Types Of Tents: Comprehensive Overview Of Designs, Benefits, And Use

Rilor Staff
Update: July 22, 2020
Table of Contents

There are many types of tents today. It can be difficult to classify them into a "one-size-fits-all" description because every tent has their respective design and purpose.

For instance, not all tents are for camping. One tent can be suitable for recreational use, but may not be great for tough expeditions, backcountry trailing, and other extensive adventures.

However, one thing is for sure here: if you are planning to stay outside, even for a night, the tent is the ally that you really need.

Let’s take a closer look at the different types of tents, their respective applications, and other things that would help you in the selection process.

Shape Of Tents

Before you do any hopping in the shopping centers and outdoor retail outlets, it is crucial that you know the kind of tent that you may need. Let me be blunt with you: each of us has different needs when it comes to this outdoor amenity.

The ideal tent does vary from one person to another. If you are a solo camper, there's no need for you to invest in large tents that could fit a family or two.

The same thought applies when you are going to scale a rigorous terrain. An ordinary small tent might be difficult to set up or become damaged when used over rocky wooded terrain.

Our first stop would be the basic shapes of tents.

Dome Tents

The first tent shape that I'll introduce here is the dome. It is the most common option today, especially among hobbyists.

A dome tent is called the way it is because its shape resembles a dome. Specifically, this particular tent features poles on each of its ends. They both bend so that they can provide support to the edges of the tent.

A rainfly could either be present in its construction. But choosing a unit that has a rainfly is quite beneficial since it protects you from the heat and rain.

Dome tents are great for those who are looking for tents that can be quickly pitched. Its construction enables it to generate as much space as possible to its users.

Ideal For:

  • Recreational purposes
  • Tailgate camping


  • Provides sufficient headroom
  • Not difficult to install or erect
  • Lightweight; easy to pack


  • Not ideal for harsh environments
  • Stability is an issue, especially for larger units

Geodesic Tents

One of the known issues of dome tents is their stability. When placed in windy areas, these dome tents usually experience problems in holding up.

I am not saying that they are flimsy. It is just that there's a sense of worry whenever you are sheltered by dome tents in pressing conditions.

Because of this problem, geodesic tents are introduced in the market. Basically, this tent is like a dome tent.

The only start difference it has with its predecessor is the presence of a plethora of poles.

Of course, the more poles crossing the tent, the more stable the latter gets!

A geodesic tent is an excellent option if you want to camp into the wilderness or areas with unpredictable weather patterns.

Ideal For:

  • Winter camping
  • Camping in areas with relatively unpredictable weather patterns


  • Superior stability
  • Offers generous headroom
  • Typically constructed with utmost durability


  • Difficult to pitch
  • Does not support large groups

A-Frame Tents

It is considered that the A-Frame tents are the most straightforward tent design available today. It is touted to be one of the pioneering designs of our modern tents.

Similar to the dome tent, an A-Frame tent got its name from its shape when fully erected. It forms an "A" shape.

Others call it a "wedge" because it does appear as a wedge (obviously).

I don't know if you have tried an A-Frame tent. But I did, way back when I was still a kid.

As far as I can remember, this particular tent is typically constructed from canvas. Meanwhile, its supporting frames are steel poles that are attached on both ends.

It also features ropes affixed to the corners. They are staked tightly in the ground for added support.

Ideal For:

  • Recreational camping
  • Solo or duo camping


  • Provides decent stability
  • Doesn't gather water on its top
  • Setup is relatively easy


  • Headroom is limited
  • Slightly heavy; depending on the material used on it

Cabin Tents

Another tent shape that you should know is the cabin tent. You see, this one has a unique pole structure that enables the tent to form the shape of a cabin once you pitched it.

Of course, you know that a cabin is big, right? Therefore, this particular tent shape is great for those who want to camp with their families and friends.

In the market right now, you can already spot 10-person tents to 12-person tents. That shouldn't surprise you, though.

Among the notable features of a cabin tent is the existence of a rainfly and room dividers. They make these tents more liveable.

Sure enough, the headroom of a cabin tent is quite "generous." You can actually stand on it and move around without getting bumped.

Keep in mind that these cabin tents are not designed to take rough atmospheric conditions.

Ideal For:

  • Large-group camping
  • Camping in a good weather condition


  • Extremely spacious
  • Surprisingly affordable
  • Provides enough headroom


  • It is heavy
  • Setup is complicated

Tunnel Tents

You can say that a tunnel tent is an upgraded version of a dome tent. It is bigger and offers better resistance to the weather.

You will like this particular tent if you are planning to camp in large groups, as it has ample interior space.

The shape of the tent is made possible by its flexible poles. The poles extend and curve from one side to the other to form its iconic shape.

This design is somehow advantageous, especially in fending off harsh weather elements. The presence of guy lines improves the overall stability of the tent.

Ideal For:

  • Large-group camping
  • Camping in areas with relatively bad and unpredictable weather


  • Impressive stability
  • Comes with sufficient headroom
  • Highly livable


  • It is heavy
  • Cannot handle strong downpours

Pyramid Tent

A pyramid tent is also touted as a basic tent design. Needless to say, it is something that many don't opt for that much since of its various limits.

