the square footage. If you’re a tall guy, then you’re going to need a longer layout, and stout people will need a bit more elbow room.
- Headroom: Most people overlook this, but the total headroom is dictated by the wall slope. Consider how many people are going to be in the tent and what kind of weather you might encounter. If you’re going to be stuck in the tent for many days due to bad weather, then you’re going to want some ample headroom, because you’ll be inside a lot. Tents with ample headroom are great living spaces, while those without much headroom are more for sleeping.
- Shape: You want to always consider the shape of your tent, as high-roofed rectangular designs will offer more dry storage and a safe spot to cook when it’s windy and rainy outside.
It’s important to understand the basic anatomy of a tent, as this helps you to set it up with ease and get the most out of its structure. Take a look at these components that are found in almost all tents:
- Ceiling Loops: These are great for hanging lanterns inside of your tent, and also for drying socks and clothes.
- Metal Pole Junctures: These are called hubs and they add sturdiness, allowing poles of different lengths to join together. These also help to cut weight and pull the canopy outward to create vertical walls and more living space.
- Inner Pockets: These are great for storing small items within the tent.
- Guylines: These provide extra stability during rain, wind, and snow. You simply attach them to guy-out loops, which are located on the perimeter and on the rainfly. It’s best to use reflective cords to avoid tripping on the guylines during the night.
- Inner Canopy: These are found on double-wall tents, and they’re breathable and usually made of mesh. This canopy lets moist air escape instead of condense within the tent. This is also a great way to keep bugs out.
- Rainfly: This is usually made of nylon and coated with polyurethane or silicon. The rainfly covers the tent body while allowing a few inches of space between it and the canopy, to allow for airflow.
- Poles: The poles create the tent’s skeleton, and it’s always important to treat them with care. You never want to snap the poles together, which can cause them to splinter. And, when you’re breaking them down, you want to start in the middle to minimize any kind of tension on the shock cord.
- Waterproof Bathtub Floor: This is very important if you’re camping during the rainy season. The floor curves a few inches up the tent’s walls to prevent leaks during rainy weather. To enhance this effect, you want to make sure the rainfly overlaps the floor’s perimeters by several inches.
There are various different kinds of tent shapes that serve different functions. Finding the right shape for you and your family will come down to how much space you will need, and how much time you plan on spending inside of your tent.
- A-Frame: This is a simple and traditional tent shape, and offers a light and inexpensive means of creating shelter. The A-frame features sloping walls, which will no doubt limit the head and elbow room that you may require. It’s possible for the broad sidewalls of these tents to get battered by winds, therefore you should only use these kinds of tents during favorable weather conditions.
- Modified A-Frame: This type of tent features a center hoop pole, ridge-line pole, or curved sidewalls that help to create more interior space and stability than a traditional A-frame.
- Dome: You’ll find that the dome tents come in many different shapes, sizes, and pole configurations, but almost all of them will have arched ceilings, and will provide very nice stability during windy conditions, while still offering ample interior space. It can be said that this shape is one of the best for families who love to camp.
- Hoop/Tunnel: This is otherwise known as a tube tent, and it provides a good combination of weight and weather resistance. It should be noted that these tents aren’t freestanding, so you will need adequate staking to achieve the ideal shape.
- Pyramid/Teepee: This is perhaps not the ideal choice for families, but it’s an option for an impromptu adventure. This is basically a rainfly supported by vertical center poles and then staked into the ground. You will get an excellent space to weight ratio with this, however the floor-less design is not great for wet or buggy weather conditions.
- Wedge: The wedge tent will be higher at the head end and lower at the foot. These tents are quite aerodynamic and lightweight, but the interior space will be a bit sacrificed, especially in terms of headroom.
Here are the most common features that you’ll find in a family tent:
- Freestanding: A freestanding tent can be erected without the need for stakes, and that makes it easier to pitch the tent, allowing you to move around camp to find the perfect spot. Be sure to always stake down this tent to prevent it from blowing away, and to achieve the very best performance.
- Non-Freestanding: These tents will use stakes to create their structure, and that means that pitching in sand and snow will require extra attention. These are lighter than freestanding tents, and will fit better into tight spots.
- One Door Tents: A tent that has only one door will be lighter but it will require people to crawl over one another to get inside the tent.
- Two Door Tents: These are perhaps more ideal for families, as they really boost the comfort level and livability of the tent. This tent is best when each door is protected by its own vestibule, allowing each camper their own storage space.
- Fiberglass Poles: Fiberglass poles will be found on more inexpensive and light-duty tents. These are cheaper, heavier, and less durable than other materials.
- Aluminum Poles: Most good backpacking tents will have aluminum poles, as they are strong, easy to replace, and lightweight.
- Carbon Fiber Poles: These will be found on the ultra-high-end tents, and they’re incredibly lightweight and very strong. Although not as durable as aluminum, they’re more expensive.
- Sleeve Pole Connection: A sleeve connection means that the poles feed into continuous sleeves along the whole body of the tent. This creates a very solid structure that is very well equipped to handle windy conditions. Setup for this kind of tent will take a bit longer and airflow between the fly and tent body is somewhat impeded. That means that condensation will perhaps become an issue if there isn’t proper ventilation.
- Clip Connection: This kind of setup is very fast and easy using plastic clips that attach the tent to the poles. You’ll experience superior airflow with this style of tent, however stability in high winds can be sacrificed.
- Double-Wall Construction: A double-wall tent will use an inner canopy for sleeping, and a rainfly to keep the water out. Double wall tents are less expensive, and will keep you dry during wet weather conditions, with superior ventilation.
- Single-Wall Construction: These tents will use only one layer of waterproof, breathable fabric which will make the tent lighter and easier to set up. Condensation can become a problem in these tents, so it’s best to look for those that have vents or hybrid designs that have a partial rainfly.
Owning a family tent is a fun way to get out into the outdoors and experience adventures that everyone can enjoy. When it comes to successful camping, it’s all about comfort. You want to be sure that you and everyone in your family gets a good night’s sleep, and are protected from the elements. A quality family tent will help you to achieve this. There are so many different kinds of tents out there, so the above Buyer’s Guide is intended to help you know what features you’re looking for, and what size and shape you need. Once you know how you intent to use the tent, how many people will go inside, and what you’re willing to spend, then you’re going to be better able to narrow down your search to the perfect tent for you.
If you’re going to be backpacking and carrying your tent with you, then you definitely want to find a tent that is lightweight, but still provides all the features and size elements that you need. After you have determined the basics of what you’re looking for, it then comes down to a question of style. There are so many different styles and colors to choose from, so pick something that is suited to your tastes, and enjoy camping in style. No matter what tent you choose, you’re going to be delighted by how much a well-made tent can enhance your camping experience. Brave the elements and bring your home away from home with you on all your amazing adventures, and you’re going to experience just how satisfying a good adventure can be.