Dome Tent Vs Cabin Tent (Tons of REAL Pictures Here!)

Out of all the tent shapes in the market, dome tents and cabin tents are the most popular. Over my past 5 years of camping, I’ve tested over 30 camping tents, and each one of them falls into either the ‘dome tent’ or ‘cabin tent’ category.

And in this blog post, you’ll find out everything you need to know about a dome tent vs cabin tent, along with tons of real pictures from my testing. Let’s get right into it.

Dome tent Vs Cabin tent featured image
Left: Me in my Coleman Sundome 6 (dome tent)
Right: Me in my Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6 (cabin tent)

Key Takeaways – Dome Tent Vs Cabin Tent

Here are the main differences between a dome tent and a cabin tent:

  1. Peak height

  2. Slope of walls

  3. Livable space

  4. Ease of setup

  5. Room dividers

  6. Amount of mesh

  7. Rainfly size

  8. Weight of tent

Dome tents are much more suitable if you’re camping in heavy rain, strong winds and in harsher weather conditions.

On the other hand, if you love spacious cabin tents, make sure that you’re camping in no more than light rain and wind. They’re also the perfect pick for fair weather camping in the summer with your family and friends.

DifferenceDome TentCabin Tent
1. Peak HeightLowerHigher
2. Slope of WallsSlopingVertical
3. Livable SpaceLessMore
4. Ease of SetupFasterSlower
5. Room DividersLessMore
6. Mesh AmountLessMore
7. Rainfly sizeBiggerSmaller
8. WeightLighterHeavier
A quick table summarizing the differences between dome tents and cabin tents.

RELATED: This blog post was inspired by my Best Cabin Tents post.

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What is a Dome Tent?

A dome tent is, like the name suggests, a tent that’s shaped like a semi-circle, or essentially, a dome.

These dome tents have their peak heights only at the center of the tent, but beyond that, the walls slope downwards, and you don’t get the nice tall peak height anywhere else.

Most dome tents range from a 2-person to 6-person capacity, while a few can go up to 9 or 10-person capacities. More likely than not, they come in smaller (rather than bigger) capacities.

6 regular sleeping pads in the Coleman Sundome 6
The Coleman Sundome 6 dome tent with 6 sleeping bags, with a little leftover floor space for storing camping gear. From left to right, top to bottom: Exped MegaMat Duo 10 (green), Klymit Uninsulated Double V (blue), Sea to Summit Camp Mat (yellow), Big Agnes Friar sleeping bag (white).

What is a Cabin Tent?

Cabin tents are basically quite the opposite of dome tents.

A cabin tent is usually shaped like a rectangle cabin, and usually have vertical walls, on all four sides of the tent.

These vertical walls help to extend the peak height beyond the center of the tent. In many cabin tents, you will get standing room throughout the entire tent.

Many cabin tents come in bigger sizes, like 4-person cabins, all the way up to 12-person cabins. I’ve never seen a cabin tent come in as small as a 2-person size.

10 sleeping pads in the Columbia Mammoth Creek 10
Here’s 3 double sleeping pads, 1 single pad, 1 sleeping bag, and 1 full-sized mattress in the Columbia Mammoth Creek 10 (one of my favorite cabin tents).

Dome Tent vs Cabin Tent – Differences

Now, here are all the differences you will notice when you choose to buy a dome tent versus a cabin tent.

1. Peak Height

I’ve noticed that dome tents tend to have shorter peak heights than cabin tents of the exact same capacity.

Check out this table of 6-person tents, featuring 4 dome tents and 3 cabin tents, and I’ve arranged them from shortest to tallest:

Tent NameTent ShapePeak Height
NTK Cherokee 6Dome tent70 inches
REI Base Camp 6Dome tent73 inches
Coleman Sundome 6Dome tent74.5 inches
TNF Wawona 6Dome tent77 inches
Caddis Rapid 6Cabin tent77 inches
REI Wonderland 6Cabin tent81 inches
Eureka LX 6Cabin tent84 inches
The peak heights of my 6-person dome tents and cabin tents.

