Types of Tents: 17 Popular Tent Styles for Camping & Backpacking

Are you overwhelmed by the different types of tents available and struggling to choose the right model for your next camping trip? A few of them may be familiar to you, but not all. You never had any idea there were so many tent varieties!

What are the different tent types?

Types of Tents: 17 Popular Tent Styles for Camping & Backpacking

The types of tents include the following:

We’re sure you’re curious to learn more about each of these 17 tent types. If so, then you’ve come to the right place. Ahead, we’ll discuss every type of tent on the above list in great detail, including the intended tent uses, benefits, and downsides. You’re not going to want to miss it!

The 17 Different Types of Tents

Tunnel Tents

The first type of tent you might consider is a tunnel tent. The poles of a tunnel tent are curved in such a way that the tent itself creates a tunnel-like structure. The breathing room you get in a tent shaped like this makes camping enjoyable, not to mention you have the capacity to bring more friends and family with you.

Vango Odyssey Family Tunnel Tent, Epsom Green, 800

Intended Use: Family camping

Benefits

  • Tunnel tents are heavy so they’re sure to stay where you put them.
  • You can set up your tunnel tent so it’s facing the wind without the tent being knocked down.  
  • These tents have lots of room for gear or more people.
  • You get great overhead room for taller campers in a tunnel tent.

Downsides

  • Heavy side winds can knock your tunnel tent down or collapse it.
  • Ventilation can be limited in the center of the tent, which will make you want to avoid using this area.
  • If you’re in a tightly-packed campsite or a small space, you likely won’t have much room for your tent.

Rooftop Tents

The second type of tent is the rooftop tent. As the name suggests, this tent is sized to the rooftop of an SUV or 4×4. Although much smaller than your average tent, some sizable rooftop tents can fit up to four people at once, which is pretty cool! You will need a ladder to access your rooftop tent. 

TEPUI Weatherhood for Kukenam 4

Intended Use: Car camping

Benefits

  • Camping from your SUV or truck is possible with a rooftop tent.
  • These tents are bigger than they appear, giving you room for four people max.
  • Rooftop tents pop right up and can be compressed quickly when not in use.
  • Most rooftop tents include mesh doors and windows.

Downsides

  • Sleeping on the top of your vehicle might not always be comfortable, so you’ll need thicker bedding in this tent.
  • You really have to take the time to secure a rooftop tent or it will easily blow away.
  • Having to get in and out of the tent via an access ladder can be time-consuming.

Ridge Tents

The old classic known as the ridge tent was a preferred choice for decades. Even though it’s less favorable these days, don’t disqualify the ridge tent. It’s still a very viable option.

Despite its name, ridge tents are triangular in shape, and they come in all sorts of sizes. If you want a cozier camping experience with only you and a friend or partner, you can get a ridge tent for two. Some ridge tents can also accommodate three or four people or more.

Surplus French Military F1 Tent, 2 Person, New, Olive Drab

Intended Use: Family camping and hiking

Benefits

  • Ridge tents are quite durable, so it’s hard for the wind to knock them down.
  • Setup is quick and easy so even beginners can feel confident in their camping skills.
  • The size options means you can buy a ridge tent that fits your camping needs.
  • Included guy ropes add to the strength of a ridge tent.

Downsides

  • The sides and top of the tent don’t provide much headroom, precluding other activities besides sleeping.
  • Ridge tents are heavier than some other tents, so carrying them around can be a pain.
  • You lack storage space over other types of more modern tents.

Pop-up Tents

If you want your tent set up quickly, then you’ll certainly like the pop-up tent. As soon as you open the tent, it takes its shape and voila, you have a tent ready without any of the hard work. You can bring another camper with you and have decent space apiece in your pop-up tent.

