Dome or tunnel tents? Everything you need to know before your camping trip
When trying to choose between a dome or a tunnel tent you need to first think about how and where you’ll be using it, as well as how experienced you are at pitching a tent. In this guide, we’ll share the main things to think about when choosing a tent, so you can get the most from your outdoor experiences.
What are dome tents?
Freestanding dome or geodesic tents have a roughly circular base rising to a single point in the middle, allowing for decent head height. They are less sensitive to gusts of wind and can be pitched on rocky terrain as you don’t need guylines to keep them up.
They often have a front and back entrance, like our SUMMIT SERIES™ Bastion 4 person tent, which can come in handy when you’re sharing.
On the downside, they can be quite heavy as they have lots of poles, and they aren’t that space-efficient when it comes to the sleeping area. However, geodesic designs, though even more complicated to pitch have enhanced space efficiency. But all those poles tend to mean they’re heavier.
What are tunnel tents?
Tunnel tents are longer, narrower and lower than dome tents. Their shape makes them more sensitive to gusts of wind, but the actual sleeping area is more efficient. As they need guylines they can’t be pitched on rocky or hard terrain.
Our Heyerdhal 3 person tunnel tent maximises space, so it won't feel cramped and crowded. Tunnel tents also have a vestibule area in the front, which is ideal for storing backpacks and other gear you don’t want to bring into the tent, making them great backpacking tents.
How will you use your tent?
Now you know the differences in size, function and frame shape, let’s take a look at how that relates to usage. The heavier weight of dome tents means they aren’t optimal for backpacking. They also take a little longer to pitch, so aren’t ideal if you’re setting up in rain.
However, they can be pitched on any type of terrain and are great for sitting up and reading or telling ghost stories. For these reasons, we recommend them as base camp tents.
Tunnel tents are ideal backpacking or trekking tents, as they are lighter, easier to pitch, have gear storage space separate from the main sleeping compartment and you have a better weight to space ratio. However, their vulnerability to strong winds and the fact they need to be pitched on soft ground, means you’ll have to spend extra time selecting your campsite. Although pitching next to trees and cliffs looks favourable in terms of protection, consider that in a storm rocks and trees may fall. Instead, look for protection from bushes and boulders to the side of rather than above your tent.
When will you use your tent?
Tents are classed as two, three or four-season. As you’ll have guessed, four-season tents can be used all-year round. They’re made from durable materials, come with snow stakes and have reinforced bases that wrap around the bottom of the tent so you don’t unzip to the ground.
However, they are heavier as a result, and we recommend these only for the most adventurous explorers. Three season tents will see you through all but the worst – snowiest and windiest – conditions and are therefore the most versatile.
Who will use your tent?
Our final point is about size. Tents come in several different shapes and sizes. A one-person tent is really tiny and it is fundamentally just a space to shelter. It’s not a place you’d want to spend much time in.
Unless you’re really conscious about weight, a two-person tent is the smallest we recommend for the everyday adventurer like our Talus Eco 2 personal tent. You can get three- four- five-person tents and so on, but if you’re backpacking we recommend getting two two-person tents if you’re a group of four. It’s easier to divide the weight between all four of you. If you get a four-person tent, one person is going to be carrying a lot of weight, while the others will get off lightly, literally, by carrying just the poles. However, if you’re going to be driving to your base camp, then larger tents are nicer as you can sit and hang out in them without feeling cramped.
Take some time to choose your tent. It’s your home away from home in the outdoors. It doesn’t just provide protection; it can also provide five-star views of some of the world’s best scenery. That’s worth a little time and effort.