To help you choose the right tent, view our tent comparison spreadsheet: Tent Catalogue 2015
Family camping is a brilliant way to holiday in New Zealand . There are so many beautiful camping spots that are ideal for unwinding during the Summer months. You want your holiday to be as easy and stress-free as possible so weve put together a few handy tips on how to choose the perfect family tent for you.
It can be daunting looking through a range of tents, trying to pick that right one for you and your family. It is helpful to identify what is most important to you in a tent. Here are some ideas:
How large is your family? Would you like separate rooms for privacy, entertaining or cooking?
Do you have a trailer, 4 Wheel Drive or Sudan ? These factors may limit or expand the number of tent choices suitable for you.
Camp Site Size
Some very popular camp grounds may only offer smaller sized sites, while others offer larger areas. If you travel to the same camp ground frequently, it is important that your tent can fit to your selected site.
Do you go camping frequently? Do you go only in Summer time? Do you camp in areas that may get wet or windy? How long would you like your tent to last?
How much would you like to spend on a tent, bearing in mind how often you go camping and how long you would like the tent to last.
Easy of Setup and Take Down
What is your ideal time frame for setting up? How many of you are able to erect the tent or take it down? Are you an experienced tent erector or a novice? 1 to 3 room dome tents are the easiest to erect .
Will you be camping in Summer in sheltered places or on the west coast of the South Islandwhere it rains frequently? This may determine the level of waterproofing and pole design you require .
This refers to the pole construction. Generally there are 1 or 2 extra poles that adds to the stability and the inner space of the tent. This is useful when the tent is pitched in windy areas.
The invention of large 2-4 room dome tents has been absolutely awesome for the family camper. Large dome tents have become enormously popular as they are very affordable, lightweight, compact and easy to set up. They are very waterproof and if erected properly stand up to fairly strong winds. They also give medium sized to larger families space to spread out. They also provide extra rooms for living, entertaining or cooking rather than just for sleeping. Canvas tents have been the traditional Kiwi tent. They are great for those who have a trailer and like the cabin style design. They tend to be less waterproof than polyester dome tents and are a bit more tricky to erect. If you are a more experienced camper who likes the open spacious feel of a cabin styled tent then this is perfect for you.
To choose the size of the tent you may need and how many rooms you may need, I am offering the following suggestions:
1 Room Tent
Great as an extra tent for the kids or teenagers.
2 Room Tent
Brilliant for smaller families. Parents can sleep in one room while kids sleep in the other.
Great for a couple who will be camping for a week or more. One room can be used for sleeping while the other room can be used for living and cooking.
3 Room Tent
The price of a 3 bedroom tent is usually only a bit higher than a 2 bedroom tent but well worth the money, especially if you are a small to medium sized family traveling for a week or more. Bedrooms are situated on either end, leaving a living and cooking space in the middle. Alternately all 3 rooms can be used as bedrooms.
4 Room Tent
This was my most popular style of tent last year. There is plenty of room for a medium to larger family. There are 2 living/cooking/entertainments rooms with bedrooms at either end. Ideal for bad weather as there is plenty of room to spread out. Great for those who like to camp in style.
Large Families / Youth Groups the 3 bedroom, 1 front living room design is great if a lot of people will be traveling together. There is plenty of space for sleeping, with a cooking and sitting area at the front. This design is very stable in the wind.
Awesome for couples who like to camp for 2 weeks or so, as it is a home away from home.
Tent Sizes as Measured by Number of Persons
Tents give an indication of their size by stating the number of people they can sleep. This number is the usually maximum number of people you could squeeze into the tent, but it is not necessarily comfortable. It is best to buy the next tent size up. For example, if you need to sleep 2 people in a tent it is best to buy a 3 person tent (unless you dont mind cuddling while you sleep). Universal tent specifications usually allow approx 60-70cm width per person lying down (which doesnt leave much or any room for blokes.) So if you like a bit of room between you so that you can get up in the middle of the night, then it is best to go the next model up.
Packed size is important if you wish to hike with your tent or you only have a smaller vehicle. If you need to carry your tent a long way to your destination then it will be important to choose a smaller style tent that can fit in your pack or be easily held.
All large family dome tents should fit comfortably into a sudan or 4 wheel drive. Canvas tents generally require a trailer as they are much larger and heavier. Large 3-4 bedroom Oztrail and Sportiva tents have wheeled carry bags to make traveling and setup a lot easier.
It is best to ring your camping ground to find out the exact dimensions of your site before you purchase a tent. Some popular camping grounds may have smaller sites which may restrict the size of your tent so it is best to check first. All of our family tents should fit on most standard sites however. Please visit www.nzcamping.co.nz for contact details for all NZ Camping Grounds or purchase The New Zealand Camping Guide online from us.
Quality & Your Budget
The old saying stands true, You never regret buying quality but budget can sometimes be a limiting factor. All of our tents are good quality and should last you years if cared for properly. The more expensive tents usually have better quality materials and a few extra features that can add to your comfort and the lifetime of the tent.
