Different Camping Tent Styles
A Few Basic Styles and types of tents.
From a small pup-tent to a large cabin tent, there are only a few basic styles, but when you look at all the choices merchants promote, you will find dozens of variations of each style.
Knowing about the advantages, (and disadvantages), of each style and type of tent helps you make better choices about which tent is right for you.
Types of Tents
Two main categories; time of year, and camping conditions.
- Seasonal – a 3-season tent is good for… yes, three seasons; spring, summer, and fall. Which means it is not constructed with some of the features that might be needed in extreme winter camping conditions, like a 4-season tent would be. Conditions in winter, the 4th season, can be a lot more demanding of a tent’s features and construction.
- Camping conditions – normal or extreme, such as a tent you might use camping on the North Face at 10,000 feet, or one you set-up at a local campground. The differences are mostly in materials and construction methods, and the tent profiles.
- “A” or Wedge-shaped (think pup-tent) Tents
The A-frame or wedge tent is the classic style that many campers grew up with, (pre-1970’s), and is the most basic tent style.
The support poles for these tents can be as simple as an upright pole at each end, with the tent guy-lines doing the job of holding the shape taut, or two upright end poles with a connecting ridge pole, (the guy-lines still provide the tension for supporting the shape), or like the newer models that use shock-cord hoop-type poles to form the shape, and the guy-lines are more for anchoring the tent than shaping it.
Although there are large “modified” A-frame tents with shallow straight sides that can accommodate six or more campers and gear, the most common ones are still the small one or two-person versions.
These tents offer an efficient rectangular foot-print for sleeping arrangements, and simplicity of style, but don’t offer much headroom.
- Tunnel Tents
Tunnel tents are designed with low profiles that work very well in extreme weather conditions. They are very easy to put up, and generally provide good bug protection, but they usually don’t have any more headroom than what is needed to sit-up.
Large tunnel tents, like the one above – on the right, are just modifications of the original one or two-man tunnels that were designed to protect campers from high winds and extreme conditions.
The primary tunnel tent benefits are; ease of set-up, light-weight, and extreme weather endurance.
- Teepee, (Tipi, Cone, Pyramid), Tents
Teepee tents have several benefits; good headroom in the center, plenty of camping gear storage space around the perimeter, a simple design that usually has only a single long upright tent pole, (the shape is held by securely staking the bottom), a tall entrance, and because they typically don’t have a floor, you can have a small campfire or camping stove in them.
They also have a couple drawbacks. Depending on your needs, not having a floor might not be a good thing, and they don’t stand-up well to extreme weather. Also they aren’t good at keeping bugs out, flying or crawling. *Note – there are good teepee-style tents, (like above right), with features to address all those typical drawbacks.
Teepee tents also have other utilitarian uses; as a privacy tent for dressing, or showering, and even as a latrine or portable camping toilet enclosure.
Like the A-frame tent, there are even modified teepee tents that have shallow vertical walls around the base to add a little more space.
Probably the best use of a larger teepee tent would be as a base-camp cooking or gathering tent.
- Dome, (Umbrella), Tents
Dome/Umbrella tents have so many great camping features that since the introduction of flexible fiberglass shock-cord tent poles they have become almost the “standard” for good camping tents.
Almost all dome tents use rain flys, which allows them to have very light-weight, (even all-mesh), interior walls, with their rain fly acting as the protection from the weather. Except for the larger modified-dome tents, they are the originators of the “pop-up” tent concept. The flexible tent poles allow for extremely easy set-up and versatile tent shaping.
Another benefit is that they provide more headroom, relative to the size of it’s foot-print, than almost any other tent style.
Dome tents come with choices for either interior tent-pole support, or an exterior “hanging” tent pole frame. Some larger modified models have both. Usually an exterior tent-pole support frame for a large center room, and interior tent poles for the wing rooms. Even the big cabin-tents have adopted dome tops because of the benefits.
- Cabin, (Multi-room), Tents
Cabin tents are primarily just multi-room tents. Large tents with lots of interior space, and designed mostly for 3-season camping. Most have rigid aluminum tent poles and combine interior and exterior pole support.
A common cabin tent arrangement includes a large center room for general use, and one or two side rooms for sleeping. They also combine the most camping conveniences, like; large entrances and windows, full mesh screening, and plenty of stand-up headroom.
The biggest drawbacks of cabin tents are their weight and large foot-print. They might not fit very well in smaller campsites.
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NOTE: The pictures below show three common tent styles, but they are also Amazon links you can use to see the specifics about each kind of tent, and most importantly, real customer reviews.
*Note – all shopping links are my own Amazon affiliate links – which I only use to recommend good-quality camping gear – Gus
Sizes; 2 to 10-person popular 3-season tent style
Wedge or Trail Tents are light 1 or 2-man tents
Large and roomy with multiple rooms or one big one
Of course these are not the only tent styles available. They were just picked to give you an idea of general designs. You will find dozens of variations of these styles.
More Camping Tent Resources:
- How to pick a Camping Tent for Your Style of Camping.
- Good Camping Tent Features – Features a good tent should have, and some that are specific to a camping style
- Kid’s Camping Tents – Kid’s love their independence, adding a kid’s tent might be a good idea.
- Camping Tent Care – How to take care of your camping tent
Notes and discussions:
Here are a few more pieces of camping gear you might be interested in:
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