Family Tent Buying Guide

Why buy a tent from Taunton Leisure?

Here at Taunton Leisure we have over 40 years’ experience in selling tents of all shapes and sizes; so I guess you could say we know a thing or two about tents and what to look out for when buying one. With arguably have the most diverse range of tents in the UK, it is fair to say that we are a bit picky in what we choose to sell; we want to make sure you have a memorable camping experience. Our store staff and online team have a wealth of experience to draw from and are always happy to share their knowledge.

We are here to help you narrow your search – we’ll take the time to understand a little more about you and how to make your experience, both in store and in the outdoors, the best that it can be. We know it can be a little bewildering when you start looking at purchasing a tent as there is so much to choose from and we appreciate you are likely to be investing in something to see you through many holidays and adventures; that’s why we ensure we take the time to evaluate what is right for you. This handy little guide will take you through the most important considerations when buying a tent.

Who are you bringing along?

Tent sizing is the primary consideration – depending on the size of your party, you’ll need to consider the size of the tent.

A Small family tent typically has sleeping space for 2-4 people and is ideal for couples and small families. They should be quick and easy to pitch stand up height inside the tent is not compromised. Image top left is of the Outwell Cedarville 3A

A Medium family tent typically has sleeping space for up to 5 people and tends to have a generous sized living area. It will be manageable to pack and transport, with a relatively compact pitch size. Image second left is of Vango Amalfi 500 Air.

A Large family tent is the most popular choice due to the vast space and typically has sleeping capacity of 6-8 people. Due to their larger size, both packed and pitched, they can be heavier and more difficult to transport. Image third left is of the Outwell Eastwood 6.

There’s a general rule with family tents that is important to consider – although a tent may sleep up to a certain number, that’s the maximum capacity. For a more comfortable camping trip, you may want to think about a tent a size up to provide you with that extra bit of room.

All family tents have inner bedrooms, but they can often be split in different ways. Typically, a bedroom will fit 2-3 people, but some ‘5 person’ tents will have one single bedroom. As children get older they are more likely to be happier campers if they can have their own space – so the set-up of the bedrooms can massively influence the enjoyment of your adventure. Most of our range have either toggled or zipped bedroom dividers that enable you to personalise your sleeping space based on your specific needs. Some of our larger tents have a totally separate bedroom in the living area that can be removed during the day to increase your living space.

Should I buy an inflatable tent or a poled tent?

Inflatable tents are very popular; the appeal of a simple pitch compared with assembling poles often wins people over; the pump you’ll receive even has an inbuilt pressure gauge to ensure you’ve got the perfect air pressure. They’ll be quiet and stable in windy conditions and, as a premium product, tend to be built with a higher specification. You will have to pack the tent down as one whole unit, so you’ll need to ensure you have the space to dry it out when you get back home. A poled tent is not at all complicated to set up everything is colour coded to make it even simpler to pitch. Poled tents are more cost effective than the inflatable models, they’re certainly a great option as they pack down small and with separate components. They will perform well enough in tricky conditions, but will move around more and are likely to be quite noisy in strong winds – Poles can break but most tents come with a spare section or you can fashion a repair to see you through. Although a punctured air beam is unlikely, they can be repaired on site or we’ll be able to help you source any replacements you need.

If you intend to camp on some exposed sites, make sure your tent is able to withstand difficult wind conditions. A large tent with fibreglass poles will not be as stable as most inflatable or steel poled tents as they tend to flex in the wind. Steel or alloy poled tents are more rigid and inspire confidence in adverse weather. In our experience inflatable tents are the most stable.

How long will my tent last and what is it made of?

In our family camping range, we offer tents made from two different materials – Polyester and Polycotton.

Polyester is first and foremost, the cheaper option. It is relatively durable and light, has a waterproof coating and the seams are taped for water tightness. The further up the price scale, the fabrics become stronger and harder wearing, but slightly heavier. UV light and tree sap are the two biggest culprits of fabric damage on Polyester tents and condensation can be an issue if not well ventilated and can sometimes be confused for the tent fabric leaking.  – A well ventilated Polyester tent should keep you fully dry on more than a few adventures.

