At GO Outdoors we understand that choosing a tent can be an investment, and with so many different types, shapes, sizes and features on offer it can be quite daunting.
In this guide, we'll try to clear up any questions you might have before purchasing your tent, explaining what certain features mean and more importantly recommending the right kind of tent to suit your style of camping.
Think you'll struggle to pitch a tent? Pop up Tents take seconds to pitch, all you have to do is throw them out, and peg them down. Ideal for the back garden, or for festivals, they're a great option for keeping the kids entertained without having to go through the hassle of pitching the tent.
Shop: Pop up Tents
>Much like a festival tent, but probably only for a couple and perhaps an infant. If you’re looking to spend a little more than you might on a standard festival tent, this category is for you. You may be seeking a larger living space/porch so you can sit and chill out at the end of a day. Easy and quick to pitch and put away,
ideal for those spur -of-the- moment weekends away.
Shop: Weekend Tents
If you're looking for a festival tent, the chances are you are looking for a relatively cheap option. When choosing your tent, always allow for one extra person on the berth (e.g. 2 people camping, look for a 3 man tent), this means you will have plenty of space for your gear. Due to the unpredictable British summer, we also recommend looking for a built-in porch, so you can ditch those muddy wellies, while keeping your sleeping area clean.
Whether you are camping alone, or you and your friends are all chipping in for a larger tent, there are plenty of festival tents to suit your price range.
Shop: Festival Tents
Family tents range in size, depending on your family. From 3 berth to 10 berth, with a variety of styles, spaces and more. A family tent will usually offer a large living space and multiple bedrooms.
Family tents are becoming more and more popular, with many people in the UK seeking to holiday here at home instead of paying to fly abroad - that being said, there's something a bit more luxurious about a family tent – it's a home away from home.
These tents can also come with optional accessories including porches, tent carpets and footprints, to add extra space and comfort.
Shop: Family Tents
Inflatable tents or 'air tents' as they are also known, contain the newest technology on the scene. Don’t be fooled by the name, these tents aren’t bouncy castles. The inflatable aspect is to replace the usual steel or fibre glass poles. Simply attach your pump, and inflate the inflatable beams and your tent will take shape in mere minutes.
This type of tent is becoming more and more popular with families and weekend campers alike. The beams are sturdy like a standard tent pole, but without the danger of them snapping!
Inflatable tents feature the likes of Vango’s Airbeam technology, or Hi Gear’s AirGo technology.
Shop: Backpacking Tents
Backpacking tents allow you to venture away from crowded summer campsites and out into the back of beyond. These tents will be smaller in size to reduce weight and pack size, making them ideal to carry with your rucksack. Designs are normally tunnel or geodesic shape, allowing the best in wind resistance, rigidity and stability in open areas such as fields.
- The same as person (or man), this shows the amount of people a tent can take. This is calculated as people without luggage, so remember to include your bag and kit as a berth or person, (so 2 men with 2 bags will need a 3 or 4 berth - not a two berth tent!)
The image with rain clouds indicates the Hydrostatic Head rating of a tent's waterproof coating (known as PU). As an example, a Hydrostatic Head of 1000 is the legal requirement to call a tent 'waterproof' so most start at 2000. 2000-3000 should cope with your standard British rainfall well enough; the higher the hydrostatic head, the better the water protection you have from your tent.
- Groundsheet of the tent sewn onto the walls to prevent anything crawling in or out. This also helps keep the tent free from drafts.
- The outer fabric of the tent.
- Tents based on a tunnel design with a number of poles arched, usually taller tents.
- Usually smaller tents, a dome tent can be quite stable due to the poles crossing in the middle of the tent.
- With variations on how the poles cross, the geodesic and semi-geodesic tents are very stable against rough weather. This design is usually reserved for backpacking/mountain tents.
- Polycotton Tents are tents made from polyester cotton that aren't made with a specific Hydrostatic Head. The fabric of a poly cotton tent works like a sponge, absorbing water then closing up to create a stiff, firm fabric that allows water to bead off. The advantage is that when the fabric dries, it opens up, making it extremely breathable.
- - This refers to the Duke Of Edinburgh Award Scheme and indicates that the tent has been recommended as suitable for these expeditions.
A tent’s lifespan can vary based on how often it is used, the rigours it is put under and the weather it stands up to during use. With careful pitching, and making sure the tent is clean and dried out after each use, your tent should survive for a good few years of use.
Fibre glass poles are the standard tent poles many will be used to. These poles are flexible, and split into sections held together with elastic. These poles are lightweight, but can split/snap when put under significant pressure. The pole will bend, but if bent too far will snap, so if you can feel the strain on the pole when pitching your tent, check that you are pitching correctly to prevent a pole break. Replacement poles can be purchased but may need to be cut to the size of your tent.
Tents with steel poles often come with a slightly higher cost, and will weigh more. These poles are generally used on some large family tents to add extra stability and strength.
New to the tent pole market is to have a tent with no poles at all. Instead of poles, the tent has sleeves or beams which can be inflated with a foot pump, creating a rigid inflated beam that holds up much stronger than you might think. Vango Airbeam and Hi Gear AirGo tents are currently using this technology. Inflatable poles offer a great alternative to standard poles, and make for a much faster/less complex pitching.
The more you camp, the more you will probably want to extend the camping experience. Certain tents may have compatible accessories and add-ons to make your camp more comfortable.
A footprint is a kind of made to measure groundsheet/tarp that can be pinned underneath your tent to add an extra layer of insulation for keeping the inside of your tent warmer, while also preventing the bottom of your tent from being scratched, or even ripped, on the ground.
A little bit of luxury to make your tent a real home away from home, the tent carpet is another great insulator that will keep the warmth inside the tent and prevent the tent floor being colder under foot. It may seem a little more glamour camping than some people like, but for longer holidays a carpet can certainly make the experience more comfortable.
Love your tent but wish it had just a little more space? No problem. Tent porches are smaller extensions that can be used to store muddy gear or bikes. Hi Gear porches also have a gap around the bottom which makes them well ventilated enough to cook in during Britain’s less than sunny summer weather.
A windbreak can be used for a variety of things while camping. While the obvious use is to keep the wind out of your camping area, it can also be used to add a little more privacy to your camp.
Is there anything more annoying than snapping a tent pole or bending a tent peg? At GO Outdoors we aim to stock all the tent spares that you may need to sort out some of camping’s more annoying issues.
Our tent spares include: