It is true what they say, you get what you pay for, and in the case of tents, nothing is more true. You can get $80 tents at your local discount store or spend thousands on a new Lotus Belle or ShiftPod tent.
While that cheap tent might do just fine on your annual camping trip, it won't hold up in 80 mph (130km/h) winds, and it won't withstand the dust storms either. I've been to the burn and watched tents get shredded, poles break, and entire setups blow away in the wrong conditions.
Of course I know people who get by in little tents, but I don't recommend it. Instead, I suggest you invest in a strong canvas tent or something similar that will withstand the elements and provide you with some comfort for your week on the playa.
One of the tents that recently hit the market and has been extremely popular at Burning Man and festivals alike is the Shift Pod tent. The general consensus from a variety of users is that these tents are superior when combined with an A/C unit because they actually can hold in the cooled air and provide a dark place for napping in the middle of the day. They are also easy to clean and are very effective at keeping the dust out. The tents are large, measuring 12'x12' and over six feet of clearance when standing up. These tents also come with a lifetime warranty.
The downside? They are too large to easily bring in a car, they cost over $1,000 and ShiftPods still need shade structures. If you are thinking of getting a ShiftPod I recommend placing your order early in the year since the company runs out of inventory before every burn.
Read our entire review of ShiftPods here.
Looking for an alternative to ShiftPod?
I personally recommend the Kodiak Tent for Burning Man. For one, these tents costs between $450 and $650 depending on the size you want and are just as effective at keeping dust out as the other tents with thick canvas and sturdy zippers. Kodiak Tents range between 10'x10' to 10'x14', have a head clearance of 6'6", and include a small porch covering. These tents easily hold up year-after-year and can easily fit a queen size bed like the other two. These tents also come with a lifetime warranty.
The downside? Unlike the ShiftPod Tents, Kodiaks are made from tan canvas and don't provide the dark conditions that are ideal for daytime napping. They also don't work well with an A/C unit so the best you can hope for is some good fans.
Before ShiftPods there were Lotus Bell Tents, a high end canvas yurt that went up with one center pole and supporting guy lines. Since then the bell tent style has been copied by several companies and the price has gone from $3,000 to a mere $500. Bell Tents are between 10 and 16 feet and is also easy to keep dust free with thick canvas fabric and zippers. The original Belle Tents and the knockoffs only have one year warranties.
The downside? Much like the Kodiak this tent also doesn't keep things dark during the day, and won't utilize an A/C unit. It also has guy lines that create a dangerous tripping hazard.
Want to know how to make the most of your tent? Read my blog and discover the best way to stay comfy in a tent at Burning Man.