One of the biggest reasons most travellers do not like camping is because they get the choice of their camping tent wrong. Choosing the wrong tent for your trip means a bad experience and a high likelihood one would not want to try it again in the future.

So next time you are shopping for a tent, try our 8 tips and see if that improves your next camping experience.

1. Size

The size of a tent is determined by how many people it can accommodate – hence tents are categorised as 2-man, 4-man or 6-man. Take note though that this is under very ideal situations where no camping gear is present – in reality, this may not apply and might only make sense to backpackers who usually travel light.

So for everyone else, advises you to divide the advertised rating by two to get the real capacity of the tent. Therefore a tent rated as 4-man should really accommodate 2 adults and possibly 2 very small children.

Plan with a minimum of 30 square feet of floor space per person. Make this even higher for longer camping trips, unless reducing weight is important.

Most 2-man tents measure 35 square feet – hardly enough for any additional comforts or accessories. According to, adding space for clothing and space to stand up without walking on your tent mate, will result in a more livable situation.

This means an 8 by 8 feet tent (64 square feet) would be a good camping tent for a 2-man family. This gives you 32 square feet per person – which is ok.

If you need to really be comfortable on your outing (i.e. have room for 2 adults and still remain with space for a cot, a mattress and room to stand when changing), then a 100 square feet tent is the kind of tent you will need. Make sure the tent is high enough to stand in. Plan for the tallest person in the group although, as a general guide, a 6-7 foot height is good for adults and about 4 feet for kids.

Consider putting kids of about 7 or 8 years in their own tent. This gives the adults privacy. Here a 35 square feet tent (5×7 feet) would serve the kids well. Teenagers should be considered as adults when fitting a tent.

Do not go for tents larger than 100 square feet. They will give you problems when pitching because it is difficult to find a smooth and level spot large enough to set up the tent on yet you need this kind of a level spot. Such tents may also prove bulky – especially during loading and unloading into your car.

2. Poles

Most tent poles are made from aluminium or fibreglass. These poles are, in most cases, connected together with an elastic shock cord which helps when setting up the tent. Most good tent manufacturers provide emergency repair links to be used in the event the poles break or bend during a camping trip. Remember to confirm this before buying.

3. Fabric

In Kenya, most tents are made from canvas. The trend now is to use nylon which is good for waterproofing. The window screen can be made from a translucent material. Always ensure the tent you buy is made of material that is thick enough to withstand a rough environment and cannot be easily ripped apart.

4. Zippers

Before you buy your tent, test all zippers to make sure they can open and close freely without binding to the tent fabric. Good zippers should also be rust-proof.

5. Shape

Tents come in 3 basic shapes:

A-frame (pup)

Just like its name, this tent is shaped like the letter ‘A’ with a single ridgepole across the top to hold up the tent canopy. The design was the classic tent design in the 60s. It is also called a pup tent. A-frame tents have efficient rectangular floor space.

Umbrella (dome)

The Dome tent is shaped like an upside-down bowl. It is the most popular, all-around camping tent style for all types of camping. A modified type of dome tent called the geodesic tent is regarded as the most wind-worthy camping tent style of all modified dome tents.

Tunnel (hoop)

The tunnel tent has a structure of simple side to side arched poles like a covered wagon. It forms a tunnel with a series of hoop-shaped poles (usually 2 or 3). Sometimes an extra centre pole is used to keep the walls from sagging. It is one of the lightest and easiest to pitch shapes available.

Tents with square floor shapes are more efficient when laying out sleeping and gear arrangements. Because of other factors, it is not always possible to have a square floor. If you buy a round floor, or nearly round like with the geodesic dome tents, you should allow some extra floor area to make up for the less efficient layout.

6. Seams

All waterproof seams in a nylon tent, such as on the fly and floor, must be waterproofed with a seam sealer. Your new tent should come with a bottle of seam sealer. Set up the tent in the yard before your trip, and apply the sealer. Let it dry before packing the tent. You will need to do this yearly.

7. Weather

Wind, rain, sun, heat and cold, all have different demands on the tent. Windy areas will require sturdy poles, stakes and anchor ropes. Geodesic tents are excellent in wind. Their igloo-like shape reduces the wind’s effect, and their pole arrangement provides great strength.

Your tent should have a completely waterproof rain fly made of coated nylon. The fly should wrap around the tent and reach down the sides nearly to the ground. This will keep out all types of rain, even if it is windy. The fly should extend far enough over the door, so it keeps out the rain when you open the door to enter or leave.

The floor should also be waterproof coated nylon. This fabric should cover the floor, and turn up the sides for about 6 inches or so. There should be a few seams as possible. This is called a “tub” floor. It will keep out any water that runs down and under the tent.

Sun and heat necessitate the need for shade and airflow. The rain fly will provide shade for the tent. Large screened windows on opposite sides of the tent, or a screened window opposite a screened door, will allow air to flow through the tent.

8. Cost

A good tent serves you for a longer time. In general, tents made out of stronger material (fabric, poles and stitching) are priced higher. They will withstand higher winds and heavier rain. But then you may not need this level of strength and durability hence you may opt for lighter versions that are always a bargain.

Again if camping is one of those things you do once in a year and you do not venture out into virtually unknown terrain during the harshest of weather conditions, then you are better off sticking to the least expensive tent. After that, you will be more experienced and wiser to venture into more pricey options.

What kind of tent do you use? What has been your experience? Share by commenting below.