22/12/2020
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Camping jargon buster: Everything you need to know

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See also: Buying A Tent: Ultimate Guide

Are you baffled by the terminology around tents and camping? Be confused no more.

Our camping jargon buster will explain all the terminology and technical language to make you an instant expert on the campsite and in the outdoor shops

A-FRAME/RIDGE TENT
Ask someone to draw a tent and they’ll probably come up with something like this, the classic triangular shape tent, formed by upright or A-shaped poles with a ridge pole between.

AFFILIATED SITES (CARAVAN & MOTORHOME CLUB)
Independently owned and managed campsites that have been selected by the Caravan and Motorhome Club to be affilated with them – without being part of their full network.

BATHTUB GROUNDSHEET
A removable tent floor made from one piece of material, which continues up the walls about six inches before being attached to the side with toggles or a zip.

BACKCOUNTRY
American term for the remote uninhabited areas of public lands, national parks, and forests.

BACKPACKING
Hiking into the country with all your camping gear on your back.

BERTHS
This shows the number of people a tent can take, determined by indistry standard figures. It is usually wise to choose a tent with a sleeping capacity designed to accommodate at least one, and usually two, more people than is actually required. So if there are three of you camping, you’ll probably need a four or five berth tent etc.

BIVY SACK
A lightweight one-man shelter used as an alternative to a tent or as emergency shelter by climbers and hikers.

CABLE ENTRY POINT
A slot in the tent wall (usually zipped) that allows you to run an electric cable from inside the tent to the hook-up point

CERTIFIED LOCATIONS (CARAVAN & MOTORHOME CLUB)
Small sites, reserved exclusively for Caravan and Motorhome Club members, that don’t allow tents.

CERTIFICATED SITE (CAMPING & CARAVANNING CLUB)
A Certificated Site is a small site approved by the Camping and Caravanning Club that can take tents and up to five caravans or motorhomes.

CLIPS
A way to attach the tent’s flysheet to the poles.

COLOUR-CODED POLES
Tent poles that are colour coded to match the correct sleeve on the flysheet so you always put it in the right place.

DENIER
A numbering system for fabric in which the lower numbers are lighter and the higher numbers heavier. The higher the number the tougher the fabric – with many tents having 75 to 150 denier.

DOME TENT
Two or three flexible crossover poles - fibreglass or aluminium – are used to create a freestanding tent with reasonably high headroom.

DOUBLE SKIN TENT
A tent with a separate inner for the bedroom. These days that applies to almost every family tent.

ELECTRIC HOOK-UP
Some sites allow you to hook-up a mains adapter which lets you run electric applicances in your tent.

EXTENSIONS AND AWNINGS
You can add a whole extra room, or even some additional shelter, to many tents by opting for an awning or an extension. Not to be confused with caravan awnings.

FACTORY TAPED SEAMS
Taped seams give extra protection to stop water getting in through joints in the tent fabric, often through heat treating or the addition of extras waterproof  fabric.

FAMILY TENT
A tent that is big enough to accommodate your entire family with good living and sleeping space.

FLYSHEET
The outer fabric of the tent.

FOOTPRINT GROUNDSHEET
A custom sized groundsheet that goes under your tent to give additional protection to the base of your tent and the ground below.

FREE STANDING TENT
A tent that needs no ropes or pegs to support it - usually in lightweight tents.

GEAR LOFT
A piece of mesh or net suspended from the top of a small tent that acts as a small indoor storage area for lightweight items.

GLAMPING
“Glamorous camping” in accommodation such as pods, yurts, tipis and safari tents. Also refers to using luxury gear in traditional tents. 

GEODESIC/SEMI-GEODESIC
One of the most stable designs around, they are particularly favoured by the mountaineering and expedition fraternity. Four or more poles cross to give exceptional stability, and a dome-type design. Three-pole semi-geodesics are popular as lightweight backpacking tents.

