Buying Guide: Choosing The Perfect Tent

Here at Blacks, we've been designing and selling tents for over 150 years. And, we know just how important the right tent is when you're setting up camp. From the family campsite to the festival fields, your tent has to be the basecamp of dreams in order for you to have the best night's sleep.

So here it is, the 'Everything you need to know about tents' guide to help you make the right investment for your own outdoor escapes.

With so many innovative new tent designs on the market, spontaneous escapes, family camping holidays and serious expeditions have never been more comfortable. But everyone has their own preferences - the most important thing is to choose a tent that suits your needs.


There are always innovative new tent styles to choose from:

Tunnel Tents - generally feel more spacious, because their height runs the full length of the tent. The design is simple to pitch because none of the poles cross over - however this does usually make for a less stable tent. Good attention to your guy ropes will help you stay standing. Great for family camping, chilled out backpacking and campsite use.

Dome Tents - Dome tents are great all-rounders. They're simple to pitch, stable in high winds (with no corners for gusts to catch on) and are therefore ideal for a season of spontaneous camping trips in a wide range of conditions. You will of course find less headroom in dome tents, but this isn't always a great concern if you're main priority is comfort in all weather and on any terrain.

Semi-Geodesic and Geodesic Technical Tents - The complex structure of these more technical designs makes them incredibly stable and solid - designed to stand up to all manner of conditions and underneath the worst kinds of storms. You'll find that a range of options are available in the geodesic style, suited to all kinds of intrepid, mountainside adventures.

Inflatable Tents - Inflatable tents have to be one of our favourite outdoor innovations - eliminating the need for tent poles by using simple, inflatable tubes instead. That's right: No poles, no hassle and record pitching times - perfect for stress-free holidays, last minute breaks and those who have a knack for breaking tent poles.

Tipi Tents - If you're looking for a whole new camping style and not too bothered about extreme weather or mountain tops, check out the Tipi. Think wigwams, cabin shapes and other unique styles that are comfortable, spacious and quirky. Designed to provide sociable space and headroom, our range of tipi style tents are popular with camping friends, families and festival goers alike. Great as a shared investment too.


When choosing your tent it's important to consider:

What you need to take with you - Will you need extra space for luggage in your tent? Are you planning to take loads of equipment on your adventures? If so, consider buying a slightly larger berth tent so that you'll have plenty of room to stay organised. If you're going solo and need to keep size to a minimum, look for a 1 person tent with a gear store, porch or external storage system.

Future-proofing - If you're buying for a festival or one-off camping trip, think about how you might use the tent on other occasions. A 2 Man tent for one summer trip might not be big or small enough to cater for next year's plans. The same goes for family tents - will the kids need more space for play next year?

How you want to spend your trip - If you're pitching up for a proper holiday rather than destination hopping, you might want a bit of extra space for eating inside, chilling out and sheltering on rainy days without going crazy. It can be really pleasant spending time in a tent if you have room to spread out - that's why even some couples choose family tents for their longer camping holidays.

What you can transport and carry - Always check the weight and pack size of your chosen tent, to make sure it's possible to get it where you need to go.

Facing the Weather: Wind

The styles outlined above should help you choose a tent that's stable enough for your conditions. Remember, wind is always a bigger problem at higher altitudes, in exposed positions such as cliff tops or hillsides. If you pitch your tent properly, chances are you won't have any problems as long as you're not camping in a particularly exposed position.

Tip: Choose a sheltered pitch, even if it's not windy when you arrive - this will reduce the noise of the wind in your tent.
Tip: Choose a semi-geodesic or fully geodesic tent if you're likely to be pitching high-up or in an exposed position.

