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Think ‘Wow’ When You Select a New Camping Tent


Your excitement about wilderness trips will help you select your next camping tent. When you say, “Wow, I’m going camping,” you’re using a handy acronym that sums up a new tent’s most important features. WOW = Weather + Occupants + Weight. Consider the season and the location. What’s the weather forecast, how many people are going, and how much can they carry?”

Camping tent selection involves tradeoffs between creature comforts and the practicalities of cost, size, and weight. If you’re car camping, you can afford the luxury of a bulky, heavy tent that requires space in both the car and the camp. If you’re a backpacker and/or minimalist, smaller and lighter tents are more optimal.

Weather

Manufacturers’ camping tent ratings reflect the time of year for which the tents are intended: 1-season, 3-season, or 4-season. 1-season tents, for summer use, feature light-colored fabrics, mesh for ventilation, and single-wall construction for protection against light rain.

3-season tents, the most popular, feature breathable fabrics and mesh windows and doors for ventilation and insect protection. Double-wall construction—usually in the form of a waterproof full or partial rainfly—keeps out rain and light snow. A durable, properly pitched 3-season camping tent will usually tolerate more wind than a 1-season tent.

4-season tents emphasize protection against heavy wind and snow. They feature stronger fabrics and sturdier tent poles along with zip-up panels to keep out the elements. Look for tents labeled “expedition” or “mountaineering” for extreme winter weather and/or high altitude conditions.

Occupants
 

Camping tent capacity ratings (1-person, 2-person, 4-person, etc.) indicate the number of people who can reasonably sleep in the tent. Some experts suggest buying tents rated for more people than you have if you don’t like snug sleeping quarters and want room to store gear, eat and play games. However, creature-comfort space also adds weight and bulk, a concern especially for backpackers.

Car campers can extend the space of a basic tent by purchasing models with multiple rooms and by using gazebos, awnings, and larger rainflies. The 2- and 3-person dome, modified dome, and tunnel-style tents are very popular because they provide enough room for sitting, standing and moving around.

Weight

While you may not mind carrying a heavy tent a few feet from your car to the campsite, you’ll discover that packing the tent into the back country is quite another matter. Most people don’t easily carry more than one quarter to one third of their body weight. While some backpackers favor sunshades and tarps in the summer and bivy sacks/shelters in the winter, you can find good 2- and 3-person tents that weigh only six to eight pounds. When backpacking with multi-person tents, hand out the poles and rainflies to other members of the group to better distribute the weight.

A good camping tent is light, durable, easy to pitch, easy to maintain and repair, and reflects your outdoors style. Remember “WOW,” and you’ll cover all your basic shelter needs.


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