Camping | Guides

Different Types of Tents

One of the best parts of preparing to camp is deciding on what tent you should buy. Whether you’re a pro or an amateur, there are so many tent designs that you’ll be spoilt for choice! Each type of tent has its own specific purpose, and whilst there are no tents which are entirely useless, some may struggle in certain situations or environments.

Choosing your Tent

When choosing a tent, you need to consider what it will mostly be used for. Whether you’re a high-altitude camper, or a forest camper, or even just a festival-goer, there are tents that are designed to fit your specific needs. 

When choosing your tent, there are several things to consider before investing. 

  • How often will you use your tent? You can potentially opt for a cheaper option if the trip is a one-time one or the tent will see very limited use.
  • How many people will be using it? Most standard tents have a capacity of two or three, but larger tents can house four, eight or ten people. This is important to consider if you’re family camping or just camping with friends. Some tents offer little to no privacy, whilst others offer a more private setting for those in groups who don’t want to be constantly sharing the same space. 
  • What is your budget? A lot of standard tents can be purchased relatively cheaply, especially ones for festivals. The bigger the tent and the more features you want, the more expensive they’ll get. Along with this, some styles of tent are more expensive than others, even if they both have similar purposes.
  • Where will you be camping? Terrain can be a deciding factor when it comes to camping. If you’re planning on camping somewhere wet and windy, you’ll need more protection. But if you’re planning on camping somewhere hot and dry, your choice of tent may reflect that.
  • How long will you be camping for? If you’re planning on camping for a longer time, you’ll need a tent with more amenities and space for additional supplies. On the contrary, if you’re not planning on camping for long, nor are you intending to spend much time in the tent, you could be better off with a smaller tent with little space. 

Once you’ve decided on what features you’ll need your tent to have, it’s time to start looking for one.

Dome Tents

a dome tent in the desert

Dome tents are versatile and easy to set up. They’re ideal for both beginners and intermediate campers alike. Their easy set-up makes them quick to assemble and put away, and are great for if you’re moving from campsite to campsite, or if you’re only taking a short trip. 

Dome tents are supported by two bent poles which prop the tent up. Due to the limited equipment used to set these types of tents up, they’re fairly lightweight and can be carried with ease alongside other equipment. The dome tent has enough room to store belongings and other items inside, and will withstand moderately rainy and windy weather. 

These tents are the most popular tent of choice at festivals and are also used when camping in areas where weather will be mild. 

Capacity: one to four people
Ideal For: Festivals, mild weather camping, fast set up.
Not Ideal For: Harsh weather conditions that require extra protection or cover.

Ridge Tents

a tent pitched at the foot of a mountain

Ridge tents are about as common as dome tents, but are used for different purposes. The ridge tent is defined by the three poles which are in external view, that create an A shape around the tent. These tents are often used by single campers and are only used for short trips due to the lack of space within them. 

These tents offer moderate protection against the elements, similarly to the dome tent, and are great for if you don’t intend on spending much time in the tent. 

They’re lightweight and can be packed down to a manageable size, meaning they can be carried with ease in a backpack and are ideal for if you’re hiking or have a long distance to the campsite. 

Capacity: one to four people
Ideal For: Short stays and mild weather conditions
Not Ideal For: Harsh weather conditions, equipment and leisure space.

Pop-Up Tents

a group of pop up tents in an urban environment

Pop up tents are known for their design and extremely simple setup. True to their name, they spring open when unpacked, and the only assembly required is usually to add anchorage using the guylines. Pop up tents are usually the cheapest to find on the market, but their versatility and simple assembly makes them one of the better choices if you’re at a festival or aren’t intending to camp for long. Their main downside is the lack of space within them, and most popup tents are designed with one camper in mind. The bag which they are also carried in can be burdensome due to the shape. Most of these tents fold into a frisbee shape which can prove awkward carrying or attaching to a backpack

Capacity: one to two people
Ideal For: Festivals, short stays and fast assembly.
Not Ideal For: Harsh weather conditions, space for equipment, multiple campers.

Bivy Tent

a bivy tent in a field

Bivy tents are also sometimes known as one man tents. Just looking at it, you can tell why. These tents are small and are designed with the human form in mind to take up as little space as possible. These tents divide opinion, as some people find their assembly and size ideal, whilst others would rather choose a popup tent for those features. Bivy tents are great if you’re packing lightly in mild weather, or are hiking.

Capacity: one person
Ideal For: Short stays, packing lightly
Not Ideal For: Harsh weather conditions, space for equipment, multiple campers.

Teepee Tent

two teepee style tents next to each other

The word “glamping” comes to mind when looking at teepee tents. Larger versions of these tents are usually installed in glamping grounds due to their iconic yet comfortable structure. They’re often large tents, so are suitable for groups of campers and contain lots of storage space. This iconic tent also comes in a range of different materials, meaning that ones can be bought which are made for withstanding any weather conditions. Due to the complexity of the design, teepee tents can be hard to carry and take time to assemble, so aren’t as suitable for short stays or may not be worth the investment if you aren’t intending on staying long in the tent. 

