How To Choose A Grow Tent

Understand, controlling your plant’s environment is paramount to achieving their maximum yield and grow tents enable you to take the control to a level impossible without them.

If you've only dabbled in hydroponics previously with just some lights and a fan, or perhaps you understand what it takes to be the best.  Either way, you’ve found this page because you’re interested in growing plants to the best of your ability.

The value of having a grow tent

Think of grow tents as portable rooms and their design incorporates all the infrastructure necessary for hanging and holding the equipment plants need to grow effectively. Not sure about you but we don’t want to make any modifications to our homes. Do you find yourself hammering your thumbs more than the nails?  That’s OK, DIY isn’t for everyone. Unpack your grow tent, click the frame in place and you’re good to grow.

Grow tents have six sides of thick fabric draped and secured over a frame made of plastic or metal poles.  There’s at least one main entrance, with subsidiary openings for electrical inputs and air intake. Sizes and dimensions vary greatly so you’ll find one suiting your needs. Hanging heavy lights from the ceiling or installing filters and fans in positions creating optimal conditions is a piece of hydroponically grown apple pie. The inner layer of the tent is lined in reflective material ensuring conservation of every photon, increasing the chance chlorophyll bombardment and ultimately sugar production.  

budbox titan1 white 200x200x200

This is a grow tent

Have you had pest problems? Ravaged by whitefly or decimated by aphids? Don't worry. Grow tents are as pest-proof as you could hope for whilst still living in the real world, with fabric-covering zips over all openings.

Smaller setups are very portable, should you decide to up sticks and leave. You can disassemble and reassemble effortlessly to continue growing wherever you next lay your head to rest. The highest quality products are light proof. Cheaper tents fail this test and it's an indication of the compromise in control of the internal environment. For example, some growers want to contain the smell produced from inside the tent and if light gets in, you can bet smells are escaping. As with most things, you get what you pay for. The quality of the product goes up with the price, meaning you should buy the best your budget can stretch. 

The Size Of your grow tent

The size of your grow tent is up there with the most important of properties to consider. What has to fit inside? Your equipment, plants and you to be the maintenance man. These are like the tents in Harry Potter, they aren't bigger on the inside. Tents must accommodate your plant’s blooming and provide sufficient distance between them the sweltering heat of the lights. Actually being in the thing will be significantly easier. Would you rather be standing or crawling like the girl in The Ring?

 

The Ring Girl

Must. Adjust. Ventilation. Ports.

The depth of the tent will be important depending on the tasks you’re likely to be carrying out in there.  If you aim to grow a lot of plants, a deeper tent will be necessary.  Furthermore, maneuvering around the back of the tent is going to be annoying without any room.  There has to be enough space for nutrient solution refilling, for example.

The grow tent Canvas

A tough nylon or polyester exterior withstands any abrasions associated with indoor gardening and environment outside the tent, and the inner layer is reflective to amplify the effects of the light inside. Grow tent canvas thickness is measured in Denier (D) and is usually a good representation of the quality of build. Denier represents the thickness of individual filaments which make up the fabric and is measured linearly, i.e the higher the number - the thicker the fabric. As you'd expect, the thicker the thread the more durable the fabric compared to a thinner thread creating a soft material.

To control the internal environment, one must isolate it from the external.  Light, airflow, humidity - the list goes on.  None can enter nor leave without intention, and the thickness of the material helps with this management. It's just a big artificial piece of skin. 

Thicknesses range from 1680D, 600D, and 190D, with tents of 1680D at the top end of the price bracket. Many customers feel 600D strikes the correct balance between the quality and how deep their pockets go. Regularly putting your tent up and taking it down again? You’ll need a larger denier to minimise the risk of accumulating tears.

The Reflectivity of your grow tent

Want to slash your electricity bill and save some long-term money? Increase the amount of light reflected back towards the plants. The more light hitting the chlorophyll, the faster they grow and the quicker you can stop supplying them with expensive energy. 

The lining of tents should be either white or silver mylar (mylar is the name of a brand of stretched polyester). Whichever lining you choose is down to you, some companies let you pick and others only stock one - usually silver. The top performer is a contentious topic amongst the community. The majority of grow tents sold today have a silver lining but the most convincing video on the subject was produced by Mr Jose who measured the photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) readings of his grow tent with silver lining or white lining for part of the content of his then upcoming book.

 

 

Using 49 measuring points for PAR in a 120 x 120 x 200cm grow tent, he measured the silver lining as having 69.4% >80 PAR W/㎡ compared to the white lining with 91.8% >80 PAR W/㎡.

The conclusion drawn was white lining absorbs less light and reflects more within the photosynthetically active range for plants to use to generate energy, contrasting the popular opinion at the time which largely remains today. 

