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In order to choose your home away from home wisely, it is a good idea to develop an understanding of the different types of tents available. Doing so will allow you to select the right camping tent for how you plan to use it. A tent to take on a long backpacking expedition will require a different tent that you might use on a family camping trip.
Cabin Tents – One of the most popular configurations, cabin tents are best suited for established campgrounds or base camps. Ideal for families, these basic camping tents feature a large, square design with high ceilings, a rigid construction and vertical walls to accommodate cots, chairs, coolers and other creature comforts. Generally possessing a light-duty construction, cabin tents are normally best for warm weather camping. Offered by a number of manufacturers, Coleman and Eureka tents have a number of cabin tents that include a wide range of options.
Wall Tents – Also known as outfitters tents, wall tents are large, framed canvas tents that are popular with hunters and backcountry campers. Among the largest and most accommodating, these camping tents feature a rigid construction and provide lots of room allowing the entire family to move freely without crouching or bending over. Available in both a single-wall and double wall construction, both have strengths and weaknesses. Many people prefer double wall construction because they offer greater protection from the weather and provide greater ventilation than the single wall alternative. These tents can be heavy, so they are generally not recommended for backpacking.
Dome Tents – Dome Tents are among the most popular types of family camping tents for their simple, easy to assemble construction. Available in sizes from a lightweight 2-person tent to a heavier to 6 or 9-person version, dome tents use flexible tent poles versus the rigid construction of Cabin and Wall tents. The basic dome has a rectangular footprint using two poles that rise from diagonally opposite corners and cross at the peak. Although dome tents possess less headroom than some other options, most people prefer them because of their easy of use. Among the many excellent options, Kelty tents have several excellent Domes.
Backpacking Tents - Purchasing Considerations
Space – Backpacking tents are categorized based on capacity, therefore you must have a good idea of how many people you’ll need to accommodate on your hikes. Since they are designed to keep weight to a minimum, backpacking tents are intended to be snug. If you buy a 2-person tent you should expect that in most cases you will have room for little else in addition to those two people. Boots, backpacks and other materials are generally kept under a rain fly and outside of the tent.
Weight – When it comes to backpacking every ounce counts. Granted, weight may be less critical for short overnight hikes than for long hikes lasting multiple days, but you will be carrying it nonetheless. A good rule of thumb is to shoot for a per person weight of 3 pounds or less when buying a backpacking tent. Kelty tents are often recognized for being within this range.
Weather – Look for a tent that can handle the worst possible weather conditions that you are expecting. Most backpackers opt for a 3 season tent which can handle conditions that frequently occur from Spring through Fall. Eureka tents frequently perform well in this area. Lastly, look for features that will lend themselves well to the conditions that you will experience most often, like the heavy use of mesh that will come in handy during hot weather.
Price – Backpacking tents can range from $50 to $500 depending on the various weights, features and constructions.