12 Tips for buying a tent for camping

Coleman Tent Review

Top 12 tips for buying a tent

Tents, Tents and more tents! There are so many fantastic tent’s to choose from which makes choosing one for the first time a bit tricky. At the age of 50 we decided to buy our first tent. This came after our first camping trip to the Pilbara where we were lucky enough to use our friends tent. This tent was easy to put up and take down and was a great size for two big people. We easily fit our backpacks as well as two king single self inflatable mattresses into the floor space with plenty of room to stand up.

I remember as a kid going camping with the girl guides in floor less canvas tents that were tricky to put up and not really that water proof. Quite a few times I ended up wet or sticking out of the end of the tent on a flat blow up mattress. Things have changed dramatically since then and there  are a massive range of tents to suit all sorts of budgets and needs.

After our recent experiences with first time camping  in some amazing National Parks in Western Australia we now had a little bit of knowledge of what we needed to look for when buying a tent. We live in Melbourne so the climate is a bit different to the hot weather of Western Australia, this is another thing to think about when looking for a tent to suit your particular needs.

First time setting up a tent
Carnarvon camp site – First stop on the Western Australian adventure and the first time we had put up a tent! Fairly straight forward when you know how.

Here are some considerations to look at when buying a tent:

  1. Is it easy to put up and take down?
  2. How many people?
  3. Weight of the tent when folded up.
  4. Length of the tent folded up
  5. Cost
  6. What climate you are going to use it in
  7. Availability of replacement parts
  8. Windows for ventilation
  9. Thickness of the floor of the tent
  10. Quality of the zips
  11. Number of rooms
  12. Can you stand up in it?
Up early after a good night sleep in a tent sleeping on really comfortable self inflatable mattresses. Beautiful sunrise to look at and ready for a look around Carnarvon before more adventures.

What to look for  when buying a tent

  • easy to to put up and take down ( and put in a carry bag )
  • keep you protected from the weather – rain, hail, wind or lots of sun-shine!
  • have enough space for you and other occupants to stand up, and to keep extra stuff in that you need.

1. Is it easy to put up and take down?

This has to be one of the most important factors. You want a tent that is easy to put up with two people without having a massive argument. You want to put it up with minimum effort after perhaps a long drive and possibly at the end of the day when you are tired.  It sort  of becomes like building an IKEA pack where following instructions and putting the right thing in the right spot at the right time becomes really important for the structure. For our Pilbara trip we had two different tents. We used our friends tent which was a pop up style of tent and the one they had was bigger but had thin bendy rods that they magically made work in what seemed a short amount of time.

We bought a Coleman 6 Person Instant Up Tent – this video shows us putting it up for the first time, and on another occasion taking it down.


2. How many people?

The tent we stayed in was a “6 person” sized tent which is perfect for  2 big people. If you are not sure  the best thing to do is to go to a camping store where they have the tents set up so you can see the differences in sizes.

3. Weight of the tent when folded up

A tent may be easy to put up but weigh so much two people are required to pick it up and move it from the roof rack to the ground and then back up when you are leaving the campsite.

4. Length or size of the tent folded up

We found a fantastic tent ( the Oztent mentioned below) that when folded up was too big for the back of our Jeep. To buy this tent would mean a roof rack and basket installation to be able to take it anywhere.

5. Cost

For what you get for your money a tent can be relatively good value. For our first tent we decided to go for a tent around the $300 mark, and then if we do end up camping a lot in the future we will either replace it, or upgrade to a more expensive one that offers more longevity.

6. What climate you are going to use it in?

We live in Melbourne. Melbourne is renowned for four seasons in one day. At this stage we are not planning on camping out in the middle of a cold wet winter. We will stick to camping in the milder Spring and Summer weather. Our first camping trip was in the desert areas of Western Australia. Very  hot during the day and mild at night. You want your tent to be comfortable and protect you from whatever weather your destination is going to throw at you.

7. Availability of replacement parts

This is sort of quite embarrassing. After successfully putting up and down the tent a few nights a row Dave and I managed to completely break a section of the top of the tent where all the poles join at the top. We now know what “we” did wrong. There were some hooks left on the pole that caused the breakage when folding up the tent. (Dave is very strong and impatient.) Luckily Wayne is resourceful and patient and managed to put it back together with magical cable ties. This was a temporary fix until a replacement part can be sourced and installed.

8. Windows for ventilation

The windows are great for opening at night and letting the air flow through and seeing the stars. During the day if its windy opening the zippers lets the air flow through without the tent being blown away. Ventilation is also important for keeping your tent free of moisture build up no matter what the weather.

9. Quality of the zips

The zips get a great workout when you are camping. Zipping up your tent as you are coming and going is important to keep out unwanted creatures. You want them to be strong and handle being fumbled upon at night in the dark and in the daytime.

10. Number of rooms

Some of the tents you can get now are amazing. One tent can have three rooms and extensions. I am not sure how you would go putting up these sort of tents and if they require a bit more work. Sounds great for young families.

11. Can you stand up in it?

I love being able to stand up in the tent to change clothes and just being able to access bags and to get into bed. Some tents you can stand up in, some you cant. You need to work out what you want and perhaps go and have a look at one in a camping store to check out the size.

12. Thickness of the floor of the tent

You want to make sure that where you place your tent that the ground is clear of sticks and rocks that may pierce the base of the tent. The thicker and stronger the base of the better.  If you are staying at a campsite where the base is rocks ( Kirijinni National Park) you want a strong heavy duty tarp as well as a thick  base.

The tent review | Our pick for the best tent for us:

After looking around at different camping shops and taking into consideration all of the tips above we narrowed it down to 2 tents.
1. Coleman 6 Person Instant Up Tent – Full Fly
2. Oztent RV4 Canvas Touring Tent.
Both very easy to put up. We had used the Coleman tent on our Perth adventure and found it easy to put up and down. We went and had a look at the Oztent and asked for a demo on putting the tent up and down. It looked strong, the zips were easy to use and the demonstration showed how quick and easy it was to put up and down. In the end we would have loved this tent however as we are new to camping decided to start off with the Coleman and see how we go. If we really get into camping then we will invest in the Oztent and roof rack and basket for the Jeep.

The Coleman 6 Person Instant Up Tent
The Coleman 6 Person Instant Up Tent

1. Coleman 6 Person Instant Up Tent – Full Fly

  • Easy to put up and down
  • Weight –  14.2kgs
  • Folded up and packed in its bag fits in the back of our Jeep
  • $$  Great price for what you get
    Find out more >



Oztent RV4 Canvas Touring Tent


2. Oztent RV4 Canvas Touring Tent

  • Easy to put up down
  • Weight –  22kg
  • Folded up and packed in its bag too long to fit in our Jeep –  would need to buy a roof rack and basket
  • $$ 4 times the price of the Colemen tent.
    Find out more >

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