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All About Tents

A two-man pup tent does not include two men or a pup.

[How much to spend[What kind]
 [Basic Styles]
[A-Frames]   [Dome or Pop Tents]    [Hoop Tents]    [Bivy]   [Cabin Tents / Family-style Tents ]    [Backpacking Tents]   
[Shape[Features to Look For[Size[Weight[Ventilation]   [Three Season Tent]   [Four Season tent]   [Tent Fabric[Tent Poles[Workmanship[Waterproofing]
[Set-up]  [Color]
[The Fly]

[Additional Tips]     [Ground Sheets]     [Washing Your Tent
[Care & Maintenance]     [Staking Your Tent]

Sleeping in the countryside, away from city lights, out under the stars on a clear night is simply spectacular.
However, waking up in the middle of the night during a downpour can be quite miserable.
Just waking up in the morning covered with dew is bad enough.

There is a solution to this problem:
 put a roof over your head.


Your campsite bed is made; 
you've geared up with 
pads, mats, sleeping bags, air mattresses, sheets, blankets, comforters and pillows
to get a good night's sleep. 
Now you need to insure that cozy campground slumber with an appropriate tent to shield you from the wind, the sun and the rain and also to protect you from unfriendly outdoor pests like flies, mosquitoes and no-seeums.


Mama always said, 
"always buy the best you can afford". 
That advice is as good as ever when it comes to tents. However that is not to say you have to break the bank.

Obviously there must be some difference to justify the price.

  Let's put it this way. 
 If we were climbing Mount Everest, then we would choose the $700.00 tent. It would stand up to the high winds, and the material would not shred because of those same winds in the extreme cold. However, if we are taking some young scouts for a weekend camping trip in the park, the $29.99 tent should stand up to those elements very nicely.

You need to think of your tent as an investment.
 It's much better to spend an extra amount on a quality tent than to skimp.

 A cheap tent, may work all right in good weather, but as soon as the wind rises and the skies open up, forget it.
You'll be miserable. 
In many cases, a good tent can make a nightmare scenario downright cozy.
So spend as much as you can afford, but always go with quality. 

What kind of tent?

Determine the Purpose of the Tent 

If being used for family camping--consider comfort, space and ventilation  

If backcountry camping--consider weight, size and durability


Tents today come in all shapes and sizes to meet a variety of camping needs and weather situations.
There are a few things to consider when purchasing a new tent.


The floor should be the most water-resistant part of the tent. Because you are putting pressure on the floor of the tent, you can draw water into the tent through the fabric. This is why most floors are heavily coated with urethane for waterproofness.

Things to Consider:

 Look for a tent with a one piece floor, it's less likely to seep water than a floor with seams.

 This means that the floor actually wraps up along the sides. Generally for 4-6 inches. This eliminates a lot of seams and chances for leaks.

Most tents now come with a "Bathtub" like bottom. This is generally a heavier duty material than the sidewalls, and usually is waterproof.  This does not alleviate the need for putting now a tarp under your tent, which is still a good idea.  The "Bathtub" like bottom does remove the need for trenching around tents. Trenching occurred years ago when tents had no bottoms, or had canvas bottoms that did not repel water.  The trenches directed the water away from the tent. The tent bottoms of today have earned the name "Bathtub" bottoms, because the material used to make the bottoms usually goes 2-4 inches above floor level.
 This makes for a nice waterproof seal.

Although many people have stopped using bottom tarps because of these newer bottom designs, it is still a good idea. It is another layer between the possible damp/wet ground and your tent floor.  Not only is this potentially warmer, but it helps keep the tent cleaner.  You might see these advertised at footprints.  This is because you do not want your tarp sticking out from the sides around the tent.  If this occurs, then rain water would collect on the tarp possibly make its way under your tent.


This is the same stuff you use to cover your trailer or boat with.

Floors made of this material are good at repelling water but can tear easily on sharp rocks.

They are heavier than nylon floors and are thicker so tents with polyweave floors don't pack as small or as light as tents with nylon floors.

This floor costs considerably less to make than a nylon floor with a light urethane coating, yet provides better waterproofness.


Nylon floors come in many different weights and are a sometimes hard to differentiate.

The best way to differentiate is by touching the fabric on different tents.

Better tents use 3 ounce (per square foot), 70 Denier (a measurement of weave) nylon taffeta or greater or 210 Denier Oxford nylon (a bit heavier).

These materials are far more abrasion resistant than lighter weight nylon. Untreated nylon is not water repellent so it must be treated with urethane (see treatments).

When treated with enough urethane a nylon floor can become watertight.


The floor is the part of the tent that requires the highest degree of waterproofness.

Treatments are urethane based and can be applied in two ways.

One is a liquid form that is poured onto the fabric and a knife-edge is rolled over the fabric to distribute it evenly. A single pass can yield waterproofness to up to 35 PSI of water pressure. The more passes, the more waterproof the fabric becomes.

The second method is to laminate one sheet of urethane to the fabric. This method costs much less and provides a greater degree of waterproofness up to 200 PSI.

Regardless of the method used, the floor fabric should be treated to a minimum of 100 PSI. Anything less and you may need to wear a life jacket before falling asleep.

