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Camping Tent: A Comprehensive Guide

Before buying a camping tent it is good to have some basic hindsight on them so as to buy the right choice. This guide is quite comprehensive and will ensure that you choose the right camping tent given all East Africa/Kenya camping needs and factors plus where to find one.

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Our weather, landscape, and safaris are unique hence require unique consideration before choosing a camping tent. For instance, in a park with plenty of wildlife, you should avoid brightly colored tents not to draw too much attention from animals such as the elephant.

Camping tents range from those that are small and light, intended for backpackers, to those that are heavy, intended for those that are using a vehicle. Small and light camping tents can be carried for long distances on a touring bicycle/motorcycle, boat or when backpacking.

Tents are easily assembled and only take a few minutes to put one up. This is dependent on the size of the camping tent and the experience of the person(s) involved.

Camping tent should be practical, economical with minimal environmental impact.

Here are the factors you should consider before buying a camping tent.

How to Choose a Camping Tent

Many factors determine the camping tent you will buy at the end of the day.

Camping Season

Different types of tents serve at different weather seasons. A tent required during the hot dry season is different from the one required during the cold wet season. In this category, there four types of tents-one-season, two- season, three-season, and four-season.  One-season and two-season are suitable when it is warm/hot and dry as they can only withstand light wind and showers. A three-season tent can withstand fairly heavy rains but will struggle in heavy snow. A four-season tent is good for camping when it is snowing and is capable of withstanding extreme weather conditions. The four-season one is suitable in East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda) if you are camping in the mountains where it snows e.g. Mount Kenya, Aberdares, and Rwenzori Mountain, etc. It is strong and designed to cope with strong winds, heavy snow, as well as heavy rains.

Use of the Camping Tent

Yes, I know your purpose is camping, but there is more to that. When backpacking the tent weight and size are important factors to consider. When touring the ease of pitching and striking the tent is important. If you have static camping i.e. staying in one campsite for a while, a comfortable tent must be sought.

Size of the Camping Tent

The size is determined by the number and the age of those who will be camping. If a single person that is pretty easy, but if a big number is involved a bigger tent is required and may be with partitions especially the sleeping areas.

Height is also important and mostly manufacturers quote the maximum internal height.

Manufacturers also indicate capacity by putting phrases such as “2 person” to indicate capacity the tent can hold.

Tent Style

There are different tent styles and this determines their usable internal height and space hence you must consider the maximum wall height and slope. The maximum wall height and slope will determine whether you will lie down only, sit, kneel, or stand.

Dome tents slope gently from all sides from the peak allowing almost the entire internal height to be usable.

Ridge tents have steeply sloping roof hence significantly compromising the whole height use.

Tunnel tents internal height is well usable along the centre line.

Cabin and frame tents have an almost straight vertical wall and gently sloping roof.

Tent colour

In the African bush where animals are in plenty, it is good to use colors that are less visible. Although you will be in most cases under the protection of game rangers, you don’t want to rattle the animals such as buffaloes and elephants with funny colors. Best colors for low visibility are green, brown, tan and Khaki.

If where you are camping is an area with no wildlife or only those species that cause no harm, you are at liberty of choosing a wide range of colors. Brightly colored camping tents apart from preference are there to enhance your safety as they are easily spotted in case of an emergency and it is hard to be run over by a vehicle.

Tent Fabric/Material

Camping tent fabric may be made of many materials. Mostly used include cotton (Canvas), Nylon, Felt and Polyester. Cotton is usually mixed with paraffin to enhance water resistance but absorbs a lot of water and becomes really heavy. Nylon and polyester are lighter than cotton and do not absorb much water and with a suitable coating, they can be very waterproof. However, they tend to deteriorate over time due to a slow chemical reaction caused by ultraviolet light.

Also, check the rain resistance of the fabric in question expressed as hydrostatic head in millimeters (mm). It indicates the pressure of water required to penetrate the fabric. A fabric with a hydrostatic head rating of 1000 mm and below is considered shower resistant. A hydrostatic rating of over 1000 mm is suitable for camping during the dry seasons with light showers.

Tent Configuration

There usually three types of camping tent configuration namely; single skin, single skin with flysheet, and double skin.

In single skin, only one waterproof layer of fabric is used. For single skin with flysheet, a waterproof flysheet is suspended over the roof of the tent.  For double skin camping tent, an outer layer that is waterproof is used and covers all over from the roof to the ground. Most of them offer thermal insulation.

Financial cost

And finally, there is the cost that comes with each choice or consideration. Your pocket will determine the kind of tent you go camping with. Cheap camping tents tend to be heavy, less durable, and less waterproof. Expensive ones are mostly used by advanced backpackers and professional adventurers. They are lightweight, durable, and more waterproof.

Camping Tent Recap

A three-season tent meets most basic camping needs and is equipped to handle heavy rain and tolerate most weather conditions.

Go for a four-season tent if camping in cold, windy and in areas with high rainfall such as in snow-capped mountains.

Get a big tent or a family tent if camping involves a number of people or family.

If backpacking, look for a light weight and easily packable tent.

Go with Umbrella shaped camping tents if you want more standing room and is great for a large number of people.

Make sure you have a camping tent that is easy to set up.


And above everything else, you need this camping accessory-footprint. A footprint is a custom-fitted ground cloth that goes under your tent floor. It cushions against tough/hard tent floors. Make your tent comfortable.

And now you know. Camping has never been much easier. Let’s go camping.

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