Categorized | Survival Kits

How to Choose the Right Camping Tent

Survival Shelters and Beyond:

If you have been to your local sporting goods store or looked online lately for tents, you may have felt very overwhelmed by the vast amount of camping tent information. There are so many different brands, styles, shapes, colors, and sizes of tents available that it makes it difficult for people to make an informed buying decision.

The basis of this article is to help guide you through all of the information that you will need to make a smart buying decision. We will take a look at different types of camping tents and survival shelters, including sizes, shapes, styles, material, and overall construction.

One import thing to remember is to set a budget that you want to spend on a camping tent or survival shelter. Depending on material and construction tent prices can go from $20.00 to $20,000, so it is important to set a price and pretty much stick to it. Also when it comes to tents you get what you pay for just like anything else in life. Now I am not saying to go buy the top of the line tent within your budget, but rather buy what you need and will take you 3-5 years into the future.

Here we go sit back get a cup of coffee or whatever you’re drinking and let’s learn about camping tents and survival shelters.

7 Basic Categories for Tents:

How to Choose the Right Camping Tent


Screen/Summer – Perfect for the warmer weather. Maximum ventilation combined with protection from bugs is the primary design. Moderate breezes and unexpected summer thunderstorms are discouraged by higher quality tents with sturdy skeletal systems and rain flies that cover the full tent. Large sections of mesh are also part of the design to allow exceptional air flow through the tent.

Three Season Tents – Keeping you dry from Spring through Fall is the purpose of this style of tent. The overall design is to withstand higher winds that may occur; however, they are not so strong that they can withstand a snow load. Decent ventilation is obtained from built-in mesh.

Tarp Tents – As the name suggests, these are very minimalistic tents. These are tents in which there are no specifically defined walls and floor and certainly no protection from bugs. You will need knot-tying skills as there is only a single sheeting of nylon or polyester which can be rigged to roots, trees, trekking poles or even larger boulders. Although super lightweight, if the tent is rigged properly, it can be weather-resistant.

Winter Tents – Designed to withstand the harshest winter conditions, the low, round shaped forms will shield you from wind. Panels which can be opened and closed with quality zippers allow for necessary ventilation or protection. In addition, most will include large vestibules to store your gear during camp mode. Extremely durable fabrics, tough pole structures and an ample supply of external loops at strategic points on the fly of the tent makes this tent one to consider.

Convertible Tents – Like to camp in a variety of conditions? This hybrid design allows pole, rainfly and vestibule options. The ability to have a stripped tent or one that can handle stormy conditions all from one main tent is a bonus. Mesh windows have solid nylon panels which can be zipped closed. The downside for the versatility of this style is weight as it is generally heavier than other tent options available.

Shapes of Tents:

Wedge Shaped Tents – An aerodynamic profile with the end for the head is higher while the end for the feet is much lower to create a wedge looking shape. There isn’t much headroom but this tent is lightweight and when pitched with the lowest end facing into the oncoming wind, it will deflect much of the wind.

Dome Shaped Tents – These are probably the most recognized shape of tent we see today on the typical camping outing. Wind and most precipitation is easily shed due to its aerodynamic look and is very stable once properly erected. One of the best features is that this shape provides quick and easy set up.

Tunnel/Hoop Tents – This shape is similar to a Dome shape with several Cabin features combined into the overall design. Setup is easy and the interior is roomy. Tent stakes are generally required to help hold the tent securely to the ground. This type of tent is super compact and very packable. Hoop tents are generally used by Trail Campers.

Teepee Tents – Also referred to as Pyramid tents, this shape provides a shelter in which a vertical pole solely supports the entire tent. To keep and maintain the shape, stakes are used on the exterior. This floorless design isn’t the best in buggy or wet conditions.

A-Frame tents – Generally inexpensive, this shape is a very simple and lightweight option. Best for conditions that aren’t too harsh as their low sloping walls aren’t the best in high winds. Head and elbow room is limited due to the low pitch of the overall shape.

