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Camping Tents - How to Choose One: Some Factors a Bit Less Considered

By James and Terry Hyde, R.N., B.S.N.

Searches for camping tents have soared at Google. Why? The economy. When that heads south, people hit their budgets and start deleting. Travel and vacations are among the first to be slashed, or at least pared down. Nonetheless, people still need to get away, so they start looking at lower-priced accommodations, such as camping, which can be a great deal of fun. There are a number of considerations that should be factored into your camping-tent buying decision. Think size, architecture and camping environments when making your choice.

Solo or Family? If you're going solo, there are tube tents (known as "bivy sacks") and dome tents with some variations in between. For backpackers who hike off-trail, a tube tent is ideal. It's light, easily set up, and doesn't need a lot of space. But for some, they can be claustrophobic.

For soloists, a two-man dome tent can be only slightly heavier, but has extra space to move freely, especially for stowing a backpack and other gear, a vestibule to keep rain out and with some models there are pockets in which to stow your loose gear.

If you're looking for a family tent, consider size, the number of people it can accommodate, a partition to give you two or more rooms for privacy and advanced tent technology, such as Eureka's N!ergy models.

It's helpful to understand that tents billed as "seven-man tents" are labeled such assuming campers will be sleeping on the tent floor very close together. If you bring cots, those take up far more space than sleeping bags and a seven-man tent can shrink to a four-man tent quickly. If you want cots, find out how many you can get in a tent you like. It's a good idea to think about getting large camping tents rather than ones that will have you sleeping like sardines, but if you're hiking into the woods, weight matters.

Camping TentIf you're a family of five, you may want to invest in a seven or eight-man tent. Large camping tents are ideal for families of any size if you use them frequently, especially if you have to spend rainy days in them.

Tent Floor. Almost all tents come with floors that keep a certain amount of rain from seeping in, but they're not impervious to tearing. It's always a good idea to get a "footprint," which is a great a floor saver.

Placed beneath the tent, a footprint adds an extra layer of protection from cold and water, and protects the tent's floor from damage caused by sharp stones or roots. And, it keeps the tent's bottom clean for packing when it's time to head home.

Three or Four Seasons? Most tents sold today are three-season models, great for spring, summer and early fall. They aren't great when the mercury nosedives at night. Wherever you're headed, do a little homework to see if it gets cold at night. While four-season tents may cost more, you may want to make the investment because you're well protected virtually anyplace you go year-round, save perhaps for the poles or Alaska.

Fiberglass or Aluminum? Fiberglass poles and frames are the most common today. They're less expensive than aluminum and more flexible, and in most situations they'll suit you fine, but in a heavy wind, they're not as strong as aluminum poles, especially if a strong enough gust hits. If you're going to be camping in the mountains, for instance, it's likely to be windier, so an aluminum frame is the better buy.

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