A tent is a temporary or semipermanent shelter, consisting of sheets of fabric or other material draped over or attached to a frame of poles. It is fairly easy to assemble (pitch) or disassemble, and is usually portable. Tents may be attached to the ground with stakes and guy line s (ropes). Tents were first used by nomadic peoples, but today, their main application is camping. Modern tents are usually made of fire-retardant material. Tents range in size from single person camping tents to huge circus tents. Outdoor weddings and festivals often take place in large tents.
Parts of a modern tent
- The tent fabric or tent inner comprises the roof, walls, and (if one exists) the sewn-in groundsheet of the tent.
- The poles provide structural support. They may be collapsible for easy storage. Some designs use rigid poles, typically made of metal, or sometimes wood. Other designs use semirigid poles, typically made of fiberglass, or sometimes of special metal alloys.
- The rain fly, outer, or flysheet, is a sheet of fabric that is attached over the top of the inner. It is designed to make minimal contact with the tent fabric itself, and sometimes has a small pole of its own. The flysheet fabric is usually waterproof and may be made of canvas, nylon, or a more modern breathable material. Minimizing contact keeps the inner dry even if the outer is wet, and provides a layer of insulation.
- Stakes or pegs are used to fasten the tent to the ground. Some are attached to ropes (guys) that pull outward on the flysheet to give the tent additional stability. Others are used to anchor the bottom edge of the flysheet and inner to the ground.
Modern tent types
- A dining fly or bivouac is the simplest form of tent. It consists of a single rectangular sheet of material. Two opposite sides are held up in the middle by metal poles, or sometimes trees. The tops of the poles are attached to guy lines, the other ends of which are attached to stakes, in order to keep the dining fly from falling in on itself. Dining flies are not intended as shelter for people. Their primary purpose is to store gear and protect it from rain. (Campers may choose not to store it in their own tents if those are too small. Also, gear tends to have odors that attract animals.) A particularly large dining fly may be used for dining purposes, but not for cooking, due to fire-safety considerations.
- An A-frame tent is so-called because the poles are put together to form an 'A' shape at either end. The tent inner usually includes walls and a sewn-in groundsheet. A-frame tents also usually have flysheets or outers. They are comparatively difficult to set up, particularly because of the large number of stake anchor points, but very easy to take down.
- A cabin tent is similar to an A-frame tent, but larger and taller. It has a small rigid pole in each corner hold the side walls in a vertical position; each of these poles is secured with its own guy line. These tents are somewhat more difficult to take down than A-frames, and considerably more difficult to pitch. A further modification of this design is the use of an extensive metal framework that allows the cabin tent to stand without any guy lines. These tents usually have durable canvas tent fabrics, and may be attached to permanent floors, typically wooden. These freestanding tents may be found at permanent camps, where they are usually pitched once for the entire camping season. However, they are very heavy and not very portable.
- The dome tent is a popular basic design. It differs fundamentally from the previous designs in that its poles must be flexible, and run along the corners from the floor to the peak and back down to the floor on the opposite side. They differ from A-frame tent poles in that they run outside the tent fabric, which is attached to the pole framework by sleeves, and sometimes also clips. Dome tents are more difficult to set up than A-frames, but easier to take down. They do not require stakes for structural integrity. They are more resistant to wind-induced collapse than cabin tents, but strong winds may bend the poles to the breaking point, or roll the tent if it is not staked. The basic dome design has been modified extensively, producing tents with three poles, tents with irregularly-shaped bases, and other unusual types.
- Tunnel tents are another possibility. Compared with dome tents, they offer more usable internal space for the same ground area, but almost always need stakes and guy lines to stay upright. Tunnel tents use the same type of flexible poles as dome tents. Typically, they use three poles, arranged as three parallel hoops, with tent fabric attached to form a tunnel. The most common designs have a sleeping area at one end and a porch/storage area at the other.
- Hybrid dome/tunnel tents are now common. The basic dome tent provides the sleeping area. One or two hooped poles to one side are linked by a tunnel to the dome to provide a porch/storage area.