This Climbers Shop Gear Guide should answer all your questions before you invest in a tent from the Online Shop.
This tent guide is aimed to help you make an informed choice when choosing a tent. After all, you will have to live in it for a while at least. Here are the key questions our staff most commonly ask...
How many will it sleep? How comfortable do you need to be and how much space do you need for gear?
Initially you may have a particular trip in mind, but may end up using the tent for all kinds of activities. Bigger is generally better (!) and allows you to squeeze in an extra person and extra gear. Unless you plan to carry the tent extra weight isn't much of an issue, although cost might be. It’s important to look at the tents of a few different brands as dimensions will differ. Buy the biggest tent you can afford/carry, too much space is better than not enough. Ask for the tent to be pitched so you can see how big it is and judge the headroom, etc.
Quality, Cost and Usage
Tents generally look very similar yet come in a very broad range of prices, this is generally down to fabric, taped or untaped seams and pole construction, depending on the level of use and what time of year you plan to use your tent quality and performance is important and you do get what you pay for.
It is important to decide whether the tent is to be carried for any distance or for camping near a car, you have to weigh up which is more important having plenty of space in the tent versus the weight of carrying it. Also important is how long you will be staying in the tent, if setting up a base camp for a significant time it may be worth carrying the extra weight and having extra space and comfort. The space in your tent is more than just the ground space inside, porch space is handy for storing gear and do you want standing room? Higher priced tents do tend to be lighter due to the materials used.
Pitching Inner or Outer First?
Most tents now tend to pitch the outer first to avoid the inner getting wet when pitching in rain, which if camping in this country is likely to happen. If camping in hotter climates tents which pitch the inner first are handy as they can be used on there own to let the breeze in and keep the insects out and tend to save weight and be more stable.
The flysheet/outer of a tent is made of waterproof fabric to keep out the elements. The fabrics used are nylon and polyester, which have a PU (polyurethane) waterproof coating, more expensive tents use a silicon coating aswell, which is more durable and UV resistant. You should re-treat your tent periodically as UV rays will weaken fabric and cheaper tents will tend to be less waterproof. Nylon tends to be less sensitive to UV than polyester, also heavier fabrics are more resistant to the effects of UV. Two measurements to check on your tent is the hydrostatic head (water column)
: which is a measure of how waterproof your tent is given in mm - anything over 1500mm is suitable for torrential rain, the more a fabric can withstand the more waterproof (and more expensive) it will be. Tear Strength :
is a measure of durability given in kg - the higher the figure the better. The flysheet needs to be taut to prevent it touching the inner and reach almost to the ground to prevent wind and rain getting in, check whether the seams are sealed and if not you can do this yourself unless you have a tent with the silicon elastomer coating as the sealing tape won’t stick to it.
The inner of a tent is designed to be breathable and as such there should be a fist sized gap between the inner and outer/flysheet to allow air to circulate, the inner is made from breathable fabric so that heat and moisture from inside the tent will pass through it and condensation will form on the inside of the flysheet, if the two touch at any point this can cause drips inside the tent although some tents do have a fluorocarbon finish on the inner to repel condensation. Materials used for the inner are usually nylon, cotton, polycotton and mesh.
Most tents have a sewn-in groundsheet attached to the inner that come up the sides of the tent and seam sealed to give added protection from leaking. In some conditions it may be worth using a secondary groundsheet under the tent to protect the inner layer. Groundsheets are made from tougher fabrics such as polyurethane, neoprene and PVC, check how tough the fabric is and compare it to others. Even so always check the ground for sharp stones and objects before you pitch your tent to protect the groundsheet and to get a good nights sleep.
A porch is useful for cooking and storing boots, rucksacks and dirty gear.
Check the zips fast a couple of times to make sure they don’t jam they should feel strong and secure and have double pullers so that the top or bottom of the door can be opened, preferably with toggles to tie the door up completely. It's good to have entrances each side for ventilation through the tent, and a solid door for when its cold and an insect/mesh door for ventilation and to keep the bugs out. Check the mesh has tiny holes, cheaper tents often use cheaper mesh with bigger holes, and check whether you would have to open the mesh door to close the outer one as then the bugs would get in anyway. Mesh netting on the inner tent reduces weight and size and reduces condensation, however tents with a lot of mesh are colder and only suitable for mild weather.
With the exception of frame and patrol tents, alloy poles with shock-cords down the middle are the norm these days as they are stable, light and allow maximum space within the tent and are easily folded and opened. Many tents now have colour coded poles which makes it even easier. Cheaper poles made of glass fibre can deform and snap especially in the cold. In use the poles are either clipped onto the flysheet or pushed through sewn-in sleeves.
Guy lines hold the tent stable in high wind, the more points at which the tent is pegged down the more secure it is, however some tents use less guy lines than others as stability can be increased due to the pole design. Guy lines should be pegged out at their full length (but not across a walkway!) they also help you to adjust the tensioning of the flysheet as required.
Most tents come with basic lightweight skewer-type pegs which are fine for general use but it is advisable to buy spares and of a different type, as different pegs suit different conditions, tent pegs can be murder on your hands so test this out in the shop and buy the most user friendly ones.
Vents in the outer allow warm air and moisture to escape, which reduces condensation. Some vents can be closed others have insect mesh and internal closures.
Pockets and Storage
Pockets on the inside of the tent are very handy for storing things you may need to find in the night or that might get broken such as glasses and torch. Family tents generally have panels with pockets on, which you can hang inside the tent. Another good option is a storage net in the roof for light things or a torch.
Tents all come with a bag for carrying and storage. Cheaper tents generally have a thin bag with a cord tie, which rips easily. They are also only just big enough to pack the tent into which can be frustrating, better tents have heavier duty bags with better handles. Try unpacking and repacking the tent as a test run before you get out on the hillside.
Check if a repair kit is supplied this can be very handy and usually comes with fabric swatches for quick repairs.
Always dry your tent before storing. Spread the tent out so it can air or put it on the washing line. The poles can corrode if stored wet. Clean, dry and straighten the tent pegs. Ready for the next trip.