With many types of tents available, choosing the right one can be mind boggling. If you are looking for a tent to use for many years and do not plan on going camping in winter, then a three season tent is all you need. Dome family tents are preferable because they have more space and headroom.
When it comes to deciding the size, if you are not going backpacking in the wilderness where the weight of the tent is a major consideration, always go for a tent that will take more people than the quoted size. Manufacturers usually overstate the amount of people that can comfortably sleep in a tent. The rule of thumb is to select a tent that will sleep 1-2 people more than the number of people you need. So if you are looking for a camping tent for a four people, you would be better off buying a 6-person tent. The price differential is usually just a few tens of dollars, if at all.
If you are going camping with kids, consider one with more than one room with a divider that you can take off to have one large room when the kids are younger and then divide the tent up in later years when they start requiring their own space for their games (if you need a quiet space for yourself). If you are starting off with older kids, definitely consider having separate tents for them or a family tent with separate rooms.
As far as cost is concerned, any camping tent in the $120 to $250 price range will be of more that you'll need for a while. Camping tents in this price range are of enough quality for you not to worry too much about the brand and should serve you well for a couple of years. If you end up getting a family camping tent much lower that $100, then chances are that you will make another financial commitment to upgrade shortly after your first trip. Don't spend more than $300 on a Family tent until you are a you are experienced in tent camping. Brands do not matter as much as the price will indicate. Just watch out for items you may be buying from overseas as returns may not be possible if you are not satisfied. If buying online, make sure you check the return policies of the site.
Where to buy your tent
Online sources provide the best prices compared to your local shops, but you get the best knowledge and advice from you local salesperson. What I tell someone who does not have a lot of experience in camping tents is to use the local sales person to understand the product and then use the internet to compare the prices before deciding. Go to the local store and look at the different types of tents available. While at the store look for tents that have been set up, go inside and move around in them, lie down and then stand up and pretend you are getting dressed. Make sure you have enough room to move or lie in the room without touching the sides of the tent. You want to make sure that if it rains, you do not get wet because you are stuck up against the tent. Check the size and description of the tent and then search online for the best prices.
When checking prices online, first impressions do not always count! Some unscrupulous online marketers advertise a lower price and if you click to the site and are not very attentive, you can actually end up paying more for the item without realizing. Always add the camping tent to the cart, go to the check-out to see the total price (camping tent, taxes and shipping) cost and compare a few before buying.
Before you Leave
When you finally get your camping tent, set it up in your backyard and test it out before you leave home. Do this at least a week before your camping trip so that if you need any accessory for the camping tent, you have time to buy them before leaving.
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