Notice that these 6-person dome tents have peak heights ranging from 70 to 77 inches, while the 6-person cabin tents have peak heights ranging from 77 to 84 inches?

The author standing under the peak height of The North Face Wawona 6.
Here’s what the peak height in the tallest dome tent (77 inches) looks like.

The tallest 6-person dome tent has the same peak height as the shortest 6-person cabin tent.

The author standing under the peak height of the Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6.
Here’s what the peak height (84 inches) in the tallest cabin tent looks like.

And while these dome tents have an average peak height of 73.6 inches, the cabin tents have an average peak height of 80.7 inches. That’s more than 7 inches taller, on average!

2. Slope of Walls

Another significant difference between dome tents and cabin tents is the slope of their walls.

Dome tents have sloping walls. These walls slope down from the peak height, all the way down to the ground, and this is what gives these tents their dome shape.

Here’s what a dome tent’s walls look like:

The dome tent shape of The North Face Wawona 6.
What a dome tent shape looks like. This is my TNF Wawona 6.

On the other hand, cabin tents have almost vertical walls, usually running in an almost straight line from the ground to the top of the tent. The 4 vertical walls around the tent gives it its iconic cabin shape.

And here’s what an almost vertical wall of a cabin tent looks like:

What the nearly vertical walls of the Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6 look like.
The almost vertical side walls of a cabin tent (this is the Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6).

3. Livable Space

Now, what do the vertical walls of cabin tents do? Well, they extend the peak height of the cabin tent throughout the entire tent, giving you standing room all around, and more livable interior space.

Let me show you an experiment that I did on this.

I have the Coleman Sundome 6, one of the most popular dome tents. The peak height comes in at a nice 74.5 inches, which is more than enough for me to stand in.

The author standing under the peak height of the Coleman Sundome 6
Me under the peak height of the Coleman Sundome 6.

However, the moment I take 2 steps away from the peak height, my head would touch the top of the tent. Beyond this, I was not able to stand upright.

The author hunching over in the corner of the Coleman Sundome 6
Me hunched over at the corner of my Coleman Sundome 6.

This shows that dome tents have the peak height only at the center, and there’s not a lot of livable space beyond the peak height. Unlike cabin tents, dome tents do not have standing room all around.

Now, what about cabin tents? Here’s a cabin tent with a somewhat similar peak height to the Sundome – the Gazelle T4 Hub Tent, with a peak height of 77.5 inches, just 3 inches taller than the Sundome.

The author standing under the peak height of the Gazelle T4 Hub Tent
Me under the peak height of my Gazelle T4.

Unlike the Sundome though, I could walk everywhere in my Gazelle, right to the very corners of the tent. And the height of the tent in the corners came in at a whopping 67 inches.

The author standing in one of the corners of the Gazelle T4 Hub Tent
Me standing upright at the corner of the Gazelle.

I was honestly shocked at how high it was, and I loved that I could even stand upright there. (I’m only 5’3, for your reference.) This is thanks to the nearly vertical walls of the Gazelle.

What the side walls of the Gazelle T4 Hub Tent looks like
The almost vertical walls of the Gazelle.

4. Ease of Setup

Moving away from spaciousness, how long do dome tents take to set up, compared to cabin tents?

Essentially, a simple dome tent will take only about 11.5 minutes to set up, while a simple cabin tent will take about 14 minutes to set up, which is about a 20% increase in setup timing.

Let me bring in my Coleman Sundome 6 again. I’m choosing this because it’s a no-frills and simple dome tent. When setting this up, there are only 3 poles to deal with:

  • 2 tent body poles

  • 1 rainfly pole

All 3 fiberglass poles of the Coleman Sundome 6.
The 3 poles of the Coleman Sundome 6. The first 2 poles are for the tent body, and the rainfly pole is the one on the extreme right.

