What Different Types of Tent Are There? 16 Types Explained

Different types of tent bring different things to the table. Not sure which style is best for you? Our guide explains all, giving you the lowdown on no fewer than 16 various tent types!

Kieran Avatar
Last Update:

A Camping Shelter for Every Occasion

Wondering what different types of tent there are?

You’re in the right place! In this guide, we will be covering the following:

    • A short explainer of 16 different types of tents
    • Pros and cons of each type
    • Advice on who and what type of adventure each is best suited for

Tents come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Each offers something a little bit (or a lot!) different and has pros and cons that make it less or more suitable for varying kinds of camping and the needs of individual campers.

Not sure what type of tent will be best for your future escapades? Worry not! Below, we offer a short guide to the different types of tent out there along with a quick summary of each type’s advantages and disadvantages.

From traditional tents to the perfect glamping tent, from an ultralight tent for backpacking to a beach tent for sunny days out, our guide has got you covered!

The Sixteen Most Common Tent Types

1. Dome Tent

Dome tents are probably the most popular style of tent owing to the ease with which they can be set up, their light weight, and the increased living space their curved, dome-shaped design offers, particularly with regards to headroom.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Easy to pitch
  • More livable and spacious than other tent designs
  • Some models are freestanding

Cons

  • Lose stability in large sizes
  • Don’t perform as well as geodesic models in high winds

2. A-Frame Tent/Ridge Tent

These tents rely on a duo of poles at either end and tension from tie-out points in the tent body and fly to create a surprisingly stable, A-shaped shelter.

Pros

  • Easy to pitch
  • Lightweight (if you can substitute trekking poles for those supplied)
  • Reasonably stable in moderate to strong winds

Cons

  • Poles can interfere with sleeping space
  • Lack of headroom – walls decline sharply from a high center point or ridge
  • Tend to tip, buckle, or even collapse in high winds if not pitched perfectly

3. Geodesic and Semi-Geodesic Tent

A geodesic tent is essentially a dome tent with more poles. These poles criss-cross at a center point at the top of the tent, thereby forming a lattice shell of triangles that strengthen the overall structure providing excellent stability in harsh conditions.

Semi-geodesic tents are, in essence, scaled-down versions of geodesic tents that use fewer poles. As a result, they are often lighter but offer less stability in high winds.

Pros

  • The most stable type of backcountry shelter available
  • Perform well in extreme conditions
  • Freestanding

Cons

  • Many models are too heavy for backpacking
  • Large pack size
  • Occasionally tricky to pitch
  • Can be pricey

4. Cabin Tents

Cabin tents are designed to be like standard wood cabins but made with fabric and poles. The result? A roomy structure with steep walls that create more headroom from end to end and wall to wall. With larger models, this means even tall campers can walk around inside without having to hunch.

This design makes a cabin tent more like a home-away-from-home andideal for family camping.

Pros

  • Spacious
  • Great headroom
  • Ideal for family camping

Cons

  • Often heavy
  • Often tricky to pitch
  • Not as stable in high winds

5. Tunnel Tent

Tunnel tents use a succession of poles arced over the sleeping area to provide a – you guessed it! – a tunnel shape living space inside the body of the tent. These tents are rarely freestanding and rely on careful pitching (with numerous guy lines and pegs) for stability.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Spacious, for the most part
  • Large vestibule area
  • Usually, offer plenty of headroom

Cons

  • Prone to sagging (and collecting water) in the middle
  • Not the most stable in high winds
  • Difficult to pitch without a second pair of hands
  • Not freestanding

6. Backpacking Tent

Backpacking tents are made for carrying long distances on extended camping trips, usually deep in the backcountry or on thru-hikes. Generally speaking, they offer solid across-the-board performance and are very lightweight, but usually, skimp on a few bells and whistles to cut down on weight.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Small pack size
  • Typically hard-wearing, rugged, and offer solid weather-resistance

Cons

  • Usually less spacious than other varieties of tent
  • Low peak height
  • Often expensive

7. Teepee Tent

Teepee tents debuted as novelty items in the tenting world but have since evolved into more practical affairs that use a single central pole and numerous guy lines and stakes to create a cone-shaped structure often capable of accommodating a large number of sleepers.

Pros

  • Spacious
  • Excellent peak height
  • Easy to pitch

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Flooring not always included
  • Taller models lack stability

8. Pop-Up Tent or Instant Tent

As with all things instant (coffee and grub, for example), these tents are great time-savers but often (not always) entail a compromise in quality. 

As the name suggests, they pitch in next to no time courtesy of telescoping or folding poles that connect to a central pole hub. Once you’ve laid the tent out, all you have to do is pull a release cord or lever and the structure assembles almost entirely by itself.

Many beach tents are also pop-up tents. These, for the most part, are incredibly quick to pitch but offer little to no water resistance.

