How to Choose an Outdoor Tent

How to Choose an Outdoor Tent

First of all, let's make it clear that the tent referred to in this article refers to the tent for 1-4 people in the original outdoor environment during the multi-day hiking activities.

It does not include camp tents built for camping, four-season tents dedicated to ice and snow environment, or leisure tents used in the park.

Choosing a good outdoor tent will bring you a better experience of hiking.

The shape, size, and price of outdoor tents are different. How to choose depends on the answers to the following questions.

  1. Where will you camp? How is the environment? What's the climate like?
  2. How many people use it?
  3. Price budget?
  4. Which characteristics do you prefer?
  5. Which kind of tent do you prefer?

Before you begin to answer these questions, please read the following about tents.

Let's start.

1、 Types of outdoor tents

There are two basic types of outdoor tents, one is a double-layer tent with its own tent pole for easy use, the other is a lightweight tent that can be built up with a climbing stick, including a tarp tent and tarp. These two kinds of tents are excellent in comfort, ease of use and weight.

Double layer tent

The double-layer tent is mainly composed of three parts: (1) the inner tent which is waterproof at the bottom and not waterproof at the top; (2) the outer tent which is waterproof; (3) the tent pole. Most double-decker tents are very easy to build and provide good weather resistance so that you can avoid the influence of bad weather, and use it very comfortably. However, they are often the heaviest. There are three types of double-layer tents:

(1) Self-supporting Tent

self support tent


The self-supporting tent is the most common tent. When it comes to tent, what many people think of is what it looks like. They can achieve self-reliance and maximum space without additional ground nails and supporting points. It's the most traditional kind of outdoor tent. If you want to go out with one or more friends, or in areas with sparse trees, it's a good choice. Some durable and high-strength models can be used for severe weather and winter camping.

(2) Semi Self-supporting Tent

semi support tent

The semi self-supporting tent is also equipped with a special tent pole to achieve self-supporting, but some ground nails and wind ropes are needed to make the tent reach the maximum space. This kind of tent is becoming more and more popular because it not only provides the safety and comfort of a double-layer tent but also has less tent pole and lighter weight.


(3) Tunnel Tent

Tunnel Tent

The tunnel tent is a kind of semi self-standing tent, which has a unique tent pole structure. They have one or more ring-shaped poles that need assistance to stand upright. Compared with other types of tents, tunnel tents have larger space and provide higher comfort and strength under the same weight.

Tarp Tent

Tunnel Tent

Tarp tent is a kind of single-layer tent that can be built quickly. It weighs only half of the double-layer tent and can provide complete protection. Some have built-in floors and insect screens, some don't. Their biggest drawback is that the inner walls tend to accumulate moisture, which means you may wake up wet in the morning. And the adjustability is very small because all its parts are connected together. Tarp tents can be built with special poles, climbing poles or a combination of the two. The tarp tent is positioned between the double tent and the tarp. The common shapes of TARP tents are A-type, pyramid type and double cone type.


The tarp is a simple waterproof cloth. It's the lightest, most versatile shelter with the least need to worry about internal condensation. Tarp has many shapes, among which square tarp is the most common. You can use TARP to build dozens of different shelters.

(1) Tarp type A

Tarp A

Type a tarp is one of the simplest and most practical options. It can provide most people with the performance they need on the premise of lightweight and in most cases. Like some light double-decker tents, the a-tarp usually has a wider head than the foot. They have two openings, and if there is no other protection, the shelter is not suitable for heavy rain and strong wind conditions. However, its openness brings more possibilities. You can use it in different terrain, for example, on a table. It can be used to build a porch for other tents. When the weather is good, you can use it as a piece of cloth. Type a tarp can be built with climbing poles and oars, or you can buy a special ledger pole. Tarp made of crude benzene fiber is the most suitable lightweight material for A-type tarp.

(2) Pyramid Tarp

Pyramid tarp, also known as cone tarp. It has a strong weatherproof performance. They are built with one or two poles (climbing pole, oar or special tent pole), surrounded by the center on all sides. The inclined tent wall can effectively prevent wind and rain, which is the first choice for outdoor activities in a harsh environment. Because of its inclined structure, it is also easier to condense. But compared with A-type tarp, it has better privacy and weatherproof performance. You can buy additional accessories to make it more versatile.

2、 Outdoor Tent Fabric

There are three kinds of fabrics for outdoor tents, namely PU coated fabric, silicon-coated nylon, and crude benzene fiber. Silicone coated nylon is usually stronger and more durable than PU coated fabrics, both of which require a coating to be waterproof. Different fabrics have different deniers. The higher the denier, the stronger the tent will be. The lightest tent fabric is 10d, the bottom of most tents is 40-70d, and the luggage bag for exploration is 1000 D.

