Tent Types and When to Use Them

Camping offers a myriad of benefits to all kinds of nature lovers, from hikers and budding mountaineers to hardcore earth worshippers. Being close to nature even for just a while improves physical, psychological and spiritual wellness.  But in order to fully reap the benefits of camping, it is essential to be prepared with the right gear and equipment.

The most important item of equipment is of course the tent, and a great camping experience can only be achieved if you have the right tent that suits your purpose and preferences. If you are planning to purchase a new tent, or upgrade an existing one, the best place to start before setting foot in a showroom is to browse some websites of retailers of outdoor products like MO Tackle & Outdoors to get a feel of the type of tent that will best for your trip.

If you are new to camping you may find the range of tents that are on offer bewildering.  Tents come in many different shapes, sizes, materials and configurations, and also serve different functions. This guide will help you to navigate the choices once you understand that there are essentially eight different types of tents that are used by campers today:

  1. Basic Ridge Tent

The basic ridge tent, often called the ‘A-frame tent’ because it forms the shape of an ‘A’ when erected, is one of the oldest types of tent. If you can’t visualize how the basic ridge tent looks like, you can check your apps for the tent emoji or icon — that classical illustration of a tent is the A-frame tent.

When to use it: This easy-to-assemble tent is a good choice for rainy weather camping as its formation allows raindrops to slide off instead of pooling on top. It offers little head room, so this is best reserved for trips where you’ll be spending more time outdoors than in the tent itself.

  1. Dome Tent

These days, the dome tent has surpassed the basic ridge tent in terms of popularity. You can identify this type by its distinct dome shape that is created by the pair of poles that intersect at the top and bend towards the base. This dome shape gives the tent much better headroom, which is a comfort when you’re changing clothes. Most dome tents come with a flysheet that you can place over the top that can be used to control the sunlight that enters the tent and help deflect rain in wet weather.

When to use it: The lightweight material of the dome tent is perfect for fair-weather hiking. It offers good ventilation and can withstand light rain showers.

  1. Tunnel Tent

As the name suggests, this type of tent is shaped like a tunnel with flexible poles that extend from one side of the tent to the other. Guylines reinforce the stability of the tunnel tent, allowing it to endure strong winds and heavy rains.

When to use it: The tunnel tent is recommended for group camping trips as it has adequate space for a large number of people and their camping gear.

  1. Geodesic and Semi-geodesic Tent

Before it made its way to the world of camping, the word ‘geodesic’ was mainly reserved for mathematical phrases that describe the shortest line between two points on a spherical surface. The geodesic tent is characterized by the poles that crisscross at the top to reinforce the structure of the tent. A semi-geodesic tent, on the other hand, shares the same qualities as the geodesic tent but with fewer poles.

When to use it: The crisscrossing poles reinforce the stability of the tent so as to help it survive extreme weather conditions such as strong winds, which is a common problem in high altitude hiking. Because of this quality, the geodesic tent is the tent of choice of many Mt. Everest climbers.

  1. Pop-up Tent

When the pop-up tent hit the outdoors market, it instantly became a craze among nature enthusiasts because of the almost zero effort it requires to set up. All it needs is a little uncoiling and unfolding et voilà, it is ready for occupancy.

When to use it: Most pop-up tents are made of lightweight material that is only suitable for fair-weather hiking and camping. They are a decent choice for when you would much rather spend your time exploring than tent pitching.

  1. Inflatable Tent

The inflatable tent is another type that requires little effort in setting up. In place of poles, it has hollow panels that need to be inflated to stabilize the structure. While the thought of air stabilizing the tent doesn’t sound impressive, you may be surprised to know that inflatable tents are rather sturdy and actually do very well in a variety of weather conditions.

When to use it: As inflatable tents tend to cost more than other types of tents, it is often a choice of ‘glampers’ who enjoy the tranquil beauty of nature and the familiar comforts of home. Inflatable tents have become popular among luxury camping resorts in countries such as Thailand, Australia and Costa Rica.

  1. Backpacking Tent

The backpacking tent is a variation of the dome and geodesic type tents – but usually more elongated – and is designed to reduce weight as much as possible. A no-fuss tent, it is lightweight, easy to pitch, and has ample room for the contents of your backpack. The backpacking tent stands low so it doesn’t offer much headroom but its stability in windy weather winds more than makes up for that.

When to use it: It’s a better choice that other types of tent if budget is not an issue, because true backpacking tents use the lightest materials possible to reduce weight – but these usually cost more than the materials used to construct other types of tents.

8.  Cabin Tent

Also known as the Family Tent, this type of tent is the largest, heaviest and usually most expensive of all.  It’s a full-height tent that can only be taken on camping trips with a motor vehicle, or a motorcycle and trailer, because it’s too heavy to carry when backpacking. It’s the roomiest type of tent and some luxury models boast separate ‘bedrooms’ that are zipped compartments off the living area.

When to use it: This type of tent is idea for family vacations when camping at one spot for more than a few days. It’s not suitable for overnight trips given the time that it takes to set up the tubular steel frame and the fact that at least two people are required to place the tent fabric over the frame.

Knowledge of tent types and when to use them takes you one step closer to a good camping experience. Aside from understanding what type of camping trip each tent is designed for, it’s also important to take account of the terrain where the tent will be pitched, the season in which you will be travelling (winter models are generally much heavier and more bulky in all categories) and how many people will be available to assist in pitching the tent.

Ted Thomas

Hi there, I'm Ted Thomas, an ardent adventure writer. I write for readers with a genuine interest in enjoying the great outdoors. By sharing my experiences camping, hunting and fishing, I hope to inspire others to fully explore the depths of their passion.

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