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Talk to me about tents!

(31 Posts)
Tadpoletoatoad Thu 21-Apr-16 21:05:42

So! I never thought I'd ever be considering this being a complete non tenter. But, here I am, thinking about tents!!
I know so little! But I do know I NEED to be comfortable.
There is DH, dd (6), ds (3) and myself.
I'm thinking I would like at least a 6 berth tent with 3 sleeping areas. Initially we would only use 2 and 1 for storage as I can't cope with stuff everywhere!
I think I need a sewn in groundsheet. Do I?
I think I need at least 3000 hydro static head. Do I need more?
I would like a porch or capacity for one so we can leave shoes outside. Are there porches that have a door?
What else? I only want to think about the actual tent at the moment because beds etc are a WHOLE other matter!
Please help me! Happy to buy secondhand as I'm still dubious about my staying power!
Only looking at spending 4 nights max in nice weather. But this is the uk so need to be prepared.
I've looked at Vango tents which look good and I've seen recommended in MN before.

Tadpoletoatoad Thu 21-Apr-16 22:13:21


hillbilly Thu 21-Apr-16 22:24:56

Still a bit quiet on the camping threads since its April but there are a few of use hardcore who will be around! There will be more qualified people come to your aid I'm sure but I really like my outwell tent although it's only 5 berth with 2 bedrooms. It's an Oakland xl which isn't made anymore. Many people recommend the Montana 6 and then there are the lovely canvas karsten tents. Think about what you want the tent made of. We have nylon (?) because we don't have anywhere to re pitch at home if we have to pack up a wet tent at the end of trips. Polycotton and canvas will be cooler in hot temps. Good luck in your search smile

tilder Thu 21-Apr-16 22:26:57

Get the biggest tent you can afford, fit on a campsite and can lift. Think about how easy it will be to put up and down especially if you want to do weekend camping.

I agree on the number of bed pods. Plus make sure you can stand up properly.

Can't help on brands as ours is a bit obscure.

We have a canvas tent with separate ground sheet. The bedroom pods have an integral ground sheet. I have no experience of a tent which has fully integral ground sheet but I guess it reduces drafts?

hillbilly Thu 21-Apr-16 22:27:29

Oh and yes to sewn in groundsheet. 3000 is adequate I think too. We have a side extension which is great for kitchen stuff, cool box, shoes etc and also to put the chairs overnight.

profpoopsnagle Thu 21-Apr-16 22:40:21

Personally, I would rather bigger living space than a bigger number of bedrooms. IMO I find I use the living space more, and it's more flexible. TBH, we have just use the bedroom space for sleeping and lying-down-reading and that's it. The key to storage is to take less stuff to begin with, we keep clothes in bedrooms anyway and have a plethora of plastic boxes for everything else. Not that it works, but I can live in hope.

You need to consider what you will sleep on before you buy the tent. Airbeds can require more space than SIMS or campbeds. Some tents say a 'pod' is 2 person but you may not fit 2x airbeds or even thicker SIMS in there as easily.

I prefer zip in groundsheet to sewn- gives the majority of the benefits of a sewn in. But, the groundsheet is often the last part to dry, so having the flexibility to take off and clean/dry separately if needed is very helpful. It does take a few minutes longer to set up and isn't a completely sealed unit.

Where do you plan to cook? This may influence what sort of porch you might choose.

RaisingSteam Fri 22-Apr-16 12:40:06

A 6 person 2-3 bedroom polyester tunnel tent will be lightweight to transport and easy to put up and down.

3 bedroom tents are a bit harder to find but this Outwell Palm Coast 6 might suit you, it has a porch but the bedrooms are very tiny. On the other hand, don't assume you need a bedroom for your stuff, if it limits all your other choices. I would suggest get over to a Go Outdoors, Decathlon or Yeoman's camping show and actually see the tents pitched before you choose. Also look at the tent reviews on UKcampsite - the ratings are one thing but you can see the popular tents which have loads of reviews, they tend to be the reliable workhorses. Outwell, Hi Gear, Vango, Coleman and Quechua/Decathlon are all good.

You can get more features and gadgets but the more you take and the bigger your tent, the more of a PITA packing and pitching everything becomes and you start to get fed up before you've started.

RaisingSteam Fri 22-Apr-16 12:50:52

Secondhand an Outwell Montana 6 is a good family tent and you might get one with an awning etc all bundled in - it must be properly looked after though as if it's ever been put away damp it will be mildewed.

