Of Seasons and Suitability: Know Your Hiking Tent
When you’re choosing the best hiking tents to purchase for your adventure, whether it be a first time purchase or an upgrade to a bigger, more modern tent, we believe that there are some tips you should follow to ensure your money is spent wisely. There really is no “best” tent, but there is a “right” one for you. The wrong tent could turn your camping trip into a disaster. Before you start looking, determine which type of tent is “right” for you by answering these four questions:
This article focuses on learning more about hiking tents for different seasons and situations. If you need help in choosing the best hiking tents to buy for your next hike, check out our in-depth article here.
Question 1: WHEN?
The first question you can ask yourself is when you will be using the tent. Will you be hiking during the summer, or going winter camping in the snow? It’s good to identify when you will be going on your trip, to help you choose the best tent for your needs.
When should you choose a 3-season tent?
3-season hiking tents are meant for spring, summer, and fall camping, when the weather is generally milder. you’re expecting a “snow-free” camping trip. 3-season hiking tents mostly feature a double-wall design, with the inner layer providing optimal ventilation, much needed in the hot weather, while the waterproof outer layer provides protection from the wet weather.
Hiking tents like the Mongar Ultralight Hiking Tent Integrated Edition and the Speedy 3 Hiking Tent are examples of fantastic 3-season tents, due to its breathable mesh and wide ventilating window keeping ventilation and airflow good.
When should you choose a 4-season tent?
While the name implies that 4-season hiking tents are suited for all-weather camping, it is best used when you’re planning on camping in winter. A 4-season hiking tent is generally made with more durable, stronger materials, and its frame and body shape is constructed in a way to withstand strong winds and heavy snowfall. 4-season tents come with both single and double-wall designs, but the more popular option is the single-walled option due to its lightness and suitability for longer hikes and alpine climbing. Double-walled 4-season tent designs are heavier and are more suitable if you’re camping with a car, or to plan to set up a base camp.
Generally, you can use a 3-season tent in the winter as well, because most 3-season tents, like the Cloud Up 3 Ultralight Hiking Tent, are able to handle light snow just fine. However, if you’re expecting heavy snowfall or hiking up a mountain, it would be better to get a sturdier 4-season tent, like the Illumina X Ultralight Hiking Tent, which is able to withstand approximately 30-40km/h winds much better than a 3-season tent. You won’t really need to go for the heavy-duty winter tents if you’re hiking around most areas in Australia as our conditions are milder. But if you are planning on camping in snow, then make sure you choose a 4-season tent.
One more thing to note: because of its sturdy construction and more durable materials, 4-season tents are generally more expensive than their 3-season counterparts.
Question 2: WHAT?
Choosing a tent can be quite challenging, because there are a wide range of materials involved, from the fabric of your tent to the pegs you use to keep it in place. So, what are the exact kinds of materials you need your tent to be?
In most cases of tents with double-walled design, you won’t be able to choose the fabric for the inner layer, as the material used must be breathable and have sufficient ventilation to prevent condensation from building up overnight. However, you will be able to choose from a range of materials for the outer layer, also known as the flysheet. These are some of the more commonly used materials for the flysheet.
Polyester is one of the most popular fabrics for tents, mostly because its light weight and low bulk are perfect for transport and storage space. Arguably the best synthetic for a tent, polyester is hard wearing and requires less immediate care, compared to its other counterparts. Its user friendly properties; like the fact that it does not stretch or shrink much, and waterproof coatings, coupled with a relatively low price tag have made the material a good fabric for most hiking tents, like the Speedy 4 Hiking Tent, which offers both reliability and a spacious interior. Some of the higher grade polyester tents, like the Cloud Up 3 Ultralight Hiking Tent also features a ripstop weave, which is identified by a cross hatching in the weave and can help inhibit tearing.
For maintenance, polyester tents are relatively simple to take care of. Any dirt, grease and oils should be cleaned off followed by a rinse. It is also quite UV resistant, although the material’s deterioration will be accelerated if used in certain areas in direct sunlight, especially over extended periods. The polyester tent should be stored when it is clean and dry to lengthen its lifespan.
If you’re looking for an ultra lightweight tent, you can consider choosing one made of nylon. Nylon tents are considerably lighter than, say, a canvas tent, and frequently have lighter construction poles, which reduces their overall weight.
The material itself is one of the cheapest materials used to make tents, so they are an ideal fit if you are on a limited budget. It’s also recommended to choose a nylon tent if you’re planning to hike or backpack for long distances, and you need to keep your weight at a minimum. A great example is the Mongar Ultralight Hiking Tent Integrated Edition, which offers both affordability and quality.
