Choosing a Tent

Choosing The Best Tent for Hiking


A camping and hiking tent is your ticket to freedom. It is your home away from home and a safe sanctuary from the battering winds, driving rain, and bitter cold which often may greet you on your 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, unpredictable or extreme weather can be disastrous. 

When choosing a hiking tent you should consider what conditions you are likely to encounter and make sure that the tent is designed to withstand the worst that Mother Nature has to offer. After you have chosen the tent right for your conditions, other important characteristics such as quality, size, weight, and internal space can be considered.

Paddy Pallin offers a  great range of tents in-store and online. We recommend whenever possible asking to see the tent erected in-store, so you can make sure it’s the right fit for your needs. To view a tent in-store check out our store locator to find a Paddy Pallin store near you.



Types of Hiking Tents


Most tents are classified as two-season, three-season, four-season, or expedition tents. The majority of hiking tents will fall into the three or four-season category. Classifications will help you choose the right tent for your hiking or camping conditions. It’s important to note that even the best tent can’t 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.



Sea To Summit Escapist 2-Season ShelterSea To Summit Escapist 2-Season Shelter
Sea To Summit Escapist 2-Season Shelter

Two-Season Tents


Two-season hiking tents are generally designed for the summer months, with an emphasis on light weight and excellent ventilation.

MSR Freelite 3-Season TentMSR Freelite 3-Season Tent
MSR Freelite 3-Season Tent

Three-Season Tents


Three-season tents might 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 snowy conditions.


Mont Dragonfly 4-Season TentMont Dragonfly 4-Season Tent
Mont Dragonfly 4-Season Tent

Four-Season Tents


Four-season tents offer shelter and protection from 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.


Wilderness Equipment Second Arrow Expedition TentWilderness Equipment Second Arrow Expedition Tent
Wilderness Equipment Second Arrow Expedition Tent

Expedition Tents


Expedition tents are designed for 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 and high altitudes.


Styles of Hiking Tents


The style or shape of a tent is important for a number of reasons. Tent shape can affect the strength, features, usability and overall weight of your tent. This is why it’s important to select a style that will work for your expedition.


Nemo Dagger OSMO Dome TentNemo Dagger OSMO Dome Tent
Nemo Dagger OSMO Dome Tent

Dome Tents


Dome tents provide a stable structure, made up of at least two poles crossing at the apex which connect to diagonally opposite 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.


Mont Supercell Tunnel TentMont Supercell Tunnel Tent
Mont Supercell Tunnel Tent

Tunnel Tents


Featuring an elongated design, tunnel tents can handle snow loading and more extreme conditions, particularly those with three pole hoops. To maximize performance in extreme weather, the tent should be pitched perpendicular to the prevailing wind. Tunnel tents have a single entrance that opens out into a vestibule. 


Rab Storm BiviRab Storm Bivi
Rab Storm Bivi

Bivvy Bags


Bivvy bags are the lightest and most minimalist option. Essentially a weatherproof mummy-shaped bag, they have just enough room to slide yourself and a little bit of gear inside to provide protection from the elements.


Find the Best Tent Size For You 


Liveability is a huge factor when selecting a tent and you’ll want to find a balance between comfort and weight. If you got caught in a storm, would you feel comfortable setting up camp to ride it out for hours?


Manufacturers classify their tent size according to sleeping capacity, which ranges from 1 person to many. This number refers to the number of people who can sleep side by side within the tent inner (and usually not much more).


It’s worth considering a versatile tent that will adapt well to your plans. If you are planning solo walks or a long-distance bike trip, a 1-to-2-person model might be a good choice. If you are buying a tent for two people and you are not too concerned about weight, consider a 2-to-3-person model, particularly if you enjoy the flexibility of a little extra space. 


Of course, we all come in different shapes and sizes, so know your dimensions. Compare your numbers with the floor dimensions of the tent, and add your gear to the equation. You might also want to look at the peak height and wall shape - this should give you some idea of how snug, or spacious, a tent will be. It can be useful to head in-store to browse pitched tents and assess whether the tent size is comfortable enough for your needs.



Lightweight Nemo tent for bushwalkingLightweight Nemo tent for bushwalking
Lightweight 3-Season 2-Person Hiking Tent

Other Additional Tent Features To Consider


Season, style and size all need to be considered when choosing the best tent for you. However, there are some other tent features that are worth thinking about before making your final choice. Different activities will require different features for the most comfortable shelter when choosing a hiking tent.

Tent Weight

The weight of your tent will be determined primarily by  size, fabric and features. Weight is often a crucial factor when choosing a hiking tent as it can greatly affect the overall weight of your pack, and often we have to sacrifice a little comfort to keep weight to a minimum. When browsing tents, you’ll usually encounter two different weight measurements: minimum weight and packed weight. Minimum weight is the weight of the tent body, fly, and poles only, whilst the packed weight is the weight of all components including stakes, guy ropes, and stuff sacks.


Tent Materials


The most common materials used in lightweight hiking tents are nylon and polyester, and both have their benefits. Nylon has a better strength-to-weight ratio than polyester. However, nylon can stretch and absorb water more easily, which means that polyester is better at retaining its shape (especially when it gets wet). Many newer tents are using innovative blends to harness the benefits of both materials. You’ll also want to consider the inner material. Usually, full-fabric inners are used for colder conditions, whilst mesh fabric inners are used in warmer weather.


Tent 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 aluminium, 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.


Freestanding Tents


As the name suggests, freestanding tents can hold their shape with poles alone, meaning they don’t necessarily need to be staked out. They are easy to pitch and can be moved around without losing their structure. It’s worth bearing in mind that it’s always a good idea to stake out your tent to protect from adverse weather and maximise the floorplan. Non-freestanding tents typically don’t include poles and must be staked out and propped up with hiking poles to create a sufficient shelter. They tend to be more difficult to pitch but are much lighter in weight.


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. The ability to pitch either just the fly or just the inner tent provides 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.


Single vs Double-Wall


Double-wall tents are the most common design, offering more breathability and protection from the elements than single-wall tents due to their combination of waterproof fly and mesh inner. Double-wall tents often feature a vestibule, giving them the advantage of more dry gear storage. Single-wall tents are quicker to set up and weigh much less since they are made with only one layer. However, single-walls will typically lack breathability and therefore produce more condensation. For this reason, single-wall tents are usually reserved for alpine activities in dry, cold conditions.



A vestibule is an extension of the tent’s fly that shields a section of ground outside the inner door. Protected from the rain, it is a good place to store your pack and boots overnight, and some tents even have enough space for cooking in the vestibule.


Tent Doors

The position and number of the doors on your tent are important, not only for access but for allowing airflow to reduce the amount of condensation inside the tent. 


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 inner. If the fly and the inner touch, moisture can get inside the tent.  



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



Shop Camping & Hiking Tents with Paddy Pallin 


Chosen wisely, the best tent will add only a modest amount of weight to your load. In return, it will give you the confidence to know you can take shelter from just about anything you encounter on your trip. The right tent will give you an intangible sense of security 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.

To select the best tent for your adventure, shop our hiking and camping tents today! Or, visit us in-store to see our selection of tents in person. 


Buy Lightweight Hiking Tents Online | Paddy PallinBuy Lightweight Hiking Tents Online | Paddy Pallin

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