Why Are Tents So Expensive + How To Save

Tents come in different shapes and sizes depending on user preferences. While some tents might be free-standing, most are usually attached to the ground. Despite their usage as portable short-term shelters, tents tend to be expensive to rent or hire.

Some tents are usually so expensive because of their size, durability, and weather reliability. In a real sense, however, not all tents are expensive as some are usually made from low-quality material. Expensive tents are usually all-weather and can be used for several years without wear or tear.

Are you curious to know more about tents, their cost, and correct maintenance? If so, then you couldn’t be in a better place. Read on as we break down all you need to know about tents and their costs. 

How Much Does the Average Tent Cost?

The cost of a tent depends on several factors. The material used in manufacturing tents usually plays a huge role in determining their overall costs. Tents made from high-quality, durable materials tend to cost more than their counterparts made from cheap fabric. 

The poles used in a tent also contribute to the overall cost. For instance, tents that use fiberglass poles are among the cheapest as the poles are heavier and less durable than carbon fiber and aluminum poles. 

As a rule of thumb, tent weight also contributes to the overall tent price. Heavy tents usually cost less due to their reduced portability. However, if you are after a lightweight tent to accommodate your backpacking needs, you will probably need to pay more. Light but durable tents are often the most expensive since their portability does not affect their durability. 

On average, the cheapest tents will cost you somewhere between $50 (£35) to $200 (£142). These tents are usually made from low-quality fabric and can accommodate one person. 

Cheap tents work well for the occasional backpacker or camper. However, if you are a serious backpacker, going the cheap route is not advisable as the tent might disappoint when you need it the most. 

Expensive tents normally range from $400 (£285) to even $1000 (£714). Some expensive, large capacity tents can even cost more than $1400 (£1399). Expensive tents are usually light and extra-durable, meaning they’re likely to serve the outdoor enthusiasts for several years, if not decades.

Why Are Tents So Expensive?

As mentioned earlier, a tent’s total cost depends on several factors such as the material used, size, and even weight. Let’s take an in-depth look at some of the factors that make tents expensive. 

Material Used

The fabric used in tent construction plays a massive role in determining its overall cost. Some of the most common tent fabrics include nylon and polyester. Although light and cheap, nylon and polyester are not good insulators, meaning they are likely to get cold when it is chilly outside and extra warm when it is hot. 

Tents can also be made from cotton or canvas fabrics. Tents made from cotton are usually great insulators as they can maintain a standard temperature despite prevailing weather. Cotton is also resistant to UV rays, breathable, and durable than nylon and polyester fabrics. The challenge with cotton tents, however, is their bulkiness and heaviness. 

Polycotton tents are becoming increasingly popular than their cotton and polyester counterparts. These tents are usually light and very durable, features that make them ideal for the regular backpacker or camper. You’ll have to spend more to purchase polycotton tents as they are usually costlier than cotton tents.  

Pole Material

The type of pole material also contributes towards the price of a tent. Of all tent pole materials, fiberglass is usually the most inferior and affordable. 

Fiberglass isn’t strong like carbon fiber poles and is also a lot heavier than most poles used in tents. While fiberglass might be ideal for car camping, it usually is not a good idea when backpacking as they’re heavy and impractical to move around with. 

Most tents usually use aluminum poles. Aluminum is preferred as a pole material due to its strength and reduced weight (compared to fiberglass). Most backpacking tents use aluminum because of its impressive strength and lightweight. Aluminum poles can withstand extreme weather, which makes them ideal for all-weather campers and backpackers. 

Carbon fiber is also another type of material used in tent construction. It is lighter than aluminum and fiberglass poles, making it ideal for backpackers. Carbon fiber is not commonly used in tents due to its cost. On most occasions, carbon fiber poles are used in high-end tents due to their high cost. 

Weight

The weight of a tent will almost certainly influence its overall cost. Heavy tents tend to cost less, mainly because they use fiberglass poles and ordinary fabrics. Although not ideal for backpacking, heavy tents work well when used in the home, work, or retreat settings. 

Lighter tents are costlier due to their increased portability. Besides using aluminum or carbon fiber poles, lightweight tents use ultra-light (but still durable) fabrics. This makes the tents ideal for backpacking as they can be easily packed and moved around without affecting mobility. 

