What is a Cabin Tent? (With REAL Pictures!)

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:

The Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6 in the author's yard.
That’s the Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6 in my yard,

Key Takeaways

A cabin tent is usually characterized by its vertical side walls and high overall heights. This gives campers much more livable space and headroom inside the tent.
Most other tent shapes do not have these high overall heights, and instead taper down.
However, the biggest disadvantage is that a cabin tent’s side walls catch wind easily and blow away more easily.
A typical cabin tent setup involves at least 2 roof poles and 4 leg poles.
When buying a cabin tent, keep in mind whether you’d prefer an instant or a regular cabin tent, the sizing of your tent, and also what material you’d like your tent to be made of.

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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

Vertical Walls

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:

What the side walls of the Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6 look like.
What one of the vertical side walls of the Eureka look like.

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.

High Ceilings

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:

The author standing on a 9-inch mattress in the Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6.
That’s me standing on a queen bed in the Eureka.

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:

The author standing in one of the corners of the Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6.
Me standing upright at the corner of the Eureka.

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?

Dome Tents

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:

The REI Base Camp 6 in the author's yard at night.
What the dome-shaped REI Base Camp 6 looks like at night.

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.

The author standing under the peak height of the REI Base Camp 6.
Me standing at the peak height of the Base Camp. Notice how the walls slope down all around me.

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.

The author standing at the extreme end of the REI Wonderland 6.
Me standing right at the edge of the REI Wonderland 6 (another cabin tent). I basically got the peak height throughout the entire length of this tent.

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.

The Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6 blowing over in a light breeze.
My Eureka blowing away in a light wind because I forgot to stake it down and guy it out.

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.

The author setting up the roof poles of the Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6.
Me inserting the roof poles through their pole sleeves. You can see the sleeves forming an X-shape near me.

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.

One of the elbow joints of the Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6.
What one of the roof poles look like after being inserted into one of the elbow joints.

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.

The author inserting the leg pole into the elbow joint of the Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6.
The steel pole inserted into the other end of the elbow joint.
The author setting up one of the leg poles of the Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6.
And here’s what setting up one of the leg poles look like.

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.

The author securing the rainfly pole of the Eureka LX 6.
Me setting up the rainfly/awning pole.

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
  • Materials

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):

Cabin TentSetup Timing
4-person cabin tent11-12 minutes
6-person cabin tent14-15 minutes
8-person cabin tent17-18 minutes
10-person cabin tent20-22 minutes
The 1-person setup timings of 4 to 10-person cabin tents.

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).

The Caddis Rapid 6 partially setup.
This is an instant tent, the Caddis Rapid 6. In this picture, I’m extending the second leg pole.
The author extending one of the poles of the Caddis Rapid 6.
And here’s me extending the third leg pole. Notice the tent is almost set up, very easily.

I have a few instant cabin tents, and here’s how long they take me to set up by myself:

Instant Cabin TentSetup Timing
4-person instant cabin 4-5 minutes
6-person instant cabin7-9 minutes
9-person instant cabin12 minutes
10-person instant cabin13-15 minutes
The 1-person setup timings of 4 to 10-person instant cabin tents.

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.

10 single sleeping pads in the Core Straight Wall Cabin 10
This is the Core Straight Wall Cabin 10, and we have 3 double pads, 1 full-sized mattress, and 2 single pads here. Notice they’re all side by side.

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:

4 queen-sized camping mattresses in the Core Straight Wall Cabin 10
Here’s 4 queen beds in the same tent.

As such, I’d prefer to go with a 4-5 person capacity for a 10-person cabin tent.

The Core Straight Wall Cabin 10 with just 2 queen beds and a living room.
And here’s just 2 queen beds in the same tent. And I turned the other room into a ‘living room’.

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.

What the tent body of the Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6 looks like.
The 75D polyester tent body of the Eureka.

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.

Eureka! Copper Canyon LX 12
  • 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:

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)

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? 😉

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