A-Frame Tent vs Tunnel Tent | Which is the Best for Camping?

When comparing an a-frame tent vs tunnel tent, the two highly different designs may change your weekend in ways you might not expect.

We’ve broken down the major similarities and differences of common tent types to help you make the right decision for your next outdoor adventure!

A-Frame Tent vs Tunnel Tent

First, let’s break down each type of tent:

A-Frame

a-frame vs backpacking tent
The A-Frame tent is distinguished by its triangular prism design which uses a rectangular floor, two A-frames on the ends, and a cross pole in order to form the tent frame.

Tunnel

dome tent vs tunnel tent

Tunnel tents use poles to form a series of half-rings that frame the tent (compared to the cross-pole design of a dome tent). Tunnel tents frequently have extended vestibules for more space to store gear, your shoes, and keep wet things outside of the living area!

Major Differences

The biggest differences between an a-frame tent vs tunnel tents are their construction and capacity. A-frames use a cross pole held up by four corner poles to establish that well-known ‘A’ on the front and back of the tent. They traditionally will cap out around 4 people but may be large enough to stand in at their peak in the very middle of the tent.

Tunnel tents come in capacities of up to about 8 people and may also be large enough to stand in. These tents use multiple arcing poles in a row to provide structure for the tent that allows for a semicircle-type roof that enables far more space than the sharply angled a-frame tent. Since the poles do not cross, the structure is slightly less stable than the interlocking a-frame design (but still protective).

A-frame tents typically employ a two-layer design to repel rain while tunnel tents frequently use single-layer protection. Each should suffice but the dual-layer always makes us more comfortable in poor weather. While they should both offer good rain protection, a-frame tents may be more reliable in harsher storms since their structure allows wind to flow around the tent better and the rain fly offers more coverage. A benefit of single-layers in tunnel tents is that they have larger windows and can allow for better airflow than a-frame tents.

Both a-frame and tunnel tents may have a vestibule in the front of the tent which allows for gear and shoe storage to help keep things dry overnight or in the rain but tunnel tent vestibules are going to be much larger than the small a-frame vestibules. A-frame vestibules may hold a couple of pairs of shoes and help keep rain out while you get into the tent but cabin tent vestibules could add another 50% of dry floor space in some models.

Both tent types can typically be set up by just a couple of people without too much difficulty!

Best Uses For A-Frame & Tunnel Tents

Each of these types of tents is great for both family and car camping! Some small a-frame tents can be used for backpacking (although there are better options) but tunnel tents are heavier since they use more poles and usually have more materials than the average a-frame.

A-Frame

Cabin


Family Camping


Car Camping


Backpacking

Feature Comparison | A-Frame Tent vs Tunnel Tent

Outside of the structural differences, A-Frame and tunnel tents are fairly similar. Tunnel tents will offer more capacity at the same price range while A-frames could be used for backpacking in a pinch if you don’t have a more specialized tent.

Product

A-Frame

Tunnel

Sturdiness

Capacity

Cost

Portability

Lifespan

Want more?

Check out our infographic and larger article covering the ten most common tent types or use our tent finding tool to quickly find the tents that suit your needs!

About the Author

Photo of author

Robbie

Robbie is a Co-Founder and editor at Midwest Camping. Robbie has backpacked over three hundred miles of the Appalachian trail, visited seventeen national parks, and camped regularly for the last two decades.

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