Tent Terminology: Demystifying the Tech-Talk

Don't know your Jake's foot from your footprint? Fear not! In this guide, we'll take you through all the weird and wonderful wordage used to described tents so you know your stuff and can impress you camping cohorts with your newly acquired smarts!

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Written by: | Reviewed by: Brian Conghalie
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Sometimes, tent manufacturers are prone to throwing around all kinds of kooky and quirky terminology in the belief that we, passionate but ultimately layman lovers of all things camping, have PhDs in fabric technology, physics, meteorology, thermodynamics, and even a working knowledge of needlework.

Gladly, it ain’t quite as complicated as it first seems and below we’ve added a short, simple guide on tent terminology to help you through the jargon and technical-speak so you know your screened porch from your gear garage.

Tent Lingo: Parts of a Tent and Tent Characteristics


Idiomatic term for a tent that can take pretty much anything the weather can throw at it. Not, alas, capable of withstanding encounters with explosives.


The extent to which a tent’s fabric permits water vapor to escape from inside to out, thus reducing condensation.


The accumulation of moisture on the tent’s interior, most commonly caused by poor ventilation, humid conditions, and large variations between daytime and nighttime temperatures.

Double-Walled Tent

Tents composed of two distinct layers, namely an inner sleeping compartment (the tent body) and an outer sheet for weather protection (the rainfly).  


Durable Water Resistance/Resistant: the coating applied to the flysheet or tent body that allows it to shed liquid by causing it to bead up on the surface instead of saturating the fabric.

Freestanding Tent

Freestanding tents are models that stand up without the support of guy lines or pegs/stakes, thereby making them much easier to pitch by solo campers.


Sheets of fabric that can be placed underneath tents to provide additional protection from cold, wet, or rocky ground.

Four-Season Tent

Tents designed for use in winter conditions and, thus, capable of withstanding heavy rainfall, strong winds, and heavy snow loads. See “bombproof,” above.

Gear Garage

An oversized or expanded vestibule designed for storage of bulkier gear.

Gear Loft

An accessory that hangs or can be hung under the tent ceiling to provide extra storage inside the living area.

Gear Loops/Hoops

Plastic or fabric hoops/loops positioned on the tent walls or ceilings used for hanging gear.

Guy Line

Lengths of cord that can be staked/pegged out to stabilize your tent in high winds.

Guy Out Loops/Guy Points

Reinforced webbing straps or loops attached to the tent body or rainfly to which you can attach a guy line.


Hydrostatic head: the metric used to determine and denote a tent’s level of waterproofing.

Jake’s Foot

A special attachment point that allows the guy line for the tent body and rainfly to share the same stake or peg.

Line Locs/Locks

Adjuster cords used to apply tension to guy lines and reduce sagging in rain flies.

Mesh Panels

Segments placed in the walls of the tent body to provide ventilation and “windows” whilst blocking out insects.

Pole Clips

Plastic clips that connect the body of a tent to the poles. An alternative to pole sleeves, these are usually easier to use but don’t provide the same support.

Pole Hub

A connector that allows multiple poles to be joined together at different angles, thereby increasing rigidity and stability in high winds and under the weight of heavy snow accumulations.

Pole Sleeves

Fabric sleeves or loops on a tent’s exterior that hold the poles in place, adding tension and rigidity to the tent’s structure.


A feature found in many larger recreational tents that provides a floorless, screened area at the front of the tent.


Polyurethane: a coating applied to the walls and floors of many tents to provide water resistance and durability.


The waterproof outer sheet used to protect the inner tent from the elements in double-walled tents.

Sealed Seams

Seams that have been treated with a layer of glue or sealant to prevent leaks.

Seam Tape

Waterproof tape applied to tent seams during manufacturing to prevent leaks where two pieces of fabric are joined.

Pack Weight

The weight of a full tent package, including tent body, rainfly, poles, guy lines, pegs, stuff sacks, and repair kits.

Tie Backs

Toggles and loops used to hold the tent door open.

Trail Weight/Minimum Weight

Refers to the weight of only the tent body, rainfly, and poles.

Single Wall Tent

A tent that uses only one layer of fabric instead of a tent body and rainfly (double-wall).

Storm Flaps

Strips of fabric that reach over the zippers on tent outers to prevent rain and drafts from entering through the zipper’s teeth.

Three-Season Tent

A kinda one-size-fits-(nearly)- all term to describe non-winter tents with good breathability and waterproofing but which are less “bombproof” than their four-season siblings.

Trekking Pole Tent

Tents in which you can substitute tent poles with trekking poles to save weight.

Ultralight Tent

A vague term that once applied to any tent under 5 pounds but with advances in lightweight technologies now applies to those in the sub-3-pound class.


Openings or mesh-lined panels in the tent walls or roof used to enhance airflow and reduce condensation.


The area between the doors on the tent inner and outer that provides extra dry storage space for gear.

Tent Terminology 101: Done!

Now go impress your buddies with your newly acquired lingo!

Last update on 2023-05-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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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.

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