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Our previous Post shows the origins of our Tentipi brand – the classic stable cone structure in use for thousands of years in Scandinavia and North America. It gives an insight too into some of the design principles we incorporate into our modern Nordic Tipi. Here, we’ll have a look through the main modern tent designs now available in the outdoor marketplace, and hopefully provide some information to enable you to make the right purchasing decision – one where you’ll be happy with your purchase over many years to come.

As a general rule, cheaper tents have a different material and manufacturing specification to their more expensive counterparts. Of course, there are some excellent mid-priced tents available, but cheap isn’t intended for hard use over extended periods. We’re assuming that having got this far, you’re looking for something of a higher level of quality.

So, faced with the choice of literally hundreds of tent models available, your next question needs to be “Which of these designs best meets my needs?” A complex question combining environment, altitude, weather/seasons use, size (long-term comfort vs. lightweight backpacking or mountaineering use). What you quickly come to realise is that there is no “One size fits all” solution here. Your purchase should represent the best possible compromise for a range of conditions. As a starting point, any large flat area of tent fabric will be placed under more stress in wind than a curved surface, which deflects wind. Low-profile tent designs will provide a more effective shelter in the high mountains. By necessity, these offer cramped accommodation.


Tent designs fall broadly into 5 main categories, with many hybrid designs around.
These broad categories are:

  1. Tunnel/Hoop
  2. A-Frame/Ridge
  3. Box
  4. Dome
  5. Conical/Tipi

These designs are available with internal supporting frame structures or external – the external are usually quicker to provide an immediate shelter, whilst internal are inherently more stable. Poles and frames are constructed from fibreglass, steel or high quality aluminium alloys. Fabrics will be nylon, polyester, cotton, or cotton/polyester mix with a range of quality and weaves available.

Fibreglass poles are used at the cheaper end of the market. The material is heavy, brittle, and lacks rigidity under loading – one of the reasons for its use in fishing rods. Steel gives rigidity but has a weight penalty ensuring its continued use with box type tents where portability isn’t an issue. This leaves us with aluminium alloy, and modern tent poles which were an offshoot of aircraft alloy production – these materials are now available for mainstream consumer use, and combine a high tensile strength with resilience when loaded.

Design Categories:

1 Tunnel/Hoop

blog2 pic1These give good internal volume relative to floor area due to their steep side walls. Many lightweight models are available, some of which are quick to pitch. Small specialist tunnel tents have been used in extreme mountain conditions, but the larger scale designs suffer in strong side winds, and the flatter roof panels can collect snow.


2 A-Frame/Ridge

blog2 pic2A development of the original canvas “Patrol” tent which uses 2 upright poles. These A-Frame tents have been a popular option for lightweight camping and mountaineering in the UK over many years, but their popularity really took off with the addition of a connecting ridge pole. Generally very stable, even if the side panels did flap and were noisy in strong winds. Popular to this day, although the internal volume relative to floor area suffers due to the sloping side panels.

3 Box Tent

blog2 pic3

These larger, family tents are a popular sight on campsites worldwide – sloping side and roof panels providing some degree of weather resistance. These larger structures are best suited to sheltered locations, but they do provide excellent, comfortable accommodation with good head room. Good for single site family holidays.

Once the scale of these constructions is reduced, their stability increases significantly. In 1963, in Patagonia, climbing legend Don Whillans constructed “The Whillans Box”. This tent was used on the successful first ascent of the Central Tower of Paine, and was a crucial factor in their success in weather conditions which destroyed their conventional mountain tents.

4 Dome Tents

blog2 pic4These are based upon the “Geodesic” structure, and are a popular sight across campsites and mountainsides worldwide. The geodesic structure was invented shortly after WWI, but it was left to Buckminster Fuller to develop the complex mathematics describing this, for which he was awarded a US Patent in 1954. This allowed popularisation of the structure, and its eventual adoption as a highly stable tent design. The internal frame models have proven to be the preferred expedition option due to their higher inherent stability. Base camp designs large enough to comfortably stand up within are not really portable structures, being very complex and heavy too.

