How to Choose a Tent

The basic structure of a tent has mostly gone unchanged since 40,000 BC. Providing protection from predators and the elements, tents use material hung from some type of support to create a top and side enclosure. What has changed is what was once an essential form of survival is now mostly used for recreation.

A replica woolly mammoth tent

A replica woolly mammoth tent

Throughout history, tents have been used as permanent, as well as nomadic homes. Tent ruins have been found in Moldova that carbon date to 40,000 BC! These tents were made of woolly mammoth hides and bones. Early tents were constructed of animal skins and wood and then canvas, using support poles and rope guy lines to secure the tent.

Recreational camping and an interest in scouting activities increased in popularity in the 1960s. Advancements in materials like fiberglass, aluminum, zippered doors and nylon made tent designs lighter weight, easier to transport and more weather-resistant, leading to a variety of styles and shapes.

A good tent allows for a comfortable night’s rest and will keep you and your stuff dry. Tents come in a large variety of shapes, sizes and materials. While some are made for large families with multiple rooms, others are made for a single mountaineer camping in extremely cold temperatures.

When choosing a tent, you need to consider:

  • How many people will be sleeping in it
  • How far you must carry it
  • Ease of set-up
  • The space available for its footprint
  • The weather

How Many People Will Be Sleeping in It

When picking out a tent, always buy a size larger than the number of people sleeping in it. For example, a two-person tent will not fit two people plus their stuff. A four-person tent fits a queen-sized blow-up air mattress and room for gear. You don’t want anything to touch the walls inside your tent, as this attracts condensation.

When picking out a tent, always buy a size larger than the amount of people sleeping in it. For example, a two-person tent will not fit two people plus their stuff

Always buy a tent bigger than how many people it says it fits. A four-man tent is better suited for two adults.

How Far You Must Carry It

Obviously, a cabin tent weighs considerably more than a single-man backpacking tent. For car campers, weight isn’t an issue, as you usually get to park your car right at your campsite. However, if you will be walk-in or primitive camping, you will want to pick the lightest tent that fits your needs. Hiking and backpacking tents should weigh no more than 2.5 pounds.

If you are new to camping and need to learn about the different camping styles, click here.

The amount of work you want to put in pitching your tent is up to you. Time and weather are usually factors. You don’t want to put up a complicated tent late at night in the dark or when it’s cold and wet. Instant and pop-up tents are great for the casual and festival camper because of how simple they are to set up.

The Space Available for its Footprint

The type of camping you’re doing will determine the size of tent you should look at. If you are car camping at an established or permanent campsite like a national or state park, your campsite will most likely have a tent pad or flattened area to pitch your tent. Primitive camping spots most likely will not. No matter where you’re camping, it is important to leave as little as an impact as possible. A smaller tent will leave less footprint.

For more on how to reduce your camping footprint and the Leave No Trace principles, click here.

The Weather

For rainy or cold weather you need a tent with a rain fly.

For rainy or cold weather you need a tent with a rain fly.

The weather plays a huge part in your comfort level when camping. Not enough ventilation in the hot months, not enough insulation when the temperatures drop at night or a leaky tent makes for a miserable weekend…believe me. I’ve experienced it all!

Your tent needs enough mesh windows to encourage circulation, a tub floor to displace moisture and a rainfly to prevent leaks.

For some tips on how to stay comfortable and still have a good time when it rains, click here. 

Types of Tents

Tents are either single- or double- walled. A single-walled tent will have only one layer of waterproof fabric, while a double-walled tent will have a waterproof outer layer either built-in or removable from the inner tent. Single-walled tents usually include a separate rainfly cover.

There are quite a few styles of tents:


Dome tents are the most popular style of tent. They are characterized by their use of two flexible poles that crisscross over the top of the tent and stabilize the tent at the bottom. Guy lines aren’t necessary on all dome tents; however, they do help with securing the tent—especially when it is windy. The dome tent has a rectangular tent floor and a variety of different shapes on top. Dome tents are easy to pitch, some are even almost instant, they are lightweight and offer good headroom in the middle. Yet, dome tents are only three-season tents best for mild weather.


These tents are characterized by their tunnel shape. They are designed with a series of curved poles that secure from one side of the tent to the other. Tunnel tents use guy lines to secure it. They are best for families, as they offer a lot of room; however, they are heavier and take longer to set up, so they’re best for car camping.


These tents are generally reserved for mountaineers who camp in extreme cold and bad weather like snow and ice. They utilize the same principle construction as a dome tent, but with more poles to make it much stronger and sturdier. Geodesic tents are not as easy to pitch and are more expensive. However, backpackers and hikers like geodesic tents because they are lightweight.


Backpacking tents are for those who primitive camp and hike. They are characterized by their compact size and having one low-end with a wider end. These tents need to be lightweight and don’t provide much more room than you need to sleep.


This is a ridge tent, characterized by it’s A-shaped frame.

This is a ridge tent, characterized by its A-shaped frame.

Ridge or A-Frame tents look like the typical symbol for a traditional tent. Ridge tents are made using two vertical poles and one horizontal that forms a triangle. With easy setup and durability in rain, ridge tents are incredibly durable but heavy and don’t offer a lot of room.

There are also:

  • Bivy tent
  • Inflatable tents
  • Hammock tents
  • Multi-room/cabin tents
  • Bell tents
  • Tipis
  • Suspended tents
  • Vehicle rooftop/attachment tents


Polyester—lightweight and very breathable

Nylon—lighter than polyester but is not as waterproof


Tent poles come in fiberglass, steel, aluminum and carbon fiber. Fiberglass poles are flexible and inexpensive. Steel isn’t used as much anymore due to its inflexibility and its vulnerability to rust. Aluminum is most common because it is strong, lightweight and bendable. Carbon fiber is the best of the best due to how lightweight and strong it is; however, carbon fiber is very expensive.

12 Survivors Tent

The 12 Survivors Shire tent is a double-walled, dome tent which easily converts for three-season camping. The all-mesh inner tent offers ample airflow and ventilation, plus a bonus view of the stars, while the rainfly extends all the way to the ground for complete protection from rain, moisture and wind. It has two doors and two vestibules. (Vestibules are covered extensions on the outside of your tent which provide additional room to store and protect your stuff.)

The bathtub floor prevents moisture collection and the aluminum alloy poles are designed for easy setup. The Shire tent includes a carry bag, guy lines and storage pockets.

Available in 2, 4 and 6 persons, the Shire tent is field tested and proven to work perfectly for most camping, especially car and festival camping.

Don’t skimp when it comes to purchasing your tent. The best tent is one that keeps you warm when the temperatures drop, as well as allowing for a lot of ventilation during the summer. The 12 Survivors Shire tent is designed for those who enjoy the great outdoors Summer, Spring and Fall!

Do you have questions about tents? Leave them in the comment section and our staff of avid campers will do their best to answer you.

Click here to check out the 12 Survivors Shire tent.


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