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Cabin and Dome tents are two of the more popular tents that campers often consider. While these tents have few similarities, there are also some differences buyers should be aware of before purchasing. A final decision often boils down to personal preference, the kind of camping ground one plans to visit (learn how to find the best camping spot), the number of campers, expected weather conditions and duration of camping. Other considerations include the physical height of the campers, the amount of storage space required for additional camping gear, sleeping capacity, and if extra space is required for a pet such as the family dog.
When all these factors are considered, it becomes simpler to make an informed decision, on which tent will best suit your camping needs.
Cabin and Dome tents are built with families and large camping groups in mind. One common denominator found in both tents is space to accommodate several campers. Overall, cabin tents provide more space than the average dome tent, but both versions do a good job at giving campers ample room. If you have a very large group (think 8+) a cabin tent will be the one that best suits your goals. Additionally, the material used for both tents can be similar, although that isn’t always the case. Nylon-based materials are common in both tents, but cabin tents are also known to use a more heavy-duty canvas material.
Cabin tents are often classified based on the material used in construction. Nylon or polyester are commonly used in cabin tents, but there are also canvas versions for more long-term camping or events. Canvas cabin tents are built to last, thanks to the durable material used by some manufacturers. Canvas material is the strongest and most durable fabric for tents. Compared to polyester and nylon, the canvas can endure the harshest weather. Whether it is heavy snow, a downpour or strong winds, canvas offers better and more reliable shelter, hands down. This also makes them a tad more costly, because they generally have a longer shelf-life. The polyester/nylon versions of cabin tents, while not as sturdy still offer other benefits such as being lightweight and providing more protection than the average dome tent.
When it comes to space, cabin tents can host numerous campers comfortably. They also provide more floor and headroom due to the straight wall model the canvas fabric adopts, once the tent stands. This translates to more storage space, and more beds can fit into the tent, including double-deckers (if you get creative). Campers are also able to stand upright inside the tent without having to stoop, due to the high ceiling. Another common feature is room partitions to provide privacy and allow campers to be better organized, as different rooms can be allocated for various tasks. Mesh windows and doors are useful in providing sufficient ventilation inside the tent.
Dome tents are lightweight, which makes them highly portable and best suited for backpacking and hiking. In addition, they are easy to set up, require only a single person, and often only take a few minutes. Currently, there are pop-up dome tents available which can be set up even faster. Furthermore, they commonly do not require pegs, tools, stakes or ropes to hold them down firmly – as this task is accomplished by the crisscrossing poles that also hold the tent’s fabric. This feature ensures they can stand firm against the various elements of weather.
Space-wise, they offer a considerable amount of room and the largest dome tents can comfortably handle around eight campers. Due to the versatility of these tents, they can be easily set up on a rugged camping site without too much trouble.
The most important features of a quality tent are construction, peak height/headroom, portability, assembly and price. To emerge with a clear favorite, it is important to look at how the two tents fare in relation to the above features.
Dome Tents are built using light materials, from the support poles to the fabric. This allows them to be portable, easy to set up, bring down, and pack.
Cabin Tents, on the other hand, are constructed using heavy-duty materials, such as steel poles and canvas as the tent’s fabric (for the more durable variety). This complicates portability due to the tent’s heavy weight. On the flip side, it guarantees the stability and durability of the tent. Setting up, dismantling and packing is a herculean task and cannot be handled by a single person. They also tend to be bulky and use up more storage space. Fortunately, these tents are more commonly made from nylon/polyester, similar to the dome tents, which improves portability and setup time. While there may be more hoops to jump through in setup and they may be slightly heavier due to the increase in components, the difference is negligible. Heck, they even have instant cabin tent setups now that can be accomplished in under 2 minutes.
With regards to headroom and floor space, cabin tents come out on top, as the straight-wall model of the tent creates more interior space. While they can reach up to 30 feet, compared to a dome tent’s paltry 6 feet, this is usually only common for events or long-term solutions (think County Fair). Most cabin tents, used for camping, can stand anywhere from 6.5 ft – 8ft in height, which is ample room for almost anyone. Cabin tents are more spacious and provide more sleeping and storage space for camping gear, while at the same time, can host a larger number of campers at one time. If you’re interested, take a look at our review of the Wenzel Kodiak cabin tent to learn more about an exceptionally tall tent.
Overall, dome tents are more portable than the average cabin tents. Dome tents are often smaller and intended for fewer campers. Therefore, there is less to carry around when you are doing some car camping. Backpackers also commonly use dome tents as their structure of choice while camping.
While dome tents are better overall as far as portability is concerned, don’t let that deter you from the larger cabin tent if it better suits your group. The non-canvas versions can weigh as little as 30-40 lbs. when packed and are considered fairly lightweight when accounting for the additional features.
Cabin Tents are more expensive compared to their dome counterparts. This is especially true of the canvas version. Steel poles and canvas fabric don’t only add to the setup time, but also cost more. While this has the benefit of basically lasting forever, it will cost quite a bit more than a nylon/polyester cabin tent. The nylon/polyester version is comparable with dome tents, as far as price is concerned and use similar materials to keep costs down.
In a nutshell, choosing between a cabin and dome tent depends on personal preference and camping conditions. For example, if you are around six hikers or backpackers, a Dome Tent would be the best choice under the circumstances. It is light, easy to assemble, dismantle and pack. It also takes up very little storage space and can be carried around for long distances.
In case you are around ten or more campers and require a large amount of space, comfort, privacy, and plan on camping on one site for a long period without moving around, then the cabin tent would be a perfect choice. Both tents have unique features that meet different camping needs, and this is the ultimate deciding factor on which of the two is the best choice for you.