Tents provide a basic type of shelter to people who enjoy the outdoors. While we may never really know when tents started being used, it is safe to assume that they have been around for quite a while–long enough for people to depend on them for their daily camping activities. It is likely that the first tent users would have happily traded their tents for some chill and Netflix.
Nowadays, tent dwellers use them out of choice, mostly on weekends, and have different types of tents they can choose from. In the past, there were only four types of tents that people could use and they include the dome-shaped tent, hoop tent, pyramid tent, and the A-frame tent.
A little creativity has led to the invention of other types of camping tents to suit your specific camping needs and environment. As a result, you can easily find a compact ultralight tent capable of handling every weather condition or even a large multi-room tent that can accommodate more people.
Therefore, you do not have to stick with the old fashioned, heavy canvas tent of the early days or the four common types of tents we have known for years. There are now more options to look through. If you can think of a specific tent design, there is a likelihood that it is already available on the market.
Here is a guide to the different types of tents and the specific considerations to think about when looking for a tent for your camping needs.
Domed tents are quite common. There are two main poles crossing each other at the center and gently bending downward as they move towards the tent corners. There is a rainfly at the top to protect users from weather elements.
Dome tents are quite quick and easy to put up and they offer a high center point, which gives you a lot of headspace and room to move around inside. The edges are rounded, allowing your tent to shed leaves and rainwater and prevent any build-up on the roof.
Some dome tents come with a vestibule at the entrance, which acts as a mudroom to keep mud and dirt out of the tent.
- Lighter weight than most tents
- Offers a lot of headroom
- Easy to set up
- Dome tents tend to catch the wind
- Not all dome tents come with a vestibule
- There is a limit in terms of size
Wedged or A-frame Tent
This type of tent was quite popular a few years ago because of its simple design. As the name says, this type of tent is shaped like an upper case A or a wedge. Today, this tent is not as common because of advancements in tent design.
Wedge tents were originally manufactured using canvas and were supported using steel poles at both ends. Both steel and canvas are durable, which is why those who have this tent can attest that it lasts for a long time. However, they are also heavy as canvas absorbs water and the poles are quite heavy-duty.
The components of a wedge tent include a beefy pole used to hold up both its ends. Each corner of the tent is tied together using ropes once the canvas is staked to the ground. This arrangement is the reason it is called a wedge tent.
In some cases, you will find a support structure between the two poles right at the center, which is also another reason the tent is A-shaped.
- Quite easy to set up
- It is incredibly stable
- Comes in a variety of sizes
- It is quite heavy
- Does not offer a lot of headroom
- It is bulky when completely packed
A multi-room tent looks almost like your average house when compared to a traditional type of tent. It is designed to provide users with separate “rooms” to add a little privacy and storage for your friends or family staying with you.
The rooms are set apart using dividers. Some tents come with just two rooms while larger ones can have as many as five rooms. Multi-room tents are quite large in terms of size, which makes them difficult to pack when you are closing camp.
Pitching a multi-room tent takes a lot of work and you need as many hands as you can get, based on size, to set it up. So, it would not make sense to take one along on a solo camping expedition. It is ideal for a large family or group of people and can provide each person as much privacy as possible.
- Offers a lot of space
- There is plenty of privacy
- Offers multiple rooms
- Tends to be unstable when it is windy
- A little heavy due to its size
- Requires a lot of hands to put it up
If you like to enjoy a long-distance trek, you might benefit from an ultralight tent that can be packed easily into a small space and also withstand all kinds of weather. A backpacking tent is small, lightweight, and durable. It will not cost you an arm and a leg, but the material used to make this tent is usually of excellent quality, which may influence the price.
In general, a backpacking tent has a lower profile compared to other tents and is designed to accommodate two people at most. After all, if you are going to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, you do not want to carry around a cumbersome and heavy tent.
With its durable material and low-profile design, a backpacking tent is best suited to handle almost anything the weather throws at it.
- Requires few poles to set up
- Does not require many mesh panels
- Small when packed
- Limited headroom due to a low ceiling
- Offers very little space
- Comes only in a small size
Semi-Geodesic and Geodesic Tent
A geodesic tent is a good example of how far tents have come in terms of design. The geodesic tent came after the classic dome-shaped tent as a variation of style and function, improving on what the dome-shaped tent offers.
What makes the geodesic better is its stability and support system. The poles cross one another at several points and then intersect to form a triangle. This is the reason geodesic tents are able to resist weather elements and strong winds.
