Tent Styles and evolution

This is where info about specific styles of tent from historic to contemporary can be found, currently we have sections on:
If there is a style you want to be added here let us know. If you want to submit some content on a specific style of tent (text or pics) then also, please let us know


It is interesting to explore how the design of tents has evolved over time. The shapes and features have been primarily dictated by the materials available, the environment the tent would be used in and what people want to use it for

In terms of materials the very earliest temporary shelters used naturally available materials like ferns, conifer branches etc which would be laid over a construction of branches. Strictly this would be a shelter not a tent but for nomadic peoples it was better then nothing

Subsequently this design developed with the use of animal hide over a wooden framework to create a temporary and movable structure (a loose definition of 'tent' we will use for now)

Covering and fabrics

With the development of Canvas fabrics for, tents had a material that allowed designs to become more robust, more carefully designed and larger. For many, many years Canvas was the fabric of choice, then in the early 1950's, as the desire for lighter tents grew with recreational camping (which people like Robert Saunders in the UK spotted) other fabrics such as Nylon and then Polyester came onto the market. These are now the most widespread fabrics in UK recreational tents, though the reasons seem to be much about achieving profitable product sales as it is about an enjoyable camping experience

Frames and structures

Some of the earliest tent structures were Tipi style tents used my native North Americans, they consisted of a number of wooden poles used to create a circular floorplan and a roughly conical form. In fact conical forms of tent were widespread in most regions through out history. The now famous Mr Sibley took the basic single pole conical tent (which he also heavily modifed) in the 1700's and added side walls - thus creating the first Bell Tent.

In Europe the Wedge Tent (what we would call a Ridge Tent) was a very common form of light tent, though this was pre-dated by the Viking Ridge Tent that has a triangular A frame structure - very much the Vango Force Ten of its day

In heavy tents in Europe, there were Pavilions and Marquees. Pavilions were smaller with a circular floor plan design, a single main pole a conical roof and vertical or sloping walls. Marquees take this simple design and add a Ridge between two vertical poles while maintaining the conical roof so allowing for much larger spaces, this basic design allows for lots of variants. Rectangular marquees take the framework one step further, two or more vertical main poles and a ridge would be supplemented with wall poles - being square they offer very good floor space and having a wall structure meant the Canvas could be opened up allowing the tent to take on different uses (for example as a mobile shop or smithy)

Baker tents were developed in the early 1800's as a means of keeping warmer by allowing the tent to function a bit like a reflector oven (what some people in North America would have called a Yankee Baker oven back then) It was a kind of walled Wedge tent with an open side that could have a fire built next to it. Though the use of simple Canvas panels and wooden stucture the tent could be configured in many different ways depending on the needs and the weather. They were widely used by trappers and canoeists across the North of North America

The frames developed from site cut or found wooden branches into specifically prepared wooden poles. This was the most widespread material until late the 1930's when steel and aluminium tubes emerged (possibly from the growing aerospace and bicycle industries of the time). Again, in the 1950's as the desire for lighter recreational tents Aluminium and Steel poles became widely used and allowed for a massive development in design forms. A lot of these designs continued to use the poles as linear elements though some novel designs did use curved pole sections

Subsequently flexible aluminum and fibreglass poles lead to the development of proper hoop tents in the 1970s and beyond.

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