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Tent Buyer's Guide - Horizon Tent AU

How to Choose the Best Tent for Camping & Hiking

Everything you need to know about buying a tent for your outdoor camping adventures.


Your tent is your home in the outdoors and a shelter from the elements. But how do you decide which tent is best for you and your camping adventures? Do a quick search for “hiking tents” and you’ll be shown a huge number of options — all with different shapes, sizes, and features. Where do you begin? In this guide, I’ll cover all of the key features to be aware of when you’re buying a tent for hiking, hunting, or escaping into nature for a weekend getaway. 

Please note, this article will focus on backpacking or hiking tents — typically defined as 1-3 person tents that can be carried with a pack — not larger, family camping tents or rooftop tents.

Explore Bushbuck’s range of hiking tents

The Best Tent for Your Adventure

Before we get into all of the tent features, let’s start with the most important question: What will you be using the tent for? To keep things simple, we've divided tents into two main categories: Adventure tents and camping tents.

Adventure Tents

If you’re looking for a tent to take hiking or hunting in the wilderness, you’ll need an adventure tent. These are the tents you’ll find in most reputable outdoor stores.

Adventure tents are:

  • Highly waterproof

  • Aerodynamic (designed to withstand high winds)

  • Durable (able to set up on rugged terrain)

  • Lightweight and compact for carrying 

  • Not very spacious (1-3 people)

  • Easy to set-up and pack down

  • Made from premium materials

  • On the expensive side  

Camping Tents

If you’re looking for a tent to take to your favourite campground for a summer holiday, you can get away with a camping tent. These tents can be sold by reputable outdoor brands, but are also available at big box retail chains. Camping tents are:

  • Moderately waterproof 

  • Bulky and heavy

  • Large and spacious (3+ people)

  • Designed with families in mind 

  • Often made from cheaper materials 

  • More affordable 

Obviously, this is a generalisation. You can get high-quality camping tents, but adventure tents are generally built to a higher standard. It’s worth noting that adventure tents can be used for camping, but camping tents shouldn’t be used on wilderness adventures. In this article, we'll be focusing on adventure tents.

Choosing a Tent: Everything You Need to Know

Tent Buyer's Guide - Horizon 2

There’s a lot to consider when buying a tent for your hiking or hunting adventures, but we're going to break it down into 6 key sections:

  1. Tent size

  2. Tent waterproof rating

  3. Tent wind-resistance

  4. Tent weight 

  5. Tent quality

  6. Tent features 

What size tent do you need?

When it comes to choosing a tent for hiking or hunting, size does matter. A spacious tent may sound nice in theory. But you don’t want to be carrying a spacious tent on a long overnight or multi-day hike in the hills. Tent size is typically measured by how many people it sleeps — 1-person, 2-person, or 3-person. There’s no standard measurement for how much space one person needs, but most tents allow about 60 centimetres per person, which can be quite snug (we’re a bit more generous with space here at Bushbuck). If you’re buying a tent for yourself and you care more about weight than comfort, then a 1-person tent should do the trick. Some people prefer using a 2-person tent even when hiking alone because it allows more space for spreading out and storing gear inside. But it’s also a comfortable size when camping with a second person. A 3-person tent is a good option for two people with lots of gear or three people who don’t mind getting cosy.

How wide should my tent be?

As mentioned above, around 60cm per person should provide enough space for most people. Some tents are slightly wider at one end and taper at the other end, providing more space for the upper body than the feet.

How long should my tent be?

For most people, around two metres is sufficient length for sleeping and stashing some gear at your feet. That provides enough space for a 6 foot 4 person to lay out flat.

How high should my tent be?

This comes down to personal preference. A lot of campers like to be able to sit up or stand hunched over inside their tent as that allows them to get changed and set everything up without feeling cramped. However, many ultra-light, one-person tents have minimal internal height. It really comes down to a question of whether you’d rather have a bit more space or a lighter pack. Depending on the tent design, the internal height can vary and is usually measured at its peak.

Tent dimensions

To give you an idea of dimensions (tent width and length), let's use the dimensions of Bushbuck’s three most popular tents.

  • 1-Person Tent Size (Solo 8000): Width: 95cm (head end), 75cm (feet end). Length: 215cm. Peak internal height: 105cm.

  • 2-Person Tent Size (Horizon 8000): Width: 1.27cm. Length: 213cm. Peak internal height: 100cm.

  • 3-Person Tent Size (Tribus): Width: 190cm (head end), 165cm (feet end). Length: 235cm. Peak internal height: 110cm peak.

Here's a more detailed look at the Tribus 3-Person Tent:


How Waterproof Should a Tent Be?

