Shopping for a new tent? With the expansive types of tents available today, knowing when to use what type of tent can be intimidating. As we explore the different types of tents in this article, the pros and cons of each, and their best use, picking the right tent for you will be more obvious.
Different types of tents include:
- Instant tent
- Pop-up tent
- Inflatable tent
- Hammock tent
- Tunnel tents
- Rooftop tent
- Truck tent
- Cabin tents
- Bivy tent
- Ridge tent
- Pyramid tent
- Bell tent
- Tarp tent
- Beach tent
- Dome tent
- Geodesic tents
- Multi-Room Tent
- Canopy Tent
- Backpacking Tent
- Screen-House Tent
- Vis-À-Vis Tent
1. Instant Tent
As the name suggests, instant tents are set up extremely quickly. Some tents take only a minute or two to set up and taking them down after camping is equally as fast.
With regular tents, most of the time spent setting up the tent is spent matching the poles up to the corresponding loops and then painstakingly looping the poles through the loops. Instant tents remove this hassle by pre-attaching the poles to the tent; no-fuss camping!
They are best used for camping in the summertime and in other moderate climates. Unfortunately, instant tents are not the most durable and are not strong enough to withstand strong winds or snowing conditions.
As the poles are attached to the tent, they are bulky and heavy when folded up. While this can be a disadvantage for backpacking, it is ideal for car camping, festivals, and events, or backyard camping with children.
Check out our article on the best instant tents.
2. Pop-up Tent
A pop-up tent is a type of instant tent with a quick-release mechanism in the poles, allowing the tent to pop open the moment it is taken out of its bag, similar to foldable sun shades for car windows.
Like other instant tents, pop-up tents are not weather-resistant enough for camping in unpleasant conditions. Although many pop-ups are lighter than instant tents, they are still too heavy for backpacking.
Pop-up tents are fantastic for anyone new to camping or intimated by setting up a regular tent. They are affordable, hassle-free, and perfect for summer camping. Folding them back up after camping can be tricky, but many online videos show how to fold them easily.
Unfortunately, there is one disadvantage to take into consideration. The poles are attached to the tent, so they cannot simply be replaced when one snaps or breaks. Often, the only solution is to replace your tent. However, it can last a few years if you avoid camping in windy conditions and properly care for your tent.
Interested in pop-up summer camping? Check out our list of the best pop-up tents.
3. Inflatable Tent
Inflatable tents are like a blend between regular pole tents and instant tents. Pitching an air tent, as they are also called, is easy and takes only a few minutes, similar to instant tents. Instead of tent poles, they use beams that need to be inflated but still need pegs and guy lines like regular tents.
One advantage of inflatable tents is that they are more flexible than tents with poles and can consequently tolerate more wind. A quality air tent uses thick, durable fabric that won’t easily puncture and can last for years. Some air tents have separate beams, making it easy to pinpoint any punctures and replace the beam.
One thing to note: inflatable tents require a pump. While pumps are included in most tents, not all do, so it is worth checking. Air tents are ideal for car camping as they are heavy. The more people it can accommodate, the heavier the tent.
4. Hammock Tent
Who doesn’t love sleeping comfortably? With a hammock tent, you get the comfort of a hammock with the added protection of a tent. Hammock tents are essentially hammocks with a rain cover over them and often include a mesh or netting to protect against mosquitos and spiders.
Hammock tents are fantastic for general camping. They are available in various styles, fabrics, and weights, including tents suitable for backpacking. The elevation off the ground keeps you warm at night and makes it possible to pitch your tent on treacherous terrain.
They are relatively easy to pitch, but you must be somewhat skilled at knotting to ensure your tent stays secure. Hammock tents are also very strong, provided you stay within the weight limit of your tent.
One disadvantage of hammock tents is that you need at least two trees to suspend your tent. While portable hammock stands are available, they can be a hassle. This is not the best tent to use in a desert or flat area.