OT QOMOTOP 4 Person Pop up Tent, 9.5’×7’ with 50” Center Height, 10 Second Setup Instant Tent, Rainproof Tent, 4 Ventilated Mesh Windows, 2 Mesh Doors, Family Camping Tents(Blue)

Intended Use: Family camping, car camping

Benefits

  • Even more so than ridge tents, a pop-up tent creates confidence in new campers since this tent sets up in moments. You only have to tie down the tent.
  • Carrying and transporting this tent is no big deal since it’s lightweight and thin.
  • You get more room in a pop-up tent than you’d think looking at it from the outside.
  • If you need to camp in a smaller area, a pop-up tent is an ideal pick.

Downsides

  • If you’re doing backcountry camping or camping out in the deep wilderness, skip the pop-up tent. It can’t handle the rigors of these types of camping.
  • You don’t have a lot of headroom in this tent.
  • High winds can easily blow your pop-up tent away, so be careful!

Inflatable/Air Tents

The inflatable tent, also known as the air tent, is a relative newcomer and thus some of the latest in tent technology. Completely pole-less, inflatable tents include panels throughout that are hollow. You fill those panels with air using a pump, add a few tent pegs on the guy lines, and your tent is up and running.

HEIMPLANET Original | The Cave 2-3 Person Dome Tent | Inflatable Tent - Set Up in Seconds | Waterproof Outdoor Camping - 5000mm Water Column | Supports 1% for The Planet

Intended Use: Family camping, car camping

Benefits

  • Air tents are quite sizable, enough so that you should be able to fit storage and some passengers inside. You also get good headroom.
  • You can skip the poles and still set up an air tent quickly, so these tents are another suitable choice for beginner campers.
  • You erect an air tent by yourself if you needed to.
  • Although they’re only filled with air, inflatable tents do have some weight to them when inflated.

Downsides

  • You have to bring a pump with you when camping or an air tent is useless.
  • Air tents may be costlier than other tent types since they’re new.
  • You have to be careful where you put your tent so it doesn’t get punctured.

Canopy Tents

Although not suitable for everyday and overnight camping, if you need protection from the hot sun or a sudden rainstorm, a canopy tent is a convenient tent to use. Everyone crowds under the tent, which provides moderate headroom and sometimes open sides.

E-Z UP Inc. AMB3SBKF10SG E-Z UP Ambassador, 10' x 10', Roller Bag and 4 Piece Spike Set, Steel Gray Instant Canopy Shelter Tent

Intended Use: Car camping, family camping

Benefits

  • Canopy tents can be set up in moments so you can use them in a pinch.
  • The stakes and guy lines of the tent are sturdy to withstand the wind and inclement weather.
  • Most canopy tents are waterproof.
  • The side panels, if your tent has them, typically come out for more roominess.

Downsides

  • This tent is not suitable for overnight camping or even long-term daytime camping.
  • Canopy tents are also ineligible to be your main tent, so you’d have to bring twice the tent materials when camping.
  • You get no side protection with most canopy tent styles.

Geodesic/Semi-Geodesic Tents

This next type of tent is like two in one: geodesic and semi-geodesic tents. What does geodesic mean? Something that is geodesic refers to that which has the shortest line from one point on a sphere to the other.

That should tell you that geodesic and semi-geodesic tents are curved like a dome. Geodesic tents have several poles that crisscross each other for weather durability. Semi-geodesic tents reduce the number of poles so this tent weighs less.

Coleman Tatra 3 igloo tent green

Intended Use: Family camping

Benefits

  • You can select from a variety of geodesic or semi-geodesic tent sizes.
  • The durability of geodesic tents especially are enough to withstand wind and inclement weather.
  • Most geodesic tents feature tall ceilings and great headroom.
  • Geodesic and semi-geodesic tents tend to boast quite a long lifespan among the different tent types.

Downsides

  • Although not as much of an issue with semi-geodesic tents, geodesic tents can be quite heavy.
  • You do typically have a more restrictive limit on campers in these tents than other types.
  • Geodesic and semi-geodesic tents are often pretty expensive.

Tipi Tents

Whether you spell it tipi or tee-pee, these tents have a very distinct triangular shape that makes them much beloved. Some models can accommodate up to 10 people comfortably, although most tipi tents have room for two to five campers.

