One of the most important factors when choosing a camping tent is definitely the season or time of the year in which you intend to use it. Choosing the right tent can mean stay dry during a big storm or avoid getting wet with the condensation during the hot sunny days. That’s why, before buying a tent, is good to know the differences between the different types of tents depending on the season in which you want to use it.
Tents manufacturers labels tents as one-season, three-season and four-season.
One-season tents are the lightest but also the weakest tents on the market. They are usually used only during summer to protect from the dangerous UV rays or from the beach sand. For that reason they are often called sun shelters.
These kind of tents usually have a large opening in the front and the walls are made of breathable fabrics.
Most of the beach tents are also one-season tents. They are similar to sun shelters, from which they differ only for having a bottom floor that protects from hot sand.
If you are going to buy a tent to be used on the beach always check its UPF Rating, which is the standard that measures the protection against UVA-UVB Rays. The best rating is UPF 40 – 50+ which means that the fabric blocks 97-99% of the UV radiations.
Being very lightweight one-season tents are very easy to carry. Mounting them is quite simple because they usually have a pop up opening mechanism.
One-season tents are very suitable for a trip on the beach, for a nap in the backyard, or to take part in festivals during the summer season.
The most commonly used type of camping tent is the three-season tent, so called because it can be used from spring to autumn.
You can find three-season tents of every shape, weight and measures.
These kind of tents are usually equipped with large mesh panels for a great ventilation, to prevent condensation while keeping out insects.
Most of the three-season tents are made with water-repellent fabrics and sometimes even waterproof fabrics. When they are equipped with extra rainfly they can withstand downpours and even light snow. The floor of three seasons tents is usually made of waterproof nylon but in some cases it is better to add an additional tarp.
The pole structure of three-season tents is more robust than the one-season tents. You can find tents with fiberglass poles, steel poles and aluminum. Fiberglass poles are lightweight and flexible, but also the weakest. They are usually featured in pop up tents and freestanding tents. Steel poles are heavier but more robust and are featured in cabin tents. Aluminum poles are the lightest but also the most durable kind of poles and that’s why they are featured in most of the backpacking tents.
Three-season tents can be found in different shapes and dimensions.
The most common used are dome tents. Cabin tents are mostly used by family campers.
If you intend to camp mainly during winter or on the snow then your only choice is a four-season tent. These are the strongest camping tents that you can find.
They can also be used in summer but are design to withstand strong winds and substantial snow loads.
Four-season tents can be either single-wall or double-wall.
The first are lighter and usually used by alpine climbers to shed snow more than rain. Their walls are made of waterproof fabrics and don’t need a rainfly. They keep you warm in the snow but are less breathable than the double-wall.
Double-wall tents are heavier but also more breathable than single-wall. They are usually dome or geodesic shaped to eliminate flat roof space where snow can collect.
Since the four-season tents are designed to ensure maximum shelter from wind, rain or snow they features less mesh panels but are provided of air vents that can be opened if necessary to prevent the condensation.
Choosing a four-season tent it’s not an easy task. They vary for the type of fabric used, the weight, the shape and the design of the pole structure, and lots of other features that must be carefully evaluated on the basis of the type of camping you intend to do.
You can find a very well-made guide on how to choose the best four-season tent here.