Tent Buying Guide

Tent Buying Guide

James Warrington

At WM Camping we understand that a tent is more than just fabric and poles; it’s your home away from home.  We also understand that choosing a tent can be a big investment and with so many different types, shapes, styles, sizes and features on offer the task to find just the right one can be quite daunting.

We love camping and have been selling camping gear from our shop and showground in Kent for 40 years. Here is our expert guide to buying the right tent, whether you’re a first-time family camper, weekend away enthusiast or an experienced camper.

We've explained the different types of tents and some of their features below, but if you're still not sure what to go for, visit us in-store for advice from our experts.

Key things to consider

  • How many people are going? A 4 man tent may be the first choice for a couple and two children, but it might be a good idea to go for a 6 man tent for some extra space.
  • Layout - Some tents feature a 'living room' with bedrooms at the rear, whilst others have bedrooms either side of a central living area.
  • Pitch time - Larger poled tents can take time to set up, whereas inflatable up tents only take a few minutes to erect.


Family Tents - Family tents are the most popular type of tent, with many people in the UK seeking to holiday here at home instead of abroad.  Family tents can vary in size, depending on your family. A family tent will usually offer a large living space and multiple bedrooms.

These tents can also come with optional accessories such as porches, carpets and footprints, to add extra space and comfort.

Family Tents


Weekend Tents - Weekend tents and touring tents are generally lightweight and are easy to put up and take down, freeing up time to enjoy yourselves. They are perfect for a couple or small family and some have a porch area for storage or to sit in. Weekend tents are ideal for short breaks of sunshine during the summer - put the tent in the car and away you go!

Weekend Tents


    Backpacking tents - Backpacking tents are designed for use when mountaineering, on multi-day hikes and wild camping. The most important feature of any backpacking tent is the weight.  If you’re going for a trek and are carrying your tent in your rucksack, then the less weight the tent is the better.  To lower the tent weight they are often made for just 1 or 2 people.

    Backpacking tents


      Inflatable tents -  Inflatable tents or Air tents as they're sometimes known have been increasing in popularity over the last 9-10 years and are now our most popular type of tents for families.

      An inflatable tent is a tent that can be erected by pumping up inflatable beams to create a solid structure.  These beams of air replace traditional fibreglass or steel poles.
      The major benefit of inflatable tents is how quick and easy they are to erect.  A large 6 berth family tent can be fully erected in 15 minutes!  Instead of linking the poles together and feeding them through the sleeves you simply pump up the inflatable beams and the tent pitches itself.  Air tents are just as strong as poled tent so you don’t have worry about compromising on sturdiness.
      Inflatable tents come in all shapes and sizes, from a small 4 berth tents that you can’t stand up in, to big family tents that sleep 8 people.

      Inflatable Tents



        A tent’s lifespan is entirely dependent on how well the tent is looked after.  The lifespan can vary massively based on how often it is used, the rigours it is put under and the weather it is used in. If you are careful when pitching and make sure the tent is clean and dry before putting it away each time you use it, your tent should give you many years of use.


        Berth - Used to describe how many people a tent can sleep. Important to note that this is calculated as people without luggage, so remember to include your bag and gear as a berth or person.  We usually recommend sizing up by two.  So if you’re a couple with camping gear then go for a 4 berth tent and a family of 4 go for a minimum of a 6-berth tent etc.

        Hydrostatic head - Hydrostatic Head rating of a tent's waterproofness coating (known as PU).  To be classed as legally ‘waterproof’ a tent has to have a hydrostatic head of 1000mm.  Tents with 2000-3000mm hydrostatic head should cope with standard British rainfall; the higher the hydrostatic head, the better the water protection you have from your tent.  Our tents start at 3000mm and go all the way to 6000mm.

        Sewn-in groundsheet - The groundsheet of the tent sewn onto the walls to prevent anything crawling in or out and keeps your tent draught free.

        Flysheet - The outer fabric of the tent.

        Tunnel tent - Tents with a tunnel design with a number of poles arched, usually taller tents.

        Dome tent - Usually smaller tents, a traditional dome tent can be stable in winds due to the poles crossing in the middle of the tent.

        Geodesic / Semi-Geodesic - With variations on how the poles cross, the geodesic and semi-geodesic tents are very stable against rough weather. This design is mainly used in backpacking/mountain tents.

        Polycotton - Polycotton Tents are tents made from polyester/cotton mix instead of only polyester and feel more like the traditional frame tent canvas.  These tents are great in hot climates because the canvas keeps the inside of the tent cooler.


        Tent Footprint Groundsheets - A footprint groundsheet goes down first and then you lay your tent on top.  Helps mark out the pitch of your tent, protects and keeps the underside of the tent clean.

        Footprint groundsheet

        Shop: Footprint Groundsheets

        Tent Carpets - A tent carpet adds a bit of luxury to your camping trip.  A tent carpet help insulate your tent from the cold floor and makes it more comfortable underfoot.

        Tent Carpet

        Shop: Carpets

        Tent Extensions - Tent porches/extensions can be used to store muddy gear or bikes.  Most porches have a gap around the bottom which makes them well ventilated enough to cook in if it’s raining outside.

        Camping Extensions

        Shop: Canopies, Extensions and Awnings

        Windbreaks - A windbreak can be used to add a little more privacy to your camping area.

        Windbreak Blog

        Shop: Windbreaks


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