Tent Types

There are many different types and styles of tents. This overview presents tent types from largest to smallest.

Outfitter Tents are large, very strong, 4-season tents that normally house multiple people. These tents often look more like a soft-sided cabin than a tent. These tents often have a range of accessories available including vestibules, floor liner, footprint, wood stove, and roof protector. These tents are built for harsh environments and heavy duty use. Groups hosted in an outfitter tent often use this tent as a basecamp and then use their individual tents for shorter overnight trips. Many of these tents are equipped for a wood stove and have a built-in root vent and zippered area in the floor so a heavy wood stove can rest on the ground below the tent floor. These tent often have vertical walls and high roof for more room and comfort. Expect these tents to weigh in at 60 pounds or more.

Cabin Tents are larger tents and normally have walls that are vertical or nearly vertical and higher roof. Cabin tents can be 3- or 4-season and come in a variety of materials including denier polyester, ripstop nylon, or canvas. These are normally smaller and less rugged than the outfitter tents. Some have multiple rooms integrated within. These make good group tents when car camping.

Dome Tents come in a variety of sizes and shape variations. The classic dome tent has a square floor and uses straight poles The poles cross each other to form an “X” with the ends of the poles attached to the tent corners. The tent sides then attach to the poles. Dome tents are stable and strong for their weight. Larger dome tents have cross member poles that provide additional strength. Most dome tents include a rain cover (more on this later). Some dome-style tents are rectangular rather than square and some are more of an irregular shape. If you do an informal survey at campgrounds you will probably find a majority of dome-style tents.

A-Frame Tents are still widely used. These tents can be free-standing or they could require guy wires. A-frame tents are simple and reliable. The large, rectangular walls of A-frame tents make them much less tolerant to snow and they can be very noisy in wind.

Solo Tents range in size from small to very small. These tents are designed to be very small and light. Some solo tents are large enough to sit up in and others are not much larger than a sleeping bag. These tents are designed for the backpacker or road warrior that must minimize size and weight.

Bivy Sacks are basically a larger bag for your sleeping bag. These are designed to protect you and your sleeping bag from moisture and wind. They normally have a zip closure with mesh to allow airflow. These are not comfortable but they are small and light.

Hammocks are a fabric sling suspended between two points such as trees or rigid poles. Hammocks are extremely lightweight and some include mesh enclosures to protect against bugs. Some include an integrated sleeping bag and some have rain covers. Normally when tent camping you use an insulated pad under your sleeping bag. Heat moves from a warm object to a cold object. This means that heat will move from you to the cold ground. Normally when tent camping you sleep on an insulated pad that helps block this heat transfer. Most hammocks do not have this insulated pad so you should plan accordingly by either using a hammock compatible pad or a warmer sleeping bag.