Winterial 6-7 Person Teepee Tent, 12' x 12' for Family Camping or Festivals with Windows and Mesh Vents, Pack Weight 15 Pounds (lbs), Includes Stakes, Poles, Rain-Cap, Stabilizer

Intended Use: Family camping

Benefits

  • This is one of the bigger camping tents around due to how the top is narrow but the bottom of the tent tapers out.
  • The included stakes and guy lines make a tipi quite sturdy so it can handle some winds and even rain.
  • Top ventilation could theoretically let you use a wood stove flue pipe in your tent if you really wanted to.
  • The classic style of this tent is a timeless favorite.

Downsides

  • Tipi tents are heavy, so moving them isn’t always easy.
  • A central pole does limit some of the room you have in this tent.
  • Some tipis have no flooring, leaving it on you to provide it.

Backpacking Tents

A lower and narrower tent, backpacking tents are made for durability and portability. Intended for backpackers and hikers looking to stay the night out in nature without carrying a big, heavy tent, backpacking tents can fit up to two people max.

Featherstone Outdoor UL Granite 2 Person Backpacking Tent Lightweight 3-Season Freestanding for Camping Hiking and Expeditions

Intended Use: Hiking, backpacking

Benefits

  • Backpacking tents don’t weigh a lot, and they set up easily so you can erect them where your outdoor travels take you.
  • These tents can compress and fold up so you can stash them in your backpack and be on your way.
  • Mesh panels in some areas of the tent increase the ventilation of a backpacking tent.
  • With a limited number of poles, you can control the weight of this tent easily.

Downsides

  • A backpacking tent has a design that puts it lower to the ground. These tents are also fairly narrow.
  • You can only fit two people at most.
  • You’re lacking significant overhead room.  

Dome Tents

In the same vein as a geodesic and semi-geodesic tent is the dome tent. These spherical tents feature dual crisscrossing poles that meet at the middle of the tent. This delivers a higher center point compared to other tent types so you’re not lacking on headspace. Water also slides right off the top of this tent due to its design.

TETON Sports Mountain Ultra Tent; 3 Person Backpacking Dome Tent for Camping; Red, Model: 2007RD

Intended Use: Family camping

Benefits

  • Setting up a dome tent is easy.
  • A top rainfly at each pole keeps your tent drier from rain and other inclement weather.
  • Rain slides right off this domed tent, rolling to the ground.
  • Some more advanced models have a small mudroom for keeping your dirty gear.

Downsides

  • Dome tents don’t come in many sizes, limiting you on how many people you could bring.
  • If a strong wind comes through, your tent might be toppled.
  • A mudroom vestibule is not guaranteed.

Multi-Room Tents

If you do indeed want a guaranteed vestibule, then look into a multi-room tent. This spacious tent can fit eight or 10 people easily across its four segments or areas. Each group would have some privacy, which is something you don’t often find in a tent. Adding to the appeal of a multi-room tent is the tunnel-like style.

Wenzel 8 Person Klondike Tent, Blue

Intended Use: Family camping

Benefits

  • Internal dividers within the tent add further to your sense of privacy.
  • With at least four doors, you have several ways to get into and out of a multi-room tent.
  • You can freely stand in a tent like this and still have headroom, which is nice.
  • Bigger groups will not feel cramped or on top of each other.

Downsides

  • Given its size, setting up a multi-room tent is time-consuming and can be difficult. You’ll likely need a second person to help you get the tent tied down.
  • These tents also tend to be expensive given how big they are.
  • Toting around a multi-room tent is not very easy due to the tent’s weight.

Suspended Tents

Suspended tents are much, much smaller than multi-room tents and even tight in space compared to your average tent. Narrow and streamlined, a suspended tent–as the name suggests­–is supposed to be suspended up into the treetops or high over a summit. Not for all types of campers by far, if you want to take your camping experience up a notch, try a suspended tent.

