Camping Gear Articles > Choosing a Tent

Choosing a Tent

When choosing a tent, it is important to consider how you are going to use the tent. Consider things like:

How many people will be using the tent?
This will help you to determine an appropriate style and size.

How will the tent be used (In a campground? In the backcountry?)
This will tell you how the tent will be transported. If it is going to be used mostly in the backcountry, then weight should be a consideration.

Is weight an issue?
A performance backpacker will be much more concerned about a lightweight, highly portable tent than a car camper.

How much interior space is needed?
Take sleeping space, storage and comfort into account. Two doors or one? Is a vestibule or two needed for gear storage?

Does color matter?
Check how well the tent's color transmits light to the interior. Some colors create a bright interior, while others make for a dreary, cavelike ambience. Light colors are cooler in the summer, while dark colors absorb solar energy, making them better for cold weather.

What kind of conditions must the tent handle?
If wet weather is often encountered, look for a rainfly that reaches all the way to the ground. If camping in typically dry weather in spring, summer and fall, a tent with an awning fly (a partial-coverage fly with "awnings" over the doors) may be adequate. If snow camping, plan to look for a four-season tent that features heavier construction with a lower profile, designed to withstand more wind stress & heavier snow loads.
Narrow down the options by considering how much living space you will need.
NOTE: A general rule of thumb is a basic backpacking tent should weigh about two-three pounds per person.

Provides shelter for one
Extremely lightweight
Easy to carry

For two - three people
Compact and light enough to be used on solo trips
Large enough for backpackers to share

For groups of four or more people
Emphasizes comfort & roominess over weight & compactability
Popular with people planning short packing trips with large groups & car campers

Rainfly Style
Tents perform two basic tasks: 1.) protect from the elements (rain, wind, snow) 2.) keep the camper(s) comfortable in varying temperatures. Most tents are built to perform one task better than the other.

A. Awning style rainflys offer a rainfly that is not full coverage and tends to
be most effective in warm, dry climates.

Provides premium ventilation
Has lots of mesh panels

For use in mild conditions only
Less weather proof

B. Full-coverage rainflys adapt to most recreational backpacking
situations and conditions.

Good ventilation
Good weather protection
Adapts to variety of weather conditions
Additional storage in vestibule

Less ventilation than awning style

Pole Type
A. Aluminum poles offer a very high strength-to-weight ratio, are long lasting, and are durable to handle heavy snow loads or strong winds. Kelty works exclusively with Dongah Aluminum Corporation (DAC) who is widely regarded as the premier tent pole maker in the world. This is largely due to their high level of specialization in the category. DAC constantly studies tent structures, determining exactly the proper alloy, temper, and strength/weight trade off to make the optimum shelter. Kelty uses three distinct types of DAC poles, each specifically designed for the style of tent on which they are used.

 I. Featherlite Poles
Computer designed and tested, Featherlite poles are specifically engineered for use in lightweight tents. A “tapered” end of the pole has a smaller diameter that allows it to slide into the larger pole end. This system reduces the overall weight of a pole 12-18% depending on pole and section size. Featherlite poles are used in tents when strength is critical.

II. Pressfit Poles
DAC Pressfit poles are used in all Kelty tents where strength is more critical than weight. These poles feature a ferrule that is pressed in, rather than glued or peened, using an extremely precise interference fit to hold it in place. This system ensures that the poles will be strong and reliable for many years to come, with no slippage or corrosion.

III. DA17 Poles
DA17 prebent poles are made of proprietary aluminum alloy designed by DAC specifically for tents. By using this alloy, we get a large diameter pole with high stiffness, strength and durability at a cost only a little above inexpensive fiberglass poles. This makes for a tent that is less expensive than the Featherlite or Pressfit pole models, but still touts the durability, lighter weight and benefits of aluminum over fiberglass.

B. Fiberglass poles, while not as durable or light as aluminum poles, offer a very economical choice to the car camper or infrequent backpacker.

Tent Construction
The style in which the poles are fastened to the tent body should be another consideration in selecting your tent.

  1. Vaulted pole sleeves spread the stress placed on the seams or poles along their entire length. Vaulted pole sleeves also make the tent easier to set up. Tents with pole sleeves are best suited for situations where strength is a must.

    Low seam stress
    Can be heavy
  2. Clip/sleeve construction ease the set up on larger tents where it would be difficult to reach the clips on the top or center of the tent. The sleeves help increase the strength of the tent while the clips provide excellent ventilation.

    Increased ventilation
    Easy set up

  3. Clip construction provides great fly separation and increased air movement. Kelty clips are color-coded, making set up a cinch.

The best ventilation

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