Polycotton tents will be more expensive, but should last you a good while longer. In our experience this is a very reliable and a modern twist on traditional fabrics. The fabric is a blend of Polyester and cotton weave, which is found on the premium tents; it is treated to prevent water ingress due to the weave of the fabric expanding when wet.  Polycotton is a breathable fabric so condensation will be minimal – this means the tent will also have an airy feel. It will also feel warmer when the weather is cool and cooler when the weather is hot, drying time in our experience is as quick as a polyester tent. Polycotton tents are treated to repel water during the makeup of the fabric and should last for many seasons, re treatment may be required over time.

How waterproof will my tent be?

Polyester fabrics can be tested for ‘hydrostatic head’ – this is simply the measurement of how waterproof a fabric is. Essentially, if the supplier states a hydrostatic head of 5000, the fabric can resist the pressure of a 5 metre column of water before a droplet comes through; and despite the British weather, it’s unlikely you will experience anything like this on a camping holiday! The manufacturers go the extra mile to ensure your tent will be fully waterproof and often go beyond the necessary levels to keep you dry on your trip. Interestingly, Polycotton tents cannot be tested in this way due to the make-up of the fabric – but we can assure you they are highly waterproof!

How about a Bell tent or a Tipi shape?

For a wholly unique experience, look no further than our range of tipis and bell tents. These styles are centred on communal living in one large open space; although inner sleeping compartments are often available as an optional extra. They’re typically Polycotton tents so are highly comfortable to use in hot conditions if you intend to camp abroad or at the height of English Summer. By the nature of their conical shapes, they are very stable in windy conditions. These tents can be dressed and furnished extensively, be it cushions and candles, low tables and seating or double beds (see such images on our site); but most importantly, the interior can be personalised based on what you choose to add. The Tentipi range, for instance, is specifically designed to be used with a stove or open fire.

Drive away awnings

A Drive away awning is another option to consider – much like our tent range, they incorporate poles or inflatable technology. An awning can add considerable outdoor living space to the side of a van or motor caravan and can even accommodate extra sleeping areas. The awning can be attached to the van in various methods and are supplied with straps and guy lines to go over and around the van to ensure close fit. There is also the option to add a Kador strip if you have the compatible channel on the side of your van; if not it can be retro fitted. As ‘Drive away’ implies, you can leave the free standing awning set up and drive the van or motor caravan away; just don’t forget to uncouple first!

What are the key accessories to budget for?

In our experience the best tent accessories to budget for are the carpet and the footprint. The carpet adds a touch of luxury to the tent so when you step out of bed your feet land on a soft tactile surface and is also great to sit around on. It’s easy to remove and shake out any dirt or dust and will encourage you to kick your shoes off in the porch or outside the tent. The footprint is a layer of groundsheet material that sits under the tent to keep dirt and water off the bottom of the tent, protecting it from any stones or thorns that may be difficult to see. As most family tents have a ‘built in’ groundsheet which is permanently attached, the footprint enables you to pack the tent away cleaner and means you shouldn’t have to clean the tent at home.

Time to break camp

Remember to pack your tent away clean and dry. Take some old towels along to clean it properly and if you take a little extra time at pack down, it will save you having to set it all up again when you get home. If you pack your tent away wet it will most likely go mouldy if you don’t take it out and air it. It is massively important to make sure you have the room to dry your tent at home to prevent mildew from growing. It’s also important to open up your tent every now and then to keep the air running through and check that all is in working order.

Simon is a keen outdoor enthusiast and the owner of Taunton Leisure and has been involved from the start in 1977. Looking after many of the key areas of the buying and a keen eye for a good tent (or any other product for that matter) and a mere 40 years’ experience to draw from.

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