Selecting a Tent

When selecting a tent use a process of elimination. Start with the items in this list to eliminate the tents that will not work and then decide between the tents that remain.

3-season or 4-season

Do you need an all weather tent for hunting or expeditions or will a 3-season tent suffice? The choices for 4-season tents is much more limited. If you need a four season tent then do NOT try to convince yourself that a 3-season tent will be good enough. Nature can be cruel and unforgiving. Be sure to select the proper season rating.


When selecting a tent it is critical to consider the size. Tents are rated by the number of persons that it can accommodate. This means that a two person tent will normally have enough room for ONLY two people with very little or no additional room. Unless weight is critical I generally recommend that you select a tent with a higher capacity rating than you need. For example, a four person tent will very comfortable house two people with some gear. Think of the capacity rating as a “will hold this many people as a last resort” value.


What style tent would you prefer: outfitter, cabin, dome, A-frame, lightweight, bivy, hammock, etc. Do you want more vertical walls for greater volume, do you want to be able to comfortable stand inside the tent, do you want multiple rooms, etc.?

Free Standing or Supported

Most tents are free standing, meaning that you can setup the tent and it does not require guy wires or supports. Supported tents can be smaller and lighter but you must be able to anchor the supporting ropes. If you are camping in very loose soil then this could be an issue.


Do you need a very lightweight tent for backpacking or could you use a heavier tent? As the size and weight decrease the prices generally increase. Generally with backpacking supplies the more you pay the less you get. That is higher priced items are generally lighter and smaller. Consider the weight requirements carefully and look at both the packed and trail weights. Trail weight is normally the minimum weight if you do not include the rain cover and/or footprint. If you want lower weight then choose a tent with aluminum rather than fiberglass poles. Aluminum poles are significantly lighter. Tents with aluminum poles will be lighter and more expensive than tents with fiberglass poles.

Other Features

Do you need other features such as vestibule, wood stove, floor liner, etc. Many tents do not have these accessories available so these can help narrow your choices. Note that there are a variety of wood stoves available for outfitter tents. Some have integrated water tanks that provide a ready supply of hot water and these also retain heat after the fires dies.