You may be considering purchasing a tent and be completely overwhelmed with the obtainable options. There are literally hundreds of different styles made by over a dozen different manufacturers. However, once you think about what you are really trying to accomplish it becomes much easier to thin down the list of options.
The most important factor for tent selection is use. As you think about use you want to consider the weight of the tent and how often you will be setting up. If you are hiking or touring you want a tent that is lightweight, easy to setup and tear down. If you will be staying in a single location you will be more concerned with overall comfort of tent. This should come first because if you are hiking with a large group you may think that you need a large tent, but then one person gets stuck carrying a heavy tent vs. everyone carrying lightweight single tents.
Closely related to the issue of use is the category of size. Size is typically defined by the number of people that can sleep in the tent. Most experienced campers recommend getting a tent larger than the number of people that will truly be sleeping in the tent. For example, a family of 4 may wan to consider getting a 6 person tent so there is abundant room to move around and store any items that need to be kept out of the rain. Another suggestion is to get a tent referred to as a viz-a-viz. These tents have two compartments. Perhaps the kids get one side and the parents the other or sleeping on one side and gear on the other.
3. Setup Effort
Setup effort is again tied to use. If you will be hiking and touring you will want a tent that is easy to setup and tear down. If you will be staying in place for more than a week you will want a tent that may take longer, but has the opportunity to use guy lines, stakes and other features to keep the tent strong and dry.
4. Weather Conditions (Season)
Tent manufacturers also categorize their tents by season. Season is associated with the materials and workmanship that goes into the tent. Typically, a one season tent is to be used in the summer and is capable of dealing with light wind and rain. A three season is for spring, summer and fall. A four season tent is designed to manager heavy snowfall, strong winds and rain. These tents are sometimes classified as expedition tents.
The last consideration is cost. While some tents may seem expensive at several hundred dollars or more if you consider how much it costs to stay in a hotel, rent an RV or other shelter the value a tent provides is tough to beat. For the cost of a single night in a hotel you can have a shelter that you can use for years to come.