If you’ve finally taken the decision to take the plunge and try camping, great! The next steps can be overwhelming, namely, which tent is best for a beginner?
This question is incredibly broad because it all depends on the type of camping trip you’re going on. This will, therefore, influence how you will use the tent along with its size, weight, cost and many other factors.
But don’t worry, Winfields Outdoors is here to help you find the perfect tent for your first camping holiday. We’ll help you with a list of handy tips for rookie campers and the best tents, depending on your trip.
Read on to find the best tents for first-time campers and the questions you need to answer when buying…
What type of camping trip are you going on?
This the most important question to ask yourself, as this will help decide the tent you need.
Most camping trips can be broken down into categories, ranging from solo trips to family holidays. Here are the main types of camping trips and how they, typically, influence tent buying:
- Expeditions & Backpacking: If you’re setting off into the great outdoors solo on days-long hike or expedition, you’ll after a solo or one-person tent. Sometimes called ‘wild camping’, chances are you’ll be packing light so you aren’t weighed down while covering miles.
- Duke of Edinburgh: Similar to the above, but marked out as being recommended suitable for these expeditions.
- Festivals: Planning for the summer ahead at your first festival? These tents are often smaller and cheaper. They can include weekend tents and actual festival tents. Be aware that some festivals have limits to the size of tents you can take.
- Family Camping: Larger to accommodate more people, these tents can take up to eight or 10 people inside. These tents often include a living space with bedrooms to make your home away from home. Some family tents will be inflatable, too.
It helps, as part of this question, to consider how you’re getting to your eventual campsite. If you’re driving or being dropped off, you can take something a little larger. If, however, you’re heading straight out of the door knowing you’ll be pitching where you can or in the mountains, lightweight tents are the way to go.
Read more: A Beginner’s Guide To Lightweight Camping
What are the types of tent?
At Winfields, we have a huge range of tents but for beginners, it can all seem a wall of jargon and easy to get lost.
First things first, let’s get some of the technical terms, that you may have seen, out of the way.
This basically means ‘person’, such as six-person tent. This tells you the number of people a tent can take without luggage.
Top Tip: remember to include your bag and kit as an extra person, or go one size above what you need. So two people need a three or four-person tent, for example.
These tents are based on a ‘tunnel design’ and generally have all the bedrooms to the rear of the tent, although, there are some which have the bedrooms at the back of the tent and a small bedroom closer to the front of the tent. Tunnel tents are simple to pitch, good in rough weather and also tend to offer good amounts of space.
These tents are usually smaller than your standard tent. Due to the poles crossing in the middle, a dome tent can be more stable. With that being said, there are even 8 - 12 person Inflatable Dome Tents available!
Polycotton Tents are tents made from a polyester and cotton blend. These tents don’t feature a specific Hydrostatic Head (see below). The fabric of a poly-cotton tent works by absorbing water then closing to create a firm fabric that allows water to bead away. When the fabric dries, it opens up to become extremely breathable providing a whole host of benefits. See our polycotton tents guide.
Hydrostatic Head is the rating of a tent's waterproof coating, known as PU. A Hydrostatic Head of 1000 is the legal requirement to call a tent 'waterproof' but most start at 2000. The higher the hydrostatic head, the better the water protection.
Geodesic & Semi-Geodesic
These tents vary with their poles and how they cross, but the geodesic tents are very stable against rough weather. These tent designs are often best for backpacking/mountain trips.
Pop Up Tents
If you’re new to camping or the thought of erecting a tent brings you out in a sweat, this is a minimum-effort option.
Pop up Tents take seconds to pitch. Simply lay them out and peg them down. These are ideal for beginners, festivals or even the back garden. Basically, anywhere you want minimal effort to save more time. If you’re camping in a large group or with family, they're a great option for keeping kids entertained without the hassle of pitching.
You can even use them as a sitting area on a group camping trip!
If you're looking for a festival tent, then you are likely looking for a relatively cheap option that isn’t oversized.
Even if you’re going to a festival on your own, or at least sleeping in your own tent, always allow for one extra person on the berth for your gear. Many festival tents come with a porch, which is recommended due to the British summer and festival season weather. That way, you can ditch your muddy wellies to keep your sleeping area clean or relax with new friends.
