Everything you need to know about tents

Helping you pick the right tent for your adventure has just been made easier!


When planning an adventure, one of the most important purchases you will make will be your tent.  With so many different styles, shapes, makes and tent lingo it can become a little confusing.


Fear not though, you’ve come to the right place!  Below we have given you a full break down of all the need-to-knows and things to consider when picking the right tent for your journey.




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Which size tent?

One of the first things to consider is which size tent is suitable for your trip.  Tent sizes are ordinarily described in terms of how many people can sleep inside it, i.e. a 2 person tent or a 2 berth tent.  It would be natural to pick a size relevant to the number of people in your travel party you plan on bunking with, however, there are a number of things to consider as below:


What size party you are travelling in?

As a general rule of thumb, it’s recommended to go up at least a tent size compared to the number of people you are going to be sharing a tent with to ensure there’s enough space to store all of your travel gear. Alternatively, looking out for a tent with extra porch vestibule space is also a good option. So 2 people travelling together would ideally pick either a 3 person tent or a 2 person tent with vestibule space.  Obviously this depends on how much gear you will be travelling with and by what means… which leads us on to asking…


How are you travelling?

Depending on your mode of travel will depend on what luggage you will be able to carry with you and then it’s down to what you’re willing to compromise on. For example, extreme explorers, such as professional alpinists or mountaineers require as much freedom of movement as possible so extremely compact tents which are lightweight are the best options.  Take a look at our recommended tent guides specific to your adventure to find the best tent for you!




The difference between the seasons!


3 Season Backpacking Tents

These are lightweight, compact tents which are simple to erect and able to tackle non-extreme weathers.  Ideal for those adventures off the beaten track during fair summer / spring / autumn (or “fall” for our American friends!).  A 3-season backpacking tent is ordinarily constructed with a double wall, with the exterior flysheet being waterproof and the interior liner made up of mesh panels for good ventilation.


Although they can handle rain, a bit of a blustery day and light snow, they are not ideal for heavy, continuous rain and storms, strong winds and larger snowfalls.

The key features of a 3 Season Backpacking Tent are as follows:

  1. Fewer, lightweight poles then other season tents, constructed of aluminium

  2. Decent height / head room

  3. Meshed panelled interior walls and venting for good airflow and protection from insects

  4. Lighter fabric constructions with an exterior, waterproof fly sheet

  5. Porch Area – some come with these for storing your equipment and gear

  6. Overall a much lighter packed weight and size than other season tents


3+ Season Backpacking Tents

These tents are a little bit more weather resistant than your standard 3 Season Backpacking Tent.  If you’re going to be experiencing slightly more snowy conditions and be more exposed in general with cold weathers and winds, this might be more suitable than a standard 3 Season Tent.  They are still suitable for spring and summer just more resilient for colder, dryer spells. You can often find a range of single walled tents - so no addition of a fly sheet – just a waterproof yet breathable external wall.


The key features of a 3+ Season Backpacking Tent are as follows:


  1. A couple more lightweight poles than a 3 Season tent, ordinarily constructed of aluminium

  2. Decent height / head room

  3. Some mesh panelling and venting but normally less than a 3 Season to prevent heat loss

  4. Porch Area – some come with these for storing your gear

  5. Slightly thicker / more resilient exterior material

  6. Packed weight and size remains small and light weight than 4 Season tents

4 Season Tents for Mountaineering

As you can probably imagine, 4 Season Mountaineering tents are specifically designed for those harder enduring adventures.  With more poles for rigidity, denser fabric and fewer mesh panelling systems they are engineered to keep you comfortable and stop your tent from buckling in extreme snow falls and stormy winds. Although they are ideal for the more tougher weather systems when it comes to cold, wind and snow, they are not really ideal for hotter climates and could leave you feeling a bit hot under the collar!


The key features of a 4 Season Mountaineering Tent are as follows:


  1. Poles, poles and poles! Quite a few more is generally found for a much sturdier structure

  2. More guying points

  3. Fewer mesh panels to reduce the loss of heat

  4. Denser external fly sheet which sits much closer to the ground than a 3+ Season or below tent

  5. Domed style tent to help fight against heavy winds and keep the snow from collecting on top  

  6. Varying in packed weight and size, with additional poles and denser fabrics they are invariably heavier than the Season 3 or 3+ tents.




All Shapes and Sizes… what does it mean!


