What are the most important factors in choosing a tent? These factors may be different for everyone, but I think that the most important factors are:
- no formation of condensate
- weather protection
- cold protection
The abovementioned factors are to be put on the list exactly in this order, except the price, since everyone puts the price according to his or her situation. Why this order?
First of all, there is nothing worse than waking up wet in a tent. No matter if it is condensate or rain. If so, then it is better to sleep under a blanket.
Condensate forms in a tent due to the fact that usually air is warmer inside the tent than outside the tent (in normal situations), thus interaction of warm and cold air inside the tent creates condensate. To avoid this, usually, the tent is equipped with an internal tent, which is made out of "breathing" material, but the external tent provides protection from weather conditions and retains condensate, which can easily flow down the outer wall of the tent. It is important to ensure that internal and external tents never touch. Both tents may touch due to a bad tent design or due to errors in pitching the tent. The second important thing that prevents formation of condensate is ventilation, which removes the excess humidity from tent. The better the tent is ventilated, the less condensate you will have, thus you should never close all ventilation hatches. Weather protection, of course, depends on tent material and seams, which must be completely treated. In good tents both external and internal tents have waterproof coating of at least 2000 mm.
The next important criteria is the tent weight. If you plan to take the tent with you while going by car, you can stop worrying about the weight and everything else as well, since it is easy to buy a cheap, good, but heavy tent, however, if you plan on travelling by foot or by bicycle the tent weight is very important. You can find ultra-light tents for two people, weighing less than 1kg, but it is much more easier to find a tent weighing around 2.5 kg. Often the manufacturers indicate only weight of the tent without any additional elements, for example the tent footprint, which is not mandatory but protects the bottom side of the tent from damage. Sometimes the weight does include the weight of tent sticks, which can be substituted by walking sticks, if such are used during the trip. It is important to pay attention to all of these facts, since any additional couple hundred of grams will cost you a half more. Everyone must decide the best balance between weight and price of the tent.
Size means the level of comfort that you wish to achieve. Some tents are only made for sleeping and are very narrow, and you cannot take any of your belongings inside the tent. These small two-people tents can fit only a single couple, since it provides a certain level of "intimacy". Larger tents, usually, mean bigger weight (but not always). Existence and size of tent's hallway is very important, since you can store your gear and shoes in the hallway. Some tents even have two entries and two hallways, which may seem excessive at first, but it is very handy. On cold evenings you can turn one of the hallways into a storage room and use the second one as a bathroom to brush teeth or cook dinner. However, lightweight tents will never be wide, and you must remember it from the beginning.
Cold protection / 3 & 4 season tents
Cold protection is not very significant, since the main source of heat inside the tent is the sleeping bag. Usually, tents are classified into 3 or 4 season tents. Four season tents can be used in winter, but they almost always have condensate problems, therefore it is advised to purchase such tent only if you really plan to spend your night under the stars in winter. In all other cases a three season tent is enough. Almost every tent is classified as a three season tent, therefore it is necessary to read user reviews.
Durability or quality of the tent is described by the total of all abovementioned factors, since the better is the tent in general, the more durable it is. The same can be said about the price.