The Outdoor World

Camping Tents

| Types | Seasons | Free Standing | Construction | Fly | Fabric | Poles | Size | Set Up | Weight | Other |

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So you want to buy a tent? But you’re not exactly sure which tent is right for you. Well, wants to help! With over thirty years experience in the sporting goods business our skilled staff can assist you in narrowing your choices, and there are a lot of choices these days!! Unfortunately, there is no simple formula for picking the right tent, but there are a few questions you might want to ask yourself before you make your final decision. Is my tent going to protect me from the elements? Is there enough room in my tent for my family and I, my pet, and my stuff? And how difficult is my tent to set up and carry?

Of course there is much more to it than that, and camping lingo can be confusing. Do you want a freestanding tent or a fixed tent? Do you need to waterproof your tent? What’s the difference between Carbon Fiber and Aluminum-alloy and how does it affect my tent? And what is a Three Season tent?

Ultimately, your camping style will determine the type of tent you need. To help you find that perfect fit has compiled the most commonly asked questions that we get from customers about tents. If you have additional questions our team at will be happy to answer them. Speak to any of our experienced staff, Monday thru Friday from 8AM-4:30pm (PT) at 888-344-9500, or reach us by e-mail at .

Types of tents:

Tents come in many shapes and sizes. The three basic designs in tents are rectangle, square, and hexagon. Rectangle and square tents are two pole designs; where as hexagon tents require three or four poles. Four pole hex designs allow for straighter walls and give more headroom and stability.

The most popular tents are Dome Tents, which are free standing, easy to set up, and can sleep from one to six people, or more. A variation on the popular dome tent might be called a Hoop Tent. Hoop tents are not designed to be free standing and require staking the tent securely to the ground. (Note that although hoop tents are lighter by design - because they require fewer poles - they are likely to lose stability in extreme weather conditions.)

If it is head room you’re looking for, Cabin style tents are usually designed with the most vertically straight side walls, there by giving you the most head room inside. If it is privacy you want, a large multi-room tent with room divider curtains may fit your needs best.

There are many tents to choose from, and we suggest you look at many floor plans before you make your final decision, looking carefully at all options, including vestibules, ventilation, and storage pockets. also carries children’s tents, beach shelters, canopies, screen houses, and more.

Two, Three, and Four Season Tents

Two Season Tents are designed for use in late spring to early fall, making them perfect for light camping when rainy weather is not a concern.

The most common tent however is a Three Season Tent. Three season tents are designed with more ventilation for hot summer days, but are still capable of handling the sometimes unpredictable weather of early spring and late fall; these attributes make for a great all around tent.

A Four Season Tent can be used year round. Tents defined as Four Season will most likely have stronger poles, as well as more poles in the design, allowing additional structural support in extreme conditions. That said, unless you plan on heading out on expedition to Antarctica, camping in the High Sierra in winter, or any other higher elevation camp site, a three season tent is fine for most camping and hiking.

(Note that retailers like usually focus their selection on one or two of these tent categories, but not all three. In other words, one retailer may only stock four season tents while another will stock both two and three season tents.)

Free Standing (Self Standing):

Free Standing tents do not require anchoring to the ground with tent stakes during calm conditions, and they can be moved easily once they are set up.

Many tents are designed to be free standing. These tents are considered by many to be easier and more convenient to set up. However, it doesn’t take much of a breeze to turn many tents into kites, securing with tent stakes, heavy rocks, or rope is always recommended. (Note: don’t leave an unsecured tent during calm conditions only to find it not there when returning from a day hike or store trip because conditions changed while you were away. Also, an unsecured tent is an easy target for theft of the tent and all your stuff inside the tent.) carries a variety of tent stakes.

Single Wall Construction verses Double Wall Construction

Single Wall Construction tents are those tents designed for use without a rain fly. This design is adequate for fair weather campers, but keep in mind that the more waterproof the tent’s single wall fabric is the less breathable it will be, therefore, an uncomfortable amount of condensation may build up inside the tent. In the same respect, the more breathable the tent’s single wall fabric is the less protective it will be, therefore, a risky exposure to the outside elements.

If you feel you need more protection you may want to look at Double Wall Construction, which consists of both an outer layer of waterproof fabric (the fly sheet) and an inner more breathable layer, which transports moisture to the airflow space between the tent roof and the outer fly sheet. A quality seam-sealed and waterproof coated rain-fly, which covers the tent roof and the walls of a tent, combined with a highly breathable tent roof and breathable upper walls, will go a long way to making your camping experiences as enjoyable as it can be.

What’s that fly thing?

The rain fly, which is placed over the top of the tent, will provide added protection from rain and snow. The larger and longer the rain fly, the more protection. It is important to know however, that any contact between the rain fly and the tent could produce wicking, which can leave you and the inside of your tent soggy, even on a simple dewy morning without rain. Wicking happens when something touching the out side of the tent will, through capillary action, draw the water through the tent wall onto the item touching it, soaking the items being touched as well as the inside of your tent. An adequate space between the rain fly and the tent is two inches. Note that when conditions are warm, the same amount of space is needed to allow ventilation. Most tents that include a rain fly in their design have added structural features which support the fly in this manner.