Facing the Weather: Rain

If you're camping in the UK, you can always expect a chance of rain. The good news is that modern flysheets (the outer part of the tent) are so resilient that you only really need to worry about your tent fabric's hydrostatic head (the measurement of waterproofing) if you're facing a risk of a serious downpour. A 2000mm hydrostatic head is perfectly capable of keeping UK rain out. Any hydrostatic head measurement over 3000mm should assure you of reliable protection even in the worst downpours Europe can throw at you. To be honest, it's the design of your tent and the way you can use it that's most important for your rainy day enjoyment:

Groundsheets are usually made from high strength polyester with a very high waterproof ability. A sewn-in groundsheet (as opposed to a standard, separate one) helps to keep drips and groundwater (and insects) out.

A tent design with a porch makes it much easier to store gear, remove wet clothes before entering the tent and keep rain well away from the interior of your tent.

Any kind of brow over the main opening will help prevent rain water from running in.

Flysheet first pitching means you can put the waterproof outer of the tent up first, then complete the inner in dryness.

Larger family tents with clear windows let you carry on enjoying your holiday and soaking up the scenery even when the heavens open.

Living and Breathing: Condensation

Familiar with condensation? In camping terms, it's what happens when warm bodies live and breathe inside sealed tent walls. When warm moist air hits a cold surface, the moisture condenses and turns to water. That's what happens when breath hits the inside of a cold tent wall. Why is condensation is a problem? Because it causes beads of water that roll down your tent's inner wall and dampen your gear. Some condensation is always going to be likely, but tent designs can alleviate the problem in several ways.

Double skinned tents - Double skinned tents have two layers - a waterproof outer flysheet and a breathable inner tent. Instead of condensing on the inside of your tent, much moisture passes through the breathable inner and away from your precious kit - instead settling on the inside of your tent's outer flysheet.

Standard groundsheets - Sewn-in groundsheets are great because they protect against draughts and insects, but they do also reduce the amount of air circulating in your tent and therefore create more condensation. A standard groundsheet on the other hand leaves a gap between it and the tent's flysheet, allowing air to circulate and also creating a place for condensation to escape.

Warm Climate Camping: Ventilation and Insects

Heat can cause as much discomfort as cold unless you keep a close eye on tent ventilation. If you're camping in humid climates or close to water (especially in the Scottish Highlands), you'll need to make sure your tent is insect-proof overnight. Luckily, there are several options for ensuring your tent keeps the air flowing through, without letting the insects in.

Ventilation flaps - are usually adjustable so that you can control air flow to suit the conditions you're in.

Vents at a higher level in the tent - (such as Vango's Airzone systems) allow warm air to rise and escape - keeping the inside of your tent cooler and fresher. These are usually sheltered.

Mesh inner doors - are the smartest way to keep your tent ventilated and insect-proof. Air can easily flow through the fine mesh without allowing mosquitoes or similar in, meaning you can effectively leave your tent open at all times if the temperature's rising.

Hopefully these fundamentals will put you on course to find a tent that's tailored to you. Of course, all tents have their own features and details... so get browsing.

Final Word

Preparation is key to every kind of camping trip. Buy your tent well ahead of your first trip – things will go much more smoothly if you've had the chance to practice pitching your tent a couple of times. You'll also have the chance to work out what accessories or storage you might need to organise the tent interior.


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Heather Collier 07-07-15 13:58
I am looking for a tent that is easy to put up and pull down, and does not require me to bend down too much, inside, or when entering. I am 5ft tall. I shall be travelling by car and only use the tent from late Spring to Early Autumn. Please help.
Blacks 13-07-15 14:34
Hi Heather,

I would suggest looking at any of our Berghaus 'Air' Tents as these inflatable tents are incredibly easy to pitch and give you lots of space inside, including great headroom. The air is available for 4, 6 and 8 people.

I would also suggest looking at any tent which has a height of 200cm +. Tents over this height will allow you to stand up in the tent. I would recommend the Vango Iris (PLU: 157012) which is a really popular model and the Outwell Nevada M (PLU: 159947) as these will give you plenty of head space.

I hope this helps you when making a decision Heather. If you have any further queries please feel free to contact us via the blog or social media.