Now, what about a simple, no-frills cabin tent? Let’s bring in the Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6. When setting this up, there are a whopping 7 poles to set up instead:

  • 2 roof poles

  • 4 leg poles

  • 1 rainfly pole

All 7 poles of the Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6.
All 7 poles of the Eureka. From left to right: 4 leg poles, 2 roof poles, 1 rainfly pole.

Because you have to set up more poles with your cabin tent, it naturally takes longer to set up than a dome tent of the same size.

5. Room Dividers

I also noticed that cabin tents are more likely to come with room dividers than dome tents.

When I was buying my 6-person tents, I noticed that The North Face Wawona 6 (a dome tent) and the REI Base Camp 6 (another dome tent) didn’t come with room dividers.

However, surprisingly, my REI Wonderland 6 (a cabin tent) came with a room divider, despite being of the exact same size.

The author zipping up the room divider of the REI Wonderland 6.
Me zipping up the Wonderland’s divider.

However, if you buy a larger tent that’s at least of an 8 to 10-person capacity, they will likely come with room dividers, whether they’re a cabin or dome-shaped tent.

For example, my Coleman WeatherMaster 10 is more of a dome tent than a cabin tent, but it still came with a room divider:

The room divider of the Coleman WeatherMaster 10
The room divider of the WeatherMaster 10 (this is more of a dome tent, though it has unusually high peak heights for a dome tent).

6. Amount of Mesh

Another thing I realized is that cabin tents tend to have more mesh than dome tents. These come in the form of:

  • Larger windows

  • A bigger skylight

A typical cabin tent will have 4 vertical walls around the tent, and these are more likely to have larger windows for better ventilation.

Let’s look at my favorite classic dome and cabin tent again – the Coleman Sundome 6 and Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6.

Take a look at the windows in my Eureka LX 6:

2 windows in the Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6
2 windows in the Eureka.

Now, take a look at the windows in my Coleman Sundome 6:

The author opening up the back window of the Coleman Sundome 6
The back window of the Sundome 6.

Notice that the windows in the Eureka are much bigger than the Sundome, even though these are both 6-person tents?

Also, on top of the bigger windows in the Eureka, I also got to enjoy a nice big skylight at the top of the tent.

What the ceiling mesh of the Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6 looks like without the rainfly.
The skylight of the Eureka.

With the Sundome, however, these had pretty big mesh panels at the left and right of the tent, but no unblocked skylight views like the Eureka.

One of the mesh walls of the Coleman Sundome 6 without the rainfly
The left mesh wall of the Sundome.

So, essentially, I feel that cabin tents tend to have more mesh and better hot day ventilation than dome tents. Cabin tents are also better for stargazing, if that’s your thing too.

7. Rainfly Size

Another significant difference between dome tents and cabin tents is the size of their rainflies. Dome tents tend to have much longer rainflies than cabin tents.

Let’s take a look at a cabin tent and a dome tent from the same brand – Coleman.

Again, we’ve got my trusty Coleman Sundome 6, and here’s what the rainfly and my heavy rain test of it looks like:

The author's heavy rain test of the Coleman Sundome 6
My heavy rain test of the Sundome 6.

Yes, the rainfly isn’t full-length by any means, but at least it covers a decent amount of the tent. So, my Sundome 6 lasted for 35 minutes under heavy rain without any leaks at all.

On top of that, I could even crack the windows open in the heavy rain for a little rainy day ventilation.

Water running over the back of the Coleman Sundome 6
Notice that even though water is running over the tent, the rainfly pole shields the window from the rain, and the window mesh isn’t wet at all.

Now, what about the Coleman cabin tent? I’ve got the 4-person Instant Cabin Tent, and look at how short the rain fly is.

The author's heavy rain test of the Coleman Instant 4
My heavy rain test of the Coleman Instant Cabin 4.

