1. Welcome Hearth.com Guests and Visitors - Please enjoy our forums!
    Hearth.com GOLD Sponsors who help bring the site content to you:
    Hearthstone Soapstone and Cast-Iron stoves( Wood, Gas or Pellet Stoves and Inserts)

Tent recommendations?

Post in 'The Gear' started by bryan, Jul 15, 2013.

  1. bryan

    bryan Member

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2012
    Messages:
    99
    Loc:
    Wilmington, DE
    Looking at taking the family camping in the not too far future thought I'd ask if anyone here had a recommendation on tents. My "camping" growing up was always in campers so I know diddly squat about tents. Brands to avoid, sizes to get, features to look for? I'm looking to make this a more than once a year thing, but don't want to shell out $500 for a tent either.

    Thoughts?

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2008
    Messages:
    15,657
    Loc:
    Unity/Bangor, Maine
    I've been really happy with my Mountain Hardware Tent . . . had a problem with the design and they ended up sending me a repair kit and then out of the blue a few months later a whole new set of tent poles as they had made a re-design. This tent is on the small size though . . . but they do have larger ones.

    LL Bean sells a bunch of decent tents as well -- and with their return policy you really cannot go wrong . . . other than the initial outlay of cash.

    A few things to keep in mind.

    Forget the Walmart, Target, etc. tents (i.e. Academy, Ozark Trail, etc.) . . . they're fine if the weather is sunny and you're tenting once in a blue moon . . . but if you get a sudden shower you'll rue the fact that you bought the cheaper tent . . . they're cheap for a reason . . . I cannot tell you how miserable I was on one camping trip until I realized that paying more for a better, truly water-proof tent is so worth it.

    Size . . . if the tent says it is designed for four people it probably would fit 2-3 people comfortably . . . much like stove brochures these things seem to have a bit of bias and slant . . . maybe they're figuring four anorexic folks.

    Air mattress . . . get one . . . get a decent one (see the aforementioned negative remarks about Ozark Trail, Academy, etc. though) . . . the older you get the more you will appreciate a decent air mattress to sleep on . . . at one time I could sleep on a bed of nails almost . . . now I like having a comfortable air mattress between me and the hard ground . . . not to mention that if it is cold it helps isolate you a bit from the ground temps as well.

    As for features . . . I don't need a lot of extra pockets and mesh holders (although it is nice for my glasses, wallet and a flashlight) or any other doo-dads . . . mainly I want a tent to keep me dry (regardless of the rain or sudden shower), be rugged enough to stand up to years of use and be easy to erect without needing a PhD to figure out how to put the thing together. Oh yeah, it's also nice to have the bag that the tent comes in be large enough so that you can always stuff it back into it without having to learn origami to fold it up just right.
    jharkin and Adios Pantalones like this.
  3. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    May 20, 2008
    Messages:
    6,443
    Loc:
    S.NH- Mass's smoking section
    FFJ hit all the major points. I have backpacking blow up mattresses- relatively thin, pack small. The point about isolating you from the cold ground cannot be stressed enough.Also- if your tent does leak, and water runs through it, the mattress may isolate you from that a bit (ask me how I know )
  4. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2009
    Messages:
    3,329
    Loc:
    Holliston, MA USA
    When I was growing up, in the Boy Scouts we always used old fashioned Eureka green A-frame tents. Things have changed a LOT since then.

    These days most tents you will see except for ultra lightweight backpacking designs are dome style. Domes are good because you get a lot more usable headroom for the same floor space. Most commonly today they will have flexible fiberglass poles that shock cord together and are designed to setup much easier and faster than tents of years ago.


    As for what to look for:

    * Brands i haven't kept up on much. You dont likely need anything very high end and expensive like North Face, etc. For just plain family camping inexpensive options like Coleman are probably ifne, or if you want to get something better Ive seen the REI house brand "Half dome" series recommended a lot as a great bargain in backpacking magazines.

    * Pay close attention to how it sets up. A tricky to erect tent will frustrate you fast, especially if you have to build it in the dark. In the old days you would have aluminum poles that you had to sort and piece together then slide through sleeves in the tent canopy and fight to put it up. Better designs use fiberglass poles kept together with shock cords and you just snap the ends into the tent corners than the canopy hooks on with clips. At all cost avoid non-freestanding tents (I doubt there are many left).

