Family Tent Buying - Top Tips


Camping children jumping for joy

 

5 MUST-HAVE TENT FEATURES WHEN CAMPING WITH CHILDREN

In 2018 we undertook extensive research with parents who take children camping, to find out what are the must-have tent features that really make a difference when parents take children camping.

The results are in, and here are the top 5 tent features to look for when buying a new family tent.  You can read more about each one below:

  1. Blackout Sleeping Pods
  2. A Front Canopy / Extension
  3. A Footprint
  4. A Sewn-In Groundsheet
  5. Lowerable Thresholds / Entrance

 

#1 BLACKOUT SLEEPING PODS

Our top tip when buying a tent if you have children of any age is blackout sleeping pods.  In short, this means the bedrooms are made of a material that light does not shine through, making them dark at both bedtime, and in the early summer morning.

Tent manufacturer ‘Coleman’ are famed for their pods, and you can see a great video showing the breathtaking impact of blackout sleeping pods in this video

 Blackout Sleeping Pod

Image Courtesy of Coleman

If you’ve got a tent without blackout pods, have a look at our alternative solution (top tip #12) by clicking here

 

#2 A FRONT CANOPY / EXTENSION

As soon as our infamous British weather strikes (and it will) the camping parent faces 3 muddy problems:

  1. trying to take shoes / wellies off children whilst they are outside in the rain
  2. mud being trampled into your tent living area
  3. having nowhere to keep muddy shoes / wellies

Family Tent with Canopy

 Tent shown is the Outwell Willwood 6 (with a great canopy design!)

A canopy, even a small canopy, is the simple but priceless solution.  It keeps the area immediately outside your tent dry, giving you somewhere to get muddy shoes on and off your little ones, and somewhere to leave them too.

 

#3 A FOOTPRINT

A footprint is a waterproof (often tarpaulin) sheet that goes under your tent, and is essentially the shape of your tent (ie its footprint!).

 

 Tent Footprint 

Footprints are available for virtually every modern tent.  Read on to understand why we urge you to make the investment in one.

They have many benefits:

  • Makes tent pitching easier and faster, as you lay out exactly where you’re going to put your tent before you start to pitch it
  • Helps protect the underside of your (more expensive) tent from rocks etc
  • Helps keep your tent warm by providing extra insulation from the ground
  • Helps keep the bottom of your tent, which you’re going to roll up later, clean

 

#4 A SEWN-IN GROUND SHEET (SIG)

A ground sheet is the base sheet of your tent; the part you walk on.  Most modern family tents have a ground sheet which is either (a) sewn in, or (b) toggled in.

Sown In Groundsheet

Tent shown is the Skandika Copenhagan, with a sewn in groundsheet

Whilst a toggled ground sheet helps ventilation, they also let in draughts and nature!  So if you’re camping with children, most parents recommend a sewn in ground sheet.

 

#5 LOWERABLE ENTRANCE / THRESHOLD

The doorway threshold into tents is raised off the ground (can be seen in the photo above), to stop water from coming into the tent when it’s raining.  Sadly if you’re only small that can cause you to trip again, and again, and again!

But tent manufacturers have begun to solve this problem by creating lowerable / layflat thresholds, so as long as the weather is fine you can drop the threshold and not worry about trips.  Brilliant!

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

  • Do you agree with our top 5?
  • Have you seen an exciting new tent feature that parents need to know about?

 

5 MORE TENT-BUYING TIPS

Speaking to parents, there were 5 more themes that came across loud and clear:

  1. “HH” WATERPROOF RATING - we suggest at least 3000 - 4000HH (read what a HH is in our camping A-to-Z here)
  2. HEAD AND BED HEIGHT - make sure that your tent is tall enough for your family, and if you have them, bunk beds
  3. CHILDREN’S BEDROOMS - consider bedrooms next to yours (younger kids), or opposite (older kids).  And if next to yours consider between zip closures (more privacy) or toggle (more open) between rooms
  4. SPARE ROOM - it’s great if your choice of tent allows a spare bedroom to tidy away games, bags etc when you don’t need them
  5. LIVING AREA - never underestimate the value of a decent size living area to make sure that you don’t feel restricted in your tent.  And bear in mind if it rains, your family may spend most of the day together in it

 

If you've seen a great new innovation, or have a question or feedback about his advice, please let us know via the form below.