Camping Cooking’s tips on choosing the correct tent for you

Your choice of tent can hugely affect your camping experience, so at Camping Cooking we tried to come up with a few factors that you should consider when making your choice. Happy tent hunting!


Cheap as chips or buy a brand?
This is a tough call. Recently there have been amazing deals on tents. At Camping Cooking we even have a cheap 2 man dome tent for our own use and we would be happy to use it in kindly conditions or at an event where tent damage was likely. On the other hand, we have experienced sudden pole failure on a cheap Gelert Fossa tent and it is not fun!

Our advice – if you are on a ‘proper’ camping trip then get a brand. Someone like Vango, Coleman or Outwell will not leave you with a collapsed tent in the middle of the night. On the other hand if you are camping at a festival or an event where sleep is optional, then get a cheapo tent and consider it a throwaway.

How big a tent should I buy?
The old advice remains reliable. Buy one ‘man’ size bigger than you need. A two-man tent will generally be very cosy if you try and fit two men in it! A bigger tent will allow you to move things away from the edge at night, reducing condensation and the risk of theft.

Look at the height as well
This is a critical dimension. Less than 1 metre is for backpackers only. Around 140cm is probably ok to sit cross-legged and read a book. You will need more than this if you want to sit on a camping chair and wait out the rain. Think carefully about this. When examining a tent design see how much of the roof actually has the maximum height. Your back will thank you!

Check the tent is fire retardant
If your tent has a porch, then sooner or later you will be tempted to cook in it. You also may use a non-battery lantern to cheer up the dark evenings. Check this link for tips on tent safety when cooking

Check the hydrostatic head rating (hh)
This is the standard rating of ‘water-proofness’. 1500hh sensible minimum. 2000hh on better quality tents. Better tents may be rated higher, but experience says that a properly pitched 2000hh should be fine for UK weather.

Check the size of the bag the tent comes in
If the tent is a tight fit now, then you will never squeeze it back in later! Trying to wrestle a tent into a bag can reduce grown men to tears of rage!

Check the thickness of the poles and the zip-pullers
These are good quality indicators. We have seen 6mm diameter poles and in our opinion this is too thin for fibreglass (they all broke!). Around 8mm fibreglass poles is better. Better tents will have aluminium poles to save weight, but these are not necessary for the ‘normal’ camper.

Look for flysheet first pitching or a tent-inner that can be left attached
You will be very glad the first time it rains. At Camping Cooking we don’t use tents that pitch inner first and allow everything to get wet while the flysheet flaps in the wind.

Consider if you want a porch
We would strongly advise this if your trip is more than a simple stopover. A porch could vary from a few square inches to a whole living room for cooking and eating. Whatever style of tent you choose, the extra living space of a porch will be a huge bonus and at the very least will allow you to store your muddy boots.

Don’t buy a backpacker or mountain tent unless you actually need one
A decent backpacker tent will either be a) expensive or b) compromised to keep the weight down. A mountain tent will be designed for extremes and priced appropriately. Both will be based around a small footprint. Light, strong and cheap is a very rare combination (to steal a quote from Colin Chapman). If you are car-based or fixed camping then buy yourself a bit more space

Don’t go crazy on other kit until you know you love camping
We will soon be publishing an article on the minimum kit needed for credit crunch camping. Don’t be seduced by all those shiny gadgets in the store!


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