How we test tents

Getting the ins and outs of testing tents

Trust your tent

Our testers have tackled tents of many different shapes and sizes. We've got the testing down to a fine art with many of our testers boasting over a decade of testing experience. But whatever our experience may be, it's you, our members, who guide how we test.

Ready to venture into the great outdoors? Check out the best brands and models in our small, medium and large tent reviews.

Our expert testers

With their 15-plus years' experience of testing tents, we're proud of our expert testers. 

They've seen all kinds of features and builds of tents come through the labs, but one thing never changes – they need to be comfortable to use, easy to put up and down – and keep you dry! We focus on the basics so that when it's time to buy, you can be sure they work well.

On top of this, many of our testers sit on standards committees, both national and international, for all sorts of product areas including toys and children's products, whitegoods, TVs and more. This way, we stay up to date with how labs and manufacturers are changing the standards and give consumers a voice in this forum, where sometimes only government and industry are represented.

How we choose what we test

Why do we choose one tent over another? There are a number of reasons, but our priority is to test what you will see in the shops. That means sometimes we might not cover that one brand that has one model that's sold 10 units in Australia, and instead focus on the big-brand models that you'll most likely see in the retailer. We survey manufacturers and distributors to see what products are current, which are being discontinued and any new models due to appear soon, and listen to member requests.

When we know what you want, our buyers independently buy the tents from a variety of retailers, then bring them in as-is – this means we get what you'd get, so we can be sure the results are what you'll find in store.

How often we test

Rain test for tents
Simulated rain during our tents rain test.

We test tents every one or two years, and we tend to test in batches of 12-16. We also circulate the tent sizes. We do this because manufacturers don't turn over models as frequently as many other consumer products. We've seen some manufacturers keep some models in the market for years. 

Also, brands that have been in the market for a long time tend to release less frequently. Newer brands seem to be releasing more frequently, perhaps looking for the best combination of features.

How we test

We test our tents in real world conditions, and whenever possible we photograph them in those conditions, too – this means the images you see on our site are authentic and not airbrushed in any way.

Usability score We rate the tents on: 

  • how comfortable they are to live in and use
  • the usable area of the inner tent and vestibule (height and floor area, plus how much the walls slope in, as this can limit the head height)
  • access to the tent
  • the number and size of doors
  • windows and ventilation. 

Some ventilation around the sides and doors is important, but you don't want too much mesh if you're camping in cold weather, as it'll let in the cold wind.

Assembly score This takes into consideration how long it took to put the tents up and take them down. Times can range from 10-40 minutes to put up the tent and usually a bit less to take down. 

These times are only a guide because they're based on the times of an experienced user (one tester) putting the tent up in ideal conditions. Times will vary depending on experience, weather, ground conditions and if you have any help.

Rain test The tents are also assessed for water resistance, in this case by an artificial rain system applied for 15 minutes on each tent.
This involves a hose with a spray head mounted on a stand, and a large fan, simulating fairly heavy rain and reasonably strong wind. 

Tents score 100% if no water gets into the sleeping area; tents that leak score less, depending on how much water gets in.

Ease of carrying score For small tests, we take ease of carrying, which includes weight, into account. You don't want to be going on a long hike with a heavy tent. Larger tents don't have an ease of carrying score.

Test criteria explained

Overall score

The overall score is a combination of the usability and ease of assembly scores, as well as the rain test, weighted as follows:

  • Usability (60%)
  • Ease of assembly (20%)
  • Rain test (20%)

We usually recommend models that score at least 70% overall and at least 70% for usability. For small tents, we take ease of carrying into account. If it scores borderline or below, we won't recommend it, even if it meets the other criteria.

Our test lab

We maintain a lab that is up to date with the latest reference machines and calibrated measurement tools for our testers to bring you the right results.

Ready to buy?

See our latest tent reviews.