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Tent Buying Guide

Shopping for a tent is like shopping for a home: there are dozens of styles, designs, sizes, and features to consider. In this guide, gear editor Kristin Hostetter shows you how to pick the right one for any outing.
Gear School 09 Tent illo 445x260Gear School 09 Tent illo 445x260

Backpacker Tips: Get to Know Your Tent

  • Set Up Your Tent at Home: Don’t wait for your first trip to set up your new tent. Set up can sometimes be tricky until you become familiar with the way the poles fit together and connect to the tent body, and the last thing you want is to be fumbling around by headlamp with rain and wind howling in your face. Go through a few dry runs at home, so set-up becomes second nature.
  • Seal the Seams: Make sure all the seams on your rainfly and tent floor are taped by the manufacturer. If not, you’ll want to apply seam sealer to prevent water from creeping into the stitch holes.
  • Stakes? Check: Makes sure that you have plenty of stakes (plus a few extra) so that you’re able to secure all stake-out loops and guy-out points when bad weather hits. (The more stakes you use, the tauter the pitch, and a taut tent equals good weather protection.)
  • Know Your Guy-Outs: Especially for convertible and mountain tents, identify all the guy-out loops on the outside of the fly and pre-attach guylines to each of these points. (Again, remember: this is not something you want to be fumbling with in dark, nasty conditions.) Guylines can dramatically increase the stability of the tent in big winds.
  • Pad It: Consider making a ground cloth or footprint for your tent; it will protect the floor from abrasion. Dupont Tyvek material (available at most big home improvement stores) is a rugged, light, and cheap material. Just place your erected tent on top of a sheet, trace it with a marker, then cut a few inches inside the line. (Bonus Tip: You want the ground cloth slightly smaller than the tent’s actual footprint to prevent water from channeling underneath.)
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