A tent is a shelter consisting of sheets of fabric or other material draped over or attached to a frame of poles or attached to a supporting rope. While smaller tents may be free-standing or attached to the ground, large tents are usually anchored using guy ropes tied to stakes or tent pegs.
Tents range in size from one-person bivouac structures for a hiker to sleep in, to huge (circus) tents capable of seating thousands of people. Common camping tents generally have sleeping space for one to ten people.
Camping Tents[edit | edit source]
Tents for recreational camping fall into two categories. Tents intended to be carried by backpackers are the smallest and lightest type. Smaller tents may be sufficiently light that they can be carried for long distances on a bicycle, boat, or even a person's back. Some very specialized tents have spring-loaded poles and can be pitched (assembled) in seconds, but take somewhat longer to strike (disassemble).
The second type are larger, heavier tents which are usually carried in a car or other vehicle. Depending on tent size and the experience of the person or people involved, such tents can usually be pitched in between 5 and 25 minutes and striking takes a similar length of time.
General Considerations[edit | edit source]
Fabric & Rain Resistance[edit | edit source]
Tent fabric may be made of many materials including cotton (canvas), nylon, felt and polyester. Cotton absorbs water, so it can become very heavy when wet, but the associated swelling tends to block any minute holes so that wet cotton is more waterproof than dry cotton. Cotton tents were often treated with paraffin to enhance water resistance. Nylon and polyester are much lighter than cotton and do not absorb much water; with suitable coatings they can be very waterproof, but they tend to deteriorate over time due to a slow chemical breakdown caused by ultraviolet light. The most common treatments to make fabric waterproof are silicone impregnation or polyurethane coating. Since stitching makes tiny holes in a fabric, it is important that any seams are sealed or taped to block these holes and maintain waterproofness.
Rain resistance is measured as a hydrostatic head in millimeters (mm). This indicates the pressure of water needed to penetrate a fabric. Heavy or wind-driven rain has a higher pressure than light rain. Standing on a groundsheet increases the pressure on any water underneath. Fabric with a hydrostatic head rating of 1000 mm or less is best regarded as shower resistant, with 1500 mm being usually suitable for summer camping. Tents for year-round use generally have at least 2000 mm; expedition tents intended for extreme conditions are often rated at 3000 mm. Where quoted, groundsheets may be rated for 5000 mm or more.
Size and Sleeping Capacity[edit | edit source]
Many tent manufacturers indicate capacity by such phrases as "3 berth" or "2 person". These numbers indicate how many people the manufacturer thinks can be fit snugly into a tent with just sleeping bags. These numbers do not allow for any personal belongings, such as luggage, inflatable mattresses, camp beds, cots, etc., nor do they allow for people who are of above average height. Checking the quoted sizes of sleeping areas reveals that several manufacturers consider that a width of 150 cm (5 feet) is enough for three people, therefore snug is the operative word. Experience indicates that camping may be more comfortable if the actual number of occupants is one or even two less than the manufacturer's suggestion.
Types of modern tents[edit | edit source]
There are three basic configurations of tents, each of which may appear with many variations:
- Single skin/wall): Only one waterproof layer of fabric is used, comprising at least roof and walls. To minimize condensation on the inside of the tent, some expedition tents use waterproof/breathable fabrics.
- Single skin/wall with flysheet: A waterproof flysheet or rain fly is suspended over and clear of the roof of the tent; it often overlaps the tent roof slightly, but does not extend down the sides or ends of the tent.
- Double skin/wall): The outer tent is a waterproof layer which extends down to the ground all round. One or more inner tents provide sleeping areas. The outer tent may be just a little larger than the inner tent, or it may be a lot larger and provide a covered living area separate from the sleeping area(s). An inner tent need not be waterproof. The double layer may also provide some thermal insulation.
Parts of a modern tent[edit | edit source]
- A flysheet or rain fly (found only in double skin tents) is used to protect the inside of the tent from water. It is waterproof on the outside and also provides a surface to collect condensation on the inside. Condensation then runs down the walls to the ground. When a flysheet is used, it is important that there be no contact with the inner tent it is protecting; this keeps the inner dry. Expedition tents often have extra poles to help ensure that wind does not blow the two layers into contact.
