Heading out on a camping trip is great fun. You get to take in the fresh air and the scenery of the great outdoors. Whether you’re visiting the local lake or heading into a National Park for your camping trip -you’re going to need a tent.
A tent provides you with one of our foundational needs as humans – shelter. Without a tent, you’re at risk of dying due to exposure to the elements overnight. In some locations, the temperatures can plummet at night when compared to the daytime.
If you don’t have a shelter of any kind, you’ll perish. The shelter provides us with protection from exposure, and it gives a micro-climate we can control to an extent. Using a tent, you can stay warm overnight, even when it’s snowing outside.
In this guide, we’ll give you everything you need to know about selecting, pitching, and using the right tent for your camping trip.
What are the Different Types of Tents?
- A-Frame or Ridge Tent – This classic design features a sturdy build and easy setup. These models rely on guylines and tie-downs for stability. Most come with aluminum tent poles, and they’re a good choice for moderate climates where high wind speeds aren’t a concern. The angled sides mean you lose room in the corners, but stash your gear to the side, and sleep in the center.
- Tunnel Tents – Constructed with curved poles, these tents work on the same principle as an A-frame, but with more room on the sides. An excellent choice for large basecamp tents.
- Pop-up Tents – Easy to open, and require no construction, tie them down, or stake the frame when they’re up. These tents are convenient, but they aren’t very sturdy—a good choice for the beach or light day camps.
- Dome Tents – This model is the most popular tent design. They feature a flexible frame with plenty of head-height and room at the sides. Inexpensive and offering a lightweight set up, domes are an excellent all-round choice but might not hold up in high winds.
- Semi-Geodesic and Geodesic Tents – Think of these tents as an upgrade to domes in terms of stability. These models come with six to eight poles instead of two in a dome. They’re challenging to setup but offer the best wind and weather resistant. A good choice for professional bushcraft needs.
- Cabin Tents – Featuring high sides and plenty of headroom, these tents are good choices for base camps and camping trips. They are weatherproof and rugged, but they aren’t the best portable choice.
- Backpacking Tents – These are small 1-person cylindrical tents that fold up to compact size for storage in your backpack. Ironically, these tents are sturdy and hold up to extreme weather. They’re a popular choice for professional climbers and outdoors people.
What are the Four Phases of Setting Up a Tent?
Pre-Trip Planning and Preparation
After settling on the right tent for your trip, set it up at home before throwing it in the car and head to the hills. There’s nothing worse than getting to camp, miles from home, and setting up to realize your kit is missing a pole or a guy rope.
Setting up your tent at home also allows you to figure out the components and how everything fits together. You want to have experience with putting it together so that it takes you less time at camp.
You don’t want to arrive at camp and have to battle with setting up your tent when you’re feeling tired after hiking. When setting up your tent for the first time, follow the instructions. If there is no inventory list included with the tent, type one out on a spreadsheet, and take a copy with you each time you take it out.
Understand the Footprint of Your Tent
The floor of your tent will vary depending on your model and its intended purpose. The floor of your tent meets the ground. Therefore, you need some sort of insulation between you and the floor. If your tent doesn’t come with an insulated floor, you’ll need to buy a tarp to set up under the base of the tent for insulation.
Selecting Your Campsite
- Keep your campsite as small as possible – Setup your tents and focus the campground’s central activity in an area with minimal vegetation.
- Plan for the wind and the rain – Select sites that offer a natural cover or shelter for your tent.
- Look for natural windbreaks at your campsite – Trees or rocks can provide a windbreak.
- Avoid problems with water – Pitch your campsite on higher ground to avoid running water and water pooling under your tent in a rainstorm.
How to Pitch a Tent
Clear the debris from around the campsite – Remove all the small rocks and twigs on the floor under the footprint of your tent.
- Don’t disturb nature with digging – Picking up the rocks and twigs doesn’t mean you need to start digging out a campsite – be as non-invasive as possible to the environment.
- Remember to stake the guylines in high winds – Guylines are critical in high winds, make sure you stake them securely to avoid your tent flying off with the wind. Stake the corners and side of the tent as well.
- Take care of the tent poles – While setting up, be patient, and take care of the poles. Don’t chip or crack them, or it might affect your next setup.
- Staking tips – To get maximum holding power from your stake, drive it into the ground at a 90-degree angle. Leave enough of the stake exposed to allow you to connect the guyline. Push the stake in using the heel of your boot. If the ground is firm, take a stake mallet along in your kit.
- Rainfly setup – The rainfly will feature Velcro straps to attach it to the tent frame – make sure you connect them, or your rainfly will go flying in the wind.
- Tips for tensioning the rainfly – the rainfly must always be taught. If the wind gets under it, it will work away at the rainfly until it dislodges the stake holding the guyline. From there, it’s a short time until the entire rainfly takes flight with the wind. When tightening your rainfly, make sure you do it a bit at a time on each corner. Don’t overtighten one corner, or the rainfly won’t sit properly over the tent.
Guidance for Setting Up Guylines
Most camping tents come with guylines to support the structure. Guylines provide additional tension to the supports, ensuring that high winds and heavy rains don’t cause the tent to collapse. These sturdy loops attach in strategic points along the length of the rainfly, acting as anchors for the overall tent structure.
Guylines typically follow the poles, and they attach to the corners and the center lines of the tent supports. It’s not always necessary to use guylines. If you’re camping in good weather, you won’t need the rainfly, and the tent won’t be blowing around in the wind.
Sleeping in the tent without the rainfly is nice and breezy on warm summer nights. The interior of your tent should feature zip-away windows with mesh lining. You can zip them down for ventilation in warm weather, or zip them up to keep in the warmth in cold climates.
Mot tents also feature mesh grills on the doors and windows, helping you keep the bugs out of your tent. Always make sure you zip up the mesh doors during the day or night. This strategy prevents insects like mosquitoes and spiders from entering your tent.
Where Do You Attach Guylines?
On most models of tents, there will be more guyout points than guylines. To maximize your tent’s stability in adverse weather conditions, we recommend that you attach guylines at guyout points on the tent’s windward side.
For additional stability, add more guyout points uniformly around the rainfly and tent, stabilizing the tent from as many angles as possible.
How Do You Attach the Guylines?
Attach your guylines by tying off a fixed-knot into the guyout point. You’ll pull on the guyline directly from the top of the pole under the guyout point. Loop the end of the line over your stake and tighten the tensioner on the guyline.
Wrapping Up – Leave No Traces Behind
The most important part of your camping trip is to enjoy your time in the Great Outdoors. However, remember to leave your surrounding like you found them – and make sure that you don’t leave any traces you were ever there.
Don’t be that group of campers that leaves chip packets and soda cans all over the campsite, and a fire still smoldering in the background.
If you’re going to a park or a lake campsite, look for areas already used by others, and leave untouched areas alone. Make sure that you pitch your camp at least 200-feet from streams and lakes. Take care of nature, and leave the site the way you found it when you arrived. The only thing people should find at your campsite is your footprints.