There are four main things to consider when buying your next tent. They are size, use, waterproofness and lastly free-standing verses non free-standing. This blog focuses on tents that are suitable overnight or extended walking.
Size - The first thing to think about is the size of your tent followed by what season / s that you will be using it in. For bushwalking around Australia a 1 person tent will suffice if you are going solo or a 2 person tent if you have a walking partner. Make sure that the tent has a vestibule, so that you can store your pack in. Most 2 person tents now have twin vestibules so that each person can access their own side of the tent and store their gear separately.
The next consideration is - use. Where are you going to use it? and for what season of the year? Tent options range from summer weight tents all the way to 4 season tents. Will you only use it below the snow line? Use generally goes hand in hand with waterproofness so you will need to choose a tent that will also suit the weather extremes of the areas in which you will visit.
The waterproofness of a material is rated in millimetres and generally a material (nylon or polyester) that is rated from 1000mm is waterproof.
10,000 mm is the highest value you can get. The higher the value means the more waterproof coating, more weight and more cost.
For commercial purposes I tend to choose a tent that is more durable and waterproof. I look for a tent with a floor of 10,000mm and fly of 4000mm + as well as being UV resistant. For personal use and depending on how often you may use it a tent with a 5000mm floor and 3000mm fly may suffice; this will save you on weight and cost.
Lastly free-standing verses non free-standing. A free-standing tent is a tent that supports itself. By placing the poles into eyelets in each corner of the tent and then clipping the roof of the inner tent to the poles, this will tension the poles and the tent will stand erect. Free standing tents are good for wooden tent platforms like which you will find on the Overland Track in Tasmania, they are easier to set up, a bit lighter and easier to stake out. However non free-standing tents are generally stronger.
On the other hand you can always own a range of tents to suit the different locations and conditions.