Choosing a Tent
A tent is your home away from home. The most important item for the success of any outdoor camping project is the selection of the right tent.
Types of tents
While there are several varieties and models of tents, the two most popular types are alpine tents and dome tents. The primary difference between them is the shape - alpine tents are A-shaped and have a minimum of one ridge pole and two standing poles. Dome tents are dome shaped and can have two or more shock-corded frame poles. Larger cabin tents are ideal for base camps, for use with all amenities and camp furniture.
Alpine tents are lightweight, easy to carry and erect. The flip side of this is that these tents offer less headroom and floor space.
The shape of the dome tent makes it more aerodynamic and stable, with a rounded profile that allows water to run off easily. Dome tents offer more space and headroom than alpines, as well as place to store your gear. Pitching up a dome tent is slightly more complicated than pitching up an alpine.
Cabin tents are usually large, square tents with high ceilings and side walls, and are often furnished with chairs, tables, cots, etc. They are generally used in established campgrounds or base camps.
Polyester and nylon fabrics are the popular choice as they are lightweight and fast-drying.
For base camps where transportation is not a problem, however, the best material is still good, old-fashioned canvas, as it has a much longer life than polyester, and is extremely rugged. Canvas is also more cost-effective.
For campsites where transportation of equipment is a problem, polyester tents are a good option. Polyester tents withstand exposure to ultraviolet rays better that nylon tents.
Nylon tents are the lightest, and are preferred for backpacking.
Ensure that the tent design you choose has good cross ventilation, with breathable side walls to minimise condensation. Check that the opening/s is/are provided with netting and waterproof rain fly which can be lashed or zipped.
The size of your tent or shelter depends on the kind of activity you intend to pursue, the number of people using it, and the volume of gear you will need to store. For trekking, mountain climbing and cycling, the main considerations are lightweight design and compactness.
For camping in established campgrounds, where weight and compactness are not a problem, it would be a good idea to go in for a larger roomier tent.
In addition to space for human beings, you will need space to keep your gear. One option is to use an oversized tent - eg use a two-man or four-man tent for only two people. Another is to opt for a tent with a vestibule or buy an add-on vestibule - a covered without a ground sheet, that attaches to the front or rear of the tent. A vestibule is ideal for storage of wet boots, backpacks, etc.
Look for tents that are easy to set up, especially if you are not a frequent camper. Features to look for are shock-corded poles and colour coded sleeves that help in quick identification.
Weather Protection and Stability
Other factors apart, you should look for the most stable, weatherproof tent available. A good buy will be a three-season tent with a full-coverage fly. The stability of a tent depends on the poles. Fibre-glass poles offer durability, while aluminium poles provide lightweight strength.