A-Frame Modified tents – Similar to the A-Frame shape, this version has more interior space and a better structural design. A ridgeline pole, a center hoop pole or unique curved walls support and provide ample protection against the elements.

Tent Features and Construction:

Doors – How many locations will you need to access the interior of your tent? Most tents come with one or two doors. The larger the tent, the more likely it will offer two doors. Some tents that offer two doors will allow a vestibule for each door which is extremely beneficial as allows for extra storage space.

Window Flaps – How many windows do you want in your tent, or maybe you do not want any windows? Windows will give you a nice view and let in fresh air. You can find some that have a vinyl window insert that is removable, and a mesh screen for ventilation.

Pole Construction – If the chosen tent comes with tent poles, they will be made from Aluminum, fiberglass or steel. Aluminum is the preferred choice as it is lightweight, more rigid than fiberglass and won’t shatter in severe temperatures. However, most tent poles are made from fiberglass which is perfect for the typical camper. Steel is of course the strongest but requires the most care and is used with the larger sized campground and wilderness tents.

Sleeves or Clips – These are what helps to connect the tent poles to the tent for proper support of the main tent. Sleeves provide a more solid structure but setup does take longer especially in bad weather. Clips allow an easy and quick setup that allows for great airflow but stability in high winds is poor.

Freestanding or Non-Freestanding – Although every tent should be staked for security purposes, freestanding tents are easy to erect, they can stand on their own, and can be moved freely about if necessary. Non-Freestanding tents require stakes to help form the structure so special attention in erecting the tent especially on ground that isn’t the sturdiest (like sand or snow) is required.

Single or Double wall – A Single wall is simply one layer of material that is breathable, waterproof and lightweight. Condensation can be an issue but with good venting and/or a hybrid design moisture can be reduced. A Double wall makes use of an inner canopy and also a Rainfly. These are generally inexpensive, have good ventilation and will keep you dry in wetter situations.

Types of Material Used For Tent panels – They use Polyester, mesh and canvas as the material for the walls of various tents. Polyester will withstand very wet climates and won’t sag when it’s wet. It can withstand exposure to UV rays but the waterproof coating reduces breathability. Mesh is primarily used for ventilation and there are two kinds: Open Weave and No-See-Um (see description under “Mesh” below).

Tents With a Rainfly – A Rainfly is simply a waterproof sheet that covers the tent acting like an umbrella protecting the tent from UV rays, wind and rain. Waterproofing is generally done at the factory and can range anywhere from 400 to 2,000mm with the latter being the best. A partial Rainfly offers maximum protection to the mesh panel(s) at the tents top and are generally included with Campground tents. A full-length Rainfly will cover almost the entire tent which gives total protection of the interior of the tent. There is no need to seam seal each panel and is offered with Wilderness tents.

Folded and Double Stitched Seams – This may not seem important but the stitching and how well the seams are sewed together will have a huge impact on how well the tent will stand up overtime. If you can pull the material on either side of a seam and see through the stitching, then the tent will more than likely leak. Poorly sewn seams can be improved upon by using a seam sealer on the seams in question.

Heavy Duty Zippers – If your tent is going to receive a lot of use, the quality zippers are a must. You certainly don’t want to be in the middle of nowhere with wind and rain battering the tent and you can’t get the windows and doors zipped closed due to cheap and faulty zippers.

Mesh – This is a very useful material to be included in any tent. Not only is it beneficial for good ventilation but it also helps to keep unwanted bugs out. There are two kinds of mesh: Open Weave and No-See-Um. Open Weave provides the best ventilation but bug resistance is poor. No-See-Um offers less breathability but the bug resistance is much greater.

Overall Size of the Tent – The primary factor in determining the size of tent you will need will be based on how many people will sleep inside of the tent. You will also need to consider the amount of space to store supplies and gear if necessary. The weight of the tent will also be a factor based on how the tent will be transported from one place to another. When choosing the amount of space, go by the amount of floor space inside of vertical space as floor space is what you will need to comfortably sleep on. If standing is important to you, then the tents peak height should also be taken into consideration.

