How to select a tent
The first consideration for a backpacker should be shelter, whether your idea of an expedition is climbing Denali, or a weekend in the Catskills. Your tent is your protection from wind, rain, snow, hot sun and pesky insects.
- Pick a tent equipped to withstand the harshest conditions you might encounter. Example: If you're a three-season backpacker who hikes late into the fall, you might want a four-season tent or a convertible model.
- Four-season tents are roughly 10 to 20 percent heavier than three-season models (typically due to extra poles). Convertible tents allow you to add or omit poles and adjust ventilation as conditions dictate.
- Freestanding tents (those that can stand without the aid of stakes) are very handy. You can move them easily or lift them to shake out debris. Very lightweight tents are rarely freestanding.
- Capacity ratings, assigned by individual manufacturers, sometimes tend to be optimistic. A two-person tent may be a tight squeeze for two large adults and their gear.
- Use a tarp, ground cloth or footprint to extend the life of a tent's floor.
Get the right tent, and you can expect years of leakless shelter from any storm you might encounter. Smart hikers know that a tent is a capital investment, not good for just one or two seasons, but if properly treated, capable of years of service. You should buy a single tent that will work for a broad range of camping needs. Unless you are car camping, weight and pack size are quite important. Three-season tents that accommodate two to three people usually weigh in at four to nine pounds. (The weight is given by the manufacturer on the tent's hang tag and should include tent body, rainfly, poles, and stuff sack.) Small, ultralight solo shelters weigh as little as one or two pounds. Family and expedition tents can easily weigh more than 10 or even 20 pounds.