With everyone pinching pennies due to the current economic situation more and more people are looking staying at home this year and enjoying a holiday. Camping is the perfect option, it’s cheap, fun and lets you see the landscape in a different way, but what should you look for when choosing a family tent.
Normally with tents you want the lightest possible. With a family tent this is not really an issue as you will most likely be able to drive right up to the campsite and simply lift the tent out. It might be worth considering the weight if you know that you might have to carry the tent for short distances, but it’s definitely not a major consideration.
In this case size does matter, ideally you want plenty of room to store all your gear as well as having plenty of room to sleep. Tents are rated according to how many people they can sleep eg 4 man. Its also worth considering the height when choosing a family tent as more head room makes it much easy to move around and helps with getting dressed.
Packed Tent Size
This is how big the tent is when packed up, again not too big a consideration for family tents but useful to take note of, especially if you have a small car.
Tent Season Rating
The season rating reflects what sort of performance that can be expected from a tent of item of outdoor gear. For example, a 4 Season Rating indicates a high enough specification for the tent to be used all year round, while a 1 Season Rating indicates that it will perform best during the summer only. This is of course subjective and with family tents most likely being used on a lowland campsite a 3 season would probably preform adequately all year round.
Ease of Setup / Pitching Your Tent
Obviously the easier to set up the better, the last thing you want is to have to spend an hour trying to work out which guy line to tie where, when you are trying to relax and enjoy your holiday. Fewer poles allow faster setups / tent pitching. It’s also easier to attach poles to clips than it is to thread them through “continuous” pole sleeves. However this shouldn’t be a problem as most modern tents are extremely simple to erect and do come with good instructions in the event you do get confused.
This comes down to personal preference and how much you and your family value their privacy. If it is an important factor then look for tents like the north face trailhead 6 which have separate rooms. It may also be worth considering a separate smaller tent, especially if you have teenagers.
Ease of Access
How many doors does the tent have? What shape are they? How easy are they to open? Its important to consider all these things when choosing a family tent as there will be lots of people looking to get in and out (probably in a hurry if it starts to rain).
Tent Porch / Vestibule
In my mind this can be one of the most important features to look for when choosing a family tent. A large porch or vestibule can be used to store gear (especially useful for wet and dirty gear), as well as providing a separate living area.
A groundsheet protector is a polyurethane or nylon sheet that goes under the base of your tent. A tent footprint costs less to replace than the tent itself so for a family tent that gets lots of use and abuse this is especially useful.
See my recent article on groundsheet protectors for more information.
I hope this will help you all get out this summer and get camping with your families. Remember a good family tent is an investment and will last you for years if you look after it properly.