3boys3dogshelp Fri 22-Apr-16 12:58:29

We sound like we are into a fairly similar level of camping to you! We have a Vango Icarus 600. It's only 2 (good sized) bedrooms but I love it. You can get an porch type but to go on the front but as we are pretty fair-weather campers we haven't bothered. Plenty of space to store our stuff without being huge. Seems quite easy to put up. Waterproof! We have a double air bed in one side with room to spare, our 3 boys share the other side (last summer it was one single air bed, 1 toddler air bed and a travel cot).

CupcakesRule Fri 22-Apr-16 13:15:05

We are a family of 5 (all children
Under 5) so are thinking of buying a new tent to last us a fair few years,(currently only have small two bed). We're really interested in the airgo nimbus 8

Which is an inflatable so speeding to put up take down which is ideal for weekend camping.

There are smaller tents too that are inflatable.


Tadpoletoatoad Sat 23-Apr-16 14:02:03

Sorry for not replying sooner. Life gets in the way of MN sometimes. I need to work harder on my priorities!

Hillbilly - the Montana was suggested to me so it's nice to see another recommendation for it. 
I hadn't thought of material at all so that's interesting. 

Tilder - that's my thinking about the integrated groundsheet. And bugs?

Snugle - ooo, zip in is a great idea!! 
Cooking is likely, at some point to be under the porch. If we have a porch with a roll up front bit that will be ok won't it? 

RaisingSteam - thanks for all the recommendations of brands. It narrows it down when I'm looking. 
Also another vote for the Montana. 

3dogs - I really like the Icarus and good to know its spacious. 

Cupcake - I'm a bit worried about air beams as wonder what happens if they get a hole 😳 But love the idea!! 

Thanks everyone! 

BombadierFritz Sat 23-Apr-16 14:10:29

Will the kids be happy apart from you? I bought one (a pop up, it is great but discontinued, quechua pop up4.2) with beds at either end but am thinking of swapping to one with side by side bedrooms that you can separate or open up to one big bedroom. Kids prefer that style.
Those big tents with 3 separate rooms are a pain to put up imo as well

Tadpoletoatoad Sat 23-Apr-16 14:15:06

That's interesting Bombardier. I was thinking about them and figured there would be bed swapping!

Blu Sun 24-Apr-16 15:20:01

Spend a day at one of the big camping places where loads of tents are set up.
GoOutdoors, or SK Camping in Surrey if nearby or similar.

Go inside all the tents and imagine your family in them.

Do you want a big porch - can this be an extension?

Do you want to be able to put it up by yourself (simple tunnel or pop up construction) .

How heavy / bulky can the bag be? Will you ever go to the beautiful wild / woodland sites where you take your stuff to the pitch b barrow? Steel poles add a lot of weight and bulk over fibreglass.

Is there a little shelter over the roof or a door not on a big slope - i.e will water pour in when you unzip in rain?

Do you want blue or green, a.n other colour, or don't you care?

YES you need a minimum of 3000 HH - 3000 is fine for the UK if a good quality tent - the devil is in the seams - look for taped.

Groundsheet - yes sewn in - a footprint under your tent is relatively inexpensive and saves your whole tent being on a muddy / wet ground for a wet pack up.

In your place, for 4 night stays, I would look at the Vango Icarus or similar: roomy, easy to put up, the Vango tension band system makes it good in wind.

I have not had a close encounter with an inflatable tent - I wonder how long they take to pack up - getting all the air out to fold? They are also heavier.

Twowrongsdontmakearight Sun 24-Apr-16 15:57:27

From bad experience twice I'd advise not to buy a second hand tent.

With respect to which to buy it depends on how often and for how long you're likely to camp.

We had an Outwell Montana when DC were little. We liked the fact that they were sleeping alongside us and the little side porch was great as a toilet area. It was also still standing after a storm when other tents around us had collapsed. It was perfect when camping for a week or more, not really a weekend tent.

However it is heavy. The poles are steel and there is no open porch bit to cook under when it rains. You need to buy a separate extension for that. So that's three bags before you add beds, sleeping bags etc.

Why not start with something smaller and decide if you actually like camping before you go to huge expense? There are smaller tents that you can still stand up in.

We now have an Outwell Cleveland 5. The living area is smaller than the Monty but there is a built in open-sided porch. The poles are fibreglass so everything fits in one bag. Friends have a Nevada with extension that is light and portable too.

If you fall in love with camping like we did you can get a Monty next time and use the smaller one as a weekend tent.

