Car Camping Tent – How to Choose
This is the second instalment in my Camping Tips for Newbies. Here I discuss Car Camping Tent options (as this will probably be the way you start out) and how to choose one.
In the first instalment I gave you a quick insight to the camping essentials to get you started.
In this article I am going to delve a little deeper into the first item on that list (tent) and how you should choose the tent that is right for you. Also for the purposes of this article, as a newbie, we are going to only cover tents that you would use for car camping, not necessarily hiking or wilderness camping
Choosing the Right Tent
Let’s first start with: –
This is a topic that inspires many a debate between campers.
Nylon OR Canvas?
I think the best option here is to point out the pros and cons of each type and then try and match it to your needs. Please note that the below comparisons are made with regard to the nylon and canvas tents being of the same sleeper size.
|Assembly and Disassembly||Easy||Moderate|
|Breathability in Summer||Less||More|
|Warmth in Winter||Less||More|
|Total Points in Favour||6||4|
Some other points worth considering – and again I reiterate comparisons are made with regards to the same sleeper size. For this purpose let’s use a 4-man tent for 2 people as an example: –
|Longer Camping Period||Good||Better|
|Camping Ability||Beginner – Expert||Intermediate – Expert|
|Extreme Weather Camping||Average||Good|
|Total Points in Favour||3||5|
So there we have it. It’s a TIE!!!! Nothing simple in this first choice is there? Ok, don’t stress out, let me put it to you this way rather.
As a newbie I recommend you start off with a Nylon Tent and for these reasons: –
- Easy to Setup and disassemble
- Great for short camping trips
- Good beginner option
- Lots of variety to choose from
As a beginner camper, we have chosen a nylon tent as your best option-Right? Right! Now we need to see what size will fit best for you and your crew.
You’ve obviously seen tents advertised as a 2 sleeper, 4 sleeper, 12 sleeper etc. This indicates the tent size that you should initially be looking at. HOWEVER, I recommend that, as a rule of thumb, you double it for your needs.
If there are just 2 of you then go for a 4-man tent. If there are 4 of you then an 8-man tent will be better. This is to give yourself comfortable room to move around in and space for your luggage too.
The way the tent label illustrates the number of sleepers is very ambitious – See image below.
In this discussion we will include ceiling height, as it has a major part to play in the tent shape that you choose.
For me, not being quite as young and agile as I used to be, I prefer a tent with a high ceiling, so I don’t have to get changed sitting on my bum and crawl around on my knees looking for things. Also because I camp with my family, most family tents have high ceilings as opposed to smaller tents, so this suits me perfectly.
Some common nylon tent shapes include: –
As a newbie fair-weather car camper I will recommend just 2 kinds of tent shape for you.
- Dome – 2 people
- Cabin – family
Dome tents are one of the most common types of tents around. They are made up of two flexible poles that cross at the top of the dome and bend to be anchored to the floor on each of the four dome corners.
These are very quick and simple to setup and a 4-sleeper is ideal for a couple.
In the picture below you can see there is some good headroom, lots of ventilation and with the rain flysheet (once attached) will keep you nice and dry as well as cosy on the cooler nights.
Cabin tents are best suited for families, but saying that, if you really like to have some “legroom” as couple then these would be great for you.
They are made up of a number of different sized poles and be quite tricky to setup at first, but after the first time it’s a breeze.
They generally come with a couple of rooms/partitions and are good for cordoning off areas for sleeping and luggage. They are quite cheap and come in many different shapes and sizes to suit your needs.
These are definitely only fair-weather camping tents, but hey, that’s how we’re getting you started here, so all good.
In the picture below you will see that in a basic cabin tent there is sleeping section on each end with a living area in the middle that can be used to sit in on a rainy day or for luggage space. Also, there is lots of ventilation a large entrance, allowing for all-round comfort.
Some extras are worth having in your tent, especially in a family tent where space and privacy becomes more important
Extras might include:
- Awnings – mostly only good for shade
- Extra panels – create extra rooms or provide shelter outside the main tent vestibule
- Screen rooms
You may not want, or even really know these features at time of your initial outlay on the tent, but do see what is available should you wish to buy any of them in the future.
Remember you’re just starting out so don’t feel that you need to have everything right away. It’s always good to test out your setup before you realise what’s important and what you can do without.
Other Factors Worth Considering
- Number of doors – 2 doors are ideal OR 1 very large door
- Number of windows – important for ventilation in warmer climates
- Storage pockets – keeps the tent less cluttered, and key items easy to find
- Ceiling hooks – great for hanging lanterns – NO open flames please!!!
- Flooring – family tents with a lot of traffic should have a decent ground sheet
- Tent Floor Tarpaulin – adds longevity to the tent’s groundsheet
So there you have it! Hopefully these pointers in how to choose a tent will help you make the right decision and get you out there. Look at my Review of these two types of car camping tent suggestions
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below and I will be happy to answer them.
Happy Camping Guys!!