Hiking tents are designed to give shelter from the elements and to be carried. Within these parameters there is a vast array of designs, constructions and price points.
What type of tent do I need?
The following questions will help to narrow the field:
- How many people do you need to accommodate?
- Where do you live, and where do you make regular trips?
- What is the climate like where you will be doing most of your camping?
- Are you looking for a tent for a specific trip? Will a tent for that purpose suit likely trips later?
A mountaineering tent will be great for your annual ski tour on the Tasman Glacier, but it won’t be roomy and well-ventilated when it come to hiking the Three Capes Track in the height of summer. Unfortunately, there isn’t a ‘one tent fits all’ solution.
What to look for?
The prices of tents vary dramatically due to the materials and construction techniques used in the tent.
Simply put, high-quality fabrics which keep you dry are more expensive. You might not need a high-performance tent for summer backpacking trips until you really need a high performance tent on your summer backpacking trip! Spend wisely.
Poles which don’t bend, crack or fail in use are made from high-quality alloy. Look at the way these assemble and consider how they feel in your hand. Poles have a tough time in the field busily maintaining your tent’s pitch: cheaper, lower quality poles may not perform well in high winds.
Floors separate you from the (cold, wet) ground and the quality used varies wildly. High-performance floors have a high water head rating so that water can’t be forced through the fabric under the pressure of your knees or sleeping mat. Good floors are also seam sealed in the factory.
Flies keep the rain off and really need to perform when the heavens open. Using a fabric with a high water head rating is important, but more important is the quality of the seam sealing as seams are a common water entry point. Well designed flies offer decent storage areas in the vestibules and use high-quality, non-snag zippers.
Hiking tents need to be carried so they shouldn’t weigh heaps. You’ll need to carry other essentials – food, clothing, fuel etc – so aim for a tent which provides the shelter and durability you need for your intended use.