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Camping Tents - New or Used?

Updated on January 16, 2013
The grandkids love shopping for tents!
The grandkids love shopping for tents! | Source


I used to love camping in tents. I haven’t slept in a tent in several years, however, but I think I’m ready to give it a go again. There’s just something exhilarating about sleeping outside, in the great outdoors, and waking up to the sounds of nature. Of course, when you sleep in a tent, you have at least a little protection between you and the outdoors. Sure, it might be just a thin sheet of fabric, but a camp tent can protect you from biting insects, rain, wind, and dew, and it can provide you with some privacy, too. If you’re camping in cold weather, you might be surprised to discover how cozy a tent can be. In hot weather, you can cool your camping space with a fan or a small portable air conditioner. We often had to cool our tent when we were camping at Florida beaches. These days, we “camp” at beachfront condos and large vacation homes. I gave up tent camping because of a physical disability, but now I really want to do it again. By using a tall, off-the-ground inflatable bed, I think the old man and I could manage. The grandkids would love it! That’s the reason I’m tent shopping again and reading about and researching different tents for camping. Should I look at only new tents, or should I also consider used tents for sale?

Pyramid Tent
Pyramid Tent | Source

Best Camping Tents

What are the best camping tents? I don’t think there’s an answer to that question. For example, the best tents for camping in Alaska probably wouldn’t be the best camping tents for using in South Florida. A huge, complicated tent wouldn’t be a good tent for overnight hikes for two people, when you have to carry it on your back and set it up and take it down quickly.

This is a good place to discuss tent sizing. You’ll notice when you’re shopping that each tent will have a number that suggests how many adults can be slept in the area. Please don’t put too much stock in that! A two-person tent is small and is really only large enough to sleep one person comfortably. For two adults, a four-person tent is really a much better idea. Not only will that enable both campers to stretch out, there’ll also be a little extra room for stowing some of your camping gear. Keep in mind, however, that if you’re camping in really cold conditions, less room can be advantageous because it will help keep in more body heat. Otherwise, go for the extra space.

When you’re trying to decide on the best tent for you, use some common sense. How often will you actually use it? What kind of conditions will you be camping in? If you’re going to be camping all year, choose a four-season tent. If your camping will be done only in warm, hot, and cool weather, you’ll probably be happier with a three-season tent. The best tents are the ones that satisfy the most requirements you have. Every type of tent has its good points and its bad points, so you’ll have to decide what’s most important to you.

Coleman Instant Tent:

Coleman Tents

Many campers consider Coleman tents to be the best camping tents. Actually, that’s the brand we’re leaning towards now. Coleman has been in business for a long time, and we’ve owned a lot of their camping equipment and have always been impressed. Another reason I like Coleman tents is because of the research and comparison “window shopping” I’ve been doing. All the Coleman shelters I’ve seen so far are well made. They have steel poles, and their special WeatherTec system ensures dry quarters. The floor is weatherproof, and it’s welded. The floor seams are on the inside, inverted to guard against moisture. The tent seams are taped, and the fabric is coated to make it waterproof.

So far, our favorite of all is the Coleman Instant Tent that sleeps eight. It has all the features I discussed above, plus it sets up super quickly, in about a minute. That’s because the poles are pre-attached to the tent. It’s as easy as lying out the fabric and spreading out the poles and locking them together. The tent has two rooms, and it’s tall, too. The center height measures over six feet. Best of all, I found the tent on Amazon for $200. I figure with this choice, the old man and I will have plenty of room, and we can sleep a few grandkids with us, too. I’m still shopping, however, as I haven’t completely made up my mind.

Family Tents don't have to be huge.
Family Tents don't have to be huge. | Source

Family Camping Tents

Family camping tents come in several different styles and sizes. Think seriously about how much room you’ll actually need for all your family members. How much time will you actually be spending in the tent on your camping trips? For short trips when you’ll be spending most of your time engaged in outdoor activities, you might just want a place to lay your head at night. In that case, a dome tent will probably suffice. You can find dome tents that sleep up to several people. The largest one I’ve found sleeps twelve and has a six-foot ceiling. It also has dividers so that three separate rooms can be created. Dome tents are easy to set up. The ones we’ve had used a corded pole system. The poles were in short sections, and they were all connected by a stretchy cord. Once the sections were fitted together, all we had to do was to slide the poles into the pole sleeves and attach the ends of the poles to the floor.

Some people prefer a wall tent for accommodating several people. With these, the walls are vertical, instead of being curved like they are with dome tents. This design gives you more “walking around” room. Some of the family camping tents are huge! I found one at Cabela’s that’s almost thirty feet long, and it even has a place for a stove, along with folding shelves on the walls. Wow – I think I could live in that monster! I’m not convinced that we need a tent quite that large, however, and I assume such a huge tent wouldn’t be a quick and easy setup, either. Remember to take that into consideration when choosing a tent. How much time do you want to invest in the setup?

Pop Up Tent:

Pop Up Tent

We began our camping life with a small dome tent. That was before the kids began to arrive, so we just needed a small tent to fulfill our needs. A pop up tent would have worked beautifully as our first tent, had we known about the handy little shelters at the time. Actually, I’m not sure they’d been invented yet.