Many thanks,
The Blacks Team
Yumnah 23-04-16 14:35
I'm looking for a tent for a backpacking trip of 2 months in new zealand during the summer season. This is my first time camping and hiking. I'm looking for something simple to pitch, suitable for 1/2 persons, very light and easy to store in a rucksack. Please help
Blacks Team 25-04-16 08:44
Hi there Yumnah, thanks for commenting.

We have a range of backpacking specific tents available that are all simple to pitch and lightweight that would suit your needs, here are a few potential choices:

Vango Banshee 200:

The Banshee 200 is a very popular tent for backpackers and for expeditions. It has an all-in-one pitching design making it super simple to put up. It is made with aluminium poles and a tough flysheet and weighs only 2.1kg, making it lightweight and easy to carry.

The Robens Starlight 2 Person Tent:

The Robens Starlight has four attached short poles and an all-in-one pitching design, making it really quick to pitch. The exterior is highly waterproof with a 5000mm hydrostatic head and it weighs only 2.4kg, making it slightly heavier than the Banshee 200 but still light enough to carry with you.

Berghaus Peak 3.2 Pro:

The Peak 3.2 Pro: is a reliable, compact tent that is perfect for backpacking. It weighs 2.3kg and has an ultra-light 70001-T6 alloy pole construction, which makes it incredibly tough without being too heavy. The Peak 3.2 Pro packs into a compression sack, reducing the packed size so that it is much easier to store in a rucksack.

I hope this helps. If you have any further questions please feel free to comment again.


Blacks Team
Julie A 22-04-17 08:09
We are a family of 4 who have never been camping before (I know). My husband is still traumatised by camping in the 70s, soaking wet and freezing cold! We need to show him things have moved on a bit, and need a well-priced option that is big enough for adults and children. Would be used in the uk in the warmer months. Many thanks.
Henry | Blacks Team 24-04-17 10:18
Hi Julie!
Glad to hear you're looking to get into camping.

We have a wide range of tents available, all in different shapes and sizes.
As a family of 4, we'd recommend you look to get a 5 person tent, this means there will be plenty of space for yourselves and all your equipment.

The Eurohike Rydal 500 is a good option for families and offers great value. It is spacious and is packed with features to make the whole experience easier.

The Vango Calder 500 is another option. Although slightly more expensive, it has an outside porch area and an extra-waterproof exterior, so is suitable for family fun come rain or shine.

If you really want to show your husband how things have moved on since the 70's, have a look at the Berghaus Air range - these tents have inflatable beams which replace traditional steel poles. They're super easy to put up, take down and they're sturdy in all weathers. We have both 6 person and 4 person versions available, which easily offer enough space for the whole family.

I hope this helps Julie, and if you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to get back in touch.


Blacks Team
Jenny 22-08-17 18:22
Hi. I am looking for a tent that is spacious and has a porch also with pod bedrooms. I was looking at the berghaus tents- and didn't know if I should get a 6XL tent or the 8. Which is better for lots of room for 5 people?
Blacks Team 25-08-17 12:01
Hi Jenny,
Thank you for your email. Sorry we haven't been in touch sooner.
The 6XL has plenty of living space and has a good sized porch area, however, the bedrooms, though split with a divider, are all at one side of the tent (the back). However, the 8 has opposing bedroom chambers and a middle living section which might suit groups of couples. The 6XL would be snug for five adults but would be fine for a family of 5. So it depends on your group.
Hope this helps Jenny.
Team Blacks
Bethan Lewis 29-08-17 06:28
I'm looking for a two man tent for late spring-early autumn UK use which doesn't require too much bending (bad back). I'd prefer not to pay too much unless you can convince me I need to! Do you have any recommendations? Thanks.
Henry | Blacks Team 29-08-17 08:56
Hi Bethan, thanks for commenting.