Flooring Type – Polyethylene, Nylon, Oxford, Vinyl and canvas are the most common materials used for tent flooring. Although tent floors are either bathtub or catenary style, they must be durable enough to withstand the abuse from its inhabitants and the ground it sits on.
Polyethylene is similar to tarp material and found in more inexpensive tents. This material is extremely water resistant but is noisy when it’s touched. Nylon is the lightest of all tent flooring materials available; it’s great for trail campers and water resistant when seam sealed. Oxford is made from Denier fibers which are durable, water resistant and puncture resistant. Vinyl is the most durable and waterproof, and is found in Wilderness tents. However, it’s difficult to pack.

Single or Multi Room – Single is perfect for one, two or perhaps even three people. However, a multi-room tent is great if you have kids or are camping with other adults. The rooms within the tent are separated by an interior wall which generally has a door that can be zipped closed. The styles vary so if this is an option, be sure to check them out.

Basic Types of Survival Shelters: The descriptions for the following shelters are a brief overview of what they are and how they are constructed. I would suggest looking at a few YouTube videos to gain a better understanding of how these shelters are constructed.

Tarp Tents/Shelters – A tarp tent is made from nylon or plastic sheathing, and is used in lieu of a regular tent. Tarp tents are relatively easy to set up typically set up using tent stakes and wire. A lot of survivalist will use sticks shaved into the form of tent stakes and use Para cord. Basically you would tie your Para cord between two trees then through your tarp over the top and stake it to the ground.

Dugout Shelters – Are basically a big hole in the ground with reinforced walls. You would then cover the top of the hole with sticks, branches, and leaves. This type of shelter is good if you don’t want people to see you.

Stick or Debris Shelter – This is a shelter that you can create from debris that has been made from nature itself. There are several types of shelters that you can build when you are without the proper gear. One particular shelter is to gather enough fallen leaves, bark, fallen branches to make a pile or mound longer than you are in height and 2-3 feet in height. Once the pile has been made, burrow into the pile; it’s a natural sleeping bag.

Hillside Shelter – This form of shelter requires a hill, a shovel and some type of covering (I’ll get to that in moment). The hill should be large enough for a hole (that you will dig) that you will sleep in. If you want a “fireplace” inside the hole, dig the hole bigger and then create a vent which leads from the hole to the outside. The fire should be closer to the entrance/exit of the hole so that the fire doesn’t blow cool air across you while you sleep. Cover the opening with fallen branches, the strongest at the bottom. Lastly, cover the newly placed branches with leaves and dirt.

Here Are Our Tent Recommendations:

Family Tents:
Browning Camping Big Horn Family/Hunting Tent
Browning Camping 5492711 Glacier Tent
ALPS Mountaineering Three Room Camping Tent
Coleman Signature Prairie Breeze 9 Tent

Backpacking Tents:
Kelty Salida 2 Person Tent
ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 1 Tent: 1-Person 3-Season
Nemo Obi 1 Person Tent
Sierra Designs Mojo UFO Ultralight Backpacking Tent, 2-Person

Military Type Tents:
U.S. Army Brigade 4 Person Tent (Grey and Camo)
Texsport Camouflage Trail Tent
Guide Gear 10×10′ Teepee Tent / 18×18 version
U.S. Military Tent Half Shelter

Final Tips and Suggestions: Be sure to never eat or store food in your tent, this is a big temptation for bears and other critters. A better solution would be to store the food in your car.
When you get home after your camping trip, set up your tent in the yard to let it air out. Afterwards hang your tent loosely in the garage, instead of putting it back into the stuff sack. Letting it air out like this will reduce the chance of it mildewing.
I hope this article gave you enough information on How to Choose the Right Camping Tent and to make a good buying decision on your next tent.

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