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How Many Types of Tents Are There & How to Choose

How Many Types of Tents Are There & How to Choose

If you’re hoping to do some camping soon, tent camping can be a great option. However, you’re not going to find a one-size-fits-all tent at your local sporting goods store. Depending on your situation, there are several types of tents for you to consider.

Today we’re looking at the various tent types and how you can choose which one is best for your camping setup. Let’s get started!

Not All Types of Tents Are Created Equal

The biggest mistake you can make when buying a tent is assuming they’re all the same. Tents come in various shapes and sizes, and for different weather conditions. 

If you try to camp in a tent not designed for the weather, you’ll quickly realize you’ve made a mistake. Some tents are more waterproof than others, and you don’t want to wait until a rainstorm to discover where yours falls on the spectrum.

There are a few key indicators of the quality of a tent: the price, the seasonal tent rating, and its waterproof features. If you’re purchasing a budget-friendly tent, it’s likely going to be very low on the season rating and waterproof features.

There’s no way around it; to get the best tent, you’ll need to spend some money. Quality and craftsmanship typically don’t come without a hefty price tag.

Hot Tent Camping - How to Get Started

Some Different Types of Tents (And Why You Might Want Them)

While this isn’t an exhaustive list of every tent available, we’ve found some of the most popular camping options. Let’s look at when and why you might consider these types of tents for your adventures.

Backpacking Tent

About: Backpacking tents are typically compact and lightweight, making them great for those who enjoy bikepacking and hiking. Whether you’re planning to bike a few miles to set up camp for the weekend or do several multi-day hikes, backpacking tents are outstanding options. 

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Capacity: Due to their extremely compact size, they’re often best for one or two people. You may be able to squeeze a third person or pet in, but most of these will be tight.

Best Features: These tents are incredibly light and very portable. They are straightforward to assemble, and you can set them up in a matter of minutes with enough practice.

Best For: Backpacking tents are best for hiking, bike camping, and those looking to enjoy multi-day adventures in remote locations.

Bivy

About: If you’ve never seen a bivy, you’re not missing much. Not because they’re not great, but because there’s not much to them. These types of tents are lightweight but offer a tremendous amount of protection from the elements. If you need a place to sleep and want to stay safe and dry, a bivy tent checks all of those boxes.

Capacity: These very compact tents are usually only large enough for a single person. You could squeeze two slender adults, but you’d better be okay with cuddling while you sleep.

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Best Features: Bivy tents are incredibly light and easy to carry – as in packable down to fist-sized in some cases. Higher-end models can be very waterproof and still provide excellent ventilation and breathability while inside.

Best For: These are best for people who want to maximize storage and limit weight. There’s not much room to do anything other than sleep, but it’ll keep you warm, dry, and safe while hiking. These are also popular to throw in your hiking pack or bug-out bag just in case of an emergency.

Mortons on the Move team camping in tent set up.
There are many types of tents to try out on your camping trip.

Hammock Tent

About: A hammock tent is precisely what its name implies, a tent that suspends off the ground like a hammock. They have a cover protecting the occupants from bugs and the elements while sleeping.

Capacity: These often have a 250 to 400 lbs weight rating, depending on the brand. While you’re going to be most comfortable sleeping in a hammock tent by yourself, a couple could snuggle up in a pinch.

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Best Features: Hammock tents keep you off the ground and away from critters. You also have the added benefit of not having to toss and turn from rocks and tree roots poking in your side. They typically weigh less than a couple of pounds and are one of the most compact tent options.

Best For: These types of tents are best for solo hikers planning to hike in wooded areas with plenty of options for hanging a hammock. Hammock camping is great for multi-day adventures or day trips where you’ll want to stop and take a nap along the way.

Pro Tip: If you want to camp in a hammock, but don’t know if you’ll be able to find the perfect trees, try out one of these 5 Best Portable Hammock Stands to Bring Camping.

Woman camping with a hammock tent.
Camp amongst the trees in a hammock tent.

Multi Room Tent

About: For decades, families have been camping in multi-room tents. While the technology for these has changed over the years, they’ve only made it easier to enjoy camping as a family. They provide a tremendous amount of privacy between the various sections that can zip closed to create two private rooms.

Large tents have enough space for practically any size family and all the gear and items for a great weekend. These are the most durable options and protect from high winds and heavy rains.

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Capacity: These tents come in various sizes, some of which can sleep 10 to 14 people.

Best Features: Thanks to technological advancements in camping gear, tents are much higher quality than previous generations. Some of the most spacious tents have 4+ rooms and include screened-in porches. While it’s not RV camping, these tents are much more luxurious than the earliest versions. And, some have “instant” set up systems, so no more fighting with poles!

Best For: These are best for large families or a couple of families that enjoy camping together. They’re best in state parks, private campgrounds, and other established campgrounds.

