Identifying the right tent that not only suits you and your requirements, but also our trailer-free setup, can be a bit tricky without a lot of trial and error. The wide choice of tents available in all shapes and sizes, as well as the many accessories, can be confusing. We have narrowed down our personal preference for our ideal tent to those listed in our buying guide, but you may have different ideas for your particular camping setup.
When choosing a new tent:
- Look at the accessories available for the tent
- Do searches on the internet for reviews and forum comments
- Look for YouTube videos that show the tent layout and setup process
- Ask questions in store or online
- Try to visualise how you would configure the tent and its accessories for sleeping, cooking and indoor / outdoor shelter.
You will find a range of great products out there for all price brackets, and plenty of bargains can be found if you are patient and regularly search stores for their sales.
Outlined below are the things we think you should consider when making your choice.
1: Fabric - Polycotton canvas or polyester / nylon tents
The tents we are looking at are either a type of polyester or a mixture of polyester and cotton, or as it is generally called, poly-cotton canvas. The full cotton canvas tents on the market are much heavier and bulkier and are not well-suited to our trailer-free setup, so we won’t be covering them here.
In summary, by comparison to polyester tents, polycotton canvas tents are generally more durable, breathable and they provide better insulation but they are more expensive and will be heavier than the equivalent sized polyester tent. Polycotton canvas tents are also quieter in windy conditions and allow less light into the tent but will take longer to dry and will generally require seasoning before the first use.
2: Number of rooms - 2 to 3 rooms or single room with annex accessories?
Two or three-room tents, being ‘all in one’, will generally be much quicker to pitch compared to single-room tents with annex room accessories as the annex rooms made up of separate wall panels can take some time to construct. They are, however, much heavier than the basic single-room tent, and will be more difficult to lift onto the roof racks. The weight of the main tent can, however be reduced by transporting the loose items separately, such as the pegs / stakes, fly and poles. Larger tents are also more difficult to dry out at home if you have limited space.
Single-room tents give you the option to just pitch the main tent when that is all you need for your stay, such as during touring holidays or quick breaks. As you will see in the tent buying guide, the main tent as well as the annex wall accessories will cost more than the two room tent.
In our tent buying guide we have listed single room tents with annex accessories as well as two and three room tents.
3: Quality - Is it well made and reliable?
It might seem obvious, but it must be said that the quality of the tent you purchase is the most important factor. You don’t want to discover in the middle of a storm or after an all-day downpour that your cheap tent is… (well, we like to stay positive, so we won’t say ruining your holiday)... definitely character building.
It may be difficult to assess from personal inspection whether a tent will be durable and reliable. Usually the main things to look for are the quality of the poles, frame, seals and pegs. Online reviews of the product can be particularly useful, especially those that might be critical of quality and reliability.
4: Price - Does it fit within your budget?
Quality doesn’t have to cost a lot - some of the lower-priced tents on the market do receive favourable reviews and comments. From our experience, however, we think that if you want peace of mind when you are out in the elements, you should choose the best quality tent that you can afford. You’ll definitely wish you paid those extra dollars if the tent fails you (and your family) at the most inopportune time.
If you are on a tight budget, buying brand new isn’t necessary. Some good-quality tents can be purchased second hand, such as on eBay or Gumtree. In fact, our current tent and accessories were purchased second hand on eBay at a 40% saving.
Finding the budget to buy the tent as well as all of it's available accessories up front isn't absolutely necessary either. Having any annex panels will be helpful to start with, but o