How to Best Set Up Your Tent and What it Can Mean for Your Camping Trip
Easy tent setup isn't always easy - that's why it's important that you practice setting up your tent at home before heading into the backcountry. While you could get lucky and perform your tent set up under sunny, warm skies, you could also find yourself having to set your tent up under strong wind, in the dark, cold, or even worse, in the rain or snow.
In this article, we'll discuss how to choose the right tent for you, then cover how to set up your tent to make sure you're prepared for any possibility. Every tent is different, but there are a few key steps that are common to almost all camping tents. We'll go over the critical steps of setting up your tent, cover some factors to keep in mind, and address a few frequently asked questions.
How to Choose the Right Tent for You
It's important to consider the capacity and set-up time of your tent, perhaps above all else. Then, you can consider factors such as weight and durability.
Woods Canada offers a variety of tent sizes, from the minimalist Woods Pinnacle Lightweight 2-Person 4-Season Tent all the way up to massive tents fit for large families, or even multiple families, like the Outbound 10-Person 3-Season Tent. Consider how many people you'll be camping with, and choose a size up from that. Groups of two or three people, for example, will generally fit quite comfortably in a four-person tent. If you're backpacking, however, then the tent size to group size margin should be as narrow as possible, since every ounce counts. This is where lightweight tents like the Pinnacle 4-Person and Pinnacle 2-Person come in handy.
Setting up and taking down your tent is arguably the most crucial part of any camping experience. If you miss a few key steps in setting up your shelter, then it won't weather the elements, and if you're slow to set it up, then getting caught in rain, snow, or darkness is a major hassle. Quick set up tents make it easy to put up and take down your tent, even if you're in the darkness or cold weather, caught in a rainstorm, or find yourself camping with small children.
Tents like the Outbound 6-Person 3-Season Instant Pop-Up Cabin Tent are a prime example of large easy set up tents, with fiberglass "Easy-Up" frame technology that lets the tent practically set up itself. Meanwhile, quick set up screen tents like the Woods 12' x 12' Canopy Tent or the Outbound 6-Person 2-Season Backyard Festival Tent are perfect for instant set up in non-traditional camping settings, like barbecues, backyard parties, beach days, and music festivals.
How to Set Up Your Tent: 3 Easy Steps
Step 1: Survey Your Site
Most articles focusing on camping tent set up tips cover the actual process of setting up the tent, but skip the most important step: finding a good campsite. You can have the most expensive, high-quality, luxurious tent in the world, but if you choose a poor site to place it, you won't have a good camping experience. Look for a flat, dry surface, free of rocks, sticks, and other debris. Grass or fallen leaves can make for a softer sleeping surface, but ensure there aren't rocks or sticks underneath. If there is anything on the ground, that's okay, but be sure to clear it away before laying out your tent.
You also want to be a fair distance away from streams or other water sources, which may rise and flood your campsite if it rains. Try to remain on a higher plane of elevation from any water sources, as well. You should also look for gullies and other drainages coming down into your campsite from uphill, and avoid camping near them.
Step 2: Build the Tent Body
Lay your footprint and tent out before setup with the poles and all other components alongside it. Then, insert the poles through the framework of the tent, slowly working to build the tent into a freestanding structure. Every tent is different, so this step will depend on the tent you have, but you can find all the specifics in the tent manual included with your purchase.
Step 3: Stake it Down and Secure the Rainfly
Some of our tents, like the Woods A-Frame 3-Person 3-Season Tent or the Woods Pinnacle Lightweight 2-Person 4-Season Tent, come with a rainfly as a separate component, added on top of the tent body after it's put up. Others, like most of our "pop-up" style tents, will have the rainfly built-in, so when the tent is put up, the fly is already integrated into it.
In any case, once the rainfly is on, make sure your tent is staked down evenly at all points, with the stakes firmly pressed into the ground up to the head. It helps to carry a dedicated mallet to hammer in stakes when car camping. Rocks, while often effective, can end up bending the stakes at odd angles, or worse, glancing off and bruising your fingers.
Factors to Keep in Mind When it Comes to Your Tent
In addition to some of the factors we discussed above, such as weight, capacity, durability, and set-up time, you want to consider how you're planning to put your tent to use.
What climate will you be camping in? If you're primarily camping in an area with year-round warm weather, or you do your camping strictly in the summer, then a 3-season tent will get the job done. "3-season" refers to spring, summer, and fall, while "4-season" refers to a tent that can handle the fourth season (winter) weather.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, it's possible to set up a tent in the wind, but it takes practice. The more people you have to hold down various corners of the tent, the better. Ensure you keep all your components weighed down with rocks or other objects while you work so that your tent bag or any other items don't fly away. Smaller tents, naturally, are much easier to set up under strong wind, but even large tents like the Woods Lookout 6-Person 3-Season Tent can be set up in windy conditions if you've practiced and have a couple of partners to help out.
There are two main types of tents: freestanding and non-freestanding. Non-freestanding tents require stakes and opposing force to be held up, while freestanding tents support themselves via the poles alone (though stakes are still needed to secure them to the ground). The vast majority of Woods tents are freestanding, and all freestanding tents can be set up on the beach. The main thing to remember is that you won't be able to stake the tent down to the sand, unless you have specialized sand stakes, so you'll need to weigh the tent (with objects or people inside, or rocks at the corners, for example) to stop it from blowing away.
You can certainly set up a tent in the snow, but keep in mind that in snowy winter weather, you should be using a 4-season tent to stay protected from the elements. Ensure the snow is packed down and level before laying out your tent (this can be easily accomplished by stomping with your boots or snowshoes, or using an avalanche shovel). Like with sand, if the snow is fairly fresh, you’ll have a difficult time staking it down. Using snow stakes is recommended. If on ice, specialized ice stakes might be required. If neither is available, you can simply use ski poles, a stick, a sack filled with snow, a rock, or any other object you can tie to a guyline and bury under the snow where it will freeze in place.