Choosing the Right Tent for You

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When you hear the words “camping” and "backpacking" you will most likely think of a tent. If you are new to camping, you might even be imagining a canvas tent with wooden poles and stakes. Nowadays, tents have become more ergonomic, easier to set up and are made from much lighter but more durable materials. There are a lot of different tents to choose from and it’s not a simple matter of picking out the right color. Deciding on which one to buy may be a daunting task, but here are some pointers to help you choose.

Factors to consider when choosing a tent

  • Weather / Season: You should first consider the seasons and the potential weather where you might be using the tent. A light tent with a lot of mesh will be more suitable for summer trips by allowing for ample ventilation. However, in cold, snowy weather, you want a tent with more solid panels. Typically, a 3-season tent is great for late spring/summer/and early fall, which is when most people will be camping and backpacking. These tents are lighter, have smaller frames and more mesh panels. A 4-season tent is best suited for winter camping where cold weather and snow are possible. These tents will have more solid panels and stronger aluminum frames. Ideally, you should choose the right tent for the season. A 4-season tent in the summer will be very hot while a 3-season tent in the winter could lead to some cold nights!

  • Capacity: Generally, bigger is better. It will be more comfortable for you to pick a tent that is slightly bigger than you need. However, keep in mind that the bigger the tent, the heavier it is. You might also want to consider the number of doors or openings on a tent to allow the occupants ease of access without disturbing or having to crawl over each other. If you feel more comfortable keeping your gear and bags outside your tent in a vestibule or hanging from a tree, you should put that into consideration and may be able to choose a slightly smaller tent.

  • Size / Weight: Depending on the difficulty or length of the trail, you will want the lightest and smallest tent possible because you will have to carry it on your back each mile that you go. One option when hiking in a group is to split the parts of the tent out among the group. This will allow you to carry the least weight per person while also giving you the option of bringing a bigger tent.

  • Height: If you are planning to stay inside your tent for extended periods of time, it is best to consider taller tents so that you can comfortably sit inside. Otherwise, tents with less headroom would do well if you only intend on using your tents for sleeping.

  • Length: Make sure that your tent is long enough to allow you to stretch out when lying inside.

  • Fabrics: Most backpacking or camping tents are either made from nylon or polyester. Nylon fabrics are generally lighter but can stretch and sag when wet. Polyester is heavier but does not stretch like nylon. It's also important to look at the thickness of the fabric (measured by Denier count). Ultralight tents use fabrics in the 10 Denier to 30 Denier range. However, the lower the Denier count, the less durable the fabric and more likely to be damaged on the trail. A Denier count of 25-40 is a good compromise between durability and weight.

  • Waterproofing:  Tent fabrics are usually coated in the factory to provide waterproofing. Silicone and polyurethane (PU) are the two most common waterproofing coatings. If your tent did not come with a waterproofing coating, there are also waterproofing sprays you can use to treat your tent.

  • Freestanding: The vast majority of camping and backpacking tents are freestanding, meaning that they can stand on their own without the need for stakes. However, some tents, like tarp tents or trekking pole tents, will need stakes in order to stand.

  • Terrain: Finding out the type of terrain on the campsite ahead of time will help you pick out the type of tent, type of stakes and if you will need to bring a footprint (a custom fitted ground cloth that will protect the tent and its occupants from rocks and moisture. This will help extend your tent’s life). For example, you would not want to bring a tarp tent that is not free-standing and requires staking if you will be spending most of the time on southwest slickrock.

Other factors to consider are ease of putting up the tent, the number of storage pockets in the tent, and of course the cost. Generally, you want to pick a tent that is easy to set up and pack up so you're not spending a ton of time fiddling with your tent at your campsite. 

For examples of high-quality, affordable camping shelters, check out our website.

Paria Outdoor Products Zion 2P Backpacking Tent

Hopefully we have provided you with enough information to help you pick out the right tent for you. If you have specific questions about these considerations or have any other questions, reach out to us at, check out the rest of our blog, or leave us a comment below.

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