Deciding on what tent to buy can involve evaluating many factors. Two of the primary things you need to consider are how much space you need and what type of environment will you be camping in.
When manufacturers classify a tent they use minimal space per person to derive at how many people the tent is rated for. The space they use is usually around 16 square foot per person which leaves very little moving around room. I like to figure for extra space so if your family size is 4 people then I would use a 6 person or larger tent so that you have plenty of room to move around and also one with enough height to stand in. Even this needs to be adjusted depending of ages and sizes of everyone that will be sleeping in it. If you go too small you will be cramped and you will not enjoy the camping experience.
If you error make sure you always error with extra room in mind. Always go larger but how much larger depends on the ages of your children. If you have small children since they will be growing, but if you have kids approaching 12 then they will be wanting their own tent soon and not have to share space with mom, dad, and younger siblings. Another thing to consider is weather. All snuggled up together might be fun if you have a quick rain shower but what if it’s going to last half the day or longer. All that togetherness will get on your nerves before long and you might begin wondering about how nice it would be to have a smaller family. Not only is the tent your shelter but also a place to spend quality time with your kids in the evenings with protection from all the flying insects. Large vestibules or screen rooms are great for setting up a small table to play cards and other games on in the evenings.
I prefer a tent either with a large vestibule area or a screen room so that I can sit out there behind a bug protected screen and enjoy the evening.
So let’s think about some things you need to consider.
You want to make sure it is large enough. Is there room to stand so that you don’t have to stoop over to change your clothes? Remember don’t go with the manufacturers recommendations unless you want to be cramped up and not enjoy the experience.
I suggest at least a 3 season tent because even in summer or late fall you can get those cold mornings. What if you find a campground in higher elevations, even during the summer you will experience chilly mornings.
How easy is it to set up? You don’t want to spend half your first day setting your tent up. Make sure you know how to set it up before you get to the camp site so you don’t embarrass yourself around your neighbors.
Make sure all the seams are good reinforced seams so that they don’t leak. Many tents have bathtub style floors which are helpful in preventing leaks during hard rains where the water might flood in. If you’re stuck in the tent during rainy weather make sure the walls are ventilated and breathable.
How durable is the tent? How long will you need it to last or are you planning on getting a new one every few years? If you use it a lot then the foot traffic will eventually take its toll. Something called a footprint is available and can help to make the tent floor last and is cut to the tents dimensions. If you don’t want to invest in a footprint then put a tarp down under the tent floor. Get a tent with aluminum poles, they are more expensive but are stronger and longer lasting.