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What To Look For: When Buying a Tent

Whether you are a seasoned pro hiker or you're just starting out in the hiking and camping world, buying a new tent can be a daunting task! What style of tent to go for, how big should the tent be, what is the best hydrostatic head, what weight of tent should I get etc. To be honest there are thousands of other questions you will ask yourself when buying a new tent. We have all put our heads together here at Simply Hike HQ to come up with a key tick list that will help you choose the right tent for you. Let’s get on with it shall we.. The first thing we want to talk about is the style and shape of the tent. The two most common tents are tunnel and dome shaped tents, but over the past couple of years semi and full geodesic tents have come from the high-tech hiking world and are now crossing over into the main stream. We think it's fantastic here at Simply Hike but adding even more selection to an already crowded market can be for some people more of a headache. Let’s look at each style of tent in more detail:

Dome Tent

The dome shaped tent is one of the most common and probably the most popular tent of choice. A dome tent uses a two pole system to create its structure. The poles cross over at the top of the tent, this does two things:
  1. The cross over at the top of tent creates high head room in the center of the tent.
  2. The cross point of the tent is also the smallest point of the tent. Because of this the tents poles widen out at the bottom which gives you a much bigger and also secure foot bed.
  Another great thing about dome tents is the four point ground contact that you get from the cross over system. This makes the tent more secure when pegging it to the ground. This also means if you are pitching on a calm day all you would need to do is peg the tent and you might not need to guide rope your tent which of course makes pitching quicker. dome-tent

Tunnel Tent

Tunnel tents are very popular when looking for more overall space. The first thing you will notice with a tunnel tent is the constant head high throughout the whole of the tent, this makes it a very popular design for families. Because of the tunnel shape design you can carry on the structure into the entrance and storage area of the tent (which can be limited in a dome style tent) hence why tunnel tents are so also popular with people doing their Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, allowing them great sleeping space but also lots of room to keep their equipment in. Tunnel tents are also pretty easy to pitch. Slide all the poles in and attach them, then peg the rear of the tent and then pull the tent out from the front and peg that. Then all you need to do its peg and guide rope the rest of the tent to make it safe and secure. tunnel-tent

Semi-geodesic and Geodesic tents

These style of tents have come over from expedition tents that are used in the more “hard-core” of places. But due to technological changes these types of tents have become more affordable in the past couple of years and are become more and more popular for day camping as well as wild camping. The way they work is very simple, due to the criss-cross structure of the tent you have ground contact that you would find in a dome tent and constant head room (size depending) like you would find in a tunnel tent. The big difference is how the criss-cross structure works when it’s windy. Now I’m sure that everyone reading this has been is a dome and tunnel tent when it’s windy… yes its VERY shaky, but the criss-cross structure of a semi and full geodesic tent uses the wind to pin the tent to the ground rather than shaking it side to side or up and down. This is why the design has been used for years on lots of expeditions all over the world. geodesic tent

Hydrostatic Head

Now let’s talk about hydrostatic heads. A HH determines how waterproof a tent is, very similar to how they test a waterproof jacket, they place a tube on a section of the tent's fly sheet and feed water through measuring how much water it can hold before letting any through. They measure this in millimetres. So what’s the best HH to go for? Well this can be very tricky. If you are looking to pitch your tent in hot climates and also very cold climates you will need a low HH, say 1500 mm, this ensures breathability to stop condensation build up on the inside of the tent but also will still keep you dry if it does rain. We are going to assume that most people will be buying their tents for UK camping. The first mistake people would make is buying a tent with the highest HH. Now of course this will keep you nice and dry but will also reduce the breathability of the tent, this causes more of a build-up of condensation on the inside of the tent and then when you wake up with drips of…well basically your own sweat dropping off the inside of your tent. We would recommend a tent with a HH of 2000-6000 mm for camping in the UK. A quick note if you do opt for a high HH then keep all vent ports open at all times this will reduce condensation build up in your tent and you will not run the risk of having your own sweat dripping back down to you in the morning (yuck).

Size of Your Tent

Another thing to consider is what size tent to go for. This all depends on how many people you are camping with, but the rule of thumb is always go up a “man” when buying a tent. For instance you are going for your first family camping trip and there is three of you. Rather than buying a three person tent aim for getting a four person tent, yes the pack size and weight will be bigger but you will have a bigger and better sleeping area and more importantly a bigger living area, also depending on the style of tent the weight and pack size between a three and four man tent in some cases aren’t that much. The only time when the go up a “man” shouldn’t apply is of course if you are trying to keep your kit small and lightweight.

Brand Technology

Every brand of course will say that their tent is the best because they have “X, Y and even Z!” so here is a list of some of the different technologies that brands use in their tents: tsb-system
  • Vango: The guys over at Vango have a great system called “Tension Band System” or TBS for short. In their tunnel tents they have added a strap system in different sections of the tent, so when the weather turns and it becomes windy you can connect the TBS system and pull down on the strap (very much like a compression strap) and this helps secure the tent in high wind and bad weather.
  • Terra Nova: Terra Nova have some up with a great easy pitch system on some of their tents (like on the Polar Lite 2 Micro). They have “capped” or “dead ended” one side of the sleeve that you feed your pole through, giving you a much quicker pitch. This also means when it comes to bigger tents you might even be able to pitch the tent with just one person.
  • Robens: The clever guys over at Robens have added a blackout liner to most of their tents. This helps prevent any unwanted light coming into your tent, which works perfectly in the morning time.

And On that Note

The last thing that we would like to talk about is that you need to think about how you want to pitch your tent. If you are looking for a tent for warm climates then make sure it’s a tent that you pitch from the inside and then attach the flysheet afterwards. inner-first If you’re looking for an all-rounder then look at the one pitch system were everything comes attached, all you need to do is feed the poles though and peg it down. These tents tend to use the fly sheet to feed the poles through meaning you can really use the inner as a separate tent. Here’s a quick bullet point checklist for you:
  1. Check the style of the tent: Dome, tunnel and geodesic
  2. How waterproof do you need your tent: If you are going to a hot country then a lower HH will be needed.
  3. Based on how many you are camping with and what sort of camping you will be doing, check the sizing of the tent. And remember the add another “man” rule
  4. Each brand has different technology so really look into what would be more beneficial for you.
  5. And lastly check out how your tent is pitched, inner or out first. If you are camping in hotter climates an inner first pitch would be more beneficial for you because you wouldn’t need to attach the fly.
  So there we have it our quick(ish) what to look for when buying a tent guide. If you guys have anything else that you look out for we would love to hear about it so please comment below! And of course don’t forget that we have hundreds of tents in stock over at our website click >here< to see our full range.