5. Tunnel Tent
A tunnel tent resembles a tunnel. They are longer than wide and not very high. The tentpoles do not cross and are spanned from one side of the tent to the other width-wise, forming a dome shape.
The shape of tunnel tents makes them very strong and aerodynamic. For this reason, they are great for backpacking and trekking. Their ability to withstand strong winds makes them suited for camping in windy conditions.
Although tunnel tents are low, they are more spacious than some other types of tents, and their length allows for a space to store your backpack and gear that is separate from your sleeping area. Tunnel tents are available in different sizes to accommodate several people. However, the more people the tent can fit, the longer it takes to set it up.
Check out our list of the best tunnel tents.
6. Rooftop Tent
A rooftop tent is a tent that you can pitch on the roof of your car. They are simple to pitch, and you don’t need a tarp or groundcover.
Waking up and enjoying a magical view you won’t get from camping on the ground or even a hammock is unmatched. With the tent on your roof, you have plenty of space in your car and can pack more luxury items or food.
Unfortunately, rooftop tents have a few disadvantages. You require a ladder to access your tent, so they are not suited for older, less mobile people and wheelchair users. Young children and dogs will need to be carried to the tent. And, of course, going to the toilet late at night is a nightmare.
Rooftop tents are the ultimate tent for road-tripping adventures! They give you the freedom to camp anywhere! They are also great for safaris as they keep you out of reach of dangerous wildlife like lions.
7. Truck Tent
Truck tents are similar to rooftop tents but for pickup trucks. Pickup trucks have small roofs, but luckily the truck bed provides ample space for a tent! Truck tents are pitched in the bed of your truck and secured to the sides with ropes.
Like rooftop tents, you are elevated from the ground, so there is no worrying about snakes, scorpions, and other critters. You also don’t need a ground cover. They are much easier to get in and out of as they are lower than rooftop tents and don’t have ladders. Children and dogs can climb in independently, which is unsuitable for wheelchair users.
Truck tents are great for hunting and road-tripping, allowing you to explore and camp anywhere in minutes. You will need to remove everything from the truck bed before setting up.
Regrettably, the truck bed of one truck differs from the next, which means that truck tent sizes are not “one size fits all.” When you buy a new truck, you might need to buy a new tent for it too.
If you are looking for a truck tent, look no further than our article on the best truck tents.
8. Cabin Tent
A cabin tent looks like a cabin made from fabric. Cabin tents are spacious, have rooms separated by dividers, and are high enough to stand in.
Due to their size, cabin tents are perfect for large groups and families. They are child and pet-friendly and also great for camping with a newborn. The room dividers allow for privacy to breastfeed or change the baby.
Cabin tents have lots of space! A camping kitchen can easily be set up inside the tent, or you can store fishing gear. Alternatively, they make wonderful glamping tents.
One disadvantage of cabin tents is their weight; they are heavy and only suited for car camping. They also take a bit longer to set up than other tents, but you can pitch in minutes as a team if you are camping in a group.
Check out our list of the best cabin tents for your family camping holidays.
9. Bivy Tent
Imagine a sleeping bag with a little built-in mesh dome tent for your face. A bivy tent is a compact tent resembling a sleeping bag, with a raised area for your face.
The small size and light weight of a bivy tent make them ideal for backpacking in summertime or camping under the stars on a clear night. Bivy tents are incredibly narrow and unsuitable for anyone suffering from claustrophobia.
Bivy tents often have issues with condensation, and while some tents use breathable fabric, it only partly makes up for the lack of space and ventilation. Thus, bivy tents are not suitable for camping in cold weather.
10. Ridge Tent
Also known as an A-frame tent, ridge tents are super easy to set up. They use one horizontal tent pole that creates the highest point of the roof, and one or two vertical poles on each end, with the tent fabric, draped over. Think of the tent illustrations in tent bumper stickers.
The A-shape of ridge tents allows rain and snow to simply fall off the tent’s edges, making these tents suitable for camping in winter. Although the shape and setup are basic, ridge tents are surprisingly durable and wind-resistant. You may be able to stand in them depending on how high you pitch them, but the taller they are, the less resistant they are to strong winds.
