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Sizing Up a Great Tent Sizing Up a Great Tent by Bud Sayce

Getting back to nature can be a fun way to experience life. But finding out at 4 am that your tent can't stand up to the elements is a lesson learned the hard way.

The first step to getting back to nature is buying a tent you can depend on. A good quality tent must be comfortable, easy to use and provide security for you and your family.

Camping tents can be as simple as a two-person pop up model, or an elaborate three-room family affair. What's important is having a dependable tent that will save you from undue aggravation or danger.

Choosing a tent is a task worthy of serious thought, and there are several factors that must be considered before making your final decision. The size and shape of the tent, the weight and the setup must all be taken into account. If you're camping alone, assembly is a very important consideration. Shop at a reliable sporting goods or outdoors store, and ask the sales associate for help in choosing the best tent to meet your requirements.

Remember to consider the transportation of your tent. If you're looking at a big, bulky tent that will take up the entire trunk of your car and leave no room for food and gear, keep shopping.

Size

Size most definitely matters when it comes to choosing a tent. Make sure that there's enough room for you, and your fellow campers. Everyone needs to have space to stretch out and to move around. You may be using air mattresses, so keep that in mind when judging the depth. The tent must be high enough to stand up, or at least sit up. Manufacturers tend to overestimate the number of people that can sleep comfortably in a tent. So, while it is possible to cram four fully-grown adults into a four-person tent, you'll all sleep better in a six-person model. Similarly, a two-person tent might be able to hold two people, but they're clothes and food will have to wait outside.

Weight

If you are hiking or portaging to your destination, you'll have to give serious thought to the weight of your tent. Big canvas tents and ten-kilometer hikes just don't mix. You'll be carrying all of your gear and necessities, so you don't want to be weighed down even more by a heavy tent. Choose a secure but lightweight model. On the other hand, if you're driving to the campsite in a heavy-duty vehicle with lots of cargo room, then go crazy and bring a big tent.

Material

Lightweight nylon and taffeta and popular materials used by today's tent manufacturers. These fabrics are strong and durable, and able to withstand all types of weather. The most important thing to look for in your tent material is a waterproof certification. Paying a little extra is worth every penny when you're caught in a downpour.

Ease of Assembly

Ask to see the assembly instructions before you buy the tent. Then, try assembling the tent at home before you leave on your camping trip. The tent you choose should be easy to assemble with few or new tools required. You'll have a lot to do when you reach camp, and you don't want to spend a lot of time fighting with a difficult tent. Camping is about relaxing and becoming one with nature, not stressing and struggling with a tent.

Tents are not luxuries for the faint-hearted, or copouts for rookie campers. They are necessary tools that satisfy the basic human need for shelter. Even the most experienced outdoor enthusiasts will agree, there is no thrill in coming face to face with a forest critter at four a.m.

Bud Sayce contributes articles to several web sites, on parks and recreation and outdoor recreation issues.
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