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Types Of Tents: (Ultimate Visual Guide) To Help You Make The Right Choice

Types Of Tents

Tents come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials, making it difficult to decide which one is best for you.

This is why we created a comprehensive guide with pictures that will answer all the questions about what popular tents works best for which situation and why.

Activities

When shopping for a tent, you need to consider what you will be doing and then determining what tent would be best for those activities.

Backpacking

Tents best for backpacking will be light and easy to set up. Now, if you’re planning on backpacking during the colder months you will need to think about a 4 season tent. 

That goes for hot summer months also in which you should be looking for a good 1 to 3 season tent that has good mesh for ventilation for keeping you cool in the hot sun.

Camping

Camping is usually done during the summer months so you will need to look for a good ventilated tent. Also, since you don’t necessarily need to worry about weight so much, you can look at larger family tents for this type of activity.

Mountaineering

Activities such as Mountaineering involve extreme weather conditions and a double-walled 4 season tent will probably be what you want. You also need to look for quality and styles that will handle potential high winds and cold.

Seasonality

Different weather will require different tent options. It depends on what season you will be using a tent.

1 Season

These tents are not very popular. In fact, it’s pretty difficult to even find one on the market these days. This is due to the fact they are made from thin material.

 Also, as far as I can tell, these tents don’t usually come with any type of rainfly which would obviously be problematic if rain is in the forecast.

 So, you need to be aware of these potential downfalls when looking at 1 season tent.

2 Season

Now two-season tents are a little more capable than the 1 seasons but still mostly used in the summer months. 

They are not designed to withstand heavy rain or winds but will fare well in light rain conditions and milder winds. Again, I wouldn’t trust it on a longer camping trip where the weather can be unpredictable. 

And let’s face it, the weather is unpredictable…

3 Season

These types of tents are designed for…you guessed it, spring, summer, and fall. These are probably the most popular tents because they are the most practical for most individuals.

 They are really good in rain and even high winds, although you want to make sure you have good guylines in place if you’re anticipating any substantial winds.

3 Season tents will have good ventilation such as mesh to keep good airflow helping with condensation as well as keeping you cool. 

So look for tents with mesh doors and roofs but also a good rain fly that is gapped at the bottom so you don’t get too stuffy.

4 Season

The 4 season tents are ones for the most extreme weather because they can be used in the snowy months.

They are also used in mountaineering where the snow and winds can be extreme and when your shelter can be our lifeline.

These tents are designed to not have open mesh or vestibules with gaps on the bottom to allow airflow. Instead, they are configured to keep it pretty tight with limited ventilation to keep you warm.

They are usually doubled walled and made from a thick material that can withstand the snow, hail, wind and cold temperatures.

Also, you will notice that the poles are more robust…again, to help withstand the more extreme elements.

Tent Styles And Types

Okay, now that we learned more about the season aspect of tents, let’s look at what different tent styles are on the market.

Backpacking Tents

Backpacking tents are designed for….well, just that, backpacking or hiking trips where weight can be a huge factor when choosing a tent.

To keep the weight down these tents are small and lightweight with usually a 1 or 2 person capacity. You’re not packing a huge heavy tent to have a ton of supplies in it, but small only to keep you safe, secure and out of the weather.

They are usually a 3 season type so they can be used in most weather conditions but will not do well in severe cold or snow.

Family Tents

Now family tents are larger tents that can accommodate families and their gear. You are not going to buy a family tent for long hiking trips where extra ounces can make a huge difference.

Instead, they are great for camping trips where you will not be hiking long distances.

Dome Tents

These are extremely popular and have a rectangular footprint usually with two poles that will run diagonally crossing at the top to the opposite corners.

 They are easy to set up and come in many different sizes. Usually reasonably priced and lightweight making them great for most types of activities.

The dome shape helps deflect wind and rain making them good in all weather conditions.

Instant Tents

Need a quick and easy tent to set up? Then instant tents might be a good choice.

These tents use poles that slide up and down with a locking mechanism that will snap into place when the poles are at the appropriate height.

Our family bought one of these tents and I have to say,  I was extremely impressed by how easy it was to set up. I would buy another instant tent style in a heartbeat!

Cabin Tents

These are super popular for family camping trips. They are a small home that can be packed up placed in your trunk. They are constructed using poles that angle and snap together creating the framework.

They can come in an instant tent-style (which our family loves) making them a snap to set up. They are designed with room dividers providing a family member with their own private space.

There large design and great headroom make them a comfortable choice for long family camping trips.

Hammock Tents

These are…..well, hammocks with a screen covering for protection from bugs and creepy crawlies. You can get a rainfly making them viable for a great camping option. 

You will need to either be by good trees or have a stand but can be a fun way to go the more minimalist route.

