Buying Your First Tent
I bet you’re excited because now you can spend some money and get that really awesome tent. You know, the one with the cup holders inside? (Don’t laugh, my brother has a tent with cup holders. I think it’s seriously cool!) The one with all the secret pouches and can stand up to a hurricane without any problems? Yeah, that would be awesome.
Too bad that’s not the tent you should buy. Okay, stop screaming and I’ll explain. Look, you only go a couple of times a year.
Why would you pay a lot of money for something that barely gets used? Unless you are a millionaire several times over (in which case, give me a call and we can have lunch. You pay.), it’s better to assess what you need in a tent, and then try to find the least expensive one that fits those needs. So, speaking of needs, what are yours? Well, first off you’ll want to know just how many people you intend to have sleeping in your tent.
There’s you, obviously, but who else? Add up all of those people (and pets, because they are family too), and there’s your number.
Conveniently, tent manufacturers have put the number of people who can fit into a tent for sleeping on their products. Wow, this is easy, right? You just find a tent that can sleep the same number of people that you have, and you’re gold.
Hold on, not so fast. Have you ever looked closely at those tent numbers and the layout they provide? Next time you’re in a store selling tents, look them over.
What you’ll find is that the number of people that the manufacturer claims can sleep in the tent is just that — the number of people that can sleep in the tent. It doesn’t take into account the fact that you’ll have sleeping bags, possibly an air mattress or some pads that you’re sleeping on, and they for sure don’t take into account your clothes and other items that you’ll want to have in the tent with you.
So, what do you do? Well, I have a general rule of thumb for these situations. Whatever number the tent manufacturer claims a tent can fit, I always subtract 2 from that number, and sometimes 3. If a tent is supposed to sleep 6 people, that means that no more than 4 people could realistically sleep in the tent when you include their clothing, bedding, etc.
Now, this rule works for most tents, except the really small ones that are meant strictly for hiking/backpacking (which pretty much are meant for 1 person, 2 max).
Also, unless you like to be really cozy, you know, like sardines in a can, then you may also want to find a tent that can sleep 1 or 2 more people than you really need. For example, let’s say that that there is a husband and wife who have a young daughter and a dog. They are looking for a tent that will provide the room they need for everyone plus their clothing and other items.
Using the above rules, they will want to find a tent that sleeps a minimum of 6 people, and preferably one that could sleep up to 8 people. This will give them a good range of sizes to choose from when shopping for a tent.
The next thing that you’ll want to figure out is what types of weather you will encounter most when you go camping. In some places, rain will not be a large factor at all, and in other places, rain is pretty much a way of life.
How much rain you expect on your camping trips will help determine if you need to have a rain fly that covers just the upper portion of the tent, or if you need a rain fly that goes all the way to the ground.
So, of course, I’ll be telling you to spend a ton of money on your tent, right? Wrong! If you keep tent camping for a while, then yes the money would be well spent.
But in your case, we’re still trying to keep things on the cheap. As such, I recommend looking around on Craig’s List, eBay, and your local garage sales, etc. to locate the first tent that you can truly call your own.
Of course, like most everything else in retail, there are seasons for tents, and if you time it right you might be able to get a good deal on a new tent. Review your budget and really think about the cost of buying new; if you end up not using it much, you’ll be upset about the money you spent on it.
As a reminder, remember in the last section where I mentioned that you should make sure that all the items are there for a tent? Don’t forget to do this when you’re looking at that tent you found on Craig’s List, etc. Have the seller set up the tent and make sure that all of the necessary items are there. If it’s missing something, has holes, etc., you probably don’t want to take a chance on that tent.
There are plenty out there, so be prepared to look a bit, but when you find the right one, you’ll be happy you spent the little extra time to make sure it all works. Once you have your tent, be sure to take good care of it.
A few things to do: + never pack up your tent wet; if you have to pack it wet, be sure to unpack it as soon as you get home to dry it out + get a small hand-held whisk and pan so that you can sweep out the inside of your tent before you use it each time; this will help the floor hold up + each time you set up your tent, put a sheet or tarp underneath it; this also will help protect the floor + don’t force zippers, it’s a sure way to put a rip in your tent from the excess force + keep a repair kit in your tent bag.
If you have a rip in your netting or a small hole from an ember in the nylon, it’s best to repair it as soon as possible before it gets worse.