First, its shape is an issue. If the pyramid tent is not constructed to be big, standing inside it would be downright impossible.

Second, it is also notable that these tents don't have a "flooring" or a groundsheet. Basically, you don't have a floor to lie on.

On the flip side, the stability of a pyramid tent exceeds expectations. The way it is constructed to ensure that it can negate strong wind and rain.

A central pole is the primary building block of this tent and supported by stakes and guy lines. This tent won't be able to take up its stable shape without these components.

Ideal For:

  • Recreational uses; not suitable for camping


  • Simple setup
  • Decent stability


  • Not a livable tent
  • Limited headroom is an issue
  • Usually doesn't come with a flooring

Types Of Tents, Their Uses, and Common Shapes

For Outdoor Camping and Expeditions

Backpacking Tents

  • Shape: Tunnel or geodesic

Now, let's move on to the tough ones.

If your pursuit is to leave the urban sprawl to experience the thrill that Mother Nature can give, these backpacking tents are the right choice for you.

But over the years, a lot of people asked me as to how I can identify a backpacking tent. Do the tents that we see in an outdoor shop can be used in backpacking?

Evidently, the answer to that is a big NO. For me, there are minimal but important qualifications that separate backpacking tents from other tents.

First, they have to be lightweight and low-profile. Whenever you are in this particular pursuit, you need to learn how to minimize your weight.

A bulky and heavy tent is cumbersome to carry. Keep that in mind.

Second, backpacking tents should be extremely durable. This one is non-negotiable.

Don't ever bring a tent in the wild that can be easily ripped. Furthermore, it should be weatherproof. It should protect you from the external elements.

Bivy Tents

  • Shape: Ridge or tunnel

I am pretty sure that you have heard about bivy tents already. They are suitable for backpacking and hiking adventures, too.

I can say that these bivy tents are great for solo hikers. It is small but provides enough space for one person.

Most of the bivy tents out there are designed to withstand the punishments that the outdoor world can give.

Furthermore, these bivy tents have a low-profile design. If you are trying not to get seen, well, this tent will work for you.

Hammock Tents 

  • Shape: Ridge or tunnel

A hammock tent is fairly different from an ordinary hammock. This one takes the form of a bivy tent, but this time, it can be attached off the ground.

It is a great option if you are going to hike or camp in an area where there is no ground suitable for latching a tent. Since you can hang it, you can affix it to trees quite conveniently.

The roof of this tent works like a rainfly. It shields you from the rain and other harsh elements.

Furthermore, you are free to close it to prevent mosquitoes and insects from entering.

For Tailgate Camping, Car Camping, and General Leisure

Pop-Up Tents

  • Shape: Tunnel or dome

Let's begin with the simplest one.

For those who believe that "convenience is the name of the game," the pop-up tent is a perfect choice! Of course, if you don't want to deal with any hassle, you simply need a tent that pitches itself in a seemingly instant manner.

Pop-up tents are great for simple applications like car camping or when you are in beaches or festivals. But that's the limit. It is a bad decision if you are going to take this tent in outdoor hiking or trekking. The tent is not designed to be tough or rugged. The materials used in it are usually cheap.

Moreover, its stability is not great. Strong gusts of wind can topple it.

Shower tents are also designed to pop-up, but are not suitable for sleeping in!

Inflatable Tents

  • Shape: Geodesic, tunnel, or dome

An inflatable tent is an unorthodox option here. Most of you have heard of inflatable boats or pools, but not tents.

Of course, I cannot help people if they think that inflatable tents are unreliable. There's this conception that inflatable objects pop or tear easily.

Sure. That idea is not entirely wrong. But at the same time, it is not something that cannot be refuted, too.

These inflatable tents usher a certain level of durability. They are usually reinforced with tarpaulins so that they don't get punctured easily.

Instead of using poles, these tents have air beams for support.

Don't purchase an inflatable tent that doesn't come with a pump. You cannot fill the tent on your own. That's pretty ridiculous.

Inflatable tents are fairly new. Therefore, I don't suggest that you use them on rugged applications.

Large Tents / Multi-Room Tents

  • Shape: Tunnel or cabin

I am quite fond of calling these tents "large tents" because of their given size. These are the tents that you should choose if ever you are going to camp with a large group (i.e., family and friends).

The biggest models out there can house up to thirteen people, and that's extremely overwhelming.

These multi-room tents can work as a livable temporary shelter. They pack with multiple amenities and components, such as pockets and storage systems.

They usually come with dividers, too, for privacy and separation.

Moreover, the presence of doors and windows make these tents conducive for living. You can use these amenities for stargazing, or if the interior gets too hot.

Sure enough, multi-room tents allow you to stand. Mobility is not an issue here since both the interior space and headroom are pretty sizable.

But of course, you can't just take this tent in backpacking or hiking. It is too heavy and bulky for these adventures.


Now that you know all the types of outdoor tents, I hope that you can find the right unit or design that can serve your intended purpose.

Having the right tent simply improves your overall outdoor experience. Just because you are outside doesn’t mean that you have to discard your convenience and safety.

Of course, the right tent can give you that!

Well, that's it for now. If you have questions or suggestions, feel free to drop them in the comment section below!

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