The treated side of the fabric should be on the inside of the tent, because friction with loose dirt and small rocks will eventually deteriorate the treatment.


A factor not to be overlooked is the construction. 

A floor made of the most waterproof fabric will still leak if there are seams on the floor which are not properly sealed.

Many companies tape their floor seams, so as to avoid having the consumer seam seal the floor themselves.

However, most companies fail to tape the corners that are prone to leakage. If the corners are not properly sealed, take the time to do it yourself.


If you could spend five bucks and 15 minutes to ensure a long and happy life, would you? 
Of course you would! 
And one of the best things you can do for a tent is to use a groundsheet religiously. 

Although the bottom of your tent is made of reinforced material that is thicker than either its rain fly or tent walls, the forest floor is an abrasive place. To prevent accidental punctures from rocks and the like, lay a plastic ground cover under the tent's floor.

Most tents on the market now have a fully sewn in groundsheet, often with what's called a 'bath-tub' floor design. This is where the groundsheet extends further up the side of the tent to eliminate any water penetration from the side seams.

Mountain tents commonly use a groundsheet material made from neoprene coated nylon, which is extremely waterproof and durable but heavier than the normal PU coated nylon groundsheets. In the cheaper end of the tent market a polythene material is used as it is robust, waterproof and inexpensive but it is heavy and noisy!

  • Thin polyethylene sheeting from a hardware store is a lightweight, inexpensive option to go under your tent.

  • Old shower curtains make great ground clothes.

They should not extend beyond the edge of the tent; otherwise they will collect moisture which could enter your tent.

This groundsheet should be cut to fit the shape of the tent floor-as big, but no bigger. A groundsheet that peeks out from the edges of the tent will channel water underneath, and no degree of waterproofing will stop water from seeping inside. You can buy material for groundsheet at both outdoor-equipment and hardware stores. Plastic from hardware stores is perfectly fine and often cheaper.

Making your own groundsheet

For materials you'll need a large sheet of waterproof material, scissors, a marker, some duct tape and grommets (optional).

Step 1: Lay the uncut groundsheet out and set up your tent on top of it (without rainfly and vestibule). Stake the tent out tautly.

Step 2: Using the marker, trace the outline of the tent.

Step 3: Trim the excess, following an invisible line that is 2 inches inside the line you traced. This is to prevent any overhanging fabric, which will direct rain underneath your tent's floor. This is very important! When your trimming is complete, no portion of the groundsheet should extend beyond the footprint of the tent.

Optional Step 4: If you plan on using nylon (a good choice because of its light weight and durability), disregard Step 3 and cut exactly along the traced line. Then fold over the edge of the groundsheet all the way around and sew a 2-inch hem to prevent the fabric from fraying.

Optional Step 5: Instead of cutting uniformly 2 inches inside your tracing, leave the corners on the original line and arc the sides inward. Then attach grommets to the corners. By looping the grommets over the tent pole tips, you've firmly attached the groundsheet. Plus you can use it as a pack cover in the rain, a cooking shelter or a vestibule extension.

Optional Step 6: If you use a shower curtain, polyethylene or Tyvek, cut long strips of duct tape in half, lengthwise. Then carefully fold the strips over the edges of the groundsheet. This will protect the edges from tearing or shredding.


Make sure the rain fly is an adequate size, covering most of the tent with an extended section at the door to allow entry without soaking the inside of the tent.
Make sure the tent is big enough to accommodate all the campers
plus a place to stow their gear.

Particular circumstances, like snow camping, beach camping, or backpacking, may call for specialized tents, accessories or considerations.

 Let's look further into the aspects of selecting a proper tent.

Basic Styles 

Understanding tent lingo has become as complicated as translating
 at a United Nations conference. 

Here are a few definitions to help guide you through this dilemma.
 Keep in mind the three basic components of a tent: the poles, the canopy, and the rain fly, the latter two of which are separate in a two-walled tent and combined in a single-walled tent.
Additionally, most tents come equipped with stakes and a stuff sack.

Single-walled versus double-walled tents.
Traditional tents have a nylon body, which may be covered by a polyurethane-coated rain fly.
 However, modern fabric technology has resulted in single-walled tents made from waterproof/breathable material that does not require a rain fly for protection against moisture.

Generally, double-walled tents are heavier than their single cousins, but are also less expensive. The advantage of double-walled tents is that they breathe well (the canopy and fly have several inches of space between them, or the fly can be removed completely), with less condensation forming on the interior walls.
 Also, if you are accident-prone, a punctured rain fly can be repaired or replaced, leaving the main tent intact.
Rain flies that have lost their waterproofness can also be replaced with less cost than is required to buy a new single-walled tent.


What shape tent you purchase is just one of the many factors involved in finding the tent that is just right for you.
The shape of the tent, of course, determines a lot, 
but you will also find that even if you are in a car, 
the weight, size, ventilation, tent materials, tent poles, workmanship, waterproofing, set up and color will also matter.
For example, if you drive a Geo Metro, it is doubtful you'll want to fill your car with a full-sized cabin tent.

Evaluating tent designs can be a little daunting; 
many will have similar features,
 but look completely different when erected. 
Most tent designs, however, are variations on the following five configurations.


