Probably the very first item that comes into most minds when we talk about camping are camping tents. As we have mentioned in our previous article (Camping Essentials in the Philippines), number one on our list is shelter. But do you know that not all tents are the same? Yes, the very basic purpose of tents is to protect you from getting wet in the rain, but there are other aspects within designing a tent that makes it unique.
We’ve made efforts in researching all about tents and we’ll try to extensively explain them to you as we go through this article. Not only did we also try out (and forcefully borrowed tents from our friends) different brands, we’ve also asked those who have been camping longer than us. We do hope to shed a huge amount of information on camping tents and help you if you’re on the track to purchasing one.
Tents come in different shapes and sizes and forms. A tent’s shape has a relation to a tent’s size and overall purpose. Below are the different types of tents that we commonly see today.
Ridge-type tents are one of the most common tents ever designed. These tents have a pole on either side and are fixed to the ground with pegs on their four corners. Thus, gives the tent’s roof shape that most of us imagined when we were kids. The design of the tent provides an ample amount of ventilation on both ends, given that both ends can be opened. There is enough space for people when sitting up and that volume in itself keeps the warm (or cold) temperature outside a few degrees different from the inside. The main disadvantage to this kind of tent is the overall head height. As the highest point of the tent is in the middle, there is limited comfortable space to work with even if you have a larger size ridge tent. Its sole main purpose is for its users to sleep in with comfort and protection.
Single Pole Teepees:
Another tent we commonly have known when we were young is the Single Pole Teepees. These were well known as tents used by American Indian Tribes. These are pretty strong tents because of the center pole that is commonly fixed to the ground on setup. This is pretty versatile when it comes to size, but one of the downsides of the larger teepee tents is the portability of the center pole. Oftentimes the bigger the tent the poles are often disassembled or collapsible which introduces structure issues. Similar to the Ridge tents, the highest point of the tent is at the center. The only difference is that single poles have this design in a radial form.
Dome tents provide more headroom and flexibility. These are often used nowadays, pitched with the use of 2 flexible poles that conform to the shape of the tent when inserted into the tent fabric. This is more often sturdier on smaller size tents which is why most tents that can accommodate 2-5 people are often seen with this design. The only downside to this design is the strength of the flexible poles. As you go bigger, this tends to be weaker and break on high winds. Make sure that if you are getting these kinds of tents, get the one with thicker flexible poles.
Knuckle-Joint tents are the go-to for huge tents with extravagance in design. These tents are commonly seen as tents with living room spaces and entrances with awnings. The poles are permanently fixed into the fabric and are commonly snapped into place when assembling. These are most common for bigger tents that can accommodate around 12 people inside as these are very quick to set up and require minimal effort. Ventilation is the least of your problems as these tents have very big zipper windows that can be opened fully or opened with the mosquito net up. The downside to these tents is the rigidity at the joints. These joints tend to snap back to their “folded position” on very strong winds. But if comfort and style are your fancies, these are the tents you might find attractive.
Pop-up tents are the “new thing” in the camping industry. These tents are manufactured with all components stitched into the fabrics. These tents have very flexible polymer fiber rods that give their famous characteristic of quick setup. You just release a couple of straps and clips and watch it unfold and set up by itself in seconds. These tents are commonly designed in sizes that can only accommodate up to 4 persons.
There are other tent designs that you might consider. The Camping and Caravanning Club has an article that describes these tents
Different types of fabrics are used for tents. For now, let’s just focus on the common fabrics used on camping tents. The two most common fabrics used on tents are polyesters and nylons.
- Polyester: Polyester is the most used fabric for tents. These fabrics are light and semi-breathable. This gives you top protection from the sun and rain but prolonged exposure to rain can soak the fabric and any puddle of rain that gets accumulated tends to create droplets that get inside the tent. These are perfect when it comes to high heat as these fabrics let heat through easily. A must at night when you sleep at camp with little to no breeze or winds.
- Nylon: Nylon provides the best weather protection for tents. It is thicker than polyester but is more hydrophobic than the previous. Thus, nylon tents will keep you dry even at the harshest downpours. Its fibers are tightly woven, which keeps the inside temperatures at a bigger difference from the outside temperatures. Perfect for very cold seasons, where staying warm inside is such a comfort. The downside of the nylon tent is breathability. When buying a tent that is made of nylon, May sure that the tent has big zip-up windows with nets to assure comfortable ventilation. There are easy pop-up tents (2 seconds) tents that have very minimal open ventilation. This traps body heat and can get uncomfortable. One option is opening your tent’s entrance, but it opens the chance of little creatures crawling or hopping in your space.
- Canvas/Cotton: Canvas or cotton tents provide the best insulation. It can block UV rays that heat the interior of a tent. And it is also absorbable which removes moisture inside. These tents are more breathable than polyester and smell nicer than their synthetic counterparts. The downside of canvas/cotton tents is that they are heavy and require more maintenance and treatment. Canvas tents need to be treated before first use (check out our guide on how to treat canvas tents) to avoid leaking. And despite treating your canvas tent, it will still absorb some water; which you should dry off before packing up. And finally, canvas and cotton fabrics are more prone to tearing.
Which Tent Should You Buy?
Buying a camping tent depends on your needs and preferences. The best way to decide is to ask first how big do you need, then look at your options in design and fabric. If your priority is enough size to accommodate your family, then Knuckle Joint tents is a tent you should consider buying. But if you’re packing a tent only for yourself, a dome-type tent that is made out of polyester would be sufficient for your trip. For outdoor events where you have the luxury of transporting big items (like a truck) big single pole or ridge tents that are made of canvas are a good choice. Just be cautious when using canvas tents (and even with synthetic fiber tents) when it comes to flames as we all know that these fabrics catch fire easily.
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