Tents have been a part of human history since the early humans tried building shelter outside of caves. Russia was recorded to have the oldest tents in history. With the growing popularity of camping in the 20th century, the development and innovation of tents took a huge jump ahead and we started making tents that are lighter in weight, offer a lot more durability, and are even waterproof.
With so many features and options, it can be hard to understand the difference between them, which is why today we are here to give you a proper explanation for all of the most commonly seen tents that you may come across.
Different Types of Tents
There are tents available in different materials, tents made to withstand heavy winds or bad weather. There are some that are extremely lightweight and some that can weigh well over 20 kgs. There are tents in different price ranges as well. Let’s take a look at the different types of them.
1. Dome Tents
A dome tent is the most common tent design you’ll see today. This tent can easily be distinguished from other types of tents. It has two very flexible poles that are anchored to the tent’s corners and they also cross through the center of the tent. You can find dome tents in a wide range of sizes that are able to fit from just one person to up to eight people. The single-wall designs offer a completely waterproof interior for the tent while sacrificing a bit of breathability. The double-wall designs come with a waterproof floor and a mesh inner tent to provide more breathability.
Compared to most other types of tents, dome tents are fairly easy to pitch, are lighter, and even give you a good amount of headroom. Even though not all tents include them, some of these tents come with vestibules for extra gear storage. However, a big downside to dome tents is that they can easily catch the wind so they tend to blow away or flattened.
2. A-Frame Tent or Ridge Tent
As the name suggests, the A-Frame tent (also known as Ridge Tent) is shaped to look like a capital A and is quite popular due to the simple design that it has. These tents were originally made out of canvas and had wooden or metal poles, however, the modern options of this tent are made out of materials that are lighter in weight.
These tents don’t have that much room for your head to move around freely and are also a bit heavy and bulky when they are packed but they are surprisingly stable and easy to set up.
3. Multi-Room Tent
If you are looking for a tent that can fit large families then you should take a look at the multi-room tent. More than a traditional tent, a multi-room tent is closer to an actual house. A great advantage that this tent offers is privacy, you also get space for a large family tent and you can easily store your gear with the multiple rooms that are offered.
The main downside to this tent would be that learning how to pitch this tent takes some time to master and due to the size of the tent, it has quite some weight to it as well. Most multi-room and large tents also face the issue of strong winds. Even with the few drawbacks that you get with a tent of this size, they are definitely the more preferred option when it comes to larger family gatherings since it offers a lot more space.
4. Backpacking Tent
A backpacking tent would likely be your best bet if you are expecting a long-distance trek or a multi-day hike from your car to the camp. These tents are normally a lot lighter in weight and take up much less space compared to other ones.
Their small size is valued in their designs and the pricing is directly impacted by the quality of materials used to make the tent. They come in small packed sizes and usually have fewer poles. Their limited space and low ceilings make them suitable for a person or two to fit in.
5. Semi-Geodesic and Geodesic Tents
These tents basically give you everything that you can get from dome tents but with increased stability and support. The tent gets a lot of stability from its poles crossing many times and forming triangles through intersections.
They can be a bit of a chore to pitch but they do offer you a lot more stability, support and can hold up a lot better when it comes to heavy rain or just bad weather in general.
6. Pop Up Tent
These tents are relatively new and are also often referred to as “instant” tents. These tents are loaded with springs that in no time allows them to pop into shape. You will do better by going with a more durable tent for bad weather since they are not really meant to withstand extreme weather conditions. The main benefit of these tents is the ease of use.
7. Tunnel Tent
This is also a bit similar to a dome tent just with a bit more cylindrical and longer design. They mostly make the use of guy ropes to pitch to add some more stability to the tent, but this also means that they aren’t really freestanding. You don’t have to worry about mixing up the poles since all of them are the same length plus they also offer a great weight to space ratio. The biggest problem you may come across is that this tent may sag a bit in the middle if not pitched properly.
8. Inflatable Tent
Inflatable tents are also fairly new and they’re actually quite uncommon when it comes to camping equipment. When it comes to easy pitching, these come right after pop-up tents, all you need is an air pumper and to place the tent somewhere safe and secure, just flick the switch after and the tent will take its shape.
Given the size, inflatable tents are of course on the heavy side but they do make up for that by offering you a lot of space, also you don’t need to fix any poles since there aren’t any. However, inflatable tents tend to be a bit more pricey when compared to your traditional trends since they have a fresh and new design.