PU Coated Fabric

pu coated tent

Pu is the preferred coating for all economical tents. It is the cheapest way to make durable waterproof fabric in a cold and humid environment. Unfortunately, PU coatings on cheap tents tend to hydrolyze (decompose) and eventually fail. The wetter and warmer the environment, the faster the coating hydrolyzes. The fabric will become sticky and the PU coating will peel off after drying. Both high-end outdoor tents and tarp will add polymer polyether into PU coating to make them have better hydrolysis resistance.

Silicon Coated Nylon

Basically, all high-end backpacks and outdoor tents are made of silicon-coated nylon. It has strong water repellency, elasticity, UV resistance, and constant temperature. Compared with PU coated fabric, silicon-coated nylon is stronger, lighter and more durable. Its surface is also smoother than PU coated fabric, which makes it very suitable for winter use because snow can easily slip off. Silicon coating is widely considered as the best coating for packaging tents. Many high-end tents, such as Geek2020 tents, use this fabric.

But it also has its disadvantages. For budget-conscious consumers, tents made of silicon-coated nylon are more expensive. Because of its complex process, it takes a long time to bond the silicon coating on nylon. In addition, it is very difficult to stick things on the silicone nylon, which means that the joints coated with silicone nylon cannot be stuck with tape, and a special sealant must be used. As a result, a large part of the high-end tents is made of single-sided silicone nylon, while the inside is PU coated.

The double-sided silicon-coated nylon is lighter, stronger and more durable than the single-sided silicon-coated nylon. They are usually sealed by hand with a liquid sealant to provide better waterproof performance. Its disadvantage is that it can't be repaired with tape. It must be stitched or bonded with silicone, which means you should be more careful when using it. Silicon coated nylon is a perfect combination of performance and price. However, when it gets wet, it stretches and often needs to be re-tensioned.

Crude Benzene Fiber

It is the lightest, strongest and most durable waterproof material in the outdoor industry. Unlike silicone coated nylon, the crude benzene fiber doesn't stretch, which means you don't need to tighten the tent often. Crude benzol fiber can be quickly repaired with adhesive tape and does not absorb water, which means your tent will not become heavier due to wind and rain. It weighs less than half of nylon, and it's translucent. You can see stars through it. Crude benzene fiber is considered to be the best waterproof material for a lightweight shelter.

Although crude benzol fiber is a kind of magical fabric, it also has disadvantages. For example, it's expensive, about four times more expensive than silicon-coated nylon. It also has no scalability, and its environmental adaptability is slightly poor. It's not as heat-resistant as silicone nylon, and you need to be careful when cooking in tents. It's not as slippery as nylon. It's not ideal in winter. For non-winter hiking and mountaineering, these shortcomings are basically insignificant. For many people, the choice between silicone-coated nylon and crude benzol depends on weight and price.

3、 Other Accessories For Outdoor Tent

Holder Pole

At present, most of the poles are made of aluminum alloy, and there are also poles made of glass fiber and carbon fiber. We strongly recommend only considering the aluminum alloy account pole, because, in addition to the price, other materials account pole basically has no advantage. For outdoor tents, there are more factors to consider. Basically, most tent manufacturers cooperate with Korean Aluminum Company DAC to help design and provide account poles.

In most cases, tent poles are competent for their work, while high-end tents are equipped with high-quality poles. In the tent design, the structure of the tent pole becomes more and more diverse. We think that the design and fabric of the tent pole have more influence on the whole tent than the material of the tent pole. Therefore, there are not many points you need to consider for the accounting staff. In addition to the material, there is also its single segment length, which affects its portability.

Ground Nail and Wind Rope

For many self-supporting tents, ground nails and wind ropes are important, but they are not necessary. So a lot of people may ignore them, but for any other type of tent, matching ground nails and windbreaks can make your outdoor journey more secure and comfortable. Unfortunately, we find that many tents are often purchased without enough windbreaks. In order to build a tent better, you may need to prepare more spikes and windbreaks. Most of the tarps have no ground nails, and only a few windproof ropes have matched.

Good ground nails and windbreaks should be light and strong. The common materials of ground nails are aluminum alloy and carbon fiber, which have their own advantages and disadvantages. Carbon fibers are lighter and harder, but also more brittle. While aluminum alloy is heavy and soft, it has better durability. We recommend carbon core ground nails for MSR. The windproof rope is related to the thickness and the strength of the wire. Generally, the thicker the windproof rope is, the heavier the windproof rope is. Take the balance you need between the two.

4、 Performance Index Of Outdoor Tent

Weatherproof Performance

In the outdoor environment, the most basic performance of a good shelter is weatherproof performance. If it can't be weatherproof, how can it be called a shelter?

The factors influencing this index are the structural design and fabric of the tent, and the fabric situation is described in detail above.

