How to choose a tent

There are many factors to consider when deciding how to choose a tent. These include its size, weight, fabric strength, waterproof rating, comfort, and its ease of use.

At Cape Union Mart, we stock two main types of tents: leisure tents and expedition tents.

Leisure Tents

Most of our leisure tents are dome shaped. These are the easiest to assemble and have spacious interiors. However, they are heavier than expedition tents and are not designed for extreme weather conditions

Features of leisure tents

  •  Fibreglass poles that are lightweight, strong and flexible, but might break in strong winds.
  • A vestibule that can be opened or closed to protect the entrance of the tent.
  • A waterproof flysheet up to 1500mm. (To be classified as waterproof, a flysheet must be seam-sealed up to at least 1000mm.)
  • An awning that allows you to sit outside the tent, but still have protection from the rain and sun.

Expedition tents

Expedition tents have an aerodynamic shape more suitable for stronger winds and harsher conditions. On these tents, the poles criss-cross over the surface, intersecting to form triangles. This distributes the stress across the structure, making it the most stable type of tent for extreme weather.

Features of expedition tents:

  • Aluminum poles which are sturdy, lightweight, flexible and extremely durable. Although they may still snap in extreme wind, they are stronger and lighter than fiberglass.
  • A small entrance door that allows less heat to escape and less cold to enter the tent.
  • An aerodynamic shape to resist stronger winds.
  • A smaller interior to reduce weight and packing size.
  • Easy to pitch, but more care must be taken to ensure optimal performance.
  • Lightweight to make them easier to carry over longer distances.
  • Designed to withstand extreme weather conditions.
  •  A waterproof flysheet up to 2000 - 3000mm.

Questions to ask when you choose a tent

How much space do you need?

First work out what your group’s size will be and if you need extra space for luggage. There’s no industry standard for how large a per person tent size should be, so assume a fairly close fit, and size up by one person if you want more room.

What weather will you camp in?

Tents are often categorised by seasons, for example, 3-season or 4-season tents. This gives an indication of what kind of weather they can withstand. So, while a 3-season tent will be fine in ordinary summer rains, you would not want to use it in storms, strong winds or heavy snow.

Will you be car camping or backpacking?

If you are car camping, you can maximise the space and roof height of your tent, as weight considerations aren’t important. However, for backpacking, your tent’s weight and packed-down size are essential considerations. Ideally, you want to buy a tent that weighs less than 2kg per person capacity. Ultralight tents can weigh less than 1kg per person, although these tend to be less spacious, less sturdy and more expensive.

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