I'm sorry to hear that you have a bad back, there is always going to be a degree of bending when it comes to camping but it can be worked around.
The best way to circumvent this is by using a pop-up tent, this way there is no need to pitch the tent using poles, as it simply springs open. The downside of this is that the packed size of the tent is a bit larger than normal, and it is less able to cope with extreme weather conditions. To find these, search 2 person pop-up tents on the website.

If pitching the tent is less of a concern, I'd recommend the Outwell Earth 2 (product code 259821) which is a reliable and stable tent that is more than capable at dealing with late-spring and autumn temperatures. The Earth 2 is not too expensive at £75, but if you'd like advice on some less expensive tents, please do not hesitate to get back in touch.

John 05-09-17 23:40
I'm looking for a two man tent suitable for 3-4 season use, but also light weight, for camping up on munros.
Any recommendations?
Thanks, John
Sam | Blacks Team 12-09-17 12:18
Hi John,
Thanks for your message. Glad to hear you're looking to tackle some Munros this season. Depending on your weight limit and the conditions your camping in I would recommend the Grampian 2. It's geo-desic shape makes it very stable in high-winds and it has a larger porch area for drying and organising kit. It's small enough to fit in 60 - 80L pack but you do sacrifice weight for stability however. Alternatively, the Berghaus Peak Pro is the lightest weight in this price range so that might be more suitable.
Hope this helps and stay safe out there.
Garry Harffy 21-09-17 10:18
Hi I want to start backpacking and wild camping but do not know which tent to buy and camping stove will be best for getting gas
E. Caffery 21-09-17 20:57
Looking for a tent to take on a solo cycle tour Ireland and U.K. Must be light weight ,cheap and easy to pitch.I known it a lot to ask. But your advice would be very helpful thanks
Henry | Blacks Team 27-09-17 09:46
Hi E. Caffery,

We have plenty of lightweight, affordable tents available that would more than suit your needs.

First of all, if you're adventuring solo we'd recommend a 2 person tent, this way you'll have plenty of space for yourself and to store your gear safely.

With that in mind, the most affordable option is the Vango Soul 200 (search product code: 255752), it's lightweight (2.2kg when packed) and offers plenty of space. It doesn't pack down quite as small as our traditional backpacking tents, but the packed size itself isn't too cumbersome.

If you're after something a bit more compact, we'd recommend the Vango Banshee 200 (search product code: 101122). Although it's a little bit more expensive, the Banshee is the perfect backpacking tent - it's very lightweight at 2.1kg, easy to pitch on your own and packs down really small for easy transporting.

The Berghaus Peak 3.2 (search product code: 164994) is another option. Like the Banshee it is compact, light (2.46kg) and perfect for adventure travel. It's slightly more affordable too, and will be stable in adverse conditions with its' low profile, tunnel shape.

All of these tents are currently available through our website, and if you need any more information please do not hesitate to get back in touch.

Best of luck on your adventure!

Henry | Blacks Team 27-09-17 10:13
Hi Garry,

So it very much depends on what you're after, what you're cooking/boiling and how much you want to spend.

Starting out you might likely go for one of the following which gas is readily available. The stove screws on to the top of the gas which is great for beginners as it's affordable, light and will easily do the job.

The Vango Folding Gas Stove:
The Primus Micron Trail:
The MSR PocketRocket:

If you're looking to invest further and are after something which is more powerful and boils water quicker, then Jetboils are the answer. They are very compact and powerful, and are great for making food that requires boiling water. Search Jetboil on the website to see the range.

Pushing the boat out even further there is the Tegstove (product code 208478), which is quite expensive, but everyone who has used one has sung its' praises. It's a clever stove that uses butane as a fuel. As well as cooking things rapidly, the Tegstove can also be used to charge devices such as phones, tablets and GPS systems - ideal for those on the go.

An all-in-one option that keeps things simple is the Trangia range. These are powered by meths, a fuel that widely available. Trangia stoves are classic equipment that have been used for decades. They're compact and easy to transport, although they do take a little longer to warm up. Take a look at the full Trangia range on our website.

