Grow tents are an excellent solution for those wanting to grow indoors but don’t want to devote an entire room or construct new walls to enclose a grow space. With a rigid tent frame and a fabric outer cover, a grow tent is easy to setup and will keep your garden contained enabling atmosphere and lighting control as well as a bit of privacy. Unlike grow cabinets however, tents are not completely secure or stealth as they use simple zippers to secure doors and windows vs locking handles on grow cabinets. You can learn more about the differences between grow cabinets and tents further down.
What is a Grow Tent?
At their most basic, grow tents are fabric that is wrapped around a frame made of metal poles. The fabric is coated with a reflective material on the inside, so as much light as possible is used by your plants.
Grow tents differ from grow boxes in that they’re versatile and easy to transport, while grow boxes are often heavy, but less fragile. These days, almost everyone but serious commercial hydroponic growers use grow tents instead of custom grow boxes or grow rooms.
Why Use a Grow Tent?
Simply put, controlling your indoor growing environment is crucial to getting the yields that you want. The first line of defense in environmental control is containing your garden in a confined space – which is what a grow tent is for.
After you have a grow tent, you can move on to other factors that influence your grow, like indoor grow lights, growing media, system, nutrients, and ventilation. Now let’s take a look at the options available for grow tents:
Be sure to carefully measure the length, width and height of the space you intend to setup the grow tent in. The tent should be slightly smaller than the space to allow for easy setup and maintenance. You will also need to consider what your gardening goals are, and what size tent will allow you to achieve them.
The real question you need to be asking is how many plants do you want to grow and how big do you want those plants to be? The size of your plants greatly affects what tents you want to be looking at. Another consideration is if you want to start continuous harvesting or if you want to grow in distinct cycles. Usually continuous harvesters will often want one tent for vegging, another tent for flowering and possibly even a third tent for harvest curing and drying
Because plant strains and container sizes vary, the number of plants you can grow in each size of tent is subjective. Some growers like to grow a larger number of smaller plants and harvest them more frequently, auto-flowering strains are good for this. Others like to have a couple of plants and train them to grow very wide, this is known as the SCROG method. Finally others want to grow the largest plants possible and will have a smaller number of large plants. Therefore our recommendations on plant counts for each size of tents are just that, a recommendation. Your mileage may vary.
Here is a list of the most common sizes:
- 2′ x 2′ Grow Tent – Great for mother plants (1-2 plants)
- 2′ x 4′ Grow Tent – Fits in most closets (2-4 plants)
- 3′ x 3′ Grow Tent – Ideal for people with a limited work area (2-4 plants)
- 4′ x 4′ Grow Tent – Perfect for the footprint of a 1000w HID or LED grow light (4-6 plants)
- 5′ x 5′ and 4’ x 8’ Grow Tents – Our most popular tent sizes (4-10 plants)
- 5’ x 9’ and 8′ x 8′ Grow Tent – Great for a spare bedroom, expect large harvests (9-16 plants)
- 10′ x 10′ Grow Tent – Another perfect size for a spare bedroom or in the garage. (12-18 plants)
- 8’ x 16’ and Larger Grow Tents – Requires large space and power amperage for lights (16-32 plants)
The height of the tent can dictate what lighting and growing system you can use. You want to ensure that the light and plants fit comfortably in your tent, and that the recommended distance the light should be installed from the plant canopy can be achieved all the way through the growth stages. The standard tent height is about 7’ and will fit in most residential 8’ ceilings well. Gorilla Grow Tents, a popular brand of tents, offer extension kits that provide various levels of extension and can be “stacked” as needed. Gorilla also offers the “Shorty Line” which is great for vegging plants, basements and smaller spaces, with a extendable height of 4’ 11”. Short tents will need less intense lighting to avoid burning plant tops.
Multiple Chambers vs Multiple Tents:
Lots of growers like to have two separate tents for vegging and flowering as we said earlier. But some tents offer multiple champers within a single tent for the same purpose. This helps to keep everything more organized, but most of these tents have limited vegging space so we still recommend going with two separate tents to enable growing larger plants for bigger yields.
Fabric Density and Strength
What makes the thickness of the tent canvas important? The greater the thread count, the stronger it is. Durability can be important factor for long-term use, especially if the tent will be moved often where accidental scuffs, punctures and tears could occur. All grow tents are light-proof, but those made with thicker material will resist wear and be slightly more insulated for heat and noise. If your tent is in an indoor location you may not need as thick or rugged of walls as opposed to an outbuilding or shed. Tent thickness varies from 1680D canvas thread count on down to 210D (the D in those measurements stands for denier and is a measure of the linear mass density of fibers). The inner reflective of grow tents also varies by brand but the principle is the same for all of them, reflecting light off the interior tent walls helps to disperse light around the plant canopy.
