If you consider yourself a serious outdoors enthusiast, then you, like many others will prefer to bring a durable camping tent along with you.
But what defines a durable camping tent from a cheap casual tent besides the price tag?
You would be surprised at just how many areas of consideration there are.
The best way to approach this is to break down what tasks your tent needs to perform consistently. Consider using the following conversation with yourself.
OK so you have your tent and its material, what is going to hold it up?
OK so that requires sturdy tent poles. What is going to keep your tent and its frame from blowing over?
OK but that requires rope to pass through your tents material. What is going to protect that material?
Excellent, but what will prevent all of these things from tearing during stress?
What will protect those seams from leaking during stress?
waterproof seam sealant!
What is going to keep all of those entrances and windows performing well?
Heavy duty rust proof zippers of course.
The list goes on, but in the post below I am going to explain these main areas of consideration and compare cheap alternatives with the high quality stuff so you know what to look for.
Quick Select Points
One of the key areas to focus on when buying a durable camping tent is to investigate the frame work.
Like any structure or building, It is essential that the foundations and frame work are spot on and capable of performing the job it is designed to do.
In the case of camping tents, this refers to your tents frame. This frame must be strong enough to hold the shape of your tent, endure the weight of the type of material your tent is made from and also be flexible enough to endure all forms of wind and weather.
With all of that in mind the tent poles need to be able to continue performing at this level for multiple uses, which requires them to be durable enough for construction and deconstruction without breaking or becoming damaged.
In the world of camping there are many forms of tents made of many materials, all requiring different forms of structural framing.
Unfortunately not all camping tent designs have this in mind as cost of production comes into play. Some brands of tents will use cheap poles to cut costs. Often this results in your tent only lasting a few trips and you’re left with the task to either find more appropriate poles or purchase a new tent.
Below is a small list of different tent poles, their pros and cons.
Shock cord- Shock cord by its self is not a tent pole but a component. Shock cord, sometimes referred to as bungee cord is a rope made with one or more strands of rubber surrounded by an abrasive resistant external jack made of polyester, polypropylene or nylon.
It is very important that your tent poles have shock cord inside because as the quality of tent poles increase so does the strength, thickness and stiffness of the tent pole.
What shock cord does besides helping you keep all the tent pole pieces together during pack up and storage is created flexibility when your tent is erect.
when considering what your tent needs to be able to do in tough weather etc you begin to realise just how important structural flexibility is.
Plastic- Stay away from tent poles that are made from plastic. Even if they have shock cord in them. These tent poles are designed for lightweight tents.
Lightweight tents are usually cheap and poorly made. Secondly plastic tent poles have a tendency to snap or chip at the ends and like a plastic straw will lose its structural integrity and begin to splinter upwards along the pole rendering it unless. Just don’t take the risk.
FiberGlass: If the tent is small or has a lot of dome shaped structures then fiberglass tent poles are very good at maintaining flexible shape where it is required, such as arched entrances etc.
Though it is much stronger then plastic it can still chip at the ends and once those chips have stress applied to them they will splinter along the tent pole and eventually become useless.
I would recommend only using fiberglass tent poles that have aluminum tips to prevent such chipping.
Alloy: Oddly enough alloy type camping poles are usually the more expensive type of poles. Due to their good strength and lightweight, it is easy to see why they are favorable.
However, once damaged or bent they are nearly impossible to return to their original shape and strength.
This is rarely a problem unless you plan on camping in areas with consistent high winds.
It is worthy to highlight the bonus of rust protection that alloys bring.
Steel: Though steel tent poles weigh more they are the strongest option for maintaining straight tent walls. These poles are cheaper and close to indestructible.
If one becomes damaged, it is possible to hammer and bend back into shape.
However unlike alloy poles they are not rust resistant.
Securely Fastened Grommets (Eyelets)
What is a grommet: Grommets also known as eyelets are essentially two cylindrical peaces of metal with a hole in the middle. They are punctured into place in their chosen material by means of a tap and dye set. Their application purposes can vary, yet are generally used to allow safe passing of rope like materials through other material safely without damaging the ropes or the material the rope is passing through.
Type of grommets: There are a number of different grommets, but regarding grommets being used for tents there are usually two types, plain grommets and spur grommets.
