In the hierarchy of human needs shelter reigns supreme. Getting shelter right from your first nights outdoors is the number one priority when camping.
This is especially true for first time campers to keep them coming back for more. There's nothing like a leaky tent to turn even the most hardened camper for home. So here are the top tips from Camping in Style for selecting the best tents.
1. Perfect size and shape for your needs
Get an idea of the type of camping you will be doing. If camp touring, moving from place to place, then a tent that's fast to erect and also pack away is a must. However if you're planning on destination camping - ie setting up in one place for several days or more - a large roomy tent might be your preference.
Consider an appropriate size to comfortably fit the right number of people and your gear. A so-called 'four person' tent might be more comfortable for just two people, giving you more room inside.
Remember big is not always better. While we recommend a tent high enough to stand up in, floor space that's too large might limit your choice of campsites with sufficient flat ground. Bigger generally means heavier and more area to clean down and dry at the end of the trip.
Sometimes it can be much better to add to it in other ways with tarps and screened shelters. Families might also want to consider giving children the responsibility of their own smaller tent, rather than trying to find one big enough to fit everyone in.
A tent should be able to withstand the harshest elements you might be camping in. In Australia's unpredictable climate, where rain and strong winds are equally as likely in summer, a strong waterproof tent is advisable.
A tent made from tough waterproof canvas is a great option as it's breathable as well. This means you will stay comfortably dry inside as excess moisture, even from your breath, can pass through the fabric.
Most tents, especially the cheaper options, require a plastic waterproof fly to be attached. These can do a good job keeping you dry but are generally made of lighter fabrics that are less robust in strong winds. The waterproofness of this set-up is dependent on keeping the inner and outer walls separated - so no leaning up against the walls in the rain.
3. Speed of set-up
Keeping camping simple is what camping in style all about so a tent that is fast to set up and pull down will keep everyone smiling - especially when it's excessively hot, windy or raining.
When purchasing look out for the number of poles and pegs. Tents with the least poles and pegs will be faster to set up and pack down. These days there are tents that pop out straight from the bag. While it's best to peg them down on four sides these can be set up in less than a minute.
4. Quality materials
Apart from the quality of the tent fabric and stitching, it's also good to look at other tell-tale signs of quality on zips flooring and mesh screening.
Zips are the most used part of the tent so look for quality YKK markings. Check for heavy-duty waterproof flooring that won't easily get punctured by stones or twigs and tub-style floors, where the floor extends a few centimetres up the sides of the tent. This style of floor will keep you dry, even in heavier rains where water can pool around the tent before it has a chance to drain away. For quality mesh bug-proof screening look for a fine-gauge that will keep out the smaller insects, such as midges, as well.
5. Tents we love
Here are some examples of tents that Camping in Style admires for their quality:
OzTent 30 Second tents
Black Wolf Turbo series tents
Freedom Family Tourer (our trusty 10-year-old tent)
Malamoo Pop Up Tent
With these top tent tips to shelter in style, you are on the way to a comfortable camping experience in a place you'll be happy to call a home away from home.
For more detail refer to the book, Camping in Style, and keep a look out for the next Expedition Australia update on shelters, discussing tarps and gazebos.
Buy Angela's book 'Camping In Style' on-line
Camping in Style