Types of Tent: 10 Common Tent Shapes for Every Situation
Tents come in all shapes and sizes and there’s no one size fits all solution. The perfect tent is unique to each individual and things like where you plan on camping, how many people you’re with, and what type of weather you expect all come into play. Here’s a complete list of 9 tent styles you’ll find out in the wild.
1. Dome Tents
Dome tents are the most common design today and are shaped like a dome. They have two poles that cross each other in the center and bend down to reach the corners of the tent. A rainfly rests on top of the poles for added protection from the elements.
This style of tent is easy to set up and a has a relatively high center point giving you a decent amount of room and headspace. The rounded edges allow the tent to shed water and rain, preventing build up on the top. Some dome tents have a vestibule in front of the door that acts as a makeshift mudroom to keep dirt and muddy gear dry and out.
2. Wedged or A-frame Tents
Ask a kid to draw a tent and they’ll more often than not draw you a ridge tent – which is interesting as there aren’t many of them kicking around these days! Traditionally they comprised thick canvas stretched over a horizontal pole supported by a vertical pole at each end. Their stability largely relied upon the guylines and tie-outs, and how well they were placed.
These days, ridge tents have moved with the times and use lightweight aluminum poles and outer fly sheets made from waterproof polyester or nylon. Modern ridge tents are usually best suited to two people. So if you are looking for something bigger, bell tents are probably the nearest you will get to a large traditional ridge tent.
3. Tunnel Tents
These are great for larger groups and families as they provide lots of headroom and plenty of liveable space. They are made up of a series of flexible poles that loop from one side of the tent to the other to form a tunnel shape for the rainfly to attach to. They rely on guy lines to provide stability, and when put up well they can withstand bad weather reasonably well, especially the bigger models compared with dome tents.
4. Geodesic or Semi-Geodesic Tents
A relative of the dome tent, the geodesic tent consists of multiple crisscrossing poles that create shapes such as triangles or hexagons, and the purpose of doing this is to create greater stability. In fact, geodesic tents are some of the most stable tents available and can withstand extremely high winds. If you remember the dome-shaped jungle gym from your elementary school playground, then you know what many geodesic tents look like. It’s a fairly common structural design that is utilized for a great number of purposes, one of these being tents.
Due to their focus on strength and stability, you don’t get many large geodesic tents, although they do exist. They are best suited to up to 4 people.
5. Cabin Tents
Cabin tents are usually made up of aluminum poles that fit together to create the frame of what looks like a cabin! A waterproof polyester, nylon or sometimes canvas rainfly encases the frame to form the walls and roof of your cabin which provides loads of liveable space that you can usually stand up in. Cabin tents are often divided into rooms with internal dividers, making them the perfect choice for family camping.
They tend to be fairly cheap, in both price and quality, and aren’t renowned for their ability to withstand bad weather. Ideal for fair weather camping.
6. Pyramid Tent
These are the most simple tent shape that usually comprise of a single central pole with a rainfly draped over the top and staked down at the corners/edges of the fly. Guylines and stakes play a very important part in providing stability to pyramid tents, and as with ridge tents, the bigger they are the less stable they become.
There are lots of lightweight models popping up these days that are bordering on tarp-like setups, but traditionally they were made of thick canvas or hide supported by heavy wooden poles (think tipi and bell tents).
7. Multi Room Tents
These are perfect for family camping or when camping with a large group. If you are car camping for more than a couple of days, then a multi-room tent is a good idea, even if you only have a small family. Many families of 4 will opt for a tent that can accommodate 8 or 10 people to enjoy the extra space and privacy.
Tent capacity: 4 – 10
Most common shape: Cabin or tunnel
8. Inflatable Tent
Inflatable tents are both relatively new and fairly uncommon pieces of camping equipment, and, next to the pop-up tent, these are the simplest to pitch. While you do need an air pump, once the tent is set in place and secured, it’s simply a matter flipping the switch and watching the tent take its shape. While heavy, inflatable tents are spacious, and there are no poles to be fixed. Given that this is a fairly new design, most inflatable tents are going to be pricey compared to more traditional styles.
Tent capacity: 1 – 10
Most common shape: Cabin, tunnel or geodesic
9. Pop up/instant tent
The ultimate festival tent is the pop up tent which, yes you guessed it, can be set up instantly! They are usually cheaply made, not renowned for standing up to bad weather and the larger they are the more unstable they become. But for those camping infrequently in summer conditions, the simple, inexpensive setup of the pop up tent is ideal.
Tent capacity: 1 -6
Most common shape: Dome or tunnel
10. Backpacking tent
Designed for hikers and foot travellers, the backpacking tent is small, lightweight, and easy to pitch, making it the ideal tent to be travelling with. Hikers have to pay attention to weight when it comes to the items that they pack, and backpacking tents place practicality over functionality. While they aren’t ideal for sitting up or hanging out, these low-lying tents are perfect for hiking-focused camping. After a long day of travelling, hikers can quickly pitch this tent and rest for the night.
Tent capacity: 1 – 3
Most common shape: Geodesic or tunnel