Key Features to Consider Before Buying a Tent - Backyard Boss
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Key Features to Consider Before Buying a Tent

Camping is an outdoor activity that everyone has to do at least once in their lifetime!

While camping used to entail roughing it outdoors and sleeping in a flimsy cheap tent, tents have evolved into durable shelters that protect you from everything, including rain, and keep you comfortable in the outdoors.

When you’re looking for the best family camping tent or the best backyard tent for your home, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the different factors, terms, and choices. To help you out, here are some key features to consider before buying a tent.

Key Tent Features


tent capacity
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Tent capacity or size is based on backpackers who pack light and need to share body heat. By these standards, four people can fit a four-person tent, but it’ll be a tight squeeze without any extra space to wiggle around. Instead of buying a larger tent, the rule of thumb to keep it comfortable is to subtract two people from the total capacity or to have at least 25 sq. ft. of space for each adult.


Tent doors vary in shape, size, and orientation for better comfort, but ultimately, the number of doors is more important. Two-door tents offer better ventilation than single-door tents and are better when sleeping with multiple occupants since you won’t need to climb over each other just to go out.


Not all tents are made of the same quality. Higher density fabrics are stronger, sturdier, and more waterproof. Check its Denier count and look for quality tents that are at least 75D. Additionally, you might encounter single and double-wall tents. A double-wall tent has an interior breathable layer and an exterior waterproof layer which is better for harsh weather, rain, and strong winds.

Floor Length

Floor-length is the dimensions of a tent’s floor space. If you’re very tall, make sure to look for a tent that would fit your height. Check the tent’s specs and square footage to see if you can sleep in a tent without bending.

floor space of a tent
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Ground Cloth

A ground cloth, also known as a tent footprint, is a sturdy fabric placed between your tent and the ground. It minimizes possible damage to the tent floor and is made to fit your tent’s exact floor measurements to prevent water leakage from all sides.


Guylines are camping cords that loop through a tent wall and are tied to stakes, rocks, or trees to mount the tent during heavy winds. Other than stability, these also help secure your rainfly to your tent without blocking any ventilation.

guylines of a tent
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Interior Shelving

Interior shelving refers to the mesh pockets, loops, and gear lofts inside a tent. These help store and organize key items in a convenient spot. Mesh pockets have become a standard, but many traditional tents will also come with loops to hang lanterns and a detachable gear loft to make use of your ceiling as extra storage space.

Peak Height

Peak height refers to the highest point of a tent. For an easier search, choose between a cabin and a dome roof-style tent. Dome-style tents are the standard design, with sloping walls and a high central peak better for crouching. Cabin-style tents have near-vertical walls that are usually tall enough for standing.

peak height of two different tents
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Tent poles are usually made of aluminum or fiberglass and form the tent structure by attaching them using eyelets or clips. Aluminum poles are more durable and lightweight, but fiberglass poles are non-corrosive and easy to maintain.

Pro tip: Some people use trekking poles to set up their tent instead of using dedicated tent poles. While it helps you save on extra storage space for backpacks, if your trekking poles break during a backpacking trip, setting up that perfect tent can become impossible until broken trekking poles are replaced. It could take days, especially if you’re in rural areas. The use of trekking poles to set up a lightweight tent or ultralight tents isn’t recommended.


Most camping tents have a mesh fabric peak for better ventilation. A rainfly is an additional waterproof layer that covers this section and is useful in stormy and cold weather. A rainfly can be designed to cover only the mesh part or to completely cover the tent.


Tent seasonality is differentiated between 3-season tents and 4-season tents. A three-season tent is built to survive the weather conditions of spring, summer, and fall. In contrast, a four-season tent can also withstand winter, making it more durable, weatherproof, and a versatile option. If you don’t plan on any snowy outdoor trips, a three-season tent with wind resistance should do just fine for a comfortable experience.

four-season tent in snow
Image Credit: David Schultz via Unsplash


Tent stakes keep your shelter stable even in extremely harsh winds. The proper stakes and staking method could be the difference between having a place to sleep at night or losing your shelter to nature.

Vestibule/ Garage

A tent vestibule or garage refers to the space in front or beside your tent protected by a rainfly. It is meant to keep larger gear safe from the weather without taking up space indoors. Some tents don’t have vestibules and are appropriate for light packers or solo campers.

Bonus Tent Accessories

Many tents come with bonus accessories that make your camping experience more convenient. It includes extra stakes, guylines, a ground cloth, a repair kit, and even an additional camping fan or lantern. These are great but not as important as the tent itself.

tent accessories
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Things to Consider Before Buying a Tent

Other than the different features of a camping tent, there are still other important considerations to keep in mind before purchasing one.


Tents come in a wide price range, depending on capacity, quality, and different features. Whether you’re looking for a large tent for glamping or a simple shelter for backpacking, it’ll be largely affected by your budget.


Tent weight is important if you plan on carrying it with you for a long period. If you’re going to backpack with it, some tents have been made specifically to be as light as can be, some even weighing 2lbs per person. Be sure to check the weight of the tent before purchasing it for your next camping trip. 


A popular camping stereotype is first-timers having difficulty pitching their tent. Depending on the tent design, some are made to pop up while some have a more complicated process. When choosing, check how long it takes to set up.

Freestanding vs. Non-Freestanding Shelter

freestanding and non-freestanding tents
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While tents come in many designs, the easiest way to classify them is between a freestanding and a non-freestanding tent.

As its name suggests, free-standing tents can support themselves using a pole skeleton, maximizing indoor space and offering better weather protection. These are made for a more comfortable camping experience and are better for casual campers.

On the other hand, a non-freestanding tent is a kind of shelter that stakes the tent material into the ground and is held up by a single tent pole. These are lightweight, easy to carry, and quick to pack. Non-freestanding tents are ideal for backpackers and hikers who prioritize mobility between camps.

Choosing between free-standing tents and non-freestanding ones is determined by what you need to use them for and the weight you’re willing to carry. If you want the best tent for advanced hiking and camping trips, a non-freestanding shelter might be more appropriate. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something like the best backyard family camping tent, a freestanding design is probably better.

In Summary

Camping tents have come a long way from the flimsy shelters of the past. Now, these tents come in various designs and options that easily keep you a happy camper when you’re out on camping trips! Not only do they shelter you from the elements, but they also providing comfort and privacy in the middle of the wild.

All the different tent features are easy to overlook or forget about and lead to uncomfortable experiences. Luckily, now everything you need to know is conveniently all in one place!