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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

Tent Anatomy

  • Ceiling loops are great for hanging lanterns or lines for drying socks and clothes.
  • Metal pole junctures called hubs add sturdiness and allow poles of different lengths to join. This cuts weight and helps pull the canopy outward to create vertical walls and more living space.
  • Store small items (headlamp, ipod) in the tent’s inner pockets.
  • Guylines provide extra stability in wind, rain, and snow. Attach them to guy-out loops, located along the perimeter and at key seams on the rainfly. Tip: Use reflective cords to avoid tripping in darkness.
  • Found on double-wall tents only, the inner canopy (breathable and often made of mesh) lets moist air escape rather than condense in the tent. It also keeps bugs out.
  • The rainfly–usually nylon and coated with polyurethane or silicon–should cover the tent body with a few inches of space remaining between it and the canopy to allow airflow. Some tents pitch in "fast-pack mode," using just the fly and poles, to shave weight for trips in mild, bug-free conditions.
  • Poles create the tent’s skeleton. Treat them with care: Never snap poles together (the ends can splinter), and when breaking them down, start in the middle to minimize tension on the shock cord.
  • A waterproof bathtub floor curves a few inches up the tent’s sidewalls to prevent leaks in rainy weather. Ideally, the rainfly should overlap the floor’s perimeter by several inches.
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