The dictionary defines a tent as 'a portable shelter usually of canvas or other cloth stretched over poles or supports and fastened to the ground with pegs and ropes'. That definition covers a wide variety of structures in many sizes, shapes and styles. Whether you're looking for family shelter on a camping trip, a pavilion for a wedding or a beach canopy, there's a tent to suit your needs.
When choosing a tent for camping, you'll need to consider how it will be used, how it will be carried, how many people will be sleeping in it, and how easy it will be to set up. The following descriptions of broad styles of tents should help you decide what kind of tent is best for your camping trip.
FRAME TENTS - Frame tents are generally regarded as an older style of tent. They use aluminum or steel poles to form a frame over which the tent cloth, usually canvas, is draped. The newer styles are often made of cotton or a synthetic fabric with fiberglass frames. Frame tents can be elaborately designed and offer a great deal of room and structure inside. The biggest disadvantage is that they are often difficult to erect.
DOME TENTS - Dome tents are among the most popular styles. Dome construction is used in tents as simple as children's bed tents. They generally consist of a fabric tent and flexible fiberglass or plastic tent 'poles' that slip through sleeves in the fabric. The poles are shaped by the fabric and give the tent its rigidity. They're easy to set up and collapse, lightweight, and often offer a great deal of head room and comfort. Their major disadvantage is that they may be unstable in high winds.
GEODESIC TENTS - Geodesic tents are a variation of dome tents, modified for improved stability. They are framed and set up the same way, but the framing poles cross and interconnect at various points for strength and stability. The advantages are the same as those offered by dome tents, though they may be a bit more difficult to set up.
EXPEDITION TENTS - Also known as touring tents, these tents generally combine a ridge and dome tent into one. They are ideal 'settling in' tents, and often include a large 'porch' area for shade and shelter. They will often have windows as well. Expedition tents are roomy and comfortable, and designed to allow easy standing inside.
FAMILY TENTS - family tents are composite tents that usually include sleeping compartments on either side of a central living area. The main tent area may be either ridge construction or dome construction. The side areas allow privacy for sleeping.
FESTIVAL TENTS - For special occasions like a wedding or large party, festival tents can provide shelter from the weather for guests. Generally, they are rented by the day for the event, and are often assembled by the rental company. They're available in a wide variety of colors and styles to fit any event and most budgets.
BEACH TENTS - Beach tents come in almost as many varieties as tents themselves. Most are lightweight, of ripstop nylon and fiberglass pole construction. The newest are 'pop-up' tents that store flat and open out in seconds to a full size shelter from the sun and weather.
Ian Wide has produced many articles on tents and camping accessories.