Free-standing tents have a number of advantages over their roof-top counterparts, and domes, unlike the quickpitch versions, are pretty compact for the interior space they provide. They are the camper’s standard. What’s more, you can carry them in whichever vehicle you choose, and you don’t have to fold them up when a game drive is on the cards. They take up little packing space, won’t add to wind resistance, and can be relocated when pitched over an ants’ nest or right next to the neighbours who are realigning the planets with their boom box.
But, before you even start looking, you need to decide what kind of camping trips you have planned, how often you are likely to go, and at what time of year you’re most likely to go camping. These factors will determine just how durable and weatherproof the tent needs to be.
Size is next. How many people need to squeeze into the tent? Would it be better to get one large as well as a few satellite small ones to fit the entire brood, plus your mother-in-law? Keep in mind that bigger tents are more prone to being bent out of shape and damaged by high winds. Those people-ratings are usually optimistic, too: most people like to have their bags close at hand, along with all the sleeping kit. A good rule of thumb here is to allow for 60cm of space per person. As you go bigger, the convenience factor of being able to change while standing up will be edged out by the extra weight of the tent, and the fact that it is more unwieldy and difficult to pitch.
Once you’ve decided on the style, material and size, the issue of price will kick in… and this often varies greatly between retail outlets.
It’s worth taking a good look at what’s available − checking over things like special features, materials used, stitching quality and general finish − before putting down your hard-earned dosh.