The Twelve Most Common Tent Types
1. Dome Tents
Dome tents are probably the most popular style of tent owing to the ease with which they can be set up, their lightweight, and the increased living space their curved, dome-shaped design offers, particularly as regards the headroom.
- Easy to pitch
- More livable and spacious than other tent designs
- Some models are freestanding
- Lose stability in large sizes
- Don’t perform as well as geodesic models in high winds
2. A-Frame/Ridge-Style Tents
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.
- Easy to pitch
- Lightweight (if you can substitute trekking poles for those supplied)
- Reasonably stable in moderate to strong winds
- Poles can interfere with sleeping space
- Lack of headroom—tent walls decline sharply from high center point or ridge
- Tend to tip, buckle, or even collapse in high winds if not pitched perfectly
3. Geodesic and Semi-Geodesic Tents
Geodesic tents are essentially dome tents 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 of the tent and provide 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.
- The most stable type of backcountry tent available
- Perform well in extreme conditions
- Many models are too heavy for backpacking
- Large pack size
- Occasionally tricky to pitch
- Can be pricey
4. Tunnel Tents
Tunnel tents use a succession of poles arced over the sleeping area to provide a—you guessed it!—tunnel-like living space inside the tent body. These tents are rarely freestanding and rely on careful pitching (with numerous guy lines and pegs) for stability.
- Spacious, for the most part
- Large vestibule area
- Usually, offer plenty of headroom
- 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
5. Backpacking Tents
These 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 in order to cut down on weight.
- Small pack size
- Typically hard-wearing, rugged, and offer solid weather-resistance
- Usually less spacious than other types of tent
- Low peak height
- Often expensive
6. Teepee Tents
These 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 large numbers of sleepers.
- Excellent peak height
- Easy to pitch
- Flooring not always included
- Taller models lack stability
7. Pop-up/Instant Tents
As with all things instant (coffee and grub, for example), these tents are great time-savers but offer very little in the way of quality. An excellent choice for fair-weather festival-goers or garden campers but insufficient for backcountry camping in all but the most benign conditions.
- Set up in next to no time
- Tiny pack size
- Very limited weather resistance
- Limited capacity
- Lack durability, robustness, and stability
8. Multi-Room Tents
As the name suggests, these tents boast partitions that allow larger groups or families to enjoy more privacy and let you keep your gear separate from your sleeping space.
- Allow for privacy
- Weight—impractical for camping far from your vehicle
- Tricky to set up
- Less stable than smaller tents
9. Inflatable Tents
This relative newcomer to the world of camping is a bit of a game-changer, using inflatable columns or tubes instead of standard aluminum poles to provide the tent’s structure and simplify setup.
- Easy to set up (with a foot pump; not so much without!)
- Typically heavier than similarly sized regular tents
- Unless you have the lung power of a whale, you’ll have to carry a foot pump to inflate the ‘poles’
10. Suspended Tents
Also known as ‘hammock tents,’ these can be lashed to 2-4 trees with suspension straps to provide an elevated living space, typically for a maximum of 2 or 3 sleepers.
- Place sleepers above wet, uneven, rocky terrain
- Usually very lightweight
- Ventilate better than most ground tents
- ‘Pitching’ requires trees
- Tricky to set up
11. Rooftop 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.
- Your vehicle carries them for you!
- Usually very robust and weather-resistant
- Easy to setup
- Usually sold with an inbuilt mattress
- Only suitable for roadside camping
- Aerodynamic drag and added weight can add to fuel costs
12. 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.
- Handy provider of privacy when camping in large groups
- Useful on expeditions where concealed, open-air toilet locations are hard to find or prohibited
- For many a year, trees and bushes have served the same purpose perfectly adequately
- Additional pack weight