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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Tent Buying Guide

Shopping for a tent is like shopping for a home: there are dozens of styles, designs, sizes, and features to consider. In this guide, gear editor Kristin Hostetter shows you how to pick the right one for any outing.

by: Kristin Hostetter, Illustrations by Supercorn

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Tent Shapes

Tents come in several configurations; each shape has pros and cons.

A-frame
Simple, light, and often inexpensive, A-frame designs have sloping walls, which can limit head and elbow room. Because their broad sidewalls can get battered in high winds, A-frames are best for benign conditions.

Modified A-frame
This type of tent uses a center hoop pole, a ridgeline pole, or curved sidewalls to create more interior space and structural stability than standard A-frames.

Dome
Domes come in many shapes, sizes, and pole configurations, but typically feature arched ceilings, have good stability in wind, and good interior space.

Hoop/Tunnel
Hoop, tunnel, or tube tents offer a good combination of weight and weather-resistance but they are not freestanding, which means they require adequate staking to achieve their shape (see the Features section below).

Pyramid/Teepee
These shelters consist of a rainfly supported by a vertical center pole and are staked out to form a teepee shape. Space to weight ratio is excellent, but the floorless design means compromised performance in wet or buggy weather.

Wedge
Higher at the head end and lower towards the foot, wedge tents are aerodynamic (pitched low end into the wind) and lightweight. The tradeoff is that interior space is sacrificed, especially headroom.


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