Tent type varies considerably because they meet all manner of needs. The innovation and materials in use have changed tents in many different ways.
They are now lighter and made to cater for lone backpackers to large families.
The one you choose can be either of these or somewhere in the middle. They also differ with the different forms of camping you will be doing. You can be RV camping, car camping or backpacking and hiking.
This guide shows the different types of tents, so you can see which type meets your camping needs when you venture into the great outdoors.
A-Frame tents or more commonly known as ‘Ridge’ tents are the older design of tent we all know.
While they are still in production, they are very different in their construction. A Ridge tent was made from canvas but now uses lighter materials.
They do however use the same principle of having poles on either end for support, which creates the ‘A’. Tent guides will then be staked to hold the tent in shape.
- Available in many sizes
- Very stable
- Easy to erect
- Bulky once packed away
- Minimal headroom
- Heavy to carry
A Geodesic tent is similar in appearance to a Dome tent; however, they have multiple crisscrossing support poles.
One erected, these form either hexagons or triangles. Once they are set up, they offer lots of stability.
A flexible pole is fed through loops and connects to the bottom of the tent on the opposite side.
This delivers superior rigidity, and because of this, climbers and campers who are venturing into harsh weather conditions often choose them.
Semi-geodesic tents have a similar design yet they use fewer support poles.
- Very stable when pitched
- High levels of headroom
- Large when packed away
- Come in a limited range of sizes
- Not easy to pitch
These are extended tents, which resemble a tunnel shape. A tunnel tent uses flexible poles, which are fed through loops and create an arch.
These tighten the tent material underneath and are then staked to the ground.
These offer the same headroom all along the length until you reach the door. Tunnel tents are ideal for family camping, and some models come with multiple room partitions.
When pitching these, you do need to be sure the length doesn’t face the wind. This can cause them to topple over if they take the full force.
- Light to carry
- Pole lengths are the same
- Easy to erect
- Offer lots of living space
- Fabric can sag in the middle
- Not suitable for backpacking
- Suffer from heavy winds and rain
One of the newest innovations in tent designs comes from Inflatable tents. These tent types do away with tent poles as they use inflatable tubes as their means of support.
This in itself makes it easy to pitch, yet they are not ideal for bad weather conditions.
Most come with a dedicated pump, and setting up just means unpacking them and inflating the tubes.
Because these are still in the early stages of design, they are not yet proven for regular camping vacations and are better suited to family camping with a vehicle or when visiting outdoor festivals.
These will need guide ropes to hold them to the floor for stability against winds.
- Only require one person to pitch
- No extra tent poles to carry
- Will pack small after use
- Larger sizes not available
- Needs an air pump to be carried
Backpackers and campers will find a Dome tent is the most common design. Unlike some other styles, they come in all styles and sizes.
These only use two poles to erect and this cross over each other in the middle and fasten to each corner.
Once they are erected, they often come with additional features. This comprises an outer porch section and a rain fly, which sits across the top of the poles.
Dome tents use this rain fly as further protection against bad weather. The larger this style of the tent becomes, the less stable it will become.
This makes them ideal for backpacking when there are limited people using the tent.
These are easy to pitch and deliver good headroom because of their overall design. Once they are pitched, the rounded edges are a great way of deflecting rain, so there will be no sagging.
- Lighter design than other tents
- Good headroom
- Very easy to pitch
- Parts of tent pack down small
- Unstable when in a larger size
- Not all dome tents offer included vestibules
- Not suitable for harsh weather
Bell tents are one of the most recognizable tent types you can find. These use a central pole to support the fabric.
They offer lots of headroom and often come in heavy canvas. The sides are vertical up to a designated height, so there are copious amounts of headroom.
A Bell tent does require many guide ropes once it is erected, yet this makes them great in bad weather. Campers who use these are seen as glamping because they exude quality and class.
There is lots of ventilation in this design, so they are good options for families in warmer months.
Because these are classed as luxury tents, some are also capable of having wood-burning stoves inside.
- Highly durable
- Lots of ventilation
- Good for large families
- Lots of headroom
- Not suitable for backpacking
- Hard to dry after rain
Cabin tents will most often use aluminum poles that will all fit together to create a frame. Once the tent fabric is connected, they resemble a cabin.
On the outer side of the tent, there will be a waterproof rainfly, which can be made from different materials.
Out of all tents, a cabin tent offers the most overall headroom from the center to the outside. While some are an open tent design inside, some come with room dividers.
For casual campers, these can be a great option for families, yet they are not sturdy when faced with harsh weather.
- Good options for larger groups
- Lots of headroom
- Hard to pitch
- Use cheaper materials in their construction
Pop Up Tent
These are another kind of tent that is new on the market. Over the last few years, they have become a popular choice for backpacking.
A pop-up tent has spring-loaded tent poles that pop into shape once you unpack the tent.
This means pitching your tent can be done with no intervention from another person. This makes them a fantastic option at festivals.
However, as good as, they are for pitching fast, they are not yet suitable for backpacking when you may face severe weather conditions.
- Instant tent pitching
- No extra poles to carry
- Packs downlight and small
- Lacks stability in high wind
- Not suitable for wet weather or extended camping trips
- Can be expensive compared to others
Tent Parts and Features
No matter what kind of tent you select, there are parts of a tent that you can find among all of them. Here is a brief rundown of the tent parts you will encounter.
Tent Capacity – it is advisable to choose a larger tent when possible. There is a variation from each manufacturer. A four-person tent offers enough room for two adults with gear.
Tent Ratings – these come in either 3 seasons or 4 season tents. 4 season is only intended for colder weather.
Tent Height – this is what will offer the headroom. If you are backpacking, the overall height may not be as vital.
Windows – this can increase ventilation. Larger tents have these you can see where a compact tent may have them, yet they are hidden under a rain fly. (Read more about camping in the rain)
Vestibules – these are where you can store your backpack and shoes. Not every tent will offer these.
Doors – this can be crucial depending on the tent type. You don’t want to climb over another person to get outside.
Tent poles – the fewer of these, the easier your tent is to erect. Most tents now are freestanding so the rigidity comes from these and not guide ropes.
Tent footprint – Most good tents have reinforced bottoms. However, using a custom footprint or tarp can prolong the life of your tent
The types of camping you will be doing can dictate what kind of tent you choose. If you are just on a campsite, then most of the above can be suitable, yet when hiking and camping overnight, there is one tent not in the above list.
A backpacking tent is an ultimate tent for hikers. These take the best of the above and make a tent, which is lightweight, can face very harsh weather, and offer great ventilation.
These backpacking tents often come with two doors, are very easy to erect, and come with vestibules to hold backpacking gear.
When you are on the trail for several days, these tents are perfect for one or two people. One of the great things regarding these, although they are specialist equipment, there are options, which are very affordable for any hiking or camping budget.