Optimised Symmetrical Geometric Features:

  • Optimised Symmetrical Geometric tents are engineered to maximise tent strength as well as provide all over shoulder and head room without multiple and complex pole set ups.

  • Consists of one or more poles. The main ridge pole is a unified pole system with two junctions at either end to form two symmetrical Y shapes (like this :  >---< ). When unpacking this is a single pole and is connected by cord which springs into place. Additional poles may be added to strengthen larger tents or offer up larger vestibules.

  • Simple set up with ample space. With optimised head space and fast and easy set ups these tents appeal to a wide range of travellers including those who face extreme weather systems.

  • Extremely lightweight and durable.

  • Freestanding.

Geodesic Tent Shape Features:

  • More often than not, geodesic tents are two walled tents.  Normally you have to pitch the inner tent before putting over the fly sheet.  What’s handy about this is you can take off the outer fly on those sunny, hot days and still remain semi sheltered!

  • Three or more poles.  These will intersect over 5 or more points making it a super robust and stable tent so great for extreme weather protection.

  • Generally heavier than Dome / Semi Geodesic shaped tents although there are some great brands out there offering fantastically lightweight engineered designs which are making these styles more appealing to overlanders.

  • Generally Freestanding – not all but manyGeodesic designs are freestanding and thus moved around with ease once set up.

Semi Geodesic Shape Features:

  • Most Semi Geodesic designed tents have an angled fly sheet at the front and rear to help protect you and your gear from bad weather.  With a higher point in the center, you’re able to sit up without having to crouch over.

  • Two or more poles.  These will intersect over two or more points, although once it crosses over 5 or more times it then gets classified as a Geodesic tent!

  • Extremely lightweight although generally slightly heavier than a standard Dome Design

  • Generally Freestanding – not all but many Semi Geodesic designs are freestanding and thus moved around with ease once set up.

Single Hoop Shape Tents (Transverse Hoop Tents) Features:

  • With only one pole, these tents require a good set up of guy lines in order for it to maintain a decent and stable shape.

  • Possibly one of the most compact and lightweight shapes – ideal for backpackers who are conscious of weight.

  • Limited interior headroom and foot print.

  • Both single walled / skinned or double available (many come with the fly sheet attached to the interior).

  • Generally fast and easy to pitch and pack away.


Tunnel Shape Tent Features:

  • With two or more poles arched over and not crossing, they are very similar to the single hooped shaped tents and rely on guy lines to maintain a decent shape.

  • Good head height and interior foot print.

  • Ordinarily heavier than a Single Hoop Tent but as a rule of thumb they are normally offer the best use of interior space to weight.

  • Both single walled / skinned or double available (many come with the fly sheet attached to the interior).

  • Generally fast and easy to pitch and pack away.


Dome Design and Features:

  • Designed with two poles flexing over the top of one another, the dome tent is robust and protects well from winds and stormy weather but does not offer the strength of the geodesic design, especially when going up in size.

  • Quick and easy to set up with only two poles of equal length to consider!

  • Great head and floor space

  • Normally two entrances allowing storage of gear in one and an exit from the other

  • Both single walled / skinned or double available (some come with the fly sheet attached to the interior).




So what’s the difference – Double Walled vs Single Walled tents?

Definition of a single walled tent:

A single walled tent consists of a single layer of fabric which is wind resistant and water proof, with modern single skinned tents generally having breathable fabric to help with ventilation.  The poles used to construct the tent can be attached on the inside or outside of the tent.

Who uses single wall tents?

Being a more simple and lighter build they can be favoured by adventurers or travellers who require a quicker set up in case of a sudden change in weather or for those looking to pitch in precarious places. Great for alpinists and those travelling in places dry and cold.


Pros and Cons of a single wall / skinned tent:

Pros - Single Walled / Skinned Tent

Cons - Single Walled / Skinned Tent

Lighter in weight when compared to a double skinned tent

No “insulating” layer, so can be hotter in summer and colder in winter

Has a larger interior when compared to a similar weight and size double skinned tent

Can have issues with condensation

Quicker and less fiddly to set up

Generally has less storage space for gear if any at all


If damaged will provide little protection

Definition of a double walled / skinned tent:

A double wall tent consists of two layers. First up is an interior tent body which makes up the entire living space including the floor. This section is breathable and often has mesh sections and a toughened waterproof base.


