When you are looking for a backpacking tent there are many different variables to consider prior to making a purchase but it is important to understand tent basics, first. Some of the things to consider when looking for a backpacking tent are price, material, season rating, capacity, space, and weight. Other factors include ease of setting up the tent and design features such as the number of poles, rain fly storage space, and the number of entrances.
When looking at different tents there are several aspects that you can use to start to narrow down your search. These are:
1) Sleeping Capacity
2) Season Rating
The 1st aspects is pretty straight forward. How many people does the tent need to be able to accommodate. Keep in mind that most tents are designed to be weight efficient and therefore are more cozy.The 2nd is equally important. The season rating of a tent is an indication of how durable the material and design of the tent is. The tent season rating is broken down by the number of seasons, 4. Therefore it is common to see tents rated in the following fashion:
1 Season Tent
2 Season Tent
3 Season Tent
4 Season Tent
Tent Season Rating
The tent season rating gives an indication of the durability and design of the tent from the manufacture. The higher the rating, the stronger the tent, theoretically. It is uncommon to see a tent with a 1 season rating but 2-4 season tents are much more common. When determining what season rating is best for you, you need to ask yourself, “Where am I planning to go backpacking?” In the mountains? The desert? A rainforest? This is important because you want to have a tent that is suitable for the weather conditions that you may encounter, or are unlikely to encounter. For example, you want to make sure your tent is rain proof/resistant if you plan on backpacking in the rainforest. Alternatively, if you are backpacking in the desert you want a tent that has good ventilation and will keep you cool. If you plan on backpacking in the the mountains and the dessert, than it would be better to have a 3-4 season tent rather than a 2-3 season tent.
The material of the tent is ofter gong to correlate with the season rating. Tents that have a higher season rating are most likely going to use better material. The material is often better because it may be more water resistant such as gore-tex. While other tents may be made out of a nylon material with a “water proof” or “water resistant” coating. Tents that are made with nylon are water resistant initially but the water resistance begins to deteriorate after prolonged use but they are often cheaper.
The amount of space that a tent has is an another important aspect to consider not only to ensure there is enough space for the amount of people that will be sharing the tent but also so that there is enough internal and external storage space. After a long day of backpacking, it is nice to be able to organize your belongings inside the tent, hang clothes to dry, and it helps if there is enough space to do that. Additionally, it is important to consider the space outside the tent that is covered by the rain cover also known as the vestibule. It is really nice when you have a large enough vestibule so that you can store your backpack and boots out of the elements.
Weight is a very important variable when selecting your tent, especially for backpacking. The less weight you have to carry, the more efficient and faster you become. Backpacking is not a race but having less weight to carry is always nice. The problem is that you have to balance the above variables; sleeping capacity, season rating, material, and space. Because, once you increase the sleeping capacity, season rating, material and/or space, the weight usually increases. So, it is important to find a good balance.