Design

Cheap tents usually come in basic shapes and designs. On the other hand, expensive tents tend to boast superior features that improve overall ergonomics, which enhances the overall camping experience. 

You’ll have to pay more for a uniquely shaped, multiple-doored tent. High-end dome-style tents are usually the best when camping in windy locations. However, you will find that more expensive tents are uniquely designed to reduce the impact of rain, snow, and wind.  

Expensive tents can also come with a low-to-the-ground design. While cheap tents are usually meant for space, you’ll find that similar-sized high-end tents have advanced features that enhance overall ergonomics. For instance, expensive tents make use of vertical wall structures that make campers feel less-enclosed. 

High-end tents also come with advanced features that enhance the camping experience. Some of these features include storage pockets, light loops (for hanging lanterns and lights), easy-to-access open and close vents, and stargazing systems. 

Weatherproofness

Although cheap tents also keep the rain out, the high-end options tend to do a better job in preventing leakage. Cheap tents usually have poor quality seams that can easily let in rainwater in case of a storm. The seam taping or seam sealing job is often poorly done in budget tents. 

Cheap tents more often than not use acrylic coating, while their mid-range counterparts use polyurethane-coated fabric. Top-end tents mostly use a coating made of silicone polymer that enhances their waterproofness. Also known as silnylon, silicone-coated tents usually have silicon polymer applied both inside and outside the fabric. 

Hydrostatic head (HH) ratings also play a massive role in determining a tent’s weatherproofness. Expensive tents usually have high hydrostatic ratings of 2500mm (98.4in) and above, while cheaper options come with fairly low hydrostatic ratings of 1000mm (39.4in) or lesser.

Breathability

A tent’s ability to breathe dictates the amount of condensation inside. Tents made from cotton or polycotton are usually the best when it comes to breathability. PU-coated tents are more breathable compared to acrylic-coated tents. 

do inflatable tents puncture
do inflatable tents puncture

Either way, expensive tents are usually well-ventilated, unlike budget tents that mostly come with one ventilation point. In top-end and mid-range tents, you will mostly find several ventilation points in addition to the mesh-based inner tent. Large mesh areas and vents mean the tent can comfortably expel humid air without it settling on the surface. 

Generally, expensive tents tend to come with unique designs and features that allow for increased ventilation. Good ventilation translates to increased comfort, which explains why manufacturers of high-end tents never compromise on tent ventilation. 

Seasons

One of the major factors that contribute to the cost of a tent is the season. 3-season and 4-season tents are usually expensive, with most costing well over $1000 (£714). 4-season tents are usually the most expensive tents, and they even cost more when made from extra light but durable materials. 

Cheap tents are usually meant for use during the summer as they lack the features needed to withstand heavy downpours, let alone extreme weather conditions. While cheap tents might cost well under $100 (£70), they can only be used when the weather is right. 

3-season tents are designed for use in summer, spring, and fall. These tents are usually lightweight but can still withstand strong winds and rain, making them among the most expensive types of tents on the market. 3-season tents are also known to provide excellent ventilation during summer. 

4-season tents, despite their name, are mostly used during winter. While these tents can be used during spring, summer, and fall, they’re usually rated for winter usage. 

These bad boys can handle extremely harsh winds and snowy conditions, making them an ideal option for serious backpackers. 4-season tents are hands down the most expensive camping tents, especially those designed to be lightweight. 

Are Expensive Tents Worth It?

Expensive tents come with several additional features that you won’t find in most cheap tents. Below are some reasons why you should consider getting an expensive tent. 

They Come With Quality Clips, Sleeves, and Grommets

There is more to a tent than fabric and poles. Purchasing a low-cost tent means you will have to settle for plastic grommets and clips, which can easily get damaged. However, expensive tents usually use high-quality grommets, hooks, and clips. 

Moreover, expensive tents are usually well-stitched, unlike cheap tents that more often than not come with poor stitching. It is also common for zippers to fail. This is because most manufacturers of cheap tents don’t invest much in quality material or accessories like zippers. 