In terms of structure, the traditional double-layer tent structure can be well windproof and rainproof, but it is not a good choice for lightweight. Tarp tents are also quite weatherproof, especially pyramid tarp tents. When using a tarp, its performance also depends on its structure and your technology. At present, the structural design of some lightweight tents is very diverse. You need to consider the performance of its design in various situations, especially some details, such as zippers, vents, etc., and whether there is water that can flow and splash into the tent during heavy rain.

Comfort Level

Comfort has always been a very subjective indicator. The comfort you need and want depends largely on your camping experience, how long you plan to stay in it, and how well you can accept it.

If "real wilderness experience" is your goal, a tarp can provide a closer connection with nature. It also provides great comfort when combined with the right accessories (although these add complexity and weight). If you're just starting to live outdoors and want to feel more comfortable and operate more easily, a double tent is a good place to start. At the same time, some intimate design will also increase your comfort.


In addition to its own workmanship, the durability of different materials is also different. For details, please refer to the material introduction above.

In addition, the simpler the fewer parts, the more durable. The reason is very simple. The simpler the structure of a tent, the fewer parts it has, the less damage it can have. It can be said that tarp is the most durable shelter because it only has one cloth and several wind ropes and several ground nails.


The multifunction of the tent mainly refers to its ability to adapt to different campsites and weather conditions. A tent that adapts to different environments, or can be built in a less than perfect camp, can save you time and energy.

This evening, you may need to protect yourself from the rain. On another night, it may be only windy but not rainy. Next night, you may come to a crowded forest.

Most double-decker tents are not very multi-functional, they have the same configuration and the same requirements for camp and weather. And tarp offers more possibilities. You can build different shelters according to your needs.

Lightweight & Portability

Well, that's the topic again. The traditional view is that tarp tent and tarp are much lighter than a traditional tent. While this is largely true, the gap has been narrowing slowly over the years as materials have evolved and become lighter. Refer directly to the weight parameters given on the purchase page. However, remember that lightweight is at the expense of certain performance or high prices. After satisfying other performance, consider lightweight.

The portability is not only the weight but also the length of the accounting pole. Some tents will have other accessories, and the multi accessories tent will be larger.

Ease of Use

A typical double deck tent is easier to build than a tarp tent or TARP. In general, lighter tents are more difficult to use because they omit the structure. You need to pull the strings and set the supporting points yourself to provide stable tension for the tent, which requires some experience.

5、 Other things to consider

Door Opening

In a double-layer tent, there are many changes in the size, shape, and zipper of the door. It can be roughly divided into three types: (1) double door; (2) single door; (3) front door. A double door tent, with an entrance on both sides, is the most comfortable and widely used double-layer tent. When camping with many people, it's better to have an entrance and a corresponding front hall for everyone. Double door tents also provide more flexibility in a small or irregular camp. The front door tent provides common access but can be awkward to use. Single door tent is suitable for personal use. If multiple people use it together, it is the most uncomfortable. People who don't rely on the door must climb on the person who depends on the door.

Two-person tent or three-person tent

Many tents are available in single, double, three and four-person models. At present, the most popular is the double tent. If you are likely to go out with friends or your pets, a three-person tent is worth considering. Usually, the main difference between a two-person tent and a three-person tent is the width. The manufacturer will add about 50 cm (the width of a standard sleeping bag). Generally, the vertical space of the Three-Person Tent will be larger and longer, but not necessarily.

Of course, you can choose a more spacious two-person tent. The cost must be cheaper than the three-person tent. But think about it. If your favorite two-person tent is a lightweight one, then its three-person style is also lightweight. So if you prioritize space, a three-person tent is an option to consider.

Mountaineering Staff

We strongly recommend taking a climbing stick in hiking activities. It has many advantages. And for camping, it also has great benefits. It can provide very powerful and reliable support for tents (TARP tents, TARP) while saving the weight of the poles. Generally speaking, mountaineers are much stronger than their own poles. They are safer in the storm. There is no wind and rain to break them.

6、 Use and maintenance skills of outdoor tent


Make sure the tent is dry before storing it. If the tent is easy to wear when wet, the fabric coating will also decompose faster, and mold will also affect the performance of the tent. The tent is carefully rolled up with the tent pole as the center during storage. In the process of hiking, in order to save time, you can store it at will. But if it is stored for a long time, it will effectively extend its service life if it is rolled up neatly.


Use all fixing points. If necessary, add additional windbreaks and studs to ensure stability. Add some big stones or heavy objects to the ground nails, or directly replace the ground nails with stones and heavy objects. If the storm is very fierce, it is necessary to check the condition of windbreak rope and ground nail regularly. If you are in a tent of average quality in a storm, you can sit up and support the wall of the tent by hand to prevent the pole from breaking. If you think there is a storm that the tent can't bear, you'd better take down the tent pole and wrap yourself in the tent.


The choice of outdoor tents is very flexible and depends more on personal preferences. After ensuring the necessary performance, choose the tent type and product according to your own film preference. At the same time, don't forget to pay attention to the details of the product.

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