What Is A Camping Tent – Types Of Camping Tents

When we think back to basic shelters and how mankind survived the wilderness, what is the first imagine that pops in your head? You could be forgiven for imagining a rather hairy man or woman in a cave collecting sticks and attempting to invent the wheel.

But on a serious note, we had to have started somewhere, and at some point it turned around from being a necessity to create shelter for survival to showing of our mastery and ability to manipulate our environments to the point of it no longer being perceived as survival but as a desirable leisure.

What we will be discussing today is a brief overview of the history of tents.

Where they originated and for what purpose.

Where tents and camping recreation is at today and where it may possible move into the future.

Where It Began?

A tent is often described as a form of shelter consisting of cloth like material support by means of rigid or flexible framing supported by pegs and ropes. Combine that with camping; the activity of overnight stays away from home in the wilderness by means of self provided shelter, typically a tent, you get a rather clear definition of what a camping tent is and what purpose it serves.

Though tents were once considered a method of life by tribes of a nomadic lifestyle, recreational camping is believed to have popularized in what most consider to be the worlds first commercial camping ground, Cunningham’s camp in 1894 near Douglas, Isle of Man.

Though the exact origins of recreational camping is still up for debate, what is certain is that the industry has consistently evolved and changed to meet different demands and needs. Today there are countless brands and designs of tents.

Why Are There So Many Types Of Tents?

Our planet, both beautiful and endless in its variety of scenery is far from an innocent push over, especially when you consider the variety of landscapes and extremes of weather and temperature.

It is because of these challenges that such a large variety of camping tents emerged. Other areas to consider are price, size and occasion.

You may be climbing mount Everest and require a rather expensive specialized tent.

Perhaps you just need a cheap summer tent for the weekend at a festival or perhaps you are spending a week with the family exploring.

The list of considerations is endless and so over time the industry around camping tents has adapted and provided tents to meet these challenges.


Types of Camping Tents

Ridge or (A- Frame) Design Tents

Ridge designed tents are very much a stereotypical version of tent. Considering the design was one of the first to be commercialized it is no surprise that the structure and shape is so familiar and easy to recognize.

The design involves sets of poles forming a triangular shape connected by a pole along the top. The pole along the top is often referred to as the ridge, hence the name ‘ridge tent’. Well known for their high level of stability ridge tents can be designed for single person use up to large expedition tents. Due their ability to be erected easily ridge tents are still suprisingly popular despite their one obvious downfall (lack of head room).


Family Tents

A family tent isn’t restricted to a particular design, rather it is simply scaled up with modification made to accommodate such size increases. Despite these modifications family tents have been known to be called expensive kites, or simply too unstable in comparison to designs which have multiple pod sleeping areas all connected to a main room and entrance. Such designs often use a pod, tunnel or dome shape and are more commonly used by families today.


1-4 Season Tents

Though the name 4 season tents suggests it is suitable for every season they are more commonly used for winter camping in very cold areas with snow etc. The tents often have a higher level of insulation which can make them suitable for warmer climates to as they won’t heat up as quick. However, most tents will specify a temperature comfort level so you can make an informed choice based on your location. They can also be labeled as summer tents, spring tents etc. This is focused on the temperature the tent can protect you from.


Tree Tents

A tree tent is deigned to keep its occupant and their gear protected off the ground. To achieve this the tent is suspended off the ground via ropes attached to trees. These tents are usually lightweight and are ideal for hiking adventures. The obvious downside to this tent design is that it requires trees to function, so it isn’t ideal on a desert hike. Secondly depending on the weather you may be bounced around a fair bit.


Dome Tents

Dome tents as the name implies have a dome shape once pitched. The design offers a solution to the lack of head room other tent designs struggle with. Though the tent frames are often fiber glass rather than steel the increased flexibility in the frame allows for a variety of shapes and designs to be crated. The basic design involves bending flexible poles into semi circles attached to the webbing or attachments of the tents materials and groundsheets. Though the design boasts more head room than a ridge designed tent its stability can vary greatly as the size of the design increases.