Nylon is also a quick-drying material, so it’s ideal for a quick pack up for another day of hiking. Coupled with its water-resistant abilities, nylon tents like the Tagar 1 Ultralight Hiking Tent are great at keeping you dry during wet weather.
There is one disadvantage to most nylon tents, which is the tendency to rip easily. However, most top of the range nylon tents have a ripstop mesh which will prevent the small tear from spreading. Similar to the polyester tents, you should look for the ripstop weave, which is identified by a cross hatching in the weave and can help inhibit tearing. The Illumina X Ultralight Hiking Tent is a viable option in this case, as it comes with a ripstop weave for better protection.
It should be noted that some tent materials are better suited to different environments. If you’re camping in the summer, your tent should ideally be made of a lightweight material with a lot of ventilation, like nylon. If you’re expecting heavier winds and showers, perhaps you should go for polyester, which is often more durable.
Question 3: WHERE?
Knowing where you will be setting up camp is also important in selecting your tent. If protection against harsh elements is high on your list of priorities, you may want to consider a sturdier tent, like the Cloud Up 2 Ultralight Upgraded Hiking Tent. If you’re traveling in dry and hot climates, a well-ventilated lighter tent, like the Tagar 1 Ultralight Hiking Tent may be a better option.
One common way to categorize hiking tents is by their seasonal support, meaning the degree of weatherproofing or waterproofing. The Illumina X Ultralight Hiking Tent is one such 4-season tent that is capable of withstanding the elements. Weather is always unpredictable, so it’s good to get an indication on whether your tent is sufficiently sturdy and weather-proof to withstand the elements. Remember, some tents are good for fair weather only, while most can easily withstand moderate rain and wind gusts.
Freestanding tents are the more popular options due to their versatility. Freestanding tents are able to stand up without support of guidelines, although in inclement weather and gusty winds, guidelines and tent stakes can be used to reinforce and anchor it safely. The Speedy 4 Hiking Tent may be a good freestanding tent if you’re looking for something more spacious, and the Mongar Ultralight Hiking Tent Integrated Edition is a good choice if you’re on a solo trip.
Without guidelines on a good weather day, freestanding tents, like the Illumina X Ultralight Hiking Tent have the advantage of being easy to move to another location without the need to take it down. Because of this, they are a good choice for most campsites, whether you are going on rocky landscapes, or flat plains. Most freestanding tents feature the crossed-pole structure, which provides better static load stability, which means that they generally handle heavy snow and strong winds better.
Question 4: HOW?
The last question to ask yourself is how you will be using the tent. Will you be backpacking or driving to your campsite? If you’re going backpacking, weight should naturally factor into your choice of tent, because you will be carrying your tent over a long distance. How many people will be going on the camping trip? Will the tent you’re bringing be sufficient to fit in the number of people? How comfortable do you want to be during the trip?
With these questions in mind, here’s how we would suggest it.
i. The type of tents
Think about how you will be traveling; will you be backpacking across a long distance? Or will you be driving? Knowing your type of adventure will help you choose the right type of tent to buy. Tents generally fall into one of two categories: the backpacking tents and family tents.
Backpacking tents, like the Illumina X Ultralight Hiking Tent and the Tagar 1 Ultralight Hiking Tent are designed with light-weight and durable materials. Both ultralight tents are below 2kg because they are used to be carried over long distances, and therefore weight is one of its most important properties.
Check out some of the best backpacking tent selections in our store.
Family tents, like the Speedy 4 Hiking Tent and the Speedy 3 Hiking Tent, which can fit up to 3-4 people, are not meant to be carried over long distances, and therefore tend to be significantly heavier than backpacking tents. Since you are transporting the tent by car, its weight doesn’t matter. Family tents are usually large and roomy, and offer a larger sleeping capacity, which is good for...well, families.
Check out a selection of family tents in our store.