Tent Buyer's Guide - Tribus Wet

If a tent had one job, it would be to keep you and your gear dry, so choosing a waterproof tent for your hiking or hunting adventures is a no-brainer. But how waterproof does a tent need to be? A tent’s waterproof rating is measured by a test known as Hydrostatic Head. It measures how high a column of water standing on the fabric would need to be before the water penetrates the fabric. The hypothetical column of water is measured in millimetres, and that’s how we get tent waterproof ratings. The main thing you need to know is: The higher the number, the more waterproof the tent fabric is. However, it’s important to note that different parts of the tent — the rainfly and the floor — will usually have different waterproof ratings. A rainfly (the outer layer of the tent) with a waterproof rating of 2000mm should be sufficient for most rain events, but you may want to go higher for extra peace of mind. The tent floor will typically have a higher waterproof rating as they’re made from a more durable fabric. It’s also the surface you’ll be sleeping on and you don’t want water seeping up from under you. A tent floor with a waterproof rating of 3000mm should be sufficient for most rain events, but again, you may end up wishing you went higher if you encounter surface flooding. Here at Bushbuck, we’ve opted for a 3000mm waterproof rating for the rainfly and 8000mm for the base.

We think this delivers the right balance of waterproof protection and durability and provides extra peace of mind when camping in New Zealand’s unpredictable weather.

Beyond waterproof ratings: Tent design  

A tent’s waterproof rating is only a measure of the fabric’s resistance to water. But it’s not the be all and end all. Tent design also contributes to waterproof performance. For example, if the rainfly doesn’t sit close to the ground, heavy rain could bounce off the ground, under the fly, and through the mesh inner, getting you and your gear wet inside. Having a waterproof floor that sits flat to the ground isn’t going to stop a stream of water from pouring into your tent. This is why a bathtub floor design is so important — and why we made the floor of our Horizon 8000 2-Person Tent twice as deep as most other tents. The angle of the tent fly also contributes to water-resistance. A sharp fall encourages rain to slide off the fly whereas a flatter design provides more surface area for water to pool and penetrate. Most hiking tents will incorporate sharp angles into the fly design to improve waterproof performance.

How to re-waterproof a tent 

Most hiking tent flys will be treated with a Durable Water Repellency (DWR) spray, which gradually wears off with use. However, it’s easy to re-waterproof your tent and get more life out of it. Your tent seams, fly underside, and even the floor may need resealing, but the outside of the fly typically needs attention more often as it’s directly exposed to the elements. If you’re using your tent regularly, we recommend re-waterproofing your tent every 12-24 months. However, make sure to keep a close eye on waterproof performance every time you use it.

Best Tents for Windy Conditions 

Wind-resistance is also an important consideration when choosing a camping tent, especially if you’re planning to camp on mountain tops or exposed areas. There’s an entire art and science to understand wind and tent design, but the main things to look for are:

  • Tent shape: Look at aeroplanes, race cars, and track cyclists — they all use sleek, minimal, angular design to cut through the wind. Tents work in a similar way. Angles, curves, and low-profile designs will have superior wind-resistance.

  • Tent fly position: A fly that sits close to the ground will prevent wind gusts from getting underneath.

  • Tent fabric: A durable, high-tenacity, ripstop tent fabric will hold up better in high winds.

  • Tent pole system: Good quality, flexible aluminium or fibreglass poles with even distribution across the tent will provide optimal stability in strong winds.

  • Guy ropes: Guy ropes provide extra stability and tautness, which improves wind-resistance.

  • Tent orientation: Setting your tent up with the smallest or sharpest point facing towards the wind will make it more aerodynamic. However, you can’t control nature and wind direction can change during the night.

One factor that is often overlooked is the wind-resistance of the tent inner. Most adventure tents have full mesh inners to maximise ventilation. However, this offers no resistance to cold winds that come in under the fly. At Bushbuck, we’ve added thicker mesh panels in strategic locations around the lower half of the tent inner to provide extra protection from the wind. This can make a big difference to your warmth and comfort inside the tent when there’s a cold wind blowing through.

Tent Weight: How Heavy Should a Hiking Tent Be?

