Types Of Tents and How To Choose One


If you’re heading outdoors on a weekend camping trip, or heading to a festival for the first time, you need to make sure you’ve packed all of your camping essentials. The most important piece of kit you need to have with you is your tent. Depending on the conditions and where you’ll be staying, there are different types of tent that will be better suited to your needs.

We’re going to look at several tent designs and give you a breakdown of their pros and cons so you can make an informed decision for your next camping trip. You can pick up the styles in the tent section of our website. We have easy to pitch tents, more technical designs, deals and cheaper options to choose from.

Pop-up Tent
Dome Tent
Tunnel Tent
Ridge Tent
Geodesic and Semi-geodesic Tents
Inflatable (Air) Tent
Backpacking Tent
Family (Vis–à–Vis) Tent
Bell Tent

1. Pop-up Tentdome-tent

Over the last few years, these have exploded in popularity. Pop-up tents, as their name suggests, are designed to open up and take shape without requiring construction. You just have to tie it down once it’s up. Generally designed for two people, these tents offer unparalleled ease of erection and use, making them the perfect choice for inexperienced campers.

If you’re heading to a music festival this summer, chances are you’ll see a lot of pop-up tents throughout the campsite. Packing into a circular bag, the tents are lightweight and very easy to carry. You can simply take it out of the bag and pull it open for an instant domicile.

The Swift 200 is a pop-up tent available in a range of styles, catering to the more subtle camper and the bold festivalgoer alike.  Sleeping two, the tent has a simple door opening and a single-walled design with built-in floor to further simplify the process of setting it up.

Advantages of Pop-up Tent Camping

  • By far the easiest type of tent to set up. Installation takes only a few seconds and is dead simple.
  • Compact and lightweight, making it very easy to transport and stow away.
  • Relatively roomy in relation to their compactness.
  • Footprint is always small so these tents can fit in virtually anywhere.

Disadvantages of Pop-up Tent Camping

  • More expensive than dome tents and can be quite pricey due to its in-built convenience.
  • Have been known to break in extremely high winds where the tent is fully exposed. Fixing the tent can be nigh impossible outdoors.
  • Not much headroom provided due to the compact design.
  • Unsuitable for backcountry camping, camping in the wilderness or extremely harsh weather conditions.

We also currently offer a great deal on festival packs for two people that include one of our pop-up tents. Our pack include a tent, two sleeping bags and two camping mats at an incredibly affordable price for the quality you receive. Perfect for festivals and occasional camping trips.

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2. Dome Tentdome-tent

Dome tents are one of the most popular tent styles for a wide range of pursuits. These tents are identified by their curved pole structure which features two or three poles that arch over the top in a semi-circle. This creates a square or rectangular base with good headroom thanks to the rising sides. These tents will typically feature a detachable ground sheet.

Dome tents are relatively easy to put up and work with an interlocking pole system that feeds into a simple webbing structure to hold the tent in place. While dome tents are not ideal in harsh weather situations, they will withstand a fair amount of wind and rain before they give you any problems. Many of our dome tents are also designed with a porch section – these are great for storing gear so you can use the inner tent for sleeping space.

The dome tents in our selection include the Tarmachan and Ghabhar styles, which sleep two and four respectively, and both feature porch sections for storing gear. If you want a more compact design, the Beatnik has a rectangular footprint without the extra porch section.  These tents are perfect for a range of uses including in campsites and wild camping, and they don’t weigh too much – especially the two-man styles.

Advantages of Dome Tent Camping

  • Easy to set up and relatively easy to transport, usually only needing to thread a few poles through.
  • Good headroom due to the shape.
  • Dome tents are reasonably strong if the type in question incorporates more than three poles.
  • Can be easily joined together to a larger living space, making it ideal for families.
  • One of the cheapest and most widely available tent styles.
  • Probably the most versatile tent type around; can be used for a wide range of camping trips.

Disadvantages of Dome Tent Camping

  • Known to struggle in strong winds. The higher the ‘dome’, the more wind it will catch.
  • These types of tent usually have a curved zip for the door. If you’re not careful it’s easy to catch or break.

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3. Tunnel Tenttunnel-tent

If you’re looking for a little extra space when camping with family or friends, you’ll find a tunnel tent to be a fantastic choice. These tents feature a series of curved poles to create a long, tunnel-like structure. They are quite straightforward to pitch and once set up, they’ll offer plenty of space for gear and they provide good headroom compared to the dome style.

