In the world of pitching tents, there are many options. You’ll want to make sure your tent is suitable to your needs. UltraLight backpacking tents are great and serve the purpose of taking off the extra load to carry. They also tend to be more expensive and made with lighter fabrics which may not be so great in stormy weather. If you are just beginning to get into backpacking (or car camping), then do some research, ask some questions. You’ll want to know where and when you’ll be doing most of your camping. Backpack? Car? UltraLight? 3 Season? Snow? High Elevation? # of people sleeping in the tent? Once you’ve identified your needs, then you can search for a tent to fulfill it.
For the solo backpacker, you might find yourself looking for solo light weight tents (Big Agnes makes a handful of them as does MSR. REI has also come up with a lighter updated version of the Quarter Dome and they’ve created their first ultralight tent the Dash.) Although tent weight can be important if you are looking to tread lightly, quality of tent is also important. My solo backpacking tent is the Mountain Hardwear PCT 2 (not free-standing). It’s a two person tent which I use as a luxury one person tent so I can sleep with my pack in at my head and have plenty of elbow room side to side. It’s also a bit more durable than some of the ultralight tents, and yes, it also weighs more. Coming in at around 4 lbs 8 oz it is the heaviest single piece of gear I carry.
Another thing to consider in the world of tents is whether or not your tent is free standing, meaning, you will not have to stake it down or guy-line it out in order for it to stand up. In a free-standing tent, once the poles are in the tent stands up on its own, though you might always consider staking it down. One big gust of wind while you’re not in it will send you chasing a tent down a hillside and that could be disastrous for both you and your tent. Most people I’ve met prefer a free-standing tent for its ease. They are great, simple to put up and when you’re camping on hard rock they are much easier as you do not have to try to stake into a boulder. Last year I climbed up to Sahale Glacier in the North Cascades and camped on top of a scree field. There wasn’t much space to stake down a tent, so a lot of my guy-lines were tied off to boulders. It took a little extra work, but with that view, it was worth it.
You’ll want to make sure you check your tent and gear at the beginning of each season. Look over the tent seams for loose stitching. Check to make sure that your zippers are lubricated and functioning properly, and make sure your rainfly and the bottom of the tent are still sealed. No one likes waking up in a puddle of water. One of the most common places for a tent to become unsealed are the seams. All of those little puncture holes are avenues of possibility for water. Tent Sealer/Seam Sealer will help close up those spaces. Plus once your gear is wet, it tends to stay wet, and wet equals heavy! Tenacious tape is a handy tool to have on hand while you’re out trekking around. It can help repair a rip in the fabric of your tent. I always like to put the tape on both the inside and outside of the rip and sandwich the rip between two pieces of tape. I find that it holds better and the chances of having the ripped part get snagged on something and become bigger are less likely.
Lastly, when you’re out trekking or camping, be cautious as to where you are pitching your tent. Keeping away from water sources, and being sure to stay off of delicate eco-systems is vital. Leave no trace that you were ever there. If you have the opportunity to camp in a designated spot, always take it. It’ll minimize your footprint and keep nature natural. Happy Camping!