GORE-TEX
A water-repellant, breathable material mainly used in boots and jackets that keeps rain out but allows water vapor (ie sweat) to pass out.

HOLLOWFIBRE
A soft, lightweight man-made fibre-filling for sleeping bags used as an alternative to down.

HYDROSTATIC HEAD
Waterproof rating for tents. The higher the rating the more water-resistant the material. A hydrostatic head of 1,000 is the legal requirement to call a tent waterproof. Most mainstream tents have an HH rating of between 3,000 and 6,000.

INFLATABLE TENTS
Rather than using fibreglass, steel or alloy poles, these tents are supported with air-filled chambers that mean you can have a large family tent pitched in a few minutes.

INNER TENT
Inner tents – or extra rooms, usually bedrooms – that can be set up within the tent itself.

INNER/OUTER FIRST
With some tents, usually lightweight models, you pitch the inner tent first, but when camping in our unpredictable weather, there are obvious advantages to a design that allows you to erect the outer first and keep the inner dry. There are also tents where the inner and outer tents are combine, to be erected simultaneously.

LOFT
The height and thickness of insulation in a sleeping bag

MESH-BACKED DOORS
Panels of fine mesh fitted to the back of doors and windows on some tents that allow ventilation without letting bugs in.

MUMMY SLEEPING BAG
A narrow sleeping bag that is tapered at the ends to reduce heat loss.

NOSEEUM MESH
Noseeums are tiny biting bugs found near the sea and around rivers, lakes, and swamps. Normal mosquito netting has 200 holes per inch, whereas noseeum mesh has 625 holes per inch.

PACKED SIZE
The dimensions of your tent when it is packed away in its bag

PITCH
A term used for when you arrive at a campsite and set up your tent. Also used to describe the spot on the campsite where you put your tent.

POD TENTS
Large family tents with a central living area and several sleeping pods leading off.

POLYCOTTON
A breathable flysheet material made of a combination of polyester and cotton, that promises to offer the best of both worlds in terms of the better long-term waterproofing abilities of man-made materials and the superior ambience offered by cotton. Sometimes known as technical cotton.

POLYETHYLENE (PE)
A heavy plastic material used in the manufacture of groundsheets and tarpaulins.

POLYURETHANE (PU)
A waterproof coating for tent fabric

POP-UP TENTS
These can be pitched in a matter of seconds simply by unleashing the frame from its bag. Most pop-up tents are for one or two campers and are ideal for festivals but there are several on the market today for families.

RING AND PIN SYSTEM
A metal pin attached to the tent fits into the end of the pole to give the structure its rigidity.

RIPSTOP NYLON
A fray-proof, easy-to-repair material used in some tent flysheets to give extra durability.

SELF-INFLATING MATTRESS (SIM)
Camping mattresses filled with foam that inflate when they are unrolled and don’t need pumped up.

SEWN-IN GROUNDSHEET
A tent manufactured with the groundsheet attached.

SHOCK-CORDED POLES
Fibreglass or aluminium tent poles that come in sections and are held together by an elastic cord that runs the length of the pole.

STUFF SACK
A bag used to carry a tent, sleeping bag or other piece of camping gear. As the name suggests, you simply stuff the kit into the bag.

TOURING/WEEKEND TENT
Tend to be smaller and have less living space than family tents. Used by campers who are on the move from one location to another so have to be quick and easy to pitch.

TUNNEL TENT
A tent with hooped construction which gives extra head height and more living space.

VESTIBULE
A covered area outside a tent door, usually found on backpacking tents and used to store wet clothes or gear.

VIS-À-VIS
A type of tent layout that puts two or more bedrooms facing each other across an area of floor space.

ZIP BAFFLE
A panel around the neck or zip of a sleeping bag designed to increase insulation


Finished reading?

Want more great tent information?

Our "Buying a camping tent: The ultimate guide" is full of great tent buying advice.

  Buying a camping tent: The ultimate guide


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