If you’ve never camped out before, then you might be thinking a tent is just a tent, right? But there are tents out there for all kinds of adventures and getting the right one can make or break your trip. Whether you’re looking for a base for a getaway with the family, shelter on a multi-day trek or a place to bunk down at a festival, it’s a good idea to get a heads up on the different designs and features available, so you know what will work for you. 


How Will You Use It?

First things first, how will you use your tent? Is it just to get you through festival season?  Do you have a family vacay coming up? Or are you planning to embark on an expedition or several multi-day treks? 


So, why does it matter? If you’re driving to and from your chosen campsite with the whole family in tow, then the weight of your tent will be less important, as size, practicality, and durability will be the main drivers. Whereas for fast and light trips, which involve a lot of carrying, a lightweight tent that provides reliable protection from the elements is essential. And, for the more adventurous, a bivi, tarp or hammock will deliver shelter without adding much weight to your pack.

When Will You Be Camping?

When you plan on camping will make a difference too. Are you a fair-weather camper, or will you be heading out in arctic conditions? 


One thing’s for sure: everyone will want to stay dry, so making sure you’ve got a fully waterproof flysheet to protect you from the rain and adequate ventilation to prevent condensation is essential.


From there, it’s all about looking for features that will suit where you’re camping. In warm climates, ventilation is a top priority, but in exposed areas or even snow, the stability of the tent design becomes more important.


Tent Design

The design of your tent can have a huge impact on its performance in different conditions, so here’s everything you need to know about the different types of tent:

TRANVERSE HOOP - Great for wild camping and solo adventures


If you’re hoping to wild camp, then chances are weight and pack size will be key factors when choosing a tent. For this reason, a tranverse hoop tent is likely to be your best option. Configured with one or two pre-bent lightweight tent poles over the centre of the tent, this design minimises the overall size and weight yet provides stability and protection in inclement weather. However, space is limited, so these tents are best if you’re just looking to pitch up and bed down at the end of a day’s hike rather than using them as a base for your trip away.


GEODESIC  – Great for winter camping or camping in exposed locations


A geodesic tent is one of the most stable tent designs as it features at least five overlapped poles. This makes it the perfect option for camping in windy conditions or areas prone to heavy snowfall, but the downside is they tend to be heavier to carry. 


Many geodesic models pitch inner first, which enhances stability and means you can use the inner tent without the outer flysheet - something to consider if you’re heading to warmer climates.


SEMI - GEODESIC  – Great for backpacking


If you’re backpacking, semi-geodesic tents are the best option as they balance weight with stability. The poles cross in two to four places which creates strength, while the angled roof tapering from the front to the back provides extra stability, and they're incredibly lightweight.


Semi-geodesic tents are easy to pitch and, as they are generally free-standing, you can pick them up and move them to a new spot if you’re after a scenic view or want to get out of the wind.


TUNNEL – Best space to weight design


Tunnel tents are great for group camping as they offer more space. Constructed from two to three independent, flexible poles that run parallel to one another, they offer greater internal headroom than many other types of tent. Plus, many come with the option to add an extended porch to increase the amount of useable living and storage space.


Although tunnel tents are not as strong as geodesic or semi-geodesic tents, when guyed out correctly, they perform well in windy conditions.


RIDGE – Great for group camps


Ridge tents are a true classic, and if you’ve ever been in the Scouts or Girl Guides, you’ve probably camped in one. They feature two poles at either end to create the triangular design. Sturdy in build, incredibly durable and easy to pitch, they offer fuss-free shelter for groups on camping trips. But the sloping sides mean headroom is limited, so they’re best suited to trips where you’ll only be bedding down for the night.


DOME –  Best for versatility


Dome tents are one of the most popular types of tent and are ideal for different activities. The design features two poles that cross over at the top, which creates a rectangular base and domed height to give you plenty of headroom. Many also often come with the option of an additional pole that can support a vestibule for some extra space.


Although not the best option in very exposed conditions, their symmetrical design means they can hold up to a fair amount of wind and rain. 


BELL –  Best for glamping


If your camping trip is less about going into the wilderness and more about living the luxe life, then bell tents are the option for you. Although bell tents are usually only held up by one pole in the middle, they are fairly heavy and can be quite labour-intensive to pitch. 


However, with extras like a built-in woodburning stove on offer, they are perfect if you’re looking for a home away from home.


INFLATABLE –  Best for ease fo use


If you’re new to camping and not sure about pitching up, then an inflatable tent is the perfect solution. Instead of poles, inflatable tents feature hollow panels that you fill with air to provide rigidity. 


You need to use a pump to fill them with air which adds weight, so they're not great for heading off the beaten track.


Tent Features

Now you’ve got to grips with the different types of tents available, it’s time to hone in on features. 



Flysheets, sometimes referred to as an outer, are the outer skin of the tent, and they provide protection from the elements. Most modern flysheets are made from lightweight fabrics coated in silicon to make them water-resistant. 



Tent poles form the structure of the tent and are usually held in place by clips or by threading them through sewn-in sleeves. 



Also referred to as a porch, a vestibule provides extra space for storing kit or for cooking and eating during unexpected downpours. 




Guy lines are cords used to attach the tent to the ground for extra support. Large tents or tents to be used under extreme conditions should have plenty of well-positioned guy lines to maximise stability. 



Flysheet tensioners keep the flysheet taut to maximise weather protection. To achieve the correct tension, it’s best to pitch the tent with all the tensioners loose and then tighten them each in turn until the flysheet sits correctly. On uneven ground, this may mean that some are tighter than others.



The inner part of the tent, sometimes referred to as the sleeping compartment, should be well ventilated to prevent condensation and keep you from becoming too hot at night. 



A groundsheet or footprint is a waterproof sheet placed between the floor of the tent and the floor you’re pitching on. It helps reduce wear on the tent floor, prevents water from seeping into the tent and provides some insulation against the cold. 


Finally, it’s time to think about the accessories you need to personalise it for your trip. For example, a well-placed gear loft in a tent can add valuable storage space, especially on group trips, while for light and fast expeditions, titanium pegs are an excellent way to save weight without affecting the overall strength or stability of the tent.

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