If you have any other questions Garry, please do not hesitate to get back in touch. Happy cooking!

Oliver stevens 05-03-18 21:04
I am alooking for a two man tent for camping and hiking in Scottish winters that is preferably not going to break the bank. It needs to be light and small as it will be coming on the west highland way with me and a friend. Any advice would be great. Thanks
Sam 13-03-18 16:13
Hi Oliver,
I would recommend the Grampian 2 from Berghaus. It's slightly heavier than the Cairngorm 2 but what it loses in weight it makes up for in space and heat. It doesn't really compete on pack size with say the Terra Nova per say but when you compare the cost you can see why. Just to let you know also, we currently have a camping offer on our site for 20% off all tents. This ends next Monday (19th) at midnight so something to think about as well. Good luck on your trip either way. Some tough conditions but that's half the fun!
Steve 11-08-19 13:08
I have a Blacks Ostane 1 tent which I bought several years ago. Basically the tent is still in good condition but the main ally pole is bent and needs replacing. I have tried finding out what the specs for the pole are but haven’t had much luck. Do you have any recommendations for a replacement pole as I don’t want to throw the whole tent away.

Thank you
Gordon T 29-04-20 00:25
Request advice on how best to wash the tent after 3 hard months in thhe Outback! Any tent- kindly detergeents recommended?
Neil 04-05-20 10:38
Hi Gordon. I'd recommend Nikwax Tech Wash. It's a quality cleaner and reproofer that you can use with your synthetic tent material and outdoor technical clothing. As well as cleaning the fabric it will also restore the water-repellency.
Hope that helps. Happy camping

Sarah 19-05-20 00:47
I'm looking at the berghaus air 6 and 8 tents. Which would be best for a family of 5 (2 adults and 3 children)?.
Neil 20-05-20 10:02
Hi Sarah, thanks for your question.
In reality both tents would be suitable for a family of that size. However, the Air 8 or 6XL are both substantially bigger and offer more bedroom space for taller kids. The 8 has wider bedrooms and the 6XL can be arranged to offer 3 bedroom spaces (ideal if privacy is important).
They are all great tents, built to accommodate a family or group. It all depends on how much you value the extra space.

Best - Happy Camping!

Annie 14-06-20 19:15
Hi I have the Vango Iris 600XL tent and was wondering if you can help me with what tent carpet I should buy?
Mitch 11-07-20 15:21
Looking for 2/3 person tent for motorcycle touring so need a porch type area to store motorcycle gear. Needs to be lightweight and small dimensions when packed. Any advice
Neil 15-07-20 10:57
Hi Mitch,
Thanks for your message. We have a LOT of compact 2/3 person tents to choose from, with a variety of spec and sizes. One that jumps immediately to mind is the Eurohike Shadow 350 Nightfall.

This is 58 x 22 x 22cm when packed, which should hopefully be small enough for motorbike touring. An added extra with this one is the brand new Nightfall technology, which improves the darkness of the bedroom for a best night's sleep. Another alternative is the Eurohike Cairns 3 DLX
This also offers Nghtfall tech, but it's a slightly different shape when packed - comes in at 60 x 18 x 18cm, if that makes a difference.
Have a look around our tent pages - you can browse by berth - and i'm sure you'll find something that will suffice.
Happy camping!

Kerry 18-07-20 19:46
Looking for an air tent for hubby,myself and 2 Staffordshire bull to camping so any advice greatfully received
Neil 20-07-20 10:14
Hi Kerry,
First of all, good choice on going for an air tent. They are crazily easy to pitch and offer loads of room.
If it just the two of you (plus the hounds!) you won't need one of the REALLY big models. I'd recommend the Berghaus Air 4 or Air 6 (potentially Air 6XL if you wan't extra space for a longer holiday). These have big thick airbeams and a solid construction - so they will be able to accommodate the dogs! If you want to spend less you could also consider the Eurohike Air 400.

Either way, happy camping!

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