Twowrongsdontmakearight Sun 24-Apr-16 16:01:12

Also, after a water tight tent the most important thing is a good night's sleep. Don't skimp on that. Having been through (and wasted money on) assorted cheaper sleeping bags and airbeds (😒) 4 season sleeping bags and self inflating mats (7cm or more) are the only way to go!

Tadpoletoatoad Sun 24-Apr-16 20:22:09

You are all so kind and knowledgable. Thank you so much.

We have brought an Icarus for £50 so thought it was worth a whirl!! It seems like it's a good tent with only a few outings. I was thankful for the review above that suggested it after I'd brought it!

Next I'm on sleeping bags and SIMs! So thank you for that post too.
Any suggestions other than that above which is a great starting point. smile

Blu Sun 24-Apr-16 20:48:04

A second hand Icarus for £50 is an excellent buy! Can you put it up in yur garden or somewhere before you go to check it is OK? And maybe give it a once over with some water-proofing if it looks a bit worn?

Sleeping bags: do not buy cheapy nylony bags from Halfords or Argos!

Vango or Outwell or the like, 3 season minimum. Gelert are good too.

I like:
an 'envelope' sleeping bag, - i.e rectanualr, not 'mummy' style as I like to spread out a bit. And in fact have an extra large bag. I also like a cotton lining - mine has a flannelette lining.

Mats - again it all depends on preference. I don't like blow-up beds: a pain to blow up, worse to deflate, cold, wobbly and back-ache inducing. But others love them. I am happy on a 2.5 cm SIM from Aldi, but fatter ones are available.

If you need to economise to begin with kids are (IME) fine on the thicker roll out mats from Decathlon. Kids weigh less so don't sink through the mats to the ground so much. Also those mats have a foil backing so are very well insulated.

Tadpoletoatoad Sun 24-Apr-16 21:28:35

Thanks Blu. I have grumblings from DH about it being so cheap. We have plenty of space to stick it in the garden and was planning to re waterproof as well. He actually asked if it will fit in the car - WTAF!!
And I'm guessing if there were any tears etc then they are easy to fix??

I need to know about 'essentials' but should probably start another thread....

I'm very excited!!!

MissWimpyDimple Sun 24-Apr-16 23:07:44

I think the car thing is a very valid point! Do you have a roof box or a very very big boot? We struggle to get camping gear for 4 in our medium sized car.

Just bear that in mind when you start buying all of your gear!

Twowrongsdontmakearight Sun 24-Apr-16 23:15:51

Sorry for being negative about buying second hand - I might just have been very unlucky. One was a bit mouldy and we couldn't get rid of the smell, the other had lots of tiny holes in it (insect??) and was unfixable. Any issues if there are any should be obvious when you put the tent up in your garden.

AnnPerkins Mon 25-Apr-16 13:47:17

Secondhand tents can be great. We have sold two on ebay that were like new. They were only used a couple of times each and we really looked after them. (Had trouble choosing our ideal tent, then decided to build a campervan.)

£50 for an Icarus is cheap. We sold our Icarus 500 with extension for £165 iirc several years ago. They hold their value, as do Montanas, because they are so popular.

We also gave away a tent on Gumtree that had a split pole. The new owners knew about the pole and were happy to take it away and fix it up for use. You can get spare parts online, somewhere like

You'll have a sewn-in groundsheet with your Icarus. They're definitely the way forward, you get fewer bugs and drafts and you can't trip over it it stays in one place. We also had a 'footprint', which is like a second groundsheet that goes on the ground first to protect the tent, and a carpet, too. The carpet is invaluable when you have smaller children, it makes playing on the floor much more comfortable (for you as well as them!) and it's much cosier in the evenings.

RaisingSteam Mon 25-Apr-16 23:39:46

You can spend the money you save on some good SIMs and sleeping bags at least for the adults!

Jobseekernightmare Mon 25-Apr-16 23:46:14

Hmm, I would buy a few cheap pop-up tents and a good gazebo and pitch them all entrance in with the gazebo over the bit in the middle. a large pop-up for you two with a kids pop-up inside for little on if you would rather, or one larger tent for hanging out in, just as pop-ups are so easy, and cheap and it's only four days..

Jobseekernightmare Mon 25-Apr-16 23:53:35

Oh sorry, see you have sorted tent!

Re comfy, if you are car camping just duvet and blanket it with air mattresses as the restricted sleeping bag can affect sleep for first two nights.

Pillows are super luxury to me when I camp as so often its been head on kit bag!

My recommendation for comfort is always make real coffee the night before and have it ready to just heat up next morn. Real coffee is my mental link to luxury!

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