Capacity: one to ten people.
Ideal For: Long stays, more equipment, harsh climates.
Not Ideal For: Short stays, backpacking or carrying for extended periods of time.

Pod Tent

Pod tents are similar to multi-room tents but are usually much larger and provide even more privacy. They are a very large and expensive option when it comes to camping. These tents are essentially a home away from home, and mimic the floor plan of a house. This includes having large areas for recreational use, along with having individual pods for sleeping in. These tents are essentially designed for the highest level of comfort and are great in conditions where it isn’t always best to go outside such as rain, snow or wind. The downside to them is that they’re laborious to set up and can take hours to assemble. Due to the size of them, they’re also very hard to transport and it’s hard to carry them for a long distance and are much better suited for large outdoor camping spaces you can drive straight up to. 

Capacity: one to ten+ people.
Ideal For: Long stays, large groups, holidays where you intend to stay in the tent a lot.
Not Ideal For: Short stays, backpacking or carrying for extended periods of time, small spaces.

Multi Room Tent

a large family tent with its occupants eating outside

Multi room tents are great for family camping due to the added rooms, privacy and space that they provide. You also sometimes see large groups of people using these tents at festivals. They’re usually a robust option as well, and they can withstand some harsher climates due to their size and added protection. Carrying or moving a multi room tent may require some pre planning as they can be burdensome but aren’t heavy or bulky enough to make it impossible. The main downside to these tents is that they’re usually pretty expensive and can take a while to set up- especially if you aren’t used to it. Due to the complexity of their shape, they can also only be stationed on large, flat surfaces so aren’t always suitable for different terrain. You can read more about choosing where to camp in Where to pitch a tent

Capacity: one to eight+ people.
Ideal For: Long stays, large groups, holidays where you intend to stay in the tent a lot.
Not Ideal For: Short stays, bumpy terrain.

Tunnel Tent

Tunnel tents are shaped similarly to pop up tents but are much larger and roomier. The height of tunnel tents can differ, but the larger ones provide a great deal of space for campers. This style of tent is easily forgotten about, even though it offers a lot more benefits than some other styles in this list. They’re a good option for festivals if you’re planning on camping in a group and do not have the space or time to assemble a multi room tent. Due to the shape of a tunnel tent, they’re only reliable on flat surfaces and aren’t particularly protected in harsh weather or wind. Whilst being a large tent and offering a lot of space, tunnel tents are often usually a cheaper option as opposed to the tepee tent, pod tent or multi room tent. If you’re planning a group camping trip, try not to overlook the tunnel tent.

Capacity: one to six+ people.
Ideal For: Small groups of people, space for equipment, mild weather.
Not Ideal For: Harsh weather, bumpy terrain.

 Pyramid Tent

Similar to a teepee tent, pyramid tents are smaller and slightly more robust and suited to harsher climates. These tents are made up in a similar way to the ridge tent, by relying on poles to support the structure and having no need for guylines to keep it secured to the ground. Once this tent is pegged down, it’s unlikely to be moved by any force of nature due to its shape and structure. The problem with these tents is that, due to their shape, there’s a lack of room for additional equipment. These tents are usually quite small and to add more people you could potentially be missing out on important space. 

Capacity: one to three people.
Ideal For: Hiking and carrying, tough terrain, harsh climates.
Not Ideal For: Space, comfort. 

Vis-à-Vis Tent

a tent pitched in the snow

The vis-à-vis tent is similar to a tunnel tent in shape, but has some additional features. Each side of a vis-à-vis tent is its own separate room, so it’s ideal for family camping or group camping. Having separate rooms adds a little more privacy to the tent, and the middle section is often used as a storage or recreation area. Vis-à-vis tents are great if you’re planning on spending more time than usual inside the tent, whether it be due to bad weather or just because you feel like spending more time sitting. Due to the added room, the vis-à-vis tent can be difficult to set up and bulky to carry. These are tents that are good for camping trips and festivals, especially if the walk to the camping site isn’t particularly long. The added porch that the vis-à-vis tent boasts is also a nice bonus, but can easily turn into a burden if the weather is particularly harsh. 

Capacity: one to four people.
Ideal For: Group or family camping, additional privacy, some strong weather.
Not Ideal For: Extreme weather, hiking.

Roof Top Tent

a tent attached to a car

Roof-top tents are an investment that should only be made if you have the correct equipment or intend on getting the correct equipment to use them. These tents are designed to sit atop of a car or truck, in the same fashion that a treehouse sits in a tree. These tents are great in certain conditions, such as rain or other wetness, due to the fact that they aren’t on the ground. They’re also incredibly easy to transport, despite being heavy, as they merely need to be kept in the vehicle you’re planning on assembling them atop of. 

