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How Big a Tent Should You Buy?

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 10 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Camping Tent Wild Camping Campsite

One of the big questions facing novice campers is how big a tent to buy. It’s not an easy one to answer, since it’s dependent upon a number of factors. However, there are guidelines that can work well in terms of offering general advice. After all, it’s pointless to be stuck with something far too big for your needs – and too small certainly isn’t going to work, either.

What Kind Of Camping Will You Be Doing?

Will you generally be staying at campsites, or are you more likely to head off into the hills for Wild Camping? You might not even know yet, having just a general idea about camping, but ask yourself, because it’s important.

If wild camping is likely to be you thing, then you’ll be carrying everything on your back (see our article on Choosing The Right Backpack or Rucksack for Camping). Think about that and you’ll realise you need the smallest, lightest tent possible. Weight becomes vital, and so does space.

On the other hand, if you’re going to be transporting everything by car, then both those things become immaterial, and you can focus more on comfort and room. So going in with a clear idea of exactly what you plan for camping is important.

How Many People Will Use The Tent?

This is the second important question. If it’s just you, then for wild camping a tiny one-person tent will be quite adequate, and save you a lot of weight – ideally it will weigh no more than 2.5kg. Even with two people you can get away with something small, as long as you don’t mind being a little cramped. For any more than that, you’ll need more than one tent, simply because of the weight.

On a campsite you can get away with a great deal more. If you’re a couple, then a tent with a large sleeping room and a living room can be fine, but some recommend a four-person tent to allow a lot more space – almost as roomy as a flat!

As a rule of thumb, buying a tent with the capacity for two more people than are in your party is good advice, since its gives you plenty of space, and offers the capacity for guests, if you have friends who want to join you. However, the bigger the tent, the more it will cost, so it can be much better and cheaper to go a little smaller.

Of course, that all changes when it comes to Family Camping. You’ll need that extra room for the children, allowing them a sleeping area each. That will ensure everyone has adequate space. Once they’re old enough, they can have small tents of their own (or to share) which can be pitched next to yours.

What About The Height Of The Tent?

With wild camping, you're not likely to worry about the height of the tent, since you won’t be buying one in which you can stand, anyway. On a campsite, however, you can have something more generous, and it’s desirable that you can stand without bending in the living room area, and also under the canopy outside; for sleeping areas it’s not important.

Generally speaking, the bigger the tent, the more time it will take to put up and take down, that’s the nature of the beast. Doing that in the pouring rain isn’t a pleasure. It’s a small point, but one worth considering.

Ultimately, it’s a balance between what you need and what you want. With wild camping, what you need takes precedence (and buy the best small tent you can afford), and with a campsite, you’re much freer to indulge what you with – within your budget, of course.

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Don't purchase your camping gear until you've read our guides to Sleeping Bags and Air Beds on this site.

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There are some huge tents these days, almost the size of small houses and able to take everything but the kitchen sink. These are fine if you have a big family but make sure they'll still fit in the pitch you have in the campground (these people always have a gazebo, as well, and all sorts of other things filling their cars). And please, if you have to buy one of these monstrosities, make sure you know how to erect it without asking help from half the people on the campsite!
Kristie - 30-Jun-12 @ 9:27 AM
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