- The inner tent comprises the main body of the tent. For double skin tents, the inner tent (often mesh) is not waterproof since it is protected by the rain fly. For single skin tents, the inner tent is often made of waterproof-breathable material that prevents liquid water from penetrating the inside of the tent, but still allows water vapor to be transported out.
- The vestibule is a floorless covered section located outside a tent entrance that is typically used for the storage of boots, packs, and other small equipment. They are often used for activities that cannot be performed within the tent itself, such as cooking or equipment cleaning. Vestibules may be included as a removable attachment or integrated into the tent itself.
- A groundsheet is used to provide a waterproof barrier between the ground and a sleeping bag. With double skin tents, the inner tents normally have a sewn-in groundsheet, but a separate flat groundsheet may be provided for any living area. With single skin tents, the groundsheet may be sewn in or separate. Normal practice with sewn-in groundsheets is for the groundsheet to extend some 15 cm (6 in) up the lower part of the walls (sometimes called a "bathtub" arrangement); this copes with a situation where water seeps under the side walls of the tent. Separate groundsheets allow loadsharing when backpacking, and may make it easier to pitch and strike a tent, but they provide less protection against insects and other creatures getting into the sleeping area. Also, if any part of a separate groundsheet protrudes from under the side walls, then it provides a ready path for moisture to flow into the tent.
- The poles provide structural support. They may be collapsible for easier transport and storage. Some designs use rigid poles, typically made of metal or wood. Other designs use semi-rigid poles, typically made of fiberglass, or special metal alloys. Another pole type uses inflatable beams as the structural support.
- Stakes or tent pegs may be used to fasten the tent to the ground. Some are attached to guy ropes that pull outward on the poles and/or fabric to help shape the tent or give it additional stability. Others are used to anchor the bottom edge of the fabric to the ground. Pegs may be made of wood, plastic, or metal. A mallet may be needed to drive thicker pegs into the ground. Skewer metal pegs consisting essentially of a length of thick wire with a hook on one end can usually be inserted by hand, except if the ground is very hard, but may not be as strong as more substantial pegs. Pegs used for guy ropes should not be driven vertically into the ground; instead for maximum strength they should be driven in at an angle so that the peg is at right angles to the guy rope attached to it. Lighter free standing tents may need some guy ropes and pegs to prevent them from being blown away.
- Air vents help reduce the effects of condensation. When people breathe, they expel quite a lot of water vapor. If the outside of the tent is colder than the inside then this vapor will condense on the inside of the tent, on any clothing lying about, on the outside of a sleeping bag, etc. Hence ventilation helps to remove the vapor, although this may let in cold air.
- An optional tent footprint or groundsheet protector may be used. This is a separate flat groundsheet which goes underneath the main groundsheet, and is slightly smaller than that groundsheet. The intention is to protect the main groundsheet, especially when camping on rough terrain, since it is much cheaper to replace a separate footprint groundsheet than it is to replace a sewn-in groundsheet.
Tent Selection[edit | edit source]
Many factors affect tent selection, including:
- Intended use
- Backpacking - lengthy duration for carrying the tent. Weight and size are the most crucial factors.
- Touring - high frequency of pitching and striking the tent. Ease of pitching/striking the tent is important.
- Static - staying at one campsite for a week or two at a time. A comfortable camping experience is the target.
- Camping season - A tent required only for summer use may be very different from one to be used in the depths of winter. Manufacturers label tents as one-season, two/three-season, three/four season, four season, etc.
- One-season tent is generally for summer use only, and may only be capable of coping with light showers.
- Three-season tent is for spring/summer/autumn and should be capable of withstanding fairly heavy rain, or very light snow.
- Four-season tent should be suitable for winter camping in all but the most extreme conditions; an expedition tent (for mountain conditions) should be strong enough to cope with heavy snow, strong winds, as well as heavy rain.
- Size of tent
- The number and age of people who will be camping determines how big and what features the sleeping area(s) must have.
