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IN THE STORE Look for poles that are color-coded to match their grommets, zippered doors that stow out of the way, and glow-in-the-dark zipper pulls and guylines for fumble-free late-night comings and goings. Condensation is your tent’s enemy; generous swaths of mesh netting along sides and ceiling will usher in fresh breezes.
IN THE FIELD If you want your tent to last, keep it clean; don’t set it up in the mud, and enforce a no-boots/no-pooches policy to keep out grit and sand. Buy a piece of polyvinyl sheeting at a hardware store, cut it slightly smaller than your tent’s footprint, and place it on the ground under your shelter. It will keep out moisture and protect the tent from damage.
IN THE FUTURE Tent makers will continue to borrow from advances made in the apparel world—especially soft-shell design and construction. Example: On several of its 2005 shelters, Marmot welded clear plastic windows to the walls, affording strength without the weight of stitching. The next frontier? Tent fabrics that won’t need to be sewn or welded at all, because they’ll come off the looms preformed in specific shapes.