A Guide to Tent Camping: Pitching a Tent, Camping Tips & More

There’s nothing better than rounding up the crew, setting up camp, pitching a tent, and spending some time outside. But if you're new to tent camping, getting ready for an overnight trip outdoors can seem daunting. Don’t worry—our guide to tent camping 101 will help to ensure you have tent camping covered.

Whether you're a first-time camper or a seasoned pro, we’ll teach you the tent camping tips and tricks that will make your trip an adventure. You will discover how to pitch a tent, tent camping checklists for beginners, the 4 most common types of tents, and more essentials to make camping comfortable and fun. 

So get ready to get out with everything you need to make the most out of your camping experience.

Tent Camping Checklist

Whether you’re backpacking solo or taking your crew on the road, the best way to know what to bring when camping in a tent is by using a tent camping list to make sure you don’t forget any tent camping essentials. Use these camping lists for tent camping and backpacking below to remember what to bring camping before you head out.

Tent Camping Checklist for Beginners:

Keep up the fun on your camping trip by staying ready for wherever the road takes you. Here’s our tent camping list to make chasing adventure, lounging outdoors, and chowing down around the campfire easier this camping season:

   Sleeping bag (find the right sleeping bag for you with our Sleeping Bag Guide)
   Sleeping pad
   Camping pillow
   Camping lanterns or flashlights (battery- & propane-powered)

   Camping stove or grill, fuel, and matches
   Camp sink
   Camping food, drinks, seasonings & oil (for the number of days camping)
   Cooler and ice, or packable ice packs 
   Water bottle, jugs, or tumblers
   Plates, bowls, utensils (crack-resistant, paper, or reusable plastic) 
   Cooking utensils 
   Can opener and bottle opener
   Biodegradable soap
   Egg carrier
   Biodegradable trash bags
   Cutting board
   Camping ax or saw (for firewood)
   Rope, bungee cords, 550 parachute cord or wire
   Multipurpose knife or multi-tool
   Duct tape
   Mallet or hammer (for tent stakes)
   Bug spray
   First-aid kit
   Toliet paper
   Hand sanitizer
   Urinal and menstrual products 
   Broom & dust pan

Backpacking Checklist for Beginners:

If you choose to setup camp off the beaten path on a backpacking adventure, keep it light and stay prepared for any weather and terrain you may find on the trail with this list of fundamental backpacking essentials:

   Hiking backpack
   Backing tent or camping tent (choose the right tent with our Tent Finder)
   Sleeping bag (find the right sleeping bag for you with our Sleeping Bag Guide)
   Sleeping pad
   Packable camping lanterns (battery- & propane-powered)

   Backpacking stove, fuel, and matches
   Camping food, drinks, seasonings & oil (for the number of days camping)
   Small cookware
   Cooler and ice, or packable ice packs 
   Water bottle
   Plates, bowls, utensils (crack-resistant, paper, or reusable plastic) 
   Cooking utensils 
   Biodegradable soap
   Biodegradable trash bags
   Thermometer (for cooking)
   First-aid kit
   Multi-tool or knife
   Camping ax or saw (for firewood)
   Multipurpose knife or multi-tool
   Duct tape
   Tent repair kit

What should you not keep in a tent?

There are various items you should avoid keeping in your camping tent for your safety and comfort. Camping items that you should not keep in your camping tent include:

  • Matches, lighters, and flammable liquids
  • Gasoline
  • Food items that attract animals
  • Too many items 
  • Electric heaters

Find safer places to store your fire-starting items and camping food in camping storage outside the tent or your car trunk if you have one. 

Now that you know which tent camping essentials to pack up for the campsite and which to leave at home, it’s time to choose the right camping tent.

Which tent is best for camping?

Your outdoor adventure calls for a camping tent that fits your crew, your preferred recreational activities, and the weather conditions on your trip. Whether warm weather camping or cold weather camping, when deciding how to choose a tent, it’s important to consider factors like:

  • Size: Do you need a 2-person tent, a 4-person tent, a 6-person tent, or a larger size?
  • Weight: Will you carry your tent in your backpack to and from the campsite, or drive it around?
  • Materials: Are you looking for a tent that can withstand heavy rain or extreme temperatures?
  • Type: Are you pitching a freestanding tent, a tent that needs to be staked, or a hybrid of both?
  • Design features: Features like instant tent setups, easy open tents, and pre-attached poles make setting up camp faster.

The type of tent you use will also depend on your camping style. Are you backpacking solo and need a lightweight tent that packs down small? Are you tent camping with friends and in need of a large tent, or just pitching a tent in your backyard for family fun? No matter the outing, you should:

  • opt for a compact camping tent or lightweight camping tent if you plan to hike with your camping gear;
  • choose a camping tent with tent poles and stakes designed to be easily set up in any terrain;  
  • make sure the tent is waterproof and has plenty of ventilation to keep you cool and minimize condensation;
  • don’t forget to bring a rainfly if it’s not already built in; and
  • always ensure you have the right tent stakes to secure your camping tent.

Coleman® Tents vs Competitor Tents 

What are the 4 types of tents?