Notice that the rainfly covers only the very top of the tent, and doesn’t even extend down past the windows?

So, in the heavy rain, my Coleman Instant Cabin 4 lasted only 10 minutes without leaking. And I couldn’t open any of the windows because they were completely drenched from the rain.

One of the windows of the Coleman Instant Tent 4 completely soaked.
One of the Instant Cabin’s windows completely drenched.

8. Weight of Tent

And lastly, this is a smaller difference – the weight of the tent.

From what I mentioned earlier in #4 on the ease of setup, cabin tents tend to have many more poles to setup than dome tents. As such, these poles will usually add to the weight of your cabin tent.

Take a look at the weight of all my 6-person tents again. These are all the exact same tent size, yet there’s so much difference when it comes to their weight.

Tent NameTent ShapeWeight
Caddis Rapid 6Cabin tent25.0lbs.
REI Wonderland 6Cabin tent23.6lbs.
Eureka LX 6Cabin tent22.4lbs.
REI Base Camp 6Dome tent20.6lbs.
TNF Wawona 6Dome tent19.4lbs.
Coleman Sundome 6Dome tent16.0lbs.
NTK Cherokee 6Dome tent15.2lbs.
The weights of my 6-person cabin tents and dome tents.

Notice that the lightest cabin tent (Eureka) is still much heavier than my heaviest dome tent (Base Camp)?

Dome Tent vs Cabin Tent – Similarities

Moving on to the similarities between a dome tent and a cabin tent, there aren’t that many, so I’ll go through this quick.

9. Base Area

There will be no difference in the base area of a 6-person dome tent, compared to a 6-person cabin tent.

Check out my measurements of all my 6-person tents. Notice there’s no correlation between the tent shape, and the base area:

Tent NameTent ShapeBase Area
TNF Wawona 6Dome tent75.7 sq. ft
REI Base Camp 6Dome tent82.5 sq. ft
REI Wonderland 6Cabin tent82.5 sq. ft
NTK Cherokee 6Dome tent91.8 sq. ft
Coleman Sundome 6Dome tent92.6 sq. ft
Eureka LX 6Cabin tent93.4 sq. ft
Caddis Rapid 6Cabin tent95.1 sq. ft
The inner tent base area of my 6-person cabin tents and dome tents. This does not include the vestibule area.

Fact: The REI Wonderland 6 is a very nice cabin tent, but it’s smaller than some of my other dome tents (NTK Cherokee and Coleman Sundome 6).

Bear in mind that all of these tents were able to fit 6 single sleeping pads, right down to my smallest tent, which is The North Face Wawona 6.

What 6 single sleeping pads look like inside The North Face Wawona 6.
2 double pads and 2 single pads in the Wawona 6.

10. Other Features

When it comes to the other features of a tent, I also found no difference between a dome tent and cabin tent. Here are some of the features that I’m talking about:

  • Storage pockets

  • Lantern loops

  • Doors

Whether a tent has more storage options and higher quality doors does not depend on the tent shape (whether the tent is a dome or cabin shape).

How feature-rich a tent is depends on the brand of your tent. Typically, higher-end brands (The North Face, REI) tend to provide more and higher-quality features than budget-friendly brands (Coleman, Core).

What the 2 doors of the REI Wonderland 6 look like.
The 2 doors of the REI Wonderland 6 – these are the highest quality doors I’ve ever used.

When to Use a Dome Tent

Now, what are the situations where you should use a dome style tent, and should absolutely not use a cabin tent? Here they are:

  • When there’s lots of heavy rain

  • When there’s strong gusts of wind

  • For off-season camping

  • For backpacking trips

Dome Tents Have Better Rain Protection

As I mentioned above in difference #7 on rainfly length, cabin tents tend to have tiny rainflies, extending down at most 10 inches from the top. These are not quite effective in heavy rain.

On the other hand, dome tents tend to have rainflies extending down enough to cover at least half of the tent body.

