What size should I get?
Tents come in many shapes and sizes and are generally advertised according to the number of people they accommodate. But even so they can vary wildly in size (volume) and footprint (the amount of space it takes up on the ground).
What size to buy depends upon what you want to do in it (sleep? cook? eat? have parties?), how many people and how much gear you want to get in, and how intimate (squashed) you are prepared to get.
Tents designed for backpacking and touring tend to be smaller and generally of a one compartment design. This may suit you if you want to minimise the weight you carry, camp on small pitches or remain inconspicuous when stealth camping. However be prepared for a squeeze when everyone gets in, don’t expect to be able to stand up and pray there are no arguments. With this kind of tent you might consider going up a size for more comfortable family camping, especially if you’ve a lot of gear. For example you may find a six person tent more comfortable for a family of four.
In the early days we used a four person tent for two adults, a baby and a mountain of nappies and were very glad we did. Going large also helps future proof you, providing something to grow into as a family; today we’re squeezing five into that same tent for four. Although I think it’s nearly time for the kids to move out.
On the other hand some large family tents are monstrous spaceships with multiple bedrooms, communal areas, awnings and a space for camping furniture and the kitchen sink. These are great if you want a home from home or if you like to stand up in your tent, but they’re also heavy, bulky, require a large pitch and can be difficult and time consuming to put up and take down. But at least after arguing about putting it up you’ve all got your own space to retreat to!
If you’re not moving on every day and want a tent that’s a comfortable base for a few days or weeks then something like this may suit you well.
Next: Durability & waterproofing. Read Page 3