Plain Grommets- are easy to identify as they are typically made of brass or other lightweight metals. These kinds of grommets are traditionally used for light weight applications, such as flags or curtains.
The downside to these kinds of grommets is they are not designed for heavier work loads such as tents.
The two pieces of metal are known to spin and eventually cause damage to the surrounding fabric.
So if you see these kinds of grommets on your tent it is most likely cheaply made and not of high quality.
Spur grommets– are typically made of nickle or stainless steel, they are named spur grommets because they have tiny spurs in-between the two joining parts which dig into the fabric and prevent it from spinning.
These kinds of grommets are used for heavier applications such as tents or tarps. These are the kinds of grommets to look for when buying a high quality tent.
Double Sewn Seams And Reinforcement
You can imagine a tent has a lot of components. The floor, doors, windows and corners to name a few. No matter the variety of features on your tent, both big and small tents will require to be held together. This is where sewn seems come into play.
If you consider yourself a tough bloke or lady you presumably like many others never consider sewing seams to be playing a key role in the durability of your tent. Like myself you presume the designers of the tent know what they are doing and so you probably never gave it a second thought.
Unfortunately time is money and so to save money and offer you a product at a cheaper price, sacrifices are made. Though there are many forms of seam styles in the sewing world, in the world of camping, tents material is usually held together using a form of flat fell seam.
This method of sewn seam will withstand much more stress and strain then a flat seam or simple hem. Though the method and quality of this sewing method can vary, a great way to ensure it is of high quality and up to the task is to look for the following
- The material will be folded neatly over each other.
- There will not be any exposed rough edges of material.
- The seam will be sown twice along the material.
- Both seams will penetrate all four layers of material.
- The stitching will have even spacing and be straight along the entire length of the seam.
- There will be 8-10 stitches per inch of material.
- The smaller the stitching the better.
When considering durability for your tent, reinforcement is a must. Reinforcement can come in a number of methods but more important is its purpose.
Like all structures, your tent has what are referred to as stress areas. These areas of your tent are under a considerably more consistent and higher level of stress then other sections.
Such areas are usually around the tent grommets, tent peg holes and attached guylines. To accommodate for this a tent of higher quality may use the following methods to spread the stress over a larger area of material.
- Heavy sewing around the edges of the area requiring extra strength.
- Separate extensions of material sewn and attached to the tent ( it must be attached to an area with thicker material and stitching)
- Strips of nylon webbing or tape sewn around the edges of the seam.
Heavy Duty Non-Rusting Zippers
A great tent comes with multiple door ways and windows which require to be open and secured at a moments notice should the weather change. when it comes to your tents zippers you want to get it absolutely right. If you have faulty poor quality zippers they may fail in your time of need, leaving you and your belongings wet and cold.
The first thing to look for is size. A durable tent will have large zippers, these are capable of larger heavier work loads along each inch of material.
Secondly the zip should have a sewn length of material covering the entire length of the zip top protects it from frost and moisture.
Thirdly the zip should either be made of an either a non rusting material or coated to prevent rusting. An easy way to check this is to ensure the zip doesn’t look like bare non coated metal.
And finally the zip tape should have two zippers attached with looped material to allow for a reduced word load on the zip.
Waterproof Seam Sealer
Whether your tent is made of canvas or a form of nylon they will never be 100% waterproof. Most tents resolve this issue by applying a form of hydro static waterproof coating to the material.
However, if you want a durable tent, then all of your seams need to be waterproof . No matter how high quality the stitching or method of seam, water can enter through the small holes the stitching has penetrated. The level of water is often small and only appears a dampness.
It is this dampness that you must prevent in order to sustain the longevity and structural integrity of your stitched seams. A build up of moisture can and will weaken and rot away your sewn seams over time.
To prevent this it is essential that your tent has its seams sealed with a waterproof sealant. If the manufacturer does not state that the seams are sealed, they will usually supply a sealant with the tent.
However, cheaply made tents may come with neither. It is best to avoid such purchases.
Durable = Reliable
Who would have thought that there was so many areas of consideration for tent durability. If you know of other significant areas of consideration please engage with us in the comments section below. I hope this post has helped you all to make wiser smarter purchases. If you keep the previously covered points in mind you should find it much easier to purchase a tent that is both durable and reliable.
May you all have wonderful adventures.