- To allow for inclement weather, some covered living space separate from the sleeping area(s) may be desirable. Alternatively, cyclists on a camping trip may wish for enough covered space to keep their bicycles out of the weather.
- To allow for sunshine, an awning to provide shade may be desired. Some tents have additional poles so that the fabric doorways can be used as awnings.
- Internal height - Manufacturers quote the maximum internal height, but the usable internal height may be a little lower, depending on the tent style. Ridge tents have a steeply sloping roof so the whole height is rarely usable. Dome tents slope gently in all directions from the peak enabling nearly the entire height to be usable for a large portion of the tent. Tunnel tents have a good usable height along the center line. Frame and cabin tents have gently sloping roofs and near vertical walls. To fully evaluate the usable space in a tent, both the maximum wall height and slope must be considered. There are four useful heights used to evaluate appropriate tent height: lie down only, sit, kneel, stand. The exact heights at which these apply depend on the heights of the campers involved; those over 182 cm (6 ft) are likely to have less choice of tents than those who are somewhat shorter. As a starting point, sitting height is often between 90 and 105 cm (3 ft to 3 ft 6 in), and kneeling height may be between 120 and 150 cm (4 ft to 5 ft). These different heights are useful for evaluating whether certain tasks, such as changing clothes, can be accomplished in the tent. You can enhance your camping experience with Oz tents, which are easy to set-up and are durable enough to withstand outdoor rigours. MalAndy Outdoor Adventure offers the best of Oztent for sale in Australia.
- Number of sleeping areas - Larger tents sometimes are partitioned into separate sleeping areas or rooms.
- Tent color
- In some areas of some countries, there may be restrictions as to what color tents can be, thereby reducing the visual impact of campsites. The best colors for low visibility are green, brown, or tans.
- An opposing consideration is of safety and calls for visible unnatural colors, such as bright yellow or red. Bright-colored tents can be easily spotted from the air in cases of an emergency. They are important in places where vehicles may not notice a low-visibility tent and run over its unsuspecting occupiers. Campers wandering away from camp will find their way back more easily if their tent is highly visible. Additionally, lost hikers may find rescue by spotting a visible camp site from afar.
- Setup effort - Some styles of camping and living outdoors entails quick setup of tents. As a general rule, the more robust the tent, the more time and effort needed to set up and dismantle. The style of the tent also has a great impact on its ease of use.
Current tent styles[edit | edit source]
With modern materials, tent manufacturers have great freedom to vary types and styles and shapes of tents.
- The poles effectively hold the tent in the required shape.
- Poles which dismantle for ease of transport are either color-coded or linked by chain or cord, so there is little doubt as to which poles connect where.
- Relatively few guy ropes are needed (sometimes none).
- The exact positioning of any guy ropes is not too critical.
Rigid poles[edit | edit source]
Many tents which use rigid steel poles are free-standing and do not require guy ropes, though they may require pegs around the bottom edge of the fabric. These tents are usually so heavy (25 to 80 kg) that it takes a rather strong wind to blow them away.
- Frame tents are double-skin tents. They have a living area and one or more cotton/nylon/polyester inner tents. The outer tent is draped over a free-standing steel frame, and may be made of canvas or polyester (the latter often has a hydrostatic head of 3000mm, i.e. three season camping). The living area is generally at least as large as the sleeping area, and there may be a specific section with window and extra air vents for use as a kitchen. The walls are nearly vertical and are typically about 150 to 180 cm high (5 ft to 6 ft). The center of the gently sloping roof is often 210 cm (7 ft) high or more and provides reasonable headroom throughout. The smaller 2-person models are less than 3 meters square (10 ft), but these have largely been replaced by dome or tunnel tents. The larger 8-person models may exceed 5 meters (16 ft) in length and/or width.
- Cabin tents are single-skin tents used mainly in the USA. They often have nylon walls, polyester roof, and a polyethylene floor, plus an awning at one or both ends. With a hydrostatic head of only 1000 mm, they may best be considered as summer tents. Removable internal dividers allow the cabin to be split into 'rooms'. Sizes may range from 13 ft by 8 ft (2 rooms) up to 25 ft by 10 ft (4 rooms), with wall and roof heights similar to those of frame tents. There are three separate pole units, with each unit consisting of two uprights and a connecting ridge. These pole units support the center and ends of the roof, and are usually outside the tent.