These tents are perfect for campsites as their size means they are heavy to carry around for any length of time. Additionally, they are best used when pitched facing into winds as if they are hit by heavy gusts side on, there is a risk they may collapse. However, for summer camping with the family when you have the car to transport gear and can afford the extra space in the tent, a tunnel tent is the perfect choice.

Our Caterthun 4 Person Tent is an excellent example of a tunnel tent that provides ample space and a comfortable sleeping arrangement. This tent has a double-layer design to bolster its weather defence properties and it also features a large porch section where you can easily store all your kit pieces during the night and relax in during the day if the weather isn’t great.

Advantages of Tunnel Tent Camping

  • Tapered ends offer optimal protection in very windy areas.
  • Ideal for larger groups such as families, and special occasion camping trips due to their above-average capacity.
  • Headroom is ample, especially compared to other styles.
  • Exceptionally versatile; suited to most environments, whether mild or tough.
  • Comfortable and spacious, making for a ‘home’ away from home.

Disadvantages of Tunnel Tent Camping

  • Installation takes some time and normally more than one pair of hands on the job.
  • Larger footprint than most other tent types, which can be a problem if pitching space is limited.
  • Due to its shape, ventilation in the middle of the tent can be restricted.
  • Difficult to reposition if the tent collapses due to a change in weather.

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4. Ridge Tent

The ridge tent is probably the most instantly recognisable style of tent due to its wide use. In recent years, this design is becoming less common and is generally viewed as a retro choice. It’s notable for its classic tent shape and has two poles at either end forming a simple triangular design.

This design was popular as it has a sturdy build and is easily pitched. Ridge tents vary widely in size, ranging from one- or two-person styles up to roomy versions for groups. Any guides or scouts will likely have spent a night in one of these and while they have been around for some time, they are still used due to their practicality.

The downside to a ridge tent is that you won’t get much headroom on either side, and even in the middle, the space isn’t all that great. This can be a problem if you’re spending time inside during the day but if you’re simply using it for sleeping, you’ll find it perfect for a camping trip.

Advantages of Ridge Tent Camping

  • Can be sturdier than most other tent types, especially with the multiple guy ropes.
  • Remains stable in wind and bad weather.
  • Comes in a vast range of sizes, starting from one-person tents up to huge marquees.
  • Easy to pitch, yet the set-up can be more complicated than most tent types.
  • Generally durable; some models can last for years or even decades.

Disadvantages of Ridge Tent Camping

  • Reduced storage space and headroom due to the slanted walls.
  • Less widely available nowadays, so choice of models is limited; the design can feel antiquated.
  • The package is almost always heavy to carry around.

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5. Geodesic and Semi-geodesic Tentsgeodesic-tent

Geodesic tents have a similar structure to dome tents but have extra poles that cross over each other to create a spacious inner area with a strong structure that can tolerate substantial wind and rain without collapsing. This all-weather style can be expensive but is ideal for tough conditions and expeditions, especially in mountaineering.

Another form of tent in this style is the semi-geodesic tent, which has fewer poles for a lighter, more streamlined design. This won’t hold up to the same weather conditions but offers a much more compact style and shape that are better suited to backpacking. The semi-geodesic design features an aerodynamic shape to aid wind resistance.

Geodesic tents come in various sizes and their strong structure makes them ideal for sleeping people in windy conditions. Their design allows for a roomy internal space with higher ceilings so these tents are a great choice for spending time in while you wait for the weather to ease up.

Advantages of Geodesic Tent Camping

  • Most suited for extreme weather camping and mountaineering; able to withstand heavy snowfall, wind and rain.
  • Strong and robust structure with excellent stability.
  • Good headroom and interior space for the shape.
  • Lasts longer than the average tent due to its technical build.

Disadvantages of Geodesic Tent Camping

  • Unsuitable for large groups, including families, due to the compact, streamlined structure.
  • Often pricey; cost is always higher than the average, non-technical tent.
  • Can be heavy to carry over long distances.

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6. Inflatable (Air) Tent

A relatively new and still fairly uncommon design, inflatable tents will have the same structure as a tunnel tent or large family tent but don’t feature poles. Instead of poles, these tents have hollow panels that fill with air to form a rigid structure.

These tents require a pump to inflate and while they don’t have poles, they can still be on the heavier side, making them better for car camping and larger campsites. Plus, as they are rather new on the market and innovative in design, an inflatable tent will set you back a fair amount of money.

