A cabin tent is a specific type of camping tent that has vertical side walls, usually on all four walls of the tent. These vertical walls extend the peak height throughout the entire tent, giving cabin tents a higher ceiling than other tent types (like dome tents, etc.).
In fact, here’s what one of my favorite cabin tents look like:
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RELATED: Best Cabin Tents (Bought & Tested!)
Features of a Cabin Tent
What are the main features of your typical cabin tent? There are 3 main ones that I want to talk about here:
- Vertical walls
- High ceilings
- Extended peak heights
The biggest feature of a cabin tent is the vertical walls. These are also called ‘side walls’, and there are usually 4 of these vertical side walls on every cabin tent.
In case you need a picture to better visualize what I’m talking about, here’s one:
Notice how the side walls usually in a straight line, from the ground to the top of the tent? That’s what these vertical walls are.
Take note here also that there will usually be a slight slant in the walls for most cabin tents, but it’s usually negligible.
Another key feature of cabin tents are their higher than average peak heights, and therefore also higher than average ceilings.
The peak height is usually the tallest height in the tent, from the ground all the way to the top of the tent. This is usually at the center of each tent.
Here’s me standing under the peak height of one of my cabin tents:
Extended Peak Heights
The purpose behind cabin tents is to extend the peak height of the tent throughout the entire tent.
So, essentially, you would have standing room throughout the entire tent. In fact, here’s me standing right in the corner of the cabin tent above:
Notice how I’m able to stand upright even at the corners? That’s what cabin tents do.
Cabin Tents V.S. Other Tent Shapes
Now, how do cabin tents compare to other tent shapes?
Let’s talk about dome tents first, because they’re also one of the most popular camping tent shapes.
Unlike cabin tents, dome tents do not have vertical walls. Instead, their walls slope downwards, which is why they resemble domes (and that’s why they’re called dome tents).
Here’s what one of my dome tents look like, notice how the curve of the tent resembles a dome-shape:
And also, unlike cabin tents again, dome tents have the peak height only right at the center of the tent. This doesn’t extend throughout the entire tent, and there’s usually no way to stand upright throughout the entire tent.
Other Tent Shapes
Most other tent shapes also do not have vertical walls, and don’t extend the peak height throughout the entire tent. These other tent shapes include:
- Bell tents
- Teepee tents
- A-frame tents
If you Google any one of these types of tents, you’ll notice that all of them taper at the top.
What are the Advantages of Cabin Tents?
Note: I won’t go into too much detail here, because I have an entirely separate blog post on the pros and cons of cabin tents. But I’ll still give you the TL;DR here.
The biggest advantage of cabin tents is of course (you might have guessed it by now), the copious amounts of livable space inside the tent.
The higher peak heights of cabin tents give campers more headroom, making it easier for them to move around inside the tent without hunching over at all.
This is great for larger groups of campers, like big families, or tall folks who hate having to keep hunching over in their tents.
And that’s not all. Here’s a quick list of all the other advantages of cabin tents:
- Better hot day ventilation than other tent types
- More likely to come with room dividers
- Come in many different capacities, from 4 to 12-person capacities
What are the Disadvantages of Cabin Tents?
However, there’s a big con to have these huge, massive, vertical side walls.
Yes, you get more livable space as an advantage, but these massive vertical walls also catch a lot of wind, and tend to blow away much more easily.
One way to counter this is to stake down and guy out your cabin tent, and your tent should be able to take light to moderate winds decently well.
However, I would still not recommend using cabin tents for strong winds and heavy rain, or other inclement weather. They’re more of fair weather tents rather than harsh condition tents.
And there are also a few more cons to take note of, but I don’t think these are quite as important as the one I just mentioned, where they blow away easily:
- Smaller than average rainflies
- Takes longer to set up than dome tents
- Heavier weight
How Do I Set Up a Cabin Tent?
Here’s what you need to set up when it comes to your average cabin tent:
- 2 roof poles
- 4 leg poles
- Rainfly pole
Some cabin tents are more feature-rich, and hence take more time and effort to set up (for example, extra poles for extra vestibules).
But for now, I’m just going to go through your simple no-frills cabin tent.