For example, The North Face Wawona 6 has a half-length rainfly, and this was enough to last me through 3 days of heavy rain.

The North Face Wawona 6 in the heavy rain.
My Wawona in my yard in heavy rain.

Dome Tents Have Better Wind Resistance

Dome tents also have a more aerodynamic dome shape, with curved sloping walls that allow them to shed wind more easily.

As such, I was also able to put my Wawona 6 through 50 miles-per-hour winds, and it held up fine.

In contrast, cabin tents have almost completely straight walls, which catch a lot of wind and blow away much more easily.

When I was camping in my Eureka LX 6, I was in the midst of staking it down and guying it out when a light breeze of 5 miles-per-hour wind came in and blew it away.

The Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6 blowing over in a light breeze.
My Eureka blowing away in light wind.

Dome Tents Can be Used in the Off-Season Camping

Dome tents are also more likely to be used in the off-season, especially if they have full-length rainflies. These full-length rainflies keep the heat inside the tent much better than a partial rainfly.

My REI Base Camp 6 is a great example of a 3+ seasons dome tent, meant to be used in spring or fall, because it has a nice full rainfly that extends almost all the way to the ground:

The author's heavy rain test of the REI Base Camp 6
My heavy rain test of the REI Base Camp 6.

Most 4-season tents are also geodesic, which is a reinforced dome shape, allowing them to shed the harsh winter winds much more easily.

The Base Camp 6 is a true dome tent, but it has a geodesic mountaineering tent-inspired design, featuring lots of crisscrossed poles across the tent, giving it more structural integrity.

The author setting up the REI Base Camp 6
Notice there are 4 poles here for the Base Camp. 2 are in the green pole sleeves (these are the standard dome tent poles), and I have my hand on the other 2. They all intersect with each other.

Backpacking Tents are Usually Dome-Shaped

This brings us back to the issue on weight (#8 difference above). Because backpackers need to go light, a dome tent with less poles is usually the way to go, because they are typically lightweight.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a backpacking tent in a tall cabin shape.

When to Use a Cabin Tent

Now, if you love spacious tents and would love to buy a cabin shaped tent, when can you use it? Here are all the weather conditions and camping scenarios you can use it in:

  • Light wind

  • Light rain

  • Summer camping

  • Family camping

In these situations, you don’t need the dome tent performance that your dome tents offer, but of course you can still use it.

Cabin Tents can be Used in Light Wind and Rain

While most cabin tents should not be used in most windy or rainy conditions (or other kinds of very bad weather), I found them perfectly functional in light wind and light rain.

A great example of this is my REI Wonderland 6. It has a longer rainfly than all my other cabin tents, and was able to take one entire night of raining with hardly any leaking.

The REI Wonderland 6 in the heavy rain.
The Wonderland (cabin tent) in heavy rain.

It also comes with a whopping 14 guylines, allowing it to stand firm in light to moderate winds.

Cabin Tents are Suitable for Summer Camping

Cabin tents are also great 3-seasons tents for summer camping, and especially on hot days.

Remember what I mentioned above, when I was talking about cabin tents having much more mesh and hot day ventilation than dome tents? (Hint: This was in difference #6 above.)

A great example of this is again the REI Wonderland 6. It has so much mesh on its tent body, that easily more than half the tent is covered in mesh.

The REI Wonderland 6 without its rainfly
What the Wonderland 6 looks like without its rainfly.

This is perfect for camping on hot summer days, and it’s again perfect for stargazing.

Family Camping Trips are Better with Cabin Tents

If you go car camping with your family, especially if you have small kids, it’s unlikely that you’d go outside of summer or in harsh weather conditions. So, cabin tents would be perfect here.

Also, with a large family, you might prefer to go with nice, big, family-sized cabin tents, so that your kids would have more livable space inside the tent, along with a very nice room divider to separate the adults and kids in their own sleeping area.