Many of these features are higher waterproof ratings, stronger poles, better ventilation, ease of carriage (wheeled bags), extra pockets, geodesic design etc. These features can really make a difference in wet, windy weather, or still, humid days.
Often it can be a toss up between a larger cheaper tent or a smaller better quality tent and either way you choose you win. If you are going to be away for a longer period of time then the extra space can really make a difference. If you go on frequent camping trips then the better quality model can really pay off over time.
Ease of Setup and take down
The beauty of dome tents is that they are very easy to erect and dismantle. Usually it only requires 2 of you to be able to put up the large sized family tents (although 4 people is much easier). Depending on the design, most 6 person tents and under are generally able to be put up by 1 person if necessary but it can be a bit trickier.
Canvas tents are more difficult to erect so it is helpful if you have 3 or more of you helping to put it up although they can be erected by 2 of you.
Any polyester, seam sealed tent with a waterproof rating over 800mm is completely waterproof. The higher the waterproof rating, the more weather resistant your tent is, but less breathable. For family camping in the Summer, Spring and Autumn months, 1200mm waterproofing is more than adequate. The only time that you would need a rating above this would be if you were caught in a serious downpour that lasted several days. Higher waterproof ratings often make the tent look better but may not be necessary.
Waterproof ratings of 3000mm or more are more important when buying a small adventure tent or expedition snow tent, where you will be exposed to harsh conditions. Wind is a reality in New Zealand Summers. Family tents are designed for mild wind as they are tall, temporary shelters. It is important to ensure that your tent is pegged out tightly with all guy ropes done up (with even pressue on all sides) to preserve the tent in windy conditions. The tent shouldn't sag in any way as this is where wind can catch the tent. If strong wind occurs or there are wind warnings, it is best to take down the tent. Tents damaged due to wind conditions are not covered by warranty. Geodesic tent design will help improve the wind resistance of your tent as it features extra poles to help secure the tent. If you will be exposed to heavy wind it is best to buy an adventure or expedition tent as these tents are designed for the wind.
Geodesic pole design has become very popular in modern dome tents. Many larger tents are adopting this new feature with a select few smaller sized family tents.
1 or 2 extra poles are added to the standard cross pole design of a dome tent. These poles curve inside the crossed poles holding them in position. This prevents the poles from collapsing in high winds. It also helps to reduce snapping in the main poles by keeping the pressure even throughout the pole length. The tent has more room inside as the curved poles are pushing the tent frame outward. This is great for livability as it feels more spacious and provides more head room.
Small family tents are perfect for weekends away or to use as an additional tent for the kids when family camping. They have strong tarp floors and waterproof flies.
Summer Use Tents
These tents are more suited to warmer weather as they are not seam sealed. The fly fabric is waterproof but the seams haven't been sealed. Small amounts of water may come through the needle holes in the seams in a downpour. This is only an issue for the first couple of times the tent gets wet. After this the material tends to shrink and cover up any existing holes, sealing the tent.
Year Round Tents
These tents can be used year round in wet or dry conditions. They are more suited to mild weather conditions however in light wind areas. They will stand up to rainfall but are not designed for snow. If you need a tent for windy conditions and heavy rainfall, it is best to purchase an adventure tent
Adventure tents are perfect for year round use. They are ideal for hunters, fisherman and hikers as they are lightweight and compact, making it easy to fit in or on your pack. They have high waterproof ratings so that you can be kept dry in a torrential downpour while in the back country.
They are designed to be low to the ground and streamlined. This allows the wind to skim over the top of the tent without collapsing.
The flooring in these tents is a more lightweight fabric as opposed to your small family tents which have thick tarp. This is to keep the weight of the tent down and to make it more compact. Because of this you will have to be careful about where you set up your tent, as thorns and sharp twigs may penetrate the base. Some people may choose to take a separate ground sheet with them if they are going to an area with rough ground.
Adventure tents are designed for wet weather and dry conditions but not snow. If you would like a tent for snow or storm conditions it is best to consider purchasing a four season, expedition tent.
Like most tents, adventure tents are prone to condensation. This is because adventure tents have a higher level of waterproofing which makes the fly less breathable.
You may wake up in the morning with the inner of your tent wet. This is due to condensation rather than leaking. Each person on average breathes out around a litre and a half of moisture each night. This warm moist air hits the inside of the cold fly and liquefies, forming beads of moisture (similar to your bedroom window on a cold night).
Condensation is worse on still days as there is no wind to move the moist air through the tent. The way to reduce this effect is to open up all the vents in the tent and if possible, leave the tent doors open while sleeping. Try to avoid cooking in the tent as this can add a lot of extra moisture to the air.
These expedition tents are perfect for true adventurers. They are designed specifically for snow and very harsh conditions. Their pole construction makes them very sturdy in high winds. Their design makes them very livable as the pole design pushes out the walls making plenty of room inside.
They are less compact than adventure tents but are very strong and durable. Expedition tents are designed for heavy use (with care), and are ideal for those who may be going to exposed areas prone to snow, storms and heavy rainfall.
These tents are suitable for mountaineering and trips to the Himalayas. The only down side is their weight, but parts of the tent can be split and carried between a few people.