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What does it all mean? Tent and Camping terms explained How to buy a tent!

By Edited Jun 2, 2015 1 1

Tent Terms De-Mystified

In the world of camping gear there are a lot of confusing industry terms. These can be somewhat intimidating to the new buyer. Below I will do my best to explain in layman's term what each of these, hopefully making you a well informed consumer.



The A-Frame: This is your Dad and Granddaddy's tent. A horizontal center pole is connected to four vertical poles which each connect to a corner, making an A. A classic but it is not the most comfortable, aerodynamic, or spacious. It is easy to put up.

Dome Tent

The Dome Frame: Currently the most popular design, they come in a variety of shapes and configurations. The tent poles overlap in the center to create a geometric footprint (normally a hexagon or octagon). More spacious than the A-Frame, they are also more wind resistant. The large number of corners makes them more aerodynamic.

Modified A-Frame

The Modified A-Frame: Similar to the A-Frame the Modified A-Frame has a "hooped" center pole rather than a parallel pole. This offers more headroom and space than the standard A-Frame.

Hoop Tent

The Tunnel of Hoop Frame: Popular amongst backpackers, the Hoop Frame consists of several hoop shaped poles to form a tunnel. Very lightweight and easy to setup, these tents are great when the wind is not a factor.


To say tent makers overstate how many people can comfortably fit inside one of their products would be kind. If a tent says it is for two, it is for one. If it says it's for four, it's for two. So buy big unless you want to be packed in there like sardines in a can.


Solid Fiberglass: Normally used in cheaper tents, it does the job, but does not stand up to more extreme conditions.

Hollow Tube Fiberglass: Normally shock corded together, this type of pole is more flexible than solid fiberglass but is still fragile in extreme conditions.

Aluminum: Can be shock corded, this material is both light and more durable than fiberglass.

Reinforced Aluminum: More expensive than Aluminum, it is also stronger and more durable. An ideal material for those who plan on moving their tent often.

Carbon Fiber: The most expensive, strongest, and lightest weight material used for making tent poles. If you can afford it, this is the way to go.


Tents are designed to be both open air when it's warm and clear out and covered and waterproof when it's raining. This is where the rainfly comes in. It is essentially a second tent that can be put over the main tent to provide extra protection from the elements.


The vestibule is essentially a covered entry way that can provide both a front porch and a play to hang and dry dirty and wet clothes.

Well, that just about covers it. I hope this has helped shed some light on the terms you will see when shopping for your new tent.

Happy Camping!

For a look at my top 5 tents, please read this article.

For how to care for you new tent please check here.



Mar 17, 2011 9:46am
Cool article. I had never heard of the tunnel of hoop frame, how interesting.
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