Academy Sports and Outdoors Logo
Academy Sports + Outdoors
Academy, LTD
skip to main content
Main content starts here.

Types of Camping Tents Guide for Your Next Adventure

WriterAubrey McShan
10 min read
image taken inside of an orange tent with a dog and a river in view

Tents are the heart of every campsite. They keep you dry when it rains, help you sleep soundly through the night, and protect you from outdoor critters and crawlers to maximize your comfort and camping experience.

At Academy, we know first-hand how much fun camping should be — especially when you have the right gear! That’s where the perfect tent comes in. The right one can feel like your home away from home.

So how do you know which style is right for you, your family, and your camping needs? In this guide, you’ll learn about all the different types of features and other important considerations when choosing yours.

Types of Tents

Tents come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and color schemes — each complimenting a specific type of season and/or type of camping. There are a few different styles named for their specific shape and/or intended function.

Avid campers will often have multiple ones (like a backpacking or dome style): one for each type of trip they prefer to go on. However, buying a single one is a fantastic place to start as a beginner camper.

Swipe Right Icon

List of Tent Shape Types
Shape Type Pitching Requirements Pros Cons Ideal Use
Cabin 2+ people recom.
  • Great options for warm, clear weather conditions
  • More Space
  • Taller
  • Not ideal for bad weather conditions
  • Typically heavier
  • Less durable due to height
Casual family camping
Dome 1+ people recom.
  • Accessible
  • Lightweight
  • Easier setup
  • Often shorter in height
  • Not ideal for windy conditions
Car camping
Backpacking 1 person
  • Lightweight
  • Smaller in size
  • Easy to setup
  • Limited capacity for larger groups
Backpacking, hiking
Truck 2+ people recom.
  • Off of the ground
  • Convenient set-up
  • Strict weight capacity
  • Expensive
Smaller group camping
Screen Houses 2+ people recom.
  • Keeps bugs away
  • Provides an area of shade and cover
  • Offers limited
  • Not ideal for sleeping
Car camping
We abbreviated 'recommended' to 'recom.'

Cabin Tents

Cabin tents have higher ceilings and tall walls for maximum maneuverability for multiple people inside. This style is perfect for families, taller campers, and close-knit groups of friends.

Because of their increased size, they’re typically heavier — meaning it’s likely you’ll need at least two people to pitch these ones. Within the cabin style, you can also find other features like room dividers or even screened-in porches to keep everyone more comfortable.

graphic depicting a cabin tent

Dome Tents

Dome tents are the most common ones available. Their construction is rather simple — a domed roof with crisscrossed support poles, though some manufacturers do opt to design theirs with unique features like extra doors and more storage. When it comes to tents for beginners, the dome style is usually the best choice:

  • They’re lightweight
  • They offer decent headroom for most campers
  • They typically are easy to pitch
graphic depicting a dome tent

Backpacking Tents

Backpacking tents are made to travel with you on multi-day hiking trips or a long trek from the car to the campsite without weighing you down. They tend to only sleep one or two people since their primary function is to be lightweight while you hike or travel from one place to the next with ease. Some do feature extra weatherproofing for more comfort when you’re roughing it out on the trail.

graphic depicting a backpacking tent

Truck Tents

Truck tents are usually pitched over your truck bed for an elevated experience. They’re a great option for campers who love nature but want to keep away from rocks, sticks, and creepy crawlies. The most important thing to keep in mind with these is that you are limited to the number of people who can sleep comfortably in your truck bed due to strict weight capacities.

You’ll need to be mindful of where you’ll store your other gear. The best part of this style is you won’t have to spend time looking for a suitable space to set up. Anywhere you can legally park, you can camp!

graphic depicting a truck tent

Screen Houses

While they’re not strictly necessary for a great experience, screen houses can bring added comfort and shelter to your campsite. These large structures are made from a light mesh on all four sides and can be used to protect your gear, a picnic table, and more from the natural elements: heat, rain, and bugs. Screen houses don’t offer much privacy, so we don’t recommend them for sleeping.

graphic depicting a screen house

Sleeping Capacity

In general, common tents are measured based on the number of average-sized sleeping bags occupied by people that they are capable of fitting comfortably while lying down shoulder-to-shoulder. Depending on certain factors like how much gear you bring, your body type/build, or if you just want some extra elbow room between each person sleeping, you may opt for the next tent size up.

Different types of tents with the same maximum sleeping capacity may not accommodate your family. For instance, the gear you bring (like a cot, thicker sleeping bags, etc.) might make it impossible to fit the allotted number of people due to size.

The shape sometimes makes certain areas of it awkward for sleeping. We recommend purchasing a larger size tent than the standard capacities listed on the packaging. That way, you’ll always have ample space.

Swipe Right Icon

Camping Tent Sleeping Capacity
Manufacturer Suggested Approximate Floor Space Actual Recom. Capacity
2-person 30-35 sq. ft. 1 adult person or 2 children
4-person 55-65 sq. ft. 2 adult people
6-person 90-120 sq. ft. 4 people (family of 4)
8-person 120-140 sq. ft. 6 people (family of 6)
10-person 150-180 sq. ft. 8 people (family of 8)
We abbreviated 'recommended' to 'recom.'