Managing the temperature of the internal environment is notoriously tricky in the enclosed space with hot lights which are continuously bouncing around making one another more furious by the second. Here's a tip: to keep the inside an ambient temperature, cool the external air being blown into the tent either using air conditioning or extracting it from outside. Don't say we aren't good to you.

The Structure of your grow tent

The canvas is hung over a frame made of either metal or plastic poles, each with their advantages over the other. A metal framework is sturdier and able to bear more weight but a plastic one is cheaper and a simpler setup.  The manufacturer’s specifications on each grow tent will display how much weight the frame can support and should be factored into your decision based on the complexity of your growing arrangement. 

The seams can take a lot of stress if they’re opened vigorously and often, so, to combat this some manufacturers double stitch the seam to reduce tears and is another sign of a potential higher quality product.

Protect your tent’s zip mechanism if it gets stuck by lubricating it with paraffin instead of forcing the thing open, regularly clean it of dirt, etc.  All easy things you can do to maintain your tent’s functionality for as long as possible.  

Generally, the larger the tent, the more access points there are for electrical inputs and appendages for ventilation.  Guarantee correct sizing and placement before purchasing the tent.

It’s imperative you understand your requirements when choosing your grow tent.  Don’t pick something too small with half the access points because it’s cheaper, you won’t be able to make the room your plan to without the necessary specifications.  Never underestimate.

Ultimately, what plants you grow and how you grow them determines the properties of your tent.

Each type of hydroponics system requires its own space and different pieces of apparatus needing varying amounts of electricity.  The benefits of using a hydroponics system, however, are spacing your plants closer together than if they’d been grown in soil.

The kind of cultivation practices you employ influences the height of your tent if you want to avoid you plants growing into workstations or burning on bulbs.  With that in mind, the species of plant affects things too.  Watercress or tomatoes, which will be more of a nuisance?

Having too much space is easier to deal with than having too little.  You can move your lights closer if need be, but do you want to have to alter the direction your plants grow to avoid obstacles?  We doubt it.

Where you set your tent up needs be near electrical access points dedicated to your hydroponics equipment.  Where will you keep your tools?  Is the tent going to be kept in a room you frequently?  What if your hydroponics system fails?  So many questions.

The good news is once you’ve figured it out once, the next time you construct a tent it’ll be a piece of cake.

Recommended Grow Tents

Now, we're going to discuss popular grow tent manufacturers.  Everyone has different criteria, so we’re going to discuss three popular brands, with a breakdown of their specifications.  What do you fancy? Shall we let you know what comes as part of the package, the things people are talking about in their reviews, and a breakdown of sizes? All right then, you got it. 

There are numerous manufacturers out there, and, like anything else, the quality of each varies. But, which are the best grow tents 2017? 

Gorilla Grow Tents

Gorilla tents are the Rolls-Royce of the indoor grow tent market. Exquisitely designed, great workmanship, and the envy of the rest of the industry. Ultimately, though, they are just tents. Do they deserve the hype they get, what flaws exist? The following section will see us tucking into Gorilla.

Born out of California in 2011, the team comprised of growers, designers and engineers decided to collaborate to create an innovative growing environment.  Their objective was to produce the most durable, portable growing space on the market by increasing the thickness and strength of anything available at the time. 

 

Gorilla 2x4 ggt

 

Today there are three product lines available to the consumer.  These include the GGT, the Lite line, and the Shorty line. 

The GGT line is the baseline and has everything included in it 

The Lite line are cheaper and lighter but lose some of the fabric density

The Shorty line are the GGT line, but start two feet shorter.

The differences in these tents are reasonably minimal and the build quality with Gorilla is considered consistently high.  Gorilla make their grow tents taller than most, hence the creation of the Shorty line.  The GGT tents are 6’ 11”, the Lite tents are 6'7", and the Shorty tents come in at a modest 4'11".  Maybe you have low ceilings, we don’t know.  Remember, though, the total growing space is going to be reduced when you hang your lighting setup, so factor that in. 

The increased height of the standard tents obviously makes growing larger plants easier, but if you want to take it to expand vertically you can buy height extension kits of either one or two feet.  Those of you who’re good at adding will already have worked out their tallest tents can reach 8’ 11” - why you’d need that is a question I cannot answer.

The GGT line’s height starts at 6’ 11” and comes with the one-foot height extension in the package regardless.  The Lite line begins at 6’ 7” but doesn’t come with the height extension as standard. You can, however, purchase it separately.  The Shorty line is 4’ 11” and is suitable for people don’t need to grow upwards and you'll get a 9" height extension kit included. 

A lot of Gorilla’s competitor’s tents are around 6 feet tall, so if you’re a larger person you may not want to duck every time you enter the growing area and we don’t blame you.

