We’re in the market for a new tent this year, and the choices can be very overwhelming. Some tents are big, some are small. Some tents are short, and others tall. Some look like mini cabins, while some look like caves or teepees.
How can you know what to pick? Here are some questions to ask yourself to help narrow down the choices.
How many people will be sleeping in the tent?
All tents have a “sleeping capacity,” but our personal experience shows that you can comfortably sleep fewer than the stated capacity (which assumes that you want to sleep like sardines).
I would guess that a comfortable number of people is actually about 50-60% of what the tent description states.
How much gear will you store in the tent?
When we camp, we tend to have a lot of stuff to keep in the tent! Two suitcases, a couple bags, sleeping bags for everyone, blankets and a couple foam “egg crates” for padding, a few teddy bears . . . lots to arrange!
Because of that, we have to make sure to choose a tent that is large enough for us all to comfortably sleep while having space for our gear. We don’t want to be bumping into suitcases all night after all.
Will you be using air mattresses?
Air mattresses make camping more comfortable (unless they lose air during the night . . .) but take up tons of room. In the same space where you can fit four twin-sized air mattresses, you could probably fit six or even seven people sleeping in sleeping bags.
Our current tent claims a 10-person sleeping capacity and has a rectangular floor. We can fit four twin-sized air mattresses in it with their sides touching . . . or we can easily fit five people without air mattresses. We could likely fit a sixth easily, but we’ve never had someone else along to try.
How tall are you?
Jon is 6-foot 5-inches tall, and we definitely have to keep that in mind when shopping for a new tent. Two dimensions to pay attention to:
- • Floor length and/or width – at least one of these measurements has to be at least 78-inches so that Jon can stretch out to sleep. At least 80-inches is best because no one wants to be bumping the walls of the tent all the time.
- • Maximum ceiling height – I have yet to find a tent that is taller than Jon, but we try to get as tall as we can within our budget. Some tents, especially the dome style, are as low as 5-feet in height with dramatically sloping walls (meaning that the 5-foot high section is less than two inches of space!) This would be completely ridiculous for Jon to try to maneuver so we avoid anything less than 68-inches high.
Keep in mind that the stated dimensions on a tent’s description can often be greater than what the actual dimensions are when a tent is set up. I find it very helpful to read lots of reviews on sites like Amazon before buying a tent. The reviews help me figure out in advance if a tent lives up to its claims or not.
How often will you be getting in and out of your tent?
Some tents are truly designed for crawling into at night to sleep and crawling back out of in the morning. Standing up, changing clothes, or storing more than a small bag of gear is out of the question.
When it comes to family camping, that type of tent doesn’t seem very practical to me. In our experience, there are plenty of reasons throughout the day to return to the tent to retrieve something or to change someone’s clothes. Between the five of us, there are plenty of trips to the bathroom during the night too!
While we can’t go shopping with you, we hope these questions will help you figure out which tent will be best for your family. Let us know what you pick out!