Tent Seasonality Ratings

Seasonality is a subjective term based on individual manufacturer and retailer specifications. It calls out the appropriate weather conditions in which one is suitable. All beginners should consider purchasing a three-season one; most casual campers will see the biggest bang for their buck.

Tent seasonality is usually rated on a scale of one to five seasons: where one is a very basic, light tent intended for mild, warm weather conditions, and where five is an expedition-level (or professional-grade) one that can take on most — if not all — weather.

Swipe Right Icon

Tent Seasonality Rating Chart
Seasonality Rating Lining Weight Weather Tent Type Best Used For
1-Season Thin Usually light Clean, warm weather Screen houses, Pop up tents, Instant beach tents Beach camping
2-Season Thin Usually light Clean, warm weather Basic camping tents Summer car camping
3-Season Thicker Moderate Clear or wet warm, cool, or mildly cold weather Common camping tents Spring, summer, or fall camping
4-season Double Usually moderate to heavy Cold to very cold weather Weatherproof and or waterproof tents Winter camping, mountaineering
Expedition Double Heavy Extreme cold weather Professional-use tents Professional camping

Important Features & Considerations

Manufacturers use different materials and features when making different styles. These features focus on the type of camping you’d like to do and the climate where you’ll be camping most often. Generally, you’ll want to consider the following when looking for a tent for beginners:

Tent Use Purpose & Activity

Before choosing one, you should always know how you intend to use it — paying special consideration to the weather conditions and activities (like camping or hiking) you want to try out. These become even more vital when you go backpacking, where weight matters most. Bringing along the wrong tent can quickly sour your outdoor experience.

Weatherproofing or Weather Resistance Materials

Even campgrounds with the clearest forecasts, you should always have a rainfly for your tent. Most of the time, manufacturers will have this outer, rain-proof layer included with theirs. However, some may not. That’s why it’s so important to be mindful to know exactly what yours has BEFORE you leave home (or the city) for your next trip. Beyond a rainfly, look for specialized flooring or specific construction support for better wind resistance.

Peak Height

When choosing a tent, height is one of the most important considerations in terms of comfort. The right tent height doesn’t just stop at whether you prefer fully standing upright or if you don’t mind simply sitting up. Height or a lack thereof can make it easier or more challenging to move around, change clothes, and store your other gear.

At a minimum, we recommend always choosing one with enough height for you to comfortably sit up without slouching over. Depending on the construction, the tallest point may not be the overall height.

a pitched tent in a campground park

Tent Poles

Tent poles may be one of the more overlooked things people miss. If you intend to camp in windier sites, you should opt for stronger poles made with the right material. These days, most ones in-store and online come standard with either fiberglass poles or aluminum poles. Depending on if you are a more advanced camper, you’ll also find steel poles along with a few more premium materials.

  • Aluminum poles: Stronger (and lighter weight) than fiberglass, these poles are better suited for stronger wind conditions. They are, however, often more expensive than fiberglass ones.
  • Fiberglass poles: Less durable and heavier than aluminum, fiberglass poles are accessible and affordable while retaining the durability needed to accommodate most casual campsites.


Condensation isn’t a good thing when it comes to your tent. It makes items like your sleeping bags colder inside because the insulation likely will be compromised. Not only that, but you won’t be able to camp in true comfort when your condensation overwhelms the inside of yours. The air will feel noticeably muggy, and mildew can begin to form.

For these reasons, ventilation is non-negotiable for hot-to-warm weather and casual camping. Most of them will have ventilation flaps at the top to help prevent this issue.

Tent Doors

Tent doors become more and more convenient when camping with your friends or family. The last thing you’ll want to do is to have to climb over your other campers. That’s where having more than one door comes in handy! Most cabin tents have the best access in and out for ease and comfort.


From mud to bugs, there are a few things you probably want to keep away from certain items not meant to weather the elements without an extra layer of protection. Awnings/vestibules help keep your extra gear away from the rain and wind as well as all the critters that crawl.

You’ll often find ones with front awnings; however, some do have side vestibules, too. While these add-ons aren’t a necessity, they can help add a layer of comfort as well as provide more convenience to the outdoor experience.

tent for camping with an awning in the middle of a forest campsite

Interior Loops & Pockets

Most tents do not come standard with interior lights. That’s why we recommend choosing one that has plenty of extra interior loops and/or pockets! Lanterns fit quite perfectly on those loops, so you will be able to better maneuver around inside yours at night. These loops and pockets can also control the small-item chaos a bit better.

Have Fun Out There!

The right tent can make all the difference when you’re first exploring your camping hobby. Your local Academy Sports + Outdoors team member can be your in-store guide and walk you through our diverse selection to help you find the best one for you.

If you need more Expert Advice for your upcoming camping adventure, our Camping for Beginners checklist will help you make sure you have everything you need for a successful campsite. Find all your camping essentials online and in-store.