Screened Tents

A screened tent is not limited to any particular design as it is more of a feature. Like vestibules, screen tents offer a protected living area outside of the tent but as a bonus is screened to provide insect protection.


Cabin Tents

Cabin tents are designed with near vertical walls. This particular design allows you to walk around freely within the tent and also provides a lot of room. These designs of tents are rather heavy and are limited to campsites accessible by vehicle.


Tunnel Tents

Tunnel tents have become one of the more common designs used by families. Other designs such as dome tents or large family tents either lack stability or room. The tunnel tent design removed these issues by allowing both room and structural sturdiness by using either sturdy or flexible tent poles set up into a row of semi circles.


Geodesic / Semi-geodesic Tents

Geodesic tent design are for the serious adventurer. By serious I mean climbing mount Everest,arctic exploration or something close to the same level of extreme. These tents are incredibly stable due to their design which involves tent poles crossing over each other to form smaller triangles which reduce the over all stress of the tent into multiple smaller areas.

Semi-geodesic designs are based on the same principle but have fewer poles. They are still considered very stable but are for less extreme situations. In the context of the weekend get away with your partner, chances are you won’t need a tent this extreme.


Tepee Tents

Tepee tents are increasing in popularity, especially on the festival scene. The design can vary from a quick pop up to a single pole smoke free structure with a built in oven. obviously you want to consider your needs when looking at these types tents. Most designs are more suitable for finer weather, though you can purchase more expensive weather hardy options.


Pod Tents

Pod tents literally have limitless potential in terms of space. The design is very similar to ‘facetoface’ tents. A large centralized area is than sectioned off with multiple rooms (pods) offering multiple sleeping quarters, areas for privacy and even areas for children to play. Perhaps the only down fall to this design is the large size it can take up. If you’re lucky enough to find space for it, the camp ground may charge extra for you to erect it. Another downside is the amount of material required for the tent, making them very heavy to carry and transport. The best solution is to purchase a pod tent that allows you to attach or detach pods so you don’t have to erect all of them.


Face to face (Vis-a-vis) Tents

As the name implies, these tents often look like two tents facing each other. This particular design was introduced in France as a solution for a lack of room in family recreational tents. The idea behind the design is to allow both snug sleeping quarters whilst having a more spacious centralized area. This design may have been the start of pod tent structures we see more commonly today. The design has evolved over time and is still very popular and practice today.


Where Are We Heading ?

The Camping tent industry is both exciting and ever-changing. Every day it seems that there is a new or improved model offering new or different types of designs and features. But where is this all moving into the future. What are some of these new designs of tents ?

Instant Set Up Tents

Perhaps one of the most popular designs to hit the market are instant set up camping tents. You have probably seen them advertised all over social media. Boasting and displaying how truly quick the tent structure can be erected. Instant tents can be made in a number of ways. The design usually consists of a form of coiled spring poles permanently attached to the tents fabric. The coil or frame can than be quickly released and secured, erecting the tent in seconds. The variety of instant tents isn’t as limited as it once was, making them ideal for casual setting such as festivals or weekend camping. The design can be incorporated into a number of different tent shapes or types, essentially making it more of a feature than a tent type.


Inflatable Tents

Inflatable tents have been around for a while but are becoming more popular. The original idea was to provide a lighter camping package by removing heavy tent poles and replacing them with permanent internally sewn seams which are inflatable to erect the tent. However, to allow for strength and to prevent the seam becoming damaged the tent designs became just as heavy. In contrast, the tent designs do pack away very well and construction of the tent is very easy. The heavyweight load does limit these tents to camping areas with vehicle access, they aren’t really suitable for hiking etc.


