This is Part I in a series of getting comfortable with camping. For more, see Part II: Choosing a Sleeping Bag & Pad.
Your friends are planning an incredible multi-day trip at a nearby national park and everyone is buzzing with excitement about ditching the “four walls” and getting into nature—that is, everyone but you. Does the idea of sleeping outdoors make you a little nervous? Not sure if you can hack it? Let’s get you prepared with the basics so you’ll be confident (and have a blast) outdoors.
Generally, there are a couple of things to look for in any tent:
- Fly coverage: In case of inclement weather, you’ll want an extra layer to cover your tent. A fly (i.e. similar to a tarp) that will extend near to the ground will prevent rain, cold air and wind from making its way into your sleeping quarters.
- Vents: These let condensation escape during the night. Look for vents that can be closed against rain.
If the forecast doesn’t allow you to sleep under the stars, you’ll need to bring shelter. A three-season tent is the most common option on the market. Think of it as an all-season tire: it is suitable for most conditions except heavy winter snows and winds. If you’re looking for something to into the heavy winter snows and winds, a four-season tent would be a minimum of what you need.
Next, how many people will be camping with you? Tents are sized according to “man” space: If you’ve got a family of four (two adults and two wiggly children), you might consider a four-man tent which will allow a bit of breathing room for the kids to play and move around in. However, although four adults can fit in a four-man tent, the fit will generally be a more snug. Which brings us to our next point:
Keep in mind what kind of camping you’ll be doing: Are you parking the car and walking a few steps to your campsite? A roomy tent with extra storage space (oversized vestibules, shelves, pocket organizers) would be appropriate. However, all that extra luxury means more weight—something you want to keep to a minimum if you’ll be hiking a few miles (or more) in.
Stay tuned: In the coming weeks we’ll be covering sleeping bags and pads, how to dress, site selection, and some favorite tips from experienced campers. After going through our camping “class” you’ll be leading the pack with confidence!