A semi-geodesic tent also has a similar design but requires fewer poles that do not offer as much stability. This tent is common among long-distance backpackers and climbers who are likely to encounter heavy rain, snow, and high winds.
- Tremendously stable
- Tent is self-supporting
- Offers a lot of headspaces
- Tends to be large when packed
- Tough to put up
- Design is limited in size
Pop Up Tent
A pop-up tent is a relatively new concept in the tent industry and it has grown in admiration in the past few years. A pop-up tent has spring-loaded poles that pop into place within a few seconds. It is also made out of lightweight nylon material making it super convenient and easy to put up.
This tent is ideal for spur of the moment kind of adventures such as camping or a festival. However, this tent is not equipped to handle harsh weather or a heavy downpour, so you should plan properly if you are thinking of going camping.
While it is ideal to use a pop-up tent on a whim or in a pinch, a serious camping trip requires something as strong as a geodesic tent. It is a much more practical solution.
- Offers fast and easy setup
- Does not need you to mess about with poles
- Small when packed
- Cannot stand a lot of wind
- Lacks stability
- Not ideal for long camping sessions
A tunnel tent is similar in construction to the dome tent, but a tunnel tent is extended at the middle region giving it the shape of a tunnel. A tunnel tent is held in place by a couple of poles which wrap from one section to the opposite side giving it a rounded appearance.
Its stability comes from the stake, poles, and guy lines. This tent is not exactly freestanding and relies on quite a number of connection points, mostly because of its large construction.
The tunnel tent offers a lot of headroom and space when compared to a standard type of tent, making it a good fit for a large group.
- Material is lightweight
- Poles have an identical length
- Offers a good weight-to-space ratio
An inflatable tent is yet another type of new innovation in the tent space and has greatly revolutionized the way people camp. It features inflatable poles, which is a great shift from standard poles.
Rather than a plastic or aluminum pole to hold the canvas in place, the beams can be inflated to support and give the tent its general shape. However, you will need to carry an air pump everywhere you go. Alternatively, you could inflate it yourself assuming you have amazing lung capacity.
This tent is still in its initial design stage and based on the manufacturing, its durability and capacity to handle inclement weather may vary significantly.
- Inflates easily
- Can be set up by one person
- Does not work with metallic poles
- Slightly heavier than most models
- Comes in a small size
- Requires air pump to inflate
A TeePee tent, in its original state, might make you think of a triangular shelter common among indigenous people in most parts of the world. It is cone-shaped and has a central mechanism for support with the material draping about the center. It also has guy lines to give it extra support.
All TeePee tents look nearly the same, but the canvas is a little more modern. Since it has a central pole to give it support, it needs guy lines and stakes, both of which play an important role in giving this tent its structural stability. Unfortunately, if you opt for a taller TeePee, you should not expect much in the way of steadiness.
- Offers a lot of headroom
- Requires only one pole
- Easy to set up
- Does not always come with a flooring
- Tends to be heavy
- Requires an elevated setup point
This is a perfect choice if you are thinking about glamping. It speaks of class, provides a lot of warmth during those cold days, and is incredibly comfortable. It provides a lot of living space not only for you, but for family and friends who might want to join you.
It is made from thick canvas and comes with a central pole, a few other poles for support, and guy lines for stability during bad weather.
- Can accommodate up to 10 persons
- Excellent quality canvass
- Uses at most two middle poles
- Has a port for your flue pipe
- Has a zippered door
- Setting it up is not a one person job
Time spent camping at the beach makes a lot more sense when you have a tent to sleep in at night. Once you are comfortably settled within your beach tent, you will not have gritty sand coming inside as the wind blows. You will also be sheltered from the UV rays of the sun. The most common shape for a beach tent is the geodesic design.
- Offer protection from UV
- Has sand pockets where you can stake it out
- Comes with mesh windows
- Has a built-in floor
- Can only support a maximum of five people
Tent Buyer Guide
Every tent you can think of is meant to help you meet one specific need: shelter. And although shelter is the key goal, there are other features that you need to think about when searching for the ideal tent.
The first and one of the most important things to consider is the number of people the tent can accommodate. So, be sure to look for a tent that can comfortably hold you and as many other people as you would like to house. Don’t forget about any clothing, accessories, or equipment you also need to store inside the tent.