In case you’re not familiar with pop up tents, I’ll explain. Have you seen those pool floats that come in a round bag? When you want to use the float, all you have to do is to remove it from the zippered bag and sort of toss it. It automatically turns itself into a float. A pop up tent is sort of the same. All you have to do is remove it from the bag, and it erects itself. It takes like one second – literally. If you watch the above video, you can see just how quickly and effortlessly a pop up tent is to be ready for use.

Of course, the bad thing about pop up tents is that they have to be pretty small because of their design. By that, I mean the floor area is small, and the tents don’t usually provide much height, either. If you want something quick and easy, though, and if you just want a cozy place to sleep, pop up tents might be the best tents for your camping adventures.

Cabin Tents

Cabin tents have several advantages over pop up tents. Obviously, they’re a heck of a lot bigger, so they’ll sleep more people. Since they have different rooms, parents can have their own private space away from the kids. Even if only two adults are camping, the extra room can be used for storage or even as a living area. Believe me, the extra space will come in handy! This is especially true in the case of inclement weather, when you’re “stuck” inside your tent for hours or even days. In that case, you’ll want enough room to do more than just lie down continuously.

You can find all sorts of neat options with cabin tents. As I said, most have dividers to create different rooms, and some have outdoor awnings that are connected to the main tent. The awnings can create a nice, shady place for sitting outside. Some also have screen rooms. If you’re camping in nice weather, you’ll probably enjoy having a screen room, since they provide shade and keep out insects. If your kids are crawlers or toddlers, such a room can be used as a great play area. Since the walls are see-through, the rooms usually seem larger than they actually are, and they provide wonderful ventilation. Many families like to use the screen rooms as a dining area. If you decide to do that, be careful. Once you’re done eating, make sure you remove any food, including scraps and crumbs, from the tent. Wild animals have super scent-finding noses, and you certainly don’t want to encourage them to enter your tent space.

Tunnel Tents
Tunnel Tents | Source
Cheap Tents
Cheap Tents | Source

Cheap Tents

Can you find cheap tents for camping? Why, yes you can! Camping tents are available in a wide range of prices, so you shouldn’t have any problems finding one that will fit into your budget. Prices for new tents range from under $30 to more than $2,000. One way to save money on tents is to buy them when they’re on sale. You can usually find the best sales once the regular camping season has ended. During that time of year, discount tents can be found in many sporting goods stores and outdoor stores. Here’s a tip you might not be aware of: Look closely at the bag and at the tent itself. Do you see a black “X” on it? If you do, that could mean a couple of things. The tent could have been marked down because it’s a discontinued model, or it might mean that the tent is defective in some way or that it’s missing some parts. If the “X” is there, ask why it’s there.

I’ve had friends who found cheap tents at Army surplus stores, and you might want to check those out. Oftentimes, such tents are made of canvas. Canvas is heavy, and when it gets damp or wet, it’s very heavy. Such an item might not be the best tent for you.

You can find discount tents at online stores and sites, too, and that’s a great way to shop for new tents. There’s an amazing range of prices for the exact same tent among different online stores. Once you’ve narrowed your selection down to a handful of choices, look for that brand and model at a lot of different stores and sites. Compare the prices you find, and be sure to figure in shipping costs.

Used Tents - check out the inside, too.
Used Tents - check out the inside, too. | Source

Used Tents

One way to get cheap tents is to buy used tents. They can be great bargains if you shop carefully. Oftentimes, you can find used tents that are practically new. A lot of people might decide that the camping life sounds like a lot of fun, so they buy a tent. They don’t always think this through, so they might go on their first camping trip totally unprepared. As a result, they make the decision to give up camping altogether, so they’re stuck with a tent they no longer need or want. If you’re shopping for a tent, you can take advantage of the situation.

Before buying a tent that’s been used, make sure you know the size. If you find tents for sale in your local area, you’ll have the chance to examine them in person. Even better, ask the seller to allow you to set up the tent. That’s a great way to really see its size and determine if it’s large enough to accommodate you and your family or camping buddies. That will also provide a good way to see if all the parts are there and if everything works properly. Be sure to examine the fabric for any rips, tears, or holes. Check all the zippers to make sure they work properly. Check out any “windows,” too. Pay close attention to the poles and stakes, especially if the poles are fiberglass. Once fiberglass poles get some age on them, they tend to “dry out” and get brittle. Okay, this is going to sound strange, but use your nose. If a used tent has a funky smell, it could mean that mold is present or that the fabric or coating has deteriorated.

If you decide to buy a used tent online, you’re at a disadvantage because you can’t physically examine the product unless, of course, the seller is located near you. Otherwise, ask lots of questions and view any photographs carefully. Ask about the size of the tent, the age of the tent, how it was stored, and why it’s being sold. Inquire about the parts list, and don’t hesitate to ask for extra photos of the inside and the outside of the tent. If you’re looking at used tents on Ebay, check out the seller’s feedback. This is often a good indication of the person’s reputation, and most Ebay sellers want to ensure that they keep a high score. Shopping for tents is fun, but you have to remember to use your head.


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