Purchasing a tent is a big decision. This tent will become your home away from home. From backpacking the Appalachian Trail to conquering Mount Rainier or Everest this tent will see you through good and bad weather. I bet a lot of thought went into buying your first home and your tent deserves that same consideration. You’ll be surprised at how attached you can become to your tent.

1. The first thing you need to ask yourself is how many people will be sleeping in this tent? If the number is high do you need a tent with two doors and vestibules-for those of you who don’t know a vestibule provides extra space before the door where you can stash gear without worrying about it getting wet-instead of only one? In other words, how bad do you want to be elbowed or kneed when someone crawls over you to get outside? If you have a youngster or light sleeper in the family you may want a tent with jingle-free/noiseless zippers. It’s no fun when someone wakes up on the wrong side of the sleeping bag.

2. Now ask yourself what are you going to be using this tent for? Are you a weekend warrior going out for one night of camping? Are you a seasoned backpacker going out for a week or a month? Are you a car camper or hunter setting up a base camp? If you’re going backpacking and plan to camp in a new location every night you don’t want a heavy tent. You’re probably going to want an ultralight backpacking tent. If you’re only hiking in for a weekend you’ll be okay with a little heavier backpacking tent. If you plan to set up camp near your vehicle then get a big, luxurious tent. Who cares if it’s heavy? You don’t have to lug it even a mile into the backwoods. There are even tents out there with two rooms! A word of advice: if you’re backpacking and a lot of people are going to be sleeping in your tent don’t backpack a six-person tent into the woods. Break it down and have a couple of people hike three-person tents in. Unless you’re the hulk, and then I imagine you can handle a six-person tent.

3. And for the next question…When do you do most of your camping? Most tents are three-season. Will that work for you or do you need a tent that can withstand snow? If so, you need a four-season tent.

4. And finally, the question you’ve been agonizing over. What is your price range? This is the beauty of camping. Tents don’t have to be expensive. Becoming one with nature is relatively inexpensive. Tents are durable. They’re a good investment. When looking at a tent’s price look at the accessories included. For example, is the footprint included or sold separately? On average a footprint costs around fifty dollars. Keep in mind, with a tent you get what you pay for. What kind of poles does the tent come with? DAC poles are stronger and lighter than other aluminum poles. Do you expect high winds? Is this something you need? Do you want shorter, fourteen inch, poles so your tent packs into a cube instead of a cylindrical shape? Does the floor of the tent have a bathtub construction to better protect you from the rain? Do you expect to sleep through a torrential downpour? On that same line of questioning do you need a tent with an awning over the door so you don’t step out in the morning to a free shower when you zip the door closed behind you? (Because, after all, your tent is still not a barn.) Do you geek out over new technologies? Do you want a tent pre-equipped with lights or a tent with a center entertainment loft for your ipad? Is your dog more than just a pet? Is he/she family? Do you need a pawprint sheet to lay down inside the tent to better protect the floor? Are you new to camping? Do you need a tent with color coded clips so you know how to set up your tent?

No matter the kind of tent you’re looking for it’s out there. Just make sure to get the right size, weight, and seasonality in your price range equipped with all the accessories you need.

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