An integral part of the rip resistance of your tent is how dense the fabric is. Fabric density is typically measured in “denier”, which means:
“a unit of weight by which the fineness of silk, rayon, or nylon yarn is measured, equal to the weight in grams of 9,000 meters of the yarn and often used to describe the thickness of hosiery.”
The most dense grow tents are upwards of 1680D, while the average grow tent comes in anywhere from 120D – 600D. As a general rule, buy the strongest fabric that you can afford. It keeps noise and smell in your tent, and it keeps any airborne spores, pests, or diseases out of the tent. It’s also harder for light to leak through a denser fabric.
Heat and Rip Resistance
Hopefully you’ll never need your tent to hold up to extreme heat, but it is something to look for. After all, you’re dealing with hot lights that are hanging in an enclosed space, as well as other electrical parts that are close to water. Accidents can happen, and you want your grow tent to be able to hold up to them.
Grow tent frames are typically constructed of snap-together steel tubing with various materials used for corners and connection pieces. Depending on the materials used for the poles and corner pieces a tent’s weight limit may differ from another similarly sized tent. Be sure to check the weight rating of the tent to ensure it can properly hold all of the equipment you intend to use. If needed, additional support methods can be used if you are over the weight limit such as additional bars to spread weight out. If in doubt play it safe and look to alternative methods of hanging or mounting the equipment in a location outside of the tent if possible (such as installing your carbon filter outside of the tent or on the floor of the tent).
One of the biggest advantages to using a grow tent is the reflective properties of the interior walls. It ensures that you’re getting the most out of your indoor grow lights. However, not all reflective material is created equally. You should look for tents that offer reflective mylar with as close to 100% reflectivity as possible. Some manufacturers also offer mylar with different patterns. Diamond patterned mylar seems to have the best reflective quality and some of the top grow tents offer it standard.
No Gapping in the Fabric
One of the main reasons to buy a grow tent is to use your indoor grow lights effectively. The best tents are completely light-tight, meaning that when you have your system up and running, absolutely no light should escape. The features to look for here are overlapping velcro flaps to seal off corners and edges, along with zip-draws for any ventilation or cord ports.
The zippers on your tent are usually the first point of failure. Because they’re used every single day, wear and tear can build up fast on poorly constructed zippers. They should be easy to zip up, with a large area for your hands for ease of use. The harder they are to zip, the more likely you’ll make a mistake and damage the zipper, letting light leak out of the tent.
Many grow tents have a plastic, three-prong corner that accepts the framing poles. While these are OK, top of the line tents will have metal corner pieces. The absolute best tents will use corners that have an interlocking snap piece to secure the poles in place, ensuring they don’t wiggle out while moving the tent. This prevents a catastrophic frame failure.
Frame and Pole Strength
Grow tents are almost always constructed by assembling interlocking poles. Some manufacturers offer tents with height-adjustable poles, meaning an extra set of 1’ or 2’ poles that can be attached the the vertical supports. These are a great choice if you’re growing plants that require a lot of vertical height.
The poles can be made of plastic, steel, or weaker metals. When in doubt, go metal over plastic, and steel over any other type of metal. Look for poles that have snapping mechanism to lock them in once you assemble them. The rotation of the poles over time can cause degradation and in the worst cases, a structural failure.
Ducting Ports, Cord Ports and Windows
All grow tents will have a number of different sized ports through which you can run ventilation ducting and electrical cords. The best tents will offer dual-cinching ports that allow you to completely block out any light coming through the port to ensure a light-proof tent. Some tents also offer various windows and other mesh vents which can be useful for most gardeners. Be sure to review the placement and size of the ports in each tent to ensure your equipment can be properly installed in the arrangement you have in mind. Mesh vents are commonly only used during the vegging stage of growth where light leaks are not a problem. When using a tent during the flowering stage a simple “u” bend in a section of ducting installed in a light-tight duct port can be used for an intake vent.
There are three types of ports on a grow tent: ventilation, exhaust, and cord ports.Ventilation ports are typically flaps secured by velcro that can be lifted to help vent out hot air. Make sure there is at least one of these on your tent.
Exhaust ports are for more heavy-duty ventilation, including ventilating your grow light. There is typically at least one intake and one outtake port, although larger tents will have more than one of these.
Finally, cord ports. It sounds like a small detail, but having well-placed cord ports is the difference between running extension cords and simply plugging in your growing gear.
Tent vs. Cabinet:
Many indoor gardeners have considered the option of purchasing a tent against a more solid and “stealthy” cabinet. Many grow cabinets are available that look just like a traditional storage or file cabinets and as a result are much less conspicuous. If discretion is an absolute requirement, it’s hard to beat a cleverly designed cabinet. However, most gardeners will benefit much more from the additional growth space offered by a grow tent and can find alternative ways of keeping the grow operation discrete. We highly recommend grow tents over cabinets whenever possible as most growers will be happier with the potential yields. Learn more about the difference between tents and cabinets.