Although, because it’s set up atop of a vehicle, this type of tent doesn’t allow much leeway in regards to how much equipment can be stored inside. Due to weight limits on your vehicle, the recommended weight stored in this tent is usually around 400 pounds. This limits the amount of people who can stay inside, and also limits the amount of equipment that can be stored as well. Any more than three or four people can prove problematic for this type of tent, so it’s important to test it out before heading off on your trip beforehand. 

Capacity: one to four people.
Ideal For: Places you can drive up to, wet weather.
Not Ideal For: Lots of people or equipment.

Bell Tent

These tents have a similar floor space to the teepee tent discussed earlier. They’re ideal for groups of friends who don’t mind sharing the same space with little privacy. Bell tents can be huge, and are often erected on beaches or other places people like to party. Their size can make them incredibly difficult to carry and assemble, and they’re also expensive as a result. These tents are also ideal for glamping and there’s a variety on the market which can provide different amenities and features. They’re also great for festivals, providing there isn’t a limit in place for how big your tent can be. 

Bell tents are often made of a breathable canvas material, leaving them well ventilated and ideal for warm climates. However, due to this, they’re also inappropriate for difficult climates and harsh wind, rain and even snow.

Capacity: one to ten+ people.
Ideal For: festivals, beaches, big groups of people, ventilation and comfort.
Not Ideal For: Harsh weather, poor terrain, carrying or hiking.

Hammock Tent

a person asleep in a  hammock tent

The hammock tent is ideal for if you intend on travelling lightly in mild conditions. A hammock tent is just as the name suggests – it’s a hammock that has a tent-like structure covering it to offer some shielding from the elements. These tents are great for terrain that has difficult ground conditions or is wet but not raining. Hammock tents will take some planning to use as they need to be set up using two trees or rocks that could act as suitable anchor points to keep it off the ground. They’re comfortable to sleep in and great for forest camping due to their versatility. 

Capacity: one person.
Ideal For: Forest camping, bumpy terrain, hiking and packing lightly
Not Ideal For: Harsh weather, multiple people, storing lots of equipment.

Things to Consider when Buying a Tent:

Even though choosing a tent for camping can be exciting, there are a couple of features that you need to consider first. Some of these features could prove essential for your trip, whereas some can be skipped over as they could impede on your budget or would be unnecessary given the climate you wish to camp in.

  • The weight of a tent – The weight of a tent is really important to consider, especially when buying one that will be used when hiking or if there’s a long walk to the campsite. The weight of a tent can vary dramatically depending on how much material is used to assemble it, its size, and the material it’s made from.
  • The materials the tent is made of – The materials a tent is made from impact on its durability and uses. Some tents aren’t suitable for certain weather due to the materials which they are made from. 
  • The tent’s rating – Tents use a rating system to outline which seasons and conditions it can function correctly during. 3 Season tents are suitable for spring until fall, and offer protection against mild weather and rain. Their designs are usually breathable and offer a thin layer of insulation. 4 Season tents are for year-long usage and can be heavier due to their thicker insulation and lack of breathability. 
  • What you didn’t like about your previous tent – Is there a specific reason you’re upgrading your tent? Did your previous tent lack a certain feature that your newest investment won’t? An experienced camper will know what they want from a tent and sometimes their wants are found through past experience.

Features to Consider when Buying a Tent:

  • Windows – Whilst very rarely seen on some smaller tent models, windows are a feature that some larger tents have. Windows are a double-edged sword as they can help you take in the scenic areas you’re camping in, but also decrease your tent’s durability. 
  • Ventilation – The ventilation of a tent is important as it can keep you cool, especially in the summer. A poorly-ventilated tent can be very uncomfortable to sit in for extended periods of time, and if you’re planning on spending more time indoors when camping, more ventilation is ideal. 
  • Tent pockets and storage – Some tents come with their own built-in storage in the way of pockets. They’re useful for organization but can also add weight to the tent.
  • Tent doors – The doors of a tent are usually simple zip-up ones. However, added features such as a porch or extra layers of insulation are normally added around the doorframe. This can be a make or break for some people, as these options can change the appeal of a tent very quickly.

Three Season Tents

Three Season Tents are lightweight and are designed to withstand different weather conditions during different seasons throughout the year.

Three season tents are specifically designed for Spring, Summer, and Fall, and have mesh panels that will increase airflow and a rainfly that can protect the tent from adverse weather conditions such as wind and rain.

Four Season Tents

Four Season Tents are good throughout the entire year and are even suitable for use in snow and colder temperatures.

They are sturdier than Three-Season tents and are built to trap more heat to keep you warm. The materials used are from heavier fabrics, and they typically have rounded dome designs to eliminate any snow collection.

This type of tents has been used in history for several years and has evolved over time into what we see now as the traditional camping tent.

Bell tents were designed with a simple structure and are supported by a single central pole and are covered in a cotton canvas material.

Final Thoughts

Finding the right tent for your trip may seem like an easy task, but with the amount of variables and things to consider, it easily becomes a process of elimination. There are a lot of options to consider, and the choice of tent depends entirely on your budget and the purpose you want to use it for. By using the pros and cons of different types of tent, you can narrow your options down significantly. 

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