First, just push the 2 roof poles (usually fiberglass) through the pole sleeves at the top of your cabin tent. This will usually form an X-shape across the tent.
After that, connect the ends of the roof poles into these elbow joints. These can also be called ‘elbow connectors’. There are usually 4 to 6 of these around the tent, depending on how big your tent is.
Then, break out the 4 leg poles (these are usually made of steel). One end of each leg pole goes into the same elbow joint/connector, and the other end gets connected into a pin at the bottom of the tent.
After all 4 leg poles are done, secure the rainfly in place, and there would sometimes be a rainfly pole at the front of the tent to give you a little awning.
That’s basically it, the rest of the process is just staking down, guying out, and securing all the final details around the cabin tent.
What to Look for When Buying a Cabin Tent
Now, what are the most important things to look out for when buying your first cabin tent? Well, here’s 3 of the most important things to take note of:
- Ease of setup
- Tent size
Cabin Tent Setup
I went through the process of a regular, simple, no-frills cabin tent above, and this entire process usually takes me about 14 minutes for a 6-person cabin tent.
Here’s a neat table showing you the average setup timing of cabin tents of different tent capacities (these are all 1-person timings because I set them up by myself):
|4-person cabin tent
|6-person cabin tent
|8-person cabin tent
|10-person cabin tent
What if these timings are too long, and you’d like a much quicker setup? Well, that where we have instant cabin tents.
Instant cabin tents have pre-attached poles, pole clips and guylines, and essentially halve your setup timing (for the bigger instant tents, they decrease your setup timing by about 50% instead).
I have a few instant cabin tents, and here’s how long they take me to set up by myself:
|Instant Cabin Tent
|4-person instant cabin
|6-person instant cabin
|9-person instant cabin
|10-person instant cabin
Cabin Tent Size
Now, what size cabin tent should you buy? That depends on how big of a group of people you’re planning to camp with. Here’s a general rule of thumb:
- 4-person cabin tent: 2-3 campers
- 6-person cabin tent: 4 campers
- 8-person cabin tent: 6 campers
- 10-person cabin tent: 8 campers
Let me further explain this.
When cabin tents are stated to have a ’10-person’ capacity, this means 10 campers sleeping side by side in the cabin tent, each with only 20 to 25 inches of width, in a sardine-like configuration.
The rule of thumb is to decrease this maximum capacity by 2, so a 10-person cabin tent fits 8 people more comfortably. I found that 10-person cabin tents tend to fit 8 people (2 on each queen sized bed), but with no room leftover too:
As such, I’d prefer to go with a 4-5 person capacity for a 10-person cabin tent.
But then again, I’ve been told that I camp too luxuriously and I take up too much space. Feel free to make your own adjustments based on my pictures above.
Cabin Tent Materials
The last important feature to choose when buying a cabin tent is the material that your cabin tent is made of.
All of my cabin tents are made of polyester, which is a much more affordable material. I paid between $300 (mid-range polyester cabin tent) to $500 (higher-end polyester cabin tent) for all my polyester tents. This is the most common cabin tent material.
My favorite is easily the Eureka Copper Canyon, you would have seen multiple pictures of it throughout this blog post, and I love it because it’s a great quality cabin tent that didn’t burn a hole in my pocket.
- Durable, steel and fiberglass frame features pole sleeves corner hubs, and quick clips for simple 2 person set up.
- Steep walls create lots of standing room and are ideal when camping with air mattress and cots.
- Two massive doors at the front and rear that make it easy for everyone to get in and out.
- Large mesh windows with waterproof curtains offer scenic views and plenty of ventilation.
- Measures 14 feet by 12 feet (floor) and 7 feet tall
- Packs to 11 by 29 inches; minimum weight of 36 pounds, 13 ounces.
Alternatively, you can also choose to buy a canvas cabin tent. Here’s an example of one:
Canvas cabin tents tend to be much more expensive, anywhere between 2 to 3 times more expensive. And that’s because canvas tends to be a much more durable and waterproof material.
If you need help choosing one, I wrote an entire article on the best cabin tents. And don’t worry, of course I bought and tested each one. What kind of a reviewer would I be, if I didn’t have my own cabin tents? 😉