The A-frame tent is becoming outmoded
 as newer, sexier-looking dome tents take over the market. 
Experienced campers, however, swear by their reliability in the face of bad weather-in spite of their old-fashioned design, which features two sloping sides falling away from a rigid center pole, a design that catches the wind but sheds water quickly.
This design offers less interior space for the size than more contemporary designs but offers more interior height.

 A-frames are often lighter in weight than domes because there are often fewer poles.

 While most A-frames require stakes, some modified A-frames are freestanding.

A-frames tend to cost less than their dome-shaped cousins, 
and this may be only one of the reasons to choose this tried-and-true design. 


This style of tent is by far the most popular recreational tent around.
 It offers plenty of floor space and is designed to ride out heavy winds. 

Are more aerodynamic and stable, with a sleeker profile to shed water and wind effectively.

Dome Tents are generally easy to set up.
You usually slide 2 or 3 poles made of aluminum or fiberglass, through sleeves on the tent and then pull them up to the round shape and put the ends in little "corners" of fabric.
The poles come in several sections and are attached with interior cord

Dome tents are preferable if you will be in an area that is prone to high winds because the shape makes for little risk of collapsing.
Dome tents usually are packed into one bag for both the tent and poles.

Some manufacturers color-code the sleeves, and this helps. 
In bad weather, having practiced pitching your tent beforehand will be a dress rehearsal if you have to do it quickly.

The drawback of dome tents is that they usually aren't as tall or roomy
and the floor plan isn't as efficient as the standard A-frame rectangle for sleeping.
The sloping sides of the dome mean that you will hunch over a lot, even in large tents that have standing room directly under the center of the dome.

Their crisscrossing poles, producing a hexagonal, octagonal, or similar geometrical shape, make them extremely rigid
- therefore good in windy conditions. 

Octagonal?  Hexagonal?

Sleeping bags and duffels are rectangles, why would you want a Hex shaped tent?
A hex is stronger in wind and snow. 

Square tents are much easier to organize and things just plain fit better.

- just my opinion

Domes are classified as freestanding, meaning you can pitch them without using guylines (ropes tied to trees and other supports) and stakes, attaching these after the tent is up.
Freestanding tents also offer the added convenience of portability; 
you can set them up in one location and move them-in one piece-to another
 (within a reasonable distance)
if your first site is too rocky or uneven. 

"Freestanding" does not mean leaving your tent unstaked. 
At the very least, staking is required to help pull the rain fly taut (and therefore rainproof) at midpoints on each side of the tent.
Bear in mind that an unstaked, freestanding tent can become airborne when hit with a good gust of wind.

Some tents are made of rain-resistant material, but many are constructed with light, breathable nylon and are protected by rain flies.

The great thing about a good dome is the way they take the rain. The secret is the fly. A good fly will have enough overhang to let you keep the windows open in a pretty good rain, this adds to comfort.
 Also hidden behind the fly is a tent that is largely mesh fabric. Air is able to come up under the fly and pass in and out of the tent offering ventilation and privacy. This is important both to keep cool on summer nights and to release moisture in cooler seasons.
A good fly will come down to near the ground and can be staked out so that a straight falling rain will never touch the actual tent!

Hoop Tents

This tent design may have been the originator to the more adaptable and improved dome tent.
Designed for use by serious backpackers
 (and others who opt to shed the weight of heavier tents),
the hoop tent is a usually cylindrical design with curved sidewalls.

 Hoop tents are lightweight because they use only two poles, but are a bit less spacious than domes or A-frames.

These tents aren't as rugged in high winds, rain, or snow as A-frames or Domes, but their shape is highly efficient for both weight and floor space.
 Hoop tents generally incorporate three arched frame stays, which allow for nice roomy doors and high ceilings.

Some of these tents feature a fold-back covering that permits occupants 
(in pleasant weather)
 to see the sky through extra-big panels of mosquito netting. 

Although this design can withstand high winds, some models with sloped entrances encourage rain to migrate inside.

Hoop tents are for weight-conscious backpackers.

The Bivvy
(Tent and Sack) 

 Bivouacs come in two styles: 

a tent version, which is essentially a hoop tent;

and a bivvy sack, which encloses a single person like a cocoon.

Bivouac (or bivy) sacks are one-man "tents" that typically exist in the domain of the serious hiker.
These "tents" resemble narrow tubes that have the unfortunate reputation of sealing in body moisture because the walls of the tent aren't allowed to "breathe" as they do in other tent designs.

 Bivvies often have a large hoop that supports the front end, keeping the fabric off your head.

Besides the breathability problem, there is also no room for camping gear inside the tent; equipment left outside could be soaked in a downpour.
In this case, you'll have to cover your equipment with some sort of rainproofing-in the form of plastic garbage bags or under a rain poncho, or tarpaulin.

"Bivvy" sacs have no supporting ribs. 
In effect, the bivvy sac is a form of sleeping bag cover that offers some waterproofing and wind protection (not insulation). There is even less room inside these types of "tents," which have the unfortunate nickname-and rightly so-of "body bags."

Family-Sized Tents 

Last, but not least, are family-sized tents designed to accommodate up to six people. These are made more for car campers; they're less practical for backpackers, cyclists, or those traveling by canoe.
These weighty monsters are really more like the equivalent of a log cabin with apartment-size rooms and "windows"; they weigh between 20 and 30 pounds.

