Pop-Up Tent vs Tunnel Tent | Which is the Best for Camping?

When comparing a pop-up tent vs tunnel tent, these two different designs come with important considerations to think about before you make your decision! Extra space from tunnel tents comes with some tradeoffs that may change your plans.

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!

Pop-Up Tent vs Tunnel Tent

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


a-frame tent vs pop-up tent
A newer tent category with fewer offerings than most other types of tents, pop-up tents are specifically designed for the easiest set-up possible. The poles are integrated directly within the tent frame and fabric.


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 a pop-up tent vs tunnel tent are capacity and portability. 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. In comparison, pop-up tents use a series of poles integrated within the fabric to spring into their shape that usually caps out around 4 people but are much easier to set up.

Pop-up tents typically employ a two-layer design to repel rain but the second layer only covers the very top of the tent, as opposed to longer rain flys present in A-frame or Dome tents. As seen in the photos above, pop-up tents use a single layer of rain protection for up to 75% of each side. Tunnel tents frequently use a single-layer tent which allows for larger windows and can allow for better airflow than pop-up tents.

While they should both offer fine rain protection, other tent types may be more reliable in harsher storms since pop-ups are built for convenience as opposed to protection and other structures may be stronger with more rain coverage.

Best Uses For Pop-Up & Tunnel Tents

Each of these types of tents is great for both small-family and car camping! Smaller families may prefer the simplicity offered by pop-ups or enjoy the larger amount of space offered by tunnel tents. Neither tent is appropriate for backpacking (there are better options) as they almost always have too large of a package to reasonably pack and walk miles with.



Family Camping

Car Camping


Feature Comparison | Pop-Up Tent vs Tunnel Tent

Tunnel tents have the advantage of high capacity while pop-up tents are significantly easier to set up. Each have similar rain protection with the limited dual-layer of pop-ups and frequent single-layer tunnel tent design. Not sold on either type? We’d recommend a dome tent for any type of camper from beginner to expert!









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 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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