There are quite a few factors to consider here, so ask yourself the following questions...
How many people will be sleeping in the tent?
If there’s four of you, I'd suggest looking at a six-berth tent to give you a little bit more room and makes it more comfortable. In general, look at a tent two berth sizes up from your party size, then consider how long you’re going for. If it’s a weekend break, it’s not massively important to have huge amounts of living space as you’re probably going to be out and about a lot. If it’s a longer trip, look for tents that offer lots of internal space, such as an attached sheltered porch to cook under.
What’s the budget?
Family tents range from under £100 to over £2,000. Price differences are related to the construction of the tent, the quality or thickness of the materials used, and then whether it’s a fibreglass-poled, steel-poled or inflatable tent. My personal advice would be to get the most expensive tent you feel comfortable paying for.
Pole or air tent?
Over the last eight or so years, the strides that have been made in air tent technology has seen their popularity soar. The Berghaus Air Tent range is the best. Whether you choose a pole or air tent will ultimately come down to budget. A large family air tent is more expensive than a similar-sized fibreglass-poled tent, but many believe the benefit of a fast pitching time outweighs the extra cost. Pitching time for an air tent can be around 10-15 minutes, depending on the size, versus 25-45 minutes for a traditional pole tent.
What about style and layout?
Currently, the most popular tents are large three-zone tents. These comprise a covered entrance porch (zone 1), where you can set up your kitchen and store wet gear, a closed-off living space (zone 2) and bedroom pods (zone 3). These types of tents can be anything up 8m x 5m. Other designs include dome tents, Vis a Vis tents (bedrooms at either end of the tent facing each other) and pop-up tents (normally used for garden camping or festivals). My advice is to check out any local tent displays and have a good look around the models on display. If you can’t get to a display, have a look on specialist retailers’ websites. Specifically, have a look at the internal shots of the tents as they can give you an idea of the size of the living and bedroom areas, and help you make an informed decision.
What’s the destination?
Are you going wild camping, family camping or high-altitude camping? The answer to this question will determine the style, weight, quality and even colour of what tent you go for. It will also, naturally, affect the amount you may need to spend. If you’re going wild camping and will have to walk to your pitch, you’ll want a lightweight tent. For family camping, where you’re most likely going to pitch up next to your car, a heavier tent would be fine. For reference, a typical two-man adventure tent will weigh 2-3kg. A more expensive, specialist two-man tent, designed for pro campers, can weigh just 1kg.