With high-end tents, you can expect the zippers to function without fail as they incorporate proven accessories in their products. 

They Are Adequately Waterproofed

Man-made fabric like polyester and nylon usually require coatings to be fully waterproof. On most occasions, manufacturers prefer to use acrylic, silicone, or polyurethane as waterproof coatings. 

While cheap tents won’t use high-grade coatings, expensive tents usually use silicone polymer coating, popularly known as silnylon. Silnylon is applied to all sides of the fabric. This prevents water from seeping through the tent when it rains. The silnylon provides a tough layer that holds the water without soaking the tent, thus keeping you dry. 

Mid-level tents tend to use polyurethane (PU) as a coating as it is thicker than acrylic and a lot more breathable. However, PU can end up failing in the event of excess rainfall. Expensive tents are also known for their high hydrostatic head ratings, which translates to increased resistance to rain droplets. 

They Can Be Used All Year

Unlike cheap tents that tend to have poor insulation properties, expensive tents can be used all-year-round. By purchasing 3-season tents, you benefit from advanced features such as double-wall construction and increased ventilation. 

4-season tents are usually the costliest type of tent and are designed for use during winter. 4-season tents do not have as much mesh as their 3-season counterparts. To seal out snowdrifts and wind, a 4-season tent will come with a fly that reaches the snowpack or ground.

They Are Usually Light

As mentioned earlier, most expensive tents come with aluminum or carbon fiber poles. These poles are often lightweight and durable, features that make them ideal for a backpacker. Cheap tents usually use low-grade fiberglass poles that are likely to break upon heavy impact. 

Low-cost tents are known to be heavy, which makes them more ideal for car camping as opposed to backpacking. They often use weak poles that cannot withstand extreme weather conditions like snowstorms and strong winds.  

As a general rule of thumb, light tents tend to cost more than heavier ones, and they come with greater flexibility in terms of use and portability. The most common pole is usually aluminum since it is not as expensive as carbon fiber poles. However, you can still find several tents using carbon fiber poles—but you will need to pay considerably more to bring these tents home. 

They Are More Durable

A majority of tents are made from man-made fabrics like nylon and polyester. Nylon tents are preferred for backpacking tents due to nylon’s lightweight characteristics. However, while nylon scores highly in terms of lightness and portability, it is not a durable material. 

Nylon is a poor insulator and tends to lose color over time. As a result, most manufacturers of high-grade tents tend to steer clear of nylon. Instead, they use polycotton or tent brand fabric. 

Below is a brief discussion of some well-known tent brand fabrics. 

  • Outwell Outtex 3000 Select: Although not the most expensive tent fabric, Outwell Outtex 3000 Select comes with a host of impressive features, top of the list being an impressive hydrostatic head rating of 3000mm (118in). It also boasts a 30+ UPF rating that prevents the sun from degrading the tent fabric.
  • Outwell Outtex Airtech: This blend of fabric and polyester has an impressive water-resistant rating since it becomes more water-resistant as it gets wetter. For enhanced outdoor performance, the tent fabric is treated with a UPF50+ coating and a water repellant. You’ll need to be prepared to spend more to get a tent using this high-quality fabric.
  • Robens Hydrotex Polycotton RS: This ripstop fabric is a mix of 35% cotton and 65% polyester, making it a great insulator for both hot and cold weather. Besides its impressive insulation properties, this polycotton fabric is also known for its breathability and lightweight nature. Robens Hydrotex Polycotton RS comes with a DWR coating and UV-inhibitors to enhance its overall durability despite exposure to sunlight.
  • Vango ProTex 70.SRN: With a hydrostatic head of 5000mm (196.9in), you can expect to remain fully protected when in a Vango ProTex 70.SRN tent. Weather ingress should not be an issue with this high-end nylon fabric as it comes with well-taped seams. It is also fire retardant and features a siliconized coating finish for increased elasticity, stability, water repellency, and strength.
  • Vango Sentinel Signature: The Vango Sentinel Signature incorporates modern technology in its design and functionality. It is made from mixing cotton and polyester to create a traditional canvas feel without compromising overall breathability. This fabric is designed to adjust the internal temperature to suit the external environment. Also, it is treated with ColourLok to prevent fading due to UV light and is highly water-resistant.

