Whether you are setting out on a camping trip equipped only with a tent or whether you use them as accessories to your caravan holiday, they are very much part of life on the campground.
It is difficult to know where to start when writing about them as the range and choice available is so very great. They range from large family units to little things that are compact and light which you can carry during your cycling or walking holiday. This year in Normandy we saw a family who had packed their tent very neatly indeed and placed in in a pannier on their pet donkey. They were on a walking holiday and moving at a pace that suited everybody, allowing the donkey to stop for some grass so often that progress was indeed leisurely.
As this is a caravan and RV website lets kick off this section with a little bit on ones on wheels; trailer tents. This is not to give priority to them, but simply to put this section into context with the website as a whole.
The trailer tent is exactly what it says, one that is built onto a trailer which can be unfolded at the campsite or caravan park to form comfortable accommodation. This may be to oversimplify the concept as tent trailers are in effect very clever and often complex pieces of design. The complexity of thought that goes into their design makes them easy to store, transport and use. They are easier to store than a caravan and licencing regulations generally don’t apply to towing them in the same way as caravans, once they are under a certain weight.
These are usually very well priced in comparison to caravans, travel trailers and RVs in general and often make a great transition from tenting to caravanning.
Like all tents they are better pitched at home for a practice session before turning up at the site and beginning the learning process there. At home you can choose the time and weather conditions for your practice sessions whereas on the campsite you may well find that you are under pressure from failing light and less than ideal weather conditions.
The tent trailer in its usual basic form consists of a standard a-frame type trailer with a box fitted on top to which the folding elements of the tent section are fitted. You will sometimes find that the box section is high sided and perhaps Adapted from the lower part of a caravan. This allows the designers to incorporate some to the features of a caravan such as a toilet cassette, gas bottle compartment, water pump and full height work surfaces.
Other designs are much simpler and the box section simply acts a transportation container and base, when pitched, for the tent section. You will find in these that the dining , cooking and bed-room areas need some unfolding and assembly to make them ready for use.
On of the clever things about these units is that the trailer box, whatever form it takes, acts when deployed as a stable base for beds, seating, cooking and often for toilets. this really gives you the best of both worlds; the feeling of being close to nature while under canvas, and the comfort of being off the ground that a caravan brings. Some are canvas all round while some have a rigid roof, mounted on supports and which generally matches the material in the trailer itself.
Depending on your requirements and the design that you chose setup times and techniques will vary as will your hookups to water, power and other services available on your pitch.
These are sometimes know as pop-up tents, pop-up caravans or simply as pop-ups. The term pop up tent is also applied to a simpler form of tent which I have described further down the page.
This is the one most often seen these days on campgrounds around the world, allowing families or groups to travel together economically and efficiently. They are made from modern fire retardant materials and are generally well designed in terms of ease of setup and flexibility of use.
The family tent will often include an integral groundsheet, inner compartments that allow privacy and comfort, and some will have entry points for portable electric hookups. Internal rooms will accommodate sleeping and storage and some will have built in storage facilities for clothing and small items. Choosing a family tent with a good awning section outside the door will allow you to set up a covered area for eating and chatting where you can be sheltered and still in contact with the outdoors.
Look for venting mesh, fly-screens and curtains depending on what you require and do take some time to do research before spending your hard earned cash. Go to a camping supplies store or manufactures premises, such as Vango, where they have them all set up and take your time moving in and out, sitting in them and even lying down if you can.
As well as newer materials you can get most types that are made from cotton and poly-cotton. This material gives a more traditional, retro look and feeling, and they can be good for insulation in warmer climates.
For trips where you need to travel light and where you may stay out overnight or for longer periods of time, you need to pay particular attention to your campground accommodation.
If you are travelling by car, bicycle, on foot or using another means of transport the assumption here is that you won’t be spending a great deal of time in camp, arriving simply to eat and to sleep. The accommodation will of course need to be comfortable, allow breath-ability and prevent the buildup of condensation, while being all the time eminently portable.
You can start off with something which is a step up from a bivouac bag, a one person tent into which you can literally crawl at the end of a tiring day. They are long enough and low enough to lie down in and if you need to stand for any reason you will have to get out again. I have seen these used to very good effect by cyclists who spend all day in the saddle and stop long enough only to eat , shower and sleep.
The next step up is generally a two person tent which is easy to set up and has a simple flap to allow access. You can usually sit up in this to change your socks, however if you have had a really active day walking on the hills you might be better doing this outdoors!
Moving upwards in this range you get to four of five person tents some with small separate compartments and even little canopies which means that you can cook while sitting in shelter. These are still relatively small however and if you plan to to spend lots of time away with three or four other people it may be as well to pick ones that all get along well together.
Gelert have a good selection including a range of adventure tents from which it should be possible to select one to suit your purpose.
This uses an arrangement of flexible, usually fiberglass, rods which are sewn into the fabric of the tent and which, when released, spring into position carrying the fabric with it. This gives you an immediate tent, ready to occupy except for some basic pegging out, mainly to stop it blowing away.
There is very little else to be said about this apart from the fact that you should perhaps have a good look at the instructions and at how it all folds together for storage, BEFORE you deploy it. These, like the Genie, can be difficult to get back in the package when it is time to leave, and the time saved at the beginning can be lost at the end.
If you want something that looks really retro and traditional and which will distinguish your presence on site then a bell tent is just the ticket. I have seen one reviewed
recently in the Caravan and Camping Club Magazine, which with cotton fabric and wooden pegs really does evoke the golden days of camping.
Getting it pitched involves marking out the area using supplied equipment and then driving the pegs in the areas indicated using a specially supplied traditional wooden mallet.
Ventilation is provided at the apex of the roof where rain cowls prevent water entering the living area. The vertical panel which runs around between the ground and the roof incorporates ventilation panels. The whole thing is very spacious and comfortable and it is little wonder that bct outdoors list it in their glamping section.
The thought of the whole operation makes me want to go back to camping and forget all about the caravan! Perhaps I’ll get one of these as well as the van.
This page is rapidly turning into a list of the tents that I like myself and therefore I must include the Icelandic which is, unless I’m mistaken, also know as the patrol tent. They look very similar and perform in the same way in any event.
What I find appealing about them is that they echo the shape of a basic house, being rectangular in shape and having vertical walls and a pitched roof. They are relatively easy to erect and stake out and the amount of space in them is great, depending on size of course. The shape means that the internal space is easy to organise and by carefully stacking and placing your camping equipment you will have plenty of room in there. They are of course particularly suited to scouting or military use where they are used for, among other jobs, dining and as dormitories. However with a bit of imagination they can be used to very good effect for leisure camping also, especially if you brings toys like metal detectors, kites and hill walking equipment along with you; plenty of storage for everything and very hunter-gatherer indeed.