A vestibule is a porch-like area at the entrance of your tent which is created by extending the tent rain fly several feet beyond the edge of the tent doorway. Vestibules provide added protection from the elements, and are excellent areas for storing gear, pets, and dirty shoes. Although you could create your own tent vestibule with a tarp, many manufacturers will design a rain fly with the extended length built in.

Fabric and Construction:

The main purpose of a tent is to provide shelter and protect you from the elements. Tent fabric and construction will be one factor in the ability of your tent to keep you cool and dry on warm days or warm and dry on cooler or wet days.

Today’s tents are mostly made of nylon and polyester, and most are water resistant. However, if the sewn seams on your new tent are not factory sealed seams then using a seam sealer, especially if you think you’ll be caught in wet weather, is a must. We recommend you do this prior to your camping trip and follow any instructions that come with the tent and the seam sealer.

Seam sealers and spray-on waterproofing is available in various chemical compounds, silicone or polymers are some examples. Silicone is effective but will likely discolor the fabric. Polymers will have less effect on fabric color and feel but may not adhere to fabric as long. Re-application of seam sealers and spray on waterproofing may be needed after repeated exposure to weather and as the tent ages.

Never seal or spray the areas of the tent that are intended to be breathable; these would be the roof and upper walls of the tent body. If the tent is designed with a rain fly, breathable roof, and upper walls, then the rain-fly, the floor, and the lower walls should be already seam-sealed and waterproof coated by the manufacturer. If they are not we recommend that you do it yourself after the purchase.

If it is breathability and heat that concern you, most tents come with mesh windows and flaps that will allow ventilation on hot days. If this is your priority, make sure the tent you purchase has windows on multiple sides so air has a chance to circulate. Mesh windows and skylight type mesh roof panels improve breathability and reduce condensation inside the tent.

Tent Poles:

The basic rule of thumb is the more poles your tent has the more stability it will have in windy conditions. Without getting too technical, it is the pressure of the flexed tent poles against the tent that support the structure. Tent poles play a big role in the overall stability of your tent, and tent pole materials have changed over the years. Thanks to new materials tent poles are more flexible, they are stronger, they are lighter, and they are more durable.

Tent poles can be made of aluminum-alloy, heavier fiberglass, or carbon fiber. Some aluminum tent poles are anodized to prevent corrosion (in other words, they have an additional layer to both strengthen and protect them from the elements). Carbon Fiber, used in fishing poles and hockey sticks because of their strength and flex may be the preferred choice, though you may pay a little more for them. Fiberglass tent poles can be manufactured to differing quality standards, and are the most widely used tent pole material. Some things to consider especially if you require a lighter tent is the amount of weight added by the type and number of poles your tent requires. Although aluminum tent poles are lighter weight and stronger, aluminum tent poles breaking in the middle of your camping trip can be more difficult to repair. The fiber characteristics of other tent pole materials offer a better opportunity for temporary fixes with tape (like duct tape).

Is there room for my stuff?

The size of your tent may be your biggest decision. Are you going to want an air mattress under your sleeping bag? If weather is an issue, can you easily store your gear inside your tent, protecting it from the elements, or is there enough room in your tent to prepare your food in an emergency? And of course, how many people and/or pets will you need to accommodate?

Most manufactures list the size of a tent based on the number of people who are sleeping in it. These numbers, though a good base to start, don’t always take into account the height or needs of each person. Tent dimensions, specifically square footage and height, are available by the manufactures. We suggest you look at many floor plans before you make your final decision so that you can be assured you get a tent that fits your needs both now, and down the road. carries a variety of camping accessories to make your camping adventure safe and comfortable. See our website for storage ideas, tent whisks, sleeping bags, air pillows, first aid kits, cooking supplies, dehydrated food products, and compass and GPS.

How easy is my tent to set up and break down?

Modern technology has made tent assembly easy. Tent poles consisting of multiple sections that are joined through elastic shock cords [bungee cord] are connected to the tent through sleeves or clips, or sometimes both. Clips, though easier to connect are less secure than sleeves.

Pin and Ring, or Tip and Grommet, or Pole Pockets keep the poles in place at the bottom of your tent. Again, the structural stability comes from the pressure placed against the pins, grommets, or rings, against the pressure of the curved pole. The basic rule here is aluminum pin and rings or pole tips are much more durable than reinforced pole pockets, which may eventually give way over long periods of use. Tips and grommets are much stronger than pole pockets but can be susceptible to tearing as well. Aluminum pin and rings, which are inserted into the end of the hollow tent poles are the most secure for long term use.

A floor saver, or tarp, placed beneath the tent will protect the tent’s floor from damage by rocks or roots. It will also keep the bottom of your tent clean for packing as well as added protection from water. Some tents come with floor savers, some do not. If the tent you purchase does not come with its own floor saver, we recommend you purchase one. also carries tent pole replacements, tent pole kits, tarps and floor savers, and more.

For the Weight Concerned:

For those who need the lightest tents, backpackers for instance, we have some basic definitions to help in making your selection. Keep in mind that details such as zippers, pole material, fabric, and design will factor into how heavy, or better yet, how light your tent is.

Tent weight or pack weight:

The weight of the entire tent when you purchased it from the store without the box.

Trail/Minimum weight:

The weight of just the fly and poles.

Fastpack weight:

The weight of the fly sheet, poles, and ground cloth.

Other helpful camping notes in regards to tents:

Never bring food in your tent.

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