5 Conical/Tipi

blog2 pic5A design which endures – seen here in use during Shackleton’s ill-fated 1914 Polar exploration expedition. The conical design of tent as we mention in our previous Post has been home to semi-nomadic indigenous people for thousands of years. It continues to be used in extreme conditions – the simplified pole system allowing a quick shelter to be pitched – here, a modern design once more at home on Antarctica.



blog2 pic6Why these designs work so well is that their cone shape produces a low centre of gravity, with most of the tent area near the ground where wind speed is lowest. Their symmetry keeps the tent stable when wind direction shifts too, and this stability increases with the use of multiple wall panels, as we approach a smooth conical shape. The Tentipi design uses 8 panels – closely resembling the original Sami Nordic Tipi, and one of the most important factors in our success. What Tentipi does with this design is to then combine the portability and stormproofness of today’s lightweight tents with the comfort and homely feel of the traditional Sami dwellings. The comfortable living space is characterised by good head room and a floor area almost circular in shape. Add to this a fire, and what you have is a truly unique concept in modern tents. Tentipi.

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Related blog posts

It was the first day of the trip, adventurer Mike Fuchs and his friend Eric Folz had just a couple of hours before been dropped off as far north as they could possibly come in Svalbard when they saw them. Two polar bears, one mother and its cub. A situation that could become deadly if the bears decided to have a closer look on their new visitors.

“I know how protective the mothers can be of their cubs. We had to set up our camp in a place that provided a good overview of the location so we could spend the night bear watching. It was both a scary feeling seeing them so early into our trip, but it was also very fascinating”, says Mike Fuchs.

Wouldn't it be exciting to spend the night right in the middle of a zoo? – That is exactly what you can do at Skånes Djurpark, a wildlife park in southern Sweden. At their campsite, Camp Oak, you stay in the park after it closes and will make yourself at home in a Nordic tipi from Tentipi. When the night comes you might just fall asleep to the wolves’ howls.

Skånes Djurpark is a Wildlife Park with a long history, it dates back to 1952. It focuses on animals from the Nordic area and has always lived by the ruling with “no animals in cages”. The animals live in large paddocks that recreates the animals’ natural environments.

Lennart Pittja is a Sámi entrepreneur with a mission: with his world-renowned eco-tourism company he wants to spread the knowledge about his people – the Sami, indigenous of northern Scandinavia and Russia. With over 20 years of experience as a wildlife guide and nature photographer in the arctic region he started Sápmi Nature Camp. Where his guests stay in Nordic tipis from Tentipi on his reindeer herding land outside of Gällivare, in northern Sweden.

At Sapmi Nature camp you can experience real winter, see the northern lights, eat traditional Sami food, and have a cultural exchange in a genuine atmosphere. The scenic location has gained attraction from around the world. In 2017 it was listed by National Geographic as one of the top 21 places in the world to visit if you care about the planet.

Prepare before setting out for winter camping. Here are nine tips and tricks from Tentipi about what you need to think of before you go: the right tent for winter camping, how to pack the snow, comfort in snow, which tent pegs to use, where to pitch the tent, about snow weight, what heat sources can be combined with the tent, how to make a fire safely and other equipment.

Choose tents according to occasion, different tent types work differently at winter camping. When it’s icy, the tent needs to be more robust than a tent which is exclusively used in summer. The tent frame needs to withstand a certain amount of snow and functional ventilation is important. If you want to use a heat source, for example a fireplace or a stove, the tent needs to have ventilation openings both at ground level and at the top.  Without a heat source, a smaller tent is preferable, as it heats up faster when the air volume is smaller.

A tent from Tentipi is a Nordic tipi and the tent has eight or nine sides, if it is not the smallest that has six sides. In the smallest tent you can stand straight if you are less than 160 centimetres long and in the largest you can get together several thousand people. The tent is versatile in more ways. Continue to read to see why these tents are so flexible and adaptable. This blog post is about the smaller tents in Tentipi's range, tents used by adventurers, families, hikers and others who want to live close to nature for a shorter or longer period of time.

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