Family tents are multiroom tents designed for those who plan to stay at the same site for longer periods of time.

 Their large, square designs have high ceilings and vertical walls. They have plenty of space for cots, chairs and coolers.

Large, six- to eight-person family tents that open with screened sides are a delight for summer camping.

Family-style tents, for lack of a better word, come in a variety of styles descended from the canvas designs of my youth.
There are umbrella styles, cottage designs, cabin tents, modified dome designs, and others that defy simple description.
The main difference between these tents and their forebears are the fabrics-nylon walls, taffeta floors, and, occasionally, canvas poplin roofs-and the superstructure, which usually consists of aluminum tubing.

Family tents are bulkier, heavier, and take a little more time to pitch than dome tents. 
Most are not free-standing, so you must stakes down the corners before erecting them.
 Family tents aren't as stalwart in a strong wind as dome designs, but they are roomier for a given floor space, have more standing room, and usually offer better ventilation.
Some come with room dividers, awnings, or additional rooms that can be added with zippers.

If you have a large family or expect to spend a lot of time in your tent, a family-style tent would be a good choice.
The dome style is more convenient for shorter trips, or on vacations where you're moving camp every couple of days.

Canvas Tent

I have had plenty of experience with both dome and cabin tents and my personal opinion is that either one is fine for most use and it is really a matter of personal preference.
 I've been more than happy with our cabin tent!

Backpacking Tents

There are many specialty backpacking tents on the market, most of them based on a modified dome or geodesic design with arcing poles. Some are as complicated as lunar landing modules. Designed to stand up under harsh conditions, they are typically made for sleeping, keeping your gear dry, and little else.

But unless you are considering bicycle or canoe camping, or, of course, backpacking, they don't provide enough room to be a good choice for families.

Features to Look For

Consider Quality of Other Features

Stitching and seams 
Look for tents with nylon-coil zippers. They're less prone to breaking than metal zippers, and are lighter. Examine a tent's zippers carefully: Sticky or recalcitrant zippers may be a sign of future trouble.
Broken Zippers? Click Here
Window and Door mesh 
Tie Downs 


How big does the tent need to be? 

Determine the Size and Weight 

What type of activity 

How many people 

How much gear to store in tent  

Tent sizes do not include room for gear storage.
 Consider purchasing a larger tent for this purpose


If it's just you and your spouse, then you obviously don't need to get a monster tent that's made for 8 people.
 On the other hand, if you're camping with the Brady Bunch, then you will need a larger tent.

Also, will you need to keep any campers separate?
If so, there are tents that have two or three "rooms". 
These tents are divided into two or three separate living areas, and they are perfect if you want to keep girls in one room and boys in another, or parents in one room and kids in another.

Before heading out on your first camping trip with a child, let them take naps or spend the night in your tent at home. The claustrophobic environment takes some getting used to, and its best for both you and the child to accustom yourselves to a tent at home rather than the outdoors where it is darker and you might bother other campers.

Another thing to consider when deciding on the size of your tent is whether or not you plan on storing any gear inside the tent. If you want to keep the cooler and other items in the tent, then get a tent that's rated for 1 or 2 more people higher than you normally would.
Some tents even have a separate "dining room". This is usually a screened-in area for eating and lounging.

Tents are rated for people sleeping . . .
 If you want to have your clothing duffel etc. with you . . .
add to the head count, start with at least 50% more

The most important thing to look for in a camping tent is roominess.
 Are you tall?
 Is there enough room to stretch out to your full length when you are in your sleeping bag?
 What about headroom?
 Do you have enough room to sit up comfortably? 
Do you intend to spend a lot of time in your tent? 

Decide how much room is important to you before purchasing a tent. 

Tent manufacturers tend to overestimate the number of people their tents can accommodate.
 If a tent claims it holds one to two people,
it usually means exactly that (holds one to two people)
and with little room for much else.
Two people will be a tight fit without their gear, and one person will fit with plenty of room for clothes, food, etc.
Keep that in mind when considering how much you want your tent to hold. 

  Cabin tents are big with high ceilings and large windows.
 Multi-room models are available.
   Dome tents are smaller, stable and better in varying weather conditions.
 They are easy to setup and take down


When you are making your tent wish list, remember that you will be responsible for how the tent reaches the campground, be it a primitive site in a state forest or a fully-equipped site at the nearest KOA. For backpackers, the most important feature of a tent is its weight. Car campers, on the other hand, are more interested in roominess and comfort. Even so, carrying more tent than the camping trip calls for can be almost as much of a mistake as not having an adequate tent. Some of the larger family tents weigh in excess of 30 pounds.

Don't purchase a huge, bulky, heavy tent if your time in the tent is limited to the eight hours you will be sleeping in it. If your tent will be used only for the "rest" half of R&R, you might want to look into one of the less expensive small family camping tents.

However, if you head out on a camping trip in a heavy duty vehicle intending to set up a base camp for several days or more, the larger tents may be worth the bulk as well as the price.
Many campers (like us) set up in state parks, particularly those on lakes or the ocean, and live in the campground for a week or more.


