Big Agnes Mountain Glow

Buying Guide: Tents

There are a lot of options when considering which tent will best suit your purpose.  What climate conditions will you be camping in?  How do you plan on transporting your tent; a car or a pack?  How long do you plan on camping and with how many people?  Let us help you answer these questions to make your camping experience the most comfortable and affordable.



Type of Use


Backpacking tents are designed to remain light-weight for trips where your base camp will be changing regularly.  The poles and fabrics used are more advanced than standard car camping tents.  This ensures comfortable conditions while maintaining a lighter weight.  They are built to sustain in three seasons, allowing them to perform well in light snow conditions and the double-wall design provides plenty of ventilation for summer heat.  They are built more snug, so when it says two man, it means it.     


Car Camping

Car camping tents are perfect for camping with the family and larger groups, where the distance between the car and campsite is short.  The poles and fabrics are usually made with standard materials that are less expensive than those used for backpacking and mountaineering tents, but also make the tent heavier.  These double-wall tents are for those who are looking for camping in good weather conditions, with a larger living space, at a good price.



Mountaineering tents are built for the outdoor extremist looking to camp in nearly inhospitable environments.  They function well in all types of transportation: car camping, backpacking, and mountaineering during 4 seasons.  They are slightly heavier than backpacking tents because their durability relies on more poles and stronger materials.  They have less mesh vents than backpacking tents. This helps block wind and retain heat during storms.  This makes them uncomfortable to stay in during warmer conditions.  But if you plan on sleeping through a rough storm with heavy snowfall, these are the tents for you.


Quick Shelter

Quick shelters are great if you’re looking for a tent and tarp hybrid.  They are extremely light-weight, all below 5 pounds.  These structures are not free-standing, but are easy to set up. Perfect if you’re in a mountain marathon.



Run Down on Tent Pricing

People are like, “Why do tents have to be so expensive, man?” And we’re like, “Cause they have high-end materials and awesome technology, friend.”


Tent pricing is a direct result of the materials used in making the tent and helping it stand: Poles and Fabrics.



There are TONS of different poles used for tents. From the following list, the most common are the top four, all made by DAC. The price of the materials from top to bottom is most expensive to least expensive.


Credit: DAC
Credit: DAC


• Featherlite NSL- By combining Pressfit and Featherlite technology, DAC built very strong poles while maintaining lighter weight.  These are the highest quality of poles from DAC, and the most expensive.  These are also the first poles manufactured with DAC’s Green Anodizing process that eliminates nitric acid and phosphoric acid.  They are designed with the ability to connect poles with different diameters without adding additional parts.


• Featherlite- With new technology being release for car camping tent poles, it was only a matter of time until DAC release similar qualities but at a much lighter weight.  Featherlite poles provide the best weight to strength ratio.


• Pressfit– Sick of poles breaking or coming loose on the joint?  The Pressfit pole solves this problem by using new technology so the joints don’t have to rely on glue or other weak materials.  These poles focus on durability and strength.


• DA17- These poles give higher quality to car camping tents.  Reasonable quality for a reasonable price.


• 7,000 Series Aluminum- The aluminum is alloyed with zinc, giving the poles more flex than the 6,000 series.


• 6,000 Series Aluminum- The aluminum is alloyed with magnesium and silicon giving the poles an average strength with good corrosion resistance.




• Cuben Fiber- Made with non-woven Dyneema (NWD). Basically, Dyneema threads are smashed between UV resistant Mylar.  It is a much higher price than its fabric counterparts, but for good reason. It’s only drawback (which really isn’t a problem) is that it does not stretch as much as nylon, making it more susceptible to punctures and tears (but thats pretty unlikely).


• Nylon- Greater ability to stretch, thus making it more durable and abrasion resistant than polyester.  Nylon is water wicking but absorbs more water than Polyester (however both products require a coating to become waterproof).


• Polyester- Although not as durable as nylon, polyester is still strong and lightweight. It expels water better than nylon, allowing it to dry faster and thus weigh less when packing.  It is also more UV resistant than nylon and won’t wear as fast.  It is also possible to create polyester from recycled products, though it is not as common in tent fabrics.



Fabric Coatings

• Silicone/PU Combination- Good tents will use a silicone coating on the outside and PU coating on the inside.  This gives you the advantages of both coatings: silicone is best for wet/winter conditions while PU can still be seam taped.


• Silicone Elastomer- This coating is stronger, lighter, and more durable than PU.  It is slippery, making it great for snow conditions. Its main purpose is to make a tent waterproof.  It is almost exclusively used on nylon (known as SilNylon) but can also be used on polyester. One problem is that it can’t be seam taped (plugs tiny holes from sewing needles) because it is too slippery.


• Polyurethane (PU)- The cheapest waterproof coating on the market.  Its major drawback is that it can cause hydrolysis (chemical breakup that causes fabric to lose waterproof capability).  



Climate Conditions

Knowing the range of temperatures and weather conditions you plan on spending time in will help you determine which tent you need to buy. The majority at CampSaver are either 3 or 4 season tents.


• 3 Season- The tent for the average joe. 3 season tents will keep you comfortable and safe from early spring to late fall.  Tents with this rating perform well in light snow fall and heavy rain/wind storms.  Most backpacking, car camping, and quick shelters have a three season rating.  They also provide enough ventilation to keep you cool in the summer.  


• 4 Season- The tent for the guy or gal who looks out the window at five feet of snow on the ground and thinks, I’d like to sleep in that. These tents are designed to keep you comfortable in extreme winter conditions expecting heavy snowfall and strong winds.  However, don’t buy a four season tent unless you plan on using it a lot in very low temperatures.  These tents are very well insulated and have less ventilation, which are great features for cold weather but bad for warmer temperatures.



Single or Double Wall


Single Wall

•Tent’s without a rain fly. A single wall tent only has one layer of fabric, and it is solid because it acts as the rain fly as well.


•These tents are for alpine climbing and high altitude mountaineering because they are the lightest tents out there (they don’t need a rain fly).


•This also makes them the least comfortable, because there is restricted ventilation. If your main concern is weight and space, then this design is for you.


Double Wall

• The most common and comfortable tent. These tents have two walls: the main wall is mesh, and the second wall is a rain fly. This makes double wall tents more versatile than single wall tents.  


• Double walls offer great ventilation for warmer weather and better rain protection.  The better air flow allows for less condensation.  


• These tents are heavier and bulkier than single wall, but they offer the most amount of comfort and versatility.



Free Standing or Non-Free Standing


Free Standing- Most tents are free standing, meaning they do not have to attach to anything (i.e. trees, stakes, etc.)  All they use to keep their structure are poles.  They can also be moved easily after they have been set up.
Non-Free Standing- These tents require stakes and cord to stand and keep their shape.  These tents are less versatile than free standing tents, but are much lighter because they usually require less poles..


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