The main benefit of an inflatable tent is that once you have laid it out and pegged the guy lines using tent pegs, it’s a simple case of turning on the pump to inflate the frame and fashion your tent. This is a great choice for glamping and will offer a comfortable and spacious sleeping option.

Advantages of Inflatable Tent Camping

  • Very easy pitching involving just the use of an air pump; can be carried out by a single person with no extra aid.
  • No poles means less weight and pitching efforts, as well as a flexible configuration.
  • Tend to offer plenty of headroom and storage and living space.
  • Lower risk of accidents happening through metal snapping since no poles are present, so they are safer.

Disadvantages of Inflatable Tent Camping

  • Can still be heavy compared to other tent styles.
  • Quite expensive due to new technology.
  • Extremely large sizes are hard to find.

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7. Backpacking Tentbackpacking-tent

If you’re spending long days hiking before pitching your tent at the end of the day, you don’t want to be lugging extra weight in your pack. For these situations you want a compact backpacking tent. These styles are easy to pitch and are designed first and foremost with practicality in mind.

These tents come in several styles but generally have a low end with a wider section at the other end, finishing with a small porch area. This makes them ideal for windy weather as they are streamlined and compact.

These tents are low so you won’t be able to move around or spend much downtime inside but they make up for this with their small size and practicality. You’ll be able to carry one of these on you throughout the day and put it up quickly after a long day’s walking.

Advantages of Backpacking Tent Camping

  • Lightweight with minimal functionality to keep the weight down.
  • Simple, no-fuss installation.
  • Compact and small; a highly practical solution for hikers.
  • Tackles harsh conditions confidently without giving in to heavy precipitation or high winds.

Disadvantages of Backpacking Tent Camping

  • Not much headroom or free space available.
  • Limited capacity; doesn’t cater for families or large groups.
  • Not especially versatile and built specifically for hiking-focused camping only.

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8. Family (Vis–à–Vis) Tent

Another ideal style for family camping is the vis-à-vis tent that generally sleeps four or more and is designed with two sections meeting at an internal communal area. The name ‘vis-à-vis’ means face-to-face, referencing the positioning of the two sleeping sections.

Vis-à-vis tents are designed in either tunnel or dome styles generally but with the extra sections worked into the structure. The extra bulk and size means these tents are fairly heavy and generally not advisable for backpacking.

The style shines in family car camping trips, and even if you’re travelling with friends, it allows a little privacy in your own compartment but also a covered area to relax together in the evenings.

Advantages of Family (Vis–à–Vis) Tent Camping

  • Layout emulates a real home and provides ample comfort and facilities.
  • Multi-bedroom style with separate entrances is attractive and adds a welcome dimension of privacy.
  • Large capacity allows big families or large groups to cohabit comfortably.
  • Face-to-face configuration is pleasant and creates a great, spacious common area.
  • Sheltered porch is a main feature and a big bonus.

Disadvantages of Family (Vis–à–Vis) Tent Camping

  • Can be a little tricky to set up, especially with small children on board.
  • Presents a heavy load to carry around.
  • Prices range from moderate to expensive.

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9. Bell Tent

A more boutique style of tent than the ones we’ve covered, it nonetheless merits a mention on this list. Although it’s probably the least common and practical tent used for the outdoors, this one is slowly becoming more popular in the UK.

A summer tent type through and through, its panels are usually made of canvas. This makes it perfect for the warmer months as this material is an effective temperature regulator. Bell tents are also compatible for use with wood-burning stoves, which is a unique feature you won’t find in any other style. Some of the designer versions will feature eye-catching patterns and accessories, but the staple element is the pole running through the centre, with the canvas draped around it.

While we don’t recommend the use of the bell tent for activity-based camping trips in the great outdoors, this type fits the bill in camping sites and festivals when the weather is mild and pleasant.

Advantages of Bell Tent Camping

  • A stylish, trendy option for design-conscious campers.
  • Pitching is straightforward; a one-man job for the smaller models
  • Canvas panels help to moderate temperature much more effectively.
  • Side panels can be rolled up for optimal ventilation.
  • Floor space can be massive; ideal for sleeping lots of people.

Disadvantages of Bell Tent Camping

  • Costly and can be prohibitively expensive.
  • Not the best tent type to complement most outdoor activities.
  • Space-to-weight ratio is poor.

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Last updated: January 18, 2019 at 10:26 am

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