>> Size right. Square footage isn’t as indicative of real-world space as a tent’s footprint and peak height, so check dimensions and shape. For a two-person tent, anything less than 50 inches wide will feel tight. To evaluate height, sit inside and attempt to don a pullover without hitting the walls.
>> Stump the salesman. You’ll get the best help from someone who actually camps. Ask him or her what tent they use and why, and what conditions they’ve seen. Don’t feel like you’re talking to an expert? Ask to speak with another associate—or find another store.
>> Find a bargain. Look for marked-down tents in Hilton’s Tent City Bargain Basement (hiltons-tentcity.com). Jonesing for a particular brand? Watch for manufacturer-specific coupons (at press time, Sierra Designs tents were marked down 20 percent or more).
>> Skip the footprint. Save money and weight by making your own groundcloth out of Tyvek. Learn how at backpacker.com/groundsheet.
Sleeves vs. Clips
Pole sleeves add strength by distributing tension across the fly, but threading them during setup can be frustrating, especially in windy conditions.
Pole clips enhance airflow under the fly and improve ventilation; they’re also lightweight and a snap to pitch.