A-frame 

The A-Frame is the classic looking tent that you would naturally think of. It has a triangular shape that can be associated with the letter A because of the way it is configured.

They are pretty basic with no-frills but are great because of there timeless design and simplicity.

Tunnel

Tunnel tents are pretty unique with their design. They are great family tents due to the spacious layout with minimum wasted space. They are designed with looping poles that create the tunnel and are secured with guy lines. 

They are known to withstand pretty harsh weather and do great in moderately high winds. But, you need to make sure you have good strong guy lines as they are what will keep the tent secure.

TeePee

Traditionally a TeePee was used by Native Americans, but over the years they have been adapted for modern use.

The design is the same as the past but now are offered usually in a canvas or polyester material. They are great tents and although less popular then a more common design, the teepee can be a good option if you want to try something a little different.

Tarp tent

In its simplest form is a sheet of material (usually nylon or plastic) that is draped with guy lines but can also use poles. They can be popular with hikers because of their lightweight and simple design.

Because of this basic design, they don’t offer much protection from the weather or bugs.

Geodesic

Pretty much a modified dome with heavier duty materials than your cheaper dome tent. They not only offer a Heavy-duty tent material but also stronger poles.

They also have more poles then your typical tent increasing the stability and rigidity of the structure.

They are designed to be stable and well suited for extreme weather conditions and would be a solid choice for more of a mountaineering and expedition explorers.

Truck Tents

These are designed to be used on the bed of a truck. Seems obvious I know….

But these are uniques because they simply attach to your truck making the floor of the tent the truck bed. 

This eliminates the need to find a nice flat ground that is free of debris to pitch our tent.

Inflatable Tents

Yes, that’s right …inflatable tent exist and they are actually pretty cool. Not saying they are great for all types of camping but they are great for quick no-fuss setup situations.

Although they started off feeling kind of gimmicky, they have been tweaked over the years and are now making them from small to huge family styles that are actually quite remarkable.

Instead of your traditional poles, they use pole like tubes that are filled with air giving the tent its structure. 

Things To Consider When Looking At Tents

Sleeping Capacity

Are you bringing your family? I have a family of 5 and would need to purchase a tent that can accommodate all of us without being too cramped.

I would even make sure you have extra room so you and your family can have enough wiggle room while also holding some of your gear as well.

If you are in need of a 1 or 2 person tent then the style and size will be completely different.

Features To Look For

  • Rain Fly– Look for a tent with a good rainfly. This is important in keeping you dry and cool. The rainfly should come down past your windows but not lay flat against the tent. Instead, make sure there is a gap between the fly and the tent which will provide ample airflow
  • Quality Poles– Find a tent with good solid poles because it gets frustrating when a pole breaks (it happened to me more than once). Most poles will be made from fiberglass which can have a tendency to splinter or snap. Instead, if you can, look for aluminum poles that are much more durable and dependable.
  • Floor- They are making tents with what they call a “tub floor” which is one solid piece of material that comes up a few inches all the way around the bottom. Having one piece with no seams prevents an entry point for water to get in.
  • Guy LinesGuy lines are important in securing your rainfly and sometimes the tent walls. Make sure you have good guy lines the can keep the rain fly secure to the tent, but also taught enough to keep some space between the fly and tent for that all-important ventilation.

Tent Accessories

When I say look at the quality of tent accessories…..what I mean is, make sure you have quality stakes, guy lines, and a good rain fly. These items are important in the overall tenting experience.

Even picking up an extra heavy-duty tarp for under the tent floor can help tremendously if you’re pitching your tent in a low spot or an area that could potentially hold a lot of groundwater.

A great hack for summer camping is using a tent air conditioner. These can help tremendously if you have space and power hookup.

Material

Tent materials vary and can include:

  • Polyester
  • Gore-Tex
  • Nylon
  • Polyethylene
  • Canvas
  • Felt

Some material is more suited for different environments. For example, in warm weather, a good choice would be a Nylon or light Polyester which is waterproof while providing good ventilation.

While in cold weather you want a Canvas or heavy-duty Polyester to help keep in the warmth and keep out the cold air.

Ventilation

When camping in the summer months, your biggest concern should be ventilation and good airflow to keep your tent nice and cool.

For more information about good summer tenting, check out this article explaining an in-depth review of what to look for in a hot weather tent.

Number Of Doors

So I like multiple doors in my tents, but this will vary depending on size. If you’re like me and tent mainly during the spring and summer months, having two doors with large mesh always helps with a cross breeze.

Multiple doors also help with getting gear in and out of the tent.

Conclusion

I believe the best overall tent will be a 3 season tent unless you are planning on tackling a lot of snow and high extreme winds. The 3 seasons tents regardless of style will meet your needs for all the rest of the weather conditions.

Best of luck, and happy trails!

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