There are a few things you'll always need for any camping adventure: food, clothes, and, most importantly, shelter. But regardless of where you'll be pitching your campsite, tent shopping for the first time can be tricky. Instead of making a big purchase you'll regret, ask yourself the following questions ahead of time.
How often will I use it? If you won't be using a tent regularly, then buying your own might not be a necessity at this time. If it's looking like a one-time thing, then ask friends and family if they have a tent you can borrow. As long that you promise to clean it and deliver it back ASAP, most people will be happy to lend their tent out for a few days. If your friends and family aren't an option, then consider renting instead of buying. Many outdoor stores including REI offer high-quality tent rentals. Renting a tent will save you a ton of money and storage space, but the best part is, they'll be able to show you how to put it together so you don't have to worry about deciphering the instruction booklet on your own.
How easy is it to put together? If you don't plan on battling the elements during your future camping excursions, then a pop-up or self-erecting tent is the way to go — these are (by far) the easiest tents on the market to put together. For most pop-up tents, all you have to do is remove the tent from the bag, pull a few strings from the top, and let the tent expand into its full shape. After you finish staking your tent to the ground to secure it from flying away, the whole process takes less than 15 minutes. Just make sure you don't order a pop-up tent solely designed for beach or picnic shade — you need to be able to zip yourself in and secure the tent to the ground.
Keep reading for three more questions to ask yourself before buying your first tent.