Tent Buyer's Guide - Solo

When you’re packing for a hiking or hunting trip, weight is always one of the biggest considerations. Whatever tent you choose, always remember you’ll have to carry it on your back. Choosing a lightweight tent really comes down to a balance between size, durability, and weight. You want a tent that’s comfortable, highly wind-resistant and waterproof, and not going to break your back on the trail. An ultralight hiking tent might sound like a good idea, but “ultralight” can often mean “claustrophobic and fragile”. However, ultralight tents are really popular with thru-hikers doing the likes of the Te Araroa Trail in New Zealand or the Pacific Crest Trail in the United States, and some adventurers simply prefer travelling as light as possible. As a general rule, the lighter you go, the less durable and stable the tent will be as weight is usually cut by using lighter fabrics and fewer poles and supports. One thing to keep in mind is if you’re hiking or hunting with more than one person, you can share the weight of a 2-person or 3-person tent by splitting up the tent fly, inner, and poles. As always, it comes down to personal preference, but here’s a guide to tent weights based on our tents here at Bushbuck.

  • 1-Person Tent Weight: 1.48kg

  • 2-Person Tent Weight: 2kg

  • 3-Person Tent Weight: 3.5kg

  • Average Weight Per Person: 1.16kg

Note: Total weight includes the poles and carry bag. There are options to use the tents without the inner or ground mat to reduce weight.

Shop Bushbuck’s lightweight tents 

How Can You Tell if a Tent is Good Quality?

You want to make sure you’re buying a good quality tent, but what does quality look like? It can be tough to know what to believe when you’re researching tents online. Here’s a quick guide to help you identify a good-quality tent without getting overwhelmed by all the options:

  • Waterproof Rating: We covered this above, but a good quality tent will have a high waterproof rating.

  • Materials: A good quality tent will be made from durable fabrics. A low-quality backyard tent or festival tent will probably be made of 100% polyester (or it won’t list the fabrics at all). A high-quality tent will use high-tenacity fabrics, such as 20D siliconised nylon for the fly and 30D or 210T ripstop polyester for the floor. The fabrics will be treated with DWR for enhanced water-resistance.

  • Hardware: Look for YKK zippers and aluminium or fibreglass pole systems.

  • Price: It’s true that you pay for what you get. Price is a fairly accurate indicator of quality. However, you can get a good quality hiking tent without breaking the bank. If you’re paying less than $400 NZD ($240 USD) for a 2-person tent, it probably won’t fall into the “high quality” category. 

  • Reviews: If you aren’t doing this already, make sure to read the reviews. One of the best ways to determine tent quality is to hear from others who have used the tent.

Tent Features: Doors, Storage, Pegs & More

There are a few other considerations to keep in mind when choosing a hiking tent, and sometimes it’s these small details that can sway your decision.

Tent Doors: One- or Two-Door?

A two-person hiking tent with a single front door can be fine, but they're not always the most practical. It can be a bit of a mission getting in and out when there were two people in the tent and all your gear is stashed in the front entranceway. Tents with two side doors allow for both sleepers to exit and enter easily, which is especially helpful for those toilet breaks during the night. However, the single front door is fine for a one-person tent. For a three-person tent, we'd recommend either two doors or one large door that allows people to enter and exit without stumbling over one another.

Tent Storage

Tent storage is closely linked to the tent doors. A single door tent will only have one storage vestibule at the front, while a two door tent can have two storage vestibules on each side. Again, it's preferable to have that extra storage in a two-person tent, but it’s not needed in a one-person tent. Storage space will always be minimal with a lightweight hiking tent, but you definitely want a sheltered area to keep your stinky boots and socks and stash your unessential gear during the night.

Best Tent Pegs

Tent pegs or stakes are the anchor points for your tent. Old-school, straight tent pegs don’t really cut it in windy conditions as they can easily be pulled loose. These days, y-beam or tri-beam tent pegs are the industry standard for hiking tents as they can penetrate most soil types and have strong multi-directional grip. They’re also made from lightweight and durable aluminium, which is great for keeping pack weight down.

Your Next Camping Adventure Awaits 

Tent Buyer's Guide - Horizon 3

Having a good-quality hiking tent gives you the freedom to pack up and go whenever you feel the call to adventure. Whether you’re hiking into the backcountry, hunting wild game, or simply enjoying the solitude of a wilderness weekend, your tent is your reliable home away from home. There’s a lot to consider when buying a new tent, but I hope this guide helps you make your decision with confidence. A good tent is essential to your safety and comfort in the outdoors so it’s important to choose wisely, but don’t let analysis paralysis stop you from getting out there and enjoying your next camping trip. Shop Bushbuck’s 1-Person, 2-Person and 3-Person Tents

Jonathan Carson

Jonathan Carson is a Content Writer and Copywriter at Bushbuck. He's a wordsmith who handles most of Bushbuck's website, marketing copy and oversees our blog, The Campfire. 

Outside of work, he's big on hiking and dabbles in surfing and bouldering. His favourite wilderness area in New Zealand is Nelson Lakes National Park, particularly the Blue Lake, home to the clearest known freshwater in the world.

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