Pro Tip: Making camping with friends or family a relaxing experience with one of these 6 Best Two Room Tents.

Pop-Up Tent

About: If you select a pop-up tent, you don’t have to stress setting up camp when you arrive. Once you remove the tent from its storage bag, let it go, and it sets itself up. It pops up, and then you’re ready to start moving gear into it.

These dome-like tents provide a generous amount of space, privacy, and shelter from the elements. By not wasting time setting up camp, you have more time to adventure and make memories in the wilderness.

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Coleman 2-Person Pop-Up Tent , Green/Grey
  • Lightweight camping tent assembles in only 10 seconds
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Capacity: You’ll find different sizes, but depending on how much camping gear you bring, you’ll likely have room to sleep with one to four campers in a pop-up tent.

Best Features: It’s hard not to love the ease of use. Being able to arrive at your site and not have to stress about setting up your tent in the dark or under harsh weather conditions is a significant win for this tent.

Best For: This is best for those who value their time in the wilderness and want to explore it as much as possible. You can stay comfortable and safe, but skip the stress of building a tent.

Make your vehicle multi-use by using a roof top tent.

Rooftop Tent

About: Rooftop tents attach to the top of a vehicle. They fold up and store away in a casing to protect them from the elements when not in use. There are various rooftop tents, but many require minimal setup and can quickly expand into a comfortable home in no time. These types of tents mount on multiple vehicles and provide you with a place to relax or sleep anywhere.

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➡ A variation of the roof tent is the SUV tent. This type connects to the open hatch on the back of an SUV, creating a combined living space between the tent and the vehicle.

Capacity: These tents will typically max out in weight around 650 lbs, or whatever your roof can handle.

Best Features: Some include boot bags that allow you to place your dirty shoes outside the tent to keep the inside of your tent as clean as can be. There are also many tents with fitted mattresses that stay in the tent.

This makes camping in a rooftop tent incredibly comfortable. You also get the added benefit of being off the ground and higher for great views of the surrounding area and sunsets.

Best For: These are best for overlanding and off-road adventures. Having the ability to open up your rooftop tent after reaching a remote campsite can be an incredible way to extend your journey.

How To Choose the Best Type Of Tent for Your Needs

When you’re shopping for a tent, there are a handful of things you’ll want to keep in mind. Let’s cover what you need to consider when choosing the best tent for your needs.

Children camping in tent at campsite.
Whether you’re solo camping or camping with friends or family, different tents will cover different needs.

What Kind of Camping Are You Doing?

The type of tent you’d need for camping in an established campground differs from the tent you’d need for camping on a multi-day hike. A sizeable multi-room tent is incredibly heavy and not something you’ll want to carry for several miles. It’s essential to consider the type of camping you’ll be doing and select a tent that makes it easy for you to be comfortable during the entire process.

How Many People Will Be Sleeping in Your Tent?

It seems like common sense, but if you’re a large family, you’re going to need a large tent. However, if you’re a couple looking to go camping, a substantial multi-room tent will be somewhat wasteful. You want to consider not only the people that will be sleeping in your tent but also their gear. 

A tent may look and feel quite spacious, but if you stuff multiple adults into it and all of their gear, you can start feeling claustrophobic. You don’t want to discover there’s not enough space after your first trip. It’s often better to err on buying a slightly too big of a tent than not big enough.

Man laying with legs out of tent because he is too tall.
Always make sure your tent is the right size for you and your camping buddies.

Consider Your Budget When Picking a Tent Type

Tents are much like any other product; you often get what you pay for. If you’re expecting premium features and quality, you’ll need to pay a premium price.

However, if you’re only planning to take a couple of trips a year during optimal weather conditions, you might be able to get by with a more budget-friendly tent. Don’t expect top results or longevity from cheap tents. They’ll typically last a handful of seasons of minimal usage before reaching the end of their life.

What Season Are You Camping In?

If you’re planning to camp in the cooler months, you’ll want to make sure you have a tent and camping gear that will keep you comfortable. If you’re planning to camp in the summer, you want one with plenty of ventilation that will keep out the mosquitos and other annoying insects. Trying to camp in a tent that’s not rated for the season will often make for a miserable camping experience.

REI Co-op Gear Guide: Best Backpacking Tents

Do Your Research Before You Choose a Tent Type

One of the biggest mistakes tent campers make when buying a tent is not doing their research. They see the pictures on the box or the excellent price at the store and buy what they see. People can put very little thought into the quality of the materials and how effective the tent will be for their camping style.

In the end, many tent campers purchase an expensive tent that they’re not happy with, and they swear never to make that mistake again. So save yourself from buyer’s remorse and do your research no matter what type of tent you’re buying.

What tent do you enjoy using when camping? Drop a comment below!

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