The room divider of the Columbia Mammoth Creek 10
Me zipping up the room divider of the Columbia Mammoth Creek 10 to create 2 separate rooms.

Tall People May Prefer Cabin Tents

Tall folks may also prefer to go for cabin tents with extended peak heights, so that they wouldn’t have to constantly hunch over around the tent.

The tallest cabin tent I have is the Core Straight Wall Cabin 10, and wow is it massive:

The author standing under the peak height of the Core Straight Wall Cabin 10
Me trying to reach for the peak height of the Core 10. Notice how tall the peak height is compared to my outstretched arm.

It has a peak height of a whopping 90 inches, and a still-impressive lowest height of 65 inches right at the corners.

Instant Cabin Tents

If you hate setting tents up and you’re looking to reduce that headache and frustration, you may want to go with an instant tent, and most of these instant tents come in a cabin-shape.

These have pre-attached poles, so you don’t have to insert any poles through pole sleeves. All you have to do is to extend the pre-attached poles upwards, and your tent will be set up.

The author setting up the Caddis Rapid 6 Instant Tent
Me extending one of the leg poles of the Caddis Rapid 6 (one of the instant tents that I like).

Canvas Cabin Tents

We’ve been talking about polyester tents all along, but another type of cabin tent you can consider is the canvas cabin tent. A popular brand for these canvas wall tents is Kodiak Canvas.

High Quality Canvas
KODIAK CANVAS 12x9 Canvas Cabin Tent, Tan, One Size
  • 7.5 ft peak height
  • Steep walls
  • Large D-shaped front door and side entry
  • Hydra-Shield 100% cotton duck canvas
  • Sturdy frame reinforced with welded corner braces
  • 5 large windows with no-see-um mesh
  • Weight: ~112 lbs. (Total package)

These tents provide a lot of livable space, while being rugged and durable, able to stand up to heavy rain and cold winter conditions, because they’re made of canvas instead of polyester.

Dome Tent Vs Cabin Tent – Which to Buy

So, I think I’ve mostly answered the burning question of whether to get a dome or cabin tent. Now, which exact camping tent model should you buy for your next camping trip?

Btw, I know that these are all pretty big family-sized tents, but that’s what I have the most experience with. If you need a smaller tent, I’ll do my best to come up with some recommendations in the future too.

Note: If you want recommendations on just cabin style tents, I actually bought and tested 7 different ones.

Dome Tent vs Cabin Tent – Related Questions

What is the strongest-shaped tent?

The strongest tent shape come with your geodesic tents. These are expedition or mountaineering tents, and usually come in a circular dome shape, but with many more intersecting poles around the entire tent to provide more stability in strong winds.

I’ve seen one myself at The North Face, but you can check out Mountain Hardwear as well for these tents, which are meant to withstand harsh weather conditions:

The North Face Geodome 4 in a tent showroom
I saw The North Face Geodome 4 at a showroom. Notice the dome shape and all the intersecting poles.

Are any cabin tents good for rain and wind?

If the canvas cabin tent that I mentioned above is too expensive for your budget (they usually cost at least $1,000 and up), then you can try polyester cabin tents with a full rain fly. A great example of this is the Big Agnes Bunk House 6.

Editor’s Choice
Big Agnes Bunk House Camping Tent, 6 Person
  • SPACIOUS! – Features two large doors and two vestibules.
  • SHELTER MODE – Shelter using just the fly, poles and included webbing harness (without the tent body)
  • FULL FEATURED – 2 removable corner pockets, 4 interior mesh pockets and 2 media pockets
  • READY TO PITCH with color-coding, pre-cut guy lines, and tensioners attached to fly. Also comes with reflective guy lines and webbing
  • SPECS – All seams taped. DAC lightweight aluminum pole set. Packed weight is 19 lb. 12 oz. and packs down to 27.5 x 17 x 10 inches.

While this tent should be able to take heavy rains and moderate winds well, I still do not recommend putting in through strong winds.

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