Decide on the type of outdoor tent you need
There are two main types of outdoor tent, the 3 season and the 4 season tent. The 3 season is good for anything but winter, while the 4 season outdoor tent can be used at any time. Keep in mind though that the 4 season outdoor tent can be a bit uncomfortable in the summer as it doesn't breathe and thus can be quite uncomfortable on an otherwise cool summer night. A 3 season outdoor tent is best for general family camping, since only hunters generally go camping in the cold winter months.
Decide on the size of outdoor tent you need
An outdoor tent is rated by the number of people that can sleep in it, notice I didn't say comfortable. I should note that this is generally measured as if everyone was to sleep shoulder to shoulder, a tight fit indeed. Don't be afraid to get an outdoor tent rated for more, or even double the number of people that will actually sleep in it. You'll appreciate the extra space for equipment, and just to move around. One thing that most people overlook is tent height. Personally I prefer a tent that's high enough for me to stand up in, this makes getting dressed in the morning so much easier.
What material should the outdoor tent be made of?
There are two main materials that an outdoor tent is made of, either rip-stop nylon or a poly-cotton blend. An outdoor tent made of nylon is tougher and usually better quality, they also breathe better, something you'll appreciate in the heat of summer. Generally I wouldn't recommend a fabric tent unless it's a 4 season outdoor tent, even then, check the outdoor tent reviews to see how it fares.
Look at the hardware that the outdoor tent has
The best quality outdoor tent has fiberglass or even carbon fiber hardware with shock cords. Aluminum is also available, generally you'll see this in a lesser quality outdoor tent since once aluminum bends it's all over, it just gets weaker and weaker until it eventually breaks.
Look at the flooring of the outdoor tent
The flooring of the outdoor tent is very important. It should be thick waterproof nylon that runs several inches up the wall, creating a 'tub' effect. Remember this is what actually goes against the ground and protects you from everything down there. It should be thick and of course waterproof. Note: clear away all debris before setting up your tent. Even though a rock may not actually go through the floor it's still there, and somebody is going to have to sleep on it.
Final considerations in an outdoor tent
Make sure you check the ventilation, there should be nylon screens on the windows and on the door flap. Also make sure there is a rain fly included with the tent. One of the newest things found on tents is the inclusion of an E-port. This is simply a fancy name for a hole you can put a power cord through. Many campsites now have power outlets right by each camping area. Don't underestimate how awesome an E-port is since the only alternative is leaving the door open a little to pass the power cord through. Guess who else is going to use that little opening.....
How to buy the best outdoor tent
Now that you've looked at all the features generally found out there take a look at this tent that's available on Amazon. It does everything right with top notch consumer reviews.
When you're ready to buy an outdoor tent make sure you read outdoor tent reviews from such sites as Consumer Search and Consumer Reports. These sites have unbiased outdoor tent reviews from real users just like yourself and can really help you find the best outdoor tent. You'll also find useful links right here on this page to help you.
Here's some more information that will help you find a great tent for camping.