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Contributed by Laura Cromwell, Cabela’s

For those itching to wake up to the smell of the outdoors, selecting the right tent is vital for the ultimate camping experience. A tent’s season, size, fabric and pole construction, plus extra storage capabilities must all be taken into account prior to setting up camp.

Season

Three-season tents have you covered spring, summer, and fall—plus are lightweight to minimize bulk. For explorers who don’t mind camping in snow-covered terrain, an all-season tent is your best investment whenever your lust for camping takes over, no matter the time of year. While it may seem like a good idea for all campers to only invest in an all-season tent, keep in mind that these heavy-duty tents were built for cruel winter elements, not for warm summer days.

Size

It’s not just you and a friend/spouse/kids/dog in your tent. It’s all of you with the addition of sleeping bags, thick packs, muddied hiking boots, and other essential equipment. Choosing the right tent for your party requires a little math. If four people are staying together, you’ll want a six-person tent. Gear between four campers adds two extra “people” in your tent and that extra room will come in handy with everyone inside.

Fly and Pole Construction

For the fly, durable ripstop fabrics such as nylon and polyester provide the reliable protection all campers need. The denier amount measures the fabric’s liner mass density. Remember that the lower the denier, the lighter and finer the material, while higher denier offers a heavier, coarser construction.

Your next step is determining the waterproof performance of a tent. On the fabric you will find the waterproof coating rating. A decent waterproof value is 1,000mm. If you plan to use your tent often in wet conditions and severe weather, you should look for a value of at least 1,500mm. Some tent floors are even rated at 3,000mm. As a word to the wise, don’t look for values any higher than 3,000mm, as material actually breaks down if it’s run through a coating machine enough times to achieve a rating greater than 3,000mm.

Keeping your tent assembled relies on the poles. Most tents now use shock-corded poles but tubular fiberglass poles are the choice for most campers for their lightweight and easy-to-assemble performance. Aluminum poles are substantially lighter and offer greater strength—a must-have for backcountry camping. Bear in mind that aluminum poles come in various alloys with different strength-to-weight ratios. A 6000-series alloy is definitely sufficient for most campers, but under severe conditions using all-season tents, a 7000-series alloy provides more strength. Keep an eye out for DAC poles, they offer an upgraded version of standard aluminum—lighter in weight, higher strength-to-weight ratios, and increased corrosion resistance.

Getting More Space

Vestibules and gear lofts increase storage space to get even more room in your tent. Vestibules provide additional dry areas to store packs, boots, and other camp items—they’re especially helpful when your items are wet or muddy. Many include additional support poles that will create a small second room. Vestibules also allow ventilation when conditions turn damp by providing enough coverage to leave your tent door unzipped without water getting in. As for gear lofts, storing items overhead keep your essentials close and out of the way. Prior to purchase, always read the tent’s technical specifications to see if there’s an incorporated gear loft.

When it’s you vs. nature, investing in a shelter that not only protects you from the wild outdoors, but makes every camping trip memorable is worth it. A tent that serves its owner year after year becomes an integral part of any outdoor excursion.

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