Tent Selection Tool | How To Choose a Tent in 2021

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Having trouble figuring out how to choose a tent perfect for your next backpacking or family camping trip? Use our tent buying guide and tool to adjust the filters below to your perfect tent weight, price, capacity, and tent type to find your next home away from home! If you aren’t sure what you want yet? Take a look at our more in-depth tent purchasing guide below the tool!

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Selection Tool

Tent Purchasing Guide | How To Choose a Tent in 2021

Most Important Factors When Buying a Tent

Weight

If you’re car camping, weight may not be a critical factor but for primitive campers and backpackers, every ounce counts. When you’re hauling every bit of supplies out to the site, a pound over a mile or three will really add up! Pay special attention to the backpacking tents if you’re looking to save on weight.

Seasonality

Many tents are rated as 3-season tents and shouldn’t be relied on for shelter in the winter. 4-season tents have thicker fabrics and fewer air vents to try to keep you warmer when camping in the cold and snow. The vast majority of tents marketed towards car campers are 3-season tents. 4-season tents are used for mountaineering and other cold-weather activity camping.

Capacity

While we show the manufacturer’s rating for capacity, many manufacturers do not take gear space into realistic consideration. We’d recommend adding one or two people to your general capacity to make sure that you have plenty of room to make your tent a home! For example, if you are a couple with a dog or a significant amount of gear, you’ll want to think about a three-person tent instead of just a two-person tent. You will definitely want to think about jumping up a size if you are tall or uncomfortable in small spaces.

Additional Features

Beyond the capacity, weight, and seasonality – everything else is just bells & whistles. You can find tents that have large vestibules to hold your shoes, tents with extra interior fabric to create ‘rooms’ in the cabin style tents for groups, tents with small holes to snake wires through to power your electronics, or even tents with small holes for Fido to come in and out of.

Browse the tents in our tool to find the one that meets your most important needs!

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What to Check In-Store or When it Arrives

These days, most people will rely on internet purchases when buying a new tent in 2021. When the tent comes in, be sure to set it up and check out these factors before leaving for your first trip! You don’t want to get all the way to Starved Rock to find out that your new couple’s tent has a bad stitch near the floor or is too short for the two of you to even kneel in!

Material & Stitch Quality

As your mobile fabric shelter, having high-quality materials and strong seams can make or break your fight against the rain. The seams where different materials meet (like the door zipper and rest of the tent or the floor materials to the thinner siding) should be tight and show no gaps in between. The floor of the tent should be thick enough to stand up to twigs and cot legs so you don’t puncture the bottom and wake up in a puddle!

Zipper Quality

A tent zipper breaking in the middle of the night when you’re trying to make a quick midnight bathroom break can ruin half the trip! Take time before you head out to test your zippers, get to know where they snag against the fabric and get used to using your finger to glide the fabric away in those tough spots for a perfect escape in the dark. If you’re finding the zipper snags more than you would prefer, part of knowing how to choose a tent is knowing when a tent is not right for you!

how to choose a tent

Peak Height

Outside of capacity, this could be the most important factor for comfort in your tent design. Higher peak heights that allow you to stand up in the middle can feel like a luxury after trying to change in a short backpacking tent for a few days. Peak height is usually easy to understand from the photos and design of the tent itself but take a look at the product descriptions to make sure it meets your needs!

photo 1548109465 dbf58cfd298f?ixid=MXwxMjA3fDB8MHxwaG90by1wYWdlfHx8fGVufDB8fHw%3D&ixlib=rb 1.2
A traditional dome-style tent with a shorter peak that makes it difficult to stand straight within the tent
photo 1587077742261 7a49f1f3c0c8?ixid=MXwxMjA3fDB8MHxwaG90by1wYWdlfHx8fGVufDB8fHw%3D&ixlib=rb 1.2
A taller tent with steeper sides to provide greater height and potentially room to stand up straight

Conclusion | How to Choose a Tent

Now that you understand the major factors in knowing how to choose a tent, browse over 150 tents in our tool above to find the tent that fits your needs!

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Robbie
Co-Founder | Editor at Midwest Camping | Website | See related work

Robbie is a Co-Founder and editor at Midwest Camping. Robbie has backpacked over two hundred miles of the Appalachian trail, visited seventeen national parks, and camped regularly for the last two decades.

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