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jca's avatar

Can you please give me some tent purchasing advice?

Asked by jca (28106 points ) June 28th, 2011

I am looking to purchase a tent for a “backyard” camping trip for myself and my child, at the yard of another family. I am not a professional camper, so I am not looking for the mother of all tents, but we may go “real” camping in the future so I would like a decent tent we can use again.

I came across a small tent at Kmart, for about $30. I decided to check my usual sites: Amazon, Costco and Walmart. Walmart had a 12×8 one for $55. Amazon has some decent ones, similar size and price. I like the idea of approximately 12×8 in size, in case we want to bring other people with us in the future.

My questions are: are tents a lot cheaper after July 4th? I know Amazon and Walmart usually have great prices anyway, so no need to wait if it’s not going to make a difference. The tents at Costco are bigger and more expensive than we need.

Are there any special features I should know about that are good for tents to have?

The one I am looking at on Amazon has a tub bottom and is about 60 inches in the middle, big enough to stand up in. It’s about 10×7 and $55. It’s by Suisse Sport.

There was one at Walmart.com that was 12×8 and $55, by Wenzel. However, it had some bad reviews due to zipper problems. The Suisse Sport one at Amazon had no real bad reviews. ,

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9 Answers

linguaphile's avatar

You look like you did a lot of homework… but other features you might want to consider are temperature, water or wind resistance. If you live in a hot climate, you might want something with lots of vents to facilitate air circulation, but if you live the north, you want the opposite, even in July in the middle of the night it can hit the 60’s. Does it rain a lot where you are? then consider water resistance.

jca's avatar

@linguaphile: I live in NY near CT. It does rain on occasion. I read one review on one of the sites where the reviewer talked about water proofing the tent (maybe with a spray?). As I mentioned, the one I am looking at has a “tub bottom” which I think is a bottom with sides on it, to keep the water out if it rains.

laureth's avatar

The rating for “how many people can sleep in this tent” (like “4-person” or whatever) are only accurate if all the people are very intimate, don’t mind sleeping pressed all against each other, and are fairly small. :) In other words, I would at least halve that number (“4-person” can fit two people) or even less, if you also want to stow gear inside the tent. That said, the camping I have done was never after a long hike, it was more like “park and unpack,” so if you’re going to pack something in over several miles, you may care more about less weight than sleeping comfort.

Also, whenever I buy a new tent, I’ve found that waterproofing it with spray bought separately, combined with seam sealer, has never been a waste of time or money.

Something that you can stand up when entering, rather than needing to crawl into, is much, much easier. It doesn’t seem like it would be a big deal… until it is. Especially if you have long hair which will catch in the zipper every time you crawl in.

It helps to bring an extra tarp or two to cover the tent in case of heavy rain, if that happens where you live. Even with a rain fly. Even with waterproofing. Putting one tarp under the tent (but which is not big enough to extend past the tent’s footprint) also makes things drier and more comfortable, and saves wear and tear on the tent bottom.

I’m not sure about if tents are cheaper after 4 July.

If you wear glasses, those little pockets that tents sometimes have hanging around the inside are a lifesaver. If not, they’re also good to have for things like lightweight flashlights, that you want to keep handy at night for the midnight potty runs.

jca's avatar

@laureth: I want to buy the water proofing and seam sealer. Tarp is a good idea.

I am wondering if I should buy an air mattress, too?

This tent that I am interested in is 60 inches high, so it’s a pretty decent height. The Walmart one was 6 feet high, so it was a little taller, but it had bad reviews about the zipper fraying and people said they had to cut the zipper and it rendered the tent useless. That’s not good.

laureth's avatar

I would totally go for the air mattress.

As far as anything sold at WalMart, well, you get what you pay for. ;)

jca's avatar

The Walmart brand was Ozark Trails. It may be a generic Walmart brand, I’m not sure.

tranquilsea's avatar

Get a good air mattress. It matters. We have ones that you blow up.

We camp in Canada and it usually rains. We make sure we have a tarp strung over us and we’ve never had a problem with our tents leaking. Our current tent is completely made of mesh once you take the fly off. That provides for the best air circulation.

jca's avatar

I only went camping once, in college. I was taking a course on the American South and the professor organized a camping trip to the South, to see things first hand. I remember one night, waking up in the middle of the night, and hearing the crickets all over, like stereophonic. It was awesome.

Stinley's avatar

Could you try to borrow one first to get an idea about size and style? Or buy secondhand so that you are not shelling out for something cheap and nasty that breaks or big and expensive that you never use again?

Just make sure it is fully dry before packing it away.

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