This is another important feature to look for when shopping for a tent.
 On hot, buggy nights there is nothing worse than being stifled in a poorly ventilated tent.
 Many tents these days offer plenty of no-see-um netting for cross ventilation 
as well as protection from bugs.
Well ventilated tents also have fewer problems with condensation build-up inside the tent than tents sealed up tight. If you are planning only cold weather camping, this feature won't be necessary.

Are you a spring/summer/fall tent-user, or do you like to extend camping into the winter as well? 
Do you think you'll take your tent primarily on backpacking, rafting, sea kayaking, or car camping trips?
Or do you enjoy heading up into the mountains where you'll be exposed to the elements:
snow, wind, rain, hail, sleet, and all those fun experience-builders?

Three Season Tent

Most tents can be classified as three-season. In other words, their construction makes them comfortable from spring through fall. There are also tents that are almost entirely no-see-um netting for ultimate ventilation and which are perfect for camping in the summer, particularly in the South and Southwest.
On the other hand, if you intend to hike in every season, a good rain fly will compensate in cold weather for the extra ventilation needed in hot weather.

 Three-season tents have more mesh, lighter poles and fabrics, and aren't as heavy-duty. 
Three-season also means less ca$h. 

Four Season Tent

Tents built for four-season use usually have very little ventilation and sometimes feature a cook hole in the floor so that you can cook inside your tent.
 Four-season tents theoretically keep you warm or cool, whichever the case may be, year-round.

Four-season tents usually have stronger poles, heavier fabrics, less mesh, and remain sturdy in the wind and snow.
They also have a little more room for gear and cooking.

Basically, the more weather and snow you camp out in, the stronger your tent needs to be. 
Snow = a four-season tent. 
No snow or little snow = a three-season tent. 

Tent Fabric 

Most tents are made of strong but lightweight nylon taffeta or rip stop nylon, which weighs approximately 2 ounces per square yard.
 Some of the bigger tents use coated polyester or cotton poplin canvas, which weighs a good deal more.

The floors and flys are usually coated with polyurethane or another moisture-repellent substance to prevent moisture from passing from the ground into the tent. Although the body of a tent is often left untreated to increase the transfer of respiration and perspiration through the tent's walls, it is not unusual to wake up in a damp tent. Moisture can gather beneath sleeping pads or air mattresses (but not cots since they are raised above the floor). Large and airy tents have less of a problem this way because of the greater circulation of air throughout the tent. Some tents offer a double-roof construction, which further decreases unwanted condensation. I have spent a number of sleepless nights in tents that dripped continually from the ceiling.

  Polyester withstands extended exposure to the sun
  Nylon is lighter weight
  Canvas is durable but very heavy

Tent Poles

Quality is important 
Fiberglass poles are durable 
Aluminum poles are lightweight 

In the past few years, tent poles have evolved from unyielding aluminum to shock-corded poles of fiberglass or aluminum (except in the case of some of the larger, family tents, which still use rigid aluminum poles). These new poles are threaded in segments over elastic (shock) cord that allows the user merely to snap the poles into shape rather than piece them together.

SHOCKCORDED POLES: This means that a bungee cord runs through each pole assembly. This keeps the pole together so you don't have to hunt for pieces. As the poles sections slip together the cord holds them together so they can be handled as a single pole.


Never shake out your shock-corded poles to snap them together.
 The violent action causes nicks to form at the joints that will tear your tent pole sleeves.

When dismantling the tent, the segments are pulled apart and folded compactly.

There is still some controversy as to whether fiberglass is superior to aluminum when it comes to designing tent poles. Fiberglass is less expensive and more flexible than aluminum. It does not require pre-bending or any special attachments. It also provides a better packing size when folded. Its major drawbacks are that it is affected by weather and can break into splinters and must be replaced. Aluminum is more likely to bend and can be splinted when it breaks. Durability is one of aluminum's main advantages along with the fact that it is easily replaced.


Aluminum poles are the standard for high-end tents. 

Good quality aluminum poles are strong, light and can run well over $200 for a replacement set.
 Don't loose them.
Thick poles come with mountaineering and 4 season tents. 
Save the weight and get thinner poles if you will not be camping in heavy winds and snow.

They are light, flexible and can withstand the cold. 

The quality of aluminum poles vary, but most poles are aircraft grade aluminum which are lighter and less bulky while providing increased strength.

Diameters range from 6 mm to 15 mm. The larger diameter is heavier, stronger and less flexible, thus more stable under high winds. Most backpacking tents use 8.5 mm to 9.5 mm. As a general rule if your tent has only one pole intersection, your poles should be 9.5 mm.

If your tent is higher than 5 feet tall, you need a pole diameter of at least 10.5 mm. 

Some companies color code their aluminum poles to make the tent easier to set up.


Avoid fiberglass poles unless car camping.
These poles are heavy and fragile although inexpensive.

Fiberglass poles are heavier than aluminum poles and are not as durable. 

When temperatures fall below freezing, fiberglass poles start to crack. 

Fiberglass poles are usually used to cut costs. 

Fiberglass comes in varying qualities, the cheap versions tend to splinter rather easily. 

Fiberglass poles also have metal sleeves at their ends, these tend to get caught in pole sleeves and make setting up the tent rather frustrating.