As is observable from the above discussion, high-end tents tend to come with a variety of advanced features and treatments that enhance performance and durability. While it might cost more to purchase expensive tents, the investment is totally worth it as you won’t need to make any replacement or new purchases for a long time. 

How Long Do Tents Last?

The average lifespan of a tent depends on several factors. However, a high-quality tent is supposed to last longer than a budget tent. Like other products, the trick to extending the lifespan of a tent is treating it nicely. 

Below are factors that affect a tent’s lifespan. 

Quality

The quality of the tent you purchase plays a huge role in determining its longevity. High-quality, top-end tents can last for several years and even a decade if properly maintained. 

The problem with most cheap tents is they do not come with UV light and waterproof treatment. Without protection from the potentially harmful sun rays, chances are, the tent will start to fade as the fabric depreciates gradually. 

Frequency of Usage

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast who loves all-weather camping, then you will need to buy a durable, high-quality tent.

This is because the more a tent is used, the more it is exposed to elements like sunlight, heavy rainfall, and strong winds, which tend to degrade the material and weaken the poles over time. 

Care and Maintenance

The care you give your tent determines how long it will serve you. Even cheap tents can last long if well-maintained and used less frequently. One of the main reasons for tent damage is poor storage. Some tent owners, especially the occasional campers, don’t put too much thought into where they store their tents. 

You should never place other items, especially heavy ones, on your tent’s poles. Instead, it is advisable to store the tent in a dry, well-spaced area. Keep the fabric stored safely away from children and pets to ensure it remains good as new the next time you want to use your tent. 

Getting a tent footprint or tarp is also another way to prolong your tent’s lifetime. You should also take extra care when setting up the tent to avoid damaging the seams or poles. Always flip your tent inside out and shake it once you are done using it. Additionally, tents should also be allowed to dry before being stored. 

So, after everything is said and done, how long can a tent last? On average, top-quality (expensive) tents can last anywhere from 5-15 years, depending on usage and maintenance. Some tents come with extensive warranties as proof of their unquestionable quality. 

On the other hand, some cheap tents are known to last as little as one year if poorly maintained. However, cheap tents can also last longer if not frequently used. However, due to the use of poor quality and untreated fabric, cheap tents will more often than not start to fade when exposed to sunlight. 

How To Save Money on a Tent

Purchasing a high-quality tent can prove costly, especially if you buy lightweight tents with treated fabrics. If you want to cut on cost without settling for cheap alternatives, you can try out the below suggestions. 

Look for Discounts

The best way to buy high-quality tents at reduced prices is to shop around for offers and discounts. Ideally, you shouldn’t settle for the first tent you spot on a site. Instead, it is advisable to check around to see if you can find better offers. 

If you are buying on sites like REI or Gooutdoors.co.uk, you should scout for offers. Check whether the tents on sale have discounts or whether a discount has been promised on selected items, say, in a couple of weeks. 

Also, if you are principled with your finances, you can save some cash and patiently wait for end-year offers. Black Friday deals can also help you save a lot when purchasing high-end tents. 

Buy Offseason

It will cost you more to buy a 4-season lightweight tent during winter than it would in summer or spring. Similarly, an ordinary tent might be more affordable in the winter as sellers look to lure buyers into buying tents off-season. 

Either way, you should take your time and search for tents well in advance. This allows you to detect price cuts, offers, and discounts, especially during seasons that are not camping-friendly. 

Consider Second-Hand Tents

Buying a new tent might severely dent your savings, especially if you opt for high-end designs. However, in case you don’t have the money at hand or do not want to spend too much on a tent, then perhaps scouting for second-hand tents might be the ideal option. 

Sites like Amazon and eBay have several merchants looking to dispose of their tents. You’ll find different types of tents on the site, ranging from dome to tunnel and even double-layer tents from different brands. 

Buying second-hand tents should not be too much of a hard task. All you will need to do is check or request the vendor to provide further images if those on display do not fully convince you. Be extra careful if you opt to buy from sites like Facebook or Twitter. Always do your due diligence before paying for a product. 

