A tent is one of the most important camping gear you can own, and if you’re going to rely on it to keep you warm and cozy during your night-outs in the wilderness, then you’ll want to make sure that you’re familiar with every component that makes up your shelter. Doing so will not only make setting up your tent easier, but it will also help you understand which parts you need and don’t need for your particular type of outdoor activity. This in turn will help you make a more informed decision when it comes to purchasing a tent that will best suit your specific needs. That said, we outlined here the different parts of a tent and some tent terminology so you don’t feel at all lost when you go shopping for a tent or when conversing with other campers.
Outer Tent / Rainfly
Tents sold in the market nowadays can either be single-wall or double-wall tents. Whichever one you choose to buy, it’s going to have an outer layer or a rainfly. The outer layer is what you see in the picture or actual tents pitched outdoors. Even in the case of single-wall tents, the lone wall would be the outer layer.
The outer layer or rainfly is usually made from solid fabrics that are wind- and waterproof (if not, there are means and ways that you can waterproof your tent). However, it is common to see outer layers that have at least one vent on top to help improve air circulation inside the tent. This can be covered with a small hood to prevent rainwater from falling through the vent and entering the tent.
Inner Tent / Tent Body
Double-wall tents have an inner tent or tent body underneath the outer tent or rainfly. The inner tent is either attached to the tent poles or clipped to the fabric of the outer tent. Unlike the outer tent which is mostly made of solid fabrics, certain portions of the inner tent will be made from mesh. Needless to say, this design is necessary to provide better airflow and prevent condensation from building up inside the tent.
During the dry and warm months of the year, many campers only use the inner tent or tent body. This is pretty much okay considering the temperature and weather conditions. Besides, the mesh portions of the inner tent are more than sufficient to protect the people inside the tent from insects and bugs.
Tent poles are considered as the ‘skeletons’ of the tent and provide it with structure. These are sold or supplied in sections and not as whole rods and are made using a variety of materials including fiberglass, aluminum, or steel. Tent poles made from lighter materials are linked together by an elastic cord, while poles made from heavier materials are joined together by steel wire or springs, a spring-loaded button, or have a matching male and female profile.
Although there are several ways of classifying tent poles (e.g. according to the material they’re made from), tent poles are generally categorized into two broad categories: rigid tent poles and flexible tent poles.
- Rigid Tent Poles. These tent poles are inflexible and are made from steel. Their rigidity makes them sturdier and stronger, which is why you’ll mostly see these types of tent poles used in larger or heavier tents. That said, rigid tent poles are often heavy making them unsuitable for backpacking and camping tents.
- Flexible Tent Poles. As the name suggests, these types of tent poles are flexible and bendy. However, this does not mean that they are weak and will easily snap or break because they are strong and durable (though as much as rigid tent poles). In fact, flexible tent poles are considered to be the future of tent poles and can already be seen being used in many high-end and professional-grade tent models, and many pro mountaineers and trekkers are using tents with these kinds of poles nowadays. Flexible tent poles are generally made from carbon fiber, a material that is known for high impact resistance, lightness, and resistance against rust and corrosion.
In the case of inflatable tents, the traditional tent poles are replaced with hollow tubes or beams which are then pumped up and inflated to provide structure to the tent. They are still reliable, though they’re mostly used when camping in fair weather and by people who want to enjoy camping without the hassles of pitching a tent.
Although there are still tents that are sold without a floor, many of the latest tent models incorporate some sort of flooring, the most popular type being the tub floor. A tub floor will look somewhat like a ‘tub’ – that is, it has a flat bottom with the sides extending upwards for a few inches. The sides are sewn into the tent or connected to the tent body with the use of shock cords (usually sold along with the tub floor).
The idea behind using a tub floor is pretty straightforward. By keeping the seams or ends of the floor above ground, you should stay protected from water flowing or pooling in the ground. Not that this scenario usually happens, although it may if the stream or river near you’re campsite suddenly rises while you’re asleep.
One concern that people have with these tub floors is that they’re often made from two or more pieces of fabric that are sewn together. This means that the seams between the two fabrics can still be an entry point for water. However, this can be easily solved by applying a sealant over the seam. This will not only cover the adjoining areas of the fabric but the needle holes as well.