The exterior “fly sheet” or “rain fly” sits over the top of the main body and is wind resistant and water proof. The flysheet protects the interior layer, creating a great insulating affect whilst reducing overall condensation. On the rare occasion, the poles can be attached on the outside to the fly sheet but ordinarily the poles are erected within the interior layer with the fly sheet then attached or lined up over the top.

Who uses double walled / skinned tents?

Double wall tents tend to excel in environments which are wet and humid or sunny. With larger vestibules, they offer a great area for travellers with a lot of gear or needing a place to keep items dry and safe.  Most double wall tents have removable fly sheets which can provide a cooling relief at night to those camping in hotter climates, whilst offering some privacy and protection from bugs and beasties!


Pros and Cons of a double wallled / skinned tent:

Pros - Double Walled / Skinned Tent

Cons - Double Walled / Skinned Tent

Has less chance of having condensation issues

Takes longer to set up and requires careful staking to ensure it is effective

Provides an insulating affect which can keep you cooler or warmer depending on the climate

Heavier than a same sized and season single wall tent

Has a removable fly sheet for warmer evenings

Normally more expensive than a single wall tent

Generally has storage space / larger vestibules



Unravelling the Mumbo Jumbo for the Tent World


Air Vents

Vents, ordinarily situated on the exterior fabric of your tent, which can be popped open or closed to help aid with ventilation.

Bathtub Floor

This is where the waterproofed fabric of your tent’s floor extends up and around the edges to protect from any leaks from gathering water.


The entrances and exits of your tent, mainly zippable sections which can roll up and tie back. 

Floor Area

The size of the liveable inner tent floor area (not including vestibules). This is calculated by the floor area length x floor area width.

Flysheet / Rain Fly / Tent Fly
This is the robust exterior fabric of your tent which is either water proof or water resistant and provides protection from wind, rain and sunshine. With most tent designs, these are removable.


Gear Loft

This is normally a mesh or netting piece of fabric which is attached to inside roof of the tent body. It makes a great handy storage space for any small items you may need quick access to such as head torches, phones, wallets, keys etc.


At the base of a tent or flysheet there can sometimes be small strips of fabric protruding with little metal rings – otherwise known as grommets – attached to the end of them.  These are generally used to place the end and start of tent poles in for quick set up or alternatively on some designs can be used to peg through.

Groundsheet / Footprint

A waterproof, durable fabric sheet which is seated underneath your tent body to help prevent water penetration into your living space and general wear and tear on your tent. Some tents already have a groundsheet built into them but it can be beneficial to use an additional one to prolong the life of your tent.

Guys / Guy Lines / Cord Lines

Guys or Guy lines are long, strong cords which are attached to individual points of your tent at one end and then are fastened onto a tent peg or stake which has been driven into the ground at the other end.  This helps keep your flysheet or tent taut to maintain a strong structure to fight against the elements or increase ventilation. Sorry to destroy the idea that your tent may come with a bunch of fellas to hold your tent in shape! 

Shock Cord

With some tent designs they have hollow tent poles which are linked together by some thin, flexible cord which is threaded through the centre. This helps keep the poles linked together and easy to assemble and collapse down when packing away or opening up.


Tent Body / Inner Tent
This is the full inner body section of your tent in which you live and sleep in.  As part of a double wall tent, this is ordinarily made up of a lightweight and breathable fabric with mesh sections for ventilation and a tougher waterproof floor construct.

Tent Clips

When setting up your tent, some tents come with tent clips which are attached to the tent body and then hooked onto your poles.  It helps with a quick and secure set up, keeping everything in its rightful place.

Tent Denier (often written as “D” i.e. “40D x 330T ripstop nylon”)

This is the thickness of the fibres / yarns / threads used to make up your tent fabric. The higher the denier count, the greater the diameter of the fibres / yarns / threads.


Thread Count (often written as “T” i.e. “40D x 330T ripstop nylon”)

This is the amount of vertical and horizontal fibres / yarns / threads per square inch. The higher the thread count, the stronger yet heavier the fabric.


Trail Weight or Minimum Weight

This is the total weight of the bare minimum you will need to take to set up your purchased tent - generally the tent body, flysheet and poles.

Packed Size

This is the size of your tent is once it is packed away.

Packed Weight

This is the weight of all components purchased as part of the tent package, for example the tent body, flysheet, poles, stuff sack, pole sack, repair kit, stakes / pegs, guy lines, instructions etc.

Vestibules / Porches

Situated outside of the inner tent living area but covered by your flysheet, a vestibule or porch provides a dry area for gear storage or extra living space to move in and out of.


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