Backpacking & Lightweight Tents
Big spacious tents may suit some but they’re not practical if you need something much smaller and more lightweight.
Suitable for on-the-go activities, lightweight tents can help keep your pack size down to a minimum thanks to their smaller size. Quick and easy to pitch, backpacking tents are suitable for mountaineering, multi-day hikes, wild camping, and expeditions. Most of these tents feature a tunnel or geodesic design for strength, durability and wind resistance.
A step up in size and ideal for a short camping trip, these tents are lightweight and easy to put up. Ideal for spur-of-the-moment weekend trips.
If you’re only away for a few days then you don’t want to spend hours pitching a tent. Weekend tents are incredibly easy to erect and take down. They are ideal for a couple or small family or as a larger festival tent if you want to spend a little more. Many have a slightly larger porch area to store belongings or just sit and chill out.
Larger again but these tents range in size, depending on your family or group of friends - up to 10 people.
You need something that is sturdy, comfortable and protects your nearest and dearest from the elements and houses them with room to spare. Most family tents will feature a sitting area along with separate sleeping space, ideal for storage or making your tent feel like your own holiday home. Family tents often come with extras for an added homely touch.
Inflatable tents, or 'air tents', contain the latest technology in camping and remove the need for tent poles.
These tents aren’t bouncy castles, you simply attach a pump and inflate the tent beams. Your tent will take shape in mere minutes, giving you more time to enjoy your trip. Air-filled beams form a strong but lightweight structure that acts like a normal tent and don’t pose any danger, unlike a snapping tent pole. Ideal for families and large groups.
What size tent will I need?
Along with the trip you’re going on, the size of the tent - or how many people are likely to go with you - is vital to buying your first tent.
Tent berths - such as a two-man tent or four-person tent - are actually based on how many people the tent or its bedroom can fit side by side. It’s easy to be caught out by this. Berths and sizes don’t take into account any rucksacks, footwear or luggage.
So, when choosing your tent, ask yourself these questions:
- How many people are going camping?
- How much equipment will I need?
- How many bedrooms will I need? (If you do need them, of course)
Also, consider whether the campsite you’re going to has size limits. They may charge you two pitches for the largest tents.
Tips for Beginner Buyers
- If you want more space, double it. So, a two-person for one person, a four-man tent for two people is a good rule to follow.
- Another tip when it comes to space, treat your rucksack or kit as another person.
- Consider where you’ll be camping, this will influence shape and structure.
- Find out as much as you can beforehand. Does your chosen campsite have rules on tent size, for example?
- Check your tent before you travel. Even if it’s brand new, you should always check your tent to see if everything is there - poles, pegs etc. This also gives you the opportunity to find the best way to pitch it so, when you arrive at the campsite, you look like a seasoned camper!
What are the best tents for first-time campers?
The big question, at last. Now we’ve explained to you the different types of tent and what to consider, we’ve picked out some of the best tents for beginner campers.
Read on to find out which tents are best for first-timers and valuable information about each one…
Best First-Time Family Tents
Vango Keswick II 600 Family Tent
Outdoor Revolution Airedale 6 Air Tent
Vango Keswick II 600DLX Air Tent
Best First-Time Weekend Tents
Vango Lomond II 500 Family Tent
Coleman Darwin 3 Plus 3 Man Tent
Coleman Darwin 4 Plus 4 Man Tent
Best First-Time Inflatable Tents
Kampa Dometic Kielder 5 Air Tent
Vango Lomond 450 Air Tent
Kampa Dometic Kielder 4 Air Tent
Take a look at our full range of tents or entire tent equipment and collection including:
Tents by Size | Tent Type | Tent Brands | Tent Accessories
Read more from the Winfields Blog to set you up for 2020...
⛰ 🏕 🌳
Don’t forget to take a look at our camping blog for more posts like these…
The Best UK Campsites To Stay At in 2020 | The 10 Best Family Camping Tents 2020 | Inflatable Tent & Air Tent Buying Guide