Know Before You Go Camping in British Columbia.  Looking to find winter camping?

Choosing A Tent

When deciding on a tent think about your camping needs, what type will best suit you/your family and match your comfort level(s), and the overall practicality of the investment.


  • What seasons/weather will you be camping in?
  • How many people will the tent be for?
  • Are you in search of a simple setup or specific features?
  • Will you carry the tent on your back or pack it in a car?
  • Do you need a separate partition and/or gear loft for wet items or handy storage?


There are many kinds of tents. Five common ones are:

Tarp: simple, ultralight single wall tent with bug netting and a floor (some are open to the elements). Recommended for campers who hike and during calm weather.

Dome: relatively spacious and easy to set up (two flexible poles cross at the top and bend to be anchored to the ground on each of the four dome corners); stands up to wind and rain, though may be problematic in very high winds. Some dome models are freestanding.

Tunnel: arch-like shape with headroom; easy to carry and assemble (insert the poles in sleeves); relatively strong tent option; often popular with hikers.

Cabin or multi-room: cabin tents are called this due to their cabin-like appearance, with vertical walls and flat top, sometimes with a slight peak; great for multiple people with room to stand up; heavy compared to most types. Multi-room tents are suited to large families or those in need of a separate zone from the sleeping area.

A-Frame: classic, triangular tent with rectangular floor; usually double-skinned, one skin for weather protection and an inner one with air vents; often the choice of backpackers. A traditional A-Frame has poles at the front and back, though modified triangular pole position versions exist.


Most tents are designed for three season use and are meant to protect from the wind and keep out rain. If you plan to camp in winter, you will need a four season tent which can withstand snow. Keep ventilation and windows/access to light in mind when making your choice and the model’s overall weight and sturdiness in harsh elements if this is a factor.

Material: Tents are generally nylon or polyester. Nylon tents are lighter weight, more compact and may stretch when wet. Polyester tents are heavier, more resistant to UV rays, will have less condensation and will not stretch.

Poles: Poles are either aluminum or fiberglass and the number of poles determines tent weight and sturdiness. Aluminum poles are not affected by UV radiation, are reasonably light and compact and fold easy and will stand up to all weather. Fiberglass poles are heavier, longer, not as pliable as aluminum and will stand up to most weather, though not recommended for winter camping.

Waterproofing: Look for models that have sealed seams and zippers for extra protection. The waterproofing of a tent is measured in water column height; it evaluates the depth of water the fabric can hold back. If it has a 600 mm coating, it will keep water out for one minute at a depth of 600 mm of water. To camp comfortably, the minimum waterproofing for tent floors is around 1,000 mm, and around 500 mm for tent flies.


If making an in-store purchase, verify if the tent is already assembled to check it out. If purchasing online, look for a helpful set-up video of the type you are interested in.

There is no industry standard for tent size; therefore, the per person capacity will not always be accurate. A general rule is that the number equals how many sleeping bags you can fit in it with a few centimetres of space in between. If you are bringing a pet take its size into consideration for moving around and its sleeping space.

If you plan to hike and carry the tent, try fitting it in your backpack and find out about any warranties and guarantees before you make the purchase.

Practice setting up the tent before heading off camping. You’ll save yourself (and possibly your family) a lot of frustration and it’s generally fun for the kids.