Dark Rest Tents

Though the term ‘dark rest’ is different with manufacturers the principle is mostly the same. The concept behind these kinds of tents is to darken the room of the tent by either adding panels, extra material or darker material to block out light so that the occupants may sleep longer. Some tent designs go a step further and add both light and sound insulation to maximize light and noise reduction and maximise a good night sleep.


Bathtub Tents

As strange as the name sounds the design is actually rather clever. The basic concept is to reduce water getting into your tent via the ground. Bathtub tents achieve this by having the bottom part of the tents material extend a few inches upwards on the wall before being attached and sealed to the remainder of the tent. This design is great for camping on uneven ground where water may pool or built up in a rain during your adventures. In a normal tent the water would eventually seep through because most tents waterproofing is designed to allow the water to bead up and roll off, but doesn’t consider pools of water building up outside of the tent. Bathtub tents are more of a feature than a design of tent, because of this the words bathtub may not be the manufacturers word of choice on the label. To identify a tent with this design look at the erect version of the tent. Look around the base seems and see if the base extends up the walls of the tent.

Below is an example of what to look for.


Where Are Our Chooses Leading Us ?

Moving into the future we are all becoming increasingly aware of our environmental foot print. With increasing temperatures and the ever looming threat of global warming being blasted across mainstream media, new challenges are on the horizon for the camping tent industry.

Possibly the biggest change towards the future will be the reduction of plastic. At present a large variety of camping tent manufacturers use plastic like materials such as nylon and polyester. Perhaps we will begin to see a strong return of canvas or poly-cotton tents in the future or maybe there is a new material in development yet to be announced. Either way a change for the better is exciting and welcomed.

Buy What Is Best For you!

Hopefully this post has cleared a few things up for you. when you go to purchase your new tent make sure you make a purchase based on your needs.

You don’t need to buy an expensive arctic wind proof tent for your weekend in the sunny park. Understand your needs and figure out what design best suits you.

Once you have made the appropriate considerations you will be free of worry and able to relax and enjoy your adventures.

If you have any questions or would like to offer a suggestion. Please feel free to comment below.

7 thoughts on “What Is A Camping Tent – Types Of Camping Tents

  1. I love camping, and I am on the hunt for a new tent.

    Thank you so much for this review! This has helped me narrow down my research on brands.

  2. Well, I have used at least five different types.

    The bathtub style should always be considered in my backyard, the Pacific Northwest, and Coastal camping. It is not a have to just a should look at. Siting the tent can also help. Sometimes we look at the flat spot and not how the water will drain through the site if it rains.

    Face to face may be a nice option for families or groups. I liked the privacy for resting or changing.

    Cabin tents and 4 seasons tents we used on longer hikes with our large groups.

    Someone bought me an two person tent by Kelty. It looked like the single person pup tent only more like a shoe shape. Very difficult to get in and out of and was a challenge to change in as you had to being laying down. However, it was an extreme conditions tent with all sorts of rain flies, windbreaks and pretty sure it had the bathtub liner.

    Probably used more types. I have stayed in a yurt and a tepee might have stayed in a tepee tent. The actual tepee was cool if you could get the fire to burn hot enough. The opening at the bottom near the ground allows for the heat convection to help exhaust the smoke.

    Wow. That was great to read through. Remembered a lot of great times on hikes and camping trips. From just playing in the yard to the Pacific Crest Trail 14 or 21-day outing when I was like ten years old.

    Just tried to remember the range from Pacific coast to Montana from Whistler, Canada to how far south? Lost track of all the places I have camped out.

    Where do you plan on camping out next?

  3. WOW!

    So many tents to choose from, I am thankful you have taken the time to explain all of the different types.

    I remember when we bought our first tent we had no idea what to look for. We chose the one that looked the most pleasing! In the long run, we ended up with a great tent, but it was far too much for what we really needed.

    I wish this site had been around back then!

    1. There’s a few more models I didn’t mention as they’re kinda of less common . Imagine what the future holds
      For tent designs!

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