Choosing a Tent
A tent is your ticket to freedom. It is your home away from home, your 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 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 stock 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.
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 excellent ventilation.
Three season tents
These 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 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.
These 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.
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. As when tent shapes vary, they produce different ranges of strengths, features while also affecting usability, and overall weight.
Have a single hoop in the middle and these tents are quite light in comparison to other tents which feature more than one pole. They characteristically have a single entrance, limited inner space and rigidity which allows for significant weight savings. The entrance is located on the side of the tent.
Provide a much more stable structure, as they consist of at least two poles crossing at the apex and 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.
Elongated tents best suited to 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. These tents have a single entrance that opens out into a vestibule.
Bivvy bags are the lightest and most 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 1 to 4 person tents.
Consider a tent that will adapt well to your travel 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, 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.
Additional Tent Features
The weight of your tent will be determined by both the size and the price. Weight is often a determining factor in choosing a tent as it can greatly affect the overall weight of your pack. Factors which affect the weight include the tent fabric and the 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.
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.
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 pack and boots overnight, and some tents have enough space for cooking in the vestibule.
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.
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 tent. If the fly and the inner touch, moisture can get inside the tent.
Some manufacturers also produce footprints for their tents, these are customized ground sheets cut to fit a tent's 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.
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 able 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.