The density of fabric for the GGT and Shorty lines are 1680D, the thickest you’ll get with any brand's tents.  This is going to prevent light leaking into or out of the tent, keep smells and sounds inside and stop rips damaging the internal environment.  Bear in mind, the thicker the material, the heavier it becomes which can be tedious for someone opening and closing the door regularly. 

The Lite line’s fabric density is 210D, significantly lower than the other product lines.  Gorilla insists their binding techniques of the inner and outer layers are sufficiently robust enough to produce great protection, even declaring to beat higher density tents made by their competitors.  So far, we haven't come across any empirical evidence supporting this claim. 

Additional features of Gorilla tents include a four-inch flood protection floor to save you when you spill your reservoir and a patent-pending roof which blocks infrared, preventing overheating of the roof.

The frame is made of metal poles which click together for the extra not-going-to-collapse piece of mind.  Apparently, their frame is up to 2-5x stronger than other manufacturers in the market and can hold up 300lbs/136kgs, so, now you can be extra sure a light won’t fall down and ruin your plants or your skull.  Depending on the product line, the diameter of the poles comprising the frame range from 16mm-22mm. 

The openings which enable access for ventilation are compatible with any manufacturer necessary, you don’t need to purchase specific Gorilla accessories for your tent to function.

There are 360 degrees of accessibility, viewing windows, and a tool pouch. 

The added height of Gorilla grow tents means hot air rises above the canopy of your growing plants.  Removal of hot air from your plants keeps them within optimal conditions for efficient biochemistry to take place, equalling higher yields. 

Gorilla love to emphasise how big and strong their zippers are, and this time they’re not over-compensating.  They really do have magnificent zippers.

The best of the best usually means expensive.  It’s the same with grow tents, too.  If you’re serious about growing and are willing to make a worthwhile investment, you won’t regret the purchase. 

Apollo Horticulture grow tents

Apollo Horticulture are on a mission to get everyone to be self-sufficient by producing products catering for the everyday grower to the seasoned indoor farming verteran.

Apollo’s grow tent prices are cheaper than Gorilla's of similar sizes.  The Editor's rating is 4.4-star for their best selling 4'x4'x6'.6" tent.  

 

60x60x80 tent picture

 

There isn’t a great deal of information online about the specifics of Apollo Horticulture’s tents.  It’s disappointing because they’re clearly well regarded by their customers.

Nothing on their official website indicates how much weight the frames can bear without breaking, although they do state all their tents have metal poles to lock the structure securely in place.  However, one reviewer includes the 4’x4’x6’6” structure’s sturdiness in their pros list, having two 300x MarsHydro LED units and another 600w Meizhi LED unit without complaint.

Neither do they state the thickness of their tent material.  We don't have accurate information and all they claim is the material is made of dependable thread.  If we were to go out on a limb here, we’d bet the Apollo Horticulture had lower denier than the industry leaders.  There are some benefits. Having a thinner material means less weight, so setting the tent up and tending to your plants is easier with the Apollo Horticulture products.

Apollo Horticulture double-stitch the fabric to increase thickness and improve the strength around the seams of the zipper where most of the damage is typically incurred.

We’d prefer if they detailed precisely what their design features were, but for the cheaper price, the compromise between specifics and affordability will be acceptable for a lot of people.

The accessibility of Apollo Horticulture’s tents are great and it’s clear they’ve designed them from a practical perspective.  There’s one main access point, commonly known as a door.  Alongside the door are two smaller windows for when you want to inspect your plants without disturbing them too much.

Each tent made by Apollo Horticulture has a diagram to accompany it detailing the access points, ventilation ducts, and electrical inputs.  Use this to plan if the grow tent is suitable for your needs and where it’ll go.

 Diagram of 60x60x80 tent

 

In the product description, it’s alleged the material used is 100% reflective, which we believe to be misleading.  In the real world nothing is 100%.  Now, this may seem pedantic but when your industry and merchandise relies exclusively upon accuracy to increase yields of plant growth this will undoubtedly sway prospective customers.  So, either it’s done as a marketing ploy or they haven’t done the necessary testing to achieve a conclusive answer.

Spills happen and mess accumulates.  One advantage of the Apollo Horticulture tents is a removable mylar floor tray which can be cleaned at your convenience, a feature some of Apollo Horticulture’s competitors do not employ.

As we stated earlier, the reviews for Apollo Horticulture are predominantly really positive.  The general consensus is decent build quality for the price. From what we can tell, the frame has no issue holding any light fixtures you’ll be using to grow your plants.  Some comments refer to minimal light leak which may be a problem for people growing plants with more of a potent smell, but it also indicates to a lack of complete control of the internal environment. Many people recommend Apollo Horticulture as a great beginner tent.

