[Editor's note - Kelly is a freelance writer and columnist for Sunday News Magazine]
Roasting marshmallows, telling ghost stories, spending time with friends and family, appreciating nature; these are all the wonderful things camping has to offer. In order to fully enjoy your trip, however, you have to choose the right tent. There is nothing to make your camping experience completely miserable than a leaky, inadequate tent.
The first two things you must know before purchasing your camping tent are -- how many people are joining you, and what will you be doing? For weather purposes, there are two categories:
The three season tents are used for more general backpacking excursions. They are intended for Spring, Summer, and Fall use, as they will more than likely fail you if it snows heavily. However, it does hold up well in the rain. Most campers are accustomed to three-season camping, so there is a big selection to choose from. Keep in mind that the first section of three-season shelters mentioned are actually more for summer use.
$12-$549 Screen and Tarp Shelters
Under this category lies a couple of different versions. Both are very light in weight, but probably not what you are looking for in general camping circumstances. In fact, though they are classified as a tent, screen shelters are more of an area you would eat under and are not protected from the elements at all. In addition, tarps are usually very open to the outside.
This type of tent should be used mainly for warm and humid climates, though it does work as a three-seasonal. They are extremely light weight due to its mesh walls. I would not highly recommend this model, however, because if it does rain or snow, you will freeze your tush off.
If you are into bare-essential camping, single-wall tents are for you. They are basically rainflies equipped with a few vents you can zip open during warmer conditions. For more general camping however, this could lead to that miserable scene I mentioned earlier.
C: Bivy sacks
These are minimalist shelters for one camper and not much else aside from a sleeping bag. In fact, it pretty much looks like a sleeping bag with a small tent covering your head. If saving weight is your chief priority, a bivy is worth considering. If you like room to move inside your shelter, look elsewhere. Though technically it is a three-season tent, I wouldn't try using it in the fall.
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Reprinted by permission from Kelly A. Mello. Copyright 2008 - all rights reserved
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