Rent a Tent

Renting is a great idea if you don’t want to splurge your hard-earned cash on a tent. However, renting is not advisable for regular campers as the recurring renting costs might surpass the costs of buying a new or second-hand tent. 

Before you rent a tent, don’t hesitate to check around for merchants with good deals. More often than not, local tent dealers allow clients to bargain—so be sure to try your luck! 

Can You Sell Second-Hand Tents?

Similar to other items, it is possible to sell second-hand tents, provided they’re still usable. If you’re looking to sell second-hand tents, then the following tips should come in handy. 

Check the Tent’s Condition

The last thing you want is to sell a spoilt tent to an unknowing client. Not only will this leave the client unsatisfied, but the negative review will also almost certainly tarnish your reputation. 

Therefore, before you advertise a tent for sale, be sure to examine it thoroughly. Check for defects, fabric conditions, and be honest about any underlying issue. Being blunt with potential clients will help you come off as an honest and trustworthy merchant. 

Take Several (Good) Photos

Whether you prefer selling via social media sites like Facebook or Twitter or through e-commerce platforms, you’ll need to take good photos. Avoid taking superficial photos that don’t reveal too much about the tent. 

Instead, take as many high-quality photos as possible. Ensure some photos show the tent when fully set up, the poles, and the fabrics. The idea is to convince the potential buyer that they should not pass the opportunity to buy the tent. 

Ensure Your Buyer Profile Is Detailed

Buyers are usually skeptical about losing their hard-earned cash—and rightfully so! Taking good photos might grab the buyer’s attention, but it won’t be enough to convert a prospect into a sale. As a result, try your best to have a trustworthy profile with a clear profile photo if necessary. 

While it isn’t compulsory to reveal your details, it can go a long way in creating a buyer-seller relationship. Try keeping your profile short but informative. 

Provide More Information About the Tent

Taking photos is the first part. However, if you want to increase your chances of making a sale, then it’s best to tell the potential buyers more about the product. Aim to reveal details like fabric type, age of the tent, type of poles, and other features such as weatherproofness. 

The more a client knows about a product, the more likely they will make a purchase. So, reveal as much as you can about your tent, and who knows, a willing buyer might initiate a conversation. 

Market the Tent

Posting on an e-commerce platform isn’t enough to get clients, especially if you’re only selling one tent. To boost your chances of success, posting on social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and even WhatsApp groups, is highly recommended. 

Go to online forums and advertise your tent. Remember to provide detailed descriptions about the tent as it will help you to attract willing clients. You might even approach the local tent store to see if they’re interested in buying your tent. 

Where To Buy/Sell Second-Hand Tents

There are many places to buy second-hand tents. If you’re looking to sell your second-hand tent, we highly recommend registering on several social media sites and e-commerce platforms. 

The idea is to have your tent advertised on several marketplaces to boost your chances of making a sale. Some common (and effective) online platforms include: 

  • eBay
  • Craigslist
  • Gumtree
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Amazon 
  • Etsy
  • Twitter
  • Whatsapp groups

It’s fairly easy for buyers to browse the above sites and select their preferred items. However, to sell on the above platforms, you’ll need to create a merchant profile, which might require verification. While the waiting time for verification usually depends on the platform you’re registering on, the exposure to thousands, if not millions of clients, is worth a short wait. 

How To Maintain Your Tent

Below, you will find some tips on how to maintain your tent.

  • Gently clean the tent. Avoid using washing machines, dryers, or detergents on your tent fabric, as they may damage the fabric’s protective coating and seams. Instead, you should use mild soap and lukewarm water. Rinse the tent thoroughly and allow it to dry completely.
  • Be wary of placing food inside the tent. Keeping food in a tent when camping is a sure recipe for disaster. Hungry critters will almost certainly decide to join in on the fun and might chew the tent fabric in pursuit of food.
  • Sweep the tent floor. It is highly advisable to regularly sweep the tent floor to prevent damage from stones or debris. If possible, you should carry a mat or rug and place it inside the door to catch sand and wipe off tiny debris.
  • Check on your storage. Before storing your tent, it’s crucial to allow it to dry off. Wet storage is the number one reason for mold and mildew formation, which negatively affects your tent’s appearance. 
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