Tentsile Stingray (2020 Model) – 3 Person Portable Tree House Camping and Backpacking Tent – 4 Season, 4 Entry Points, Removable rain Fly, Tear-Resistant mesh – Forest Green, Model:S3FOR

Intended Use: Hiking

Benefits

  • Experienced campers can gain a whole new appreciation for camping when using a suspended tent.
  • Most suspended tents can hold upwards of 400 pounds or about four people.
  • Mesh doors let you appreciate the views of the outside world.
  • The suspension straps are thick and very durable so you can feel safe in your tent.

Downsides

  • You’re suspended in one of these tents, which is not something every camper will like.
  • You don’t get as many campers as you do with other types of tents.
  • Although suspended tents are thin, they weigh more than you would think.

Beach Tents

If you’re going to park on the beach for a while and sleep while the waves lull you off to dreamland, then you need a beach tent. These geodesic or dome-style tents often include UV protection so you’re safe from the burning rays of the sun even when you’re in the tent. With mesh windows, you can still watch the waves but remain sheltered.

Mobihome Beach Tent Sun Shelter Pop Up, Sand & Surf Beach Shade Tents Umbrella & Portable Canopy Easy Setup for 2-3 Person Outdoor Camping Fishing - with Extended Porch

Intended Use: Family camping

Benefits

  • Beach tents are made for beach fun and can prevent sand from getting in uncomfortable places. You’re also safeguarded from sunburn.
  • These tents include sand pockets so you can set up your stakes in the sand easily.
  • An included floor gives you a comfortable place to sit.
  • You can fit up to six people in a beach tent.

Downsides

  • These tents are thin and lightweight and might not be able to handle stronger winds.
  • You may have to keep the mesh windows open at times to prevent the tent from getting hot.
  • Beach tents have a lot of poles, which can complicate the setup.

Bell Tents

Have you ever heard of glamping or glamorous camping? Now you too can do that in a bell tent. The canvas base of a bell tent adds to its appeal, and some tents even have wood-burning stove openings kind of like the tipi tent we talked about earlier.

TETON Sports Sierra 12 Canvas Bell Tent; Waterproof 6 Person Family Camping Tent, Brown, New Sierra 12 Canvas Tent/ 12' x 12' (2012)

Intended Use: Daytime camping

Benefits

  • Most bell tents set up the same way as a tipi tent.
  • The canvas can insulate your temperature, keeping the inside of the tent quite comfortable.
  • Bell tents certainly make a statement, especially if you get a patterned one.
  • You could have the capability of adding a wood-burning stove, which is pretty cool.

Downsides

  • Bell tents are not made for roughing it in nature.
  • The center pole as found in a tipi tent is back in a bell tent, limiting how much room is inside.
  • These are some of the most expensive tents around.

Bivy Tents

A single-person tent, bivy tents are similar to backpacking tents in that they’re made for those roughing it who need a place to stay. These tents set up quickly and some models even have a bug net built in. The ventilation of bivy tents is another standout feature.

Winterial Single Person Personal Bivy Tent, Lightweight 3 Pounds 3 Ounces, Orange

Intended Use: Hiking

Benefits

  • Bivy tents are very easily compressed and stored in your bag without weighing you down.
  • The assembly of a bivy tent is simple so you don’t have to spend too much time or energy getting ready for the night.
  • The ventilation within a bivy tent makes it easy to breathe even if the tent is all closed up.
  • Bug nets will keep you insect-free all night.

Downsides

  • You can only fit one person in a bivy tent.
  • The shape is sort of coffin-like, which might be offsetting to some campers.
  • Bivy tents stay low to the ground and are quite narrow, leaving you with next to no headroom.

Pyramid Tents

A pyramid tent has a less tapered shape than a tipi but is otherwise quite similar. You have the middle pole as well as stakes at the edges or corners of the tent. Some pyramid tents also feature a top rainfly.