    * Sizes are rated by how many it sleeps. I think they figure for a sleeping bag and a small amount of personal items per person. If you expect to have the whole family and all their backpacks, duffel bags etc in there go bigger (i.e. get a 4 person tent for 3 to have gear space).

    * Tents are often rated as 4 season, 3 season, etc. the 4 season models have heavier duty rain fly's, more waterproofing and thicker material and are meant to be usable for snow camping also. For summer only family camping a 3-season model should be all you need.

    * For summer use pay attention to how well the tent ventilates. You want to have screen mesh panels you can open without having to take off the rain fly for good cross ventilation on humid hot rainy days.

    * One VERY useful option is to have a "vestibule" or overhang over the door. This is nice for taking off wet shoes outside the tent but still under cover from rain.
  5. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2009
    Messages:
    3,329
    Loc:
    Holliston, MA USA
    Jake had some great points. One other thing I will add is when you get the tent, Cut a groundcloth from 4-6mil plastic and put it down under the tent. This will protect the tent floor and give you extra insurance from water if you get a bad rain.
    firefighterjake likes this.
  6. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    29,086
    Loc:
    Northern Virginia
    Haven't had the tent out of the bag in a lot of years. But the two best things were the plastic ground sheet as mentioned and a plastic flysheet on top for rain protection. I have woke up at night blessing that flysheet more than once.
  7. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    May 20, 2008
    Messages:
    6,443
    Loc:
    S.NH- Mass's smoking section
    A plastic sheet is good emergency protection for a storm, but turns a tent into a dripping condensation sauna in the summer.

    Oh, and if it does rain- don't touch the fabric of the tent or that's where the leak starts!
    BrotherBart likes this.
  8. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2009
    Messages:
    3,329
    Loc:
    Holliston, MA USA
    Yeah, I never had a problem with rain coming in from the roof even in downpours, so long as the rain fly was staked out taught and not touching the mesh tent roof underneath. Any water that came in the fly tends to just run down the underside. The real problem is water coming in the floor, in constant contact with wet ground anything short of a full rubberized coating leaks through eventually.
    Adios Pantalones likes this.
  9. Bocefus78

    Bocefus78 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2010
    Messages:
    539
    Loc:
    Just Outside Indy
    One thing to consider is time setting it up. I have a Kelty that is easily a 6 man tent that sets up in 5 minutes or less. It is only 2 poles that clip on to the tent instead of running them thru any loops etc. Im done and usually on my 2nd or 3rd beer before other people have theirs up. Oh, and it truly fits in the bag easily!!! It was a $200 tent, but Dicks had it on closeout for $100 (end of model year). The tent prices should be starting to fall since school will be starting soon.
    firefighterjake likes this.
  10. rideau

    rideau Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2012
    Messages:
    1,960
    Loc:
    southern ontario
    Check Sierra Trading Post. Sometime s you can get great tents there at steep discounts. Also sleeping bags etc. Are you going to be doing and backpacking/hiking, or just driving to a campsite and setting up a tent? Makes a difference in what tents you should consider.
  11. bogydave

    bogydave Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2009
    Messages:
    8,426
    Loc:
    So Cent ALASKA
    IMO, the #1 feature for a tent is it stays dry when it rains & the wind blows.
    Nothing ruins a trip more than wet gear.
    That said, a mid range priced tent for most camping is adequate.

    I like the 4 man tent sizes for 2 & they work good for 2 adults & 2 kids.
    Just sleeping room when over 2 in the tent.

    I've used the 4 man Eureka outfitter for many years, tough, & dry. (for everything but back-packing)
    wolverintent.JPG

    Dome tents are good .
    When the choice is offered, get the aluminum pole upgrade, tougher & stronger.

    Campground & out of a vehicle camping, the bigger 6 man sizes are nice for 4 people.
    For family camping when the kids got older, I used two 4 man tents, 1 for the kids & 1 for the wife & I.

    Pic of 3 tent from a fly in moose hunt camp.
    tents.jpg

    I'd look at something similar to the Eureka sunrise 11
    For a reasonable priced, good quality, family size tent.
    Good ventilation .
  12. Panhandler

    Panhandler Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2008
    Messages:
    607
    Loc:
    WV Northern Panhandle
    You might want to take a look at Cabela's, they're have a camping sale going on. I just received a circular in the mail. If there is not a store near you, and you have one of their credit cards, they are offering $5 shipping.

Share This Page