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Backpacking Tents: How to Choose

Jun 8, 2008
Purchasing a backpacking tent can be complicated. Not only are there all sorts of different designs and such to consider, there are also essential practical concerns such as weight. In this article, I will examine the different consideration you needs to take into account when shopping for your next backpacking tent.

First of all, you need to think about weight. When you're backpacking, weight trumps almost all other considerations. Though it may seem like a few ounces here and there won't make a huge difference, when all the weight of all the items in your pack are added up, you'll find that those little bits of weight will add up quite quickly. To save weight, tent manufacturers use extremely lightweight fabric, high tech alloy poles, and a ruthless design mindset that eliminates any excess material. Of course, the lighter a tent is, the more you'll pay, so keep that in mind when shopping.

Secondly, you need to consider which design you need for your specific uses. One huge design factor to think about is three season vs. four season tents. As their name implies, three season tents are intended for use in all season except for winter. Four season tents are beefy enough to use during the winter months, when heavy snow and high winds place unique demands on the tent. As you might expect, four season tents are heavier, but if you're camping in places and times where it could snow, you'll need the capabilities of a four season tent for sure. Make sure you understand the climate of your region well so you can make the right decision here.

Another huge design issue to consider is size. Backpacking tents are sold as being 1 person, 2 person, and so on. However, things aren't quite that simple. If you're especially large, you might find that some 1 person tents are too small. Many two person tents will only fit two small people. The bottom line is that you need to carefully check the dimensions of your tent to ensure that you will be comfortable sleeping in it. You may determine that a two person tent will be the best choice for you, if you're larger, or that you need a three person tent to fit two people. It varies for every tent, so be sure to check on this.

Let's talk about features. Even backpacking tents have "bells and whistles" such as rain flys, gear vestibules, mesh sides, and such. Rain flys are essential for keeping you dry during stores, a gear vestibule helps cover up your gear and keep it safe, while mesh sides keep your tent nice and ventilated. Just be sure that you don't go overboard on the special features such that your weight increases greatly. Ignore anything too flashy, and try to stick with just the essentials, that is, adequate protection from the elements, combined with good ventilation.

In addition to the traditional backpacking style tents, you can also get tarp tents and bivy sacks. A tarp tent is a very lightweight tarp, with a very minimal set of poles and ties to hep pitch it as a tent. For those who are willing to take special care setting up their tent, tarp tents offer incredible weight savings. However, special care must be taken to set them up right, or else they can get you wet in the event of a rain storm. Bivy sacks aren't really tents at all, but rather a weatherproof sheath for your sleeping bag. These are super light, but only for the hardcore minimalist as many find the claustrophobic.

Overall, choosing a backpacking tents comes down to a few basic points, but finding the proper balance between size, weight, and features while still fitting your budget can be a challenge. However, if you shop around, you should be able to find a tent that will fit all of your needs for years to come. Happy backpacking.
About the Author
David Wilson is an outdoor enthusiast and webmaster. Visit Backpacking Tents to find the best prices available online. You can buy backpacking tents online , read articles about tents, and more.
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