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The Camping Family's Guide to Choosing the Perfect Tent

With too many products out there and too little valuable advice, getting the best tent for your family can be quite a challenge. Because you want the best value for your money, you ask many questions and hold back on making a purchase when you get an answer that is less than satisfying. Do you get a tunnel tent? What does a 10-person rating mean? Is it important to get one with removable floors?

Let us, here at Camping Cove, help you. We'll guide you through the whole process – from choosing the right construction down to the ideal weight. Read on and find out the things you need to consider before investing.

How many are you?

A happy family camping ©Hallgrimur P. Helgason (HPHson)

When looking at tents, you will always see a rating of how many people it can accommodate. What you have to remember is that these ratings refer to the maximum number of people that can squeeze into the tent. It does not mention whether this is a comfortable fit though.

A good rule to follow is to subtract 2 or 3 from the tent's capacity rating, depending on how much stuff you usually bring with you on a trip. The more you need to bring, the more you should subtract. This will help you choose a tent that will have enough room for your family and for your things as well. For example, a tent with a 10-person rating like the Utah 10-Person Family Camping Tent is actually more comfortable for a family of 7. Since the Utah has 3 rooms, one of them will be used as a storage area as opposed to dumping your stuff in the main hub.

Do you have small children? Teenagers?

Mom and son on the hammock at sunset.©ifes ill

There are basically two types of family camping tents: tunnel and hub+pod.

Tunnel tents have a lengthwise structure. It has rooms that are by side by side, usually located at one (or both) end of the tent, plus a larger living area. This is a good choice for families with small children. Mom and dad can keep a better eye on them with the rooms so close together. An example of this is the Gobi 6-Person Family Camping Tunnel Tent which has 2 rooms at one end.

Extra Tip: Although not completely necessary, an added feature a family with small children might appreciate are rooms with adjustable walls. Children love to cuddle next to their parents however, this will require more space. With an adjustable wall, you can adjoin 2 rooms in which the parents and children can share.

A hub+pod tent is more spread out with the pods (sleeping rooms) branching out from the main pod (living area). This makes the individual pods more private than the rooms in a tunnel tent. If you have older children who wish to have more privacy, a hub+pod style of tent, like the Nexus 12-Person Family Camping Dome Tent, is more suitable for you with 4 sleeping pods.

Is there a giant or giantess in your family?

Just kidding. But seriously, one thing that is easily overlooked by families when getting a tent is the inner standing height. Often, they fail to realize that one of them is particularly tall and ends up choosing a tent that's too low on the inside.

If all members of your family are below 6 feet tall, a tent with an inner standing height of 185 cm to 200 cm would do. On the other hand, if someone in your group is more than 6 feet tall, don't choose anything lower than 210 cm.

Do you want to stay dry and cool?

The pre-camp set up ©grace*c*

You might think that this is a no-brainer since you just have to pick a tent with waterproof fabric. However, not all waterproof fabric are created equal. Choose a tent that uses two types of fabric: one for the rain fly, and one for the inner tent. Naturally, the fabric in the rain fly should be dense enough to be able to hold out in a heavy downpour. 210T polyester taffeta is actually ideal for this. Moreover it should have polyurethane coating.

Consequently, the fabric for the inner tent should be lighter and more breathable. A 190T polyester fabric will usually allow heat to escape and prevent condensation inside your tent.

How many capable hands do you have in your family?

If you are a family with only 2 able-bodied adults, you should avoid getting a tent a heavy tent. Same thing if your vehicle will be quite a distance away from the camping grounds and you would have to lug the tent around. You want something that's under 20 kgs like the Icarus 9-Person Family Camping Dome Tent, or the Gettysburg 12-Person Family Camping Tunnel Tent.

However, if you are a family or 4 burly men and a lady, you can choose to go crazy on the weight then.

Extra Tip: Usually, much of the tent's weight comes from its poles so it would be wise to check the type of construction used. Camping Cove tent's come in two types: Standard – which uses Ubertech shock-corded poles; and Premium – which uses lightweight PVC poles.

Do you have enough space in your car?

Family Car Camping - with the chuck box ©Brad P. (bpende)

Do not forget to consider the space you have in the car you will be using for your camping trips. You don't want to get a tent that will be a struggle to fit into the car. Take measurements and check the packed size of the tent that you are getting. 4 meters can be a bit big compared to other tents that pack down to a length of 2 meters.

So there you have it. After answering all the questions we have posted, we are pretty sure you have a better idea now of which tent to get for your family.

Here's a final list of what you need to do:

  • Subtract 2 or 3 from the capacity rating
  • Get a tunnel tent if you have small kids, a hub+pod if you have older children
  • Think about tall family members
  • Check if the tent uses two types of fabric
  • Consider how many people in your family are capable of carrying the tent
  • Think about the distance of your vehicle to the campsite
  • Do not forget about the space in your car

If you are buying from Camping Cove, you don't have to worry about quality because all the tents from our selection were rigorously tested, plus they come with a full warranty.

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