Everything you Need to Know Before Buying a Tent

We at This Is It Stores sell a diverse range of tents from hiker’s pop-up tents, casual camping dome tents to large tents suitable for the whole family. So we thought it would be an awesome idea to give you guys the low down on what it is you really need to know before buying a tent. From the size and dimensions to the material, colour and water resistance. We’ll try to cover everything so when you come to buying your first or next tent you shall be an expert tent analyst, so no savvy salesmen will be able to sell you short.

What Size Tent Should You Buy?

Tent in the Woods

Firstly you are going to want to size up your campers and find a tent that fits everyone going on your travels. You don’t want 7ft towering Terry cramped up and bent, neither do you want small Suzy and her family paying over the odds for a large tent. If you size up your campers and check the dimensions of the tent your buying you will find in most cases that if you’ve got average height / size people using it then you can sometimes go a man size smaller as a lot of tent company’s over compensate on size to ensure it’s suitable for everyone. This isn’t always the case though so just make sure you do your measurements of both the people, camping mats and baggage you are taking.

How Do You Know If A Tent Is Waterproof? 

Tent in the Hillside Grassland

One thing you do not want to do is buy a tent, take it on your holiday, it rains and then to your dismay you find out the tent you have bought is not as waterproof as you had first thought. This is why it’s essential to check the (HH) Hydro-static Head which is usually measured in millimetres. The Hydro-static Head is the measurement of how much rainfall in millimetres (mm) your tent can take.

Most cheap tents on the market are 1500mm which only gives you a little bit of protection; if your tent is 1500mm then I would consider buying a new one unless it’s for travelling light purposes such as hiking, backpacking etc. 2000mm is a decent amount to have but isn’t going to protect you from a terrential downpour and summer downpours are not unheard of in Britain. The ideal Hydro-static Head resistance is 3000mm but you can get up to 5000mm+ but these tents are going to cost you a lot and it probably isn’t that necessary if you’re travelling in the summer months.

What About The Wind?

Tent in the Woods by a River

Good question and how to windproof your tent depends on quite a few factors. The first being the position you set your tent up. A good trick to determine where the wind is coming from is to pick a blade of grass and watch the way it blows. You are then going to want to pitch your tent in the most aerodynamic position facing the wind which is usually side on as porches tend not to be very aerodynamic; you don’t want to wake up in the morning to a gust of wind blowing in to your tent.

The next factor is how deep you peg your tent down and the positions of which your pegs are situated, they will need to be at a stretched length and tight. Pegging down can be quite an issue especially if it’s been really sunny as the ground can become very hard, making it even harder to peg your tent down. But there are ways around this… you can buy a mallet to help you hit them in, or you can buy pile driver tent pegs for the extra strength and sharpness making it a lot easier to peg.

Another factor to do with wind resistance is the material your tent is made out of. You are going to want a breathable material to help lower the resistance but we’ll come on to materials next in the post.

What’s The Best Tent Material?

Tent on a Mountain Top

Personally I wouldn’t say there is a ‘best’ material for a tent as they come in a variety of different materials and all serve different purposes so I will outline some of the common ones below.

POLYESTER

The most common of tent fabrics with many different coating variations. It may be the most common fabric used but that's for a reason as it's a very good all rounder! Polyester is also a very durable tent material and lightweight making it great for the casual camper. Polyester doesn’t shrink or absorb water like some of the other materials mentioned in this list, making it the perfect all-rounder for tents. The only downside to polyester is that it’s coated, so you will want to buy a polyester tent with a coating that is breathable to allow fresh air to make its way through for heat to distribute evenly.

Remember the colour of the material can also effect the heat in your tent so it’s probably best to go for a mid-tone colour like green or blue and avoid colours such as dark brown, black etc. you will also want to stay away from white as well because markings will appear easily and you will find yourself washing it constantly.

NYLON

The cheapest of all the materials and also the lightest making it a great material for expedition and hiking use. Although Nylon is the cheapest and lightest material this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best. Prices can vary a lot with Nylon because the water and wind proofing is mainly down to the coating. Most cheap tents will be made of Nylon with an acrylic coating and the more expensive ones will have a silicone coating but all tent designers use different compounds and I’m not trained in enough in plastics to accurately describe the chemical compounds of which would be best, maybe this is could be future venture for me?

Nylon is a very good material for tents due to its lightweight structure but in strong sunlight it can be easily damaged if it has an acrylic coating so it’s advisable that you buy a light filter coating. Nylon in heavy rain conditions can also slack the material if the coating isn’t of a high grade but there are waterproof sprays out there on the market, plus tightening your guy lines as much as possible can also prevent this.

COTTON CANVAS

Cotton canvas is usually used on things such as tipees and some gazebos but you will rarely see it used today because of the weight. But it does have its benefits cotton is a breathable material so it’s pretty windproof in that respect. These tents are usually very good at keeping you warm on those cold winter nights and cool of hot summer evening due to the thick breathable material. There is a downside to cotton canvas tents and that’s because they leak when they’re first used as they need to go through the weathering process but after a couple uses your cotton canvas will be very waterproof.

Although cotton tents sound good and who wouldn’t want to take an awesome tipee with them on their holiday, but it’s just not viable due to the weight, size and time setting them up so for the casual camper this is not good. Cotton canvas is much more suitable for an organisers use in VIP Festival Accommodation, Food Festivals etc.

PVC COATED CANVAS

PVC Coated Canvas is a cotton fabric coated in a plastic called (Poly Vinyl Chloride) this material is usually used for canopies and is very waterproof. You won’t find many camping tents made from this material due to its heavy weight, making it unviable for casual camping.

POLY-COTTON

Poly cotton is a blend of cotton and plastic based materials usually polyester due to how light the material is. Poly cotton is found on the higher end of tent market due to its durability and high hydro-static head measurement. Although this material is very waterproof and super durable it’s still pretty heavy but the tent will last a lot longer that your standard Polyester and Nylon fabrics because of its cotton base.