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Selecting a Tent

Links to Selecting a Tent
End Use for TentsTent SeasonsTent Types
Tent SizeComponents of a TentTent Care
 Tent GlossaryTent Comparison Guide

No matter where you're going camping, buying a tent is essential to start your adventure. A tent will be your form of shelter on the trip and you want it to be as safe, practical and user-friendly as possible. When you buy a tent, DICK'S Sporting Goods will have the right outdoor tent for all your camping needs. Determining your end use for a tent from the start can help narrow down your search, and make it easier to decide what other camping and tent essentials you may need, such as tent equipment and accessories for tents.

End Use

In what environment will you use this tent?

Campground tents are designed for use in fair weather at established campgrounds with drive-in parking and water facilities. These tents are not designed to withstand severe weather. They are designed to be easy to use, transport and setup.

Trail tents are designed to be lightweight, durable and compact. These tents are the easiest to pack and stand up well in extreme weather conditions.

Wilderness tents are designed with quality and reliability in mind for use in extreme conditions. Built to withstand frequent use, remote environments and severe weather, wilderness tents have a full coverage fly, additional waterproofing and wind resistant designs.

Season

What kind of climate will I use this tent in?

Three-Season tents are intended to be used in moderate climates during the spring, summer or fall. These tents offer good protection in rain, but not high wind or snow. The lightweight design provides increased ventilation, and in most tents, campers have the option of removing the rain fly to decrease weight even further. Another possibility with three-season tents is the bare bones setup, where you only use the footprint and the fly. Campers should only remove the rain fly or setup a bare bones style tent when they are positive there will be no chance of rain.

Four-Season tents are designed for versatility, and can be used in both cold and warm weather. They perform well in windy conditions and snow and can be used all year round. The zippered panels on four-season tents can be opened or closed to provide protection or ventilation based on the weather.

Types of Tents and Tent Features

While there are several varieties of tents, the most popular are the Cabin, Dome and Hoop tents. There are also two different ways you can set up your tent, either freestanding or staked. Staked tents need tent stakes to anchor them into the ground, provide added support to the tent's structure and to withstand the elements. Freestanding tents require no additional tent accessories for setup.

Cabin Tent Features

Dome Tent Features

  • Aerodynamic and stable
  • Designed to shed wind and all types of precipitation
  • Peak height listed is the highest point of the tent
  • Simple setup

Hoop Tent Features

  • Combines top features of cabin and dome tents, easy setup and maximum interior space
  • Most need to be staked with tent stakes
  • Trail campers use hoop tents that are very compact and packable, but not all hoop tents have those specific qualities

Other

  • Truck Bed Tent- A tent that can be attached to the bed of your truck. These are convenient to use because you can set up the tent anywhere you can take your truck.
  • Wall tents- Often used as a base camp and for longer periods of time. With the additional space a wall tent provides, tent stoves, camping furniture, and other larger camp essentials are a perfect fit for inside.
  • Cot tents- A rainfly attaches to your cot to protect you from inclement weather.
  • Hammock tents- A tent that can be secured in treetops and hung in the air.

Things to consider when buying a tent:

Tent Size

Determining what size tent to buy depends mostly on the number of people who will sleep in the tent. You also want to take into account the amount of gear you will store inside should bad weather arise. The weight of the tent and how you will transport it are also things to take into consideration.

Campground and wilderness campers usually choose larger dome or cabin tents with more space and hikers/backpackers usually look for lightweight and compact hoop tents. There is no industry standard for amount of space per person, so you want to look at the total floor area to determine the proper size.

Good rules of thumb:

  • Use number of campers to determine minimum size
  • Remember to consider the equipment you will store in the tent, and take into account the vestibules and gear lofts for storage
  • Take note of the peak center height measurement to determine if you can stand inside the tent
  • Trail campers should select the smallest possible lightweight tent, while campground campers should select based on comfort, and buy a one or two person larger tent than needed

Components of a Tent

Tent Poles

Not all, but most tents have tent poles. They provide the support structure for the tent. Each tent has a different number and type of poles, some are color-coded and some come with fewer poles for easier setup. There are three basic materials used in poles.

Aluminum

  • Preferred by backpackers seeking a lighter weight
  • Will not shatter in severe snow or cold temperatures
  • More rigid than fiberglass, offer more stability
  • 4-season tents have aluminum poles
  • DAC™ poles are the most preferred in the industry due to quality construction and strength

Fiberglass

  • Found in most tents
  • Offer high durability for most types of camping
  • Slightly better value and strength

Steel

Panels

Panels are the fabric sections that create the body of the tent. They provide the actual amount of wind and water resistance and determine breathability inside the tent. Three-season tents have more mesh paneling, and four-season tents have more solid paneling.

Polyester

  • Used in tents to withstand extremely wet climates
  • Can withstand UV exposure without dry rotting
  • Similar to nylon in weight and durability, but won't sag when wet
  • Waterproof coating on the walls reduces breathability

Mesh

  • More mesh = more ventilation
  • Two different types of mesh: No-See-Um and Open Weave
  • Open Weave: great breathability, less insect resistance
  • No-See-Um: less breathability, more insect resistance

Rain Fly

The Rain Fly is the protective covering that fastens over the top of a tent. It acts as an umbrella for your tent, shielding you from rain, wind and UV rays. Attached to the rain fly you may find guy points, which are reinforced loops stitched on the tent. When guy points are attached to guy lines, which are ropes that anchor the tent and keep walls taut, your tent will have increased stability in inclement weather. You must attach the fly and guy points properly in order to have a fully weather resistant tent.

