Things to consider when buying a tent extension

March 2, 2014

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

Tent extensions, porches, and canopiesThe ability to extend 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 still sit outside when its 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 not been able to do a great 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 up 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 a number of nights, this is not a problem. But if you are just staying for one night, you don’t want to spend all the time setting up and taking down your camp.

So for one night weekend camps, when we often have less stuff anyway, 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 the wet/dry entrance of your tent.

Should I get an awning with doors, or an extension that’s open ended?

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 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 over night or when we were away from the tent.

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

The second extension we had 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 a lot 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 are fitting 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 just goes into the ground. If you had the groundsheet, you’d be wiping up muddy puddles.

This may not be the case for yourself though, and it can differ with different designs of extensions.

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

Do some tents come with an extension?

Only a few. Tents like the Coleman Fremont have a removable zip on extension.

Yosemite Falls Features
But there are tents that have the benefits of an extension already built into their design. Take a look at the Outwell Yosemite Falls for example.

These tents tend to be larger, ideal for family camping holidays, but the fact that you don’t need to get an extension saves time in pitching and also less to take to the campsites (…. some of the very large tents take a while to pitch and a lot to transport anyway, so you don’t want to add to that).

BTW, whilst we are talking of extensions and tent design, it’s worth mentioning the Yosemite Falls and Outwell. This is a very expensive premium tents. In fact, a lot of tents from Outwell are very expensive, but why?

designed by family campers for family campers

Well, “quality” is what a lot of people say, which is true, but it’s more than that. Outwell tents are designed by family campers for family campers, and there’s a lot of design features to make family camping a bit better.

coats can hang and dry

Remember I said that the extension is a great place to hang wet coats to drip dry? Well, the Yosemite Falls has hanging rails in the extension so that coats can hang and dry in the corner out of the way. You can also remove the groundsheet of that part of the tent so that you don’t have to clear up muddy puddles.

you don’t have to clear up muddy puddles

It’s not just the Yosemite Falls that has this feature either. A slight aside, but worth knowing when looking to invest in tents and extensions.

Another good feature with tents that are designed so you don’t need extensions is that you can get more usable space.

We have guy lines on our Coleman Da Gama that holds up the front of the tent. You don’t won’t to remove those, especially in windy weather, or the tent could come down.

However, when you put an extension over the front, you still have the tent’s guy lines…..but now inside.

how much space you’ll get if the guy lines to the tent are in the extension

In calmer conditions you may be able to remove them, but it’s worth considering how much space you’ll get if the guy lines to the tent are in the extension. (This is also why some tent extensions have a removable groundsheet, as you don’t want to peg guy lines through the extension’s groundsheet.)

So, should you get an extension?

I hope the points I’ve raised has not made the decision more complicated, but instead informed you on some of the pros and cons.

getting an extension is a good idea

On 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 though to have more usable space. See our guide to tarp shelters. 😉

Where Next?

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[button text=”Find a Universal Tent Extension >>” title=”See extensions that fit a variety of tents” url=”” align=”left” target=”_self”]

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Gav Grayston Contributor

Father to 3 kids, who loves getting out and about (hiking, running, camping, cycling, canoeing...) Co-founded Get Out With The Kids to help other parents enjoy the outdoors with their family.

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  1. Hi Mary I know Norwich camping had the studland 8 on sale try them it’s a great tent really big and good quality or try the illusion tc 800xl by vango I want that one

  2. I really wanted to buy a Kampa studland 8 air but they went out of stock last year and the new version is a lot more expensive. I’ve found a factory second for half the price of new;the fault with it is the front door (to the vestibule section, not the living room section) is missing. This effectively creates an open canopy. Do you think this will work given that it was not designed that way?

    • Hi Mary.
      Is it the 2015 version that’s on a well-known auction site? 😉
      If so, it looks great. There’s an Outwell model that is similar that you have without the front door, so I don’t think you’re going to have a problem with this design, especially if you have another door separating the living space.
      Just make sure you pitch it so that the wind isn’t blowing into the front.

  3. I’ve a van go careers poly cotton 4man tent and was hoping to get a porch detention,does anyone know if there is one to fit my tent or a universal one,thank you,

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