Shyshdy wrote:The biggest problem currently is that I have NO idea what I'm looking for, as I've never owned a tent or been to burningman, but I want something kinda kick ass for 3-6 people to live in comfortably
In case you're still looking, below is some info I shared on another forum about choosing a tent. Hopefully it will help. I've also given pretty detailed info on my own tents in the other thread here: viewtopic.php?t=19301&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=30
I think shelter and shade are the eternal questions for bm, with everyone trying to improve it each year.
I prefer a tent with several mesh windows and a mesh door, *all of which can be zipped closed with a cover* -- closed is the important part (like a home screen door: you have the outer door/covering that unzips to uncover the mesh windows). During the mornings you'll want some breeze and air circulation, however minimal, in the tent and being able to unzip the mesh windows/doors is important for that. You don't want an all mesh tent because you'll just end up with half the playa blowing over you. Keep in mind that it does rain at times, so all mesh would mean wet and mud inside the tent. Basically you need a tent with 2 options: mesh for hot weather, closure for cold weather and wind/dust. The typical 3 season tents with fly usually cover this. They usually have some mesh at the roof for ventilation (important) with a fly that provides protection. Make sure the fly is generous. The ones that just cover the topmost part tend to catch wind and blow around. (Note: if you have a separate shade structure over your tent, you may want to forgo the fly for a cooler tent.)
I think that stability and structure are the most important things to look for. I have noticed that dome tents fair very well in high winds (my basic L.L. Bean tent has survived numerous high wind storms, like 40-70mph). They flex a lot, so while you'll see them bending this way and that, even flattening down against the owner at times, they don't break. It's much better to have a tent bending around and popup intact after the storm, then to have one sit upright through it only to discover half your poles are bent and your joints are broken afterward. Cabin tents tend to block wind instead of flexing with it, which can stress the structure and bend poles. However, a good cabin tent can be fine if supported well. Guy lines are your friends. You can keep an iffy structure grounded if you have adequate guy lines. Check that the tent has rings for guy lines on both the tent *and* the fly. Rebar is your other friend, no shorter than 2ft if you're going to candycane it. You don't have to use rebar for every point. Just the 2-4 corners should be fine for a personal tent depending on the size, using *long* stakes for the others.
do you want comfort or compact? Keep in mind that the occupancy numbers on tents are double what is actually comfortable for a week of camping at bm: a "4 person tent" actually sleeps 2 comfortably with gear. Some people want the most minimal camp footprint and the smallest size in transit. In that case, being packed in like sardines to match the occupancy number and only using the tent minimally (sleeping) with little to no gear works ok. If you're sharing, the small size can mean you feel hotter during the day and a little cranky at the lack of personal space, but it can also be much warmer at night. The downside to small tents: you can't stand up. This may sound trivial, but when you're trying to dress in the dark, in a cramped space, with no way to stretch out or stand up, and you're tired and dusty it can get really irritating. I prefer larger tents for that reason. I've also found that's it's easier to keep things organized in a larger tent and the height helps keep things a bit cooler (cooler being a relative term).
A final word: shade.
IMO if you want to get any sleep you need both a tent and a shade structure to cover the tent. The sun is relentless during the days and the tent gets like an oven instantly, making it impossible to sleep more than a few hours with a tent alone. You need something to protect the tent, offering shade to cool it down somewhat. You can use a regular mesh canopy/cabin tent larger than your regular tent or you can build something. The key is to have a good amount of space (1-2ft) between the top of your main tent and the shade tent. This is to allow airflow between the two. You also want a shade tent larger than your regular tent so you're still in shadow as the sun moves. If you're camping with a theme camp that will have a central shade structure, you may be able to nap in that and avoid the need for shading your tent.
sporting goods stores are fine. you can even hit something like Target, Costco or Big 5. unless you're a hardcore camper, an average consumer model will be fine. If you're looking to buy online, Sierra Trading Post often has good deals: www.sierratradingpost.com/
there's also www.rei.com
that's everything I can think of about tents on the playa. hope it helps.