Full-Length

  • Extends almost completely to the floor, offers total protection
  • Do not have to seam seal the panels
  • Wilderness camping tents

Partial

*Waterproofing: Factories waterproof the rain fly by coating it with polyurethane. Levels of waterproofing range from 400-2,000 mmóthe higher the level, the better the waterproofing.

Floor

The most durable fabric component of the tent is the floor. The floor must hold up against the weight of its occupants and contact with wet ground, sharp sticks and rocks. There are two different types of tent floors, bathtub and catenary, and they vary in the construction materials used.

Polyethylene

  • Made of tarp-like material
  • Generally used in lower quality tents
  • Highly water resistant but heavy, less packable and easily punctured
  • Very noisy
  • Campground tents or wilderness tents

Nylon or Polyester Taffeta

  • Lightest fabric, not noisy
  • When seam sealed, it is water resistant
  • Good for trail campers

Oxford

  • Nylon or polyester Oxford floors are made of high Denier fibers
  • Very durable and water resistant
  • Lighter than polyethylene, taffeta lighter than Oxford
  • Very puncture resistant; if you are using a cot, Oxford is the best choice

Vinyl

*Adding a footprint to your tent will increase waterproofing and shield the floor from punctures.

Doors

You may want more than one door in your tent for easy entrance and exit capabilities. This optional entry gives better in and out access for campers at night and during the day.

Windows

The more windows in a tent, the more ventilation there is inside. If you know you'll be camping during the hotter months, tents with windows are the way to go.

Vestibule

The vestibule is the covered area outside the main body of the tent. These extended sections of the rain fly provide extra space to store your belongings while you camp.

Tent Care

Seam Sealing

  • Use a seam sealant to waterproof the thread seams of your tent
  • Some are not sealed and will allow water to penetrate

Tent Repair

  • If your tent panel ripped or your floor has a puncture, there are products you can buy for a quick fix
  • Tent sewing kits can repair fabrics

Storage

  • Store your tent in a cool, dry place
  • Pack the tent loose
  • Always clean your tent before you store, do not put away when dirty
  • Beware of damp or humid places, as it will cause mildew and harm the tent materials

Cleaning

  • Never machine wash or dry your tent
  • Use a sponge soaked in warm water to spot-clean the tent
  • Do not use bleach or hot water to clean, only non-detergent cleaners
  • Soak in cold water to clean entire tent
  • Dry by pitching in the shade or hanging out to dry

Glossary

  • Bare Bones Setup: Ultra-light "minimalist" shelter setup without using the tent (mesh) canopy, rain protection only.
  • DAV: Dongah Aluminum Corporation focuses on studying tent structures, from the proper construction material to the best strength-to-weight ratios, delivering the most ideal shelters for various needs.
  • DAC Ball Caps: Ball caps eliminate the tip and grommet of a typical pole/ webbing connection. Ball Caps cannot come loose in high winds like a tip and grommet connection.
  • DAC DA17 Poles: High value, large diameter aluminum poles used in campground-style tents.
  • DAC Featherlite: Ultra-light tent pole technology using swaged ends rather than inserts.
  • DAC Featherlite NSL: A combination of swaged pole ends with pressed inserts to use ultra-thin wall tubes.
  • DAC Jake's Foot: High technology tent connection point allowing the tent to be a set up frame first, fly first or canopy first. Also improves fly-to-canopy spacing for breathability. Jake's foot locks tent poles to the tent canopy, reducing a possible disconnect.
  • DAC Pressfit: Aluminum poles using connectors form-fit together instead of using glue or crimping that may more easily fail.
  • DAC Swivel Hubs: Swivel hub creates a fixed pole crossing point, improving stability of the tent.
  • Fly: Second layer of water-resistant material designed to shed rain from a tent.
  • Footprint: Second layer of water-resistant material designed to protect tent floors from puncture and keep out water.
  • Gear Loft: Shelf inside of a tent for getting small items up off the floor and staying organized.
  • No-See-Um Mesh: Tightly woven mesh designed to keep out even tiny "no-see-um" insects.
  • Oxford Floor: Heavier duty fibers improve durability of Oxford fabrics vs. taffeta.
  • Polyethylene Floor: Tarp-like material with good water resistance but is heavy, noisy and has poor puncture resistance.
  • PU Window: Clear waterproof polyurethane material used for visibility through a tent fly.
  • Taffeta Floor: Lightweight fabric that is quiet, can be coated for water resistance, seam sealed and folds easily.
  • Vestibule: Sheltered gear storage area in front of a tent door, good for wet gear.
  • Waterproofing (MM): A measurement of the amount of water (pressure) added to a material before the water will begin to pass through the material.
  • Wrapped Fiberglass Poles: Fiberglass tent poles designed for additional strength and reduced splintering.

Tent Comparison Guide

The Tent Comparison Guide is a handy resource for customers looking to purchase a tent. With information on size, end use and features, the Tent Comparison Guide will steer you in the right direction when choosing a tent from DICK'S Sporting Goods. For a more detailed version of the Tent Comparison Guide, click here.

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