Buying Guides – Tents
Your tent is your portable home from home whether you are on a campsite or a remote windswept mountain. It is your barrier from the elements – wind, rain, snow and midges. A well selected tent will allow you to live and sleep relatively comfortably in almost any environment. Choose a tent that will provide you with the highest ratio of comfort vs. weight and pack size. Whether you are travelling light or setting up a base camp in a summer campsite, there will be a tent for you.
- Consider the main activity you will be using your tent for - are you camping with your family, from the car, or looking to escape the campsite and explore? This will determine the tent design and the combination(s) of weight, stability, ease of pitching, room etc. you require.
- Think about how much storage space you will need for your kit. For example, camping in winter will require extra room for all your gear both internally and in the porch. These factors will determine the design and size of tent you require.
- Choose the best tent you can afford. If you plan to use it regularly, a trekking or mountain tent will stand up to the use and conditions better than a basic tent. In the long run you will save on repair bills and eventually replacement cost.
Which type is for you?
Ideal for sheltered campsites, a family tent is bought with lots of space as the key criteria. They may have 2 or more separate sleeping compartments with integral groundsheets for home from home comfort. Camping out of the car means weight and pack size is not the main criteria.
Trekking tents allow you to venture away from the sheltered campsite and out into the wilderness. The dimensions of the tent decrease in favour of reduced weight and pack size. Designs are based on a tunnel or geodesic shape, allowing a balance of weight, rigidity and wind resistance.
If you want to camp in remote locations or in winter a more resilient tent is required. Mountain tents are designed for rougher weather and extended trips. The design will have a lower profile in the wind, often making use of geodesic designs for stability, rigidity and ease of pitching.
Modern tents fit broadly into 3 design styles - Dome, Tunnel and Geodesic.
- Dome – The dome style is favoured for family and some low level trekking tents due to this design maximising headroom and space against its ground footprint. Dome tents are simple to pitch and are best pitched in lower level and more sheltered camp spots.
- Tunnel – Tunnel tents offer a comparatively large amount of internal space. They require fewer poles resulting in a lighter tent and are fast and simple to pitch. Some models of tunnel tent are designed for extreme weather; however they may be less rigid in high winds. For extreme weather tunnel tents may need extra poles, guy lines and more care in selecting a campsite.
- Geodesic – The geodesic design is a modern twist on the dome tent uses clever pole positioning to increase rigidity and stability. Geodesic designs can be free-standing, allowing easier pitching on soft, uneven or hard ground. The extra poles generally add to the overall weight of the tent, but this may only be marginal. In many cases the inner tent can be pitched on its own (without the flysheet) for use in warmer climes.
Within these three broad categories the following features will vary.
- Flysheet – The flysheet is the outer ‘skin’ of the tent thatkeeps out the elements. A tent’s flysheet can be made of a number of materials, nylon (for performance) and polyester (for lower level use) being the most popular. For weather protection, flysheets tend to be coated with a waterproof layer such as PU (Poly Urethane) or Silicone Elastomer to help shed water. Although a Silicone Elastomer treatment will increase the cost of a tent, it will also protect the flysheet better and increase the lifespan of the tent. Most tent flysheets have taped seams, giving full waterproof protection.
- Inner tent – The inner section of a tent can be made from any number of materials, depending on such factors as budget, climate and intended use. Some are made using a large proportion of mesh for maximum breathability and minimum weight/bulk for travelling in hot conditions. Others are made from nylon or polyester for maximum durability and protection for use in colder or more extreme conditions. All inners are designed to allow air flow so that condensation build up is kept to a minimum. Also, the majority of tent inners are made using light coloured fabric to allow maximum light into the tent.
- Poles – Poles have a huge bearing on the cost, stability, weight and durability of a tent. Basic tents use fibreglass poles that are cheaper to manufacture and are suitable for use in milder, low level conditions. They can break under strain but are generally easy and cheap to replace. All performance tents use aluminium poles which are much stronger and generally lighter than fibreglass poles but this also means they are more expensive to produce. There are also many different grades and thickness of aluminium pole, each specifically designed to give the best combination of lightness, strength and value for money depending on the design and intended use of the tent.
- Groundsheets – The material used will have a large influence on the total weight and durability of the tent. With some trekking and mountain tents, use of a footprint to increase groundsheet cover can increase performance.
Care during Use
Before setting off on a camping trip, it is important to know how to pitch your tent. There is nothing worse than trying to pitch an unfamiliar tent when it is cold, wet and windy! If you are taking your new tent, practice pitching it at low level before you set off.
It is also a good idea to make sure you have all tent components (pegs, guy lines etc.) and they are in good working order.
When you have reached your destination, prepare the ground before taking the tent out. Remove any small rocks or sharp pieces of wood and make sure the ground is relatively flat and even. By making sure your tent is pitched securely you can avoid any problems with loose pegs and guy lines throughout the night.
Always try and pitch your tent with the back to the wind or where it will catch the least wind. Make use of natural features to shield your tent from the wind.
Remember the weather can change very quickly and damage a poorly pitched tent, not to mention give you a nightmare in the middle of the night!
After returning from a trip, hang or pitch your tent in a cool dry area, even if it has not been wet, to reduce the chance of mildew forming. Clean all pegs and ensure all poles are undamaged. When completely dry, fold and store in its bag ready for your next adventure.
Reproofing your flysheet is a good way to prolong the waterproof life of your tent as well as protecting the material from the sun’s Ultra Violet rays. UV rays will eventually break down the fabric on any tent but with proper care you will extend the life of your tent considerably.
- Pitch your tent outdoors, in a sheltered area, ensuring all panels are taut.
- Clean the flysheet with water using a hose or sponge to remove any grit or dirt.
- Once the tent is dry, apply Granger’s Fabsil Gold using a clean paintbrush.
- Leave the tent pitched until the flysheet is completely dry.
- Repeat this once a year to ensure your flysheet lasts as long as possible.
Also, see our Care & Maintenance Guide.
For repairing tears and holes, we recommend Spinnaker Tape (for simple field repairs) and Seam Grip for more permanent repairs. For major repairs, from replacing eyelets to fixing panels and zips, Tiso work with a number of authorised tent repair centres. We can also replace poles and pole sections for most tents. See our Customer Services & Repair Guide.