Groundsheet or Tent Footprint
A groundsheet or a tent footprint is a separate fabric that is placed between the ground and your tent floor. Tent footprints are available in a variety of sizes depending on how small or large your tent is. Considering the importance of tent footprints, many tent manufacturers to sell their products with one. However, if your tent didn’t come with one, you can always buy a separate tent footprint from your local outdoor gear retailer. Just remember that when buying a tent footprint, it should be slightly smaller than your tent’s actual floor space. This will prevent the water from sliding off the sides of your rainfly from accumulating on the footprint.
Most people tend to think that tent footprints are necessary to provide additional waterproofing (by preventing moisture from the ground from seeping through the tent floor) and insulation (by preventing heat loss through the ground) to the tent. Although this is true to some degree, these are not the main purpose of a tent footprint.
Tent footprints are generally designed for a particular purpose, and that is to protect the underside of the tent floor from damage when it comes into contact with the ground. There are plenty of things that can damage your tent floor like sticks and gravels which can tear or puncture it. Also, as you enter, lie, or move inside the tent you are also moving the bottom of the tent. These movements will cause the tent floor to rub against the ground, which over time will weaken and damage the floor fabric.
A tent peg or stake is basically a small rod or spike that is typically made from wood, metal, plastic, or composite material. The top end of the spike can either have a hook or a hole where the guy lines or guy ropes are attached. The lower end is pointy to make it easier to drive into the ground.
Tent pegs are basically used to hold the guy lines, thereby helping to maintain the shape and structure of the tent. It also helps to hold the tent in place in windy conditions and environments. Preferably, tent pegs are driven to the ground by pushing them with your hand. This will help to reduce any damage that may be incurred from hitting the top end with a hammer (or a rock). However, this isn’t always possible especially if you’re camping over hard grounds. As such, you may need to bring a small mallet to help you drive it down the ground.
Guy Lines / Guy Ropes
A guy line or a guy rope is basically a cord or string that is tied from the tent to the pegs and are used to secure the tent to the ground. They can also be used to tie a camping tarp to trees or posts so you can have a dry and covered place to rest, eat, or simply hang out.
Guy lines are primarily used to strengthen and further secure the tent to the ground, but they can also take away the strain from the poles and helps to prevent them from bending due to either weight or some strong winds. They also provide structure to parts of the tent or tarp where the poles cannot. When camping in windy environments, guy lines becomes a necessary camping gear as it will add a lot of strength to the tent frame and structure.
Some tents have storage pockets integrated into the inner tent or tent body. Although not really an essential, it can be nice to have some storage options available where you can keep small items up and away from the ground. Using these pockets also help keep the tent organized, making it more conducive to sleeping and resting.
Many tents incorporate a mesh door. This type of door allows air to flow freely in and out of the tent while at the same time preventing insects and bugs from entering. Also, the mesh design helps to reduce the total weight of the tent, which then makes it an appealing option for gram-counting backpackers.
Large tents that can accommodate several people at once usually have a removable divider inside. These dividers are generally made of lightweight fabric is and set up by hanging them into the ceiling of the tent. Aside from setting boundaries between users, it also provides a little bit of privacy from your tent-mates.
Gear hooks are simply hooks positioned in various places inside the tent. These are generally used to hang lanterns on the tent’s ceiling, but some campers use them to make a clothesline inside the tent.
A storm flap is a strip of fabric that folds over the tent door’s zipper and is secured in place with a Velcro tab. This fabric helps to prevent wind and rain and entering the tent through the small openings between the zipper’s teeth.
Door Tie Backs
Many tents, whether that be a single person or a 10 person tent have a door tie back. Simply put, door tie backs are a simple toggle and loop that is used to hold the rolled-up tent door in place and keep the doorway or tent entrance open.
Globo Surf Overview
Keep in mind that not all tents will have all of the above-mentioned components. Whatever parts will be available or missing will generally depend upon the manufacturer’s design or the model of the tent you purchased. Again, knowing the different parts of a tent can help you make a more informed buying decision, thus increasing the chances of you ending up with a tent that is most suitable for your particular type of outdoor adventure.