11. Pyramid Tent
A pyramid tent looks like a ridge tent from the front but only has one vertical center pole. Like ridge tents, they are wind resistant and provide headroom to stand when pitched correctly.
What makes pyramid tents ideal is their simplicity. The tent is constructed of only one pole with fabric draped over and secured with rope, so it is lightweight and inexpensive. Trekking poles can be used instead of tent poles for strategic packing when backpacking or mountaineering.
Due to the minimal space, these tents are not appropriate for groups. Pyramid tents are better used for camping in windy, unfavorable conditions. The lack of ground cover allows the tent to be pitched in areas with uneven ground, rocks, and other obstacles.
12. Bell Tent
Bell tents are frequently made from thick, heavy canvas. With only one center pole, the tent is secured with guy lines and pegs, creating a tent that is roomy and able to accommodate many people.
Bell tents are often used for weddings, events, and glamping. Many bell tents have built-in stove jacks, making them ideal for winter camping. If you are looking for a tent to live in long-term, a bell tent is the one!
There are a few disadvantages, though. Bell tents are expensive, but the price can be considered an investment because they are extremely durable. Secondly, they are very heavy. The bigger glamping bell tents are too heavy to carry and require two or more people to set up.
Check out our list of the best bell tents.
13. Tarp tent
A tarp tent is the simplest type of tent. All you need is a tarp and rope. Tarp tents are often used with hammocks, making sleeping in a tarp tent more comfortable and warmer. When used with a hammock, you are protected from bugs and other creepy crawlies and, with added netting, from mosquitos.
There are several pros to using a tarp tent. They are extremely versatile and can be pitched in many ways. They can be used as a storage space for gear, food, or firewood, sheltered from rain and sun. They have no tent floor and are great to use on rough terrain. Tarp tents are cheap and ideal as emergency shelters.
On the downside, depending on how the tent is set up, you are only protected from the top and will need additional tarps or nets to protect against wind and bugs.
14. Beach Tent
You may think a tent on the beach seems like overkill, but there are admittedly pretty great! Have you ever tried eating a sandwich on the beach only to chew on more sand than food? With a beach tent, you can eat in peace.
Beach tents are, of course, ideal for the beach. They are often open on one side, with an extended ground cover to create space to lay down a beach towel. The three walls shield you from wind and the inevitable beach sand in your face, while the roof provides shade. Most beach tents are pop-up tents for hassle-free pitching and a laid-back experience.
Tipi tents, also spelled tepee, is a blend between a pyramid tent and a bell tent. The cone shape of a tipi is similar to a pyramid tent, but the biggest difference is the number of sides. While a pyramid has four or six sides, tipis are rounder in shape, making them more aerodynamic than pyramid tents.
Like bell tents, tipi tents are strong and remarkably durable. The size and weight of tipis vary greatly, ranging from lightweight backpacking tipis to heavy canvas tipis suitable for families. Bigger tipis are popular for weddings and glamping. Many tipi tents can accommodate wood stoves and is perfect for long-term living, as many humans have been doing for centuries.
Unlike traditional tipis, modern equivalents are significantly easier to pitch without compromising on the headroom. Rain and snow slide off the sides, making tipis suitable for winter company.
One disadvantage of tipi tents can be their cost. Larger canvas tipis are made to last, and the price reflects that. Luckily, the smaller tents are more affordable.
Check out our list of the best tipi tents.
16. Dome Tent
Dome tents are the most commonly used tent for general camping. A dome tent has two flexible tent poles that cross at the center of the tent and curve from one corner to the opposite, creating a dome.
Versatile and easy to pitch, dome tents are relatively weather tolerant but need additional support for strong winds. Dome tents are available in an assortment of sizes, fabrics, and styles, suitable for various camping styles, including winter camping and backpacking.
17. Geodesic Tent
Geodesic tents are similar to dome tents, except that it has more poles. The added poles provide additional support, making geodesic tents stronger and more wind and weather resistant than dome tents.
