How to choose a tourist tent: types, installation methods and other nuances

Prepare your sleigh in summer and your camping tent in winter! Departure for a long picnic, a full-fledged trekking hike or mountain climbing – almost no outing into nature is complete without a tent. By the way, including winter. In this article, we understand what you need to be truly comfortable in your camp home.

Destination type
In stores you can find an incredible range of prices for tents and a variety of names: beach, camping, trekking, mountain. There are also kitchen tents and toilet tents. What’s the difference and what kind of tent do you need?

Beach tents are not exactly tents in the classical sense, but rather light thin awnings in the construction of tents. They are made of the lightest material possible, most often they do not have a bottom, they are assembled on the lightest one-piece flexible arches or automatic systems. As a rule, they are of open type – without a closing entrance. Beach tents are strictly designed to shelter from the sun. You won’t be able to spend the night in them for sure.

Beach tent Bestway 68044
Camping sites are solid, usually large and heavy structures for an imposing holiday. Camping tents can be of different types for both daytime rest and overnight stay. Speaking of daytime rest, we mean a huge tent, inside which you can place a field kitchen, resting places and even the tents themselves for spending the night, depending on the size of the overall structure. They are good for road trips. Such a tent can weigh up to 20 kilograms or more – you are unlikely to want to carry such a load on yourself. Camping tents for overnight stays are also oversized and heavily weighted and are also not suitable for hiking. Among other things, they are less resistant to wind compared to trekking ones.

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Green Glade Tent Zoro 3
Trekking is what we usually mean when we say “tent”. It is designed just for a comfortable overnight stay. Trekking tents differ in the type of construction, assembly scheme, size, weight, moisture and windproof properties. We will talk about this below.

Tent Maclay POLAR 3984284
Mountain – a conventional subdivision of trekking tents. Ultra-light, ultra-small, but very durable and often expensive tents for extreme conditions. They are designed specifically for climbers who do not have a large camp area and room to maneuver. They can also be used on regular hiking trips if you need absolute reliability and not intimidated by tightness.

The kitchen is basically the same as a camping tent. A large, high and roomy tent without a bottom, under which you can place a field kitchen and a recreation area without fear that the tongue of the barbecue flame will burn through the roof of the tent.

Toilet and shower tents are compact structures designed specifically for the organization of sanitary conditions. They can be distinguished by their specific appearance: this tent is vertical, designed for one person, with one awning and no bottom.

Cabin tent Noname 68002
Next, we will talk about the types of trekking tents, because you have to live in them to a greater extent, and therefore there are more requirements for them.

Types of Trekking Tent DesignsEach type of construction is a basic base, but there are many different modifications. For example, various variants of vestibules can be added to the classic hemispheres, and then the tent looks tricky and takes longer to assemble. There are hybrids of half rolls, fish, and so on.

The hemisphere is the most popular and easy-to-install type: two arcs that intersect in the center and end against the corners of the bottom of the tent. Such tents are also available with a vestibule, in which it is convenient to store things. The tambour can be both arcless and on additional one or two cantilever half-arcs or full arcs.


The hemisphere can have front and side entry options. It is more convenient to climb into the side entrance and it is easier to reach all corners of the tent. In addition, many tents of this type have two side entrances on both sides, which means that ventilation is better on hot summer nights and it is more convenient to climb in if there are two or three of you in the tent.

Tunnel type – aka “barrel”. In it, the arcs are parallel. Compared to a hemisphere, this tent is easier and faster to set up, and usually more roomy. But the tunnel type is more capricious to the wind due to its longitudinal design – such a tent can withstand a side wind worse than a hemisphere.

“Fish” – two arcs are placed in parallel, and then crossed and fixed. Tents “fish” (they are “butterflies”) are very resilient and resistant to wind in any direction. In calm weather, the “fish” does not need to be stretched on pegs – due to the design, the awning is initially stretched tight like a drum and stands firmly without a brace. Of the minuses – because of the strong bevel of arcs and crossing, there is very little space in such a tent and there is also very little “ceiling”. Therefore, if you plan to store things in a tent, definitely look for options with vestibules. Usually “fish” refer to expensive tents. Tents for extreme conditions, winter and mountains are often “fish”, reinforced with an additional third arc with a low bend.

“Coffin” is a modification of the “fish” with an offset point of intersection of arcs. Has the same excellent stability characteristics as the fish, but more compact and lower. It is more often used for mountain climbing or for those who like to go hiking alone.

Tent – here you need to distinguish between camping and trekking tents. We wrote about camping tents above – these are large, high and heavy structures that are not intended for an independent hike. Trekking tents are mainly used for spending the night for a large company of six people or more. They can be with one or two layers, with a bottom or without a bottom. Often for winter overnight stays, two-layer tents without a bottom are used with the installation of a stove inside.

Gable – one might say, an outdated, still Soviet type of tent. Nowadays, gable structures can be found only at beach and camping tents. For an overnight stay and a permanent camp, such a structure is several times less reliable than the others – it is poorly resistant to wind, and troublesome to install.

Characteristics of tents
Tambours, ventilation, arches, stretch marks, pegs – it is also important to understand here.

Dimensions and capacity. In general, all tents are designed according to the classic schemes: 60-80 cm wide for a single tent, 120-130 cm for a double tent, and so on. The parameters for placing the tent must be indicated and drawn in the specification. How much this corresponds to real use is up to you – people can be fragile and thin or large and wide; sleep “waddly” or wrapped compactly in a sleeping bag; store a bunch of things right in the tent or not store anything; take your favorite dog with you to the tent or live alone. All of these factors determine which tent you choose. However, remember that as the capacity increases, the weight naturally increases.