Flexible poles[edit | edit source]
Flexible poles used for tents in this section are typically between 3 and 6 meters long (10 and 20 feet). Cheap poles are made of tubes of fiberglass with an external diameter less than 1 cm (1/3 inch), whereas more expensive aluminum alloys are the material of choice for added strength and durability. For ease of transportation, these poles are made in sections some 30 cm to 60 cm long (1 to 2 ft), with one end of each section having a socket into which the next section can fit. For ease of assembly, the sections for each pole are often connected by an internal elastic cord running the entire length of the pole.
- Dome tents have a very simple structure and are available in a wide variety of sizes ranging from lightweight 2-person tents with limited headroom up to 6 or 9-person tents with headroom exceeding 180 cm (6 ft). These may be single wall, or single-wall with partial flysheet, or double wall. Depending on the pole arrangement, some models pitch outer-tent first, while others pitch inner-tent first. The former helps keep the inner tent dry, but the latter is easier to pitch.
- The basic dome has a rectangular floor and two poles which cross at the peak; each pole runs in a smooth curve from one bottom corner, up to the peak, and then down to the diagonally opposite bottom corner. There are usually special fittings at each corner which fit into sockets at the ends of each pole - pole tension keeps everything in shape. The poles can run on either the inside or outside of the tent fabric. When located on the interior, poles are held in place by a variety of means including hook and loop style straps, clips, and other fastening hardware. Poles that are located on the outside of the tent fabric are attached via fabric pole sleeves or plastic clips. Dome tents do not require guy ropes and pegs for structural integrity as they are considered free-standing, but must be pegged down in high winds.
- The basic dome design has been modified extensively, producing tents with three poles, tents with irregularly-shaped bases, and other unusual types. A common variation is to add a third pole between two adjacent corners; this is angled away from the tent and supports an extension of the flysheet, to give a porch/storage area.
- Tunnel tents may offer more usable internal space than a dome tent with the same ground area, but almost always need guy ropes and pegs to stay upright. These are almost always double wall tents. Sizes range from 1-person tents with very limited headroom up to 8 or 10-person tents with headroom exceeding 180 cm (6 ft). Tunnel tents have a low end profile making them great for high wind situations.
- A basic tunnel tent uses three flexible poles, arranged as three parallel hoops, with tent fabric attached to form a tunnel. The most common designs have a sleeping area at one end and a porch/storage/living area at the other. Smaller designs may use only 2 poles and larger designs may use 4 poles; the latter may have a sleeping area at each end and a living area in the middle.
- Hybrid dome/tunnel tents are now common. One variation is to use a basic dome as the sleeping area; one or two hooped poles to one side are linked by a tunnel to the dome to provide a porch. Another variation is to use a large dome as the living area, with up to 4 tunnel extensions to provide sleeping areas.
- Geodesic tents are essentially dome tents with 2 or more extra poles which criss-cross the normal two poles to help support the basic shape and minimize the amount of unsupported fabric. This makes them more suitable for use in snowy conditions and in strong winds. To help withstand strong winds they are rarely more than 120 or 150 cm high (4 to 5 ft).
- Single-hoop tents use just one flexible pole and are often sold as light-weight 1 or 2-person tents. These are the modern equivalent of older style pup tents, and have the same feature of somewhat limited headroom. Different styles may have the pole going either along or across the tent.
- Pop-up tents are a recent innovation. This type of tent is equipped with built-in very flexible hoops so that when the tent is unpacked, it springs into shape immediately, and so is extremely easy to set up. Such tents are usually single-skinned and are generally aimed at the one-season or children's end of the market; their high flexibility makes them unsuitable for use in windy situations. After use the tent is packed down into a thick disc shape.
Inflatable airbeams[edit | edit source]
Inflatable pole supports, also known as airbeams, serve as rigid structural supports when inflated but are soft and pliable when deflated. Tents using such technology are neither commonly used nor widely accepted and are available from a very limited number of suppliers.