Many geodesic tents are four-season tents. The tent’s design makes it one of the best for expeditions in tough weather conditions. High-quality, ultra-light geodesic tents are ideal for trekking, backpacking, and mountaineering.
Depending on the weight and quality, these tents can be expensive. That said, the quality and durability make the cost worthwhile as they can last for many years when properly cared for.
Another disadvantage of geodesic tents is the setup time and complexity. With more poles than regular dome tents, pitching can be complicated and take a few minutes.
18. Multi-Room Tent
As the name states, multi-room tents are tents with multiple rooms. These tents are ideal for large groups and family camps. They are large, spacious, heavy, and time-consuming to set up.
Due to their size and purpose, many brands use cheap materials to lower prices. For this reason, multi-room tents are not durable and best used for summer camping in good weather.
19. Canopy Tent
Canopy tents are square-shaped with four vertical poles on each corner that connect the horizontal ones. The tall poles are often rust-resistant and easy to assemble. The sides of canopy tents are exposed.
Canopy tents are often used at markets to protect the vendors from the sun. their main purpose is to create shade. They are perfect for picnics and other outdoor gatherings, and walking in and out of the tent is a breeze. Since the sides are exposed, canopy tents are not wind resistant and unsuitable for sleeping in.
20. Backpacking Tent
When backpacking, you carry everything on your back, so weight is a deciding factor in all your gear, and backpacking tents are made with this in mind. They are extraordinarily lightweight and compact.
Backpacking tents are made from high-performance fabrics and cutting-edge technology to achieve low weight without compromising durability.
Unfortunately, quality backpacking tents Can be expensive, and generally, the less they weigh, the more expensive they are.
Nomadic people have used yurts for ages. Although modern yurts are slightly different from traditional yurts, the basic design has not changed much. Unlike most tents, including bell tents, that use poles made from metal, yurts are constructed with wood.
Yurts are optimally built for living in. they are huge, sturdy, and extremely weather-resistant. Most yurts allow for woodstove cooking. The walls of yurts are constructed from lattice-patterned wood that strengthens the walls, while the roof consists of wooden beans that connect on top with a circular wooden frame called a compression ring. The compression ring creates a dome shape.
Although yurts are portable, putting them up and taking them down takes at least a day and is best done in a team. Therefore, a yurt is best used for long-term living.
22. Screen-House Tent
Screen-house tents are covered with solid opaque fabric on top, but the sides are mesh. Screen-house tents can be pop-ups or pitched with poles, similar to canopy tents.
One of the biggest advantages, and purposes, of screen-house tents, is the protection they give against bugs, mosquitos, and flies. Another advantage is the shade that the roof provides. Although they are not strong enough to withstand gale-force winds, they do offer moderate wind protection and, as a result, give you some warmth on chilly, breezy evenings.
Screen-house tents are not used for sleeping in; instead, they are most commonly used for eating, picnicking, or socializing without worrying about bugs. They are ideal for pitching in your backyard and creating a sheltered hideaway to relax, read a book and still enjoy the view through the mesh.
One drawback of screen-house tents is their inability to withstand strong winds. However, they are easy to set up and take down and are not intended to be used in strong winds.
If you often camp in bug or mosquito-infested areas, you may be interested in our list of the best screen tents for camping.
23. Vis-À-Vis Tent
Also known as face-to-face tents, vis-à-vis tents are a type of tent that consists of two “bedrooms” with a compartment between them. Usually, the middle room has more headroom for standing. Some vis-à-vis tents are constructed like a dome, with extensions on each end for the sleeping space, while others are similar to tunnel tents but taller and stockier.
Vis-à-vis tents are ideal for camping with friends or family, as the space in the middle can be used as a “living room” or storage space for gear, backpacks, or food. They come in different sizes, and some can accommodate large groups, making them much bigger and heavier.
Due to their size, vis-à-vis tents can be quite expensive, and setting them up can be complicated, often requiring multiple people.