Like all camping gear, there are different types of camping tents to choose from as you explore your options. When it comes to how to pick a tent, you should consider these 4 common types of tents:

  1. Cabin tents: Cabin tents have vertical walls and multiple rooms, making them spacious enough to rival the country cabin. They are amongst the most popular types of camping tent, since they give campers more living space, have higher ceilings, and are great for camping with a large group.
  2. Dome tents and modified dome tents: Dome tents have a dome-shaped roof and aerodynamic design that is great for withstanding strong winds. Modified dome tents also include a dome-shaped roof but have higher walls than traditional dome tents, creating more space inside for campers to get comfortable.
  3. A-frame tents: A-frame tents are the classic tent type with a triangular roof, making them easy to pitch in flat terrains like your backyard. They provide good ventilation and great stability in windy conditions.
  4. Backpacking tents: Backpacking tents are compact and lightweight tents designed for backpackers who plan to hike to their campsite with their gear. Because they’re easily portable, they let you pitch a tent on the best camping spot on the trail, but still provide plenty of space for 1 or 2 people when set up.

Once you’ve checked finding your tent off your tent camping list, it's time to think about where to have your camping experience.

Pitching a Tent: How to Set Up a Tent

When you arrive at your camping spot you’re ready to start pitching a tent. Even though tent pitching for the first time can seem intimidating, these simple steps will help make setting up a tent easier:

  1. Choose a level camping spot in an area with good drainage. Avoid pitching tents near any water sources or areas with lots of vegetation.
  2. Clear the ground so your camping area is free from rocks and sticks.
  3. Place your ground tarp down to protect the bottom of your tent. Spread your tent on top of the tarp in your desired orientation. 
  4. Lay out all the tent poles so they’re easy to find and begin assembling the poles following the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
  5. Place the assembled poles on top of the tent, aligning each pole with its corresponding grommet or hole on the tent.
  6. Begin attaching poles to the tent using the provided attachments or your manufacturer-approved attachments. 
  7. Secure your rainfly to the tent poles, aligning each rainfly attachment with its corresponding pole. Secure the straps of the rainfly to the corners of the tent body.
  8. Take your tent stakes and line them up with each corner of the tent body, pulling the chord at each corner until taut.
  9. Hammer each stake through the loop of the tent chord and into the ground at a 45-degree angle facing away from your tent. Stake out the rainfly chord as well.
  10. Once everything is secure, make sure your tent feels stabilized. Then it’s time to enjoy your new outdoor space!

Optional: For additional stability, learn how to guy out a tent using the instructions in the next section.

How to Use Tent Guylines

Your tent guylines are designed to stabilize your camping tent by securing your rainfly to the stakes in the ground or nearby trees. Before pitching, again ensure you have plenty of space around the tent and are on level ground. Then, follow these steps to properly use your tent guylines:

  1. Tie the guylines to the guyline loops on your tent, and if separate, attach the guyline tensioners to the line. Ensure you have enough line length to reach the point in the ground where you will plant the stake.
  2. Check that each line has tension by pulling your guylines to the spots you plan to stake them, tightening each one incrementally for equal tension. You want all guylines to be taut, but not too tight when done tightening.
  3. Hammer the stakes into the ground so that they each face away from the tent at a 45-degree angle. If you feel like your tent is unstable, add additional stakes for more stability if there are extra loops.
  4. Securely attach each guyline to the stakes so that the stakes are firmly planted in the ground. Stay aware of where your guylines are to avoid tripping over your tent.

If your guylines do not have built-in tensioners to ensure they are taut, you can tie a trucker's hitch knot to create tension.

How to Tie a Trucker’s Hitch Knot

The trucker’s hitch knot secures your tent lines with a combination of knots to ensure your guylines are taut enough when attached to the stakes if you don’t have tensioners. Successfully tie a trucker’s hitch knot with this step-by-step tutorial: 

  1. Start by securely tying your tent cord to the guy out loop on your tent.
  2. Take the other end of your guyline and tie a slipknot. You can tie a slipknot by crossing the cord over itself to form a loop. Then take a piece from the cord that’s on top and pull it up through the loop. Then pull the slipknot until tight.
  3. Wrap the loose end of the cord around the tent stake. Pull the end through the slipknot you just created. Pull the line taut until you have 3 lines of cords and a loose end.
  4. Pinch the slipknot to secure the tension. Form a loop of cord with the loose end and tie it around the other cord lines by crossing it over, wrapping it under, and pulling it upwards towards the tent until cinched to create a slip-half hitch.
  5. Repeat with the loose end of the cord to form a second slip-half hitch. Finally, pull tight to complete your knot for a complete trucker’s hitch knot.

This is an easy-to-learn knot that will help make sure your tent is securely attached to your stakes so they won't blow away during windy conditions. This knot can also be used to secure tarp shelters.

Camping Tent Tips

Take your camping trip to new heights and make it even more memorable by following these camping tent tips and tricks of the trade:

  • Always bring a tarp, groundsheet, or tent footprint to place under your tent so it doesn’t get wet from the ground.
  • Keep a few extra tarps handy to keep out moisture and dirt from your tent during rain or heavy winds.
  • Try to find a camping spot that’s flat and not too close to trees so you have enough space for pitching your tent.
  • Keep all food away from your tent by putting them in sealable camping food storage or bear canisters to avoid attracting animals and insects.
  • If pitching a tent on the beach, keep it away from high tide to prevent flooding.
  • Tie up a hammock between the trees for relaxing and taking in nature’s beauty.
  • Consider the weather conditions when pitching your tent, as you may need extra stakes or sandbags to help secure it against the elements.

It’s Time to Start Tent Camping

Ready to take your tent camping experience to new heights? On your tent camping trip, make memories to last a lifetime, even before pitching a tent. 

When it’s time to roll out, remember to prepare your camping list, decide the best way for you to pitch a tent, and apply our helpful camping tent tips so you’ll be setting up camp like a pro in no time. Now get the crew and get outside—happy camping! 

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