End Tips:

To make set up easier some manufacturers have devised interesting ways to attach pole ends to the tent's corners. Here are a few of them:

Ball tips - one end of the pole has a sphere that you simply slide into the continuous sleeve until it rests in a pocket at the other end of the tent.

Hollow end - the end of the pole is hollow so that a pin at the tent's corner can be inserted. This seems easy but the pin sometimes slips out when you try to flex the pole.

Point tips - a pointed end tip is inserted into a grommet at the tent's corner. The pointed end always seems to slip out of the grommet by the time you are ready to insert the other end of the pole.

Locking tips - This works the same way as the pointed tip but without the problem of it slipping out of the grommet.

Military Tent Poles, Original Military Surplus Tent poles connect to create sturdy support for your tent or tarp, 15" tall each and all can be connected or used separately

Adjustable Pole   

3/4" DiameterAdjusts from 4' to 8' 
Friction lock secures height and tension 
Galvanized steel construction 

Use ski bags to hold your dining tarp, poles, pegs and ropes together. 
They are relatively inexpensive at the end of ski season.



Although any tent may be adequate for your needs,
you may want to consider how long you would like your tent to last. 
Good workmanship means you can have a long-lasting relationship with your tent. 

A well-made tent should have lap-felled seams around the floor seam. 
Lap-felled seams (like the seams on the sides of your Levis) provide extra strength, because they are actually four layers of interlocking fabric joined by a double row of stitching.

On uncoated nylon tents, check for taped seams. Because nylon tends to unravel, taping or hiding the end of the fabric behind the seam with another piece of fabric will stop or stall this process.

Finally, make sure that all stress points are reinforced either with extra stitching or bar tacking. 
Tug at the material to make sure the load is equally distributed across the reinforcement.
 Unequal distribution can cause premature wear on your tent.


Today's tents are mostly water resistant, although, even if the manufacturer calls it unnecessary, it's a good idea to seam-seal your tent.
Ideally this should be done prior to the camping trip.
  The tents usually come with instructions, and the best course of action would be to follow the manufactures recommendation. 

Set up your tent in a protected area, and put the fly on inside out. Run seam sealer (included with some new tents, or available at outdoor stores) along every seam on the fly and the floor. It's better to apply two thin coats than one thick coat. Allow to dry for several hours before putting the tent away.

  Water can still invade most tents through WICKING.  This is where something touching the side of the tent will, through capillary action, draw the water through the tent wall onto the item touching it.  This could be a backpack, clothes, sleeping bag, or any other item capable of holding moisture.
This can be an especially bad surprise on the morning of a heavy dew.

Campers agree that waterproofing is an important feature to consider.
There is nothing more miserable than sleeping in a wet tent. 
The better the material, the more water-resistant, then the more likely you are to sleep dry. But there are some days that it rains so hard that no matter how good your tent, you're going to get wet (if for no other reason that you bring the rain in yourself going in and out of the tent). It may rain for days on end while you cower inside your tent waiting for the deluge to subside. During this time, your tent does not even have time to dry out, but as long as your sleeping bag is fairly dry, you can sleep warmly, if not entirely comfortably, in your damp tent.

There are occasions like these that have taught some campers to keep a spare tarp on hand. The tarp can then be erected over your tent to provide an extra roof and a little extra protection from the rain.
 Just remember to give the tarp a little slant so that water doesn't pool up in the middle of it.

To keep your tent as dry as possible, it is important to seal its seams, especially those around the floor of the tent. Most leaks occur at the seams because that is where the needles that sewed the pieces together left holes.

Although parts of the tent are coated, the needle holes in the seams will allow water to enter your tent; therefore manufacturers often include an applicator bottle of sealant designed to close these tiny holes.  Buy some sealer (available at most outdoors stores) and follow the directions.
Then seal them again. 

Spread the fly (and the tent if it is not seam-taped) out on the ground; run a thin coating of sealant along the seams. Allow the sealant to dry according to the instructions on the bottle, and then apply a second coat.
Sealing seams every season helps ensure that your tent will perform the way it's supposed to.

Depending on how much you use the tent, the sealer can last up to two years.
 If you use your tent a lot or have subjected it to a lot of rain or snow, seal the seams more often.

You can buy seam sealer at any outdoor store and most discount stores. It is very cheap with easy to follow directions.

Rain flies have to be seam-sealed every few seasons. 

 The sun too will eventually cause a tent to deteriorate.
If possible, camp in the shade to avoid harmful UV rays. You might consider simply leaving your rain fly on during the day. They are easier to replace after a few seasons of abuse than the entire tent.

Tent floors can wear out, so use a ground tarp when possible. 


When camping in the cold or snow, try to position your tent so that the early morning sun warms you and evaporates the dew or frost on your tent.


You will also want to consider how easily a tent can be set up and taken down

- important when it comes to pitching a tent in the dark or wind or rain.

A golden rule is to 
always set your tent up in the yard before your first camping trip

 This rule serves many purposes. 
First because you want to make sure that all of the parts are enclosed in the package. Think of how awful it would be to be at your campsite and find that a pole was missing.
Also you want to have practice at pitching the tent so that you will have an idea as to what you have to do once you are at camp.
You don't want to waste a lot of your precious camping time trying to set up a tent that you aren't familiar with.

You may also want to practice setting up in the dark!