9. Teepee Tent
This is the original, often made of cotton, canvas tent. Teepee tents usually have higher ceilings and are quite easy to pitch. They just require a single pole and are also a bit heavy but they have a pitching point. These tents often don’t come with flooring either.
10. Bivy Tents
These tents are for those crazy wilderness lovers who are always out on solo hikes but want to carry as little weight as they can on them. They are generally a variation to A-Frame tents and they quite often have a wedge shape. The tent’s high point is off to one side and they can usually just fit in just one person. However, they do give you enough protection so that you are able to stay dry and safe through the night.
11. Bell Tents
Bell tents, also often known as luxury tents and they are most certainly the choices for campers who are more conscious about the design. Bell tents are single space tents and they support wood burning just like teepees. The canvas covering on the tent acts as a great insulator and also as a great temperature regulator which makes this tent ideal to use even in summer.
Since the bottom of the tent has a mesh material, it can generate some amazing ventilation on the inside of the tent and also maximize airflow when rolled up. Since it has an open floor it can fit quite some people but this tent can’t really be used everywhere. The bell tents aren’t made to withstand harsh weather conditions and can easily topple over.
12. Beach Tents
If you’re planning on going to the beach and don’t really want to burn yourself then look into one of these. While this tent isn’t at all meant for camping out in the wild, this half-cut tent serves to shield you from the blowing sand and the sun. Most of these tents come with a built-in floor which is also often extendable so you don’t really need to dirty your towels or burn yourself by sitting on the hot sand.
13. Hammock Tents
If you want to go camping while swinging off the trees then you should get a hammock tent. These tents are suspended off the ground by having them tied to trees, they work exactly how a hammock works. Moreover, you don’t have to worry about your protection since they are completely covered.
The hammock tent is an ideal choice to go with for forested areas, especially where you might expect the ground to be too wet or uncomfortable to spend the night and sleep on. This tent is basically everything that you love about a hammock just with an extra benefit of a roof. These tents are also really easy to set, lightweight, and are also pretty small when they are packed.
14. Cabin Tents
Cabin tents tend to usually be a single space tent, however, some designs of these tents tend to have internal dividers that can separate into rooms. These tents are stable, square, and have enough height for you to be able to even stand in them but they don’t really require to have the same footprint or size as a pod-style tent. While cabin tents are a great choice for your casual camping and hangouts, they aren’t the best to withstand bad weather conditions and wind.
Cabin tents can often be a bit complicated to pitch and set up and can also be quite heavy, but once you have them up, they definitely make up a great camping arrangement for the whole family or just large groups in general. Entering and exiting the tent is also very easy given the tall door. Another benefit to these tents is that compared to other tents, they are quite cheap to purchase.
15. Vis-Ã -Vis Tents
The trend of tents being compartmentalized originated in France. In french the term vis-á -vis means face to face, which is a reference to two bedrooms that are facing each other in tents of this style. These tents generally have a larger and more open space that provides a lot of room for your head. There are two compartments for sleeping that are also attached to the center.
What these tents do is that they basically just take a traditional tunnel shape or dome tent and work some additional sections in them, this makes them a great option for when you’re out camping with large groups or a big family. Of course, having additional sections in the tent means that they become heavier, however, you also get a bit more privacy from the vis-Ã -vis tents compared to the traditional tents. While your regular vis-Ã -vis tents come with just two compartments, however, there are other designs to this tent that take this to the next level.
16. Frame Tents or Canopies
These are tents that you would see in outdoor gatherings and they have a completely open design layout with just a tent on the top. They are just designed for people to get some shade under and let everyone walk around freely. You can get these tents in many different sizes and also get fully covered designs for even greater privacy.
17. Pyramid Tents
Pyramid tents tend to look a lot like some sort of a modern teepee. These tents often come with just one pole in the middle and thus have a really simple design. The pole is draped over with some sort of material such as canvas, which is stretched out and then with the help of stakes and guy lines, secured to the ground. It is very important to make sure that the guy lines are strong since there’s just one pole, the tent won’t be able to retain its shape otherwise. They also end up becoming less stable the larger you try to get them to be.
However, a great benefit that comes from their simplicity is that they can be set up really easily and are also quite lightweight. If you’re not too worried about the aesthetics and are fairly skilled, you’ll be able to pull it off with the help of some rope, tarp, and a wooden pull. Some drawbacks are that the headroom is pretty limited, they don’t have any groundsheets built-in and they’re not really suitable for multiple guests.
18. Car Top Tents
At first look, a car-top tent might raise a lot of questions and confusion and there’s a good reason for that. Since it looks like some sort of a weird combination between an RV and a tent it can certainly be hard to figure out how it works.
