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What are the different styles of tent?


See also: Buying A Tent: Ultimate Guide

Your choice of tent style will depend upon the kind of camping that you plan to do and who it’ll be with.

The distinction between types is becoming less clear-cut these days, with some designs borrowing elements of different types, but we’ve put together a guide to the basic types of family tent to help you make your choice.


Tunnel tents are currently the most popular and common type of family tent.

Two, three or four poles (inflatable, fibreglass, steel or alloy) provide the tunnel shape.

Tunnel tents, like the Coleman Meadowood 4 Air (pictured) are generally made up of two or three 'zones', with separate living areas and a sleeping section along the back.

They are easily pitched and have plenty of room available for both living and sleeping in, but less stable in strong winds.

The almost upright side walls on many tunnel tents mean there is lots of usable floor space and good headroom throughout.

Some models have extended porch sections that can be used as a kitchen/diner or to store bikes and gear and can be left open or enclosed.


Literally meaning face-to-face, vis a vis tents have two inner bedroom sections facing each other at opposite ends, separated by a central living section.

They are particularly popular among families with older kids as they allow you more privacy.

In some cases, one inner tent can be removed to provide even more living space as and when it is needed.




Two or three flexible poles – inflatable or fibreglass – are used to create a freestanding dome tent with reasonably high headroom.

Stability is good in smaller models, but the higher the dome, the less stable it is.

Some domes may have extended porch sections formed by the inclusion of an extra hoop at the front of the flysheet and hybrid dome/tunnel tents bring together both elements.



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.

While pitching is easy, it’s often difficult to get the pop-ups back in their bags, and they can be quite cumbersome to carry around.

Khyam and Coleman, among others, also have their own styles of ‘instant’ tents that can be pitched quickly and provide good living space for larger groups.


For a while pod-style tents were becoming the most popular model for family camping, but they had gone out of fashion somewhat in recent years.

They have a central living area with several sleeping pods leading off. The main benefit is that they allow everyone to have their own personal space in the tent while still having plenty of room to congregate at meal times.

But they have a very large footprint, meaning some sites will charge extra, and they can be difficult to pitch.


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.




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.








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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29/01/2021 Share this story   Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

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