While you have your tent set up in your yard there are a few things that I highly recommending doing.

The first is waterproofing.
 Most tents are considered waterproof but it never hurts to give it an extra boost. 


You also want to check the stakes for your tent.
If the tent comes with the skinny metal stakes, forget them. 
Buy yourself some of the larger plastic stakes.
They will make the tent much more securely attached to the ground. They are very cheap and I would recommend buying and taking extra. You will be amazed at the uses you can find for tent stakes.

Also remember to never ever ever use the loops on the tent to pull the stakes out of the ground. They are not meant for this and doing this could cause them not to hold at the most inconvenient of times - like when it is windy and rainy and you most want to be inside of the tent.
If you have a hammer with a claw that will fit to pull them out, use that. 
If not, then stake pullers are relatively inexpensive and available wherever you buy the extra stakes.


There are several different methods of tent set up-clip systems, sleeve systems and grommet systems. In the clip system, the ends of the poles are held by grommets and the tent clipped to the poles; in the sleeve system, the poles are pushed through sleeves in the tent and the ends are held by grommets; and the simple grommet system, in which the poles, usually rigid aluminum poles, are held by grommets or loops with little or no bending of the poles. Some tents employ combinations of the two systems, the clip and sleeve combination being the most common.


While color is a matter of personal preference, there are reasons why you may choose one color over another. Bright, neon-like colors are good only in search-and-rescue situations because the blinding material will stand out against the snow or the green and brown of the woods or the sand in the desert. Since most camping involves designated sites, this situation rarely arises. It is more common among mountain climbers or others who find themselves in this situation having traveled in remote areas. For the very reason bright colors are effective in emergency situations as described above, these colors can be annoying to other campers, causing a visual disturbance in what is supposed to be a natural, outdoors experience.

The fabric color affects the quality of light inside your tent. If your tent is pale green or blue, the bright sunlight filtered through your tent will form a soft light inside. On rainy or overcast days, the light inside your tent could be slightly depressing. These colors are also a bit more inconspicuous in the backcountry. In contrast, orange and yellow fabrics are great in foul weather because they produce a brighter light inside your tent but few manufacturers use these colors anymore just because they are so bright.

As a matter of fact, there is a definite trend toward using more inconspicuous and environmentally pleasing colors such as grey, light grey, white and tan. These please the eye both inside and outside the tent. Blue and gold combinations are also used in many tents as are lodengreen or spruce, charcoal, burgundy, teal and aqua.
 Blue-grey and green are by far the most common tent colors. 

Consider a quality ground cloth for under your tent to protect the floor and to keep it drier and cleaner.
This should be the same shape as your tent and slightly smaller.

The Fly

The 'fly' or 'roof fly' or 'rain fly'
is the separate sheet of waterproofed fabric that covers the main tent body
 (in most modern double-wall tent designs). 

The rain fly of your tent is undoubtedly the most integral part of your tent when the rain begins to fall.
It is essentially your last line of defense from the cold, wet rain.

The fly may just cover a central part of the roof, or it may extend all the way to the ground. It may incorporate an integral vestibule or annex by the tent door(s), or even a porch-style awning on some family models.

In any case, it is likely to be somewhat heavier than the rest of the tent, as the fly takes the most abuse over time from UV light, winds, rains, birds, trees

It's a good idea to purchase 1 or 2 extra flies when you first get the new tent 
(or soon after),
for likely replacement needs down the road. 
(Very happy when a model is discontinued and parts become scarce.)

Flies need to be re-treated/sealed for waterproofness every so often, and like the rest of the tent should be stored clean and dry.

In use you won't always need it of course
in less humid climates with little rain it is fun to go fly-less, 
for increased ventilation, 
nighttime star-gazing on models with sheer ceiling material.

Most fly sheets also include extra sewn-on web loops or metal rings, for attaching guy-out lines in windy conditions:
It's a good idea to get some good weather-proof cord
(available at most sports or hardware stores)
 and heavy-duty stakes to augment the basic tent package, and use them if there's any chance of strong gusts.

There are four very important characteristics of a rain fly: 
it's length, it's tightness, the presence of reinforced guy points and the presence of vents.

1. Rain flies should be full length, so they protect the inner walls from getting wet and from letting too much cold air into the tent, or even worse spindrift. But there still must be enough space between the ground and the bottom of the rain fly so that ventilation is not inhibited. As a general rule, the seam that attaches the tent floor to the tent wall should be covered by the rain fly.

2. The tightness of the rain fly is important because if it's not tight when dry, it certainly won't be tight when wet. When the fly gets wet it stretches and begins to sag. This allows water to enter into the tent when the fly fabric touches the tent fabric. To prevent this the camper must go out and tighten guy lines. Some flies are equipped with compression straps and ladderlock buckles at the corners that can be tightened when the fabric begins to sag.

3. Reinforced guy points are a must if you want your tent to be standing during wind and rain. These points allow you to anchor your tent and stretch the rain fly to avoid sagging.
Look for at least four guy points  if you want to have a sturdy shelter.

4. Vents are an often-overlooked characteristic, but are extremely important in the battle versus condensation. Without vents, the warm, humid air that rises to the top of tent has a long way to go until it reaches the bottom of the fly to escape. Vents placed high on the rain fly allow this air to escape more rapidly and eliminate the formation of water droplets due to condensation. But please, make sure the vents are well protected from letting rain in.