Which leads to…
ii. The number of people
Choosing the right tent to fit the number of people on the trip can seem daunting, but this simple little trick can help you. Tents are categorized by the number of people it was built for. For example, if you buy a 2-person tent, it’s designed to hold exactly two people. Even so, a 2-person tent may be a pretty tight fit, so if you’re going for a more comfortable stay, you might want to get it a size larger, maybe a 3-person tent. If you’re traveling with 3 people, the best 3-man, 4-season tent you can choose is the Cloud Up 3 Ultralight Hiking Tent. Alternatively, the Illumina X Ultralight Hiking Tent is an example of a great 1-person, 4-season tent. Remember, the more space and the better the comfort. Speaking of...
iii. The comfort level
When choosing a tent, in many cases, the interior space balances between comfort and weight. You should choose the tent that gives you the best interior space while staying relatively lightweight. The Illumina X Ultralight Hiking Tent, which measures 210cm (L) x 125cm (W) x 100cm (H) would be a very comfortable fit for 2 adults. The best tents are designed with a great deal of simplicity, offering sufficient storage space, good headroom, good ventilation and adequate interior space. Speedy 4 Hiking Tent is an example of a well ventilated and spacious tent, with its breathable mesh and wide ventilating window to keep airflow good, while providing ample room for movement. A tip would be to look at tents that are designed with vertical walls, as they offer more space.
There are many features to consider when you choose the tent that fits you best. But at the very least, you will want a tent that can check off this list:
- Lightweight or ultralight
- Spacious enough to meet your needs
- Easy to set up in any weather and terrain
Of course, some of these features may contradict one another. For example, a more spacious tent will mean that it is likely to be heavier. Nonetheless, it is possible to find a tent that has the right mixture of features that suit your next hiking trip. For more information, you can check out our tent comparison chart to help you choose what fits you best.
What did you think about our article? We’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comment section below! You can also check out our store for the best camping and hiking gear and accessories!
1. What do the “D”s and “T”s refer to?
“D” stands for “Denier” which is density based on the length and weight of a thread.
“T” stands for thread count, or the threads you can find per square inch.
These are the variables which, when combined with the different chemical treatments and materials, affect the strength and durability of your tent’s fabric. Knowing the “D”s and the “T”s of your tent is a good indicator of how durable and weather-proof a tent is. The higher the number, the stronger the tent. But, it’s also good to note that higher numbers mean heavier tents.
2. Should I choose a freestanding tent, or a non-freestanding tent?
Freestanding tents use tent poles for its structure, and do not require stakes to stand on their own. A non-freestanding tent cannot stand up without first staking it out, and they totally forgo tent poles. While this saves you a lot of weight, you have to be more careful in choosing your campsite, as not all campsites may be suitable for a non-freestanding tent.
As to which is the better option, it is up to your individual preference. That being said, most tents are freestanding, because of the convenience it brings. Freestanding tents, like the Illumina X Ultralight Hiking Tent are easy to set up, you can move them around your campsite, and you can set them up in places where staking the ground is difficult, like on rocky ground. But if you are one of those hikers who are going for the lightest pack, you can consider getting a non-freestanding tent like the Tagar 1 Ultralight Hiking Tent. Just make sure you know your campsite well enough.
3. Are there any additional features I should look for in a tent?
You can always look out for these features, because they are good to have for the general quality of life it will bring to your camping trip.
i. Tent Footprint
A tent footprint is a piece of durable, waterproof fabric that is cut to the same dimensions as a tent’s floor. A footprint is designed to increase the lifespan of your tent by protecting the bottom from sharp rocks on the ground. Do note that footprints are usually sold separately. However, tents like the Illumina X Ultralight Hiking Tent and the Cloud Up 3 Ultralight Hiking Tent offer a free bonus footprint customized exactly to your tent’s size.
A tent’s vestibule is the area just outside a tent’s door that is covered by the tent fly. Vestibules are great spots for keeping your backpack and shoes, and keeping the clutter to a minimum inside your tent. Tents like the Mongar Ultralight Hiking Tent Integrated Edition and the Cloud Up 2 Ultralight Upgraded Hiking Tent feature a dry entry vestibule, which often works as a place to change out of wet, muddy gear before you get into the clean, dry end of your tent.
iii. Packaged Weight & Trail Weight
There is a difference between a tent’s packaged weight and its trail weight. The packaged weight is the weight of everything you bought at the store, which includes even the box it came in. The trail weight is the more important number for you to take note of, because it’s the weight of everything you need to successfully set up the tent on the trail. You can use the our tent comparison chart to see the difference between the packaged weight and trail weight of each of our tents.
iv. Number of doors
It’s good to note the number of doors your tent has. Most tents will either have one or two doors, with single-door entrances located at the front or side of the tent, while two-door tents will be oriented on the sides. If you’re backpacking by yourself, a tent with one door, like the Tagar 1 Ultralight Hiking Tent or the Illumina X Ultralight Hiking Tent will suffice. When backpacking with a partner, it’s better to get a two door tent, like the Speedy 4 Hiking Tent or the Mongar Ultralight Hiking Tent Integrated Edition, so you’ll each have your own vestibule for your gear, and won’t have to climb over each other to go outside in the middle of the night.