Top tips for choosing a new tent
Whether you are going camping for the first time this year or just need to upgrade your current gear, buying a tent can be a bit of a minefield. What size do you need? How can you be sure it will keep all the rain out (we are in the UK after all!). Will it be a one season wonder or last for years to come?
With all these considerations, we thought we would share our top tips for buying a new tent.
Firstly, decide what size you need. Tents are usually designated as being for a certain number of people or have a set number of berths. That's all well and good, but will there be enough storage space for all your bags and other gear and can you keep wet stuff separate to all your dry stuff? We usually find that a 4 person/berth tent is good for 2 adults sharing as there is plenty of room for all of the gear you need to keep in the tent with you. It may also provide space to "live in" if it's raining outside. For families, we recommend getting a tent two sizes too big, so a 6 berth for a family of four for example. On our last camping trip we used this formula and it worked a treat. We are a family of 4 and the extra space was perfect for our bags and to sit in and play board games when the heavens opened.
Will it keep the rain out?
Next up is to check how water resistant the fabric or canvas is. Obviously this is difficult to check in practical terms before you buy, but the specifications for most quality tents will state a Hydrostatic Head value. This provides an indication of how much water the material your tent is made out of can withstand before it starts seeping through. For the geeks amongst us, this is done in a lab by stretching the material over the end of a tube several metres long, holding this vertical with the material at the base and then pouring water in to the tube. As more water enters the tube, more pressure is exerted by the water on the fabric. At the point it starts seeping through, the height of the water in the tube is measured in millimetres and that is the Hydrostatic Head (HH) value. So, in short, the higher the value, the more water resistant the fabric is. HH values of 1000mm or higher are considered to be waterproof at a basic level, but there are conditions where you will need a higher HH value. A tent with an HH value of 3000mm or higher will be suitable for most camping requirements in the UK and Europe and should protect you against driving rain. Bear in mind that there are other factors to consider when it comes to not letting water in, such as the tent design, the stitching and seams (including whether they are taped or not), and the quality of the door and window zips.
All our tents have flysheets or outer layers with an HH value of between 3,000mm - 5,000mm
Taking the tent up and down
Next up - check how the tent is erected and packed up. Many tents have an inner tent and an outer fly sheet and which you put up first will generally depend on how big the tent is. The advantage of having a tent where you put the fly sheet or outer layer up first is that you and your belongings can then take shelter in it if the weather is bad whilst putting up the inner tent. Some good quality tents allow for the inter tent to remain attached to the outer tent after first use when putting up or taking it down for ease and speed.
Groundsheets are usually sewn in to the inner tent. The advantage being that this
reduces the number of bugs and draughts that get in to the tent. Some tents also have an additional "footprint" groundsheet which can go under the entire tent as an extra barrier to damp ground and also enables you to plan the position of your tent by laying it out before erecting it. Groundsheets need a higher HH value than the tent fabric as there is greater pressure put on them (for example when you are standing or sleeping on them) so if the HH is lower than 5000mm for a groundsheet, you might find water seeps up through it whilst you are in the tent.
Doors and ventilation
Finally, check the number of windows and ventilation openings. Tents can get very stuffy in summer and damp in winter so it's important to allow a breeze through the tent. Check the number of door openings too as multiple entrances can be useful when ventilating the tent.
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