One important thing you should remember is that there is no industry standard where tents are concerned. Manufacturers have varied ideas when it comes to the number of persons a tent can accommodate. The rule of thumb when you are considering a small sized tent is to take out one person from the specified number. Therefore, a 3-person tent is actually ideal for just two people.
Tents are designed to offer varied amounts of headroom depending on the design. Therefore, if you want one that allows you to stand to full height while inside, find one that offers a good center height. Each tent has its height listed in its specifications. Therefore, take a look at the specifications and ensure the tent you have chosen will meet your needs.
Tents are rated as either 3-season or 4-season. The main difference is that a 4-season tent is made to withstand harsh weather including snow and high wind. A 3-season tent will be lighter weight compared to a 4-season tent. Each tent is designed to be used during different seasons of the year. For instance, a 4-season tent is not an ideal choice for your summer camping while a 3-season tent is not ideal for winter camping.
A 3-season tent is quite common. It is best suited for camping in summer, fall, and spring. It is designed to shield you from rain and light winds. A 3-season tent offers you a lot of ventilation, yet is durable. It performs really well throughout the year.
Usually, there is a rain cover provided along with the tent, otherwise referred to as the rainfly. It has a meshed window that lets in a gentle breeze during the summer. The windows also include zippers to cover up the mesh when you feel chilly. This tent is easy to put up and only takes a few minutes once you know what to do.
This type of tent is designed to work year-round and can handle a colder ambient temperature. Despite its name, this tent is best suited for winter camping. If you use this tent during the summer, the conditions inside will not be friendly. It will feel like sitting inside your oven.
It is designed to protect the occupant from extreme cold, high winds, and even snow. This tent comes with more support poles, does not have meshed windows, and incorporates a wedge design to keep snow off the roof.
A tent needs windows to facilitate the flow of air for adequate ventilation. A tent that does not include ventilation tends to be muggy within and can cause condensation to accumulate. The ideal number of windows for each tent varies and depends on the size. A smaller tent will have fewer windows compared to a large tent.
Some tents are waterproof while others are not. Therefore, most tents come with a rainfly or a tent umbrella. The rainfly is usually a separate piece from the rest of the tent and is used to cover your tent to protect it from rain. You should use a rainfly each time you are expecting rainfall. It can also be used as a shade cover in case the sun is unbearable.
A vestibule is a covered section of the tent that is just outside the door. It acts as a mudroom to help keep dirt and mud out of the tent. It is an ideal place where you can store wet gear or muddy shoes so that you do not carry dirt into the sleeping area. However, not every tent comes with a vestibule. But, it is possible to create your own using a plastic tarp and a little creativity.
Airflow, or more specifically ventilation, is also something you should consider when looking for a tent. It comes through the mesh strategically located on each side of your tent to allow for airflow within your tent. Ventilation is important during a warm day when humidity and heat are likely to be of concern.
Always consider the number of doors a tent has before you buy it. Walking over your friends as you head to the bathroom at night is usually a nuisance to everyone who is camping along with you.
There are tents that come with a single door and others that have two. Therefore, make your choice based on your preference and whether you will be camping with friends and family.
A tent needs poles for support regardless of the material the poles are made of. Poles can be made from aluminum, steel, or even air. Most of the tents on the market today are the freestanding type, meaning they stand on their own with just the support of poles.
The idea here is that tents with fewer poles have more space and you will not have to curse them because of hitting them at night as you walk, so pick your tent carefully.
Footprints are made from a standard tarp or custom clothing and they are usually placed underneath the tent. The floor of some tents is usually reinforced. That said, the debris that might be below your tent could cause a lot of damage in the end. So, a footprint is meant to protect your tent’s underside from sharp objects and debris and prevents moisture from building up below your sleeping area.
Interior Hooks and Pockets
Technology will continue to be a part of your life, so having a nice and safe location to store your belongings while camping is very important. So, find a tent with at least one pocket on the inside and a hook from which you can hang a source of light such as a lantern.
A pocket is meant to store your valuables off the floor in an organized manner, while the hook makes it easier to have hands-free lighting in your tent during the evening.
You have many options when it comes to structure, size, and shape of tents. You can find a tent for each occasion. The idea here is to find the one that meets most of your needs while offering you a nice place to rest your head at night.
Take time to go through each aspect of your camping adventure and then make the right decision from an informed point of view.
A tent offers shelter and comfort as you rest at night, so be sure to find something that will accommodate your needs and keep you warm and protected from the elements.