Neil Smith

3 years ago · 4 min. reading time · visibility ~10 ·

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Tents part 2

Tents part 2

This is the concluding part of a post on tents for the Neil's blog section of the Charles Camping website. The first part can be found here


The way a tent designer utilises the space available is often the single most important factor for many purchasers. Given that fabrics and poles are often coming from the same or equivalent quality, suppliers the layout is often the only thing that distinguishes one tent from another. We will look at some options below with regard to the given use of the tent. 

Backpacking and Mountaineering tents.

These will be found in three general types: Dome, Tunnel or modified Ridge. All will try to achieve a degree of sleeping space and a porch which is roomy enough to store equipment and produce meals in. Generally speaking, the lighter the tent is, the smaller the packed size and the more cramped it will be. These are tents which are made to be carried through the day and slept in at night. Standing is almost always impossible and in some even sitting up would be out of the question. The tents pictured are for illustration only. Most companies will have equivalent designs I just wanted to compare like with like regards the spec and purpose so have chosen to stick with one brand.

Dome without porch.

This first option is usual on cheaper tents for first time campers and festival goers. Comfort is sacrificed to cost and the space for gear and cooking is minimal. The positive is that the cost is low but the comfort over time is low also. These are for occasional campers only.

Single porch Dome.

Reasonable sleeping space allied with a bit of room for gear makes this the workhorse of the backpacking tent world. Weights vary depending on spec with the cheaper versions being significantly weaker and heavier than the more expensive options. Choose according to your usage and budgetary restraints.

Double porch Dome.

The standard expedition design provides extra storage space and egress at either end which can be very helpful in changeable winds or where snow is swirling around. Cheaper options for lowland camping are available so they are not just high spec, high price. This is the best style for extended mobile camps as well as Scout or school expeditions.

Tunnel tents.

Side Porch Vs. Front porch.

Having a porch along the side of a tent tends to produce a long, narrow space. Boots, rucksacks and less wanted gear can be relegated to the foot end and more wanted items like coffee can be near to hand. Having a door on either side makes it easier for one person to get out of the tent without disturbing the other. Having the porch at the head of the tent produces a squarer space which holds bulky packs more easily. Frankly both options will work well enough and the one you choose will be entirely down to personal preference.

Family tents.

Most family tents nowadays are variations on tunnel designs due to the large internal space. All will be tall enough to stand up in for most adults and at any given price level the material and construction quality will be virtually identical. In many ways the layout is the only basis to choose between different options.

Vis-a-Vis style.

This kind of tent was very popular for a while but seems to be getting less so with time. It features two sets of bedrooms facing each other across a living room which has doors in the side to the outside world. Vis-a-Vis tents are great if you want to accommodate a large number of people in the least amount of tent as a lot of the available space is given over to bedrooms. On the downside they tend to be a bit darker because there are fewer windows and the living space is more cramped. In a place like Ireland where wet weather is sometimes a threat the lack of a porch for the abandonment of boots, raincoats, soggy dogs and wetsuits can mean that the condensation levels will be higher and the inside will feel more damp.

Simple tunnel.

Sleeping space, living space, door. That is all. These tents will suit couples wanting a less cramped camping experience, small families or anyone wanting a bigger tent with a smaller packed size and lighter weight. As above the lack of a porch may be a problem but these are popular and seem set to remain so.

Tunnel and porch.

This quite simply is our most popular style for family camping and is likely to be our most popular for some time to come. The bedrooms are at the back out of the way. The living area is spacious and well lit and the porch gives a place for wet, messy or smelly things so that they don’t get traipsed across the inside of the tent. The downside is that they are, inevitably, heavier and have a larger pack size.

This is hardly an exhaustive list of everything on the market but hopefully gives a reasonable overview of the most popular options. As always if you have any queries or suggestions then I can be contacted by email through the address.

The first part of this article can be found here on the charles camping website and the rest of the subjects covered are here

Thanks for reading.


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Neil Smith

1 year ago #3

Hi John. The biggest name on your list is Therm-a-rest but the others will all do a similar job. If you are backpacking then a thin self inflating foam or superlight air mat like the NeoAir is hard to beat. For maximum comfort if you are camping out of a car then the thicker the better in a self inflating mat would be my recommendation. Happy camping.

Neil Smith

3 years ago #2

Thanks very much Bill.

Great job here

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