Gaojuan Pyramid Tent One Account Ultralight 20D Nylon Silicone Tent Outdoor Double Four Seasons Tent Lightweight Tent for Camping Hiking Climbing (Color : A)

Intended Use: Family camping

Benefits

  • Older pyramid tents were heavy, but you can find lighter-weight ones these days if that’s what you need.
  • Setting up a pyramid tent is fast and not very difficult.
  • If you pitch your pyramid tent the right way, you don’t have to stress about inclement weather.
  • The rainfly will promote more dryness in your tent.

Downsides

  • Bigger pyramid tents may be more unstable than their smaller counterparts.
  • If you stake your tent incorrectly, it might not be as stable as it could be.
  • You’ll have to provide your own groundsheet for many types of pyramid tents.

Cabin Tents

The last type of tent we’ll discuss is the cabin tent. These tents feature poles made of lightweight aluminum to build a cabin-like frame. A rainfly may be made of canvas, nylon, or polyester and is always waterproof. Internal dividers, much like in a multi-room tent, can create more privacy when camping.

Coleman Prairie Breeze Lighted Cabin Tent, 9-Person , 84″ H x 120″ W x 168″ D.

Intended Use: Family camping

Benefits

  • Cabin tents are the next best thing to staying somewhere with a roof over your head, and you still get the authentic camping experience.
  • You have enough headroom where many people can comfortably stand.
  • You can easily fit at least 10 campers, so bring your friends or family.
  • Cabin tents are cheaper than they’d seem.

Downsides

  • Some are too cheap and can fall apart easily.
  • Setting up a cabin tent is not easy.
  • These tents weigh quite a lot.

Things to Consider When Selecting a Tent

We just introduced more than a dozen types of camping tents. You might have narrowed down your options to a handful of tents you’re interested in, but how do you select the one that’s right for you? Keep the following factors in mind!

Price

No matter your tent budget, there’s surely a tent out there that fits your spending limit. Do make sure that no matter which type of tent you buy that it’s not overly cheap. Cutting corners like this could leave you with no protection from nature if the weather starts getting bad!

Material

In this guide, we talked about tents made of nylon, canvas, and a bevy of other materials. Depending on what you value in a tent, some materials will be more attractive to you than others.

For example, canvas is a great insulator, but it won’t do anything for preventing the effects of UV rays. Nylon is lightweight for breathability, which is handy, but it doesn’t insulate. Once you think about how you want to use your tent, you’ll naturally gravitate towards a tent material.

Intended Use

Do you plan on sprawling out at the beach and catching some rays? Then you need a beach tent. Perhaps you want to camp atop your vehicle, in which case, a rooftop tent is best. If you need a quick setup, then try a pop-up tent or even in inflatable tent. For glamping, you’re better off with a bell tent.

Capacity

Another important factor to consider is how many people you intend to bring with you. If it’s just you or another person, then a backpacking tent, suspended tent, or bivy tent works well. Most of the other tents we discussed can fit at least four people, which is the size of a standard family.

Do keep in mind that for bigger groups, you need an equally sizable tent. Your options include a multi-room tent, bell tent, or cabin tent.

Ease of Setup

Almost every tent covered in this guide should set up relatively simply, but some have more poles or require further tying down that complicates the process. Since you’re new to camping, don’t make the experience harder by purchasing a tent with too many bells and whistles. Keep it easy for now!

Ventilation

Ventilation in the form of mesh panels, windows, or doors is important in any tent. Without ventilation, you’ll find yourself overheating quickly. This is okay if it’s a cold night, but in the summertime, you don’t want to wake up drenched in sweat.

Height

If you’re just using your tent for sleeping, then the tent height might not be such a big concern. If you plan on chilling out and relaxing by day in your tent though, you must ensure it has the headroom for you to sit up or even stand up without your head colliding with the ceiling.

Conclusion

Tents come in all shapes, sizes, and materials to accommodate a variety of needs. Whether you’re a solo traveler who’s roughing it, someone who prefers glamping, or just an everyday, regular camper, there’s a tent for you. Now you know how to find one!