The Newbie Camper’s Guide to Buying a Tent

Two seasoned campers planned a spur-of-the-moment camping adventure. Their old tent wouldn’t do, so they grabbed the cheapest tent they could find on their way out of town.

Two days later they arrived at their breathtaking campsite—in the rain—and set up camp.

It rained all night and by morning, they had puddles inside their tent. They spent the rest of the trip sleeping under a popcorn ceiling instead of under a blanket of stars.

Are you buying a tent and new to camping?

Don’t be like these two seasoned campers. Instead, read our short guide for newbie campers and learn what to look for when you shop for a tent.

Tent Size Matters

Buy a tent based on capacity. A 2-person tent holds two people and their sleeping bags. Don’t try to stuff more than two people in this size tent.

For the newbie solo camper or camping couple, buy the best 2 person tent you can find.

For the family with kids and pets, go big! Multi-room tents come in 2 and 3-room styles. They’re perfect for rainy days when you’d like a little extra living space.

And the Best Tent Material Is

You can buy a canvas, nylon, or polyester tent. We vote for polyester!

Polyester makes a durable, rain-resistant tent material. It’s also not as sun sensitive as other materials. You’ll find polyester tents in different weights and treated with a range of coatings.

Make sure you plan on buying a tent with a waterproof floor. The floor should come a few inches up the sides of the tent walls. You don’t want a seam in the floor, or you risk water seeping in.

You also want a big rainfly. Polyester tent walls repel water, but the rainfly is waterproof. Your rain fly should come well down the sides of your tent.

All About Zippers and Stitches

First, buy the tent with the heavy-duty zippers. A #10 gauge zipper with plastic or metal teeth works best for a tent that gets a lot of use.

As far as stitching, buy a tent with double stitching and folded seams. Don’t forget to use a seam sealer before your first trip.

A Tent Without Poles

If you don’t buy the best poles, you may be camping in a lean-to rather than a tent.

Aluminum and aluminum alloys make the best economical tent pole material. They’re both durable and bendable. Aluminum alloy poles are a little stronger and resist corrosion.

You’ll also find tent poles made from fiberglass, carbon fiber, steel, and composite materials.

Buying a Tent This Weekend?

Yes, it’s fall, but people still enjoy camping in the cooler weather. Use our guide to help you select the best tent. Even better, use it to help make buying a tent more fun than picking a hotel with the biggest flat-screen TV.

Before you buy your tent, hang out a while longer on our blog. You’ll find articles on every aspect of camping and outdoor activities.