Backpacking tents traditionally used space-efficient designs that had steeply sloped walls, narrow foot spaces and low headroom. This helped keep the weight lower, but the tradeoff was comfort.
Newer tent designs aim to open up interiors without adding unwanted weight. Other key features that affect livability include number and location of doors, protected exterior spaces and ventilation.
Interior volume: To assess tent volume, visit a store, ask to set up a tent and hop inside. If shopping online, study the pitch of its walls.
If the walls angle steeply toward the tent's ceiling, you're probably looking at a weight-efficient tent (great!) that offers only modest interior volume (the tradeoff).
The following can also help you size up a tents interior space and overall livability:
Floor dimensions (floor plan): Length and width measurements offer a rough idea of floor size. Many tents dont have perfectly rectangular floors,
so you might see dimensions like 85 x 51/43 (L x W head/foot). A tapered floor provides needed room for shoulders and arms, while also saving weight by having a narrower foot.
Floor area: This number indicates total square footage of floor-level space. While helpful for comparison between tents, this number alone wont tell you how efficiently the space is laid out.
side view of tent
Peak height: Generally, a greater peak height indicates a roomier interior. Peak height, though, is measured at a single spot inside a tent, so it still cant tell you how livable a tent is.
side view of tent
Wall shape: This is an even bigger factor in head and shoulder roomand overall tent livabilitythan peak height. The more vertical the walls, the more "livable" space can be found inside a tent.
Rainfly color: Light, bright fly colors transmit more light inside, making the interior brighter.
That will make a tent feel more spacious and make it a more pleasant place to be if a storm keeps you tentbound for an extended time.
Doors: Tent designers focus on door shape, zippers and other adjustments, but the most important question is: How many? Its nice when every sleeper has a door.
Choosing a multiperson tent with a single door, though, cuts weight and cost.
Vestibules. These rainfly extensions offer sheltered storage for boots and other gear. An oversized floor area would offer the same advantage, but it would also create a heavier tent.
Most tents have vestibules and their size is included in the specs. Bigger is better, but cavernous vestibules can add weight and cost.
Ventilation: You exhale moisture as you sleep, so your tent needs features that prevent condensation buildup.
Thus you want mesh windows or panels, along with zip panels to close over them when too much cold air creeps in. Some tents have rainfly vents that can be opened or closed.
Rainfly adjustability is essential, both for ventilation and for gazing at stars or witnessing the sunrise.
Tent Setup: Before heading out to the wilderness, set up your tent at home the first time. A freestanding tent means the tent can stand without the use of stakes,
which speeds setup and makes a tent easy to repositionjust lift and move it to a new spot. Most tents are freestanding for this reason,
though non-freestanding tents can be lighter because the pole structure doesnt have to be as robust.
Additional tent setup features:
Tent Pole Hub
Pole hubs: The beauty of hubs is that they take the guesswork out of assembly. You take the folded pole sections out of the bag and unfurl the skeleton,
seating segments as you go. Smaller cross poles might be separate from the hub, but those are easily identified after the main pole assembly is complete.
The other major benefit of hubs is that they increase a tents strength and stability.
Pole clips: Poles connect to tent canopies via clips, sleeves or a combination of the two. Pole sleeves fabric tension provides a stronger pitch,
but threading poles through them can be a challenge. Pole clips are lighter and easier to attach. They also allow more airflow underneath the rainfly, which reduces condensation.
Color Coded corners
Color coding: This helps you quickly orient each pole tip to the correct tent corner and helps you find which sleeves or clips go with which pole sections.
Backpacking tents use high-strength, low-weight aluminum poles. Over the years aluminum poles have maintained strength while engineers
have reduced weight by incrementally shrinking diameter and wall thickness. You often see DAC (Dongah Aluminum Corp.) in specs because this company is the worlds pre-eminent pole maker.
You might also see a 6,000-series or a slightly stronger 7,000-series aluminum listed.
Tent fabrics and denier: A wide range of specialized nylons and polyesters are used in tents and, like poles, the technology evolves rapidly. One spec you might see,
regardless of fabric, is denier (D), the fabric yarns weight (in grams) based on a 9,000-meter length of the yarn. Higher numbers indicate more rugged fabrics,
while lower deniers are found in more lightweightand less durablefabrics. Dont compare denier unless fabrics are identical, though,
because you wont be accounting for inherent differences in fabric properties.
Tip: If you feel compelled to delve into specs, focus on the poles. The strongest tents will likely have top-grade poles in a hubbed pole set.
Or simply look at the seasonal rating, because thats influenced by the strength of the poles and fabrics in a tent. Material weights,
of both the poles and the fabrics, will be reflected by the minimum weight for the overall tent.
A personalized tent camping checklist is a handy tool for novice campers to get an idea of what basic equipment is necessary to enjoy tent camping.
It is also useful for seasoned campers to ensure that important camping gear does not get left behind.
This list is both an organizing and a brainstorming tool. Campers will want to customize it to their own situation and personal preferences. Feel free to create your own, selecting items from the list below and adding new ones.
Essential and optional gear are listed in separate columns, so novice campers don't forget anything important and can also identify items to add to their camping kit over time.
Some of the optional gear is highly recommended, depending on season, weather and comfort.
A camping food checklist greatly help campers organize meals.
Clothing, hiking & related equipment
Comfortable & seasonal outdoor clothing
Tennis shoes or hiking boots for walking
Compass or GPS
Cooking and Eating Supplies
Camping stove, LP gas, matches
Fry pan or skillet, cover, spatula.
Cooking pot or pan, cover, stirring spoon
Plates & glasses or cups
Knives, forks, spoons
Napkins (paper towels)
Plastic garbage bags
Roasting sticks or fork
Roasting or grilling basket
Pot lifter or spondonicle
Serving bowl and plate
Measuring cups and spoons
Cloth for picnic table
Washing tub, dish soap, towel
Resealable plastic bags
Ice cream maker
Hygiene and medical supplies
Toothbrush and paste
Antisceptic: Rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, iodine etc.
Antibacterial soap or wipes
Gauze roll and tape (or duct tape)
Elastic compression bandage roll (Ace bandage)
Miscellaneous camping equipment
Campground directions and map
Frisbee, ball, cards, games, etc.
Clothes pins (handy for securing items)
Baking soda (handy for cleaning, toothpaste, etc.)
Plastic storage containers
Outdoor electrical extension cord
Inverter (12 volt to 120 volt)
Sleeping gear and tent
Air mattress and inflator (or)
Self-inflating sleeping pad
Ski mask (for cool evenings)
Hand broom and dustpan
Pole repair kit
Tent fabric repair kit
Carpet remnant for tent floor