A tent frees you. It is your home away from home, your sanctuary from the battering winds, driving rain, and bitter cold which often come hand in hand with many adventures. The warmth and comfort of your tent can make it the ultimate haven as long as you have chosen the right tent for the conditions. If you don’t have the right tent for the conditions it could be disastrous. When choosing a tent you should consider what conditions you are likely to encounter in that part of the world and make sure that the tent is designed to withstand the worst that Mother Nature has to offer. Other important characteristics include quality, size, weight, and internal space.

Tent classifications

Most tents are classified as two season, three season, four season, or expedition tents.

  • Two season tents: Designed primarily as a summer-weight tent, with the emphasis on lightweight and great ventilation.
  • Three season tents: These have less mesh in the inner tent, a more generous fly, typically a more rugged pole setup and a larger vestibule/s, than two season tents. These tents are designed for general camping in all but the most extreme weather, or snow conditions.
  • Four season tents: Offer shelter and protection for more extreme circumstances including camping above the snowline. Generally they are designed from heavier, more abrasion-resistant fabrics and the tent is reinforced at stress points. Poles are heavier to withstand snow loading.
  • Expedition tents: These tents are designed for minimum weight and maximum protection from the elements. An expedition tent will include all the features of a four season tent, while being made out of the most advanced materials with extra features for extremely harsh conditions at high altitudes

Note: No tent can survive all possible conditions. Use common sense by setting up your tent in the most sheltered area available, and if necessary build snow or rock walls for additional protection.

Styles of tent

The style or shape of a tent is important for a number of reasons. The different shapes offer different strengths and facilities and also affect the ease of use, and the weight.

  • Hoop tents: Have a single hoop in the middle these tents are quite light in comparison to other tents with more than one pole. They characteristically have a single entrance and trade off inner space and rigidity for weight savings. The entrance is located on the side of the tent. Click here to view
  • Dome tents: Provide a much more stable structure and consist of at least two poles crossing at the apex and connecting the diagonally opposed corners of the rectangular base. A third pole makes for an even stronger configuration. Most dome tents consist of two side doors and two vestibules. Because of their uniform shape they don’t require pitching longitudinally to the prevailing wind. Entrances to dome tents are on the side of the tent and generally allow for easier access.
  • Tunnel tents: Are elongated tents, which are better suited to snow loading and more extreme conditions, particularly those with three pole hoops (to maximize this the tent should be pitched perpendicular to the prevailing wind). Entrance to a tunnel tent is located at the end and many will have two openings and vestibules. Click here to view
  • Bivvy Bags: Bivvy bags are the lightest weight and minimalist option. They are simply a weather proof mummy shaped bag with enough room to slide yourself and a little bit of gear inside giving you protection from the elements.


Manufacturers classify their tents according to sleeping capacity, which ranges from 1 person to many. This rating refers to the number of people who can sleep side by side within the tent inner. Within the Paddy Pallin range we focus mostly on one to four person tents.

Consider a tent that will adapt well to some of your other travel plans.

  • 1-to-2-Person: May be a good choice if you are planning solo walks, or a long-distance bike trip.
  • 2-to-3-Person: May be more suitable if you are buying a tent for two people and you are not too concerned about weight, consider this size particularly if you enjoy the flexibility of a little extra space.
  • 3 Person and larger: This size is ideal if you are car camping with the family or setting up a base camp for a few days and are looking for your own portable Taj Mahal.

Of course we all come in different shape and sizes, so know your own dimensions. Compare your numbers with the floor dimensions of the tent; add your gear to the equation. This should give you some idea of how snug, or spacious, a tent will be. The staff at Paddy Pallin have a wealth of experience in both travel and adventure so drop in to a store and ask for some advice.

Other features to consider

Weight: The weight of your tent will be determined by the both, size and the price. Weight is often a determining factor in choosing a tent because as a rule it is carried with most of the time. Factors which will affect the weight are things like the fabrics used and the poles.

Poles: Generally more poles will give tents added rigidity and stability. Extra poles, of course, mean extra weight. In a good quality tent the poles will be made of lightweight yet strong aluminum, often in a pre-bent form. Poles connect to the tent in one of two ways, via sleeves or clips. This means you either have to thread the poles through a special sleeve or clip them to the inner. Sleeve tents are considered more stable, and will often be used in multi pitch tents.

Multi-pitch tents: These tents allow you to pitch both the tent inner and fly at the same time, or take down the inner while the fly stays up. This facility and the ability to pitch either just the fly or just the inner tent, provides for excellent flexibility, for example if it`s raining you can just set up the fly and get dry and warm without getting your inner wet.
Vestibule: A vestibule is the extension of the tent`s fly that shields a section of ground outside the inner tent’s door. Protected from rain, it is a good place to store your packs and boots overnight, and on some tents there is enough space so you can even cook out of the weather.

Doors: The position and number of the doors on your tent is important, not only for access but for allowing air flow through the tent to reduce the amount of condensation inside the tent. Click here to view

Guy points: Guy points are used to establish tautness in your fly during bad weather. Doing so helps your fly shed water effectively and prevents it from sagging and touching the uncoated inner tent. (If the two touch, moisture can get inside the tent).

Ground sheets: Some manufacturers also produce footprints for their tents, these are customised ground sheets cut to fit a tent’s floor design exactly. Most come with attachment points, which connect them to the tent. Both footprints and traditional ground sheets help protect a tent’s floor from abrasion and punctures.

Chosen wisely, a tent will add only a modest amount of weight to your load. In return, it will give you the confidence to know you are equipped to take shelter from just about anything you encounter on your trip. Then there is that intangible sense of security that you feel you once you are inside and you zip the door shut for the night. It’s impressive how much comfort and reassurance we can find between a few well-stitched panels of nylon.

Mount Barney, Queensland. Photo: Lachlan Gardiner


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About The Author


Some 80 years ago, a young bushwalker's dissatisfaction with the limited and heavy bushwalking equipment available prompted him to design and make his own. Before long, word spread, and Paddy Pallin's lightweight, functional designs were soon in demand among fellow bushwalkers. From its early days the company has concentrated on supplying bushwalkers, travellers and adventurers with the highest quality and most advanced products and knowledge. Since 1930 the company has grown to become Australia's leading supplier of specialist outdoor and travel gear. The company, still owned by the Pallin family, now has thirteen stores throughout Australia as well as online, mail order and corporate sales divisions. We are using our vast wealth of knowledge, and experience, to build an online community where we can share our stories, reviews and tech tips to help you research and plan your next adventure.