Vivosun grow tents

Vivosun boasts unrivaled craftsmanship and materials, and claim to be perfect for any savvy shopper. The good news is they receive consistently high ratings on their online reviews.  For instance, their 4’x2’x5’ tent has an Editor's rating of 4.5 stars. 

In the tent’s description on online, they declare their tents block all light from escaping.  However, they contradict themselves halfway down the page by adding a disclaimer stating “tents even remotely close to this price point may emit a few tiny pinholes of light...”.  It's oddly endearing.  Genuine honesty is something customers are increasingly on the lookout for. What’s frustrating is Vivosun setting themselves up for failure by telling us there’s zero light penetration in the first place.

The fabric used for the shell of their tents has a thickness of 600D which is good for the price.  It’s a balance they’ve struck carefully.  The durability will certainly be sufficient for the average hobby grower.

 

48x48x80 grow tent picture

 

The fabric shell is hung over a metal frame. Included in the package are two hanging bars which can each hold 110lbs/49kgs which will hold your reflector, ballast, carbon filter, inline fan, etc, comfortably as long as the weight is distributed evenly.  The poles attach to one another without any tools by clicking in place.

Anyone who’s owned a grow tent understands the hassle a badly engineered zip can cause.  Vivosun installed the best heavy duty zipper on the market by using the zipper makers SBS.  However, the details of this partnership remain unclear to us.

Vivosun tents have a removable floor tray to aid you in your cleaning chores.  There are also carbon filter belts, a viewing window to check on your plants without disturbing the internal environment, and duel-cinch ventilation socks at the tent's ducks. Cinching is using the drawstring to close the openings around your inline and exhaust fans.

Setting up your Vivosun tent has never been easier!  One reviewer explained the instructions were clear and concise with lettering on each of the poles. Construction was completed after 15 minutes with zero hassle. What more could you want? 

The Oysoco Opinion

It’s clear light leak is the main concern from any tent manufacturer.  All are adamant their products are the ones to tackle this with numerous features. Yet, glance through any review section and you’ll find people complaining about the pinholes of light left by machines, regardless of the price.

The higher price should lower the percentage of complaints per happy customers, companies take more care during the assembly process.  No manufacturer is going to produce 100% of tents which block 100% of all light in or out.  You must weigh up whether you’re willing to pay less but have a higher chance of photon penetration, or pay more for less of a chance of leakage. How much of a problem is light leak to you? If you're willing to make concessions then go for the cheaper options.

Most popular grow tent manufacturers make their tents with metal frames.  So far, on our tent travels, we haven’t come across any cases of poles being unable to bear the load from equipment.  Of course, this isn’t to say it hasn’t happened or will never happen again, but if it was common we’d have seen more evidence of the fact.  It’s always best to read the specifications if they’re available to be absolutely certain.

Reflectivity - the eternal conundrum. Here’s what we think.  There’s minimal evidence for white lining vs mylar aside from the video shown.  We’re no physicists, but, our understanding is white reflects all colours in the visible light spectrum.  Since silver is not white, it cannot reflect as much and will absorb more into the material causing it the tent to heat up, a frequent worry amongst growers.  The actual numbers, we couldn’t tell you.  Perhaps the difference is negligible. Of the larger brands, Secret Jardin and Budbox come with a white lining.

Gorilla grow tents are touted as being the best you can buy but with the name and build quality comes the price tag. If you have enough money to purchase one of their products without being saddled with three years worth of debt, we say go for it. They’re worth the extra cash. The height extensions draw a lot of Gorilla customers where they help lower the internal temperature and increase the growing space available to plants.

If you’re slightly more strapped for cash, the Apollo Horticulture and Vivosun tents are a great alternative. They’re about even on their build quality but there’s more brand awareness around Apollo Horticulture. You won’t be disappointed with either but if we had to pick, we’d go for the Apollo Horticulture.

Have you seen our other Articles on hydroponics?

The Basics Of Hydroponics  |  The Kratky Method  |  Types Of Hydroponics  |  Deep Water Culture  |  The Drip System  |  The Wick System  |  Lighting In Hydroponics  |  The Ebb And Flow System  |  Nutrient Film Technique  |  Nutrients For Plant Growth  |  Ventilation For Hydroponics  |  Growing Media Used In Hydroponics Hydroponics  |  The Best Way To Cure Root Rot  | How To Choose A Grow Tent | The Best LED Grow Lights | Everything You Need To Know About Nutrient Lockout | The Best Air Pumps For Hydroponics | The Best PH Meters For Hydroponics | What Mom Never Told You About The GH Dual Diaphragm Air Pump |

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