How to buy a festival tent

If it’s still a bit wet and cold for countryside camping, many of us already have camping tickets for some of this year’s greenfield festivals and no portable dwelling. January is a great time to buy your tent for the summer as there are plenty of sale offers available.

If you always grab a tent at the supermarket, we’re willing to bet you and your stuff always get soaked if it rains – you may even find yourself abandoning tent, bedding and most of your wardrobe with depressing regularity. This can become a cycle – because tents let you down you resist spending on one right up to the point where you panic and buy the cheapest again. Concentrate instead on finding a tent that’s good value and transform your entire festival experience.

Dampened enthusiasm

We’re always hoping for sunshine when we buy the ticket, but it makes sense when choosing a tent to assume it will rain. To start with, you need something with a flysheet, an inner and a ground sheet. Look out for waterproofing features like taped seams. Dome structures tend to be stable and wind- and rain- repellent if properly erected. Check the label for ‘hydrostatic head’, ie how much water pressure the tent’s outer fabric will withstand. 1000 is basic waterproof but in the UK you need a hydrostatic head of 2000 or more to stop any real downpour seeping through.

 The heat is on

Breathing and sweating in a warm, waterproof bag is going to create condensation when it’s cold outside, and you may even confuse this with rain leaking in. Look out for paired vents in the flysheet that can be propped open for fresh air, or at least choose mesh vents in the inner walls. You may even consider two doors – lovely for creating a through draught on hot sweaty mornings they can also make it easier to share a tent.

Size matters

If you have no camping experience, tent capacities can be misleading. Look at a tent floor plan and you’ll notice the stated number of ‘men’ in tight rows like sardines. If you enjoy waking up in a tangled heap of your mates, that’s great. But with all your stuff, and the possibility you might turn in at different times, you probably need at least a half an extra person-space each – so a two-man tent is only really big enough for one, while a three-man might be OK for two. A one-man tent can keep your load light and might fit into a tiny space, but you probably won’t be able to sit up or turn around inside. Try the tent in the shop for a realistic sense of floor space and headroom.

Don’t confuse floor area with weight, though – a high-spec three- or four-man tent can be lighter than a cheap two-man. You can check the tent’s ‘packed weight’ on the label, but weight is always a trade-off against other features, including price. You need a tent you can carry, but not necessarily a backpacker’s dream.

Some tents are designed to be quickly put up, or easier to put up in rain. Various tent designs and features like porches have their pros and cons, while you pay for extra features in money and weight. But if you find a tent that’s big enough and keeps you dry, we’re willing to bet you’ll be a committed festival camper in no time.

Don’t leave it until the last minute – put some thought into it now and choose a home-from-home that will take you from site to site for years ahead. Love your tent and it will love you back!


PHOTOS by Hope Wisechild

Comments (3)

  • Wonderful post, very informative. I ponder why the other experts of this sector don’t realize this. You must continue your writing. I’m confident, you’ve a huge readers’ base already!|What’s Going down i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I have discovered It absolutely useful and it has helped me out loads. I am hoping to give a contribution & assist other users like its aided me. Good job.

  • Alan says:

    When I went to my first festival I made this mistake and bought a cheap tent, which of course leaked and ruined the whole experience.

    Now when I go to a festival or even camping somewhere local I take my pop up 3 man tent with me and that protects me from all but the heaviest of downpours and gives me plenty of space.

    I definitely agree with you on the sizing front, as a comfortable rule of thumb when tent shopping I always say half the ‘capacity’, so a two man tent is actually suitable for one comfortably etc.

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