Much like a bicycle tube and tire, airbeams are often composed of a highly dimensionally stable (i.e. no stretch) fabric sleeve and an air-holding inner bladder. However, other airbeam constructions consist of coated fabrics that are cut and manufactured to its intended shape by a method such as thermal welding. Depending on the desired tent size, airbeams can be anywhere from 2-40 inches in diameter, inflated to different pressures. High pressure airbeams (40-80 psi) that are filled by compressors are most often used in larger shelters, whereas low pressure beams (5-7 psi) are preferred for recreational use. The relatively low pressure enables the use of a manual pump to inflate the airbeam to the desired level. Airbeams have the unique quality of bending, rather than breaking, when overloaded. Tents that use inflatable airbeams are structured almost identical to those that use flexible poles.
- Dome tents that use inflatable airbeam support are available in a variety of sizes ranging from lightweight 2-person to larger 6+ person shelters, and are virtually identical to the arrangement of flexible-pole supported dome tents. Beams are usually integrated into the tent shell such that they do not have to be reinserted every time setup occurs. Airbeams can be located on either the inside or outside of the tent shell. Similar to the pole-supported construction, airbeam supported dome tents are free standing but should be staked out with pegs and guyout lines to increase stability and strength.
- Tunnel tents are a common form of airbeam supported tents because their size can be easily modified by adding additional hoops. Military applications use this style of tent for a range of purposes including medical shelters, helicopter enclosures, and airplane hangars. In these constructions, hoops are generally identical in size. In commercial airbeam supported tents, the hoops can be different sizes. Tunnel tents tend to withstand high winds well because of their low profile shape. However, the tents are not freestanding and must be anchored and guyed out securely.
Older tent styles[edit | edit source]
Most of these tent styles are no longer generally available. Most of these are single-skin designs, with optional fly sheets for the ridge tents.
All the tents listed here had a canvas fabric and used a substantial number of guy ropes (8 to 18). The guys had to be positioned and tensioned fairly precisely in order to pitch the tent correctly, so some training and experience were needed. This made these styles relatively unsuitable for casual or occasional campers. Pup tents might use wooden or metal poles, but all the other styles mentioned here used wooden poles.
- Pup tents are small versions of ridge tents intended for 2 or 3 people. They usually have a rectangular floor of size ranging from 4 ft by 6 ft up to 6 ft by 8 ft, and ridge heights ranging from 3 ft up to 5 ft. The side walls are usually about 1 ft high. There are guy ropes for each pole, at each corner, and in the center of each side, and these guy ropes help to maintain the required shape. Earlier versions had a single upright pole at each end, while later versions often have two poles at each end, arranged rather like an 'A' shape, in order to make access easier. Some models have a horizontal ridge pole joining the tops of the end poles to support the center of the tent.
- Ridge tents can sleep 5 to 8 people. They usually have a rectangular floor of size ranging from 8 ft by 10 ft up to 10 ft by 16 ft, and ridge heights around 6 ft to 7 ft. The side walls are usually about 3 ft high. They normally have a single upright pole at each end with the tops joined by a horizontal ridge pole. Longer models might have an additional upright pole in the center to help support the ridge pole. They often have two guy ropes at each corner, and guy ropes every 2 ft along the sides. If strong winds are expected then two additional storm guy ropes are attached to the top of each pole.
- Square center-pole tents were often used for family camping in the first half of the 20th century. Despite the use of 9 poles and 12 guy ropes, such a tent could often be pitched by an experienced family of four in some 10 to 15 minutes. These tents had a square floor of size ranging from 8 by 8 ft up to 15 by 15 ft. There were poles about 5 ft high at each corner and in the middle of each side, and a 10 ft or 12 ft pole in the center. The walls were vertical and the roof was pyramid-shaped, so there was plenty of headroom over most of the tent.
- Sibley tents (bell tent) had a circular floor plan some 10 ft to 15 ft across, a single central pole some 10 ft high, and walls about 3 ft high. Guy ropes were connected every 2 ft around the top of the walls - these had to carefully tensioned to hold the pole upright and keep the tent in shape.
References[edit | edit source]
External Links[edit | edit source]