What are the Different Types of Tents?

Camping expert Eric Bergdoll goes through the different types of tents to help you find the right tent for you and your group.

Photo by Hichem Meghachou

Tents come in all different shapes and sizes. From bivy sacks weighing only a couple of ounces to massive cabin tents weighing 50 pounds or more, there is a perfect tent for any application. Initially, tents were made out of thick canvas, but these days, they can be created from many types of materials. Certain types of tents are better than others in bad weather or heavy winds, so if harsh weather conditions are possible, the ideal choice won't necessarily be the most popular option.

1. Dome Tent

Photo by Eric Bergdoll

The dome tent is the most common design today. With two flexible poles that cross in the center and are anchored to the corners of the tent, this tent is easily distinguishable from other types. Dome tents come in a range of different sizes, with capacity ranging from a single person up to about eight people. In double-wall designs, there is a breathable inner tent, usually made mostly of mesh with a waterproof floor. The second wall comes in the form of a rainfly resting on top of the poles. Single wall tents have an interior that is waterproof throughout, which does sacrifice some breathability.

Dome tents are lighter than other tent options, have a decent amount of headroom, and are easy to pitch. Vestibules (the area around the tent doors that’s sheltered by the tent’s rain fly) are often included for extra gear storage, but not all dome tents include them. A downside of dome tents is that they tend to catch wind and be flattened or blow away.

2. A-Frame Tent

Formerly very popular due to its simple design, the A-frame tent looks like a capital A, as its name suggests. Originally made of canvas with metal or wooden poles, modern options of this tent are composed of lighter weight materials. This tent is easy to set up and surprisingly stable, but it is heavy, is bulky when packed, and lacks headroom.

3. Multi-Room Tent

The best option for large families, the multi-room tent is closer to a house than a traditional tent. The primary advantage of this type of tent is privacy, but the multiple rooms also offer gear storage and have the space needed for a large family tent. The main drawback of this style of tent is its weight and size, and pitching takes more practice and time. Strong winds will also be a major issue for large, multi-room tents. Although they have some drawbacks, multi-room tents are the preferred choice for large family gatherings where extra space is appreciated.

A tent glows with stars in the sky
Photo by Jamison McAndie

4. Backpacking Tent

If a multi-day hike or a long-distance trek to camp from the car is to be expected, a backpacking tent is the best choice. Generally, backpacking tents are smaller than other options and lighter weight. Their design tends to value small size and their quality of materials tends to directly impact pricing. Backpacking tents have fewer poles and a small packed size, but their low ceiling and limited capacity make them primarily suitable for one or two people away from established campgrounds.

5. Geodesic and Semi-Geodesic Tents

These tents have all the advantages of a dome tent with increased support and stability. The poles of these tents cross many times, intersecting to form triangles and giving the tent lots of stability. They are better than dome tents at holding up in heavy rain and bad weather, but are larger to pack and more challenging to pitch.

6. Pop Up Tent

Relatively newer and also known as "instant" tents, pop up tents are spring-loaded and pop into shape in just a few seconds. These tents are not meant for extreme conditions; there are better options for camping in foul weather. Ease of use is the key perk with pop up tents.

7. Tunnel Tent

Similar to a dome tent, but longer and more cylindrical, these tents tend to use guy ropes (ropes that go from attachment points on the outside of the tent to the ground for added stability) to pitch, meaning they are rarely freestanding. They offer a great space to weight ratio and identical pole length, so you don’t need to worry about mixing up poles. The biggest issue is they must be pitched properly or else they may sag in the middle.

8. Inflatable Tent

Another newer design, these tents come with inflatable poles. This makes for an easy one-person setup, but the inflatable tent is heavier than other models and requires an air pump.

9. Teepee Tent

The teepee is the original, often cotton canvas, tent. This type of tent tends to have a high ceiling, is easy to pitch, and only needs a single pole, but it is heavy and has a high pitching point (the point where the pole meets the tent). Flooring is often not included as well.

Still have questions about which tent is right for you? Reach out to any of us here at Curated.

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Written By
Growing up in Colorado then later Western Pennsylvania, my family would go camping in the mountains most weekends. In spring 2015 I decided to ramp things up a notch by enrolling in a National Outdoor Leadership School semester, which consisted of 87 days in the wilderness. Since that trip, I have f...

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