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Things to consider when buying a tent extension

Posted by Gav Grayston.
First Published Mar 2014; updated May 2023.

We've had a few tent extensions. Here's some things to think about before you part with your cash for a new tent extension or awning.

If you are considering buying an extension or awning for your family tent, read this first. We have some useful tips from our experience with tent extensions.

Extending your tent is a great advantage as your family grows (or your budget does!).

As well as the increased living area, some extensions enable you to sit outside still when it's wet, provide a wet/dry entrance to keep water out of your tent, and somewhere useful to store gear, especially the wet and muddy kind!

But before you buy an extension, here are a few things to consider.

Is it worth buying a tent extension or awning?

We've been unable to do many of the fantastic camping trips we've had without a tent extension.

It's proved a great place to keep the kitchen unit (even if we cook under a tarp), and keep wet and muddy clothes out of the main tent. It's also somewhere to fold the chairs and leave them for the night so they don't get wet.

The Coleman Da Gama 6, pitched with Front Extension

However, we don't always fit the extension.

Extensions are smaller than the main tent, yet always take as long or longer to pitch than the main tent.

Now if you are camping for several nights, this is not a problem. But if you stay for one night, you don't want to spend all the time setting up and taking down your camp.

So, when we often have less stuff for one-night weekend camps, we tend to leave the extension off.

Getting an extension depends on the type of tent you have and the type of camping you do

Getting an extension depends on the type of tent you have and the type of camping you do:

  • If you have a small tent that is great for weekend camping, then consider getting an extension for longer stays.
  • If you already have a large tent for family camping holidays, you may want to consider an extension if you need more space, need somewhere for additional people to sleep, or to improve your tent's wet/dry entrance.

Should I get an open awning with doors or an open-ended extension?

So a lot may be down to personal preference on this one.

We've had both.

The first tent extension I bought was open-ended. I was looking for one with doors, though, to seal everything up. However, open-ended worked just fine, with only a few occasions that rain was coming in the wrong direction!

Our Outwell Richmond kitchen fit perfectly in the open-ended extension, and I also found a tarp BBQ cover that covered the kitchen, so it was protected overnight or when we were away from the tent.

Perfect when we were camping through a series of bad summer storms

Our second extension did have doors and could be completely sealed up. This was perfect when we were camping through a series of bad summer storms (see here).

It was also bigger, so the whole family could sit in it.

The whole family could sit in it

Extensions with doors are slightly more expensive, but if you can't find one that fits your tent, an open-ended extension is a lot better than no extension.

Should I look for an extension with a groundsheet?

One of our tent extensions has a removable bathtub-style groundsheet.

completely sealed from water and bugs

When fitted, we're completely sealed from water and bugs. It's just like inside the main tent, only we now have much more space.

However, we never fit it. Here's why:

  • Fitting the groundsheet takes extra time.  By the time we have the tent up, we want to get on, but with removable groundsheets, you fit the floor last. That means kids out and no furniture setup. So it adds to the set-up time.
  • We use the extension as somewhere to come in and out if it's wet and muddy. Shoes and boots are left in the extension, but not in the main tent (which has a carpet - see why here). Wet coats are also left to drip dry in the extension and not left to drip in the main tent. With no groundsheet fitted, water and mud goes into the ground. If you had the groundsheet, you'd be wiping up muddy puddles.

However, this may not be the case for you, and it can differ with different extension designs.

For example, some extensions are side-awnings where the tent already has a wet/dry entrance. Fitting a groundsheet makes sense, as the side awning is an extra living room in the tent, not an entrance.

So, should you get an extension?

I hope the points I've raised have not made the decision more complicated but informed you of some pros and cons.

getting an extension is a good idea

In general, if your tent needs it and you are doing more than one-night camping, then yes, getting an extension is a good idea.

You don't need an extension to have more usable space. See our guide to tarp shelters. 😉