Pathfinder Pathways


Past tents, present tents and future tents

OK, you need to buy a tent or maybe even a bunch of tents, and you don’t know where to start. Hopefully you already know the type of camping you will be doing (this was outlined in the November 2002 Pathways). Once you know the type of camping that you or your club will be doing you can narrow down what type of tent you will need.

If you are an occasional, recreational camper, there is no need for you to purchase an expensive high-end model tent. You will find many moderately priced tents, by reputable manufacturers, at various outdoor gear retailers that will do quite nicely. However if your tent will see a lot of use, purchase the best you can afford. Your tent is an investment. This will be your home away from home when you are camping. If you or your Pathfinders are miserable camping, will you go back?

Here are some points to consider when choosing a tent:

Type of Material – Polyester withstands extended exposure to the sun, and nylon is lighter weight.

Size - Exactly how much room do you need? This depends on how much time you intend to spend in the tent and how many people. A higher-priced bulky tent may be worth it for the comfort it will provide. Choose a tent that’s big enough for your purposes. Also, just because a manufacturer says a tent will sleep three doesn’t make it so. Remember that tent sizes do not include room for gear storage. Consider purchasing a larger tent for this purpose. A general rule of thumb for people and gear is to have about 20 square feet per person.

Weight - Backpackers will want something as light as possible without being flimsy. It also depends on how much weight you are willing to carry. Let’s face it most of us would sleep in a very, tiny tent if you have to carry it 12 miles up 'Mt. IthinkImdying'.

Ease of Setup – Color-coding is helpful. Also, if you are able to set up the tent while in the store, you’ll have an idea of how hard or easy it is to set up.

Ventilation – This is important because after being outside for a couple of days, chances are that you will be a tad "hygienically–challenged". You also need good ventilation so that you can breath on humid nights, even with your tent zipped tight. Three season tents are perfect for most camping trips. Four season tents are the tents you use for a rainstorm or trip to the Arctic.

Rain protection – select a tent with a rain fly which has tension adjustments and goes all the way to the ground. You may also opt for a vestibule that gives you a place to take off wet or soiled clothes before entering the tent.

Floor – Make sure that the tent has a "bathtub" type floor. This means the seam that attaches the floor to the tent is not running along the ground. The seam should be under the bottom of the rain fly. This will make it less likely to leak.

Strength – look for sturdy tent poles, securely fastened grommets, double sewn seams, and heavy-duty zippers. There’s nothing more annoying than a tent that lays down on you whenever the wind blows. You can remedy this with heavier tent poles that better withstand the wind.

Warranty – Buy your tent from a reputable manufacturer. Some have a lifetime warranty. Make sure you know where and how to get repairs done when you purchase your tent.

Other things to look for -
     - Factory seam taping
     - Collapsible tent poles of aluminum, high strength aluminum, carbon fiber or tubular fiberglass
     - Tie downs for high wind conditions

Links with tent information
     - - Tents
     - Choosing a Three-Season Tent
     - Tent Buying Guide (ABC-of-Hiking)