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All the Different Tent Types

All the Different Tent Types All the Different Tent Types

There are several different types of tents that you can choose from. Which tent is best for you depends on how many people you will be camping with, where you will camp, and what kind of weather you will be camping in, as well as how long you will be staying, and a few other factors. What I will do is describe each type of tent, and give a brief summary of its strengths and weaknesses.

The first type of tent is the "pup tent" also known as a trail tent, backpacking tent, tube tent, or "A frame" tent. If you look at it from either end, it looks like an A. There is one pole at either end in the middle of the A, and a tie down that attaches to the peak of the tent where the pole attaches. There are also one or more tie downs along each side that pull the sidewall of the tent out wards. This is probably the cheapest type of tent you can find, sometimes selling for less than fifteen dollars. These tents are small and only good for one or two people (on a cold night you can shove more people in one to stay warm!). These are small, and lightweight, which makes them a good choice for backpacking, or for children. Because of their size they are not good for adults, and don't usually fare too well in bad weather.

The next type of tent is the Dome Tent. Dome tents are a step up from the Trail Tent, and come in a variety of sizes. Basically a dome tent uses fiberglass rods instead of metal poles. The floor may be nearly any shape, but the roof is domed in toward the center. There are sleeves along the outside walls of then tent, and you slide the fiberglass rods through these sleeves, which forces the rods to arch, creating the dome. These tents are pretty easy to set up, and come in sizes ranging from two person capacity up to eight, or maybe more. They are fairly lightweight making them easy to carry; yet they are fairly sturdy. In addition, better ones will have a rain fly, and will do pretty well in bad weather. Dome tents are not good for extreme weather conditions, but make a decent all around family camping type of tent, and are also good for children. Dome tents range in prices from $20 to several hundred dollars, depending on size, brand, and features.

Another type of tent is the Cabin tent. This is the tent most often used by larger groups, and is a great choice for family camping. Cabin tents tend to be larger, with the smaller ones rated for four to six people, and larger units having enough room to hold eight or more. I currently own two cabin tents. One is 8' x 10', and the other is 10' x 16'. The larger has front and back doors, a curtain to divide it into two rooms and four large windows as well as an awning. Three sets of metal poles and three outside ridgepoles support it. The floor is rectangular, and the walls are nearly vertical. Cabin tents are heavy to carry because of all the metal poles, and will certainly leak water unless you cover them with a tarp, but for a family, or if you want some room to move around, or store gear, the cabin tent may be the way to go.

New I just found out about a new style of tent. It is a combination Cabin / Dome tent. I just purchased one at Sam's Club. It is sold under the brand name "Vertical Ascent," by Sam's Clubs, but is made by Wenzel. Basically, the lower half of the tent is the same as a cabin. The floor is roughly rectangular 10' x 20', and the walls are nearly vertical, and supported by steel poles, but the roof of the tent is domed. There are fiberglass rods that attach to the tops of the metal poles, and arch over the outside of the roof to form the support for the domed roof. The entire roof is paneled with mesh screen to keep out the bugs while allowing excellent ventilation, and the tent comes with a rain fly. All the poles are shock corded with metal links, and enameled to prevent rust. The 20' length of the tent is divided into three rooms which appear to be roughly the same size (around 7' each), by curtains which can be zipped shut, or tied up out of the way. The center room has two doors, and there are also doors at each end. All four doors are "D" style, and have a screened window at the top with an inside zipped storm flap. There are also four large windows in the side rooms. The tent also has two small mesh gear pockets which will hold small items like mini lights, keys, or wallets, and tabs in the four corners of the center room ceiling for hanging a large gear loft. The tent is made of coated nylon, which is sturdy and Very light in weight, and it comes in a convenient duffel type carry bag.

I set the tent up in my front yard shortly after I got it, to see how it works, and get some experience. My previous tent is a Coleman 10' x 16' cabin tent, which takes my wife and I about a half-hour to forty minutes to set up, is a royal pain in the neck, and it doesn't have a rain fly. The new tent only took us about twenty minutes to set up, including the fly, and it was our first try, so I was taking time to read the instructions. One of the poles that came with my tent was assembled wrong, and as a result, it lacked a hole for the fly to clip into. It only took me a couple of minutes with a cordless drill to make the needed hole (I made sure I wouldn't have to send the old pole back before I modified it). I called the toll free number, which came with the tent, and spoke to a very pleasant woman. I explained my problem, and she took my phone number, name, and address. A new pole was shipped out, and I received it within a week, and there was no charge or hassle. Now I have all the correct parts for my tent, AND an extra pole which I can use if one should bend or break! Kudos to Wenzel! With that kind of customer support, they are bound to keep lots of customers happy.

UPDATE! I used this tent for the first time during the summer of '99. It only took about 20 minutes to set up the tent, complete with the rain fly! This is a great tent, with excellent ventilation, and lots of room to move around. We set up a king size air bed, an inflatable sofa, and chair, and had a whole room left to store our clothes, and to change in and out of clothes! Sam's club still carries this tent, though the current version of it is 10x18, that is still a BIG tent!

Courtesy: Thomas F. Herring Jr.

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