How to Choose the Best Outfitter Tent for Your Long-Term Camping Adventure
Outfitter tents are made for long-term adventures: from base camps and hunting camps to summer camps and more. Also called wall tents or cabin tents, outfitter tents are semi-permanent structures that combine the best of durability and roominess. Usually made of canvas, outfitter tents come in many sizes and can be outfitted with countless features: from stoves to rainflys to storage to footprints.
So, with so many options available, how do you choose the right outfitter tent for your particular adventure? There are several considerations to keep in mind. The size of your group will of course determine the necessary capacity. Meanwhile, the season, location, and length of your long-term adventure will determine the appropriate material, necessary protections and other extra features.
Outfitter Tent Capacity
The key question here is, of course, how many people will you need to fit? Four campers at summer camp? Six adventurers on a hunting trip? Eight staffers at Scout camp? Common sizes include 8×10’, 10×12’, and 12×16’, though there are many sizes available in between. A rough rule of thumb: allow for 20-25 square feet per person if you are not planning to add a stove, storage, or other large items. Allow for 25-30 square feet per person if you are planning to add any of these extra features. The wiggle room allows for personal preference and specific needs. Ask yourself: will most of the campers be adults or children? Will you be sleeping on the floor or on cots? Will you be bringing a ton of extra gear? These questions will help determine how much total space you’ll need.
Seasons, Location, and Length of Camping Trip
Different regions of the country and different times of year require different types of outfitter tents…and different outfitter tent accessories. If you’re planning on setting up an outfitter tent for a hunting camp in the middle of an Alaskan winter, your tent considerations will be far different from those planning on setting up a wall tent for a summer camp in the middle of a Georgian summer.
However, several considerations are universal. Make sure your outfitter tent is rot-resistant, mildew-resistant, and waterproof. This may require some seasoning on your end. However, to save yourself some time and energy, look for tents that come out of the box pre-seasoned. These tents will still require some routine maintenance and cleaning, but won’t require any waterproofing on your end.
Outfitter Tent Material
As you search, you’ll likely find your most popular fabric options will be cotton canvas or polyester canvas. Each fabric has its own benefits and drawbacks. The biggest upside to a 100% cotton canvas outfitter tent is it’s breathability. Cotton canvas will not allow air in, but will allow moisture out, keeping you comfortable and dry during any season. However, this fabric is heavier than polyester canvas, without matching polyester’s durability.
The key advantage of a 100% polyester canvas tent is its weather-resistance. Polyester canvas is rot-resistant, mildew-resistant and waterproof, without the regular treatments that cotton canvas requires. Moreover, this fabric is lighter than cotton canvas, without sacrificing its signature durability. For the best of both worlds, we recommend a polyester/cotton canvas blend. This option will combine the comfort of a 100% cotton canvas tent with the protection of a 100% polyester canvas tent.
Speaking of breathability, there are more factors than just fabric to consider when contemplating airflow. Look for a canvas outfitter tent with two doors to allow for a nice cross-breeze. For additional ventilation, consider purchasing a tent with several windows or, if you prefer to go old-school, roll-up sides. If you’re worried about nighttime visitors or pesky bugs, most outfitter tents can be customized with screen doors, so you can let the air in while keeping any unwelcome guests out.
An internal frame, made of aluminum or galvanized steel, will be more durable than wooden poles or a build-your-own kit. Though an aluminum frame will be lighter and easier to transport, a galvanized steel frame will be stronger and withstand more abrasion. Though heavier, even galvanized steel frames can be transported and set up fairly quickly. For example, our Orion Steel Wall Tent Frames can be assembled in 10 minutes or less.
A rainfly will protect your outfitter tent from more than just rain. A good fly will also protect your shelter from snow, dirt, harmful UV rays and even sparks. Bonus: the fly will also retain heat and reduce condensation, making for more comfortable living conditions. And don’t be deterred by the price tag. A good fly will greatly increase the lifespan of your tent, saving you money in the long run.
Additional Outfitter Tent Features to Consider
Stoves are a great option for long-term setups. The options for outfitter tent stoves are almost limitless. However, there are a few safety considerations to keep in mind. Look for stove jacks that go out the side of the tent, rather than out of the roof. Stove jacks that go out of the roof are more prone to leaking and more open to wear-and-tear. If you do choose to outfit your tent with a stove, make sure you’ve chosen fire retardant materials and added a rainfly, as well as considered fireproof mats or bare floors.
Putting your outfitter tent in storage? Make sure you pick a bag large enough for your specific tent. Look for options with handles for easy transport between storage and the field. If you plan on transporting your tent a lot, consider options with straps that you to easily carry the tent on your back.
Planning on winter camping? A footprint will help keep the cold air out and the warm air in, making for far more comfortable nights. However, the benefits of a footprint during the summer are not to be overlooked. A footprint will help keep the bugs out all year long. Look for an easy-to-clean option, such as polyester.
The heavier the tent, the stronger the fabric. Look for outfitter tents with an acceptable strength to weight ratio. We recommend a 12 oz fabric or heavier for long term arrangements, particularly semi-permanent setups. However, you can consider a 10 oz fabric for short term arrangements. The lighter weight will make your tent easier to transport and set up, without sacrificing too much in durability.
Outfitter Tent Selection don’ts
go Too Small
It’s better to have too much room than too little. Make sure you not only account for how many people will be sleeping in the outfitter tent, but also whether or not you’ll need cots, a stove, storage, a ton of extra gear, etc.
Forget to Season
Don’t forget to season your tent! There’s nothing worse than spending your first night in your brand new outfitter tent…only to wake up in a pool of water the next morning. To save yourself the worry and hassle, look for tents that come out of the box pre-seasoned.
Skimp on Accessories
Though optional, extra features like rainflys and screen doors can extend the life of your tent in addition to improving the quality of your experience. Don’t let price tags deter you. Shelling out a few extra bucks now may keep you from having to shell out even more later.