They really can make the difference between a solid shelter and a large loose tumbleweed-type tent.

If in doubt, guy it out!

Note: We're talking tents here,
not tornado shelters. 

Keep track of the weather before and during your trip, 
use proper gear for the likely conditions, 
and be realistic about your overall safety needs 
and the ability of your equipment 
and fellow campers. 

Additional Tips

Once you've spent bucket loads for your tent, follow these tips to make sure it lasts long and serves you well:

Vestibules and Other Features

Many tents come equipped with vestibules. A vestibule is essentially a tent's front porch. It is designed to protect gear from the elements and can offer a canopy under which to cook in foul weather.

(Never cook inside a tent.)

WARNING:  You must remember that any open flame in a tent is dangerous. DO NOT use candles when you are sleeping. There is a chance you may not wake up.
 A vestibule also gives you somewhere to put your shoes-a place that is not inside the tent, but not outside either.


Most tents offer mesh storage pouches that are good for storing small personal items like watches, compasses, and small flashlights.
Just don't forget to remove those things when you stuff the tent back into its sack. Many manufacturers include a small loop (not to be confused with tent poles) in the mid-center of the tent that you can use to suspend a flashlight.


Even if weather isn't a problem, insects sometimes are.
 Well-built tents feature finely woven insect netting in their roof panels, entrances, and end panels. Depending on the time of year and location, a tent is valuable as a shelter from the elements and an impenetrable barrier to mosquitoes and black flies. Such netting lets you see your surroundings while holding off the invasion of biting insects. The netting does double duty in the roof panels-it not only keeps insects out, but allows moisture expelled from occupants in the tent to be released outside, keeping conditions inside comfortable and less humid than they might otherwise be.

Washing Your Tent

Don't wash in a washing machine 
 dry in a dryer

You will want to keep any equipment you buy in tip-top shape. 
This is especially true for a tent, which typically represents the biggest investment in any single piece of outdoor equipment you're likely to make.
The trouble is, a tent is your first line of defense against the elements and is always in contact with the earth when being used.
The sad fact of the matter is that the clean, unruffled beauty will eventually become soiled, whether from the ground on which it's pitched, or from any goop that falls from the trees around it.

Unfortunately you can't just send your synthetic fiber wonder to the dry cleaners or toss it into a washing machine to rid it of past brushes with the wilderness.
Rest assured, washing your tent isn't hard, it just takes a little care and some elbow grease.

If you find yourself faced with a tent that has undergone the ravages of a rainstorm that turned your particular patch of outdoor wilderness into a mucky hell, chances are your tent has taken the brunt of the misery.
In your hasty exit from your campsite, you probably stuffed your mud-smeared tent back into its stuff-sack to be dealt with later.
 Later quickly becomes now on your return home, and you wonder how you're going to deal with the mess the outdoors has made of your outdoor shelter.

The first step is to dry everything out.
That means draping your tent over a clothes line in the garage, or over several chairs inside.
Allow your tent to dry thoroughly overnight. 
Cleaning is best done outside by using a brush to gently wipe away dried mud from the fabric. You'll find that your tent's synthetic fabric easily repels dirt and that a good brushing is all that's really needed to get your tent looking like new again.

For heavily soiled areas, spot clean with a solution of soapy water.
 Use only the mildest of detergent soaps.
Never use detergent of washing machines or dryers
 because they can damage the tent's protective coating and seams

Either brushing or wet-spot cleaning can also be used to clean the fly, and it may be a good time to seal the tent and fly seams.

Allow adequate drying time before stuffing your tent back into its sack.
In some cases-where your tent has come into contact with oil or pine sap-it may be difficult to clean the tent entirely.
Look at stains such as these as war wounds that tents wear as badges of honor in their on-going battle to keep their owners safe, sound, and comfortable while nature whirls around them in the night.

A little tip . . .

Avoid well-meaning advice to buy an
"ecologically unobtrusive" 
 Sure, browns, grays, and greens blend into the landscape, but they can be awfully difficult to find after a long day on the trail.
If you get lost, a red tent is much easier to spot. 
Also, dark interiors make for gloomy stormbound days; 
stick with bright, light colors.

One Last Note to Ponder . . .


Most tents, even those that are labeled flame resistant, will burn, so keep all sources of heat or flames at a safe distance.

To prevent a serious fire or burn, follow these suggestions:

1. Read the labels before purchasing a tent. Buy only a flame resistant tent.

2. Pitch your tent at least five meters from grills and fireplaces.

3. Have an escape plan, and be prepared to cut your way out of the tent if a fire occurs.

4. Use only battery-operated lights in or near tents and campers.

5. Keep a fire extinguisher or container of water available at all times.

6. Maintain at least a one meter clear area, free of leaves, dry grass, pine needles, etc., around grills, fireplaces, and tents.

7. Thoroughly extinguish all fires, and turn off fuel lanterns and stoves before leaving the campsite or before going to bed.

See Emergency Fire Procedures

To prevent accidents in the night,
use phosphorescent paint to mark the top of corner pegs of tents, guylines, etc.


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