Nothing beats sleeping under the stars, except possibly sleeping in a tent under the stars. A tent will keep the bugs away, the rain or snow off of you and give some shade from the hot sun. There are more different types of tents available now than ever before. Tents are available for every season and condition; which type to get depends on your chosen activity.
Tents are separated into different size categories, the backpacking tent, family tent, or excursion tent. Each size category can then be separated again to three season, four season, and mountaineering or excursion quality.
Three season tents are made from lightweight materials that are breathable and designed for camping in the spring, summer, or fall. Most tents are used during this time period when the nighttime temperatures are not very cold, the wind isn’t bitterly chilled and the chances of rain or snow are minimal.
Three season tents are available in sizes that sleep one person and up and they can be small enough to fit in a backpack or large enough to fill the trunk of your car and can include built in screened porches and separate bedrooms. These tents are for the weekender who only camps in nice weather a couple times a year.
Four season tents are made from heavier and more weather resistant fabrics. Four season tents can withstand use during the winter and adverse conditions much better than a three season tent. Four season tents are usually designed to sit lower to the ground so they do not catch the wind and are often dome-shaped so rain or snow will easily run off the tent.
Although four season tents cost more they are worth the extra money due to increased durability and flexibility of the conditions they can be used in. Four season tents are for the more adventurous campers who may be spending a couple nights outside at any time of the year under most conditions.
Mountaineering or excursion quality tents are the stuff legends are made from. These tents are either futuristically pod-shaped so they can be connected together on a mountain slope to create the ultimate adventure base camp or they are made from heavy canvas which blocks the wind almost entirely and allows for a small wood stove to be installed inside for cooking and heat. Both styles of these tents are designed for prolonged use in the toughest of conditions.
Neither is very practical for a weekend camping trip, but are ideal for a few weeks stay in the far North. Although price and size are not compact, comfort is greatly increased. Tents made for the mountains are usually large with sleeping capacity for 6 or more people.
Tent size is described in relation to how many people can sleep in it. Such as one person, two people, four people, six people, and up. A good rule of thumb to make sure your tent is big enough, is to choose a tent that has double the sleeping capacity for each person who will be actually sleeping in it.
For example if two people are to sleep in the tent then get a four person tent, if three people will be in the tent then chose a six person sized tent. This allows for camping gear and extra supplies and ensures the tent will be roomy enough if someone were to take a little more than their share of space while sleeping.
Most tents have a built in plastic ground cloth for a floor to keep the dampness out but it is a good idea to put down an additional plastic tarp underneath the tent for added protection. A foam mattress or an air mattress will also create an air space between you and the cold ground which will help to keep you warm and your gear dry. No matter what season of tent you buy, make sure it includes a fly to keep moisture away from the tent fabric. This will help keep everything inside nice and dry.
When choosing a tent keep in mind how you will be transporting it. If you are bicycling or hiking then a small one or two person tent that fits in your back pack is ideal. If you are travelling in a canoe or boat then a slightly larger tent can be carried.
If you are bringing a tent for six or more people then due to the larger size and weight of the tent you might want to consider driving directly to your campsite or sharing the tent carrying duties with your companions, an ATV or pack animals.
Tents can be purchased cheaply in many department stores, but for better quality and selection check with serious outdoor outfitters and camping suppliers. Before venturing out to spend the night under the stars, take some time to practice putting up the tent in your backyard so you are familiar with how it works and any materials or tools that may be involved so you can spend more time staring at the stars and less time late at night figuring out how it all works and why you aren’t staying dry.
Copyright 2016 Mike Wilson