In addition to the width, attention should be paid to the length of the placement: while some tents can accommodate a two-meter person, others – up to 180 cm long. Height can make a difference if you want to change comfortably and are not ready to crawl around in your tent. The absolute leader in height is, of course, tents. In second place are hemispheres. The lowest are fish and coffins, it will be inconvenient to even change clothes in them.

Many tents indicate not only the number of people to accommodate, but also the number of rooms. Trekking tents and lightweight tents usually have one room. Tents for two or even three rooms with separate entrances and a common vestibule are most often oversized and heavy camping tents.

Number of awnings. Everything is quite simple here. Budget tents on one tent are an option for those who are sure of a loyal weather forecast. They will not withstand heavy rain, the inside can be damp even from the evening and morning dew. Putting up such a tent somewhere on the seaside is not the best option. Among other things, single tent tents have very poor ventilation. As a result – dampness and stuffiness inside and a high probability of feeling unwell in the morning. This includes camping tents, kitchens, toilets and beach tents. The exception is tents on one membrane tent. As a rule, this is a lightweight type of tent for extreme climbing. In all other cases, we recommend choosing tents with two awnings: an inner breathable layer and an outer waterproof layer.

Tambour. Above we said that the vestibule is a useful feature for storing things. And also the vestibule protects in rainy and damp weather. For example, if you open the tent door in a rainstorm, water will not get inside if the vestibule protects you. Also, the vestibule is convenient for organizing a quick kitchen in bad weather. Tambours come in a wide variety of designs, small and large, on conventional stretch lines, half-arcs and full-fledged arcs. In some vestibules only boots and a small backpack will fit, under others you can hide a bicycle. Focus on the average number of items. The most basic and least functional vestibules are on guy lines. More advanced ones – in half arcs. The most spacious, large and closed – on additional arches with a bottom and walls, as in the second photo.

Arcs. The main load in the tent falls on the arches, therefore the durability and reliability of the tent depends not least on their quality. The best aluminum alloy arcs are the lightest, strongest and most corrosion-free. The worst are fiberglass (fiberglass): heavy, short-lived, but cheap. Look not only at the arcs themselves, but also at the fixation system – the faster and easier it is, the better.

Aluminum arches are lightweight, durable, do not rust

Slings and pegs are the attributes that no tent can do without. There is no point in looking for indestructible pegs – sooner or later they will meet stones in the ground and still bend. Pegs are a consumable that will periodically have to be changed between a budget tent, a brand and an expensive one. But the fastening of slings and loops is an important area of ​​attention, especially for tents with an internal frame, where the external awning will dangle and sail without additional braces. It is best if the braces have multiple anchorage points and tension angles. Loops on the awning under the braces must be reliable, not located at the very edge of the awning and at the seams.

Ventilation and moisture protection
The two most important physical characteristics that determine the endurance of your tent in different weather conditions and your comfort from being inside.

Ventilation. It is also important for winter hikes, but especially for summer ones. Pay attention to the amount of mesh and ventilation windows. Tents with one entrance must have a ventilation window, ideally a mesh over the entire height of the door. Tents with two side entrances are the leaders for summer ventilation and hot sweltering nights.

Moisture protection. This topic requires a separate material, so here we will try to briefly cover the most important. Moisture protection is largely determined by the characteristics of the outer awning and the bottom of the tent. Outer tarpaulins are available in polyester, nylon and membrane fabric. Water resistance is measured in millimeters of mercury. Single-layer tents are usually 1000 mm – an awning will protect against short-term drizzle, but will not even cope with fog, not to mention a shower. In general, tents up to 1500 mm are not considered waterproof in principle. 2000mm double layer tents withstand heavy but short rainfall. Tents from 3000 mm are suitable for multi-day hikes and long-term camps and will be able to protect against prolonged precipitation. For extreme conditions, there are tarpaulins with a water density of 10,000–20,000 mm and high abrasion resistance.

Moisture protection is achieved due to the thickness and density of the weave of the fabric threads, as well as impregnation coatings. For example, water resistance 2000-2500 mm is solved by double application of polyurethane or silicone impregnation on the inside of the awning. Some tents have both types of impregnation.

Many, even expensive, tents, after one or a couple of nights, depending on the climate, collect internal condensation – this is normal and does not mean that the tent does not meet the declared characteristics. There are three ways out of this situation. The first is to remove the outer tent in dry weather, clean it from condensation and hang it or lay it out to dry. The second option is to choose tents with a padding or additional fixation of the frame between the outer and inner awning, which does not allow condensation to pass to the inside. The third option is to make these pads yourself, for example, from tightly twisted foam.

Build type
By type of assembly, tents can be with an internal or external frame, automatic and self-folding.

The inner frame implies that you first assemble the inner tarpaulin into arcs and then hook the outer tarp on top. The classic scheme, presented in most tents in the budget and mid-range segment. Of the minuses, it is inconvenient to put it in windy weather, since the tents will constantly fly away from you, as well as in the rain, since the inner tent can get wet while you set the outer one. From the pros – you can easily remove the outer tent for drying or cleaning.

External frame. First, an awning is placed, the inner part is whipped up to it from the inside. If you do not unfasten the awnings from each other, then in the future you will only need to stretch the arcs and that’s it. The external frame has some advantages over the internal one: it is quickly and easily put in the wind, there is no risk of getting wet in the rain. For tents with an outer frame, you can put only an awning without an inner part – useful for a light picnic or a short rest. They are also assembled faster and easier than the previous type. Of the minuses, it is more difficult to remove the external awning for cleaning from condensation and drying. In addition, tents with an outer frame are always much more expensive.