For your home away from home,
you want a tent that matches your lifestyle. So, as with all outdoor gear, it’s best to start your tent selection with a consideration of what your primary use will be. If much of your camping will be in inclement weather, you’re going to want the best in Noah’s Ark level waterproofing. Of course that adds weight which may be just the thing the avid backpacker wants to avoid.
Even tents from the same manufacturer can be constructed with different materials based on the needs of the target user. Let's check out a few of these user profiles to find where you see yourself.
Models created for this group emphasize roominess and durability, generally at the expense of weight and compactness. They’re perfect for the drive in camper, the infrequent camper or those who just like to have more room. Models that would be aimed at this group would include the Eureka Tetragon 5
, Eureka Tetragon 7
, Eureka Tetragon 8
, Eureka Tetragon 9
, Eureka Sunrise 9
, Eureka Copper Canyon 10
, Eureka Tetragon 1210
, Eureka Sunrise 11
and in the single occupant variety the Solitaire
. These structures strike a nice balance in size and portability and are suitable for the casual backpacker or floater as well, providing reliable shelter while still maintaining a very low price point.
This division emphasizes
compact carry, lower weight and more durable materials. Definitely the best seller by our experience, these tents are suitable for the family on the go and those who camp regularly. They are in fact the favored models among many scout troops as their features make them suitable for the outdoorsman who doesn’t stay home just because the weather might get a little ugly. Other members of the target group would include backpackers, mountaineers, paddlers and such. Most models from this group tend to be for only a few occupants as they are designed to be carried. If you're looking for a large cabin tent with multiple rooms and high ceilings, these aren't for you. Choices in this division would include the Apex 2
, Apex 2XT
, Mountain Pass 2XTE
, Mountain Pass 3XTE
, the single person Backcountry 1
and the two-man Spitfire 2
The Expeditionary structures emphasize incredible strength against high wind, snow loads, extreme temperatures and the most adverse conditions. They excel in full on winter conditions with full coverage flys for added warmth though excellent (and adjustable) roof ventilation can make these models comfortable year around. Of course, extra fly material, stronger fabrics and extra poles translate to a higher carry weight, a definite draw back for the packer who doesn’t need the 4 season features. Expeditionary structures would include the K-2 XT
and Alpenlite 2XT
Bivys and Hammocks
One last group of
camping structures really deserves mention. If your needs lean toward the fast and light, you should really consider hammock camping. Models from Hennessy are the cream of the crop and many campers consider them to be more comfortable even than a bed. Check out the Expedition Asym
, the Explorer Deluxe Asym
for larger campers or the Scout Hammock
for youngsters. When used properly, all can keep you warm and dry.
A quick glance at a few tents will reveal that most are a combination of multiple fabric types. With numerous fabric monikers, denier weight, coating thickness, etc., it can get a little confusing. Here’s the simplified version for the non-Dupont engineers.
Most of the tent fabrics are based in nylon or polyester. Depending on their various treatments both can be acceptable tent materials. Polyester as a base layer tends to stand up better to more constant use, being both stronger and more resistant to sunlight degradation. It’s thicker strands also hold up better to abrasion, stretching and tearing. The trade-off? It’s weight again. The bane of those who carry their home on their back.
Nylon can often be quite suitable, especially in single person shelters designed specifically for the “small and light” crowd. It’s strong features are it’s decreased weight, and lower cost.
The fabric denier refers to the weight of the fibers in the fabric. Higher denier=heavier fabric. Of course, fabric weight is only one factor in fabric durability, but is useful in comparing tents of the same fabric. (P.S. For those who just have to know, a denier is a measurement of the linear mass of a fiber in grams, namely the mass of 9000 meters. Now aren’t you smart.)
Waterproofing is generally achieved with coatings. Higher mm ratings of the coatings again mean improved durability and improved resistance to water. Look especially for heavier coatings on floors where compression can really create a seeping problem with fabric. Lighter coatings are usually found on flys and walls, especially where the fabric pitch creates a natural waterproofness from runoff.
One other note about waterproofing, all tents will lose their coatings if not properly cared for. Small areas can be repaired, but once fabric begins to delaminate, possibly from being stored wet, it's difficult to get satisfactory performance from it again.
Pole material is usually fiberglass or aluminum. Fiberglass is lightweight and inexpensive making it a common choice for less expensive models featuring flexible poles. Its chief drawback is durability, though this factor can vary widely between poles. Aluminum poles are generally considered more durable and can still be lightweight, especially when dealing with the 7000 series which allow great strength with lighter weight. You will pay a little more for them though.
Selection of a quality tent can mean the difference between nights of comfortable sleep on the trail and nights soaking in standing water. Consider your own sport and activities, get a model that is truly suited to you and you'll enjoy it for years.