Pros

  • Set up in next to no time
  • Freestanding
  • Lightweight
  • Tiny pack size

Cons

  • Often offer limited weather resistance
  • Limited capacity

9. Multi-Room Tent

As the name suggests, multi-room tents boast partitions that allow larger groups or families to enjoy more privacy and let you keep your gear separate from your sleeping space.

Pros

  • Spacious
  • Allow for privacy

Cons

  • Weight – impractical for camping far from your vehicle
  • Tricky to set up
  • Less stable than smaller tents

10. Inflatable Tent

This relative newcomer to the world of camping is a bit of a game-changer, using inflatable columns or tubes instead of standard aluminum tent poles to simplify setup and provide the tent’s structure.

While it’s hard to imagine inflatable tents will ever be more popular than regular tents, there’s no denying they have their advantages. To pitch, simply unfold the tent and pump it full of air with a foot pump. To pack it away, all you need to do is open a valve to deflate it, then roll it away. 

Pros

  • Easier to pitch
  • Robust
  • Surprising good performance in strong winds
  • Ideal for car camping
  • Pole-free!

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Pricey
  • Bulky
  • Unless you have the lung power of a whale, you’ll have to carry a foot pump to inflate the ‘poles’

11. Suspended Tents/Hammock Tent

In short, hammock tents are hybrid models that combine the features of both a hammock and a tent. In most cases, they consist of a hammock with a custom-made ridgeline fly or tarp that provides protection from the rain and a built-in bug net.

A hammock tent can be lashed to 2-4 trees with suspension straps to provide an elevated living space.

Pros

  • Place sleepers above wet, uneven, rocky terrain
  • Usually very lightweight
  • Ventilate better than most ground tents

Cons

  • ‘Pitching’ requires trees
  • Tricky to set up

12. Rooftop Tents & Car-Top Tents

These typically robust, commodious tents can be attached to the roof of your vehicle and provide an elevated sleeping space accessed by a ladder attached to the tent door or vestibule.

Pros

  • Your vehicle carries them for you!
  • Usually very robust and weather-resistant
  • Easy to set up
  • Usually sold with an inbuilt mattress

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Only suitable for roadside camping
  • Aerodynamic drag and added weight can add to fuel costs

13. Bathroom Tents

These pod-style, upright vestibules are common features at popular basecamps (Everest, Annapurna, Denali, Kilimanjaro) and are becoming ever more popular with large groups of campers looking to keep things civilized when it comes to toilet time and clothing changes.

Pros

  • Handy provider of privacy when camping in large groups
  • Useful on expeditions where concealed, open-air toilet locations are hard to find or prohibited

Cons

  • For many a year, trees and bushes have served the same purpose perfectly adequately
  • Additional pack weight

14. Canvas Tents

Canvas camping tents are, for the most part, luxury tents that use burly canvas and cotton canvas instead of standard nylon or polyester.

A canvas tent can come in many styles, but most commonly take the form of bell tents, pyramid tents, and occasionally ridge tents.

Pros

  • Robust
  • Durable
  • Waterproof

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Pricey

15. Bivy Tent

Bivy tents are small, lightweight, one-person affairs that are ideal for ounce-counters, solo adventurers, and those who like to travel fast and light. 

Early “bivy bags” were essentially large sleeping bag covers that would keep you and your bag dry in inclement weather. These days, many mimic the structure of small A-frame tents or use looped poles at the top and bottom to provide the sleeper with a little more room.

Pros

  • credibly lightweight
  • Compact
  • (Mostly) highly weather-resistant

Cons

  • Minimal interior space
  • No storage space

16. Canopy Tent

Canopy tents are simple, four-pole structures that are mostly used for outdoor events like weddings, barbecues, and farmer’s markets. Unlike all the other tents on our list, this style of tent consists of a pole structure and roof only, with no walls.

Pros

  • Ideal for events
  • Provide shade and protection from light rain

Cons

  •  No walls

Happy Camping!

Who knew there were so many varieties of tent?! We hope the above guide has helped you decide which type of shelter will be best for your future escapades.

If you have any questions or comments about any of the different tent styles, drop us a line in the comment box below!

Last update on 2022-12-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Kieran Avatar

Kieran James Cunningham is a climber, mountaineer, and author who divides his time between the Italian Alps, the US, and his native Scotland.

He has climbed a handful of 6000ers in the Himalayas, 4000ers in the Alps, 14ers in the US, and loves nothing more than a good long-distance wander in the wilderness. He climbs when he should be writing, writes when he should be sleeping, has fun always.

Kieran has taught mountaineering, ice climbing, and single-pitch and multi-pitch rock climbing in a variety of contexts over the years and has led trekking and mountaineering expeditions in the Alps, Rockies, and UK. He is currently working towards qualifying as a Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor and International Mountain Leader.

Kieran’s book Climbing the Walls—an exploration of the mental health benefits of climbing, mountaineering, and the great outdoors—is scheduled for release by Simon & Schuster in April 2021.

Leave a Comment