In order for a car-top tent to function, you will require a solid roof rack where you can mount it on. You can access the tent with the use of a ladder that also allows for easy detachment. The tent doesn’t look much different from most other tents you might come across, however, the installation can be quite the work and might even require the help of more than just one person. You might wonder then why sleep on the top of the car and not just on the ground?
You wouldn’t be able to make it to a traditional campsite all the time if you are to travel for a long period of time. In situations like that, car top tents can prove quite useful, especially since they keep you off the ground, meaning you’re protected from many things such as dirt, bugs, and even unexpected flooding.
Types of Tents based on Material
Canvas and cotton material have been seen to be used interchangeably, and some of the most popular tents that you can find out there. They are great at providing good temperature regulation and also give you proper ventilation.
Canvas/cotton tent is also less susceptible to condensation, but it is still recommended that before your camping trip you set up your tent and let it go through somewhat of a weathering process. It is advised for the first use and it allows the fibers in the material to swell up and then settle back filling up the tiny but penetrable holes that are left behind due to the sewing process. If you don’t feel like waiting for the rain you can still get the same results with the use of a garden hose and get yourself a waterproof tent.
Cotton is one of the traditional materials used for tents and due to its effectiveness, it stayed in use for decades. During colder weather, it can keep the inside of your tent insulated and also manage to stay cool in summer. You will get the benefits from the insulation with sound as well, meaning you can enjoy a much quieter camping experience. While many tents are layered, with a cotton canvas cover, no inner tent is needed.
PVC Coated Tents
Some canvas or cotton tents are already weathered right out of the box so that you are free to use it immediately. This is usually because the tent is coated with polyvinyl chloride, this essentially makes the tent waterproof thus allowing immediate use without the need for a weathering process.
While this may be an added benefit, you should also keep in mind that compared to a natural weathering process, PVC coatings tend to make the tent a bit more exposed to condensation. If you’re looking for a PVC coated tent then it is advised to buy one that has proper ventilation to be able to cut down on the condensation.
Polycotton made Tents
This is basically an alternative to the tents that are 100% cotton canvas. These tents are usually lower in cost and also a bit more lightweight while also keeping most of the features of your traditional cotton tents. Polycotton is a type of fabric that is made from polyester being blended with cotton in order to make something that is a lot more durable and lightweight as well. To make sure that they repel water better, these tents can also be coated with chemicals.
Polyester made Tents
A pure polyester tent is really breathable and lightweight. They can be considered one of the more popular fabric choices when it comes to tents since they are also less expensive. The fabric doesn’t tend to get baggy or shrink when it’s wet, so you are given great protection from the weather.
Both polyester tents and nylon tents essentially produce similar results although it can be argued that nylon tents are a bit lighter when it comes to weight. Nylon fibers don’t tend to absorb any water making it a great material for tents. Nylon is used in some of the most expensive as well as some of the least expensive tents as well and they are often coated with some sort of chemical.
The coatings used in nylon tents are often acrylic, polyurethane, silicone, etc. The quality of the coatings varies in price. Silicone is the most expensive type of coating since it offers the best protection.
Even though they are water-resistant, nylon tents significantly slack when it rains so the guy lines need to be tightened properly. They can also deteriorate a lot quicker from extensive sun exposure.
Your tent’s floor may be made of similar materials or even something completely different. Generally, a sort of tarp that is made out of PVC, canvas, polyethylene, polyester, or some other type of material is used and it is coated with polyurethane. Since these are going to be placed on the ground, they are coated with waterproof and protective material so that while you’re asleep, your tent’s bottom doesn’t get wet.
These are some of the most essential and common tents that you will come across when looking for tents. We hope this list helps you in understanding tents better and pick one that best suits your needs.
Pavel is a true outdoor enthusiast with a passion for nature and a love for the great outdoors. He started Outdoor Fun Mag to introduce people from all walks of life to everything the outdoors has to offer and hopes that you’ll find something that excites you every time you stop by.
When not exploring nature Pavel works as an Electronics Engineer — a job that gets him thinking and makes sure he pays attention to all those fine details. This means that when he leaves work for the week, there’s no better contrast than the calmness and serenity of the natural world. By giving Pavel the chance to switch off and relax, his time spent camping and hiking allows him to feel refreshed.
In the future, Pavel plans to explore new areas and corners of the world with nothing more than a backpack and a tent. It’s an authentic way of seeing new places that allow him to de-stress and enjoy life, and he wants you to make the most of your life too.